Ottawa Ride-Sharing Companies Agree to Hike Accessibility Fee to 10 Cents Per Ride

Josh Pringle, CTV News Ottawa
Published Saturday, June 12, 2021

OTTAWA –Ride-sharing companies have agreed to pay more for an accessibility fee to the city of Ottawa, but it’s not the 30 cents a ride charge Council was hoping for.

A report for the Community and Protective Services Committee shows the private transportation companies licensed in Ottawa have increased the Voluntary Per-Trip Surcharge to 10 cents a ride, from seven cents a ride.

Councillors were informed this week that the new 10 cents a ride accessibility fee surcharge started in July 2020.

The city of Ottawa does not have the legislative authority to impose a mandatory accessibility levy on Private Transportation Companies operating in the capital. However, each licensed company agreed to a voluntary accessibility per-trip surcharge of seven cents when they launched.

In 2019, Council approved a strategy to use the funds from the voluntary surcharge for programs supporting accessible transportation. Council also directed staff to negotiate the accessibility surcharge with Private Transportation Companies to increase to 30 cents a ride, inline with a report from KPMG.

Staff say they were only able to negotiate a three cent a ride increase in the fee.

“Following extensive discussions with the Private Transportation Companies licensed in Ottawa, an increased Voluntary Per-Trip surcharge of $0.10 took effect on July 1, 2020,” said Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa’s general manager of emergency and protective services.

Uber, Lyft and Facedrive all operate in Ottawa.

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Accessibility Reports for Private or Nonprofit Businesses

Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2021. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. Accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses are now due on June 30th, 2021. Therefore, private or non-profit businesses with twenty or more workers should complete their reports by this deadline. In addition, if businesses have technical difficulties, they should let the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility know. The Ministry can help resolve technical problems.

Accessibility Reports for Private or Nonprofit Businesses

Businesses complete the report by filling in a form on the Ontario government’s website. They must download the form and open it with Adobe Reader, not in their browsers. The first two pages of the form are instructions. Then, workers must click to open the rest of the form. However, once the whole form is opened, the instructions will no longer appear on the workers’ screens. Therefore, workers filling in the form should print off these two pages to look at as they complete the form. Furthermore, one or more workers in a business can complete a form. Workers can save the form and send it to coworkers so that they can complete it together.

Workers start completing the form by selecting their business category (private or nonprofit business). Selection ensures that all questions on the form will apply. Workers must then input their business’s legal name and business number (BN9), from federal or provincial tax returns. Businesses without a BN9 should contact the government to receive an AODA identifier. Next, the form asks for businesses’ number of workers. Finally, one senior member of the business must give their name and contact information. This senior member, called the certifier, will later confirm that the report is complete and accurate. The certifier must have legal authority to make this claim.

Workers must then answer the yes-or-no questions on the form. Once they have answered all questions, businesses submit the form by clicking a button at the bottom.

Our next article will discuss some of the questions in accessibility reports for private or nonprofit businesses.

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Huron County Accessibility Crusader Tackles Bathrooms

Scott Miller CTV News London Videographer
Published Wednesday, June 9, 2021

BLYTH, ONT. –Julie Sawchuk has become somewhat of an accessible bathroom ‘crusader.’

“Building better bathrooms, that is kind of my thing,” says the Blyth mother of two.

Since losing the use of her legs, after being hit by passing motorist while cycling near Goderich in 2015, Julie Sawchuk has been tackling the sometimes uncomfortable world of bathroom accessibility.

During Accessibility Week, she toured an accessible, universal bathroom, she helped design, at the newest addition to Blyth’s Main Street, Sweets N Treats.

“It’s all the little things that make you go, oh yeah right, I never thought of it that way,” says Sawchuk.

Things like the placement of the emergency button, typical in public facilities.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve actually been on the bathroom floor, and haven’t been able to reach the emergency call button. That’s just one of those things that people don’t understand the actual need for,” she says. Or having an open toilet paper roll.

“For someone that has limited dexterity in their fingers, they can’t actually grip the toilet paper. So, when you can see it and it’s on an open roll, you know exactly it is, giving you a greater opportunity to actually get a hold of the toilet paper,” she says.

The owners of the renovated building and bathroom, Colleen Jordan and Shane Yerema, were happy to work with Sawchuk, to make their new building as accessible as possible.

“You can have beauty and accessibility, as well. It doesn’t have to look institutional, it can be functional and beautiful,” says Jordan.

Sawchuk isn’t just helping Huron County businesses become more accessible, she’s currently working with Dyson on hand dryers.

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Workplace Accessibility and the Upcoming AODA Compliance Deadlines

Blaney McMurtry LLP
Canada June 3 2021

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) requires Ontario businesses and non-profits with 20 or more employees to submit an accessibility compliance report every three (3) years. Beginning in 2014, accessibility compliance reports were required to be filed in 2017 and again in 2020, but as mentioned in our previous article, the deadline to file the 2020 accessibility compliance report was extended to June 30, 2021 by the Ontario government. With the deadline now fast approaching, organizations must review any accessibility areas they need to address in order to certify compliance with AODA requirements by this new deadline (to the extent they have not already done so).

AODA Compliance Reports

The AODA sets out the processes for developing and enforcing accessibility standards. The goal of the AODA is to make Ontario more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. To achieve accessibility, the AODA’s Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation established a series of accessibility standards which cover five core categories, including customer service, information and communication, and employment (the “Accessibility Standards”).

The accessibility compliance report is intended to be an organization’s self-assessment of its compliance with the provincial accessibility requirements, including a confirmation that the organization is complying with the Accessibility Standards.

Electronic copies of the applicable form can be downloaded from the Ontario government’s website.

Before completing the report, employers should review and assess whether their organization is providing the right resources and taking the proper steps to make their workplace accessible in accordance with the employment-related requirements of the Accessibility Standards (the “Employment Standards”).

AODA Employment Standards

The Employment Standards require organizations to make their workplaces and employment practices accessible to potential and current employees with disabilities. This includes accessibility requirements in respect of recruitment, hiring, accessible formats and communication supports, workplace emergency response information, performance management and career development. When filling out the accessibility compliance report, employers should consider whether their organization:

  • has an accessible recruitment process for job applicants;
  • has made candidates aware that accommodation is available during the recruitment process;
  • consults with a selected applicant who has made an accommodation request;
  • notifies successful applicants of policies for accommodating employees with disabilities;
  • informs employees of policies in place to support employees with disabilities;
  • consults with the employee upon request to provide accessible formats and communication supports for workplace information;
  • provides updated and accurate individualized workplace emergency response information to employees with disabilities to assist during an emergency at the workplace;
  • takes into account the specific accessibility needs of employees with disabilities when implementing any performance management process;
  • accounts for the difference between disability-related issues and performance-related issues in the performance management process; and
  • accounts for the specific accessibility needs of employees with disabilities when providing career development and advancement.

In addition to the above, businesses and non-profit organizations with 50 or more employees are also required to have written procedures regarding their return to work processes and documented individual accommodation plans for employees with disabilities. The return to work process must include the steps that will be taken by the employer to transition the employee back to work following a disability-related absence. With respect to creating individual accommodation plans, the employer’s written processes should include how:

  • an employee requesting accommodation can take part in developing the plan;
  • the employee will be assessed on an individual basis;
  • an employee can request that a representative from the workplace or union can take part in developing the plan;
  • the employer can request an evaluation by an outside medical or other expert, at the employer’s expense, to assist the employer in determining if or how accommodation can be achieved;
  • confidentiality of the worker’s personal information will be protected;
  • the plan will be reviewed and updated and how often;
  • denial of an individual accommodation plan will be explained and dealt with, if applicable; and
  • the plan will be given in a format accessible to the worker.

Although the accessibility compliance report asks a series of “yes or no” questions, organizations should be prepared to expand upon their answers if required. When reviewing the accessibility reports, Directors of the AODA can ask an organization for more details about their compliance and the organization must provide this information upon request.

Accessible Websites

As a reminder, as of January 1, 2021 business and non-profits with 50 or more employees were required by the AODA to comply with the more stringent WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines with respect to their websites and web content (other than the criteria relating to live captions and pre-recorded audio descriptions). The Ontario government has provided detailed guidance about how organizations can comply with these upcoming AODA requirements by making their websites accessible

Takeaways for Employers

Ontario employers should take steps to determine if they are required to file an accessibility compliance report and ensure that they are in compliance with their AODA obligations, including those that took effect this year. Employers that fail to file their compliance reports may find themselves flagged for an audit by the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario.

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Halifax research group creates app to help break barriers for those living with disabilities

A research group in Halifax is trying to make the city more inclusive to residents and visitors.

PEACH Research works to promote equity, accessibility and health in urban design and planning practices. It’s part of Dalhousie University’s school of planning and consists of faculty members, students and partners developing and executing projects to help design a better place for Haligonians to live, work and play.

One of those partners is Halifax-based non-profit reachAbility. It provides support and accessible programs to individuals facing barriers to inclusion and community participation. Each year, it hosts National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) to celebrate and recognize contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability,” says Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility.

“Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”

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Read more:
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During NAAW, the two groups hosted a virtual event on how to build a more accessible city. CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment was hosted by Melanie Goodridge, pre-employment support navigator for reachAbility, and PEACH researchers Kate Clarke and Katherine Deturbide. The panel covered accessibility standards and barriers faced in the built environment, and highlighted their latest app, the CANdid Access web map.

The app allows users to share and access photos and information about the accessibility in their community.

“Take a picture of something that’s accessible/inaccessible,” Goodridge explains. “Then you give a little blurb on why and then it’s uploaded and put onto a map.”

The photos and information submitted by users of CANdid are added to the access map and can help those living with disabilities to navigate – or even avoid – certain parts of the city. Unmarked crosswalks, paved park pathways, construction zones and sidewalk conditions are some examples of what users may find on CANdid.

“It’s just a really great way to show features that are accessible versus features that are inaccessible,” says Goodridge. “You get a visual of how we can make it better and how we can change to meet the standards by 2030 of the Accessibility Act for Nova Scotia.”

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The Accessibility Act, passed in 2017, plans to improve standards for public buildings, streets, sidewalks, shared spaces and education. The standards are expected to roll out in 2022.

Read more:
Nova Scotia announces plans to support accessibility law passed in 2017

The hope is that the information collected through CANdid will one day land on the desks of provincial government officials who can make a difference.

“Nova Scotia does have some big targets to reach by 2030,” says Goodridge. “A lot of the work that the folks are doing at PEACH Research is a great way to start and an easy way for all of us to understand and digest what needs to happen so that moving forward, we can engage in our government, we can engage on a local level to see those changes being made.”

NAAW runs from May 30 to June 5. It is free and open to everyone and is available to access any time through the reachAbility website.  CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment is available to watch through the reachAbility YouTube channel.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Companies Face Website Accessibility Deadline

The Canadian Press
Thursday, June 3, 2021

TORONTO – Time is running out for Ontario companies to show their websites comply with new standards making them more accessible for people with disabilities or face fines of up to $100,000.

Provincially regulated private-sector and not-for-profit organizations with more than 50 employees must ensure their sites are accessible for people with vision, hearing or other disabilities under legislation that took effect in January.

However, the Ford government has given until the end of this month for organizations to self-report on their compliance with international standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

The WCAG guidelines, which are updated regularly much like software, outline how websites, smartphone apps and other digital tech can be used by people with a range of disabilities.

For example, there are standards for video captioning for people with hearing problems, high-contrast colour combinations for those with limited vision or descriptive audio for people who can’t see text or pictures.

Simon Dermer, who co-founded a Toronto company that helps organizations to put in place accessible digital platforms, says Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada to require the WCAG 2.0 standard but the province’s enforcement record could be better.

“Ontario does a very, very good job of articulating the things that need to be done in a manner that’s more intelligible to the average reader. But enforcement has been very lax, up until now,” says Dermer, executive chairman of Essential Accessibility.

The company provides organizations with a set of online tools to become compliant, then stay up-to-date as government rules in different jurisdictions and technology standards evolve.

Employment lawyer Paul Boshyk, who advises clients about what they need to do to comply with Ontario’s disability law, says enforcement falls under the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility but it relies on a self-reporting process.

“When an organization files their report and identifies a gap in compliance that’s typically where the ministry would get involved,” says Boshyk, who is a partner at McMillan LLP

He says the ministry typically would contact a non-compliant company, give it a timetable for meeting the requirements and provide some support to explain what it needs to do to meet the deadline.

“A first offence, which is minor in nature, is only going to result in an administrative penalty of $500,” Boshyk says.

While the law establishes a maximum fine of $100,000 per day, Boshyk says that amount is limited by a set of schedules, where even a history of serious contraventions is subject to only a $15,000 fine for corporations

“So, the legislation has teeth – but the penalties are a lot less stiff than they otherwise would be,” Boshyk says.

But Dermer says the digital accessibility rules may get a lot of public scrutiny because the COVID-19 has highlighted the need for websites and apps that can effectively deliver commercial, government, medical and education services.

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Companies under pressure to comply with Ontario’s new website accessibility standards

Companies with at least 50 employees that do business in Ontario face a June 30 deadline to confirm they are complying with new standards for making websites accessible for people with disabilities.

All private-sector and not-for-profit organizations with more than 50 employees could be fined for failing to ensure their website complies with rules that took effect in January.

The Ford government has given until the end of this month for organizations to self-report on their compliance with the accessibility law.

Read more:
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The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act provides for enforcing compliance with an escalating range of fines that can reach $100,000 per day.

The law originally focused on physical barriers but more recently adopted an international standard for accessible websites and digital communications.

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Ontario’s law has been described as the toughest in Canada when it comes to digital communications but years behind what’s in place in the United States.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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‘Grave’ Safety Concerns From Accessibility Advocates Could Stop London Rollout of e-Scooters

Daryl Newcombe CTV News London Reporter
May 28, 2021

LONDON, ONT. — A pilot project that would bring e-scooter sharing to London streets got a rough ride from city hall’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC).

“We have very grave concerns about the accessibility issues this would cause,” explains Jay Menard, Chair of AAC.

Menard warns that e-scooters pose a danger to people with mobility or visual impairments because they travel quickly with little noise, and if parked improperly on sidewalks could become a barrier.

“Yes, these things can be enforced, but who is doing that? And at what cost? Who is paying for that?” he asks.

City staff are collecting feedback on a provincial pilot project that would permit electric scooters on London streets.

Adults could use an app to rent a battery-powered scooter for short trips within the central part of London and Western University.

E-scooters can travel up to 24 km/hr, but speeds can be internally limited in different geographic areas using GPS technology.

Participation in the provincial pilot project has been inconsistent.

E-scooters currently cruise many of the streets and paved pathways of Windsor and Ottawa, but Toronto has decided to opt-out, based on accessibility and safety concerns.

Bird Canada, which operates e-scooter sharing in Windsor, Ottawa, and other cities says the concerns raised by the advisory committee are not new, and can be addressed through recent technology advancements.

“Sidewalk riding detection technology lets the e-scooter knows when it is on a sidewalk and can gradually and safely come to a complete stop to discourage riding on sidewalks,” explains Chris Schafer of Bird Canada.

He adds that Bird Canada has a team of people to educate riders and address operational issues in its partnering cities.

Schafer says injuries are few, and there have been no deaths in Canada related to public e-scooter fleets.

He suggests London has the ability to avoid some of the challenges faced in cities that first adopted e-scooters three to five years ago.

“Learn from them, take their best practices, and implement them locally to address the valid concerns, that our friends in the accessibility community have,” he adds.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee is preparing a written response to the pilot project that will express their concerns to city council.

“Unless we get those answers in a satisfactory manner,” he explains. “We are not going to be supportive of this program.”

City staff will continue consulting with stakeholders before bringing a report to council in late summer.

If approved, e-scooters could be on London streets this fall or next spring.

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4 Peterborough-Kawartha organizations receive federal funding for accessibility projects

The federal government is providing four Peterborough-area organizations with funding to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

On Monday morning, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef announced $241,000 for four organizations — Camp Kawartha Inc., the New Canadians Centre, the Jewish Community Centre of Peterborough and the Peterborough Theatre Guild — through the Enabling Accessibility Fund. The federal grant supports construction projects to improve accessibility, safety and inclusion of people with disabilities.

The announcement comes during National AccessAbility Week.

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“Building a more inclusive Canada takes a lot of work, but it’s important work that must be done,” stated Monsef on behalf of Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.

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“Thanks to the Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Government of Canada has been able to support organizations in Peterborough-Kawartha. Together, we are working hard to make our community more accessible for persons with disabilities. Improving accessibility benefits all Canadians.”

The projects include canoeing at Camp Kawartha, improved access to the theatre and the two community centres.

Monsef also highlighted the June 4 launch of two new calls for proposals under the EAF mid-sized projects and youth innovation components, which can provide contributions of $350,000 up to $1 million to support large retrofit, renovation or construction projects. The call for proposals will remain open until July 29.

The youth innovation component challenges youth ages 15 to 30 to volunteer and collaborate and submit proposals for accessibility projects. The deadline to submit a proposal is Nov. 30.

Monsef says since 2015, the riding has received more than $1.1 million through the EAF to fund more than 25 projects, including the Lakefield Baptist Church, Five Counties Children Centre, YWCA Peterborough and Haliburton, and the City of Peterborough.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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