AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

AODA Alliance Asks Federal Party Leaders For a New Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

          SUMMARY

We today kick off the next phase in our campaign for accessibility at the federal level in Canada.

The AODA Alliance today wrote the leaders of the federal parties in Canada’s newly-elected Parliament. We have asked them to pass a proposed new bill that we have outlined to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act that Parliament passed last June. We set out that letter below. It includes our framework for the new short but punchy bill that we are proposing and explains why we need it. In summary, we want this bill to:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

As our letter to the party leaders explains, it is good that Parliament unanimously passed the Accessible Canada Act. However, it needs to be strengthened to ensure that it fulfils its goal of making Canada barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. While the Act’s commendable goal is a barrier-free Canada, it does not require any disability accessibility barriers to ever be removed or prevented.

The recent federal election has opened the door to a tremendous new opportunity for us to advocate for this proposed new bill. Canada now has a minority government. All parties supported the goal of a barrier-free Canada and recognized the need for strong legislation to achieve this. The opposition Conservatives, NDP and Greens have all supported amendments to strengthen this bill. However, because our last government was a majority government, the opposition parties did not have the ability to make this happen.

The new minority government situation changes all that, and creates a new window of opportunity for us. However, minority governments typically only last for two or, at most, three years. We must move quickly. We are eager to work with any and all parties on this issue, in our well-known tradition of non-partisanship.

As our framework for this bill shows, our proposals for this bill are intentionally short and limited. They are the most high-impact changes with the best chance of getting them through Parliament. They reflect concerns that disability organizations repeatedly pressed for over the past year during public hearings in the House of Commons and the Senate on Bill C-81. Our experience with provincial disability accessibility legislation amply shows that these are top priorities.

Some might think it will be an uphill battle to get Parliament to amend the Accessible Canada Act now, so soon after it was enacted. We are used to uphill battles, including very daunting ones! For example, just one year ago, many thought it would be impossible to get the Senate to strengthen Bill C-81, especially so close to an election, and then to get the House of Commons to ratify any Senate amendments. Yet we and many others from the disability community tenaciously persisted. As a result, the Senate passed some amendments to strengthen Bill C-81 last spring. After that, the House of Commons approved all the Senate’s amendments.

We have nothing to lose in presenting this new proposal, and a lot to gain! Please urge your Member of Parliament to support this proposal for a new bill. Help us get all parties to make this a priority in the forthcoming session of Canada’s new Parliament.

Stay tuned for more on this issue. For more background on the non-partisan campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/Canada

We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS — AODA Alliance Letter to Federal Party Leaders on a New ACA Bill

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue,

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

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

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

November 18, 2019

To:

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Via email: [email protected]

Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Twitter: @JustinTrudeau

The Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition and of the Conservative Party

Via email: [email protected]

Leader of the Conservative Party

House of Commons

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Twitter: @AndrewScheer

The Hon. Yves-François Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

3750 boul. Crémazie Est, bureau 402

Montréal Quebec H2A 1B6

Twitter: @yfblanchet

The Hon. Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP

Via email: [email protected]

300 – 279 Laurier West

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5J9

Twitter: @theJagmeetSingh

The Hon. Jo-Ann Roberts, Interim Leader of the Green Party; MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands

Via email: [email protected]

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

Twitter: @JoAnnRobertsHFX

Dear Federal Party Leaders,

Re: Strengthening the Accessible Canada Act to Achieve a Barrier-Free Canada for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

As the new Parliament prepares to meet, we ask your parties to ensure that its agenda includes a new short, but vital bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. This is important for over six million people with disabilities who face too many accessibility barriers every day. It is also important for everyone else in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they grow older.

At the end of this letter we set out a framework detailing what this new bill should include. In summary, this new bill should:

  1. a) ensure that enforceable accessibility standards are enacted under the Accessible Canada Act within five years;
  1. b) remove an unfair and discriminatory provision So that passengers with disabilities who are the victims of accessibility barriers in federally-regulated travel (like air travel) are always able to seek monetary compensation when they deserve it;
  1. c) ensure that the Accessible Canada Act never reduces the rights of people with disabilities, and that in any conflict between laws, the one that provides the highest level of accessibility prevails;
  1. d) ensure that federal laws never create or permit accessibility barriers;
  1. e) ensure that federal public money is never used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities;
  1. f) simplify the Accessible Canada Act‘s unnecessarily confusing and complicated enforcement process;
  1. g) eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act, and
  1. h) require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens when it makes decisions or policies.

Founded in 2005, the AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario and Canada. We presented to the House of Commons and Senate to ask for amendments to strengthen Bill C-81. During debates in Parliament, MPs and Senators quoted and relied on our submissions.

In June, before rising for the election, Parliament unanimously passed Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. We appreciate and commend its unanimous passage. Many people with disabilities were encouraged by Parliament’s unanimity in recognizing that Canada has too many barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that the needed legislative solution to this problem must be based on the principle of “Nothing about us without us!”

It is good that the Accessible Canada Act sets the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free by 2040, and that it gives the Federal Government a range of important powers to achieve that goal. However, there was also commendable recognition from many in Parliament that the bill needs to include more to achieve its goal. Even though the Accessible Canada Act has the goal of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free by 2040, it does not require that a single disability barrier ever be removed.

In the House of Commons Standing Committee hearings, many disability advocates identified ways Bill C-81 needed to be strengthened. During clause-by-clause debate in the House last fall, the Conservatives and NDP presented a substantial number of proposed amendments at the request of disability organizations. The Federal Government presented a shorter package of amendments. The Federal Government’s amendments were passed.

After that, the bill came to the Senate last spring. A Senate Standing Committee held a second round of public hearings. The Senate heard that there was ample support for the need for this legislation, but that the bill still needed strengthening.

Commendably, the Senate passed a short package of improvements to the bill, before returning it to the House of Commons. Senators saw that the bill needed improvements. They were reluctant to pass more than a bare number of amendments, because they did not want to risk the bill dying on the order paper when the imminent election was called.

The Senate did what little it could to strengthen the bill within these substantial constraints. However, it did not fix all the key deficiencies with Bill C-81. When the bill was returned to the House of Commons last spring, it was commendable that the House unanimously passed the Senate’s improvements.

The job of coming up with an Accessible Canada Act that meets the needs of over six million people with disabilities in Canada is therefore still unfinished. We urge Parliament to now finish this important work, by strengthening the Accessible Canada Act. We propose amendments. Set out below, these amendments echo key requests from the disability community to the House of Commons and later to the Senate before the election. For Parliament to now act on them is true to the parties’ commitment to the principle “Nothing about us without us.”

To past a modest bill now to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act is consistent with the calls last year by the Conservative, NDP and Green Parties for Bill C-81 to be strengthened. During Third Reading debates on Bill C-81 in the House of Commons, the Conservatives promised, if elected, to make the strengthening of this bill a priority. The NDP promised specific amendments to this bill during the 2019 federal election. The Liberals promised that this new law would be historic and would ensure that Canada becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Liberals also promised during the recent election to apply a disability lens to all government decisions. When a disability lens is applied to the Accessible Canada Act itself, it brings into sharp focus the fact that the amendments we seek are needed now.

These amendments would not delay the Federal Government’s current activity on implementing the Accessible Canada Act. Parliamentary debate over this short amendments package need not hold up other pressing Parliamentary business.

We anticipate that some within the Federal Public Service may push back that this should all await an Independent Review of the Accessible Canada Act’s operations. Yet people with disabilities cannot wait the seven or more years for that review to begin. The need for these amendments is clear and present now. Any delay in making them will only slow Canada’s progress towards the goal of full accessibility.

In the new minority Parliament that voters elected, your parties have committed to work together. Our proposed bill is an excellent opportunity for this. It reflects what your parties have said about accessibility for people with disabilities and to what many disability advocates told Parliament.

We would welcome the opportunity to speak to any of your parties’ officials about this. Please let us know with whom we should speak within your party.

We urge you to support the bill we seek, and to make this a priority on Parliament’s agenda. We are eager to work together with you on this positive proposal in the spirit of non-partisanship that is the hallmark of our many years of grassroots disability advocacy.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Framework of a Proposed Federal Bill to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act

November 18, 2019

Introduction

We call on Canada’s Parliament to pass a new bill to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act is federal legislation that has the purpose of ensuring that Canada becomes barrier-free for over six million people with disabilities by 2040. This framework explains the amendments to the Accessible Canada Act that we seek via a new bill.

A. Enforceable Accessibility Standard Regulations Should Be Enacted Within Five Years

The Accessible Canada Act’s centerpiece is the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standard regulations. These regulations will specify what an organization must do, and by when to become accessible. The Act lets the Federal Cabinet, the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) enact these regulations. However, it does not require them ever to be enacted. If they are not enacted, the Act will fail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the Act covers within five years. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add this subsection to section 117:

“Obligation

(1.2) The Governor in Council must make all the regulations under paragraphs 1(c) and (d) necessary to achieving the purposes of this Act, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, must make at least one regulation under paragraphs (1c) and (d) in each of the areas referred to in section 5 within the period of five years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force.”

B. The Accessible Canada Act Should Never Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

The Accessible Canada Act includes insufficient protections to ensure that nothing under the Act reduces the rights of people with disabilities and that if there is a conflict between two laws regarding accessibility, the stronger one will prevail.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to provide that if a provision of that Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the Accessible Canada Act or in any regulations enacted under it or actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 6 of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following to the principles set out in it that govern the Act:

“(2) (a) If a provision of this Act or of any regulation under this Act conflicts with or guarantees a different level of accessibility for people with disabilities than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

(b) Nothing in or under this Act or regulations enacted under it may be construed or applied to reduce the rights of people with disabilities enjoyed at law.”

C. An Unfair and Discriminatory Provision of the Accessible Canada Act Should Be Removed So that Passengers with Disabilities Who Are the Victims of Accessibility Barriers in Federally-Regulated Travel (Like Air Travel) are Always Able to Seek Monetary Compensation When They Deserve It

An unfair and discriminatory provision, section 172, was included in the Accessible Canada Act. It is helpful that the Senate somewhat softened it, after tenacious pressure from disability advocates. However, it should be repealed altogether.

Specifically, section 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act unfairly takes away important rights from people with disabilities in a discriminatory way. It bars the CTA from awarding justly-deserved monetary compensation to a passenger with a disability, even if the CTA finds that an airline or other federally-regulated transportation-provider imposed an undue barrier against them, so long as a federal transportation accessibility regulation says that the airline did not have to provide the passenger with that accommodation.

This unfairly protects huge, well-funded airlines and railways from having to pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up. Our proposed bill would repeal the offending portion of section 172(3). We therefore propose:

  1. To ensure that the Canadian Transportation Agency can decide whether there is an undue barrier that makes federal transportation inaccessible for persons with disabilities and can always order the full range of remedies to remove and prevent such barriers, and to ensure that s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act does not reduce rights of persons with disabilities, subsection 172(3) of the Accessible Canada Act and the corresponding s. 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act should be amended to remove the words “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.”

Section 172(3) of the Canada Transportation Act currently reads:

“Compliance with regulations

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

With this amendment, section 172(3) would read:

“Compliance with regulations

(3) If the Agency is satisfied that regulations made under subsection 170(1) that are applicable in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency may determine that there is an undue barrier in relation to that matter.”

D. No Federal Laws Should Create or Permit Disability Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not ensure that federal laws never impose or permit the creation of barriers against people with disabilities.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” to include laws that create or permit disability barriers. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act’s definition of “barrier” should be amended to add the words “a law”, so that it will read in material part:

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation. (obstacle)”

E. Federal Public Money Should Never Be Used to Create or Perpetuate Barriers

The Accessible Canada Act does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds to create or perpetuate disability barriers. For example, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients are left free to use federal public money to design and build new infrastructure that is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the Act doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

It is helpful that the Act lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However, it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

This allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. The Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs that held hearings on Bill C-81 made this important observation in its May 7, 2019 report to the Senate:

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

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to require that no one may use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g., payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity. We therefore propose:

  1. The Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the following provision:

11.1.

(1) No one shall use public money distributed by the Government of Canada or any agency thereof by loan, grant, or other like payment in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers.

(2) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, subsection 1 includes payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity.

(3) Within the period of two years that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, the minister must establish and make public policies and procedures to implement, monitor compliance with, and report to the public on compliance with subsections 1 and 2.

(4) The power to make regulations under clauses 117 (1) (c) and (d) includes the power to make regulations to implement this section.

F. The Confusing and Complicated Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act Should be Simplified

The lengthy Accessible Canada Act is very complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities to navigate it. It splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the CTA, and the CRTC.

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

Our proposed bill would require that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to those that the Accessible Canada Act sets out for the Accessibility Commissioner. We therefore propose:

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

“Section 123.1.

(1) The Canadian Transportation Agency, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must within the period of six months that begins on the day on which this subsection comes into force, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner in sections 94 to 110 of the Act.”

G. The Accessible Canada Act’s Power to Exempt the Federal Government from Some of the Act’s Requirements Should be Eliminated

The Accessible Canada Act has too many loopholes. For example, it lets the Federal Government exempt itself from some of its duties under the Act. The Government should not ever be able to exempt itself.

Our proposed bill would eliminate the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the Accessible Canada Act. We therefore propose:

  1. Section 72(1) of the Accessible Canada Act should be amended to add the words “except any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada)”, so that the provision will read in material part:

“72 (1) The Minister may, by order, exempt any regulated entity or class of regulated entities except the any entity referred to in paragraphs 7(1) (a), (b) and (c) (the Government of Canada, or a department or agency of the Government of Canada) from the application of all or any part of sections 69 to 71, on any terms that the Minister considers necessary. The order ceases to have effect on the earlier of the end of the per­iod of three years that begins on the day on which the order is made and the end of any shorter period specified in the order.”

H. The Federal Government Should Be Required to Apply a Disability Lens to All Its Decisions

 

In the 2019 election campaign, the Liberal Party of Canada promised that it would apply a disability lens to all Federal Government decisions. Proposed opposition amendments to Bill C-81 last year would have made this a permanent legal requirement, not a voluntary practice that future governments could ignore.

Our proposed bill would amend the Accessible Canada Act to entrench in law a disability lens, that must be applied to all Government policies and decisions and would make it binding on both the current Government and future governments. We therefore propose:

 

  1. The following provision should be added to the Accessible Canada Act:

In order to systemically entrench the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all opportunities available in Canada, the government shall implement a disability lens whereby:

(a) Within two years the government shall have reviewed all existing policies to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(b) within 3 months of completing this review, the Minister shall submit a report to Parliament on the findings of the review and corrective measures taken.

(c) the government shall review all new policies and decisions to ensure that they do not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities.

(d) Before the Government of Canada adopts any new policies or makes any new decisions, the Minister shall certify that the policy has been reviewed to ensure that it does not exclude or adversely affect persons with disabilities, and shall annually report to Parliament on the reviews conducted and corrective measures taken



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Come to A Birthday Party On December 3, 2019 (the International Day for People with Disabilities) at Queen’s Park to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Non-Partisan Grassroots Movement for Accessibility Legislation in Ontario!


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Come to A Birthday Party On December 3, 2019 (the International Day for People with Disabilities) at Queen’s Park to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Non-Partisan Grassroots Movement for Accessibility Legislation in Ontario!

November 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

Everyone loves a birthday party! Please come to the Ontario Legislature Building at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 from 4 to 6 pm, for a birthday party! It will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the non-partisan grassroots movement for the enactment and effective implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario.

A quarter of a century ago, on November 29, 1994, a group of about twenty people with disabilities gathered together at a spontaneous meeting at the Ontario Legislature. On the spot, they decided to form an organization to campaign for Ontario to pass a strong accessibility law. What has followed has been an extraordinary twenty-five years of vibrant, creative, tenacious  non-partisan grassroots advocacy across Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities.

What better day could there be to celebrate this important birthday than December 3? It is recognized around the world as the International Day for People with Disabilities! What better way could there be to celebrate it, then to turn our prime attention to the next generation that will carry the torch forward in this cause. For that reason, a key focus at this birthday party will be on the next generation of people with disabilities!

Please come! Get others to come, and especially kids, teens and young adults! Our thanks to the March of Dimes, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Ontario and several other organizations who are helping to throw this party!

To attend, it is essential to RSVP in advance, so we can ensure that Queen’s Park security officials have the names of those who are coming. Also, space is limited, so RSVP fast! You must RSVP by November 26, 2019. To RSVP, go to this link https://sciontario.org/an-accessible-future-our-commitment-to-the-next-generation/

We also encourage individuals and organizations around Ontario to organize their own local celebrations of this historic anniversary. Let us know what you have planned. We would be happy to spread the word.

Over these twenty years, we can be proud that we have put disability accessibility on the political map. We’ve obtained lots of positive media coverage from one end of Ontario to the other. We put forward constructive proposals for action. We hold politicians accountable on this issue. We have waged non-partisan disability accessibility campaigns during every Ontario election since 1995, and have gotten election pledges on disability accessibility from at least two parties, if not more, in every one of those seven provincial elections.

Our strength, from beginning to end, is our many wonderful grassroots supporters, both individuals and organizations, selflessly toiling away, tirelessly, right across Ontario. Each one has helped our cause by writing or meeting their MPP, telling the media about a barrier in their community, educating their local businesses and community organizations on accessibility, serving on a municipal or provincial accessibility advisory committee, council or other body, tweeting about our campaign, posting on the web about accessibility, calling a phone-in radio program, writing a letter to the editor or guest newspaper column, organizing a local accessibility event, submitting briefs to the Government, reading and forwarding our email Updates, or sending us feedback and ideas. This is a chance to celebrate all these collective efforts. We have learned over and over that tenacity and courage in the face of barriers pays off.

So what happened back on November 29, 1994, to kick-start this movement? We set out a description of the key events. It comes from a law journal article that describes the first eight years of this movement, entitled “The Long Arduous Road to a Barrier-free Ontario for People with Disabilities: The History of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act – The First Chapter,” found in volume 15 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. It was written by David Lepofsky, who led the ODA Committee from 1995 to 2005, and who has chaired the AODA Alliance since 2009. Footnotes are omitted from this excerpt. Back then, we were campaigning for a law to be called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act or ODA. In 2005, the Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA. That is why in 2005 the ODA Committee wound up and was succeeded by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Please sign up to attend this birthday party and get others to do so!

          MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:  THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

  1. a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.



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Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Send Us Your Feedback on the AODA Alliance’s Draft Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Today we are making public a draft of our proposed brief to Ontario’s Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. We want your input. We set that brief out below. It is very detailed.

Back in 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It addresses barriers to accessibility in information and communication that face people with disabilities.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed a new Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to review that standard, and to make recommendations on where it needs to be strengthened.

On July 24, 2019, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee made public its draft recommendations. It invited feedback from the public on those draft recommendations. The AODA Alliance has been hard at work, preparing a brief to provide our feedback to the Standards Development Committee. We are here giving you a draft of our brief. We welcome your feedback before we finalize this brief.

Here’s the problem! The Government’s deadline for sending in public feedback to the Standards Development Committee was October 25, 2019. We are late! We have to get this brief finalized very fast. Therefore, rushed as it sounds, we need your feedback no later than November 11, 2019.

We apologize for this rush. Our volunteer efforts have been spread over so many important issues, like the recent federal election.

You can be relieved to know that this draft brief reflects a lot of research. It also incorporates lots of feedback that we have received over the years on the issue of barriers to information and communication.

Send your feedback to us by emailing us at [email protected]

We know that this draft brief is quite long and detailed. Some may not have the time to read it all. Here is a short summary of what we propose to say in this brief. This is the summary that is also included in the brief itself.

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committee s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

There have now been 279 days since the Ford Government received the Onley Report. It called for strong new Government action to implement and enforce the AODA. The Ford Government has still announced no comprehensive plan to implement that report.

Draft Only

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Brief to the Ontario Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on Its Draft Recommendations for Revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 5, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

Note: This is only a draft and has not been finalized as the position of the AODA Alliance.

A. Introduction

1. Overview

This is the AODA Alliance’s brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on its draft recommendations for revisions to the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

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

In 2011, the Ontario Government passed the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) under the AODA. Among other things, that regulation includes a series of provisions on the accessibility of information and communication. That is referred to in this brief as the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. At other points, this brief generally refers to the IASR, of which that standard is a part.

In 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to review the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, enacted under the AODA, and to recommend any revisions needed so that this , accessibility standard would best achieve the AODA’s purposes.

The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has developed draft recommendations on how to strengthen the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. On July 24, 2019, the Ontario Government posted those draft recommendations online and invited public input on them, the Ontario Government was required to do this under the AODA. The feedback which the Government receives is to be submitted to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. That committee is then required to consider that feedback, as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

This brief provides the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee with our feedback on the committee’s draft recommendations. We hope that this feedback will assist the committee as it finalizes its recommendations for the Government.

The AODA Alliance welcomes this opportunity to offer our input. We ask that the Accessibility Ministry ensure that all members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee receive this brief as a whole, and not just a summary of it prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. We have received informal word that in the past, at least some Standards Development Committees only receive a summary of feedback from such mandatory public consultations. That summary was evidently prepared by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. To fulfil the spirit and purposes of the AODA’s public consultation provisions it is important for all Standards Development Committee members to hear directly from the public, without having their input filtered by the Ontario Government.

We also offer to make an in-person presentation directly to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on our feedback. The Transportation Standards Development committee and the Employment Standards Development Committee each took us up on that offer. We hope this Standards Development Committee will do the same.

When it comes time for the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to vote on the recommendations that it will present to the Ontario Government, we ask the committee to vote separately on each of the recommendations that we present in this brief.

We acknowledge with thanks the feedback and input that we regularly receive from our supporters that enable us to provide informed feedback to the Government and the public in areas such as this. We also thank the members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for their commendable efforts to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

2. Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a voluntary non-partisan coalition of individuals and organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit: https://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

We have been widely recognized by the Ontario Government, by all political parties in the Ontario Legislature, within the disability community and by the media, as a key voice leading the non-partisan campaign for accessibility in Ontario. In every provincial election since 2005, any party that has made election commitments on accessibility has done so in letters to the AODA Alliance.

Our efforts and expertise on accessibility for people with disabilities have been recognized in speeches on the floor of the Ontario Legislature, and beyond. Our website and Twitter feed are widely consulted as helpful sources of information on accessibility efforts in Ontario and elsewhere. We have achieved this as an unfunded volunteer community coalition.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. Our efforts influenced the development of the Accessible Canada Act. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

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

The AODA Alliance has played a leading and highly-visible role in Ontario in raising a wide range of accessibility issues, including in the information and communication context. We have connections across Canada and internationally with, and are regularly consulted by accessibility advocates and governments as they grapple with how to tackle these issues.

As but one example, the AODA Alliance played a leading role in campaigning to enable the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to get back to work after the work of all Standards Development Committees was frozen in the wake of the 2018 Ontario election. We were happy and relieved when the Ontario Government lifted that freeze on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee in the fall of 2018 and allowed it to go back to work.

3. Summary of this Brief

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the ‘Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committees draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

Here are three important themes which we ask the Committee to bear in mind as it reviews our recommendations.

a) A Commendable Start

First, we strongly commend the Committee for its efforts and for the draft recommendations. As will become evident, we agree with many if not most of the Committee’s Phase 1 recommendations. We urge adjustments to several of the Committee’s recommendations to further strengthen them. These are in a number of cases request from us for minor adjustments or refinements to the Committee’s work. We also point out several additional improvements to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, to supplement those which the Committee has prepared.

Based on its work so far, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has done by far the best job of any Standards Development Committee that has been appointed to review an existing AODA accessibility standard. It has prepared far stronger draft recommendations for reform than did ASAC when it reviewed the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard or the Transportation Standards Development Committee when it reviewed the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

b) Committee’s Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working “As Intended”

Second, it appears obvious that several of the Standards Development Committees that have been reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard has been working under substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Each such Standards Development Committee, including the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, has stated that it understood its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working “as intended”. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations state in the introduction:

“The Act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required.”

Substantially the same erroneous language was included in the initial draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee that were circulated in 2017 for public comment and the draft recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee which were circulated earlier this year for public comment.

To simply see if the standard is working “as intended” seriously and substantially understates the goal of this mandatory review of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA does not limit a Standards Development Committee to inquiring on such a review to see if the standard is working “as intended”.

Rather, this review’s purpose is to ascertain whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working sufficiently to ensure that information and communication become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s goal. This Review should recommend improvements to ensure that the Standard will achieve that goal.

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would be sufficient, even if that left information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers, now and even long after 2025. If the original intent of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard fell below what the AODA requires for information and communication accessibility by 2025, neither we nor the Standards Development Committee should be locked into or handcuffed by that insufficient goal.

As this brief documents, the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, was not capable of ensuring that information and communication will become fully accessible by 2025, or indeed, ever. We have publicly shared our strong disagreement with the Accessibility Directorate‘s substantial dilution of the aim of these five year reviews of AODA accessibility standards, and have alerted the Directorate about our concerns. Despite this, and with no explanation or justification, that Directorate appears to have persisted in pressing Standards Development Committees to adopt this incorrect and unduly restrictive understanding of their mandate. We identified this concern in our briefs to the Transportation and Employment Standards Development Committees. We also identified it in Chapter 5 of our January 15, 2019 brief to the Third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. It was there explained under the heading: “Inappropriate Government Attempts to Unduly Restrict the Work of Standards Development Committees”.

Even though the Information and Communication Standards Development refers to this erroneous “working as intended” approach to its review, it is clear from its draft recommendations that the Committee did not allow itself to be improperly hog-tied by the Directorate’s erroneous advice or direction. We congratulate the Committee for doing so.

c) Committee Should Use the Findings in the Moran and Onley Reports As Its Starting Point

Third, we agree with the Standards Development Committee‘s draft recommendations’ general assessment of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as summarized in this paragraph:

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

However, it is vital for the Committee to proceed from the starting point that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is substantially more deficient than that, even though it is the strongest of the accessibility standards enacted to date. The Committee should work from the starting point established by the second AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran and the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. The key findings in the reports of those reviews appear to come directly from the detailed briefs that the AODA Alliance submitted to those reviews.

In 2014, the second mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there are very serious deficiencies in the accessibility standards enacted to date. These included the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Nothing in that accessibility standard has been changed since that report to address those concerns. Appendix 1 to this brief sets out key excerpts from the Moran Report.

The third Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by David Onley, reinforced and supplemented the Moran Report’s overall findings. It did not disagree with the Moran Report’s findings regarding the IASR’s deficiencies. Because the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s provisions had remained unchanged over the five years between the Moran Report and the Onley Report, there was no basis to revise the earlier report’s concerns.

In 2019, the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley accepted the Moran Report as a correct starting point. It did not contradict any of the Moran Report’s findings about the problems with the accessibility standards enacted to date. It did not find that in the intervening four years, the Ontario Government had done anything to reduce those serious deficiencies.

To the contrary, the Onley Report made even more pointed and blistering findings about the AODA’s overall implementation. It did not exempt the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard from those blistering findings.

Based on public feedback, Onley’s report found that the pace of change regarding accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With then under six years left before 2025, the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” He concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

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

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

“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.”

Since the Onley Report was received over nine months ago, the Ontario Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement it, nor has it publicly said that it will do so in the future. As such, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind the goal of full accessibility, while the 2025 deadline looms closer and closer.

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

As such, we urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to see its job as pivotal. It should recommend fixes to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that will rectify the substantial deficiencies in the AODA’s implementation in so far as they pertain to the accessibility of information and communication. This brief aims to help the Committee with that task.

If the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is to be strengthened in order to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved by 2025 in relation to information and communication, this must happen now. The next mandatory review of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not have to be appointed until the eve of the 2025 deadline. By then, if Ontario has not yet been put back on schedule for the 2025 deadline in connection with the accessibility of information and communication, it will be too late.

In the following discussion, our recommendations track the sequence of the Committee’s draft recommendations. We insert additional topics where they best fit, following the structure of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard itself.

B. Our Specific Feedback on the Draft Recommendations’ Phase 1 Proposals

1. Accessibility Standard’s Long Term Objective

We commend the Committee for reviewing the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s long term objective, and its effort to simplify it. We believe that all that needs to be added to the Committee’s proposed simplified language is the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The standard’s long term objective should be:

“By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.”

2. Section 2 – Definitions

The term “accessible formats” should be clarified so that organizations know that digital formats are an option, but only if they are in a format that is screen-reader-friendly.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASR’s definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section, “kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

4. Committee’s Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulation’s Feedback Requirements

We agree with the committee’s Recommendation 1 to immediately consolidate in one place in the IASR all feedback requirements, in language that makes them clear and consistent as long as this makes it clear that this that does not reduce any existing obligations.

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

The standard’s definition of “conversion-ready” information is too loose. Section 9 provides:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that facilitates conversion into an accessible format;”

That definition does not ensure that the material is capable of ready conversion into an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. The Committee should expand its recommendations to recommend that section 9(1) of the standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

Section 9(4) defines unconvertible information in a manner that is far too broad. This would weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Section 9(4) provides:

“For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

(a)        it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or

(b)       the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily available.”

That provision dramatically reduces obligations of organizations below what they are required to do under the Human Rights Code, and, where applicable, the Charter of Rights. Our proposal for amending s. 9(2) makes s. 9(4) unnecessary.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that either:

(a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or

(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

  1. a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
  2. b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations where they conclude that PDF documents are often inaccessible and that the required expertise to make them accessible is seldom present in obligated organizations.

The Committee’s draft recommendations indicate that they do not propose banning PDF formats. We have never proposed banning anyone from creating a PDF document. It has always been our position, which we urge here, that if an obligated organization creates a pdf document in connection with activities to which this accessibility standard would apply, an accessible alternate format document, such as an MS Word, txt or HTML document should also be posted and made available at the same time.

The Committee’s draft recommendations state that the Committee considered non-regulatory measures such as education for Government employees, but did not vote on this. We do not believe that such non-regulatory measures are sufficient. They would not solve this persistent but easily-remedied problem.

We have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems. The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Government‘s long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontario’s education system available via PDF documents.

A simple, clear enforceable rule in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is the only effective measure that will have a hope of success, not only for the Ontario Government, but for other obligated organizations as well.

Some may think that a PDF can be made fully accessible. With such a view, we strongly and respectfully disagree, based on years of ample experience. However, this is a moot point.

First, as the committee correctly recognizes, obligated organizations mostly do not have the expertise to make a PDF accessible, even if it is assumed that this goal can be accomplished. Second, when a person receives a PDF, there is no way to know from the file name whether anyone has even attempted to incorporate accessibility features in it, and if so, how many such features. Third, it makes no sense to ask obligated organizations to divert their resources into trying in vain to remediate a new PDF, when they could instead quickly, easily and at no cost simply post the document in an accessible format like MS Word, whenever they post a pdf.

It would take enormous resources to try to persuade obligated organizations to voluntarily change their practices. It is far more effective to set a simple rule which obligated organizations can readily understand and which is easy to enforce.

Documents are not written in PDF. They are written in another application like MS Word. After they are written, accessibility is stripped from that document when it is converted to a PDF.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The draft recommendations should be revised to include a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

7. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 4 that the loophole in the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard must be closed which exempts products and product labels from information and communication accessibility. Section 9(2) of the standard states:

“      (2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:

  1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.”

We commend the Committee for attempting to address this. However the draft recommendations do not go far enough to address this. The Committee’s draft recommendations call on the Ontario Government to try to work out a shared regulatory solution with the Federal Government and/or in the interim, that the Ontario Government explore non-regulatory solutions with obligated organizations.

Here again, an enforceable mandatory and specific standard is needed to change practices on the ground. Almost 15 years into the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities do not have time to hope that non-regulatory voluntary measures will change practices that have not substantially changed. In this context, we re-emphasize the finding in the Onley Report that progress on accessibility has been far too slow, and that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers.”

To hold off any regulatory action on this pending Ontario working out a coordinated action by the Federal Government would, we regret, indefinitely delay any regulatory action. Getting agreement with the Federal Government will predictably take years. The Federal Government will no doubt want to try to work out a common approach for all the provinces. While that would be ideal, it will take even longer. It will also lead to Ontario risking its being driven down to the lowest common denominator among the provinces. Ontario should lead with the strongest standard, and not follow others to the weakest standard.

In the recent federal election, most of the federal parties were not prepared to make any commitments at all on new measures they would take to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. Only one party was prepared to make commitments with any detail or that embodied real change for disability accessibility. After the election, there is little reason to expect that they will become more eager to make this a priority.

There is no compelling reason to await federal regulatory action in this sphere, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose what Ontario should do. The committee is worried about the possible overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. In any area of public regulation of economic activity, there are innumerable situations where there may be an overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ontario nevertheless takes action, without waiting for the Federal Government. We have a federal labour board and a provincial labour board. We have a national building code and the Ontario Building Code. The list goes on.

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to simply withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements, should the Federal Government at last decide to act in this area. However this should only be done so long as this does not lead to any reduction in Ontario’s accessibility protections.

While it would be helpful for the Ontario Government to work with industries to come up with creative new solutions in this area as the committee proposes, that too is no reason to withhold the enactment now of a regulatory requirement. Indeed, the presence of a mandatory Ontario regulatory accessibility requirement would help motivate industries to develop creative new solutions, including harnessing new technologies.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

“Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.”

8. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

We agree with the Committee’s concern with s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It requires an obligated organization to consult with a person with a disability on a needed accessible document format. It leaves the ultimate decision to the obligated organization in unilateral terms. The Committee’s draft recommendation commendably found:

“The Committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

We agree with the Committee that this provision needs to be strengthened. We also agree with the Committee’s proposal that the obligated organization should endeavour to get the agreement of the person requesting the alternative format. However, we are concerned that this does not go far enough.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in “duty to accommodate” cases. (See D. Lepofsky “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic Scho  ol Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate by investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

9. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

We agree with the Committee where it states that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is unduly vague, by providing that an alternative format document must be provided in a timely manner. We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 6 that the obligated organization and the requesting individual should endeavour to reach an agreement on the time frame for this.

However we do not agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where they propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing some sort of alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism. Moreover, ASAC’s membership was presumably not selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The creation of the required legal machinery to which the committee’s draft recommendations refer might well require legislative amendment, if there is to be an enforceable requirement and monetary penalties for non-compliance. We have not had a chance to investigate that complex question. As further addressed later in this brief, we do not want the Government to re-open the AODA’s provisions in the Legislature.

Moreover, the AODA requires that the development of such ideas for accessibility standards be done initially through a Standards Development Committee which is subject to the AODA’s procedural safeguards and openness requirements (including requirements for public input). ASAC is not subject to any of those procedures and safeguards, for which we fought so hard. For example, its meeting minutes are not required to be made public. In contrast, the minutes of meetings of a Standards Development Committee must be made public according to the AODA. The development of recommendations for the content of an element of an accessibility standard should not be sub-delegated to ASAC.

Instead to strengthen requirements in this area to address the shortcoming which the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee commendably identified, it would be helpful for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be amended to set clear timelines, or presumptive timelines for an organization to respond to a request. This could vary depending on the organizations size and the importance of the requested information. If the information is to come from a hospital and relates to a patient’s medical condition, then the response time should be very short. Given the readily-available availability of technology to produce alternative formats for documents, and the low cost for doing so, there is no reason for such timelines to be lengthy. If the Ontario Government were to post online helpful information on how to convert documents to accessible formats, and a list of venders who can be retained to do this, then an obligated organization should be able to act quickly when a request is received.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive time lines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and or the requested information relates to important matters such as health or safety or other vital services. Otherwise nothing longer than a 7 day time line should apply.

10. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASR’s various requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken these in any way. Our only concern will be to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not have the effect of reducing any rights of people with disabilities.

 11. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 9. It would require the Ontario Government and the Legislature to immediately ensure that all publicly facing documents are available in an accessible format. If this is required for new documents, this is not a major burden for the Ontario Government. As noted earlier, documents are typically first created in an accessible format, and then counterproductively rendered inaccessible by converting them to formats such as PDF.

12. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 commendably aims to find a creative way to address the need for on-demand Government information in ASL and LSQ. We share the intent of that proposal, but believe it should be strengthened.

We therefore recommend that:

*10. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

  1. a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to implement and require the Committee’s proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and
  1. b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committee’s Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

Section 12(1)(a) sets the obligation here too low. It states:

“      12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is not sufficient for an obligated organization to take “into account” the needs of people with disabilities. The requirement should be to provide supports that meet the needs of people with disabilities unless to do so would cause the organization undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the standard be amended to provide:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is commendable that section 12(3) requires organizations to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. However the provision is too vague. It requires more detail to make it effective. Section 12:3) provides:

“      (3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.”

We therefore recommend that:

#12. Section 12(3) of the standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

Unlike the clear language used in a number of other parts of the IASR, section 12(4) is unintelligible. An organization will need a lawyer to figure it out. It states:

“      (4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section.”

We do not know what this provision means. We fear others will also not know what it means. Whatever it means to say, it should be said in much clearer language – language that lets an organization and persons with disabilities understand it without needing to hire and pay a lawyer to decipher it.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. Section 12(4) should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

As a general matter, we also commend and endorse the concerns and advice that Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC provided to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho in its January 19, 2019 letter to the minister. CDAC is an amazing and well-respected expert in its field. It has cutting-edge knowledge and good ideas on how to make progress.

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

“Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial, non-profit organization that addresses accessibility for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities. Over 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication, that are not caused primarily by deafness or significant hearing loss. Diverse disabilities such as physical, neurological, cognitive, learning, hearing, vision, and linguistic disabilities can affect one or more areas of a person’s speech, comprehension, reading and writing.

Communication access to goods and services is as important as physical access for people who have little or no speech and who use picture, symbol, letter boards and devices to convey their messages.

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the Standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.

At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorate’s website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

Many of these accessibility accommodations are extremely useful and appropriate for people who have speech and language disabilities. However, the accessibility needs of people with speech and language disabilities go beyond access to written information and occur in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and written communication. Many of these contexts are critical communication situations, such as police, legal and justice services, where communication barriers can have serious consequences.

To address this significant gap in the Standards, we propose that the Information and Communications (IC) Standard expand its mandate to include regulations that address two-way, interactive communication for people who have disabilities that affect their communication.

We are recommending:

  • The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.
  • The mandate of this committee should go beyond “processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities” to include “processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.
  • Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.
  • Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, sign language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.
  • Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.
  • Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.
  • Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.
  • Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

We believe that many of these accessibility features could be included in the IC Standard to provide a foundation upon which sector-specific communication standards could be developed, such as transportation, healthcare, education and employment. An example of a generic baseline communication standard would-be mandatory training for all service providers on how to communicate with a person who has unclear speech or who uses a communication device. An example of a sector-specific communication standard would be that health care providers must ensure that a communication assistant is authorized by a patient when supporting them in the provision of informed consent to treatment.

Existing resources:

CDAC has developed a range of free guidelines and resources on ways to make services communication accessible. These resources are available for the Accessibility Directorate to promote and use across the province, resources include:

  1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations

http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at

http://www.access-to-justice.org/

  1. A database of communication assistants who are available to support people with speech and language disabilities communicating at meetings, forums and on committees at http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/
  1. A webinar on making services accessible at

Making your services accessible for people with communication disabilities

  1. Written guidelines on communication access at

http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf”

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the standard.

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

We share the Committee’s commendable call for greater action to ensure the accessibility of information regarding emergency plans and procedures.

15. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 11 that all the IASR’s various provisions regarding emergency plans and procedures should be consolidated in one part of the regulation. We add that nothing should be done to weaken these provisions.

16. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

The Committee concluded that “the preparedness of all levels of Government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.” We share this concern.

The Committee commendably recommended that the Government should review overall emergency preparedness measures from a disability perspective. However, it did not recommend anything to strengthen s. 13 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We turn attention to that need here.

Section 13 does not spell out the most obvious and important aspect of emergency procedures in this area. It does not explicitly require an organization to incorporate in any emergency procedure, a process for ensuring that it makes emergency announcements in an accessible format or manner during an emergency or crisis. Even if it is implicitly covered by earlier provisions in the IASR, it is very important to have a specific, clear and strong requirement here.

We therefore recommend that:

#15. Section 13 should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are available in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

17. Part 4: Section 14 Website and Web Content Accessibility Generally

We share the Committee’s view that the standard’s website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committee’s Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

We strongly and heartily endorse the Committee’s proposal that an organization’s number of employees should not be the sole determinant of an organization’s accessibility obligations. We have been urging that view upon the Ontario Government for over a decade without success.

We agree as well that the Committee’s idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add, however, a few variations. First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has had an upside-down approach to organizations ‘ duties and time lines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure that the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than can the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest time lines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest time lines. This makes no sense. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is of course irrelevant for those time lines that have already expired.

Second, the measure of what constitutes a high impact organization should include more than does the Committee’s Recommendation 15.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

  1. a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.
  1. b) That will measure the number of an organization’s users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.
  1. c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose.
  1. d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

19. Extending the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to Require WCAG 2.1, Not the Current 2.0

At present, the specific standard for website accessibility that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard sets is Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0. That was established by the W3C consortium at least a decade ago. Since then, we understand that it has been updated much more recently to WCAG 2.1. As we read it, the Committee’s recommendations merely refer to the old WCAG 2.0. They and do not recommend updating the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require WCAG 2.1. The Committee’s draft recommendations do not explain this. It is critically important.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. Section 14 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

As well, it is entirely unjustifiable in late 2019 for the standard to lead any organization to think that it is sufficient in the interim to only meet WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not, as a bare minimum, Level AA. Yet s. 14(3) still provides as follows, with an end date of 2021:

“      (2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.”

No organization should now waste its efforts at merely meeting Level A as an interim goal, when it makes more sense to set Level AA as its goal from the outset.

We therefore recommend that:

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

20. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements. If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessibility than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organization’s resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#19. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 13 should be expanded to recommend that section 14 should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

21. Committee’s Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy and unacceptable end-run around the provision.

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

“•    Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14

  • Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
  • The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and ‘branding’ (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
  • Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.”

22. Committee’s Recommendation 17: Practicability

We agree with the Committee’s concern that s. 14(5) includes too broad an exemption to its website accessibility requirements, by only requiring obligated organizations to take the required action to make websites accessible “where practicable”. We agree with the Committee that

“…this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.”

We encourage the Committee to fortify and further reinforce this serious concern. The sweeping “where practicable” exemption is far broader than the relevant Human Rights Code exemption from the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, which is only available where it is impossible to provide more accessibility without undue hardship. “Undue hardship “is a much more exacting requirement than mere practicability. Moreover the failure to use the stronger undue hardship terminology sends a harmful and erroneous signal to obligated organizations that they need not meet this higher undue hardship test. It misleads obligated organizations. This is a disservice both to obligated organizations and to people with disabilities.

To define the existing term “practicable” in s. 14(5) to mean the same as undue hardship, as the Committee is contemplating, risks confusing obligated organizations or suggesting to them that undue hardship means the same as merely not practicable. It is neater and cleaner, and less risk-prone, to simply replace the term “not practicable” in the standard with the correct “undue hardship”.

We would prefer if no “exception” clause was included. Compliance with well-established international standards for new web postings simply does not create an undue hardship. At the very least, if there is to be an exemption clause, the exemption should be no broader than that provided under the Human Rights Code.

We therefore recommend that:

#20. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the exception for not practicable is removed. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

It is important for the regulation to make it clear that all organizations covered by this provision have a clear duty to promptly provide people with disabilities, on request, in an accessible format, with any information that is inaccessible on their website. This would include, for example, any information that need not yet be made accessible because of the time lines in the regulation, or any archival material that need never be made accessible on the website.

We therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 14 should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

23. Part 4, Subpart 1: Section 14 Exemptions Generally

We agree that the standards’ exemptions are too broad and need to be narrowed.

24. Committee’s Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

We agree with the intent and content of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 that the exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in should be removed and that these types of websites should be required to comply with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We however believe that the proposed 2023 deadline for all publicly-facing websites, other than new ones, should be 2023. This is too long a time line, especially where meeting it would not provably pose an undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#21. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

25. Committee’s Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s important finding that “technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under Section 14.” We therefore agree with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations, including employee-facing websites. As such, we agree that “all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that Section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations”. Indeed this is a critical reform to strengthen the current weak Employment Accessibility Standard. As indicated earlier, we would go further, and urge that it be extended to at least some small organizations, even if they do not fit within the proposed definition of high impact organization.

26. Committee’s Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s view that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s exemption for pre-2012 web content is overbroad and should be narrowed. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 21 seems on first examination to be sensible. We would add that where historic, archived content is available on the web, and where a customer or employee needs it in an accessible format for purposes of seeking or using an obligated organization’s goods, services or facilities, or for purposes of their employment, the obligated organization should be required to make that content available on request in an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#22. The Committee’s Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

27. Committee’s Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 22 that sets out requirements so that by 2025, the standard’s live captioning and audio description exemptions will be eliminated. We would add that by 2021, this exemption should be lifted for the city of Toronto, a public sector organization which is larger and more resourced than a number of entire provinces in Canada.

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committee’s Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

28. Committee’s Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 23 which would clarify that s. 14 obligations apply to a website whether or not it is hosted in Ontario. This is a loophole that should not be permitted to remain.

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This is a critical position which could be decisively in enhancing accessibility of information and especially digital information.

At present, there is nothing in place in the standard to help ensure that a CIO has sufficient knowledge and training on digital accessibility, or even knows that they have lead responsibility for the organization‘s digital accessibility. There is similarly nothing in place to require that a CIO is held accountable within the organization for the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital accessibility.

We therefore recommend that:

#24. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer position or its equivalent:

  1. a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIO’s performance contract that the CIO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIO’s performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.
  1. d) In considering whom to hire as CIO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidate’s knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

Increasingly, organizations use web-based teleconferencing and meeting platforms for internal meetings of their employees or officials, and for public-facing meetings, such as electronic town hall meetings. Some of these platforms are more accessible than others. It is critical that organizations only use the most accessible ones. A requirement to this effect in the Standard would help get all such platforms to become accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

#25. The standard should be amended to require that when any public sector or large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform which is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The standard should provide key criteria for assessing the, accessibility of such platforms.

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

The standard does not now require any obligated organization to prepare and make public a comprehensive statement of the status of the accessibility of its website or related mobile apps. This might be covered to some extent in an accessibility plan or progress report on accessibility that the organization must prepare under the existing IASR. However, there is no assurance that the needed information will be included and will be comprehensive.

Helpful research provided to the AODA Alliance by the ARCH Disability Law Centre includes the following:

“The United Kingdom Statutory Instrument 2018 No.952, entitled The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the “Regulation”) is comparable to certain provisions within the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. There is also a Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the “Directive”) which is relevant.

 

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an “Accessibility Statement”.[1]

That research also stated:

“An Accessibility Statement as defined by the Regulation and Directive is: “a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations”.[2] The Accessibility Statement is a useful tool especially where an organization determines it is unable to meet accessibility standards. The Regulation requires a public sector body to explain in its Accessibility Statement any instances where it cannot comply with the accessibility requirement and provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.[3]

Under the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, obligated organizations are required to provide a requesting party with an explanation when it determines that it is unable to convert information and communications to an accessible format.[4] This requirement is similar to the Accessibility Statement required under the Regulation and Directive. However, Accessibility Statements are more robust. Accessibility Statements outline both an organization’s compliance and lack thereof meaning they go beyond simply addressing instances where an organization cannot comply with standards. Additionally, Accessibility Statements are required whether or not there is a ‘requesting party’ who has been denied accessible/convertible information. Further, the term ‘explanation’ is undefined in the Information and Communication Standard and so it lacks the formal requirements of an Accessibility Statement. As a result, there is no guarantee as to the quality of an explanation given to a requesting party under the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

We therefore recommend that:

#26. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

  1. a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organizations website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and
  1. b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committee’s Recommendation 14: Procurement

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations that the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities “…are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement.” We also agree with the general thrust of the ideas in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 on the substantive requirements to add to the IASR in so far as accessible procurement of information technology is concerned. We would however like to see the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard go further. It should include specifics of what kinds of accessibility features or functionality should be required. These should be expressed in terms of end-user-usability, and not the specific technology to include. This is so because technology in this area is so rapidly evolving. In other words, these amendments to the standard should not only set process requirements, but also requirements for end results in terms of functional end-user experience. We anticipate that obligated organizations generally know little or nothing about this and need as much regulatory direction as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

#27. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14, the IASR’s general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

We agree with the Committee that beyond the specific context of procuring information technology, the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement need to be strengthened. We however, do not agree with the Committee’s suggestion that this be referred to ASAC. As noted earlier, under the AODA, the review of any accessibility standard must be conducted at least every five years by a Standards Development Committee that is appointed for that purpose.

The members of the Standards Development Committee appointed to conduct that review should be chosen based on their expertise and experience in this specific area. No Standards Development Committee has been appointed since 2011 to review the IASR’s general provisions, such as the procurement provisions. It would be open to the Government to assign that review to an existing Standards Development Committee that was already appointed to review any other parts of the IASR or to recommend new accessibility standards.

The Government is in violation of the AODA for not having done so. That review was required to have been started in 2016. As noted earlier, the Standards Development Committee that conduct such a review should comply with all the procedural safeguards in the AODA conducting a review of an accessibility standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#28. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

We agree that the Government and public sector organizations need to be given some time to implement any changes in the area of procurement. However, we do not agree that this should extend out to 2021, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. This is so for several reasons.

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch. Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or of the IASR.

Third, 2025 is not far away. We cannot afford any delays, especially on the part of public sector organizations that are supposed to be leading by example.

Fourth, any such delay inappropriately suggests to public sector organizations that it is okay for them to continue to use public money to create new disability barriers. Yet that harmful use of public money must stop.

Fifth, especially as it applies to the Ontario Government that is the very body that is creating this regulation. As noted earlier, the Ontario Government has claimed for years to be leading Ontario by example in the area of accessibility. The Ontario Government is hardly caught by surprise by new regulatory requirements in this area.

For the same reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 where it proposes that an obligated organization can be exempt from any of this new requirement if it has entered into a contract regarding the matter before January 1, 2021. That would let an obligated organization disregard this new requirement even if it was amply aware that it was coming e.g. because it was earlier posted in a draft regulation.

We therefore recommend that:

*29. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

We propose further measures to strengthen the IASR procurement provisions, whether they apply to information technology or other goods, services or facilities.

Section 5 of the IASR falls well short of the duty to prevent the creation of new barriers that the Supreme Court of Canada mandated years ago in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 S.C.R. 650.

This section unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, “where it is not practicable to do so.” We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of a procurement endeavour. Moreover, the “not practicable” standard falls substantially short of the “without undue hardship” standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful to try to get organizations to meet standards that are transparently lower than the Human Rights Code. If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committee’s commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the standard should also be amended to create a class of “high impact” private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#30. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall

(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and

(b) Shall acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.”

#31. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.”

The duty to procure accessible goods, services and facilities should be extended to large or high impact private sector organizations. This is important for ensuring accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment.

We therefore recommend that:

#32. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and to high impact private sector organizations.

Moreover, these procurement requirements should be extended to any private sector organization when engaging in a project or contract for the Ontario Government. The Government should not be able to get around these procurement requirements by contracting out some of its work to the private sector.

We therefore recommend that:

#33. The IASR’s procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

Related to the issue of procurement, the IASR’s section regarding electronic kiosks, s.6, remains far too weak. Its requirements should be strengthened. Features of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard bear on such kiosks, just as they can apply to other customer-facing technology. These requirements should extend further in the private sector than at present.

We therefore recommend that:

#34. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. “

It is also important for private sector organizations with less than 50 employees to take serious action on this front especially where they offer technology for use by the public during point-of-sale transactions.

We therefore recommend that:

#35. Section 6(2) should be amended to read:

“(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.”

#36. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section,

“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

34. Committee’s Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 that the IASR should be amended to make it clear that its website accessibility provisions in s.14 apply to all websites that are referred to across the IASR. We would go further. The IASR should be refined to make it clear that these website accessibility requirements apply to any website specified in any provincial legislation or regulations, such as any provincial law that requires anything to be posted on a website.

We therefore recommend that:

#37. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

35. Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 Generally

It is inexcusable in 2019, over 14 years after the AODA was enacted, that students continue to face difficulties in getting timely access to needed educational materials in an accessible format.

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below in our more specific submissions. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.

In the key part of the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

“2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.”

Among the recommendations in that proposed Framework for the contents of the Education Accessibility Standard is the following:

“8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

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

8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.”

The proposed Framework also includes:

“12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

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

12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

  1. a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.”

36. Committee’s Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 24 that “obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other printed curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print copies.” This should apply to both print and electronic teaching materials.

We therefore recommend that:

#38. The Committee’s Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic text books or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

Beyond this, s. 15, on providing accessible educational and training materials, while helpful, needs to be strengthened. It now provides:

“      15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:

  1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
  2. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
  3. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
  4. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:

  1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
  2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
  3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
  4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act.
  5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.”

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Section 15 be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1.       Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by…”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as text books are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the time lines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

It is helpful that s. 17 requires publishers to make accessible educational textbooks and certain other printed instructional materials available on request, in an accessible format. It however needs to be expanded. It now only applies to textbooks. Section 17 provides:

“      17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).”

It should also apply to any other course materials produced in printed form, as well as course materials and books produced in electronic form. With the spread of e-books, this is increasingly important.

We therefore recommend that:

#40. Section 17(1) and (2) should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

39. Committee’s Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

We agree that the standard’s requirements for educational organizations should extend to any organization that provides any education or training programs, whether or not they meet the standard’s current definition of education organization.

We therefore recommend that:

#41. The Committee’s Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

Section 18 is a helpful provision addressing accessibility at public libraries. However, it has an exception for “special collections” that, if not defined, could sweep away much-needed protections. Section 18 provides:

“      18. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and where available, the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.

(2) Special collections, archival materials, rare books and donations are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:

  1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
  2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.”

A law school at a university might argue that its entire law library is a “special collection”, that is thus exempt from any accessibility requirements. We do not anticipate that this was what the Government meant to achieve here.

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 18(2) should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

41. Committee’s Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

We share the Committee’s concern that there is a limited number of trained captionists in Ontario. We agree with the need for new efforts to increase their numbers. The Committee appears to make a non-regulatory recommendation.

We add that technology exists now to facilitate off-site captioning from distant locations. The captionist can be anywhere in the world. An audio hookup is set up via the web so the captionist can hear the spoken words to transcribe.

The Government can further facilitate this by either creating or funding a start-up that would crowd source these services, so that captionists around Ontario, or indeed around the world, could get quick and easy access to customers in Ontario. This could be part of an economic development strategy. A well-run Ontario-based service could sell its services around the world, bringing in new revenues to Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

#43. the Committee’s Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

42. Committee’s Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

We share the Committee’s advice that disability accessibility curriculum should be included at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

We therefore recommend that:

#44. The Committee’s Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

”11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.”

43. Committee’s Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

“There is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communications tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.”

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 where it proposes that “all obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities…” We see value in this recommendation being further refined.

We therefore recommend that:

#45. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign language.

The Ontario Government’s economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice, which we gave over several years, that it should incorporate in that effort a strategy, including funding strings, to promote the expansion of Ontario’s technology sector so that it has more accessibility design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

#46. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development program, of promoting the expansion of Ontario’s technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

44. Committee’s Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committee’s draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

“Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers.”

The AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard points in a similar direction. It includes:

“Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teacher’s colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.”

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.”

Section 16 of the standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#47. Section 16(1) should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

It is essential that the Committee’s proposal take the form of a mandatory regulation, and not merely a policy or “best practice”. Too many professions need this reform to try to convince them voluntarily, one profession at a time.

Moreover, the AODA Alliance has been trying without success to secure voluntary action by the Ontario Government for over a decade. In the 2007 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance asked the parties to commit to ensure that relevant professions require their members to have sufficient accessibility training. In that election, the McGuinty Government promised to advocate to self-governing professions on this. In the ensuing 11 years that the Liberal Government was in power, we repeatedly asked it to keep this promise. We never saw or were shown any Government action to act on this promise.

45. Committee’s Recommendation 30: Education Standards

This recommendation only deals with where to locate certain requirements within the IASR. We take no issue with this as a pure housekeeping matter.

C. Our Feedback on The Committee’s Proposed Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the Committee’s draft recommendations, it proposes a major overhaul of how accessibility barriers should be regulated under the AODA. We commend the Committee for trying to take a broad and creative look at how progress is going under the AODA, and for trying to come up with innovative solutions, thinking beyond the regulatory status quo. Any effort in that regard should be encouraged.

Below we offer a few general responses to the Committee’s proposed reforms to the AODA’s overall design. These are only preliminary thoughts. A fuller response requires substantially more time and research than is currently available. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal goes far beyond the scope of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Committee’s Phase 2 reforms call, among other things, for the creation of a new public authority. The Committee calls it the “Trusted Authority”. That new public agency would have a series of new powers, including powers which bear directly on the AODA’s interpretation, implementation and enforcement.

These reforms would require the Legislature to amend the AODA itself. These are not measures which can be enacted as accessibility standard regulations under the AODA, as it is now written.

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We don’t want there to be any risk that The Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODA’s terms in any way.

Even if we had wanted The Government to re-open the legislation, the likelihood of it doing so now is extremely low. Throughout the first third of its mandate the current Government treated the AODA as a very low priority. It took months and months for the Government just to unfreeze the work of existing AODA Standards Development Committees, including the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. It took more months after that to get the Government to re-start the important work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. This was so even though while in opposition, the Conservatives criticized the former Ontario Government for dragging its feet on appointing an Education Standards Development Committee.

Over two thirds of a year has passed since The Government received the blistering report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review. Despite our pressure, The Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As such, we would not agree to the Government proceeding with the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal, in so far as it requires legislative amendments. There is a second important reason why the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal should not proceed at this time. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal contemplates delegation of certain powers to the proposed Trusted Authority which itself raises a number of significant legal concerns, beyond any policy discussion over the proposal‘s pros and cons. We have not had the time or opportunity to explore those issues in preparation for this brief. They would have to be resolved before a profitable discussion of the proposal’s pros and cons should be undertaken.

There are other important avenues and arenas for such proposals regarding reform of the AODA to be presented. For example, there have been three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018-19. Another AODA Independent Review will have to be appointed by March 7, 2022. Those are but one appropriate place to present such suggestions. We do not know if the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee or any of its members presented these ideas to the any of the three AODA Independent Reviews for their consideration.

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

Despite the foregoing concerns, some parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal can be undertaken now, without needing any reforms to the AODA or to any accessibility standards. For example, the Committee raises concerns about the use of the term “obligated organization.” The term “obligated organization” can be changed, in The Government’s communications on the AODA. The term “obligated organization” does not itself appear in the AODA.

Similarly, The Government could do a far better job of outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities in its ongoing AODA consultation and implementation efforts, including in its consultation on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations which are the focus of this brief. That too requires no amendment to the AODA.

The Government could now create far better resources to guide obligated organizations. At least two of the AODA Independent Reviews have called for that very action. We strongly support the need for that.

Finally, it is open to the Government to review the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard more frequently than every five years, in order to keep it up to date in connection with new developments, such as new developments in the world of information technology or the creation of new international standards for the accessibility of information technology.

We also want to alert the Committee that we respectfully disagree with some of the key points in its Phase 2 discussion. We agree that the AODA’s implementation has fallen far short of what we all expected, what we all need and what the AODA promised. Our 450-page January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley Independent Review is perhaps the most detailed documentation of this failure. It explores in detail the causes of this failure and offers constructive proposals to get the AODA back on track. The Onley Report echoes our analysis in key ways, as did the 2015 Moran AODA Independent Review Report that proceeded it and on which it built.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion seems in no small part to be constructed on the premise that the AODA has failed because it has been undertaken as an exercise of a regulator compelling compliance through enforcement, rather than by trying to get obligated organizations to understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that their goods, services, facilities and employment are accessible. For example, the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion states:

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

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

As our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review and our website amply documents, the opposite has in fact been the case. We have demonstrated over and over that the Ontario Government has throughout this decade taken an extremely gentle and minimalist approach to AODA enforcement. For years, it would barely if ever even utter the word “enforcement” in public in connection with the AODA. It conducts “audits” of very few organizations each year.

These are only paper audits. We have only seen documentation of one on-site AODA audit or inspection from the day the AODA was passed up to at least 2017. That was a pre-announced inspection of one Government ministry by another Government ministry. In that case, the deputy minister of the inspecting ministry gave written prior notice to the deputy minister of the ministry to be inspected, that an inspection would be upcoming.

Despite knowing year after year about rampant AODA violations since 2013, the Government has imposed a tiny number of monetary penalties. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s less than two monetary penalties for each of those years. That conveys the clear message to violators that their risk of a monetary penalty is extremely slim.

The Toronto Star has run editorials that support our concern in this regard. It has slammed the Ontario Government for its weak AODA enforcement. Contrary to the Committee’s characterization of events, Minister after Minister responsible for the AODA has publicly said that their primary focus is on doing exactly what the Committee proposed in the passage quoted above, i.e. showing businesses the business case for accessibility. A good example of this is the following passage from the February 26, 2015 interview on CBC Radio Toronto’s flagship Metro Morning program by the previous Liberal Government’s Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (then responsible for AODA implementation and enforcement):

“[Matt Galloway] But her, her real, her real thrust in this, in the report, is that Ontario’s not moving quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal of full accessibility. I wanna read something to you that one of your predecessors put together, which was Marie Bountrogianni, who, uh, when the legislature passed the disabilities act said, “What was missing in the previous act was enforcement compliance.

When you leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t get done.” What’s changed since then?

[Brad Duguid] Well, there- there’s two things. Number one, you can’t enforce that if the businesses aren’t aware of what their responsibilities are. So, the first thing we need to do is make businesses more aware, and we’re doing that through a number of different initiatives. There’s the advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where we’re reaching out to businesses an- and educating them on what they need to do.

Secondly, and this is the key, and when you, and I, I just recently appointed David Onley as our special advisor, and this is something we’re working very, very closely on. We need to make sure that businesses are, are aware of why there’s a competitive advantage for them to become accessible.

We don’t want businesses just to reach a standard, we want them to go beyond the standard and there’s every- there’s a really good business case for businesses across this province to do this. In fact, the Martin Institute indicates that there’s 7.9 billion dollars in our economy if we can become more accessible.

So, that- what I’m saying there is, I don’t want to come in and, and take a really hard approach on businesses and turn them off. What I wanna do is get businesses to embrace what this will do to their bottom line. There’s a really good business case.”

No minister responsible for this legislation has publicly proclaimed a contrary view. No minister coming after Mr. Duguid has ever disagreed with his view, criticized it, or proclaimed a different approach. Certainly, the new Ford Government has not repudiated it.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion addresses a criticism at the AODA itself, which should instead be directed at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ontario Government. The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion includes:

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

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

Similarly the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion later states:

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

The Committee has commendably identified a legitimate area for improvement, but is identifying the wrong culprit. It is open to the Government to do a far more inclusive job of consulting and including the diverse voices to which the Committee points, in its work on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. For example, Standards Development Committees could readily engage more such voices in their work developing standards. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can and should do much more of this within the ample mandate that the AODA gives it. Nothing in the AODA prohibits the Ontario Government from doing so.

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support.

Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

“However, the Review also heard considerable discussion about the content of the standards. In particular, members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever. They identified two problems. First, the current standards have serious gaps and deficiencies. And second, important aspects of everyday life fall entirely outside the scope of the current requirements. At the same time, obligated organizations also provided valuable feedback about the content of the current standards and some of the challenges that they pose. Below, I summarize the central themes of the feedback on these issues, including both suggestions about where there may be gaps in the existing standards as well as recommendations for additional standards.

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

The Review heard many comments that suggested revisions to existing standards. Various disability groups advocated specific changes to the standards to better reflect the needs of their members and clients. More generally, many participants believed that timelines in the standards are too long, several requirements are weak, little is being done to remove existing barriers, and exemptions and exceptions are too broad. One disability stakeholder considered the deficiencies in the IASR so serious that the mandatory review of the Transportation, Employment and Information and Communications standards should begin in 2015 instead of 2016 as currently planned. Many obligated organizations in both the public and private sectors had other concerns, emphasizing that the overall AODA regime is too complex and should be simplified as much as possible.

Members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever.

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

The Review was told by some participants that they do not believe that the AODA has been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities, such as mental illness, autism, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and others. They suggested that more extensive training requirements to recognize and respond to the needs of people with these disabilities were essential.

The mental health community feels strongly that mental health and other non-visible disabilities should be better integrated into the content of standards. For example, it was suggested that the Employment standard should provide clear guidelines for accommodating employees with mental health disabilities.

Groups supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss pointed out that the vagueness about support persons leaves doubt about an organization’s responsibility to provide interpreters or other communication facilitators. Individuals with speech and language disabilities not caused by hearing loss believe standards should more fully outline requirements for communications assistance, especially in essential services.

People with environmental sensitivities and multi-chemical sensitivities want to see these conditions explicitly included in the definition of disability. Participants with episodic or fluctuating disabilities likewise urged a direct reference to their type of disability in the definition. Representatives of people with bowel disorders called for a network of open, accessible public toilets to be established through the Customer Service, Transportation and Design of Public Spaces standards.

The Review was told that the AODA has not been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities.

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.

At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

The Customer Service standard currently sets the threshold for certain requirements at 20 employees rather than 50. Currently, organizations with under 20 employees are exempt from requirements to prepare documents on their accessibility policies – including policies on service animals and support persons and the handling of service disruptions – and to produce copies on request, as well as from obligations to document training policies, keep training records and file accessibility reports. In its review of the Customer Service standard – which coincided with this Review – ASAC proposed to raise that threshold to 50 employees instead of 20 to align with the IASR, and several disability groups voiced their concerns about this proposal to this Review.

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:

  • Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
  • Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
  • Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
  • Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
  • Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

As well, disability stakeholders took issue with various exceptions that are less exacting than undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. This issue will be addressed later in the section on the AODA’s Relationship with Other Legislation.

GAPS IN STANDARDS

Beyond exemptions and the impact on certain disability groups, participants highlighted a host of gaps in existing standards and put forward numerous suggestions to close them.

Information and Communications

One of the gaps identified that was among the most serious sources of concern was the exclusion of extranets from the website standards. An extranet is a controlled extension of an organization’s internal network that allows access to outside users over the internet. It was pointed out that the standards development committee expected everything behind the log-in to be covered. The fact that this was not done is seen as a step backward.

Unless Ontario keeps standards in line with evolving information technology, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

The importance of keeping the Information and Communications standards in line with evolving international standards was also stressed. Unless a mechanism is created to do this, the Review was told, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

Some participants raised concerns about the provision of accessible formats for various purposes “on request”. They proposed that all educational resources should be accessible, with no need for a request. On the other hand, some post-secondary stakeholders pointed out that this might not be a wise use of resources as there may turn out to be no demand for many of the materials.”

[1] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents

[2] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).

[3] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b).

[4] Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).



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What Is the Doug Ford Government Planning for Its Widely-Criticized Proposal to Allow Unlicensed, Uninsured Electric Scooters in Ontario? Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities and Many Others Await A Government Announcement, With Serious Concerns and Unanswered Questions


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

What Is the Doug Ford Government Planning for Its Widely-Criticized Proposal to Allow Unlicensed, Uninsured Electric Scooters in Ontario? Over 2 Million Ontarians with Disabilities and Many Others Await A Government Announcement, With Serious Concerns and Unanswered Questions

November 1, 2019 Toronto: There has been striking radio silence from the Ford Government since it terminated its rushed public consultation in early September on its widely-criticized and controversial proposal to run a 5-year pilot project that would allow uninsured and unlicensed electric scooters (e-scooters) on Ontario roads and bike paths. In the meantime, there is no doubt that corporate lobbyists are pressing the Ontario Government and municipal councilors to unleash e-scooters on Ontario no matter the threat they pose to public safety and to accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. In an August 30, 2019 City-TV news story, the Government admitted that in designing its proposed 5-year e-scooter pilot, it was compromising between road safety on the one hand, and business and consumer interests on the other. The AODA Alliance emphasizes that the Government should never compromise on public safety, especially in order to help some businesses make more money.

“In August, the AODA Alliance revealed that the Ford Government was holding a mere 2-day public consultation just before Labour Day, making it hard for grassroots opposition to e-scooters to organize,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which has been vocal in raising serious concerns about e-scooters. “After the Ford Government was shamed into extending that consultation for 16 more days, media coverage spotlighted that e-scooters pose a serious risk to public safety and create accessibility barriers for people with disabilities.”

Ample reports from other places where e-scooters are allowed show that they lead to injuries to their riders and to innocent pedestrians. That will make lineups and delays even longer in the hallways of hospital emergency rooms. As well, when left lying on sidewalks, they create accessibility hazards for people with disabilities. The corporations that rent them to the public elsewhere, and are evidently lobbying provincial and municipal officials to allow them here, use sidewalks as their free parking, having riders dump them wherever they wish when they are finished with them. We set out below a recent media report of a person with a disability suing in Minnesota under the Americans with Disabilities Act over the barriers e-scooters pose.

The Ford Government has not yet announced what it plans to do, or when it will let the public know. The Government has not publicly responded to the serious concerns with e-scooters amply documented in the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief.

We encourage the media to ask the Ford Government these important Questions, in the event that the Government decides to allow e-scooters in Ontario despite their proven dangers and despite so much public opposition to them here:

  1. Will owners and drivers of an e-scooter each be required to carry insurance?
  1. Will each e-scooter be required to have a licence and license plate, to enable an injured victim to identify the e-scooter that hit them as it races away?
  1. Will each scooter rider be required to have a license and sufficient training on the e-scooter’s use?
  1. Will the owner and named renter of an e-scooter, as well as its driver, be mandatorily liable for any injury caused by the e-scooter’s use?
  1. Will an e-scooter be required to meet proper safety standards, and to be certified by the Canadian Standards Association as safe for use, before it can be sold, rented or used in Ontario?
  1. Will the Government ban rentals of e-scooters, given the record of serious problems associated with them elsewhere?
  1. Will there be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter on a sidewalk or other public place, with a right for anyone to immediately confiscate and dispose of any e-scooter that is left there?
  1. If, despite serious objections, the Ford Government allows e-scooter rentals, will a rental company be mandatorily liable for any injury caused by their use?
  1. If a person is injured by an e-scooter, will the Government require any rental company to turn over to police any tracking information on the location of e-scooters used in the affected area, the identity of persons renting the e-scooter, and the GPS data on the route that the e-scooter travelled at the relevant times?
  1. What additional laws and measures will the Ontario Government implement to protect the public from people driving e-scooters while drunk or stoned? Will the Ontario Government ban anyone from parking or leaving an e-scooter within 750 meters of a bar or other establishment where alcohol is sold or served, to help reduce a risk of impaired driving of e-scooters?
  1. What responsibility and liability will the Ontario Government now agree to assume for injuries and deaths that we know e-scooters will cause, as they have in other places where they have been allowed?
  1. What additional measures will the Ontario Government implement to protect the public against e-scooters being driven on sidewalks, since bike-riders regularly do this with impunity even though it is forbidden?
  1. Will the Ontario Government set and enforce strong mandatory provincial rules that will protect public safety and disability accessibility across Ontario, or will Ontario leave this to each municipality, thereby imposing on people with disabilities and others the extraordinary hardship of having to advocate to every Ontario municipality, one at a time, in order to protect ourselves from the dangers posed by e-scooters?
  1. Will all e-scooter drivers be required to wear a helmet, instead of merely those under 18 as the Ford Government initially proposed? Or will the Ontario taxpayer have to finance the medical costs of the injuries that unhelmetted e-scooter drivers will cause themselves?
  1. Why did the Ontario Government never arrange a joint consultation where it could hear at the same time and the same table from both community groups like the AODA Alliance who have raised serious concerns about e-scooters, and the corporate lobbyists who are pressing for e-scooters to be unleashed on Ontarians?
  1. What is the purpose for the Government’s contemplated pilot project with e-scooters? Why can’t the Government learn what it wants to know by studying what has happened in other places where they are allowed, rather than experimenting on innocent Ontarians and subjecting them to the risk of personal injuries?

When the Ford Government publicly announces its plans for e-scooters, we will be asking the Government the preceding questions, and will be available for comment.

There have now been 276 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s implementation prepared by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. Doug Ford’s Government has still not announced a plan to implement the Onley report. Instead, it has proposed a troubling e-scooter pilot project which threatens to create even more new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance’s efforts to address the risks and threats posed by e-scooters, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

For up-to-the-minute news on the AODA Alliance’s non-partisan campaign for accessibility, follow  @aodaalliance on Twitter.

KDLT News Today October 18, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.kdlt.com/2019/10/18/advocate-for-disabled-sues-minneapolis-over-electric-scooters/

Advocate for Disabled Sues Minneapolis Over Electric Scooters

October 18, 2019 by Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – An advocate for people with disabilities is taking the city of Minneapolis and two electric scooter companies to court.

Noah McCourt says the electric scooters have made city sidewalks inaccessible. McCourt, who has autism and a coordination disorder, says he was injured while tripping over a scooter at a light rain station.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday says the scooters are also an impediment to people who use wheelchairs. McCourt claims the city and scooter companies are violating the American with Disabilities Act.

The city declined comment on the lawsuit. One of the other defendants, Lime, says it’s working to educate users about proper riding and parking etiquette. The other defendant, Bird, ended operations in Minneapolis in late 2018.

Minnesota law generally prohibits riding electric scooters on sidewalks.



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Come to A November 5, 2019 Windsor Area Public Forum on Accessibility – CBC’s “The National” Reveals A Troubling Barrier to Accessible Housing Facing Too Many People with Disabilities – and Another Memorable Anniversary on the Road to A Barrier-Free Ontario


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Come to A November 5, 2019 Windsor Area Public Forum on Accessibility – CBC’s “The National” Reveals A Troubling Barrier to Accessible Housing Facing Too Many People with Disabilities – and Another Memorable Anniversary on the Road to A Barrier-Free Ontario

October 29, 2019

          SUMMARY

1. Come to the November 5, 2019 Essex County Town Hall Forum on the AODA and Accessible Canada Act

Want to hear the latest news in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels? Want to know how you can make a big difference for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada?

If you live in Windsor, or anywhere in Essex County, please come to the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, beginning at 1 p.m. for a Town Hall Public Forum on making the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Accessible Canada Act work for you. The speaker will be AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. Below is the announcement of this event by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee. We commend that Committee and the municipal staff that supports them for organizing this event and for reaching out to the AODA Alliance to have our chair take part. Information on how to RSVP is available at a link in the announcement, set out below.

2. CBC’s “The National” TV Program Shines Light on Another Troubling Disability Accessibility Barrier

For the third time this year, CBC TV’s unstoppable reporter Rosa Marchitelli shone a bright light on another troubling accessibility barrier that faces too many people with disabilities in Canada. This time, it was a barrier to accessible housing. A condo refused to install an automatic door opener to accommodate a woman with a disability who needs it to get in and out of the building where she lives. We set that story out below, and commend CBC, Rosa Marchitelli and her team for covering this barrier.

This story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the critical shortage of accessible housing in Canada, needed by a growing population that needs an accessible place to live. Federal, provincial and municipal action is needed to address this. We are honoured that CBC has come to us with this story and sought our comment on it.

 3. Today is An Important Anniversary for the Campaign for Accessibility

Twenty-one years ago today, tireless and tenacious grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass a powerful resolution. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated. You can read that resolution by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/today-is-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-ontario-legislatures-historic-unanimous-resolution-calling-for-ontario-to-enact-strong-and-effective-disability-accessibility-legislation-how-far-have-1-9-mil/

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article which summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Over two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles that the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

It is troubling that on this anniversary, a seemingly-endless 273 days have passed since the Ontario Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ontario Government has still not announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. In the meantime, public money continues to be freely available to create new barriers against people with disabilities in Ontario and to perpetuate existing barriers.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign to get the Federal Government to enact strong national accessibility legislation.

          MORE DETAILS

 Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee Announcement of November 5, 2019 Town Hall Public Forum on Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Accessibility Champion to Speak at Essex County Civic Centre

David Lepofsky, a prominent and passionate champion for accessibility and the rights of persons with disabilities, will speak at a free event hosted by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee at the Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

An author, advocate, professor, lawyer and community organizer, Lepofsky will speak about accessibility in municipal settings and the need for continued advocacy in pursuit of an inclusive society accessible to all. The ECAAC is thrilled to welcome such an experienced, engaging and dynamic speaker on such an important topic.

Lepofsky has been advocating for laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Canada since the 1970s. In the early 1980s, he was part of a successful effort to ensure the rights of those with disabilities were protected in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He began fighting for those with vision loss in the 1990s and won cases against the Toronto Transit Commission before the Human Rights Tribunal, which ordered the TTC in 2005 to announce all subway stops and in 2007 to announce all bus and streetcar stops.

From 1994 to 2005, Lepofsky led the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, which campaigned for a decade to secure passage of two provincial laws to make Ontario fully accessible – the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

He is presently the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which advocates for the strong accessibility standards outlined in provincial legislation. The Alliance successfully secured in 2010 amendments to electoral legislation to address barriers to voting in Ontario and is currently working for the expansion of telephone and internet voting.

Lepofsky is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School, where he is a visiting professor of Disability Rights and Legal Education. He is also an adjunct member of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. He is the author of one law book, the author or co-author of 30 law journal articles or book chapters and his work has been cited in several decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada.

He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995, the Order of Ontario in 2007 and inducted into the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. He has honorary doctorates from multiple Canadian universities and awards from several organizations including the March of Dimes Canada and Community Living Ontario. Canadian Lawyer magazine named him one of Canada’s 25 most influential lawyers in 2010.

Lepofsky has been a featured speaker across Canada and the United States as well as Israel, Denmark, Belgium, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland. He will speak at the Essex County Civic Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 5, beginning at 1 p.m.

The event is free but space is limited, so participants are asked to register by visiting the County of Essex’s website.

CBC TV News The National October 13, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/go-public-disabled-automatic-door-1.5313633

Calgary GO PUBLIC

‘If there’s a fire I’m dead’: Quadruple amputee battles condo board for access to her own building

Governments need to ‘get with the program,’ fix building codes and laws, advocate says

Rosa Marchitelli CBC News

Verna Marzo says she’ll never forget the embarrassment of being stuck outside her Calgary condo building — in the cold for almost two hours, waiting for someone to let her in — because as a quadruple amputee she can’t open the doors on her own, and her condo board has refused to install automatic doors she can use.

“Someone helped me [get] out, but when I wanted to go back in, there was no one to open the door,” said Marzo, 46.

“It was cold. I called my sister but my sister was at work … so I waited until my caregiver arrived.” She says none of the other doors in the building is an option.

“That means I get stuck behind the doors. If there’s an emergency … if there’s a fire, I’m dead, there’s no way I can get outside.”

According to an advocate for people with disabilities, situations like Marzo’s are “all too common,” because weak building codes and a lack of provincial accessibility laws are causing a “chronic and pervasive shortage” of accessible housing.

“Imagine that you’re in a building where you paid good money to live … and you can’t get in or out without having someone there,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“Imagine you go to sleep at night knowing — God forbid — if there’s a fire, you can’t let yourself out. No one would want to live that way and people with disabilities shouldn’t have to live that way.”

Homebound and frustrated

Two years ago, after having emergency abdominal surgery, Marzo contracted sepsis — a reaction to a severe blood infection that leads to organs shutting down. Doctors amputated both legs and arms to save her life.

Earlier this year, she started shopping for a condo that would allow her to get around with her wheelchair or prosthetics. She says she knew the place she bought wasn’t perfect, but it was one of the few she could afford. She hoped to deal with issues as they came up, but never expected to be fighting for a door.

In May, a few months after she was locked outside in the cold, she asked the building manager if automatic doors could be installed.

She was told the condo board decided not at this time. Marzo’s social worker tried again, contacting the board on her behalf.

She was told the board already had a plan for new doors but there would be no automatic push-button system due to security concerns of the doors being open too long.

That explanation is “a total red herring,” according to Lepofsky.

“You could design doors with optical sensors to protect against that. But even a manual door, with a lock, there’s no guarantee that requires it to be held open only long enough for the person with the key to get through.”

Meanwhile, Marzo remains homebound and frustrated.

“I don’t want to only benefit me. I want people who have lesser mobility to benefit as well. Because it’s not easy to just be staying at home and be depressed,” she said.

The property management company declined to answer Go Public’s questions, claiming it was a legal matter and referring us to the condo board.

Go Public made repeated requests to board members for comment; all went unanswered.

‘Get with the program’

Automatic doors would cost between $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the design, according to Sean Crump from Universal Access, a Calgary company that provides advice to businesses on how to make buildings more accessible.

Crump says there is public funding available to qualified candidates to help pay for building modifications, though it’s not clear if Marzo’s building qualifies.

“There are a few resources. The federal government has an Enabling Access Fund that allows funds to be put into accessible design for spaces and buildings — and it’s done a lot of good.”

More than three million people over the age of 15 have at least one physical disability according to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers from 2017.

On July 11, the Accessible Canada Act came into force. Lepofsky says it’s a well intentioned effort at mandating barrier-free access, but it, too, falls short by covering only sectors within Ottawa’s jurisdiction like banking, telecommunications and the federal government.

He says that leaves a mish-mash of accessibility laws — or none at all — at the provincial level. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia are the only provinces with that kind of legislation.

“We need the seven provinces in Canada that don’t have a provincial accessibility law to enact one — to get with the program,” Lepofsky said.

But even in those provinces, Marzo would have little or no recourse. Manitoba and Nova Scotia’s legislation don’t address the responsibilities of condo boards.

Ontario’s does, but since it was implemented in 2005, it’s done little to help people with disabilities, according to a review released in January by former lieutenant governor David Onley.

“We are almost 14 years later,” Onley, who was Canada’s first lieutenant governor with a physical disability, wrote, “and the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.”

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

Changing the building codes could also help, according to Lepofsky. But, though national and provincial codes cover new buildings and major renovations, older buildings like Marzo’s are under no obligation to renovate.

All of this, Lepofsky says, leaves people with disabilities to deal with problems “one battle at a time” through human rights complaints.

The national and provincial human rights codes say buildings used by the public need to be accessible.

Fight for doors ‘hideous’

Marzo says everywhere she turned no one could — or would — help. She says her call to the Alberta Human Rights Commission wasn’t returned and the City of Calgary told her there is nothing it can do.

“They just keep [telling me] call this person or this person and eventually someone from City of Calgary called me and said they cannot force the condo board to put the door in because it’s not the law.”

Go Public took Marzo’s situation to provincial and federal lawmakers.

Jennifer Dagsvik, spokesperson for Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Service, says the province is “monitoring” the new federal and existing provincial laws.

She says while Alberta lacks an accessibility law, people with disabilities can seek help under the Alberta Human Rights Act and the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Ottawa’s most recent minister of public services and procurement and accessibility didn’t answer Go Public’s questions directly.

Instead Carla Qualtrough sent a general statement, referring to the Accessible Canada Act and the accessibility review board — the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization (CASDO) — it created.

“While CASDO is still in its early stages of development, it has been made evident by Canadians and members of the disability community that standards in new and existing buildings is a priority,” Qualtrough said.

Marzo says she won’t give up, saying it’s “hideous” she’s had to fight this hard to be able to enter and exit the building she lives in.

She’s planning to talk to a lawyer for advice on what to do next.

“They will get old too,” she says, referring to members of her condo board. “And they will lose their strength. And they will thank me for that door if they will do it now.”

Rosa Marchitelli

@cbcRosa

Rosa Marchitelli is a national award winner for her investigative work. As co-host of the CBC News segment Go Public, she has a reputation for asking tough questions and holding companies and individuals to account. Rosa’s work is seen across CBC News platforms.

With files by Jenn Blair

 Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)         FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A Non-Partisan Look at the 2019 Federal Election Results from a Disability Accessibility Perspective

October 22, 2019

     SUMMARY

What is the upshot of last night’s federal election results, from the perspective of over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada who want this country to become accessible to them?

We congratulate all those candidates who ran in this election and won. We are ready to again roll up our sleeves and work with all of the federal parties, as we further describe below, to advance the goal of making Canada barrier-free for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

Last June, Parliament unanimously endorsed the goal of making Canada barrier-free by 2040. We turn our attention to what the Federal Government should now do to ensure that Canada is on schedule for meeting this mandatory goal which the new Accessible Canada Act has set.

     MORE DETAILS

The Recent Election Campaign

Our movement has now succeeded in mounting a non-partisan campaign for disability accessibility during a total of nine elections since 1995, seven at the provincial level in Ontario and 2 at the federal level. For its part, the AODA Alliance wrote the major federal parties back on July 18 2019, well before the formal election campaign began, to ask them to make 11 specific commitments on disability accessibility.

Our agenda for reform was not pulled out of the air. It built on key issues that so many disability organizations and advocates raised with the Federal Government over the past year during public hearings on the Accessible Canada Act before the House of Commons last fall, and later before the Senate last spring. These in turn built substantially on experience that we have had with the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It is so important for us to come forward with concrete and workable action requests, and not to be satisfied or distracted by the broad plattitudinal pronouncements of politicians, whatever be their political party.

We succeeded in launching a major blitz on social media to try to get the parties and their candidates to make the election pledges that we sought. We sent hundred and hundreds of tweets over the past weeks, and generated real attention on this issue in the social media context. We thank all those who retweeted our tweets, or took other actions to raise disability accessibility issues with any candidates over the past weeks. To see what we were up to, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

We secured written election commitments from two of the major parties, the NDP and later the Liberals. We plan to hold them to those commitments. A comparison of the parties’ responses is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

While the Conservatives did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter, we plan to hold them to their strong statements on November 22, 2018 in the House of Commons during Third Reading debates on Bill C-81. They promised that if elected, they would treat the strengthening of Bill C-81as a priority. Similarly, the Green Party did not answer our July 18, 2019 letter. However it spoke in strong terms about the need to strengthen Bill C-81 during debates in Parliament over the past year. We aim to urge them to act on that policy position in the upcoming Parliament.

We express our strong regret and deep frustration that the conventional media once again gave far too little attention to these issues during the recent election campaign. This is a sad continuation of the conventional media’s failure to give much attention to the proposed Accessible Canada Act during its journey through Parliament over the past months. We commend those few reporters who bucked this trend, and covered this issue.

The Election’s Results

As we often repeat, the AODA Alliance does not campaign for or against any party or candidate. We aim to get strong commitments on disability accessibility from all parties and candidates.

Canada now will have a minority government. This provides a wonderful opportunity for us to press to try to get the Accessible Canada Act strengthened by legislative amendments. The Liberals suggested during the election campaign that they did not plan to amend the Accessible Canada Act. However, because they do not have a majority government, the door is open to us to try to get an amending bill through Parliament, and to try to get the Liberals to support it.

We have a recent and relevant track record in this regard. Last spring, we and others, working together, got the Senate to make some amendments to Bill C-81 to somewhat strengthen it. These included amendments that the Liberal Government had rejected when the bill was before the House of Commons in the 2018 fall. When the Senate’s amendments came back to the House of Commons last June, the Liberals ultimately agreed to approve the Senate’s amendments – which included changes to the bill that the Liberals had earlier opposed. We and others in the disability community have done it before. We can do it again!

We thank any and all MPs who worked on making this bill as strong as they could. Let’s take a quick look at the election outcome. Several key MPs who have played key roles regarding Bill C-81 have been re-elected. These include Liberal MP Carla Qualtrough, the Accessibility Minister who led the Government’s efforts to get Bill C-81 through Parliament, and Liberal MP Bryan May, who chaired the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81. Also re-elected were Conservative MPs John Barlow (who was the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee that held hearings last fall on Bill C-81), and who promised Tory support for strengthening Bill C-81) and MP Mike Lake (who was the Tory critic in this area as Bill C-81 was going through the Senate).

NDP MP Cheryl Hardcastle, the NDP’s critic on this issue who pressed for amendments at our request, was narrowly defeated. Liberal MP Kent Hehr, who was Accessibility Minister for a short time while Bill C-81 was being developed, was also defeated.

What’s Next

We will be eagerly watching to see whom Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint to be the next minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of Bill C-81. We also will be eager to see whom the opposition parties appoint as their critics in this area.

We won’t just sit around and wait. We are already working on ideas of what to include in a new bill, whether a Government bill or an opposition private member’s bill, to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. We welcome your ideas. Write us at [email protected] We will also be monitoring the Government’s implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to see where we might be able to helpfully contribute to it.

Last night’s election results have some echoes in history. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau won a majority government in his first try in 1968. His son did the same in his first try in 2015. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau only won a minority government in his second try, in 1972. So did his son in 2019. In both cases, the NDP held the balance of power. From 1972 to 1974, they instituted some progressive reforms. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised during the past weeks that if re-elected, he would lead a progressive government.

In the dying days of this most recent campaign. The Liberals promised to apply a “disability lens” to all government decisions. Last fall, the opposition had pressed without success for Bill C-81 to be amended to entrench in it just such a disability lens.

Even though the Liberals said during the recent election campaign that it didn’t intend to amend Bill C-81, we nevertheless see it as worthwhile to press for an amendment to Bill C-81 to entrench such a “disability lens”. If it is added to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, it would become a mandatory part of law, one which a future government cannot simply ignore. People with disabilities in Canada need a mandatory disability lens, not a weak, voluntary one that can be ignored at will.

We have lots to do ahead of us. We are ready to be as tenacious as ever! Just watch us.



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Federal Liberals Promise to Use a Disability Lens in All Government Decisions – View This Pledge Through the Lens of Some Helpful Context


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Federal Liberals Promise to Use a Disability Lens in All Government Decisions – View This Pledge Through the Lens of Some Helpful Context

October 18, 2019

            SUMMARY

In a news article published today, just three days before the federal election, the Canadian Press reported that the federal Liberals have committed that if re-elected, they will apply a “disability lens” to all Federal Government decisions. We set out the October 18, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, below, which was posted on the National Post’s website.

It would be very helpful for the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to all of its decisions, to ensure that they do not work against people with disabilities. We provide some context to this commitment.

First, as reported in the Canadian Press article, below, federal Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough appears to implicitly acknowledge that the new Accessible Canada Act, whose development she led, does not require the Federal Government to apply a disability lens to each of its decisions. That, regrettably, would be an accurate reading of the Accessible Canada Act. Minister Qualtrough also is reported in this article as saying that the Liberals would not make any amendments to the Accessible Canada Act. As such, this disability lens would be a voluntary measure that any future Federal Government could reject without needing to bring it before Parliament for a vote.

Second, during debates over the Accessible Canada Act over the past year, opposition members pointed out (at the request of disability advocates) that this proposed legislation lacked such a disability lens. They urged that a requirement for a disability lens should be added to the bill. None ultimately was added.

The Federal Government had an ideal opportunity to establish such a disability lens in Bill C-81 when it was before Parliament, and when all parties were focused on the need for national accessibility legislation. It is difficult to understand why the Federal Government did not add a disability lens then, and yet promises a voluntary disability lens now, just four months after Parliament passed Bill C-81. It would be preferable to entrench a disability lens into the Accessible Canada Act through an amendment once the new Parliament is elected. The AODA Alliance expects to propose such an amendment.

Third, during Second Reading debates last year in the House of Commons over Bill C-81, Liberal MP Kent Hehr actually said that Bill C-81 includes a disability lens, and praised the bill for having it. He had earlier been the Government’s minister responsible for developing this legislation for about half a year. On September 24, 2018, during Second Reading debates in the House of Commons, Mr. Hehr made these two statements on point:

  1. “I can also highlight this bill and its effects on government service. The day and age of people not getting through the door is essentially over with this legislation. It puts a proactive onus on government to move forward and look at things with an accessibility lens that I believe will be very helpful for people with disabilities and those trying to navigate an often complex system.”
  1. “I mentioned at the start of my speech that there are still very many inequalities in this country. In particular, people with disabilities are more likely to be poor and have difficulties finding employment, even getting services through government departments. This legislation would put that proactive emphasis on governments and systems within the federal jurisdiction having an accessibility lens to look at how we are not only going to get people through the door but help them come out the other side and succeed, whether it be through employment, accessing technology or getting government services. It is now incumbent upon us as government to follow through with what would be put in place through this legislation to make things better for people with disabilities in this country.”

We also alert you to the news that as this election campaign races to its conclusion, CTV national news broke the overwhelming silence of most conventional media outlets on this issue. It led its October 17, 2019 national television newscast with a report on how the parties have had so little to say in this campaign about accessibility for people with disabilities, and how voters with disabilities are unhappy with this. We do not have the text of this news report at this time. It can be watched online by visiting https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1807311&jwsource=twi

You can read our non-partisan comparison of the parties’ commitments on disability accessibility (which was written yesterday, and hence before this Canadian Press news report) by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/non-partisan-issue-by-issue-comparison-of-the-positions-of-the-6-major-federal-political-parties-on-achieving-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

Follow @aodaalliance on Twitter for up-to-the-instant updates on our analysis of election returns as they come in, from the perspective of our non-partisan campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities.

            MORE DETAILS

National Post Online October 28, 2019

https://www.bing.com/search?q=Accessible+Canada+Act&go=Submit&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=Accessible+Canada+Act&sc=10-14&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=d63c261e27184bb7b950c2bd9c5a8240

Liberals vow to implement disability lens for all government policies if re-elected

The Canadian Press

Michelle McQuigge

October 18, 2019

The federal Liberals say they will evaluate all existing and future government policies for their impact on disabled residents if voted back into power next week.

The pledge from Carla Qualtrough, the Liberals’ minister for accessibility issues, comes days before Canadians head to the polls on Oct. 21 and shortly after disabled voters raised concerns about the lack of discussion of issues affecting their lives during the current campaign.

The Liberals released a disability equality statement earlier this week, a document that was not in their original platform.

Qualtrough clarified its contents in an interview with The Canadian Press, saying the party was committing to applying a disability lens to government decisions, a formal consideration of how each would affect people with disabilities.

The Liberals mandated that all policies be subjected to a gender-based analysis over the past several years, assessing whether government policies are affecting men and women in different ways.

Qualtrough says the Liberals would take the same approach with disability, reviewing existing policies and studying new ones to make sure government moves don’t exclude or adversely affect anyone.

“This … is the next step, to kind of systematically entrench disability inclusion into the way government does business, into the way government makes decisions,” ” she said in a telephone interview from Delta, B.C., where she is seeking re-election.

Qualtrough said such analysis would build upon the Accessible Canada Act, the country’s first federal piece of accessibility legislation, which passed into law in June. The act was the fulfillment of a 2015 Liberal campaign promise and is widely seen as a milestone in disability rights, though dozens of advocacy groups have expressed concern that it’s currently too weak to be effective.

Qualtrough said a re-elected Liberal government does not plan to amend the law, but said a disability lens would offer additional safeguards. The party’s new equality statement also pledges timely implementation of the new act.

The Liberal announcement earned praise from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, a national advocacy group that has been calling for such analysis for years.

During the national consultation that led to the ACA, council members argued the government needed to duplicate the approach used for gender when considering disability issues.

The Liberals applied “gender-based-analysis-plus,” which extends to characteristics such as age, religion and ethnicity, to a federal budget for the first time in 2017 and mandated it be used across the board. But internal documents obtained earlier this year showed fewer than half of departments and agencies had GBA+ plans in place.

Council spokesman John Rae said adopting the same approach for disability would be an “important practice” that may ensure disabled voices are heard even if they aren’t in the room to speak up for themselves.

“We aren’t present in sufficient numbers in places where decisions about important aspects of life are made,” Rae said. “It’s very easy for our needs to get overlooked if not consciously ignored.”

Rae declined to comment on the timing of the Liberal announcement, but said he hoped other parties would follow suit.

Despite the recent passage of the ACA, neither the Liberals nor the other federal parties had made significant reference to disability issues for the bulk of the election campaign.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment on accessibility measures, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s letter to the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.”

At a Thursday campaign stop in Brampton, Ont., leader Andrew Scheer said his party would implement the ACA and criticized the Liberals for their handling of other disability-related files.

“We made commitments to make it easier to qualify for the disability tax credit, something that Justin Trudeau’s government made harder especially for people with Type 1 diabetes,” he said.

While campaigning in Trois-Rivieres, Que., also on Thursday, Trudeau said his government’s approach was about “fundamental equality,” adding there is more to be done to achieve that goal.

Some disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults said they’d prefer to see their concerns addressed in a broader strategy focusing on disability as a whole.

“We face similar issues that people with other disabilities face,” said Anne Borden of the self-advocacy group Autistics For Autistics. “We all need access, human rights, dignity, self-determination … We have more in common across our disabilities than any differences.”

Qualtrough said she, too, favours that approach.

“I am very much a proponent of a more overarching strategy that includes everyone and doesn’t focus on diagnosis,” she said, adding that research focusing on individual disabilities still has value and should be encouraged.



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Non-Partisan Issue-By-Issue Comparison of the Positions of the 6 Major Federal Political Parties on Achieving Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Non-Partisan Issue-By-Issue Comparison of the Positions of the 6 Major Federal Political Parties on Achieving Accessibility for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada

October 17, 2019

               SUMMARY

With the federal election only four days away, the AODA Alliance now makes public a non-partisan issue-by-issue comparison of the position of the 6 major federal political parties on what they would do, if elected, to ensure that Canada becomes accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities.

Just four months ago, all parties in Canada’s Parliament united to unanimously pass the Accessible Canada Act. It has the purpose of achieving a barrier-free Canada for people with disabilities by 2040. This election gives the parties an excellent first chance to say what they would do to fulfil that important goal. The AODA Alliance has extensive experience in this area, having done this in the past federal election and the past seven Ontario elections.

What’s the bottom line? The votes of millions of voters with disabilities are on the line. It is therefore very regrettable if not deeply troubling that only two of the major parties, the NDP and Liberals, even answered the AODA Alliances July 18, 2019 letter to the party leaders. That letter sought 11 concrete commitments on this topic. Of those two parties, the NDP clearly gave stronger specific commitments. The Liberals did not give specific commitments to take most of the actions we were seeking. It is especially troubling that only one of the six parties, the NDP, explicitly committed in responses to our July 18, 2019 letter, not to allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in Canada.

The Conservatives and Greens were strong critics of Bill C-81 because it was so weak, and commendably pressed to have it strengthened. Whether or not they respond to the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter before the October 21, 2019, we will hold them to those positions, and to the Tories’ commitments to strengthen this law if elected. The Liberals proclaimed that the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. It is therefore hard to see why they would give such non-specific responses to our requests for clear, specific commitments.

In this comparison, we refer to the responses to our July 18, 2019 letter to the party leaders, and to positions that parties expressed in Parliament during debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. The 11 commitments which the AODA Alliance sought from the parties are based on key issues which the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations raised regarding Bill C-81 during extensive public hearings before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee last fall, and before the Senate’s Standing Committee last spring. The entire history of these efforts is available at www.aodaalliance.org/canada

It is during an election campaign when politicians put their best political foot forward and are most eager to show their interest in and support of causes that affect millions of Canadians. The federal parties have had ample opportunity to let us know their position on our issues. We wrote them fully three months ago, and have tweeted many of their candidates across Canada over a good number of weeks to try to get them to answer us.

For over 6 million people in Canada who now have a disability, and for all others who will later acquire a disability there is a powerful message here. It emanates from the comparison that is set out below. During public hearings on Bill C-81, one disability organization after the next emphasized that this legislation is deficient because it gives the Federal Government a series of helpful powers, but it does not require the Government to use those powers or set time lines for their exercise. The opposition NDP, Conservatives and Green Parties repeatedly echoed this serious concern.

However despite this, the bill was not substantially amended to eliminate this problem. Here we now are, just four months after this law was passed, and yet most of the parties are not prepared to say what, if anything, they would do to use those powers. This proves, beyond any doubt, why the Accessible Canada Act must be strengthened to make it strong and effective, and to require its effective implementation and enforcement.

We in the disability community were correct to push for amendments last year to achieve this goal. We will be wise to do it again when parliament resumes. The AODA Alliance will be ready to work with all parties, and with whomever forms Canada’s next government, to achieve that goal.

In providing this comparison, we yet again repeat that the non-partisan, AODA Alliance does not seek to support or oppose any party or candidate. We try to get the strongest commitments from all the parties and candidates.

If we receive any further responses from any of the parties before voting day, we will make them public as fast as we can. We will continue up to the last minute, trying to get all parties to make commitments on this issue.

The AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 letter to the major party leaders is available at: https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-writes-federal-party-leaders-seeking-election-commitments-on-advancing-the-cause-of-accessibility-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-in-canada/

The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliances available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

The Liberal Party’s October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance’s letter is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/liberal-party-of-canada-answers-request-for-election-commitments-on-achieving-an-accessible-canada-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-liberals-promise-less-than-the-ndp-tories-greens-peop/

The AODA Alliance’s federal election action kit that gives the public ideas on how to raise these issues during the election campaign is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/

Follow @aodaalliance to see our relentless stream of tweets to federal candidates, seeking their commitments on this issue, and to follow our analysis of election returns, as they bear on this issue.

            MORE DETAILS

 Non-Partisan Issue-By-Issue Comparison of the Major Federal Parties’ Positions on Ensuring that Canada Becomes Barrier-Free for Over Six Million People with Disabilities

 General

All parties that were in Parliament before the current federal election voted for the Accessible Canada Act. As such, they have all agreed with the goal of Canada becoming barrier-free for people with disabilities by 2040.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

 1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this about this issue:

“We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP made multiple attempts to include implementation of timelines. During Committee meetings of Persons Living with Disabilities, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us aligned with the leading experts’ proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. Once again, the NDP made multiple attempts to ensure the ACA is effectively enforced. During Committee, the Government was presented with overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to which parts of the bill needed amending. The amendments proposed by us were taken from their proposals. The Government brought no one forward to rebut this testimony. They listened but rejected almost all of the amendments brought forward by the opposition parties.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 3. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity in C-81. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. We proposed such an amendment during committee hearing.

Our ultimate goal is to help foster a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money would never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance gave this response:

“Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 4. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“Yes, if a provision of the Act or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any  other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said this on this issue:

“We will review section 172(3) of the ACA a take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in one federal agency, not splintered among several of them.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“Yes. The Liberal government’s Bill C-81 wrongly gave several public agencies or officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of this bill. C-81 separated enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. Rather it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: the single service location or, one-stop shop..

We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

7. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.

New Democratic Party:

The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue, which can be read as directly or indirectly committing to what we seek:

“The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government-every budget,

every policy and regulation-should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 8. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“New Democrats have always fought to remove the barriers keeping persons with disabilities from living with dignity and independence, because when barriers are removed all Canadians are empowered to participate fully in society and we all benefit.

We brought forward amendments to C-81 that require the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. Their report should immediately be made public. Additionally, we would require the Federal Government to designate a minister with responsibility to bring forward a bill to reform elections legislation within 12 months of the completion of that Independent Review.”

Liberal Party:

The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response gave this answer on this issue:

“We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 9. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance included the following on this issue:

“Nine years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has tabled a new Accessibility Act, its’ exemptions mean C-81 falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment to amend the Accessible Canada Act on this issue, but a commitment that would in practice narrow the use of this power. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response said the following on this issue:

“Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 10. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“The amendment we brought forward during the C-81 proceedings would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. This should adopt and build upon the work of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee, which oversees efforts on accessibility for provincially-regulated courts in Ontario.”

Liberal Party:

A commitment to “examine this issue”. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

 11. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

New Democratic Party:

Specific affirmative commitment. The NDP’s September 16, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“Absolutely! The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures. New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal Party rhetoric.”

Liberal Party:

No specific commitment on this issue. The Liberals’ October 15, 2019 response to the AODA Alliance said the following on this issue:

“We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.”

Conservative Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Conservative Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support. On November 22, 2019, the Conservative Party promised in the House of Commons, if elected, to strengthen Bill C-81:

Conservative MP John Barlow: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.”

Conservative MP: Alex Nuttall “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Green Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

During debates in the House of Commons on Bill C-81, The Green Party pointed out that the bill was too weak and needed to be strengthened. It quoted the AODA Alliance among others in support.

Bloc Quebecois:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.

People’s Party:

No response to the July 18, 2019 letter from the AODA Alliance to all major federal party leaders.



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Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities- Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

 

Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities– Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments

 

October 16, 2019

 

            SUMMARY

 

With the October 21 federal election so near, so close in the polls, and with every vote so important, what are the federal parties committing to do for over six million people with disabilities in Canada? The grassroots AODA Alliance has sought 11 specific commitments to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced. So far, only two federal parties have even answered.

Polls are suggesting that Canadians are about to elect a minority government. If there is a minority government, no matter who is our next Prime Minister, there is a real potential that Canada’s next Parliament could be persuaded to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. While in opposition last year, the Greens, NDP and Conservatives all advocated for this law to be strengthened.

On October 15, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada announced which election pledges it would make to people with disabilities, in response to the July 18, 2019 request for 11 major commitments which the AODA Alliance directed to the leaders of the six major federal parties. The Liberals’ response and its accompanying online statement on disability equality which it posted on its website on October 15, 2019, both set out below, give fewer promises than the only other federal party to respond to date.

On September 16, 2019, the federal New Democratic Party became the first federal party to answer the AODA Alliance’s request for these 11 commitments. The NDP response is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

With only five days left before voting day, the AODA Alliance is continuing its blitz. The federal Conservatives, Greens, People’s Party and Bloc Quebecois have not yet answered. Last year, the Greens and Tories teamed up with the NDP in an unsuccessful to press for amendments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, at the request of a number of disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. During debates on the bill in the House of Commons last fall, the Tories promised to make it a priority to strengthen this law if they form the next Government. On November 22, 2018, Tory MPP John Barlow pledged: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.” Tory MP Alex Nuttall promised Parliament “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Below we also set out the excellent October 15, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, posted online by Global News. It is the only news article we have seen in this election campaign covering the parties’ positions on this issue, and disability community efforts to secure such commitments. We urge the media to give this issue more coverage in the election campaign’s final days.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate. It seeks to secure the strongest commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities from all the parties. As part of this campaign, it is tweeting to as many federal candidates across Canada as possible to press for the commitments it seeks. This evening, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak on a panel that will give action tips for the election campaign’s final days at a federal election disability issues public forum in Toronto, organized by a number of disability organizations. It takes place from 7 to 9 pm at Ryerson University’s Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  1. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the voting process in federal elections has not been assured to be barrier-free for voters with disabilities. We will be monitoring for these barriers, and are urging voters with disabilities to alert us of any problems they encounter. To follow all the action on Twitter over the last days leading to the election, follow @aodaalliance Email reports of voting barriers to us at [email protected]

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance’s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

October 15, 2019 Response from the Liberal Party of Canada to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

Over the past four years, we have made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. For a full list of these actions please refer to Appendix A.

There is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

To read our full statement on disability equality and inclusion, as well as consult our 2019 platform, please visit: https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Specific Additional Information in Response to Your Questions

Questions 1 and 2:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 3 (application to public policy):

Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.

Questions 4 to 6 (implementation and enforcement issues):

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 7

As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 8:

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.

Question 9:

Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.

Question 10:

We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.

Question 11:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

Appendix A: Our shared progress

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

        We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

         We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

         We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

         We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility.  And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

         We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

         We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

         We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

         We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

         We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making.  This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

         We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

         We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility.  We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

         We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

October 15, 2019 Online Statement on Disability Equality by the Liberal Party of Canada

DISABILITY EQUALITY STATEMENT

Originally posted at https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

OUR SHARED PROGRESS

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

THE PATH TO EQUALITY THROUGH DISABILITY INCLUSION

Moving forward, there is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

 Global News October 15, 2019

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6034294/canadians-disabilities-election-campaign/

Canadians with disabilities cast doubt next federal government will address needs

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE -THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amy Amantea, who lost her eyesight due to complications while undergoing surgery more than a decade ago, poses for a photograph at her home in North Vancouver, on Oct. 11, 2019.

Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”

Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other  words — most of us.”



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Come to a Toronto Area Public Forum on the Federal Elections’ Disability Issues on October 16 – and – More Reasons Why Electric Scooters are Bad for Ontario


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Come to a Toronto Area Public Forum on the Federal Elections’ Disability Issues on October 16 – and – More Reasons Why Electric Scooters are Bad for Ontario

October 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here are bits and pieces of accessibility news to share, that have been building up in our virtual in-tray! We hope you enjoy this information, on the 254th day since the Ford Government received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. How much more we would have to give thanks for on this Thanksgiving weekend if the Government were to have announced a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

On the national front, we want to let you know that on the evening of October 16, 2019, a federal election forum will be held in Toronto to focus on disability issues in the current federal election. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of the event’s speakers. We encourage you to attend. The full details are set out in the event announcement, below.

We remind one and all to raise disability accessibility issues with the candidates in this election. Use the AODA Alliance’s new Federal Election Action Kit. It gives you great action tips and all the background that you need to help press our issues. Please retweet the tweets that @aodaalliance is now tweeting to candidates for Canada’s Parliament, where we ask for election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Turning to the provincial front, the AODA Alliance has been trying to play a leading role in  raising concerns with the Ford Government’s plans to expose Ontarians to the serious safety and accessibility risks posed by allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in Ontario.

We have no word from the Ford Government on the results of their rushed consultations on this issue last month. In the meantime, opposition continues to grow to the Government’s plans. Below, we set out the October 2, 2019 news release by the City of Toronto on the subject. It recognizes a need to ensure protection for both public safety and accessibility, and reflects a cautious approach to allowing e-scooters in Canada’s and Ontario’s biggest city.

Torontonians need to press their city council members as well as the Ford Government to not allow e-scooters onto our streets, sidewalks or other public places, since they pose a safety and accessibility threat. We expect that the companies that want to make money renting e-scooters in Ontario and having them parked for free all over our sidewalks, like Lime and Bird, are heavily lobbying both the Ford Government and members of Toronto City Council, behind closed doors.

We also set out below an October 5, 2019 guest column in the Toronto Star that highlights how much of a safety risk e-scooters have proven themselves to be. We also show you an October 9, 2019 letter to the editor in the Toronto Star that reinforces those safety concerns.

We wish one and all a happy and barrier-free Thanksgiving.

          MORE DETAILS

 

Announcement of October 16, 2019 Toronto Area Federal Election Forum on Disability Issues

2019 Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability Justice

 

The GTA Disability Coalition invites people with disabilities and their allies to join us for a federal election forum on accessibility and disability justice.

– Engage with an informed panel of experts speaking on the federal parties’ platforms on key disability issues

– Raise your awareness about actions you can call on parties to take to advance an accessible Canada

– Ask questions and share your civic voice in #AccessibleCndVOTE 

DATE: Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
TIME: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm)
LOCATION: Ryerson University, Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street (SW side of Gould and Church St)

RSVP to Robin Simmons at 416-599-2458 ext. 293 by Monday, October 14, 2019. Seating is limited. You can also register for this event via Eventbrite

Submit your questions on Twitter to #AccessibleCndVOTE

 

Forum Partners: Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians.  A-Way Express. Balance for Blind Adults. Canadian National Institute for the Blind.  Centre for Independent Living in Toronto.  Doris Power. Ethno-racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario.  Empowerment Council.  Kim Adlard. Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. ODSP Action Coalition. Older Women’s Network.  Ryerson University.  Springtide Resources. Students for Barrier-Free Access -U of T. Working for Change.

October 2, 2019 City of Toronto News Release on E-Scooters

City of Toronto Media Relations has issued the following:

News Release

October 2, 2019

City of Toronto moves to ensure safety and accessibility at forefront of planning for e-scooters

Toronto City Council today adopted a series of recommendations focused on dealing with the future oversight and management of e-scooters in Toronto.

The City is carefully planning for the provincial government’s anticipated introduction of e-scooters in Ontario by prioritizing safety and accessibility for the use of e-scooters in Toronto. Among comments provided to the province, municipalities in Ontario including Toronto have requested that municipalities maintain oversight on how e-scooters are regulated and how they are deployed on local streets.

City Council voted to direct Transportation Services, Municipal Licensing and Standards, the Medical Officer of Health and the Toronto Parking Authority, to report later this year on a program to enable the oversight and management of e-scooters on City roadways, including the possibility of adding electric scooters to the bike share fleet as a way of managing e-scooters in the public right-of-way, with the goal of ensuring a safe and accessible transportation network for all users during the proposed 5-year Provincial pilot project.

Until proper regulations are developed, City staff successfully recommended that City Council continue to prohibit the use of e-scooters on City sidewalks and pedestrian ways, prohibit any person from parking, storing or leaving an e-scooter on any street, sidewalk and pedestrian way.

Currently under the Province of Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), vehicles such as e-scooters are not considered legal for use on city/public roads, including in bike lanes. As motorized vehicles, they are also not permitted for use on municipal sidewalks.

The Ontario government has proposed regulations for the use of e-scooters, including details for a five-year pilot window. The HTA will not be altered but the rules around pilot projects for e-scooters in Ontario are expected to be outlined. Timing is currently unknown while the province reviews public input.

E-scooters are being piloted in several North American cities, including Canadian jurisdictions outside Ontario, as well as in a variety of American jurisdictions. Programs have had varied success and outcomes with regard to use, safety, sidewalk clutter and parking. More data is being collected in other cities on safety and environmental impacts of e-scooters.

While a number of cities have piloted e-scooters, some cities are reviewing and consulting the public such as Boston, Seattle and Boulder. Examples of cities that currently prohibit e-scooter programs include London (UK), New York City (Manhattan), Philadelphia, Dublin and Honolulu.

Once the regulation for Ontario is made available by the province, City staff will review it and are expected to report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee in December on a proposed framework that enables the oversight and management of e-scooters on Toronto roadways, with the aim of ensuring safe, sustainable and accessible transportation for all users during a proposed pilot project.

Documentation of the motion that City Council adopted today is available at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2019.IE7.13

A letter from the Toronto City Manager to the Ministry of Transportation is available at https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/cc/bgrd/backgroundfile-138531.pdf#xd_co_f=ODM2YzZiMjYtMzIwZi00MGQ5LTlhZTgtZTNiYTU2Mjg1ZTI0~.

Link to the relevant portion of the Highway Traffic Act (PDF file): https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/municode/1184_950.pdf

Quotes

“We must plan responsibly for e-scooters on our streets with safety and accessibility at the forefront of those plans. I believe this approach to this emerging transportation option will ensure we go about this in the right way that listens carefully to our residents, community groups, and businesses.”

– Mayor John Tory

“We all want safe, sustainable and modern travel options in Toronto. Learning from other cities, we know that success means taking care to develop an e-scooter program for Toronto.”

– Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 6 York Centre), Chair of the Infrastructure and Environment Committee

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of more than 2.9 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/cityoftoronto, on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/cityofto or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cityofto.

– 30 –

Media contact: Eric Holmes, Strategic Communications, 416-392-4391, 416-629-4891 (cell), [email protected]

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All City of Toronto news releases are also available on the City’s website at www.toronto.ca/home/media-room/news-releases-media-advisories/

Toronto Star October 5, 2019

OPINION

Just how dangerous are e-scooters? Early numbers show an injury rate that’s almost 600 times higher than taking the bus

By Duncan Stewart, Contributor

How many Torontonians will be scooter commuters? Fewer than you think.

Although rentable dockless e-scooters (adult sized versions of push scooters with a battery and electric motor) are coming to Toronto soon in a pilot at the Distillery District, new data on safety makes it unlikely that many Torontonians will use them as part of their daily commute.

We could certainly use them: There is a clear need for environmentally friendly modes of transport for short distances and e-scooters and e-bikes — often referred to as micromobility devices —could reduce the number of private car, taxi and Uber trips we make.

Especially those that really don’t need to be car trips at all: as of 2017, 46 per cent of all U.S. car trips annually were for 5 kilometres or less, and 21 per cent were for less than 1.6 km. Assuming a 25 km/h speed limit for scooters, those trip distances translate into 12 minutes or less. I’ve spent longer than that waiting for an Uber or looking for parking!

Both e-scooters and e-bikes are suggested as a way of getting commuters out of cars and reducing congestion: Toronto was recently ranked the North American city with the worst commute, and sixth worst globally. And if scooters are used for daily commuting, not only does that mean fewer cars at peak traffic times, we’d also probably see less-crowded buses, streetcars and subways.

Not so fast.

The Toronto pilot is not the first e-scooter program in Canada: they have been in Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary for a while now… and Calgary is particularly interesting in that Alberta Health Services has been tracking how many people are showing up in  hospital emergency departments due to scooter injuries  since the start of their pilot in July. I was eager to see Canadian data, since I already had data from a study done in Austin, Texas in 2018, and I wondered if scooters had a different safety profile up here.

Before discussing the Calgary findings, we need to put safety of different transportation modes in context. Experts look at the number of deaths and injuries per trip. A massive 2007 U.S. study showed that the combined death and injury rate/100 million trips was about 160 for buses, 200 for pedestrians, 800 for passenger vehicles, and 1,500 for bikes. The Austin numbers were shocking: using the exact same way of counting, the injury rate for e-scooters was 20,000 per 100 million trips. Scooters were 100 times riskier than walking, and 13 times riskier than biking.

Data is still coming in from Calgary, but as of mid-September, 477 scooter riders have been to hospital and have taken a cumulative 500,000 trips. Which translates to an injury rate (no deaths yet, thank goodness, but there have been eight so far in the U.S.) of 95,400 per 100 million trips.

That is not a typo or miscalculation: the Calgary injury rate is nearly five times higher than Austin, and almost 600 times higher than taking the bus. I doubt that the Calgary injury rate is actually that much different from Austin – I expect the differences in our respective medical systems make Canadians much more likely to go hospitals, so the Texas data actually under-reports the true e-scooter injury rate.

How will this affect scooter usage in Toronto over the long run? There are two groups of likely scooter users: tourists and micromobility commuters. Toronto had 44 million visitors in 2017, and many of them come here when our streets are not filled with snow and ice, so scooters may make sense for many of them. And they’re fun to ride! But tourists think about risk and injury differently than commuters: they go hot air ballooning, bungee jumping and ziplining, despite those activities having relatively higher risks. It’s only once or twice, so the overall risk is low. But no one commutes 500 times per year, year after year, by balloon or zip line.

Leave the e-scooters for the tourists – for the rest of us, they look like a greener, faster, and more fun way to get to an emergency room.

Duncan Stewart is the director of research for tech, media and telecom for Deloitte Canada.

Toronto Star October 8, 2019

Letters

E-scooters are a risky way to commute

Numbers are in, and e-scooters look dangerous, Opinion, Oct. 5

Duncan Stewart’s article was a breath of fresh air because it was based on research, not a marketing hype to attract renters and local governments to buy in.

Using e-scooters to get commuters out of cars and reduce traffic congestion in Toronto will soon be tested in a pilot program in the Distillery District. But hold on. Pilots have already been run in Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton. And in Austin, Texas. The Calgary results are stunning. Based on hospital visits, it was deemed that it is 500 times riskier to ride the e-scooter than to walk and 65 times riskier to ride an e- scooter than a bicycle. Austin stats were lower, but were possibly related to the fact that injured riders might not as quickly go to the hospital without universal coverage as we enjoy in Canada.

The high injury stats make sense. For an inexperienced user, there is a learning curve of balance, speed and the all-important reading of the situation on the street or path. All of this happening when others are speeding past you on e-bikes, cycles and other scooters and, of course, cars if you are on the street.

Stewart nails it with his last comment: “They look like a greener, funner and faster way to get to an emergency room.”

Mike Faye, Toronto





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