Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 7, 2021 Toronto: Today, blind lawyer, law professor and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government in the Ontario Divisional Court for violating a mandatory provision in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He asks the Court to order Ontarios Minister for Seniors and Accessibility to immediately post on line and otherwise make public the initial recommendations for measures needed to tear down barriers in Ontario’s education system plaguing students with disabilities and in Ontarios health care system, impeding patients with disabilities, that the Minister received from three advisory committees appointed under the AODA. Text of the notice of application and Lepofskys supporting affidavit are set out below.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. It must enact and effectively enforcing a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial or draft recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Governments website. Yet the ford Government sat on three sets of such initial or draft recommendations for months. The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of December 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government around the same time.

Just as this application was being served on the Government, the Government belatedly announced that it made public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Lepofsky does not claim that this was triggered by the court application. However, the Government has still not made public the other two Standards Development Committees recommendations. Therefore this court application remains important and urgent.

The Ford Governments inexcusable contravention of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act hurts people with disabilities, by delaying overdue progress on accessibility. It is leadership by a poor example, from a Government that pledged to lead on this issue by a good example, said Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with any kind of disability. The fact that for over five months in the middle of a pandemic, the Government sat on important recommendations on how to tear down disability barriers in Ontarios health care system impeding patients with disabilities is especially hurtful.

Lepofsky will argue that schools, colleges,, universities and health care providers deserved and were entitled to see all these initial recommendations immediately, so that they can try to put them into action where possible long before the Government enacts new regulations in this area.

People with disabilities should not have to resort to going to court to get the Ford Government to obey the law, said Lepofsky. Fortunately, Im blessed to have excellent pro bono representation by Martha McCarthy of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP, and I have my own legal training, but no one should have to go through this.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance More background at www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the May 7, 2021 Notice of Application

APPLICATION
1. The applicant makes application for:
a. Judicial review of the respondents failure to act in accordance with s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the AODA), more specifically:
i. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable;
ii. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable; and,
iii. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
b. An order for mandamus, directing the respondent to make the documents listed in paragraph 1. a., above, immediately available to the public by posting them on a government website and by such other means the Minister considers advisable;
c. If necessary, leave for this application to be heard urgently pursuant to s. 6(2) of the Judicial Review Procedures Act and Part I of the Consolidated Practice Direction for Divisional Court Hearings; d. The applicants costs in this proceeding on a full indemnity basis; and,
e. Such further and other relief as counsel may request and as to this court seems just. 2. The grounds for the application are:
a. In or about 2017, the Government of Ontario appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. A Health Care Accessibility Standard would outline disability barriers that should be removed and prevented in Ontarios health care system that impede people with disabilities.
b. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Kindergarten to Grade 12 Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in Ontario schools that impede students with disabilities.
c. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in post-secondary educational organizations such as colleges and universities in Ontario that impede students with disabilities.
d. In or about December 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
e. In or about March 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
f. In March 2021, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
g. Pursuant to s. 10 of the AODA, the respondent has a mandatory duty to post those initial or draft recommendations upon receiving them. Section 10(1) of the AODA provides:
10. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
h. The respondent has not posted any of the initial or draft recommendations from any of the Committees on the Government of Ontario website or otherwise made them public.
i. The respondents failure to fulfil his mandatory statutory duty post those initial or draft recommendations of the Committees on the internet and otherwise make them public is contrary to and flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of the AODA, which is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This failure delays Ontario from reaching the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the important contexts of health care and education fields in which a lack of accessibility has dire consequences.
j. The AODA aims to effectively implement the right to equality in areas like health care and education for people with disabilities that is guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
k. The applicant has a strong public interest in this applications issues, both as a blind person and having acted as a volunteer disability accessibility community organizer and advocate for decades. The applicant led the volunteer campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. The applicant is currently the chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan coalition that leads the campaign to get the AODA implemented in a meaningful and timely manner.
l. The Government of Ontario appointed the applicant as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which he has served since the Committee was established.
m. The applicant is a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, established under O. Reg. 464/97.

3. The following documentary evidence will be used at the hearing of the application: a. The Affidavit of the Applicant, David Lepofsky; and,
b. Such further and other material as counsel may request and this Honourable Court will permit.

Text of the May 7, 2021 Affidavit of David Lepofsky

I, David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., LLB (Osgoode Hall), LLM (Harvard University), LLD (Hon. Queens University, University of Western Ontario, Law Society of Ontario), of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario, AFFIRM:
1. I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (the AODA Alliance) and am blind. As such, I have knowledge of the matters to herein deposed.
2. I affirm this affidavit in support of my application for judicial review, in which I am seeking mandamus directing the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility to fulfil his statutory duties under s. 10(1) the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and for no other or improper purpose. The AODA Alliance
3. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer-run, non-partisan community coalition of individuals and organizations.
4. The AODA Alliance was established in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Ontario legislature enacted the AODA. Its mission is to contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free society for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the AODA. Its activities are documented in detail on its website at http://www.aodaalliance.org.
5. The AODA Alliance is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the ODA Committee). From 1994 to mid-2005, the ODA Committee led a non-partisan province-wide campaign, advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation in Ontario, culminating in the enactment of the AODA in 2005.
6. The AODA Alliance builds on the ODA Committees work, and draws its membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. The work of the ODA Committee from 1994 up to the time when it finished its work in mid-2005 is documented in detail at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
7. The AODA Alliance has received broad recognition as a credible non-partisan voice on disability accessibility issues. For example:
a. The Government of Ontario and members of the provincial legislature have repeatedly and publicly recognized and commended the efforts of the AODA Alliance, and before it, the ODA Committee, for its volunteer advocacy on the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities.
b. In every provincial election starting in 1995, at least two of the major Ontario political parties have made election commitments concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. In every case where such commitments were made, they were set out in letters from the party leader to the ODA Committee up to 2005, and after that, to the AODA Alliance. For example, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his 2011 election promises on disability accessibility in his August 19, 2011 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne made her partys disability accessibility election pledges in her May 14, 2014 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford made his partys commitments on disability accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to me as chair of the AODA Alliance. All these letters are posted on one or other of the websites referred to above.
c. Our input on accessibility issues has been provided to community groups and government officials in several Canadian provinces, by the Government of Canada, and in other countries, such as Israel and New Zealand. My Involvement with the AODA Alliance
8. I am intimately familiar with the work of the AODA Alliance, and of its predecessor, the ODA Committee because:
a. I served as Co-Chair, and later as Chair, of the ODA Committee from early 1995 up to its dissolution in August 2005.
b. I was present during the establishment of the AODA Alliance and was a driving force behind its establishment as the successor to the ODA Committee. Its initial Chair was Catherine Dunphy Tardik. I initially took no leadership role with the AODA Alliance although I remained available to assist as requested.
c. In early 2006, the AODA Alliance appointed me as its Human Rights Reform Representative. I served as lead spokesperson for the AODA Alliance during controversial public and legislative debates over Bill 107, a reform to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over that period, I worked very closely with the AODA Alliance Chair.
d. In February 2009, I became the Chair of the AODA Alliance, a position I have held to the present time.
9. My extensive work for the AODA Alliance and the ODA Committee is documented on the two websites identified above. All my work for these coalitions has been conducted as a volunteer. I have never been an employee of the AODA Alliance or the ODA Committee and have never received any salary from either organization.
10. Over more than two decades, I have had very extensive dealings with the Government of Ontario at all levels, both in my capacity with the AODA Alliance, and prior to that, as co-chair and then chair of the ODA Committee. In these capacities, I have met with Ontario Premiers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Cabinet, Assistant Deputy Ministers, and a myriad of other public officials in the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service. I have similarly had extensive dealings with opposition parties and their staffs throughout my time doing volunteer work in this area.
11. I have received several awards for my volunteer activities on disability accessibility issues, including my volunteer work for the ODA Committee and later for the AODA Alliance. Among these, I was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995, as a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008 and in the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. I have received honorary doctorates from Queens University, the University of Western Ontario, and the Law Society of Ontario arising from this activity.
The Non-Partisan Campaign to get the Government of Ontario to Enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard
12. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, an Ontario cabinet minister is to be designated to be responsible to lead the Acts implementation and enforcement.
13. Since June 2018, that designated lead Minister has been the respondent, Ontarios Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Hon. Raymond Cho (the Minister).
14. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for leading the development, enactment, and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards, in accordance with the powers, duties, and procedures set out in the AODA.
15. From 2003 to 2005, I was extensively involved in the negotiations with the Government of Ontario concerning the development of the provisions of the AODA, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
16. In my capacity as AODA Alliance Chair, I have been extensively involved for years in grassroots non-partisan disability advocacy to ensure that strong and effective accessibility standards are enacted and enforced under the AODA. This has included an ongoing push since 2009 to remove and prevent the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontarios education and health care systems.
17. If enacted, the enforceable regulations we seek would respectively be called the Education Accessibility Standard and the Health Care Accessibility Standard. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard are documented at www.aodaalliance.org/education. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard are set out at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare.
18. As a result of our years of advocacy, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, the Hon. Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Over one year later, on December 5, 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature that the Government of Ontario would develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
19. Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a Standards Development Committee) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.
20. In or about 2017, the government appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee (or the Health Care Committee) to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard.
21. In early 2018, the government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
a. One committee was appointed to deal with barriers impeding students with disabilities from kindergarten to grade twelve. That committee is called the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (or the K-12 Committee).
b. The other committee was appointed to deal with barriers facing students with disabilities in post-secondary education. It is called the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee (or the Post-Secondary Committee).
22. I was appointed to serve on the K-12 Committee and have spent a great many volunteer hours working on that Committee since it was established. The Standards Development Procedure Established by the AODA
23. Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations.
24. That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. The public feedback can serve as an important aid for the Standards Development Committee to refine, improve, and finalize the Committees recommendations, drawing on input from people with disabilities, the obligated sector of the economy, and the public. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.
25. Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.
These Three Standards Development Committees Have Provided their Draft Recommendations to the Government
26. By December 31, 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Those initial or draft recommendations have not been made public, despite the statutory requirement for the Minister to do so.
27. On or about March 12, 2021, the K-12 Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Just like the draft recommendations submitted by the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Committees recommendations have still not been released to the public.
28. I understand that the Post-Secondary Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister around the same time as did the K-12 Committee. The Post-Secondary Committees recommendations have also not been released to the public.
29. I asked the Ministry of Senior Accessibility to provide the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Committee to me, in my capacity as a member of the K-12 Committee. To date, the Ministry has not provided the Post-Secondary Committees recommendations to me.
30. I requested a copy of the Post-Secondary Committees recommendations because there is an obvious and substantial connection between its work and the work of the K-12 Education Committee. Both committees are making recommendations concerning barriers in education for students with disabilities.
31. As members of the K-12 Committee, we know about some of what the Post-Secondary Committee is recommending, because a joint subcommittee exists with representatives of the two Standards Development Committees to address technical overlap issues. There is thus no reason why we should not now have seen all of what the Post-Secondary Committee has recommended, and vice versa.
32. I have been urging the Government to quickly make public all these Standards Development Committee recommendations, on Twitter and otherwise. On April 29, 2021, I along with the rest of the K-12 Committee received the following email from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility: Dear K-12 Standards Development Committee members:

We hope this message finds you doing well.

We would like to provide an update on the progress of the committees initial recommendations report.
As you know, your committee Chair, Lynn Ziraldo, submitted the report and the accompanying report of the Technical Sub-Committee on Transitions to MSAA Minister Raymond Cho on March 12.
We have been busy preparing the reports for online posting, as well as translating them into French and preparing the survey that will accompany the postings. All of this work goes towards ensuring that the reports receive the most comprehensive feedback possible from the public.
As well, we understand the importance of posting this document as soon as possible, so that respondents will have a chance to consider providing input before the end of the school year. As I am sure you understand, our government is facing unprecedented challenges in delivering services to the public, and must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.
We look forward to notifying you when these postings are going to occur and appreciate your patience and understanding as we move closer to the posting date.
As always, you can reach out to the Chair, Lynn Ziraldo or the Ministry anytime with questions.

Thank you.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division
Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
A copy of the email dated April 29, 2021 is attached as Exhibit A.
33. Since receiving this email, the initial or draft recommendations of these three Standards Development Committees have not been publicly posted.
No Justification for Delaying Public Posting of the Initial or Draft Recommendations of the Three Standards Development Committees
34. The Government has not provided a compelling reason why it could not have earlier posted these initial or draft recommendations.
35. The government was throughout well-aware of the work and the progress of each Standards Development Committee. The Ministry had staff organize and take part in committee meetings. Ministry staff had regular communications with each committee Chair and its members.
36. As of the date of this affidavit, the Ministry has had the final text of each set of initial or draft recommendations for ample time over five months in the case of the ones regarding health care, and almost two months in the case of those regarding education. The Ministry knew these were coming, well in advance, and what they would contain.
37. It would take little or no time to make these documents available in an accessible format. That cannot justify this delay.
38. Referring to the April 29, 2021 email quoted above, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic do not justify this delay. The staff of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility are not responsible for leading the governments pandemic response.
39. Moreover, that email states that the during the pandemic, the Government must prioritize all public-facing initiatives. From my 33 years working in the Ontario Government before my retirement at the end of 2015, and from my extensive interaction with the Government as a disability rights community organizer and advocate, I understand this to mean that the Government wants to set priorities in the timing of messages it transmits to the public. Yet the Government can and does regularly transmit many different messages to the public at any one time. It can post multiple messages or documents on the internet on the same day. Its preferences or priorities over political messaging are not identified in s. 10 of the AODA with regard to the duty to make public a Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations upon the minister receiving them.
Harmful Consequences of the Delay in Making these Initial or Draft Recommendations Public
40. Ontario only has 1,335 days left before January 1, 2025, the date by which the AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, among other things, a requirement that Ontario’s education system and health care system must have become accessible to people with disabilities by that date.
41. I, and many other people with disabilities, are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. According to the Final Report of the Third Independent Review of the AODAs Implementation and Enforcement, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, prepared pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, Ontario was not on schedule for reaching that goal on time, as of that reports date (January 31, 2019). While I have linked to the Final Report, I have not attached it as an exhibit as I am conscious of the need to keep my materials brief.
42. The delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations hurts students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. Until Ontario enacts and effectively enforces strong and effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, patients with disabilities and students with disabilities respectively will continue to suffer from the many barriers that they must face in Ontario’s health care and education systems.
43. The unfortunate reality is that this is just one of many delays that has already plagued the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard, at the hands of the government.
44. The previous government contributed to delay by taking some two years to just appoint the Health Care Committee. It also took that government over one year to appoint the K-12 Committee and the Post-Secondary Committee. In contrast, it took the government one year to develop the entire AODA and to introduce it into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004.
45. The committees work was paused during the provincial 2018 election. However, upon the current government taking office, it left the committees frozen for months. The AODA Alliance had to campaign to get the government to permit the committees to continue their work. The committees eventually returned to work in the fall of 2019. This delay, at the hands of this government, further unnecessarily delayed the eventual enactment of a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard.
46. I am particularly concerned about the governments inaction because it delays progress on accessibility in health care and education that could begin immediately. For example, in a speech I gave last month, I encouraged senior officials of Ontarios school boards to immediately study the K-12 recommendations and implement as many of them as possible, once the draft is public. I have been told by some officials at the Toronto District School Board (Canadas largest school board) that they want to see the initial or draft recommendations so that they can start to use the recommendations. The governments inaction is delaying this.
47. Compounding my concern about delays is the impending summer break for school boards. Boards are seldom fully operational during the summer, and further delay risks the boards not providing feedback until the fall.
48. I am also a member and past Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board. Ontario regulations require each school board to have a SEAC to give advice on how to meet the needs of students with special education needs. I am eager for our SEAC and for each of the SEACs at every Ontario school board to see the K-12 Committees initial or draft recommendations as soon as possible, so they can recommend actions that their school boards should take now, drawing on the Standards Development Committees thorough and detailed work product.
49. In the same way, it is my aim that the Health Care Standards Development Committee draft recommendations spawn action on disability barriers in Ontario hospitals.
50. I similarly aim for the release of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations to lead colleges and universities to act now to tackle the many barriers that students with disabilities face in those institutions. The governments delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations further delays those much-needed actions.
51. Publicly, the government has claimed to lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities, and to take an all of government approach to disability accessibility. For example, these commitments were made at a media event staged on February 28, 2020. It is difficult to reconcile the governments promises with its unnecessary and inexplicable delay in the release of these initial or draft recommendations.
52. The irony of the government attempting to explain its delay using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be lost on anyone. The harm caused to people with disabilities by the governments delay in fulfilling its duty to make public the committees draft recommendations is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two key examples come to mind:
a. First, people with disabilities are disproportionately adversely affected by COVID-19, including having higher rates of severe infection and death. For five months of the pandemic, the government has sat on the Health Care Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations, that could make health care more accessible to people with disabilities.

b. Second, during the pandemic, students with disabilities have faced even more barriers in Ontario’s education system. I have been involved in advocating against these, on behalf of the AODA Alliance. The government is stalling efforts to help improve the plight of students with disabilities during the pandemic by keeping secret the draft or initial recommendations of the K-12 Committee and Post-Secondary Committee. While the government waits, these students fall further behind their peers.

RG




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Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

May 7, 2021 Toronto: Today, blind lawyer, law professor and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government in the Ontario Divisional Court for violating a mandatory provision in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He asks the Court to order Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility to immediately post on line and otherwise make public the initial recommendations for measures needed to tear down barriers in Ontario’s education system plaguing students with disabilities and in Ontario’s health care system, impeding patients with disabilities, that the Minister received from three advisory committees appointed under the AODA. Text of the notice of application and Lepofsky’s supporting affidavit are set out below.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. It must enact and effectively enforcing a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial or draft recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the ford Government sat on three sets of such initial or draft recommendations for months. The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of December 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government around the same time.

Just as this application was being served on the Government, the Government belatedly announced that it made public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Lepofsky does not claim that this was triggered by the court application. However, the Government has still not made public the other two Standards Development Committees’ recommendations. Therefore this court application remains important and urgent.

“The Ford Government’s inexcusable contravention of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act hurts people with disabilities, by delaying overdue progress on accessibility. It is leadership by a poor example, from a Government that pledged to lead on this issue by a good example,” said Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with any kind of disability. “The fact that for over five months in the middle of a pandemic, the Government sat on important recommendations on how to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system impeding patients with disabilities is especially hurtful.”

Lepofsky will argue that schools, colleges,, universities and health care providers deserved and were entitled to see all these initial recommendations immediately, so that they can try to put them into action where possible long before the Government enacts new regulations in this area.

“People with disabilities should not have to resort to going to court to get the Ford Government to obey the law,” said Lepofsky. “Fortunately, I’m blessed to have excellent pro bono representation by Martha McCarthy of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP, and I have my own legal training, but no one should have to go through this.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance

More background at www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the May 7, 2021 Notice of Application

APPLICATION

  1. The applicant makes application for:
  1. Judicial review of the respondent’s failure to act in accordance with s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”), more specifically:
  1. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable;
  2. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable; and,
  • The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
  1. An order for mandamus, directing the respondent to make the documents listed in paragraph 1. a., above, immediately available to the public by posting them on a government website and by such other means the Minister considers advisable;
  2. If necessary, leave for this application to be heard urgently pursuant to s. 6(2) of the Judicial Review Procedures Act and Part I of the Consolidated Practice Direction for Divisional Court Hearings;
  3. The applicant’s costs in this proceeding on a full indemnity basis; and,
  4. Such further and other relief as counsel may request and as to this court seems just.
  5. The grounds for the application are:
  1. In or about 2017, the Government of Ontario appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. A Health Care Accessibility Standard would outline disability barriers that should be removed and prevented in Ontario’s health care system that impede people with disabilities.
  2. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Kindergarten to Grade 12 Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in Ontario schools that impede students with disabilities.
  3. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in post-secondary educational organizations such as colleges and universities in Ontario that impede students with disabilities.
  4. In or about December 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  5. In or about March 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  6. In March 2021, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  7. Pursuant to s. 10 of the AODA, the respondent has a mandatory duty to post those initial or draft recommendations upon receiving them. Section 10(1) of the AODA provides:
  8. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
  9. The respondent has not posted any of the initial or draft recommendations from any of the Committees on the Government of Ontario website or otherwise made them public.
  10. The respondent’s failure to fulfil his mandatory statutory duty post those initial or draft recommendations of the Committees on the internet and otherwise make them public is contrary to and flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of the AODA, which is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This failure delays Ontario from reaching the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the important contexts of health care and education – fields in which a lack of accessibility has dire consequences.
  11. The AODA aims to effectively implement the right to equality in areas like health care and education for people with disabilities that is guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  12. The applicant has a strong public interest in this application’s issues, both as a blind person and having acted as a volunteer disability accessibility community organizer and advocate for decades. The applicant led the volunteer campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA The applicant is currently the chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan coalition that leads the campaign to get the AODA implemented in a meaningful and timely manner.
  13. The Government of Ontario appointed the applicant as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which he has served since the Committee was established.
  14. The applicant is a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, established under O. Reg. 464/97.
  1. The following documentary evidence will be used at the hearing of the application:
  2. The Affidavit of the Applicant, David Lepofsky; and,
  3. Such further and other material as counsel may request and this Honourable Court will permit.

Text of the May 7, 2021 Affidavit of David Lepofsky

I, David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., LLB (Osgoode Hall), LLM (Harvard University), LLD (Hon. Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, Law Society of Ontario), of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario,

AFFIRM:

  1. I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (the “AODA Alliance”) and am blind. As such, I have knowledge of the matters to herein deposed.
  2. I affirm this affidavit in support of my application for judicial review, in which I am seeking mandamus directing the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility to fulfil his statutory duties under s. 10(1) the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”), and for no other or improper purpose.
  1. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer-run, non-partisan community coalition of individuals and organizations.
  2. The AODA Alliance was established in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Ontario legislature enacted the AODA. Its mission is to contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free society for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the AODA. Its activities are documented in detail on its website at https://www.aodaalliance.org.
  3. The AODA Alliance is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the “ODA Committee”). From 1994 to mid-2005, the ODA Committee led a non-partisan province-wide campaign, advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation in Ontario, culminating in the enactment of the AODA in 2005.
  4. The AODA Alliance builds on the ODA Committee’s work, and draws its membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. The work of the ODA Committee from 1994 up to the time when it finished its work in mid-2005 is documented in detail at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
  5. The AODA Alliance has received broad recognition as a credible non-partisan voice on disability accessibility issues. For example:
    1. The Government of Ontario and members of the provincial legislature have repeatedly and publicly recognized and commended the efforts of the AODA Alliance, and before it, the ODA Committee, for its volunteer advocacy on the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities.
    2. In every provincial election starting in 1995, at least two of the major Ontario political parties have made election commitments concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. In every case where such commitments were made, they were set out in letters from the party leader to the ODA Committee up to 2005, and after that, to the AODA Alliance. For example, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his 2011 election promises on disability accessibility in his August 19, 2011 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne made her party’s disability accessibility election pledges in her May 14, 2014 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford made his party’s commitments on disability accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to me as chair of the AODA Alliance. All these letters are posted on one or other of the websites referred to above.
    3. Our input on accessibility issues has been provided to community groups and government officials in several Canadian provinces, by the Government of Canada, and in other countries, such as Israel and New Zealand.
  1. I am intimately familiar with the work of the AODA Alliance, and of its predecessor, the ODA Committee because:
    1. I served as Co-Chair, and later as Chair, of the ODA Committee from early 1995 up to its dissolution in August 2005.
    2. I was present during the establishment of the AODA Alliance and was a driving force behind its establishment as the successor to the ODA Committee. Its initial Chair was Catherine Dunphy Tardik. I initially took no leadership role with the AODA Alliance although I remained available to assist as requested.
    3. In early 2006, the AODA Alliance appointed me as its Human Rights Reform Representative. I served as lead spokesperson for the AODA Alliance during controversial public and legislative debates over Bill 107, a reform to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over that period, I worked very closely with the AODA Alliance Chair.
    4. In February 2009, I became the Chair of the AODA Alliance, a position I have held to the present time.
  2. My extensive work for the AODA Alliance and the ODA Committee is documented on the two websites identified above. All my work for these coalitions has been conducted as a volunteer. I have never been an employee of the AODA Alliance or the ODA Committee and have never received any salary from either organization.
  3. Over more than two decades, I have had very extensive dealings with the Government of Ontario at all levels, both in my capacity with the AODA Alliance, and prior to that, as co-chair and then chair of the ODA Committee. In these capacities, I have met with Ontario Premiers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Cabinet, Assistant Deputy Ministers, and a myriad of other public officials in the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service. I have similarly had extensive dealings with opposition parties and their staffs throughout my time doing volunteer work in this area.
  4. I have received several awards for my volunteer activities on disability accessibility issues, including my volunteer work for the ODA Committee and later for the AODA Alliance. Among these, I was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995, as a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008 and in the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. I have received honorary doctorates from Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, and the Law Society of Ontario arising from this activity.
  1. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, an Ontario cabinet minister is to be designated to be responsible to lead the Act’s implementation and enforcement.
  2. Since June 2018, that designated lead Minister has been the respondent, Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Hon. Raymond Cho (the “Minister”).
  3. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for leading the development, enactment, and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards, in accordance with the powers, duties, and procedures set out in the AODA.
  4. From 2003 to 2005, I was extensively involved in the negotiations with the Government of Ontario concerning the development of the provisions of the AODA, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
  5. In my capacity as AODA Alliance Chair, I have been extensively involved for years in grassroots non-partisan disability advocacy to ensure that strong and effective accessibility standards are enacted and enforced under the AODA. This has included an ongoing push since 2009 to remove and prevent the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s education and health care systems.
  6. If enacted, the enforceable regulations we seek would respectively be called the “Education Accessibility Standard” and the “Health Care Accessibility Standard”. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard are documented at aodaalliance.org/education. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard are set out at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare.
  7. As a result of our years of advocacy, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, the Hon. Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Over one year later, on December 5, 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature that the Government of Ontario would develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a “Standards Development Committee”) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.
  9. In or about 2017, the government appointed the “Health Care Standards Development Committee” (or the “Health Care Committee”) to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard.
  10. In early 2018, the government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
    1. One committee was appointed to deal with barriers impeding students with disabilities from kindergarten to grade twelve. That committee is called the “K-12 Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “K-12 Committee”).
    2. The other committee was appointed to deal with barriers facing students with disabilities in post-secondary education. It is called the “Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “Post-Secondary Committee”).
  11. I was appointed to serve on the K-12 Committee and have spent a great many volunteer hours working on that Committee since it was established.
  1. Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations.
  2. That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. The public feedback can serve as an important aid for the Standards Development Committee to refine, improve, and finalize the Committee’s recommendations, drawing on input from people with disabilities, the obligated sector of the economy, and the public. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.
  3. Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.
  1. By December 31, 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Those initial or draft recommendations have not been made public, despite the statutory requirement for the Minister to do so.
  2. On or about March 12, 2021, the K-12 Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Just like the draft recommendations submitted by the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Committee’s recommendations have still not been released to the public.
  3. I understand that the Post-Secondary Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister around the same time as did the K-12 Committee. The Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations have also not been released to the public.
  4. I asked the Ministry of Senior Accessibility to provide the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Committee to me, in my capacity as a member of the K-12 Committee. To date, the Ministry has not provided the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations to me.
  5. I requested a copy of the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations because there is an obvious and substantial connection between its work and the work of the K-12 Education Committee. Both committees are making recommendations concerning barriers in education for students with disabilities.
  6. As members of the K-12 Committee, we know about some of what the Post-Secondary Committee is recommending, because a joint subcommittee exists with representatives of the two Standards Development Committees to address technical overlap issues. There is thus no reason why we should not now have seen all of what the Post-Secondary Committee has recommended, and vice versa.
  7. I have been urging the Government to quickly make public all these Standards Development Committee recommendations, on Twitter and otherwise. On April 29, 2021, I along with the rest of the K-12 Committee received the following email from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility:

Dear K-12 Standards Development Committee members:

We hope this message finds you doing well.

We would like to provide an update on the progress of the committee’s initial recommendations report.

As you know, your committee Chair, Lynn Ziraldo, submitted the report – and the accompanying report of the Technical Sub-Committee on Transitions – to MSAA Minister Raymond Cho on March 12.

We have been busy preparing the reports for online posting, as well as translating them into French and preparing the survey that will accompany the postings. All of this work goes towards ensuring that the reports receive the most comprehensive feedback possible from the public.

As well, we understand the importance of posting this document as soon as possible, so that respondents will have a chance to consider providing input before the end of the school year. As I am sure you understand, our government is facing unprecedented challenges in delivering services to the public, and must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.

We look forward to notifying you when these postings are going to occur and appreciate your patience and understanding as we move closer to the posting date.

As always, you can reach out to the Chair, Lynn Ziraldo or the Ministry anytime with questions.

Thank you.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

A copy of the email dated April 29, 2021 is attached as Exhibit A.

  1. Since receiving this email, the initial or draft recommendations of these three Standards Development Committees have not been publicly posted.
  1. The Government has not provided a compelling reason why it could not have earlier posted these initial or draft recommendations.
  2. The government was throughout well-aware of the work and the progress of each Standards Development Committee. The Ministry had staff organize and take part in committee meetings. Ministry staff had regular communications with each committee Chair and its members.
  3. As of the date of this affidavit, the Ministry has had the final text of each set of initial or draft recommendations for ample time – over five months in the case of the ones regarding health care, and almost two months in the case of those regarding education. The Ministry knew these were coming, well in advance, and what they would contain.
  4. It would take little or no time to make these documents available in an accessible format. That cannot justify this delay.
  5. Referring to the April 29, 2021 email quoted above, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic do not justify this delay. The staff of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility are not responsible for leading the government’s pandemic response.
  6. Moreover, that email states that the during the pandemic, the Government “…must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.” From my 33 years working in the Ontario Government before my retirement at the end of 2015, and from my extensive interaction with the Government as a disability rights community organizer and advocate, I understand this to mean that the Government wants to set priorities in the timing of messages it transmits to the public. Yet the Government can and does regularly transmit many different messages to the public at any one time. It can post multiple messages or documents on the internet on the same day. Its preferences or priorities over political messaging are not identified in s. 10 of the AODA with regard to the duty to make public a Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations upon the minister receiving them.
  1. Ontario only has 1,335 days left before January 1, 2025, the date by which the AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, among other things, a requirement that Ontario’s education system and health care system must have become accessible to people with disabilities by that date.
  2. I, and many other people with disabilities, are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. According to the Final Report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, prepared pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, Ontario was not on schedule for reaching that goal on time, as of that report’s date (January 31, 2019). While I have linked to the Final Report, I have not attached it as an exhibit as I am conscious of the need to keep my materials brief.
  3. The delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations hurts students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. Until Ontario enacts and effectively enforces strong and effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, patients with disabilities and students with disabilities respectively will continue to suffer from the many barriers that they must face in Ontario’s health care and education systems.
  4. The unfortunate reality is that this is just one of many delays that has already plagued the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard, at the hands of the government.
  5. The previous government contributed to delay by taking some two years to just appoint the Health Care Committee. It also took that government over one year to appoint the K-12 Committee and the Post-Secondary Committee. In contrast, it took the government one year to develop the entire AODA and to introduce it into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004.
  6. The committees’ work was paused during the provincial 2018 election. However, upon the current government taking office, it left the committees frozen for months. The AODA Alliance had to campaign to get the government to permit the committees to continue their work. The committees eventually returned to work in the fall of 2019. This delay, at the hands of this government, further unnecessarily delayed the eventual enactment of a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard.
  7. I am particularly concerned about the government’s inaction because it delays progress on accessibility in health care and education that could begin immediately. For example, in a speech I gave last month, I encouraged senior officials of Ontario’s school boards to immediately study the K-12 recommendations and implement as many of them as possible, once the draft is public. I have been told by some officials at the Toronto District School Board (Canada’s largest school board) that they want to see the initial or draft recommendations so that they can start to use the recommendations. The government’s inaction is delaying this.
  8. Compounding my concern about delays is the impending summer break for school boards. Boards are seldom fully operational during the summer, and further delay risks the boards not providing feedback until the fall.
  9. I am also a member and past Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (“SEAC”) of the Toronto District School Board. Ontario regulations require each school board to have a SEAC to give advice on how to meet the needs of students with special education needs. I am eager for our SEAC and for each of the SEACs at every Ontario school board to see the K-12 Committee’s initial or draft recommendations as soon as possible, so they can recommend actions that their school boards should take now, drawing on the Standards Development Committee’s thorough and detailed work product.
  10. In the same way, it is my aim that the Health Care Standards Development Committee draft recommendations spawn action on disability barriers in Ontario hospitals.
  11. I similarly aim for the release of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations to lead colleges and universities to act now to tackle the many barriers that students with disabilities face in those institutions. The government’s delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations further delays those much-needed actions.
  12. Publicly, the government has claimed to lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities, and to take an “all of government approach” to disability accessibility. For example, these commitments were made at a media event staged on February 28, 2020. It is difficult to reconcile the government’s promises with its unnecessary and inexplicable delay in the release of these initial or draft recommendations.
  13. The irony of the government attempting to explain its delay using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be lost on anyone. The harm caused to people with disabilities by the government’s delay in fulfilling its duty to make public the committees’ draft recommendations is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two key examples come to mind:
    1. First, people with disabilities are disproportionately adversely affected by COVID-19, including having higher rates of severe infection and death. For five months of the pandemic, the government has sat on the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations, that could make health care more accessible to people with disabilities.
  1. Second, during the pandemic, students with disabilities have faced even more barriers in Ontario’s education system. I have been involved in advocating against these, on behalf of the AODA Alliance. The government is stalling efforts to help improve the plight of students with disabilities during the pandemic by keeping secret the draft or initial recommendations of the K-12 Committee and Post-Secondary Committee. While the government waits, these students fall further behind their peers.



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In One Day, Advocacy Action on 3 Accessibility Fronts- Critical Care Triage, Electric Scooters and B.C. Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: https://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

April 29, 2021

SUMMARY

The grassroots volunteer campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities must be waged on so many fronts. Yesterday, we saw action at the same time on three of those fronts. In a nutshell:

1. On its April 28, 2021 evening TV news broadcast, Global News included a superb report on the disability discrimination in Ontarios critical care triage protocol by senior journalist Caryn Lieberman. We set out below the slightly longer text version of that report that Global also posted online. This is another in Ms. Liebermans consistently excellent reportage on disability issues in recent years.

For more on this issue, visit the AODA Alliance health care web page.

2. On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, after tenacious grassroots efforts by so many, the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously voted to not allow e-scooters in Toronto, and not to conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. E-scooters endanger the safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, and frankly, endanger everyone. Disability concerns were at the centre of this decision.

Thanks to all who joined in this grassroots campaign. However, we are not done yet. On May 5, 2021, the entire Toronto City Council will vote on the question. We must keep up the pressure. To help us press all members of Toronto City Council, please follow @aodaalliance on Twitter and retweet our tweets over the next days. Call as many members of Toronto City Council as possible to urge them to vote no to e-scooters, and no to conducting a Toronto e-scooter pilot project.

The disability campaign against e-scooters has gotten more media attention. Below we set out a letter to the editor in todays Toronto Star by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and two articles on this issue in the Star over the past two days. You can also watch a good report by reporter Jessica Ng on this topic that appeared on the April 28, 2021 6 oclock Toronto news broadcast on CBC TV.

Yesterday was an unusual if not unique day for the AODA Alliance. At the same time over the supper hour, two different TV networks, Global and CBC, each aired news reports that included the AODA Alliance, each addressing different issues. On CBC, it was the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities. On Global, it was the dangers that Ontarios critical care triage protocol poses for people with disabilities.

The April 28, 2021 report on the e-scooters issue in the Toronto Star, set out below, that ran before the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee voted on this issue, included this information:

The chair of Bird Canada is John Bitove. His brother Jordan Bitove is the publisher of the Toronto Star and co-proprietor of Torstar, the company that owns the newspaper.

Bird Canada is one of the two biggest e-scooter rental companies that are aggressively lobbying Toronto City Council to let them rent e-scooters in Toronto, despite their danger for people with disabilities and others.

For more background, check out the AODA Alliances March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

3. While all this was going on in Ontario, great news reached us from Canadas west coast. Following the lead that Ontario set back in 2005 with the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the BC Government introduced a bill for first reading in the B.C. Legislature, Bill 6, the Accessible British Columbia Act. We have not yet had a chance to review the bill itself.

We congratulate B.C. disability advocates, led by the grassroots Barrier-Free BC, for this major milestone event. The AODA Alliance has been proud to lend assistance to their efforts from afar, when asked. Back in October 2015, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at a town hall event that led to the birth that day of Barrier-Free B.C. From there on in, it was the excellent work of grassroots disability advocates in B.C. that carried the ball, did the hard work, and got their province to this important point. We remain eager to help B.C. in any way we can as this bill makes its way through the B.C. Legislature.

The Ford Governments delays on disability accessibility seem endless. There have now been 819 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,343 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

MORE DETAILS

Global News April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://963bigfm.com/news/7816548/ontario-covid-triage-protocol-discriminates-disability-advocates/

Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say Caryn Lieberman GlobalNews.ca

With Ontarios ICUs being pushed to the brink, hospitals are preparing for the worst. For health-care workers, that means staring difficult life-changing choices in the face. If there arent enough beds, who gets one? As Caryn Lieberman reports, there would be a process to follow, but some says it discriminates against people with disabilities.

When Tracy Odell experienced bleeding in her stomach last summer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, she went to hospital but vowed she would not return.

I dont feel safe in hospitals and a lot of people with disabilities similar to mine, where you need this much assistance, dont feel safe in a hospital, she said.

Odell was born with spinal muscular atrophy and requires assistance to complete many daily tasks.

Now, amid the third wave and with critical care units filling up, Odell said she fears if she ever needed the care, she would not be able to get it.

I, personally, wouldnt go to a hospital. I would feel it would be a waste of time and Id feel very unsafe to go there Its a real indictment, I think, of our system, that people who have disabilities, have severe needs, dont feel safe in a place where everyones supposed to be safe, she said.

Odell is most concerned about a critical care triage protocol that could be activated in Ontario.

It would essentially allow health-care providers to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesnt.

Under the guidelines, as set out in a draft protocol circulating among hospitals, patients would be ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of critical illness.

Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources, states the document.

Odell says its tough to predict who will survive an illness.

They have to guess whos going to last a year … As a child with my disability, my projected life expectancy was like a kid they didnt think Id live to be a teenager and here I am retired, so its a very hard thing to judge, said Odell.

Disability advocates have been raising alarm bells over the triage protocol for months.

David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, sent multiple letters to Minister of Health Christine Elliott demanding transparency, arguing the Ontario governments pervasive secrecy over its critical care triage plans has made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.

People with disabilities have disproportionately had to suffer for the past year from the most severe aspects of COVID People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to end up in intensive care units and die from the disease, said Lepofsky.

Now we face the double cruelty that we are disproportionately prone to get told, No, you cant have that life-saving care.’

Lepofsky said the document that is circulating, while not finalized, is problematic, unethical and discriminatory.

The rules that have been given to intensive care units for deciding who gets critical care and who doesnt, if they have to ration, may look fine because theyre full of medical jargon, but they actually explicitly discriminate because of disability, he said.

We agree there should be a protocol, but it cant be one that discriminates because of disability. Thats illegal.

John Mossa, who is living with muscular dystrophy, has been homebound for more than a year, afraid he would contract COVID-19 if he went outside and not survive it.

COVID is a very serious disease for me if I do get COVID, I would probably become very ill and pass away because of my poor respiratory condition. I have about 30 per cent lung capacity due to my muscular dystrophy so COVID is very serious. Its been a very scary time, he said.

Never more frightening than right now, Mossa said, amid a surging third wave with a record number of patients in Ontarios critical care units and the potential for triaging life-saving care.

The people that would be affected the most are the least considered to get care Im afraid, Im totally afraid to go to hospital right now, he said.

A few weeks ago, Mossa said, he had a hip accident but he has avoided the hospital, even though he is suffering and should seek medical help.

I should be considering going to hospital, but Im not going to go to hospital because I know that I wont get the care I need and if it gets any worse. I know that I wouldnt be given an ICU bed, he said.

On Wednesday, when asked about the triage protocol, Elliott said it has not yet been activated.

That was echoed by Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontarios ICU protocol.

I dont think that theres any plan to initiate a triage process in the next couple of days. I think a lot is going to depend on which way our ICU numbers go. They have been climbing at a fairly alarming rate, he said.

On concerns by advocates that the protocol discriminates against people with disabilities, Downar said, The only criterion in the triage plan is mortality risk.

We absolutely dont want to make any judgments about whose life is more valuable, certainly nothing based on ability, disability or need for accommodations If you value all lives equally, that, I think, is the strongest argument for using an approach that would save as many lives as you can, he said.

Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2021/04/29/e-scooters-are-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities.html Letters to the Editor

E-scooters are a danger to people with disabilities
Scoot over, progress. Not in this town, April 27

Matt Elliott is wrong to urge Toronto to allow e-scooters; city council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto, now banned, unless council legalizes them.

A city staff report shows e-scooters endanger public safety. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people, like me, can’t know silent e-scooters rocket at us at over 20 kph, driven by unlicensed, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks.

As a blind person, if I get hit by a silent e-scooter racing towards me, it injures me just as badly, whether the rider owns the e-scooter or rents it.

Toronto has too many disability barriers. E-scooters would make it worse.

Toronto’s Disability Accessibility Advisory Committee and disability organizations unanimously called on Toronto not to allow e-scooters.

Mayor John Tory should stand up for people with disabilities, and should stand up to the corporate lobbyists conducting a high-price feeding frenzy at City Hall. David Lepofsky, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/28/committee-votes-unanimously-to-uphold-torontos-e-scooter-ban.html

Greater Toronto

Committee upholds T.O. e-scooter ban
Final decision on vehicles to be debated at council next month

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

A city committee has voted to uphold Toronto’s ban on e-scooters, setting up a final decision on the controversial vehicles at council next month.

More than 40 people signed up to speak to a city staff report on e-scooters at a remote meeting of the infrastructure and environment committee Wednesday.

The debate largely pitted transportation experts and representatives of e-scooter companies, who argued the vehicles are an innovative and sustainable transportation option, against disability and seniors advocates, who said e-scooters pose a danger to people with accessibility challenges.

Patricia Israel, a 69-year-old wheelchair user, told the committee she was scared of being hit by someone riding an e-scooter, which are quiet and can have top speeds of more than 40 km/h, although provincial guidelines say they should top out at 24 km/h.

“When a senior crashes to the sidewalk with a broken hip, he or she may die … do you want that?” she asked.

“E-scooters are left scattered all over sidewalks in cities around the world. Some people in wheelchairs cannot pick them up to move them … We’ll be on the sidewalk saying, ‘What do I do now?’” she added.

Jen Freiman, general manager of Lime Canada, an e-scooter sharing company, countered that cars represent the most serious threat on Toronto’s streets, and the city should be allowing safer alternatives.

“I’m not worried about my two young children being hit by someone (on) a scooter in Toronto,” she said. “What does scare me though is a frustrated driver ripping down the side streets by my house.”

She said that e-scooter companies operating in dozens of other cities have found ways to mitigate concerns about safety, street clutter and other issues raised by critics.

E-scooters have become popular in big cities around the world, both for private use and as part of sharing operations that allow users to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

Both uses are currently prohibited on Toronto streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, and the staff report recommended against joining a provincial pilot project that allows cities to legalize the vehicles, subject to conditions.

Staff cited numerous concerns, including the vehicles becoming tripping hazards, unsafe riding on sidewalks, a lack of insurance coverage and insufficient enforcement resources.

Councillors on the committee voted unanimously to support the staff recommendation. Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said he was “very conflicted” about the decision, because he believed that the city and e-scooter companies could likely find solutions to the objections critics raised about the vehicles.

But he said the disability community had “very real concerns” and he couldn’t vote against staff advice on a safety issue.

City council will debate the report at its May 5 meeting.

Toronto Star April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/22/as-city-committee-debates-e-scooters-concerns-over-a-missed-opportunity.html#:~:text=GTA-,As%20city%20committee%20debates%20e%2Dscooters,concerns%20over%20’a%20missed%20opportunity’&text=They’re%20fun%2C%20fast%20and,to%20ride%20on%20city%20streets.&text=In%20the%20U.S.%2C%20there%20were,Association%20of%20City%20Transportation%20Officials.

Greater Toronto

E-scooters look for green light on T.O. streets
Method of transportation can be ‘useful part of the puzzle,’ one expert says

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

They’re fun, fast and for the moment, they’re illegal to ride on city streets.

But some transportation experts say Toronto is being too timid in its approach to e-scooters, and council should take a stab at legalizing the zippy two-wheeled vehicles on municipal roads, at least on a trial basis.

E-scooters are prohibited on Toronto streets and other public spaces, and in a report released last week, city transportation staff recommend maintaining the status quo. The city’s infrastructure committee will debate the report Wednesday, before the recommendation goes to council next month.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former chief city planner, argues the city should “work toward safely integrating e-scooters into the transportation landscape … because they can be a useful part of the puzzle.”

Keesmaat said the disruption to travel patterns caused by COVID-19 has presented cities with a golden opportunity to rethink policies that have historically prioritized private cars above other modes. She argued e-scooters could provide an additional, more sustainable transportation alternative and help make cities “greener and quieter places.”

“If we take as a given that we need more micro mobility in the city, and that we want to move away from assuming that getting around in a car is the best or only approach, overcoming the challenges associated with scooters is in the best interest of the city over the long term,” she said, while acknowledging there have been problems with the rollout of e-scooters elsewhere.

Motorized electric stand-up scooters have exploded in popularity in recent years and they’re now used in dozens of cities around the world by both private owners and as part of e-scooter sharing operations, which allow riders to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

In the U.S., there were 86 million trips taken on e-scooters in 2019, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The average trip length was about 1.6 kilometres. Around one-third of all car trips in the U.S. are less than about three kilometres, which is why some experts believe the two-wheeled devices have the potential to significantly displace car use.

Shauna Brail, an urban planner and associate professor at the Institute for Management & Innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said she’s not convinced e-scooters represent the transformative change their proponents sometimes pitch them as.

But Brail said there’s evidence the electric-powered vehicles have potential to help solve the first mile/last mile problem of connecting people to transit hubs at the beginning or end of their commutes, and not testing them out would be “a missed opportunity.”

Raktim Mitra, co-director of TransForm Laboratory of Transportation and Land Use Planning at Ryerson University, agreed that city staff are being overly conservative.

He said misgivings about safety, liability and street clutter related to e-scooters are valid, but those problems could likely be addressed through “a combination of technology and regulations.”

There is indication that e-scooters are “one of the most interesting innovations to solve the first mile/last mile problem,” Mitra said. “If it was up to me, I would probably support at least a pilot to try it out.”

The Toronto staff report flagged concerns about the devices, chief among them the potential risk they could pose to Torontonians with accessibility challenges if they were left on the street or improperly ridden on sidewalks. The report also warned insurers won’t cover the vehicles, and the city lacks enforcement resources to ensure users follow the rules.

Staff are advising that council vote against joining a five-year pilot project the Ontario government launched in 2020 that allows cities to legalize e-scooters. Under the terms of the pilot, the vehicles must have a top speed of 24 km/h, and weigh no more than 45 kg. Windsor and Ottawa are among those taking part.

Ahead of the Toronto council vote, global e-scooter sharing companies like Bird and Lime have lobbied city hall in an effort to open up the market to their operations.

The chair of Bird Canada is John Bitove. His brother Jordan Bitove is the publisher of the Toronto Star and co-proprietor of Torstar, the company that owns the newspaper.

Matti Siemiatycki, a professor of geography and interim director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, said city staff are right to not embrace e-scooters.

“I think that with every technology there’s trade-offs, and with e-scooters, especially the shared approach, the negative consequences of this technology (outweigh the benefits),” he said, citing the hazards they pose to people with disabilities.




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In One Day, Advocacy Action on 3 Accessibility Fronts- Critical Care Triage, Electric Scooters and B.C. Disabilities Act – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

In One Day, Advocacy Action on 3 Accessibility Fronts– Critical Care Triage, Electric Scooters and B.C. Disabilities Act

April 29, 2021

            SUMMARY

The grassroots volunteer campaign for accessibility for people with disabilities must be waged on so many fronts. Yesterday, we saw action at the same time on three of those fronts. In a nutshell:

  1. On its April 28, 2021 evening TV news broadcast, Global News included a superb report on the disability discrimination in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol by senior journalist Caryn Lieberman. We set out below the slightly longer text version of that report that Global also posted online. This is another in Ms. Lieberman’s consistently excellent reportage on disability issues in recent years.

For more on this issue, visit the AODA Alliance health care web page.

  1. On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, after tenacious grassroots efforts by so many, the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee unanimously voted to not allow e-scooters in Toronto, and not to conduct a pilot project with e-scooters. E-scooters endanger the safety and accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, and frankly, endanger everyone. Disability concerns were at the centre of this decision.

Thanks to all who joined in this grassroots campaign. However, we are not done yet. On May 5, 2021, the entire Toronto City Council will vote on the question. We must keep up the pressure. To help us press all members of Toronto City Council, please follow @aodaalliance on Twitter and retweet our tweets over the next days. Call as many members of Toronto City Council as possible to urge them to vote no to e-scooters, and no to conducting a Toronto e-scooter pilot project.

The disability campaign against e-scooters has gotten more media attention. Below we set out a letter to the editor in today’s Toronto Star by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, and two articles on this issue in the Star over the past two days. You can also watch a good report by reporter Jessica Ng on this topic that appeared on the April 28, 2021 6 o’clock Toronto news broadcast on CBC TV.

Yesterday was an unusual if not unique day for the AODA Alliance. At the same time over the supper hour, two different TV networks, Global and CBC, each aired news reports that included the AODA Alliance, each addressing different issues. On CBC, it was the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities. On Global, it was the dangers that Ontario’s critical care triage protocol poses for people with disabilities.

The April 28, 2021 report on the e-scooters issue in the Toronto Star, set out below, that ran before the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee voted on this issue, included this information:

“The chair of Bird Canada is John Bitove. His brother Jordan Bitove is the publisher of the Toronto Star and co-proprietor of Torstar, the company that owns the newspaper.”

Bird Canada is one of the two biggest e-scooter rental companies that are aggressively lobbying Toronto City Council to let them rent e-scooters in Toronto, despite their danger for people with disabilities and others.

For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

  1. While all this was going on in Ontario, great news reached us from Canada’s west coast. Following the lead that Ontario set back in 2005 with the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the BC Government introduced a bill for first reading in the B.C. Legislature, Bill 6, the Accessible British Columbia Act. We have not yet had a chance to review the bill itself.

We congratulate B.C. disability advocates, led by the grassroots Barrier-Free BC, for this major milestone event. The AODA Alliance has been proud to lend assistance to their efforts from afar, when asked. Back in October 2015, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at a town hall event that led to the birth that day of Barrier-Free B.C. From there on in, it was the excellent work of grassroots disability advocates in B.C. that carried the ball, did the hard work, and got their province to this important point. We remain eager to help B.C. in any way we can as this bill makes its way through the B.C. Legislature.

The Ford Government’s delays on disability accessibility seem endless. There have now been 819 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,343 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

            MORE DETAILS

Global News April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://963bigfm.com/news/7816548/ontario-covid-triage-protocol-discriminates-disability-advocates/

Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say

Caryn Lieberman GlobalNews.ca

With Ontario’s ICUs being pushed to the brink, hospitals are preparing for the worst. For health-care workers, that means staring difficult life-changing choices in the face. If there aren’t enough beds, who gets one? As Caryn Lieberman reports, there would be a process to follow, but some says it discriminates against people with disabilities.

When Tracy Odell experienced bleeding in her stomach last summer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, she went to hospital but vowed she would not return.

“I don’t feel safe in hospitals and a lot of people with disabilities similar to mine, where you need this much assistance, don’t feel safe in a hospital,” she said.

Odell was born with spinal muscular atrophy and requires assistance to complete many daily tasks.

Now, amid the third wave and with critical care units filling up, Odell said she fears if she ever needed the care, she would not be able to get it.

“I, personally, wouldn’t go to a hospital. I would feel it would be a waste of time and I’d feel very unsafe to go there … It’s a real indictment, I think, of our system, that people who have disabilities, have severe needs, don’t feel safe in a place where everyone’s supposed to be safe,” she said.

Odell is most concerned about a “critical care triage protocol” that could be activated in Ontario.

It would essentially allow health-care providers to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

Under the guidelines, as set out in a draft protocol circulating among hospitals, patients would be ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of critical illness.

“Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources,” states the document.

Odell says it’s tough to predict who will survive an illness.

“They have to guess who’s going to last a year … As a child with my disability, my projected life expectancy was like a kid … they didn’t think I’d live to be a teenager and here I am retired, so it’s a very hard thing to judge,” said Odell.

Disability advocates have been raising alarm bells over the triage protocol for months.

David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, sent multiple letters to Minister of Health Christine Elliott demanding transparency, arguing “the Ontario government’s pervasive secrecy over its critical care triage plans has made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.”

“People with disabilities have disproportionately had to suffer for the past year from the most severe aspects of COVID … People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to end up in intensive care units and die from the disease,” said Lepofsky.

“Now we face the double cruelty that we are disproportionately prone to get told, ‘No, you can’t have that life-saving care.’”

Lepofsky said the document that is circulating, while not finalized, is problematic, unethical and discriminatory.

“The rules that have been given to intensive care units for deciding who gets critical care and who doesn’t, if they have to ration, may look fine because they’re full of medical jargon, but they actually explicitly discriminate because of disability,” he said.

“We agree there should be a protocol, but it can’t be one that discriminates because of disability. That’s illegal.”

John Mossa, who is living with muscular dystrophy, has been homebound for more than a year, afraid he would contract COVID-19 if he went outside and not survive it.

“COVID is a very serious disease for me … if I do get COVID, I would probably become very ill and pass away because of my poor respiratory condition. I have about 30 per cent lung capacity due to my muscular dystrophy so COVID is very serious. It’s been a very scary time,” he said.

Never more frightening than right now, Mossa said, amid a surging third wave with a record number of patients in Ontario’s critical care units and the potential for triaging life-saving care.

“The people that would be affected the most are the least considered to get care … I’m afraid, I’m totally afraid to go to hospital right now,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Mossa said, he had a hip accident but he has avoided the hospital, even though he is suffering and should seek medical help.

“I should be considering going to hospital, but I’m not going to go to hospital because I know that I won’t get the care I need and if it gets any worse. I know that I wouldn’t be given an ICU bed,” he said.

On Wednesday, when asked about the triage protocol, Elliott said it has not yet been activated.

That was echoed by Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontario’s ICU protocol.

“I don’t think that there’s any plan to initiate a triage process in the next couple of days. I think a lot is going to depend on which way our ICU numbers go. They have been climbing at a fairly alarming rate,” he said.

On concerns by advocates that the protocol discriminates against people with disabilities, Downar said, “The only criterion in the triage plan is mortality risk.”

“We absolutely don’t want to make any judgments about whose life is more valuable, certainly nothing based on ability, disability or need for accommodations … If you value all lives equally, that, I think, is the strongest argument for using an approach that would save as many lives as you can,” he said.

Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2021/04/29/e-scooters-are-a-danger-to-people-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

E-scooters are a danger to people with disabilities

Scoot over, progress. Not in this town, April 27

Matt Elliott is wrong to urge Toronto to allow e-scooters; city council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto, now banned, unless council legalizes them.

A city staff report shows e-scooters endanger public safety. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people, like me, can’t know silent e-scooters rocket at us at over 20 kph, driven by unlicensed, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks.

As a blind person, if I get hit by a silent e-scooter racing towards me, it injures me just as badly, whether the rider owns the e-scooter or rents it.

Toronto has too many disability barriers. E-scooters would make it worse.

Toronto’s Disability Accessibility Advisory Committee and disability organizations unanimously called on Toronto not to allow e-scooters.

Mayor John Tory should stand up for people with disabilities, and should stand up to the corporate lobbyists conducting a high-price feeding frenzy at City Hall.

David Lepofsky, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

 Toronto Star April 29, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/28/committee-votes-unanimously-to-uphold-torontos-e-scooter-ban.html

Greater Toronto

Committee upholds T.O. e-scooter ban

Final decision on vehicles to be debated at council next month

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

A city committee has voted to uphold Toronto’s ban on e-scooters, setting up a final decision on the controversial vehicles at council next month.

More than 40 people signed up to speak to a city staff report on e-scooters at a remote meeting of the infrastructure and environment committee Wednesday.

The debate largely pitted transportation experts and representatives of e-scooter companies, who argued the vehicles are an innovative and sustainable transportation option, against disability and seniors advocates, who said e-scooters pose a danger to people with accessibility challenges.

Patricia Israel, a 69-year-old wheelchair user, told the committee she was scared of being hit by someone riding an e-scooter, which are quiet and can have top speeds of more than 40 km/h, although provincial guidelines say they should top out at 24 km/h.

“When a senior crashes to the sidewalk with a broken hip, he or she may die … do you want that?” she asked.

“E-scooters are left scattered all over sidewalks in cities around the world. Some people in wheelchairs cannot pick them up to move them … We’ll be on the sidewalk saying, ‘What do I do now?’” she added.

Jen Freiman, general manager of Lime Canada, an e-scooter sharing company, countered that cars represent the most serious threat on Toronto’s streets, and the city should be allowing safer alternatives.

“I’m not worried about my two young children being hit by someone (on) a scooter in Toronto,” she said. “What does scare me though is a frustrated driver ripping down the side streets by my house.”

She said that e-scooter companies operating in dozens of other cities have found ways to mitigate concerns about safety, street clutter and other issues raised by critics.

E-scooters have become popular in big cities around the world, both for private use and as part of sharing operations that allow users to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

Both uses are currently prohibited on Toronto streets, sidewalks and other public spaces, and the staff report recommended against joining a provincial pilot project that allows cities to legalize the vehicles, subject to conditions.

Staff cited numerous concerns, including the vehicles becoming tripping hazards, unsafe riding on sidewalks, a lack of insurance coverage and insufficient enforcement resources.

Councillors on the committee voted unanimously to support the staff recommendation. Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said he was “very conflicted” about the decision, because he believed that the city and e-scooter companies could likely find solutions to the objections critics raised about the vehicles.

But he said the disability community had “very real concerns” and he couldn’t vote against staff advice on a safety issue.

City council will debate the report at its May 5 meeting.

Toronto Star April 28, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/04/22/as-city-committee-debates-e-scooters-concerns-over-a-missed-opportunity.html#:~:text=GTA-,As%20city%20committee%20debates%20e%2Dscooters,concerns%20over%20’a%20missed%20opportunity’&text=They’re%20fun%2C%20fast%20and,to%20ride%20on%20city%20streets.&text=In%20the%20U.S.%2C%20there%20were,Association%20of%20City%20Transportation%20Officials.

Greater Toronto

E-scooters look for green light on T.O. streets

Method of transportation can be ‘useful part of the puzzle,’ one expert says

Ben Spurr Toronto Star

They’re fun, fast and for the moment, they’re illegal to ride on city streets.

But some transportation experts say Toronto is being too timid in its approach to e-scooters, and council should take a stab at legalizing the zippy two-wheeled vehicles on municipal roads, at least on a trial basis.

E-scooters are prohibited on Toronto streets and other public spaces, and in a report released last week, city transportation staff recommend maintaining the status quo. The city’s infrastructure committee will debate the report Wednesday, before the recommendation goes to council next month.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s former chief city planner, argues the city should “work toward safely integrating e-scooters into the transportation landscape … because they can be a useful part of the puzzle.”

Keesmaat said the disruption to travel patterns caused by COVID-19 has presented cities with a golden opportunity to rethink policies that have historically prioritized private cars above other modes. She argued e-scooters could provide an additional, more sustainable transportation alternative and help make cities “greener and quieter places.”

“If we take as a given that we need more micro mobility in the city, and that we want to move away from assuming that getting around in a car is the best or only approach, overcoming the challenges associated with scooters is in the best interest of the city over the long term,” she said, while acknowledging there have been problems with the rollout of e-scooters elsewhere.

Motorized electric stand-up scooters have exploded in popularity in recent years and they’re now used in dozens of cities around the world by both private owners and as part of e-scooter sharing operations, which allow riders to hop on and off rented vehicles for short trips.

In the U.S., there were 86 million trips taken on e-scooters in 2019, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. The average trip length was about 1.6 kilometres. Around one-third of all car trips in the U.S. are less than about three kilometres, which is why some experts believe the two-wheeled devices have the potential to significantly displace car use.

Shauna Brail, an urban planner and associate professor at the Institute for Management & Innovation at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said she’s not convinced e-scooters represent the transformative change their proponents sometimes pitch them as.

But Brail said there’s evidence the electric-powered vehicles have potential to help solve the first mile/last mile problem of connecting people to transit hubs at the beginning or end of their commutes, and not testing them out would be “a missed opportunity.”

Raktim Mitra, co-director of TransForm Laboratory of Transportation and Land Use Planning at Ryerson University, agreed that city staff are being overly conservative.

He said misgivings about safety, liability and street clutter related to e-scooters are valid, but those problems could likely be addressed through “a combination of technology and regulations.”

There is indication that e-scooters are “one of the most interesting innovations to solve the first mile/last mile problem,” Mitra said. “If it was up to me, I would probably support at least a pilot to try it out.”

The Toronto staff report flagged concerns about the devices, chief among them the potential risk they could pose to Torontonians with accessibility challenges if they were left on the street or improperly ridden on sidewalks. The report also warned insurers won’t cover the vehicles, and the city lacks enforcement resources to ensure users follow the rules.

Staff are advising that council vote against joining a five-year pilot project the Ontario government launched in 2020 that allows cities to legalize e-scooters. Under the terms of the pilot, the vehicles must have a top speed of 24 km/h, and weigh no more than 45 kg. Windsor and Ottawa are among those taking part.

Ahead of the Toronto council vote, global e-scooter sharing companies like Bird and Lime have lobbied city hall in an effort to open up the market to their operations.

The chair of Bird Canada is John Bitove. His brother Jordan Bitove is the publisher of the Toronto Star and co-proprietor of Torstar, the company that owns the newspaper.

Matti Siemiatycki, a professor of geography and interim director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, said city staff are right to not embrace e-scooters.

“I think that with every technology there’s trade-offs, and with e-scooters, especially the shared approach, the negative consequences of this technology (outweigh the benefits),” he said, citing the hazards they pose to people with disabilities.



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Woodstock woman charged under Reopening Ontario Act


Woodstock police report that a 48-year-old Woodstock woman has been charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for attending a church service downtown Woodstock on Sunday.

Police say the gathering exceeded the allowed limits for religious gatherings, which under the current lockdown restriction cannot exceed 10 people both indoors and outdoors.

All of Ontario moved into lockdown on Saturday to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Police say that well over 10 people were inside the place of worship on Sunday, with many not physically distancing or wearing masks.

Read more:
More than 100 unmasked people gather at Wheatley, Ont., church for 2nd day in a row

Other Ontarians are facing similar charges from over the weekend.

Story continues below advertisement

Chatham-Kent police say they charged a 50-year-old Merlin, Ont., man following a church service in Wheatley, Ont., on Sunday.

Police also charged a 37-year-old man from Malahide, Ont., following a church service in Aylmer, Ont. He is also facing charges of obstructing a peace officer and intimidation of an officer.





© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 17, 2020

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We offer two examples here of the need for prompt action in this area. First, as was pointed out in the December 8, 2020 panel on accessible education on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, TVOs online educational materials for school students doing distance learning are still replete with accessibility problems. TVO has announced no detailed plan of action to fix these. TVO is owned and operated by the Ontario Government.
Second, just weeks ago, the Ford Governments Accessibility Minister issued an invitation in an inaccessible broadcast email to an upcoming event where he was to make an announcement on accessibility. The Government apologized for this. As it turned out, nothing new was announced at the event in question.

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

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

1. In the spring of 2018, weeks before the 2018 Ontario provincial election, the Transportation Standards Development Committee submitted to the Government its final report proposing revisions needed to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. That has languished on the Ford Governments desk since it took office in June 2018, two and a half years ago. Since then, the Government has not invited any public feedback on this, and has announced no plans in this area. Ontario thus continues to have a public transit system replete with disability barriers.

2. As noted above, the Government sat on the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for over a half a year before fulfilling its duty to make that report public, for public input.

3. The Government still has not fulfilled its duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Government was required to appoint that Standards Development Committee fully three years ago. The current Government is on the hook for two and a half of the three years of AODA contravention.

4. On taking office, the Ford Government left five existing Standards Development Committees frozen and in limbo for months, before allowing them to get back to fulfil their mandatory work. We had to campaign for months to get them unfrozen. That included, among others, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

Information and Communication Standards Development Committee Chairs letter to the minister February28,2020
The Honourable Raymond Cho
Minister for Seniors and Accessibility
777 Bay Street
5thFloor, Toronto, Ontario
M7A1S5
Dear Minister,
The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee has completed our legislative review of the Information and Communications Standards. As chair and on behalf of the committee, I am pleased to submit the final recommendations report for the proposed accessibility standard for your consideration.
In meeting the provisions of the legislative review, as set out in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, we re-examined the long-term objective of the Information and Communications Standards and each of the requirements. Our review included all of the Standards sections, the focus areas identified in the terms of reference, and additional items raised by committee members well as a limited amount of external feedback.
As you wisely requested, we considered how to make it easier for businesses and the public sector to achieve accessibility in all of the recommendations.
The report is structured in two phases, stemming from an early and clear consensus that the current structure of standards is not keeping pace with technology. Phase1 contains 32recommendations that the committee is proposing as immediate solutions to identified gaps and unintended barriers in the current standards. Phase2 proposes a new model to transform and modernize the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. It could be applied first to the Information and Communications Standards and would allow organizations to continuously adapt and improve their websites, web content and technology up to and beyond2025. If the model proves successful, the committees intent is that government explore applying it to other accessibility standards in the future. Phase2 is a proposal for culture change in Ontario.
Our committee had extensive discussions in reviewing the path to a province where people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in the creation and use of information and communication. As chair, and in-line with The Honourable David Onleys recent report, I assess that relying on theAODAand its associated Standards will never achieve that objective. More is needed, and this report only begins to address those needs.
We considered public feedback and stakeholder presentations in finalizing our recommendations. We have reflected this in the report. We thank the individuals, and organizations who provided feedback on the initial recommendations report.
As chair, and past chair of Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee, it is prudent for me to comment on the effectiveness of the Standards development process. In short, the Standard development process is broken, primarily for the reasons listed below:
1. Research and feedback: Current sources of information on the experiences of people with disabilities and obligated organizations are too narrow and heavily biased by lobby groups. The voices of individual people with disabilities and obligated organizations must be sought out broadly and intentionally. The few sources that are available are gathered at the end of the process these ongoing insights must seed the process, not merely confirm its outcome.
2. Bounded by current standards: Understanding that legislation requires an explicit review (as is current interpretation), the process needs to be more responsive to on-the-ground realities that may or may not be covered by legislation.
3. Timing and permanency: These reviews are by nature, periodic. Instead, permanent bodies, staffed by full time professional appointees must be the norm. These appointees must be paid a significant salary to attract the best and brightest in Ontario, or more boldly, globally. These professionals are better equipped to capture and react to insights gathered from a vastly to-be-improved research process.
4. Encourage risk and failure: Disability regulations around the world have failed to deliver on their promise. Acknowledge that publicly. Encourage, and fund, innovation that ensures Ontario is a place where people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in all aspects of the economy and society. Notice that mere accessibility is not the benchmark.
It has been an honour to chair this committee and work alongside such dedicated members who exude professionalism and are comfortable with taking risk. We look forward to the Ministers response on these final recommendations. Sincerely,
Rich Donovan
Chair of Information and Communications Standards Development Committee
Final Report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee

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

Introduction
Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this act is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January1,2025; and providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities, of the Government of Ontario and of representatives of industries and of various sectors of the economy in the development of the accessibility standards. Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,2005
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,2005
The act became law in2005. Its stated goal is the creation of an accessible Ontario by2025, through the development, implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards that apply to the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.
With the act, Ontario became the first province in Canada and one of the first places in the world to bring in a specific law establishing a goal and timeframe for accessibility. It was also the first place to legally require accessibility reporting, and one of the first to establish accessibility standards so that people with disabilities have more opportunities to participate in everyday life. Accessibility standards
The accessibility standards under the act are laws that businesses and organizations with one or more employees in Ontario must follow so they can identify, remove and prevent barriers faced by people with disabilities. These standards are part of the actsIntegrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Currently, there are five accessibility standards, and they apply to key areas of day-to-day life for Ontarians. These are: * Information and Communications
* Employment
* Transportation
* Design of Public Spaces
* Customer Service
Standards review process
The act requires that each of Ontarios accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required. These reviews are carried out by Standards Development Committees. The act also requires that committees be comprised of representatives from industries or other organizations that are affected by the accessibility standards, government ministries with responsibilities relating to those industries and organizations and people with disabilities or their representatives. As required by the act, the committee must:
* re-examine the long-term objectives of the standards
* if required, revise the measures, policies, practices and requirements to be implemented on or before January1,2025, as well as the timeframe for their implementation
* develop initial proposed recommendations containing changes or additions that the committee considers advisable, and submit them for public comment
* based on public feedback, make such changes to the proposed accessibility standards that it considers advisable, and submit those recommendations to the minister
This report presents the final recommendations for proposed accessibility standards by the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee. Information and Communications Standards Development Committee
The committee was established in late2016. The committee was originally composed of 23members, however 3resigned during the process. As of this final report, there were 20members, 16 of these are voting members voting members. The remaining four members, who were non-voting, were drawn from ministries which have responsibilities relating to the sectors to which the standards apply. Nine of the voting members were people with disabilities or their representatives. All members, including those who resigned, are listed inappendix Aof this report.
To begin its review, the committee was provided with stakeholder feedback from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility (formerly the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario). This feedback was informed by incoming written correspondence, telephone calls, compliance-related activities and consultation with stakeholders.
Their first meetingan orientation sessionwas held in March 2017. Through 2017 and into Winter 2018, the committee held several meetings to complete its initial recommendations. These initial recommendations were posted for public comment between July 24th, 2019 and October 18th, 2019. On January 22 and 23, 2020, the committee met one last time to finalize this report while taking into account public comments.
The committees deliberations benefitted from the diverse viewpoints and knowledge that members brought to the table. After each meeting, members sought feedback from their communities and networks to share at the following meeting. This input informed voting on recommended changes.
As noted above, this document sets out the committees final recommendations for proposed updated accessibility standards. As outlined by the act, the Minister shall decide whether to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council that the proposed standard be adopted by regulation in whole, in part or with modifications. Approach taken by committee
The standards deal with the way organizations create and share information and outline how they are to make information and communication accessible to people with disabilities. The standards require that accessible formats and communication supports be made available on request. They also cover such areas as emergency and public safety information, websites, feedback processes, as well as educational, training and library materials and resources and training for educators.
The committees discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, committee members agreed that the standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.
To assist with developing this advice, the committee created the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee. The subcommittees main task was to provide expert advice to the committee about section14 of the regulation, which sets out the accessibility requirements for websites and web content. All members of the subcommittee are listed inappendixAof this report.
In addition, the subcommittee was asked to think about some very broad questions, including what accessibility means in todays digital world, and whether the current regulatory system can deliver the desired outcomes.
Based on the subcommittees advice, the committee settled on both a short- and long-term approach to making information and communication accessible for people with disabilities. This report is divided into two parts or phases.
Phase1contains 32recommendations that the committee is proposing as immediate solutions to identified gaps and unintended barriers in the current standards. Each of these recommendations contains: * an explanation of the issue
* the specific language of the recommendation as voted on
* an explanation of the intent and desired outcome of the recommendation * recommended timing for implementation of the revised requirement if applicable
Phase2proposes a new model to transform and modernize the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. It could be applied first to the Information and Communications Standards and would allow organizations to continuously adapt and improve their websites, web content and technology up to and beyond2025. If the model proves successful, the committees intent is that government explore applying it to other accessibility standards in the future. Phase2 is, in effect, a proposal for culture change in Ontario. The committee recognizes that, given its potentially transformative nature, this phase may take more time to develop and implement.
The committee recognizes that due to the nature of the topic, complexity of technology, simple and plain language may not have been viewed as a priority at the beginning of the process. Based on the feedback we have received and the knowledge we have gained through this process, the committee recommends any further public communication of this report should available in a simple language version. Phase1
This section focuses on the Information and Communications Standards outlined in theIntegrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. Recommendations in this section are listed according to the different sections under the standards.
It should be noted that throughout this report, reference is frequently made to obligated organizations. These are organizations that are expected to comply with requirements in the regulation. Obligated organizations include: * the Government of Ontario
* the Legislative Assembly
* designated public sector organizations
* large organizations, private or not-for-profit, with 50 or more employees * small organizations, private or not-for-profit, with one to 49 employees
Some requirements do not apply to all these organizations. Small organizations, for example, are exempt from some requirements. This report will specify when this is the case. If it does not, the requirements being discussed may be assumed to apply to all the above obligated organizations. Recommended long-term objective
While developing its specific recommendations, the committee continuously considered the long-term objective of the standards. The act requires all the Standards Development Committees to establish these long-term objectives, and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee is required to re-examine the long-term objective.
The current long-term objective of the accessible Information and Communications Standards is:
That by2025, all information and methods of communication to and from an individual will be designed to be accessible to people with disabilities consistent with human rights law, theFrench Language Services Act(1990)(where applicable) and inclusive design principles. The committee intends for the requirements to build upon the principle of providing accommodation to people with disabilities to preserve and enhance dignity and independence.
The committee believes that the objective above is too complicated, and recommends the following clear and simple objective instead:
That people with disabilities be able to participate fully and equitably in the creation and use of information and communication. Part1: Regulation in general or Sections9 to11
Recommendations in this section are related either to the regulation in general or to Sections 911 of the regulation. Recommendation1: Feedback requirements
Section11 of the regulation relates to the feedback organizations receive from the public, and outlines accessibility requirements around the feedback process. The committee learned that organizations were confused about the fact that there are different requirements related to feedback located throughout the regulation. Specifically, section11: Feedback of the Information and Communications Standards and Section80.50: Feedback process required of the Customer Service Standards have some of the same requirements. The committee proposes the following:
The feedback requirements in Sections11 and80.50 of the regulation should be combined and placed in the General Requirements section of the regulation, ensuring both the format requirements of section11 and the specific requirement for a process in Section 80.50 about goods, services and facilities remain. In addition, the committee recommends that clear definitions of the terms feedback and communication be included. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to eliminate the confusion caused by having requirements for a feedback process dealt with in two different parts of the regulation. This change should not modify the obligations of organizations but simply make them clearer and easier to find and understand. Recommendation2: Usage of portable document format (PDF)
During a 2016meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, the standing committee discussed a proposal to banPDFsfrom government use. This is becausePDFsare often inaccessible. While the proposal was not approved, it was referred to this formal regulatory review process. The Information and Communications Standards Development Committee discussed the fact thatPDFsare often inaccessible, and while it is possible to make them accessible, the expertise needed to make a fully accessiblePDFis seldom present in obligated organizations. However, the committee concluded that while certain problems do exist withPDFs, banning them altogether is not the best solution, particularly since they work well when made properly accessible. The committee proposes the following:
Government should not ban the use ofPDFsfor any obligated organization. Timeline:N/A
The committee did discuss a number of alternative measures, including non-regulatory approaches such as increasing education for government employees on how to makePDFsaccessible, but did not vote on the matter. Recommendation3: Final review of regulatory language
The Minister may accept in whole, in part or with modifications the committees recommendations once they are received. The committee recognizes that members are not usually involved in the decision-making process after its final advice is submitted. However, some recommendations for the standards are highly technical, and the committee is concerned about ensuring consistency in the interpretation of those recommendations. In particular, there is concern about technical aspects related to section14: accessible websites and web content. The committee proposes the following:
Government use the technical expertise of the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee as a resource, as needed, to clarify intent and technical accuracy during the regulatory drafting stage related to section14. Timeline:N/A
The intent of this recommendation is to avoid any possible confusion regarding the intent of the committees recommendations and to ensure that the government can easily obtain clarification if confusion arises. Recommendation4: Products and product labels
The current regulation states that products and product labels are not required to be made accessible unless specifically mentioned in the standards. Stakeholders have expressed concern that a large number of goods remain inaccessible because of this exemption. The committee agreed that there should, at the very least, be a digital format available for all products and product labels where applicable. The problem is that both federal and provincial governments regulate in this area, and so making a recommendation solely at the provincial level would be ineffective.
In order to ensure a solution to this issue is coordinated between the federal and provincial jurisdictions, the committee proposes the following:
The Government of Ontario should meet with the Government of Canada to look for solutions to the problem of accessible products and product labels. These solutions may include clarifying jurisdictional authority over different products. In addition, it is recommended that Ontario meet with various industries to explore non-regulatory solutions to this issue. Medical labelling should be a priority for action.
Timeline: One year for Ontario and Canada to produce a report that sets a strategic direction on the recommendations above. If a report is not created by the governments of Ontario and Canada by this time, then the recommendation is that Ontario develop a strategy within one additional year to address this, including creating an expert committee.
The committee recognizes that the exemption of products and product labels is an accessibility barrier, but also recognizes that a solution to this problem needs to involve all levels of government that have authority over this area. The committee also recognizes that technology offers the potential for organizations to develop innovative solutions to this issue and would like the Government of Ontario to work with industries to encourage the development of non-regulatory solutions. Part2: section12
The following recommendations relate to section12 of the regulation, which requires organizations to provide accessible formats and communication supports for people with disabilities. The committee discussed this at length and have a number of recommendations regarding section12 Accessible formats and communication supports. Recommendation5: Determination of suitability
If a person with a disability asks an organization for an alternate format or communication support, that organization is required to consult with the requester about the request. The final decision on whether to provide the requested alternate format or communication support is with the organization. The committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities. The committee proposes the following:
Change regulation12.(2) to state: The obligated organization shall consult with the person making the request and gain agreement in determining the suitability of an accessible format or communication support.
Timeline: Language to be changed immediately, and regulation to become effective six months after language change.
The intent of this recommendation is that the final decision on the suitability of an accessible format should not be left to the organization alone. Rather, both the organization and the person requesting an alternate format should work together to gain agreement on suitability. The committee recognizes that this may create an impasse, and this is partly what motivates recommendation7 (to follow). Despite the potential for an impasse, the committee feels this recommendation will result in improved accessibility. The committee recognizes that with this change, organizations may need time to adjust their processes, so it is proposed that it be effective six months after the amended regulation is in force. Recommendation6: Timely manner
Section12 of the regulation states that organizations must provide accessible formats in a ‘timely manner, considering the requesters needs due to disability. Stakeholder feedback revealed that people with disabilities and organizations often do not agree on the definition of timely manner. Specifically, people with disabilities point out that organizations are only required to take the persons needs ‘into account when deciding on what would be a timely manner. The committee proposes the following:
Change the regulation to state that organizations must provide accessible formats in a mutually agreed upon timely manner which considers the circumstances of the requester, and the urgency of his or her request.
Timeline: Language to be changed immediately, and regulation to become effective six months after language change.
The idea is similar to the intent of recommendation5, which is to ensure that important decisions that affect people with disabilities must be made with their participation. In this case, it would require that organizations and people with disabilities agree on what is meant by a timely manner. Again, the potential for disagreement is recognized, but the committee feels this recommendation will result in improved accessibility. As with Recommendation6, the committee is proposing that this change become effective 6months after the amended regulation is in force, to give organizations time to prepare and adjust. Recommendation7: Agreement between people with disabilities and organizations
Certain sections of the regulation require or provide for feedback processes allowing people with disabilities to make their needs and positions clear to organizations. Unfortunately, there is currently no mechanism to resolve disagreements when either party is unhappy with the result. Clearly, such a mechanism would be useful. The committee proposes the following:
The issue of a lack of mechanism to address disagreement between organizations and people with disabilities in any section of the regulation should be referred to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council.
Timeline: Referred to the council immediately following the submission of the final proposed recommendations. The council should develop a mechanism within one year.
The intent of this recommendation is for the council to investigate the creation of a mechanism to support the satisfaction of both people with disabilities and organizations, in relation to requirements under the act and regulation. The council is best positioned to examine this issue. Recommendation8: Harmonization of section12
As was noted in recommendation1, organizations are confused by multiple and often duplicate requirements throughout the regulation. Specifically in this case, section12 of the Information and Communications Standards and section80.51 of the Customer Service Standards create duplicate requirements for providing accessible formats. The committee proposes the following:
Requirements for alternate formats and communication supports should be combined and moved to one place, in the general requirements section of the regulation. There should be no material change in the requirements, except for any other recommendations made by the committee regarding section12. A reference to the combined section in the general requirements should be made whenever requirements for alternative formats and communication supports are mentioned in the regulation. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to clarify requirements and eliminate confusion by ensuring they are contained in one section of the regulation. The committee feels that moving the requirement for accessible formats into the general requirements section of the regulation would also make it clear that this requirement applies to all of the standards, and not just to Information and Communications. To be clear, the intent is not to weaken requirements in any way. Recommendation9: On-demand conversion ready formats
Currently, there is sometimes a delay when the government is asked to provide alternate formats of documents. The committee feels that technology has advanced to the point where there is no real excuse for this delay. The committee proposes the following:
The Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly should produce a conversion-ready digital format of all public-facing materials and provide those materials on-demand:
* ‘on-demand in this case would mean immediately, meaning that it should already have been created
* ‘conversion-ready digital format means a format which has the properties it needs to be readily converted into an accessible format Timeline: January1,2021
The intent of this recommendation is to strengthen the idea that accessible formats should not be offered as an accommodation, to be provided only when requested and only after a delay. Accessible formats and communications supports are necessary from the start as part of an accessibility foundation. This would be a significant new requirement for government, but given current technology, it is possible. Recommendation10: On-demandASLandLSQtranslations
In developing recommendation9, the committee struggled with the fact that users of American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise or Langue des signes du Québec (LSQ) would not benefit from the change in recommendation9. It was agreed that while providing all public facing materials inASLandLSQon-demand would simply be too burdensome, there are certain types of information and communication which should be available in these formats. The committee proposes the following:
The Government of Ontario should convene a meeting of deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind stakeholders to determine which materials should be provided by the Government of Ontario to the public inASLandLSQtranslation. The committee recommends that following the meeting, the materials identified start to be made available on-demand.
Timeline: One year for the meeting to occur, and January1,2021 for the requirement to be effective.
The committees intent is that the Government of Ontario find a fair and reasonable answer to the question of which types of materials should be available inASLandLSQon demand. Part3: Section13
The following recommendations relate to section13 of the regulation, which requires organizations to provide accessible formats of publicly posted emergency plans and procedures upon request. During discussion, many committee members expressed concern with current emergency outcomes for people with disabilities, and the committee feels that improving these outcomes is absolutely critical. The committee recognizes that the scope and overall effectiveness of the requirements in Section13 are limited, and strongly recommends that other action to improve these outcomes be taken as soon as possible. Recommendation11: Emergency requirements
Section13 in the Information and Communications Standards, section27 in the Employment Standards and Sections37 and56 of the Transportation Standards are all related to emergency requirements. As has been noted previously in this document, having requirements located in different places throughout the regulation is confusing for all parties. In the case of emergency requirements, that is a particularly significant problem. The committee proposes the following:
The emergency requirements throughout the regulation should be brought together and moved into the general requirements with no material changes to what is being required. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that nothing is missed, and no requirements are overlooked when it comes to protecting the lives of people with disabilities and their families. These requirements should be consolidated and given a clear and prominent position in the general requirements of the regulation. Recommendation12: Unacceptable emergency outcomes and preparedness
After a significant discussion regarding emergency outcomes, the committee has concluded that the preparedness of all levels of government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.
The committee strongly recommends the following to help protect the lives of people with disabilities and their families:
Disability and accessibility should be front and centre in the upcoming review of theEmergency Management and Civil Protection Act. To that end, the Solicitor General, who has responsibility for emergency management, should involve people with disabilities in the review. The Solicitor General should specifically include the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. The same process should occur when theFire Codeis next reviewed. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to address the lack of emergency planning focused on the needs of people with disabilities. It is unacceptable and must be dealt with urgently. Part4: Section14
The following recommendations relate to section14 of the regulation, which sets out the accessibility requirements for websites and web content. In both stakeholder feedback and in the committee meetings, Section14 received the most attention and led to the most significant level of feedback and discussion. It has become clear that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the requirements of Section14, particularly given the rapidly changing pace of digital society.
The globally accepted standard for web accessibility is a set of standards called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines2.0 (WCAG2.0), which is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). While this standard is the one used in section14, stakeholders and committee members agree that is not clear enough how theWCAG2.0 guidelines should be applied to many technologies beyond websites and web content, nor is it easy to determine when the requirements ofWCAG2.0 have actually been met.
In order to help clear up this confusion and also inform its recommendations, the committee created a Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee. This subcommittee provided two distinct sets of expert advice to the committee:
1. Recommendations to address confusion and gaps in section14 (part of the phase1 recommendations) 2. A proposal for a new model for these standards (seephase2) Recommendation13: Mobile applications and new technologies
One of the most frequently asked questions during stakeholder consultations was whether and how section14 applied to mobile applications. The answer, for the most part, is that they do not. The current requirements apply to web-based applications only, which does not generally include mobile applications. The committee proposes the following:
The definition of website should be aligned with the definition used by the United States Access Board, the European Union and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among others, which include mobile applications, interfaces or other technologies as required. Relevant sections of these definitions have been provided inappendixC.
Timeline: By2021, which aligns with the existing requirement for all websites to be accessible.
The intent of this recommendation is for both mobile applications which run from a website, and those which run as a standalone device but rely on the internet for function, would be subject to accessibility requirements under section14. These requirements would apply to the government and legislative assembly, the broader public sector and large organizations. For the purposes of Section14, small organizations are currently exempt from accessibility requirements. Recommendation14: Procurement
Procurement refers to the purchasing or acquiring of goods or services. The subcommittee noted that there are no accessible procurement requirements specifically related to section14. There are procurement requirements in the general requirements section of the regulation, but the subcommittee suggested that these are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement. The committee proposes the following:
The Government of Ontario and designated public sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility design, criteria and features when procuring or buying goods, services or facilities. These criteria include:
* using qualified third-party evaluation certification services established through programs such as: o the United States Access Board Trusted Tester Program
o inclusive design or accessibility certificate programs such as those offered by colleges or universities
o professional certifications from organizations such as the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) o other professional service vendors that may qualify for such activities
* both manual and automated verification of compliance to technical web and software criteria, not just automated testing * functional testing of usability by persons with disabilities * interoperability with alternative access systems (as defined in the glossary) * sign language and other communication modalities
* the requirement to procure accessible authoring and development tools
This requirement would be in addition to the general accessible procurement requirements in the regulation. The reference criteria for authoring tools would be Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG)2.0 (A and B)
Timeline: January1,2022. Where an obligated organization has entered into a contract before January1,2022, it is not required to meet the requirements of this section. The intent of the committee is not to allow grandfathering past2023.
The committees intent with this recommendation is to ensure that digital procurement by the Government of Ontario and broader public sector organizations includes accessibility criteria, and that authoring and development tools that are procured are accessible.
The committee would also like non-digital procurement as required by the procurement requirement in the general requirements to be strengthened. Since this is beyond the scope of the committees mandate, the committee would like this work to be referred to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and broader government bodies that manage procurement. Recommendation15: Differentiating organizations/high impact organizations
The obligations of organizations under the regulation are determined by how many employees they have, as this has traditionally been a measure of how much widespread impact they have. However, the subcommittee advised the committee that as technology evolves, the number of employees is no longer necessarily a good indicator of the impact organizations may have on Ontarians. The fact is that, increasingly, organizations with very few employees are able to provide a high level or volume of services and thus should be considered high-impact organizations.
The committee believes that section14, and eventually the whole regulation, need to adapt to capture these new business models. The committee proposes the following:
* Create a definition for ‘high-impact organizations. One such definition might be an organization that has one or more Ontario employees and meets either of the following criteria: o one million or more average annual users in Ontario (free or paid) o $10million or more in yearly global revenues
* These newly defined high-impact organizations would have to comply with the Information and Communications Standards and report under the act, and be subject to the same requirements as large organizations
* For such businesses as described above that are under federal instead of Ontario jurisdiction, or with no employees in Ontario, the province should engage in consultation with businesses and the federal government to determine and harmonize mechanisms to regulate them Timeline: One year with proactive outreach.
The committees intent with this recommendation is to ensure that all organizations with many users in Ontario, and therefore having a large impact on the province, are complying with section14 of the regulation. This approach could be used for other requirements in the future where appropriate. Recommendation16: Significant refresh
Currently, the requirements of section14 apply to organizations which either create new websites or significantly refresh existing websites. Stakeholder feedback and advice from the subcommittee suggested there is confusion about what ‘significant refresh means, as the term is subjective. In addition, the committee learned that since Section14 requirements apply to websites that are new or significantly refreshed, some organizations are choosing to update their websites only a bit at a time, thus avoiding the requirements. This may actually result in reduced accessibility for users. The committee proposes the following:
* Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a website must meet the accessibility requirements of section14
* 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 section14 include examples for the sake of clarity
Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.
The intent of this recommendation is to bring the section14 requirement closer to its intended function, which is to ensure that over time, organizations develop greater accessible content for users with disabilities. Recommendation17: Practicability
Section14 contains an exemption for obligated organizations which gives them the ability to claim that making a website accessible is ‘not practicable. The committee feels that this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do. The committee proposes the following:
Clearly define the term not practicable, bringing it in line with the term undue hardship, as set out by theOntario Human Rights Code. A link to this terminology has been provided inappendixC. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to reduce how easy it is for obligated organizations to use vague wording in the standards as an excuse to not fulfil their requirements. Aligning the language with that of the Ontario Human Rights Commission would bring significant clarity, as both the commission and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario have previously ruled on what undue hardship actually is. Recommendation18: Harmonization and application across requirements
Section14 is intended to bring about greater accessibility in websites. The committee noted, however, that websites are mentioned in different sections of the regulation, but only in section14 are the accessibility requirements explained. In the view of the committee, this makes it too easy for stakeholders to overlook or miss the requirements. The committee proposes the following:
It should be made clear that section14 applies to all sections of the regulation. This could be communicated as a reference to section14 wherever websites are directly referenced in the regulation. Timeline: Immediate
The committees intent with this recommendation is to make sure obligated organizations follow website accessibility requirements by reducing any confusion about what they are obligated to do. Part4, subpart1: Section14 exemptions
Section14 identifies a number of situations in which websites or web content do not need to comply with accessibility requirements. The committee does not believe that these exemptions are functioning as intended and recommends changes to these exemptions. Recommendation19: Extranet exemption
Section14 covers internet, intranet and extranet websites, and in the process it defines what these are. Intranet websites are websites that can be accessed from within a particular organizations network. Currently, not all organizations are required to make these sites accessible. Moving on to extranet websites, section14 defines these as websites which require a login. It considers these as an extension of intranets, and therefore also exempt for most organizations. The problem is that a great number of other internet websites that happen to require logins are therefore also considered extranets and so are exempt, which is certainly not desirable. The committee proposes the following:
The exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in (previously referred to as extranets) should be removed and these types of websites should be required to comply with the regulation.
Timeframe: New public-facing websites with a log-in must comply by January1,2022, and all public-facing websites with a log-in must comply by January1,2023.
The intent of this recommendation is to completely remove the exemption for extranet websites, ensuring not only that these be required to comply with section14, but also that other internet websites not be able to avoid the requirement simply because they use logins. The committee recommends a longer timeframe for implementation as this would be a new requirement. Recommendation20: Intranet exemption
Further to recommendation19, the committee believes that technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under section14. Thus far, only the Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly are required to do so. The subcommittee and committee do not believe there would be a major issue with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations. The committee proposes the following:
The exemption for employee-facing websites and content (previously referred to as intranets) should be removed and, like all other websites, these types of websites should be required to comply with the regulation.
Timeline: New employee-facing websites must comply by January1,2022, and all employee-facing websites must comply by January1,2023.
For clarity, the committee recommends that all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that section14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations. Because this would be a new requirement, the lengthy timeline above is recommended. Recommendation21: Pre-2012exemption
Section14 provides an exemption from having to make web content accessible if that content was first published on a website before2012. The committee discussed that this exemption has created two problems. First, some organizations are using this exemption as a loophole that enables them to continue using some content from pre-2012websites on new websites. The second problem is that organizations are taking useful pre-2012content, such as historical records, off their websites when they move to a new or refreshed website because they do not have the resources to make this content accessible. The committee proposes the following:
A category should be created for older archived content. A potential model for this would be the federal Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada archived content policy. This would grant an exemption only to non-active documents. Active content, which is anything that requires input or, like forms, can be changed, will not be covered under this exemption. Pre-2012images used for navigation in refreshed websites must be made accessible. Timeframe: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that no content which is intended for active use can be exempt, and that inactive, archived content which is for informational purposes only can remain exempt. Recommendation22: Live captioning and audio description
Currently, the Government of Ontario and Legislative Assembly are the only organizations which must meet the live captioning and audio description requirements in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)2.0. All other organizations are exempt from implementing this requirement. The committee proposes the following:
* By January1,2022, the exemptions to theWCAG2.0 Level AA guidelines regarding live captioning and audio descriptions should be removed.
* Between now and January1,2022, obligated organizations should put in place the infrastructure to support live captioning and audio description. Organizations which are currently exempt and are required to prepare a multi-year plan should include progress toward this infrastructure in their plan.
Timeline: Exemptions removed by January1,2022, to be evaluated for acceleration by the next committee.
The intent of this recommendation is to have obligated organizations plan infrastructure, adopt training, and generally get ready to implement live captioning and audio descriptions by2022, or sooner if the next committee should choose to accelerate the timeline. The committees intention is to establish a high standard (equal toCRTCstandards for live captioning) of quality in live captions. Recommendation23: Web hosting location
Section14 only applies to content which organizations control either directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product. The committee has learned that some organizations are interpreting this to mean that if their websites are hosted on servers outside the province, they may claim exemption from the section14 requirements. The committee proposes the following:
Section14 should apply to obligated organizations no matter where their web servers are located. Timeline: One year
The intent of this recommendation is to clarify that the regulations apply to obligated organizations regardless of where their websites might be hosted. Recommendation24: New and emerging technologies
New and emerging technologies present the risk of discriminating against persons with disabilities. As well, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to abuses of new technology and existing and emerging privacy protections do not work for them. These issues include: * data gaps: people with disabilities are not reflected in existing data. * algorithmic bias: data analytics reflect human bias.
Even if and when these risks are ameliorated, these technologies (for example, artificial intelligence) make decisions and take actions based on an average or majority. People with disabilities are very different from each other and often represent a minority of1. People with disabilities are harmed by data in both directions. The risks are dismissed because they only affect a small number. The benefits are not pursued because they only benefit a small number. Note: Additional resources available inappendixC.
The committee proposes the following:
When decisions are being based on data analytics using population data, there should be a disability impact assessment.
Government should immediately create a task force to work with the government on the design and testing of its digital services and to investigate risks, risk mitigation and opportunities in the context of the disability ecosystem. The task force should include experts in disability use case, emerging technologies and data analytics, the majority of whom are people with disabilities from a wide functional cross-section. This task force shall act as an ongoing bridge tophase2. Recommendation25: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version
The version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines referred to in section14 of the regulation is out of date. The committee proposes the following:
When the requirement to comply withWCAG2.0AA in section14 is fully implemented (January1,2021), Government should update the requirement to the most recently published version ofWCAG(for example,WCAG2.1) within 1additionalyear. Part5: Sections15, 16, 17 and18
The following recommendations relate to Sections15, 16, 17 and18, which cover educational and training facilities, producers of educational and training materials, and libraries of educational and training institutions.
One of the topics that was brought to the committees attention was the difficulty that education providers and students frequently have obtaining accessible resources. The committee has heard that these resources are too often unsatisfactory or delayed provision of these resources is resulting in poor learning outcomes for students with disabilities. Based on these observations, the committee recommends the following: Recommendation26: Purchase of accessible teaching/training materials
During its education and training discussions, the committee noted that the procurement of course materials is a good time to ensure that accessible versions are available. The committee proposes the following:
It is recommended that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other curricula materials, printed or digital, from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print or digital materials. For clarity sake, digital includes but is not limited to static, dynamic and interactive content.
These materials should meet or exceed the obligations of education providers as described in theOntario Human Rights Commissions Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Timeline: Immediate
Recommendation27: Definition of educational and training institutions
Education and training accessibility requirements in the regulation only apply to organizations that are classified as educational or training institutions, even though many organizations which do not meet that classification provide these services. The committee proposes the following:
That the government consider including all organizations (public or private) that provide formal education and training in the requirements.
The committee has asked the public what types of organizations should fall under the definition of formal, and provides this information to the government with this report inappendixC. Timeline: Immediate
Recommendation28: Increasing captionist capacity
Committee members are concerned that there are too few trained captionists in the province. While training for captionists does exist in Ontario, the committee believes there is not enough supply to meet the potential demand. The committee proposes the following:
The Government of Ontario should explore, in partnership with post-secondary institutions, employers and apprenticeship bodies, establishing a post-secondary course to train captionists, possibly in partnership with a court stenographers course. Timeline: Immediate
Recommendation29: Accessibility in education
The committee believes that the inclusion of accessibility-related content in all levels of education curricula is one of the best ways to influence cultural change. The committee proposes the following:
The government should explore ways to make education and skills development about accessibility, including e-accessibility, part of early years, elementary, secondary and post-secondary curricula. Timeline: Immediate
The intent of this recommendation is to increase the amount of accessibility-related content in all levels of education in Ontario.
Recommendation30: Accessibility in information and communication tools and systems
Some members of the committee have noted that there is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communication tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products. The committee proposes the following:
All obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of all people with disabilities, including deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing people who useASLandLSQ. Timeline: One calendar year from effective date.
The intent of this recommendation is to ensure that information and communication tools and systems are created with accessibility features built-in and are maintained by individuals who are familiar with accessibility features. Recommendation31: Accessibility in provincially regulated professions
The question of accessibility in provincially regulated professions was of significant interest to the committee. Provincially regulated professions provide a wide array of services to Ontarians, and ensuring they understand the needs of people with disabilities would help make these services more accessible. The committee believes that education around accessibility in all provincially regulated professions could greatly enhance awareness and further prevent attitudinal barriers.
Note: As a resource, the committee refers to theOntario Human Rights CodePolicy on ableism and discrimination based on disability. The committee proposes the following:
Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication andITsupport) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers. These should be worked into instructional planning and course design for organizations which provide education or training. Timeline: One calendar year
The intent of this recommendation is to integrate accessibility into the education and certification of regulated professionals in Ontario. Recommendation32: Education standards
The Information and Communications Standards of the regulation currently contain requirements related to education and training. When the committee first reviewed Sections1518 and proposed recommendations2429, the Government of Ontario had created committees to propose new standards in the regulation for education. The committee proposes the following:
If the government creates education standards with requirements that are equal to or greater than those requirements found in Sections1518 of the regulation, including the result of recommendations2429 made in this report, these sections can be moved to the Education Standards.
If any elements of Sections1518, including the result of recommendations2429 made in this report, are not reflected in newly created education standards (or within the jurisdiction of education standards development committees) for example application of standards to private schools and collegesthese requirements must be retained in the Information and Communications Standards.
The committees intent is to make recommendations2429 related to Sections1518, while allowing the government to house these requirements in the most logical place in the regulation. Part 6: Section19
Section19 relates to public libraries. The committee has reviewed and consulted on this section and voted to confirm that it recommends no changes to this section. Phase2
Declaring a breakdown a call for a new way forward
During their deliberations and interactions with constituents, it became clear to the members of the committee that the current approach to regulating the accessibility of information and communication in Ontario is flawed, and if the approach does not change, the policy aims of the regulations will not be fully achieved. There was consensus that reliance on a wholly prescriptive standard that is not responsive to changes in technology and its application is a fundamental shortcoming of the current approach. There is also a need to enhance the active participation of those who build and use technology daily both to understand and to mandate the application of technologies in ways that maximize economic and social participation for Ontarians with disabilities. A new model for accessibility regulation
As mentioned at the beginning of this report, the Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee was asked to think about some very broad questions, including what accessibility means in todays digital world, and whether the current regulatory system is really able to deliver the desired outcomes.
In the process of considering the broader questions, the subcommittee had thorough discussions which formed the basis of a broad new proposal, presented here in this second chapter of the report, to improve access for Ontarians with disabilities: The Accessibility Ecosystem model.
The Accessibility Ecosystem model responds to what the subcommittee perceives as weaknesses in the current regulatory model and introduces a response that is better suited to a world of rapidly changing technology and business models. The committee also recognizes the need for a more responsive model that is focused on equipping obligated organizations with the knowledge and tools to best serve Ontarians on the front lines of business and government service delivery. Governments broader use of the Accessibility Ecosystem model
Though the application of the Accessibility Ecosystem is proposed first for digital content and its applications, this model may prove to be more broadly applicable to other standards.
The Accessibility Ecosystem is presented at a very high level, both to maximize compatibility with various requirements and in recognition that more in-depth research and development needs to be done by government and relevant stakeholders to take this model to the next step. The committee proposes:
* That the government adopt and operationalize phase2 as the regulatory approach to accessibility in Ontario. The committee is aware that this approach will continue to evolve. The intent of the committee is to havephase1implemented in parallel with phase2.Phase1should occur during the transition to phase2.
* Note: Theinfographicsand additional materials (for example, long descriptions) have been submitted alongside this report after the appendices.
Timeline: Two years from submission of the final recommendations for phase2 to be fully implemented. What this document contains:
Current context:
* committee investigates what the current regulatory model seems to be missing. Accessibility Ecosystem:
* the Accessibility Ecosystem model is proposed as a solution, and its advantages are listed. Laws, Trusted Authority, Community Platform and Compliance
The Accessibility Ecosystem, listed and explained:
* How is the new model better?
* A look at what sets the Accessibility Ecosystem apart.
* Cost, funding and sustainability
* An explanation of how, far from being an onerous cost, the new model is actually a shrewd investment. Current context
The subcommittees starting point was an acknowledgement of the fact that our understanding of accessibility has evolved since the act was drafted and implemented. People with disabilities are as diverse in their needs and perceptions as people without disabilities, and perhaps even more so. For that reason, one-size-fits-all approaches to accessibility often don’t work. In addition, it is now understood that even the word ‘accessible does not have a single definition and is more related to technical requirements than a persons demand for a great experience. What is meant by accessible depends on the person and his or her goals and context. What this means is that accessibility can only be achieved through a process of inclusive design one that recognizes that all people are variable and diverse, and our products and services must make room for a wide range of human differences.
It is also critical to understand that even if all the specified goals of the act were to be achieved by2025, it would not be a case of mission accomplished. There would still be people with disabilities for whom Ontario is not accessible. Our society is changing all the time. New barriers to accessibility are constantly emerging, as are new opportunities for greater accessibility. The subcommittee concluded that creating an accessibility check list, however comprehensive, to address the needs of all Ontarians with disabilities is an impossible task. People not represented in the deliberations would likely be left out, unanticipated new barriers would not be considered, and new technologies that might be used to address barriers would not be leveraged. At that point, the subcommittee decided it was time to take a critical look at the current act and regulation model. What it found was five areas in which the current model is simply not meeting the needs of Ontarians with disabilities: Participation
In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.
It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.
The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:
* students, many of whom participate in projects such as mapathons, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
* Ontarios world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
* non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law * persons with disabilities and their families or support communities * professional organizations
* community volunteers
* civil society
The efforts made by these people, groups and organizations are significant, but there is currently no real way to collect, harness and showcase their contributions or quantify their economic impact. Updating
Other than the five-year review, there is currently no mechanism for keeping the standards up to date. This is especially problematic when it comes to information technology systems and practices, which are changing at an accelerating rate and affecting more and more essential aspects of our lives. Barriers to accessibility emerge suddenly, and if they are not dealt with immediately they can spread and multiply. Opportunities for greater accessibility appear, but if they are not quickly seized they can disappear. In this fast-moving world, accessibility standards quickly fall out of date, and the system is not equipped to deal with that. Integrating innovation
Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility. Review and feedback
Legislation often triggers new demands for services. The act has prompted the growth of the accessibility services sector in Ontario. Training, evaluation, design, development and remediation services are now effectively growth industries in Ontario. However, these businesses and services range in expertise and quality, and there is currently no mechanism for reviewing or providing feedback about them. Indicators
There is currently no way of tracking progress toward accessibility goals. No progress indicators have been established, making it extremely difficult to determine how well accessibility standards are working.
Based on all of this, the subcommittee concluded that an entirely new approach needs to be taken. This approach must move from presenting accessibility as an obligation to be borne by a specific group of organizations in Ontario, to a process that all Ontarians participate in, and benefit from. This is what the committee means when it refers to a culture change, and the vehicle for that culture change is the proposed new “Accessibility Ecosystem.” The Accessibility Ecosystem
Fundamentally, the Accessibility Ecosystem is a new way of organizing the standards within the regulation. Initially, it is being proposed for the Information and Communication Standards, though the committee believes that it could one day be the framework for the full set of regulation standards. The primary aim of the Accessibility Ecosystem is to encourage organizations to see the act less as an obligation than as something in which they participate for their own benefit, and the benefit of all Ontarians. For that reason, the first step in implementing this new system, however symbolic, would be to rename “obligated organizations” as “participating organizations.” This reframing will also provide a way to keep improving and updating how we address barriers faced by persons with disabilities in Ontario, up to and beyond2025. The objectives of the Accessibility Ecosystem are as follows: * keep up with changes in technology
* respond to new barriers
* respond to new opportunities
* respond to barriers not anticipated when the standards were written
* encourage and support organizations and the larger community in finding innovative ways to address barriers
* discourage the ‘us-them attitude towards accessibility, where the interests of persons with disabilities are seen as counter to the interests of businesses
* encourage working together to make things more accessible to the benefit of everyone * communicate that accessibility is a responsibility we all share
* show how accessibility and inclusive design are a good way to do business, and a good way to grow the economy and economic participation for Ontarians with disabilities
* reduce confusion about the regulations and make it easier to find tools and resources needed to comply with them
* provide clear, up-to-date, specific advice regarding how requirements can be met
* create the conditions and supports so that all Ontarians feel that they can participate in removing barriers
The proposed ecosystem has three interdependent parts. They support one another, and all play a role in telling organizations what they need to do to remove barriers and expand opportunities. The ecosystem as a whole provides the balance between legal compulsion and alignment with current technical practices. All three parts require funding and ongoing support. The three parts are the laws, the Trusted Authority and the Community Platform. The laws
This is the least flexible part. The laws would establish requirements, but not specify how they must be met. The Laws include three types:
* Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARd) (contained inappendix Bof this report). These are requirements that are constant. They do not mention specific technologies, to avoid a situation in which a technology changes and evolves to the point where the requirement no longer makes sense. If organizations need help understanding how to meet the requirements, they are linked to acceptable methods of doing so by the Trusted Authority. These requirements are modeled on and harmonized with requirements adopted by both the European Union and relevantUSaccessibility laws. The functional requirements do not replace technical requirements but specify what they are trying to achieve.
* Regulations regarding the policies of the ecosystem. These govern the Trusted Authority, the Community Platform and updates to the laws.
* Regulations that support system-wide long-term changes and improvements in the accessibility of Ontario. These include:
o integrating education about accessibility in all education, starting as early as Kindergarten Grade12
o integrating accessibility into professional training for all professions that have an impact on products and services
o requiring accessibility when purchasing products and services, especially when spending public funds
o including people with disabilities in decision making and planning processes, and ensuring that mechanisms for participation are accessible Trusted Authority
The Trusted Authority would be an independent group that provides ongoing oversight and support to the system of accessibility standards, in order to ensure that the system is performing as it should and accomplishing what it is intended to accomplish. The Trusted Authority would include people with a wide range of expertise, including lived experience with disabilities.
As implied by the name, the Trusted Authority must be credible, understandable and reliable. All its activities must be transparent and open to public scrutiny. The Trusted Authority would have the power to consult with any individual or group to address knowledge and skill gaps. The Trusted Authority would:
* Determine and provide clear up-to-date qualifying methods for meeting regulations. (The current set of qualifying methods includes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines2.0, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines2.0 and other standards such as Electronic Publication (EPub) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO)24751).
* In addition to qualifying methods, ensure that necessary tools and resources are available to use the qualifying methods.
* Provide guidance regarding how to achieve the functional accessibility requirements, specific to the particular organizations. This includes links to resources and tools in the Community Platform. * Retire qualifying methods that are out of date.
* Clarify laws when there is uncertainty or when there are changes.
* Review new and innovative methods proposed by organizations and individuals to determine whether they can be used to meet the requirements. * Address gaps in available qualifying methods to meet the requirements.
* Ensure that the barriers experienced by all Ontarians with disabilities are addressed by regularly evaluating who might be falling through the cracks. This includes individuals with a range of technical literacy, individuals in urban, rural and remote communities, Ontarians at all income levels and individuals with disabilities that are not visible or episodic disabilities. It also includes people who experience other barriers that might worsen the barriers experienced due to disabilities.
* Provide, track and make publicly available indicators of progress toward an accessible Ontario. Examples of those indicators might include the number of companies with an accessibility officer, the number of accessibility complaints received and their resolution, the number of employees who self-identify as having a disability, and the number of Ontarians trained in accessibility skills.
* Prioritize accessibility processes and tools rather than specialized technologies and services for people with disabilities. In this way, people with disabilities do not have to bear the additional cost of buying their own specific technology.
* Support innovation that recognizes the diversity of needs experienced by people with disabilities rather than a winner takes all or a one winning design approach.
* Support recognition that people with disabilities must be designers, developers, producers and innovators, and not only consumers of information and communication. * Qualifying methods must include accessible tools and processes.
The Trusted Authority would maintain an online interactive guide for participating organizations. This guide would let organizations know whichFARsapply to them, what qualifying methods they could use to meet the requirements, and what tools and resources are available to help them implement the qualifying methods. The guide would be inclusively designed to consider the different types and ranges of expertise of organizations in Ontario.
It is recommended that the Trusted Authority report directly to the Legislative Assembly. It is the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly to maintain theFARsand the responsibility of the Trusted Authority to maintain the qualifying methods. Funding commitments for the Trusted Authority must span two political terms to ensure sustainability and independence. Decision-making regarding leadership of the Trusted Authority should be transparent and inclusive of Ontarians with disabilities. Community Platform
The Community Platform would be an online platform, open to everyone in Ontario, that provides a simple and clear way for community members to contribute their knowledge, expertise and constructive criticism about accessibility in this province. The Community Platform would:
* collect and make accessibility resources and tools easily available * share training and education
* make it possible for community members to monitor and review how organizations are doing in meeting the requirements
* empower communities to organize events and activities that support accessibility * showcase and share good examples of accessible practices
* collect and showcase data on various economic and social aspects of disability
The Community Platform must be an open online infrastructure that is easy to get into, easy to use and easy to navigate. It would allow any community member to pool, share and review a large variety of resources that are helpful in implementing the qualifying methods. These resources might include training modules, software tools, evaluation tools, design tools, reusable software components, helpful example practices, examples of contract language for procurement contracts, examples of job description language and many other resources.
The platform would also provide a means for community members to constructively review the resources. Community members would be able to identify gaps in resources, and these gaps would be disseminated publicly to potential innovators and resource producers. The Community Platform will learn from similar initiatives to avoid the pitfalls involved in keeping resources up-to-date and usable by a large diversity of individuals and organizations. Financial support would be needed to maintain the infrastructure and keep the various resources relevant and up-to-date. Compliance
Clearly, compliance will have to be an important part of any successful accessibility ecosystem. The question, then, is how do we enforce and ensure proper compliance? Before making a more definitive recommendation, the committee would like to ask the public for input on how compliance might work, informed by its discussion on this topic summarized below:
The committee had an in-depth discussion of how compliance might work in phase2. It was agreed that a reasoned, measured approach that rewards good actors and addresses bad behaviour is critical. In addition, greater accountability of leadership was a recurring theme. The committee also discussed greater connections between government bodies/ministries to enable government to be a better leader and using a greater spectrum of compliance measures. Some questions that came up were:
* What is the right way to focus on organizations that want to do this right and actively build models that work well?
* How do you evolve the current approach to compliance in order to encourage organizations to participate in this ecosystem, using a combination of both incentives and disincentives?
o examples of incentives include grants, loans, tax benefits and public recognition of success
o examples of disincentives include fines, levies to cover the cost of accessibility, surcharges and naming non-compliant organizations using social media
* How best do you highlight the benefits of proactively investing in the integration of emerging technologies? How should we define emerging technology? How is the new model better?
There are several characteristics of the Accessibility Ecosystem that set it apart. It is a more aspirational system, focusing as it does on what is important and good about accessibility, rather than simply emphasizing that it is an obligation. It is also a more inclusive system, not just inviting but actually relying on input from the public and from stakeholders, including those organizations obligated to meet accessibility requirements. Finally, it is designed to evolve and adapt as technology and attitudes change around it. Specifically, the new model will speed progress toward an accessible and inclusive Ontario because: * the Trusted Authority will intervene when new barriers arise
* the Trusted Authority will integrate accessibility into the foundation before barriers are created
* the Trusted Authority will be able to represent accessibility and inclusive design at technical and policy planning tables, to integrate inclusive design considerations from the start
* efforts to produce services and resources that address accessibility, which are currently fragmented, will be coordinated and strategically channeled
* new and current contributors to the goal of accessibility will be provided with productive ways to participate
* the Trusted Authority will have the opportunity to provide a more comprehensive set of qualifying methods to address more of the barriers experienced by all persons with disabilities in Ontario
* innovative practices that improve accessibility for people with disabilities will be showcased, rewarded and even adopted as qualifying methods
* the Trusted Authority be able to maintain the momentum of accessibility efforts across political terms Cost, funding and sustainability
Reports such as theReleasing Constraintsreport led by the Martin Prosperity Institute show that public investment in accessibility is one of the most economically rewarding investments of public dollars. By establishing a locus of expertise in accessibility, Ontario gains recognition as a global leader in meeting the growing demand for accessibility expertise and innovation, and achieves unprecedented gains in prosperity. This leadership potential has not been fully realized in the current act framework, but the Accessibility Ecosystem would change that.
The Community Platform would serve to reduce redundancy and significantly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of accessibility efforts. The Community Platform is also structured in such a way that while the infrastructure would be maintained through public funding, the resources, tools, training and review would be contributed by the community at large for mutual benefit. Support for the Trusted Authority and the Community Platform could be shared by multiple jurisdictions across Canada, including other provinces and the federal government. Other jurisdictions have expressed interest in collaborating and sharing these services. Glossary
Qualifying methods
A means of meeting a Functional Accessibility Requirement for a type of service or product that is sanctioned by the Trusted Authority. Qualifying methods can refer to specific technologies and formats, and the tools and resources needed to employ these methods would be available in the Community Platform. Participating organizations
Organizations within Ontario, including organizations obligated by the act, previously referred to as obligated organizations. The renaming recognizes that a role of all organizations in Ontario is to participate in promoting and advancing accessibility for their own benefit and the benefit of Ontario as a whole. Platform
An online service that connects people who need something with resources or people that meet those needs. The platform provides a place to pool shared resources and tools, attach descriptions, including constructive criticism of the resources and tools. Platforms have points of entry suited to the different users and contributors of the platform. Alternative access systems
Computer-based technology comes with a standard set of devices to interact with the technology, such as keyboards and displays. People may not be able to use these standard devices. Alternative access systems replace or augment these standard devices. AppendixA: Committee membership
Information and Communications Standards Development Committee Voting members
* Rich Donovan (Chair)
* Kim Adeney
* David Berman
* David Best
* Louise Bray
* Jennifer Cowan
* Pina DIntino
* Louie DiPalma
* Robert Gaunt
* Gary Malkowski
* Chantal Perreault
* James Roots
* Kevin Shaw
* Jutta Treviranus
* Diane Wagner
* Richard Watters
Non-voting members
* Kate Acs
* Michele Babin
* Adam Haviaras
* Kathy McLachlan
Resigned
* Jessica Gabriel
* Ben Williamson
* Matthieu Vachon
Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee
Members
* Jutta Treviranus (Lead)
* David Berman
* Pina DIntino
* Anne Jackson
* Dan Shire
* Aidan Tierney
* George Zamfir
AppendixB: Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs)
The following is a draft of the proposed requirements that would constitute one part of the laws. These requirements would be directly linked to qualifying methods for meeting the requirements (provided by the Trusted Authority), and then to tools and resources needed to use the methods (provided by the Community Platform). Where visual modes of presentation are provided:
* at least one configuration must be provided that does not require vision
* visual presentation must be adjustable to support limited vision and/or visual perception or processing (magnification, contrast, spacing, visual emphasis, layout)
* at least one configuration must convey information without dependence on colour distinction * visual presentation that triggers photosensitive seizures must be avoided
* it must be possible to render the presentation in alternative formats, including tactile formats Where auditory modes of presentation are provided:
* at least one configuration must be provided that does not require hearing (captions and sign language)
* audio presentation must be adjustable to support limited hearing and/or auditory processing (volume, reduced background noise)
* it must be possible to render the presentation in alternative formats, including tactile formats Where speech is required to operate a function:
* at least one configuration must be provided that does not require speech Where manual dexterity is required for operation:
* the opportunity to use alternative modes of operation must be provided
* at least one mode of operation must be provided that enables operation through actions that do not involve fine motor control. These would include path dependant gestures, pinching, twisting of the wrist, tight grasping or simultaneous manual actions (for example, one-handed operation) Where hand strength is required for operation:
* at least one alternative mode of operation must be provided that does not require hand strength Where operation requires reach:
* operational elements must be within reach of all users
Where memorization is required for use:
* at least one configuration must provide memory supports or eliminate the demand on memorization or accurate recall (unless the purpose is to teach or test memorization) Where text literacy is required for use:
* at least one configuration must provide literacy supports or eliminate the demand for text literacy (for example, text-to-speech, pictorial representation)
* at least one configuration must provide simple language (unless the purpose is to teach or test text literacy where a different level of literacy is required). Simple language means the literacy level of Grade3. Where extended attention is required for use:
* at least one configuration must reduce demand on attention or enable use with limited attention Where operation has time limits:
* at least one configuration must enable extension or elimination of time limits Where controlled focus is required for use:
* at least one configuration must provide support for focus or eliminate demand on controlled focus Where specific sequencing of steps for operation is required:
* at least one configuration must provide support for sequencing steps, or eliminate the demand for specific sequencing of operation steps (unless the purpose is to teach or test accurate sequencing) Where abstract thinking is required:
* at least one configuration must reduce demand for understanding abstractions such as acronyms, allegory and metaphor (unless the purpose is to teach or test abstract thinking) Where accuracy of input is required:
* a simple undo must be available
Where biometrics are employed:
* alternative methods of identification must be made available AppendixC: Definitions and resources
Relevant to all recommendations:
User: Someone who uses a product, machine or service.
Relevant to recommendation13
United States Access Board definition of web page
A non-embedded resource obtained from a single Universal Resource Identifier (URI) using HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) plus any other resources that are provided for the rendering, retrieval and presentation of content. European Union Web Accessibility Directive scope:
1. In order to improve the functioning of the internal market, this directive aims to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the member states relating to the accessibility requirements of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, thereby enabling those websites and mobile applications to be more accessible to users, in particular to persons with disabilities.
2. This directive lays down the rules requiring member states to ensure that websites, independently of the device used for access thereto, and mobile applications of public sector bodies meet the accessibility requirements set out in Article4. United Nations Convention language:
2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:(g) To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the internet. Relevant to recommendation14
Alternative access systems
Computer-based technology comes with a standard set of devices to interact with the technology, such as keyboards and displays. People may not be able to use these standard devices. Alternative access systems replace or augment these standard devices. Relevant to recommendation17
Ontario Human Rights Code(the Code) Undue Hardship terminology Relevant to recommendation26
Ontario Human Rights CodePolicy on accessible education for students with disabilities Relevant to recommendation27
Public feedback answers related to the questionWhich types of organizations should be included in the definition of formal education?: Note: The survey answers below are extracted from survey responses:
1. The term ‘formal education or training should be defined as stated above (for example, education or training that results in a certificate or other documentation) and the requirement would apply to any organizations that provide that type of education or training. 2. Any that provide formal education or training.
3. Any organization that would be giving a certification at the end of the training course.
4. Tutoring organizations, recreational learning programs such as art, music, physical activityetc. 5. Educational institutions.
6. Yes but some agencies do not have the resources to do this. It must be funded. 7. Everyone.
8. Private Sector Organizations that provide (paid for) training to externa! clients. Public and Non-Profit organization whose mandate it is to provide training.
9. University, public schools, private/board schools, workplace education training, broadcasting networks (news), city/town governments. 10. Any time someone is enrolling as a student or paying for training.
11. Institutions that issue certifications and designations, along with online training sessions. 12. Public, private and non- profit.
13. All.
14. All.
15. All businesses and companies, public or private, all not-for-profit companies, schools, colleges, universities, private schools. 16. It should include all publicly funded education and all paid education.
17. Would not recommend using the type of organization but would recommend looking at the type or frequency of the training that is being provided. Organizations that have a dedicated training and education dept that do regular training external to their organization should be considered. 18. Anything that leads to a certification.
Infographics
Frame1: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame1:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
A diagram representing the Accessibility Ecosystem using the visual analogy of a sailing ship in the water. Introductory text
From obligation to participation: TheAODAAccessibility Ecosystem is like a ship in an unpredictable and changing global and technical context. The laws provide the compass, the Trusted Authority steers the course, and the community uses the Community Hub to provide the ideas, tools and resources needed to make the journey. Description of diagram
The sails of the ship are being blown by wind representing culture change and innovation.
The water has a shark fin representing barriers and fish jumping out of the water representing opportunities.
The ship represents the Ontario community and contains the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem: the Accessibility Law, the Trusted Authority and the Community Hub.
The Accessibility Law and Trusted Authority are two separate parts connected by a double helix that has the following phrases printed on it: Needed Adjustments, How to Achieve It and What Must Be Achieved. The Community Hub sits beside Trusted Authority outside the helix with arrows pointing into the helix.
Subtext for the three parts of the Ecosystem further explains each of the Ecosystems part. This subtext is as follows: Accessibility Law
Measures that bring about long-term culture change
Functional accessibility requirements that remain constant
Regulating overall process
Trusted Authority
Ensuring tools and resources are available
Responding to changes in context
Retiring outdated methods
Qualifying innovative methods
Community Hub
Training
Community feedback and monitoring
Pooled resources and tools
Research and guidance
Innovative approaches to addressing barriers
Frame2: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame2:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
The same diagram represented inFrame1is lightened with further descriptions of the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem layered on top. Introductory text
There are three important parts in the Accessibility Ecosystem: Laws, Trusted Authority and Community Hub. Ecosystem parts descriptions
Accessibility Law
The Law is the compass that keeps the ship on course. The law achieves an accessible community and maintains rules about the structure of the overall ecosystem. Trusted Authority
The Trusted Authority provides directions to steer the course. The Trusted Authority must keep a careful watch for new barriers, opportunities and changes in technology trends and adjust directions in response to these changes. Community Hub
The Community Hub engages everyone in the community including the general public, people with lived experience of disability, and participating organizations. The Community Hub provides the ideas and resources needed to progress forward. Frame 3: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame3:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
The same diagram represented inFrame2(Frame1lightened) with even further descriptions of the three parts of the Accessibility Ecosystem layered on top. Introductory text
Each of the three parts plays an important role in the ecosystem. They rely on each other to be successful. Ecosystem parts descriptions
Accessibility Law
The laws lay out the functional accessibility requirements and provide regulations to bring about the needed culture change. The laws are the most constant. Trusted Authority
Participating Organizations and community members can propose innovative new ways to meet the Functional Accessibility Requirements. The Trusted Authority is responsible for keeping the qualifying methods for meeting Functional Accessibility Requirements up-to-date, understandable and do-able. This requires the support of the Community Hub. Community Hub
Everyone in the community has a role to play and can benefit from participating in the community effort. The Community Hub is the place where new ideas, tools, resources, training, reviews and constructive feedback is gathered and shared. Frame4: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame4:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
The same diagram represented inFrame1is darkened. Layered on top of the darkened diagram is a circle placed in the front part of the ship within the Ontario community. The circle represents Participating Organizations. Four lines with arrows extend out of the Participating Organization circle. Each line has a question attached to it with the arrow pointing to an answer within the ecosystem. The questions and answers are as follows:
How can I make my services accessible?
Arrow points to Accessibility Law.
A second line with an arrow extends out of the question through the Trusted Authority and back to Participating Organizations. How can I qualify my new method?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority: Qualifying innovative methods. Where can I learn more?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Training.
What tools are there to help?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Pooled resources and tools.
Frame 5: Accessibility Ecosystem

Frame5:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
The same diagram represented inFrame4(Frame3darkened). Layered on top of the diagram are two circles placed in the front part of the ship within the Ontario community. The circles represent the Public and Individuals with Disabilities. Three lines with arrows extend out of the Public circle and one line extends out of the Individuals with Disabilities circle. Each line has a question attached to it with the arrow pointing to an answer within the ecosystem. The Public questions and answers are as follows:
How can I participate in drafting the laws?
Arrow points to Accessibility Law.
How can I propose new methods?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority: Qualifying innovative methods. How can I provide feedback?
Arrow points to Trusted Authority.
The Individuals with Disabilities question and answer is:
How can I contribute to resources?
Arrow points to Community Hub: Pooled resources and tools.
Frame6: trusted authority process

Frame6:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
An explanation of the Trusted Authority process supported by a visual design that includes line drawings of a variety of people with talk bubbles containing descriptions of who they, as the Trusted Authority, are. The talk bubbles include: We have the power to:
1. continuously update the qualifying methods
2. review innovative proposed new methods as alternatives or additions to existing methods 3. clarify and rule on disputes regarding the regulations
We have inclusive representation and the power to consult with: 1. external subject matter experts
2. additional individuals with lived experience
3. representative organizations
We support the law, but are independent of partisan influence.
We link the law directly to qualifying methods supported by tools, resources and training. We bridge political terms.
We are the Trusted Authority
The Trusted Authority is responsible for keeping the qualifying methods for meeting Functional Accessibility Requirements up-to-date, understandable and do-able. This requires the support of the Community Hub. Participating Organizations and community members can propose innovative new ways to meet the Functional Accessibility Requirements. Frame7: participating organizations process

Frame7:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
An explanation of the Participating Organizations process supported by a visual design that includes line drawings of a variety of people and talk bubbles containing questions and answers. The questions and answers are as follows:
Question: How can I connect with potential customers with lived experience who can provide feedback? Answer: Through community hub forums
Question: We have created tools and resources for the qualifying method, how do we share it? Answer: Share in community hub, (make sure theyre referenced) Question: Where can I learn more?
Answer: In the Community hub for training, education and exemplars Question: Who has expertise and experience to help me?
Answer: Visit directory with reviews
Question: We found an innovative way to meet the functional accessibility requirement, will it qualify? Answer: Vet with trusted authority
Question: What tools are there to help?
Answer: Access community hub tools and reviews
Question: Here are the services I provide; how do I make them accessible? Answer: Trusted Authority provides relevantFARsand qualifying methods We are Participating Organizations:
Participating Organizations are organizations operating in Ontario that are obligated by the Law. The Accessibility Ecosystem enables these organizations to participate in advancing accessibility in Ontario and to contribute innovative approaches. All organizations benefit from a more accessible Ontario. Frame8: shared responsibility and shared benefit process

Frame8:View a larger version of this infographic (PDF).Read the text version below.
An explanation of the Community and Community Hub: Shared Responsibility and Shared Benefit process supported by a diagram that includes line drawings of a variety of people around a helix. The left side of the helix has the following phrases:
Provide constructive feedback
Help develop training, tools and resources
Find new ways to address barriers
Create innovative inclusive technologies and practices
Help identify barriers
The right side of the helix has the following phrases:
Greater innovation
Greater prosperity
Ontario as a global leader
Participation and contributions by all Ontarians
We are the Community and the Community Hub
The Community Hub is the most participatory of the ecosystem and supports engagement by everyone in the community including people from the government, obligated organizations, and diverse individuals inclusive of those with disabilities.




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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

December 17, 2020

            SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            MORE DETAILS

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

February 28, 2020

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

Dear Minister,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee

 

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

 

Introduction

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

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

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

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

Accessibility standards

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

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

Standards review process

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

As required by the act, the committee must:

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

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

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

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

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

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

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

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

Approach taken by committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase 1

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

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

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

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

Recommended long-term objective

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1: Regulation in general or Sections 9 to 11

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

Recommendation 1: Feedback requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 2: Usage of portable document format (PDF)

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: N/A

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

Recommendation 3: Final review of regulatory language

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: N/A

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

Recommendation 4: Products and product labels

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2: section 12

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

Recommendation 5: Determination of suitability

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 6: Timely manner

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 7: Agreement between people with disabilities and organizations

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 8: Harmonization of section 12

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 9: On-demand conversion ready formats

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: January 1, 2021

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

Recommendation 10: On-demand ASL and LSQ translations

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Part 3: Section 13

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

Recommendation 11: Emergency requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 12: Unacceptable emergency outcomes and preparedness

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

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Part 4: Section 14

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 13: Mobile applications and new technologies

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 14: Procurement

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation 15: Differentiating organizations/high impact organizations

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

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One year with proactive outreach.

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

Recommendation 16: Significant refresh

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 17: Practicability

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 18: Harmonization and application across requirements

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Part 4, subpart 1: Section 14 exemptions

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

Recommendation 19: Extranet exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 20: Intranet exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 exemption

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeframe: Immediate

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

Recommendation 22: Live captioning and audio description

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Recommendation 23: Web hosting location

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One year

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

Recommendation 24: New and emerging technologies

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

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

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

Note: Additional resources available in appendix C.

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Recommendation 25: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18

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

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

Recommendation 26: Purchase of accessible teaching/training materials

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 27: Definition of educational and training institutions

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 28: Increasing captionist capacity

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

Recommendation 29: Accessibility in education

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: Immediate

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

Recommendation 30: Accessibility in information and communication tools and systems

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One calendar year from effective date.

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

Recommendation 31: Accessibility in provincially regulated professions

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

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

Timeline: One calendar year

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

Recommendation 32: Education standards

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

The committee proposes the following:

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

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

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

Part 6: Section 19

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

Phase 2

Declaring a breakdown – a call for a new way forward

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

A new model for accessibility regulation

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

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

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

Government’s broader use of the Accessibility Ecosystem model

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

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

The committee proposes:

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

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

What this document contains:

Current context:

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

Accessibility Ecosystem:

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

Laws, Trusted Authority, Community Platform and Compliance

The Accessibility Ecosystem, listed and explained:

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

Current context

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

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

Participation

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

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

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

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

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

Updating

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

Integrating innovation

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

Review and feedback

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

Indicators

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

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

The Accessibility Ecosystem

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

The objectives of the Accessibility Ecosystem are as follows:

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

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

The laws

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

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

Trusted Authority

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

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

The Trusted Authority would:

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

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

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

Community Platform

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

The Community Platform would:

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

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

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

Compliance

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

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

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

How is the new model better?

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

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

Cost, funding and sustainability

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

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

Glossary

Qualifying methods

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

Participating organizations

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

Platform

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

Alternative access systems

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

Appendix A: Committee membership

Information and Communications Standards Development Committee

Voting members

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

Non-voting members

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

Resigned

  • Jessica Gabriel
  • Ben Williamson
  • Matthieu Vachon

Digital Inclusion Technical Subcommittee

Members

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

Appendix B: Functional Accessibility Requirements (FARs)

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

Where visual modes of presentation are provided:

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

Where auditory modes of presentation are provided:

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

Where speech is required to operate a function:

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

Where manual dexterity is required for operation:

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

Where hand strength is required for operation:

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

Where operation requires reach:

  • operational elements must be within reach of all users

Where memorization is required for use:

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

Where text literacy is required for use:

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

Where extended attention is required for use:

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

Where operation has time limits:

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

Where controlled focus is required for use:

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

Where specific sequencing of steps for operation is required:

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

Where abstract thinking is required:

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

Where accuracy of input is required:

  • a simple undo must be available

Where biometrics are employed:

  • alternative methods of identification must be made available

Appendix C: Definitions and resources

Relevant to all recommendations:

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

Relevant to recommendation 13

United States Access Board definition of web page

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

European Union Web Accessibility Directive scope:

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

United Nations Convention language:

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

Relevant to recommendation 14

Alternative access systems

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

Relevant to recommendation 17

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

Relevant to recommendation 26

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

Relevant to recommendation 27

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

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

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

Infographics

Frame 1: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Description of diagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frame 2: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Ecosystem parts descriptions

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

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

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

Frame 3: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

Introductory text

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

Ecosystem parts descriptions

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

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

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

Frame 4: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

The questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

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

Frame 5: Accessibility Ecosystem

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

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

The Public questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

The Individuals with Disabilities question and answer is:

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

Frame 6: trusted authority process

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

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

We have the power to:

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

We have inclusive representation and the power to consult with:

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

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

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

Frame 7: participating organizations process

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

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

The questions and answers are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frame 8: shared responsibility and shared benefit process

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

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

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

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

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



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It’s Time for the Ford Government to Agree to Create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under Ontario’s Disabilities Act


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

November 30, 2020

SUMMARY

Today is the first day of our non-partisan grassroots disability accessibility movement’s 27th year in action!!

We call on the Ford Government to immediately take effective action to tackle the many barriers that Ontarians with disabilities continue to face in the built environment. More specifically, we call on the Ford Government to announce that it will develop and enact a comprehensive, strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government should now post an announcement recruiting people to serve on a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA. That Committee is needed to consult the public and to make recommendations on what the Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include.

That AODA Standards Development Committee should be free to make whatever recommendations it deems helpful to address any aspect of the built environment. Part of its mandate should be to conduct the long-overdue mandatory review of Ontario’s weak and limited Design of Public Spaces AODA Accessibility Standard. The AODA required that review to begin three years ago. A review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard is only a small part of what is now needed.

The Ontario Government typically and wrongly treats the Ontario Building Code and existing AODA accessibility standards as the only legally required benchmark that it must meet in new or significantly renovated buildings. Yet those legal requirements fall far short of what people with disabilities need. A building that is built in full compliance with the Ontario Building Code and with existing AODA accessibility standards need not be fully accessible, and likely will not be fully accessible to people with disabilities. It will not meet the higher accessibility requirements guaranteed to people with disabilities by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Below we give more background on this issue. To learn even more about the AODA Alliance’s multi-year campaign to get a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted in Ontario under the AODA, check out the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

There have now been 669 days, or 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that blistering report, including its strong recommendations regarding disability barriers in the built environment. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, addressed in the new online video we unveiled last week.

MORE DETAILS

1. A Province Still Full of Disability Barriers in the Built Environment

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by January 1, 2025. This includes ensuring the accessibility of buildings, as well as employment, goods, services and facilities in Ontario. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to enact all the regulations (called accessibility standards) that are needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025.

Only a little over four years is left for Ontario to achieve this legally mandatory goal. Ontario remains far behind schedule for reaching it. One of the areas where Ontario remains far behind is in making the built environment accessible to people with disabilities. Although this AODA Alliance Update focuses on barriers in the built environment, we emphasize that Ontario remains full of many other kinds of disability barriers as well that need to be removed, beyond those in the built environment.

No one could credibly deny that the built environment in Ontario remains replete with too many accessibility barriers. Under the AODA, the Ontario Government must appoint an Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation every three years or so. The two most recent AODA Independent Reviews each found that barriers in the built environment remain a serious problem. This includes the 2014 report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review and David Onley’s 2019 third Independent Review of the AODA.

Both Independent Reviews called for new Government action under the AODA to address the many persisting disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley Report described Ontario as full of soul-crushing barriers, with progress on accessibility taking place at a glacial pace.

2. Ontario Has No Comprehensive Accessibility Standard Ensuring that the Built Environment Becomes Accessible

Many are shocked to learn that even though it is now over 15 years since the AODA was passed, there is still no Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA to ensure that the built environment in Ontario becomes accessible by 2025.

Over 14 years ago, the Liberal Ontario Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty commendably committed to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Back then, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include. That Standards Development Committee submitted its final recommendations to the Government by 2010.

In the 2011 Ontario election, Premier McGuinty promised to enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard promptly. However, to this day, Ontario still does not have an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

In December 2012, the previous McGuinty Government passed a very weak and limited Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard under the AODA. That regulation only addresses a very limited range of disability barriers in the built environment, mainly some that are outside buildings. As for the vital area of disability barriers inside buildings, that Accessibility Standard only addresses some in public service areas, such as counter heights. Further limiting its effectiveness, the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard only deals with preventing the creation of some new barriers. It does not require removal of any existing barriers anywhere in the built environment inside or outside buildings.

As for the many other disability barriers inside buildings, in December 2013, the McGuinty Government passed very limited changes to the weak accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. Even after those changes, the Ontario Building Code still fails to effectively ensure that a building, even a new building, will be barrier-free for people with disabilities. It requires no retrofits of existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation, even if accessibility would be readily achievable.

As a result, even if a new building fully complies with the Ontario Building Code and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, it can and usually does end up having accessibility barriers designed into it. The AODA Alliance has documented this cruel reality in three widely-viewed captioned online videos. Serious accessibility problems are revealed in the AODA Alliances 2018 vid HYPERLINK “https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o”eo about new and recently-renovated Toronto area transit stations, its 2017 video about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre and its 2016 video about Centennial College’s new Culinary Arts Centre. Each of those videos secured great media coverage.

Yet such barriers in the built environment can expose providers of goods, services, facilities or employment to human rights complaints, alleging disability discrimination. Those organizations that must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are also exposed to the possibility of claims that such barriers violate the guarantee of equality without discrimination because of disability in section 15 of the Charter of Rights.

3. The Ontario Government is in Breach of Its AODA Obligations

Within five years after an AODA accessibility standard is enacted, section 9(9) of the AODA requires the Government to appoint a new Standards Development Committee to review that standard. This review is done to see if that accessibility standard is strong enough to ensure accessibility is achieved by 2025.

As explained earlier, the Government enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard in December 2012. The Government was therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review it by December 2017. Yet no Standards Development Committee has ever been appointed to conduct that mandatory review.

That mandatory deadline was reached and missed three years ago. The previous Liberal Government of Premier Kathleen Wynne is responsible for the first six months of that 3-year violation of the AODA. The Conservative Government is responsible for the other two and a half years of that AODA violation.

We have diligently and repeatedly alerted each successive Government and each accessibility minister well in advance of this obligation. They should not need a volunteer community coalition like the AODA Alliance to tell them of such basic obligations under the AODA. This is especially so since each successive Ontario Government has claimed to be leading the rest of Ontario by its example on accessibility. Such an overt breach of the law is hardly the example by which Ontarians should be led.

4. Meanwhile, The Ford Government Uses Public Money to Create New Disability Barriers

It is bad enough that the Government leaves existing disability barriers in place. It makes this problem worse when the Government allows public money to be used to build new buildings and infrastructure without ensuring that these will be barrier-free for people with disabilities. It will cost much more to later remove those barriers. To use public money to create new disability barriers is a serious misuse of public money.

The Ford Government has not committed to never use public money to create new disability barriers. For example, last summer, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ford Government announced that it is spending half a billion dollars to build new schools and do major renovations to existing schools. The Government has no measures in place to ensure that those publicly-funded building projects will be barrier-free.

As well, the Government is in the process of building a new major court building in downtown Toronto. The AODA Alliance has raised serious accessibility concerns about that building’s design. The Government has also announced plans to move ahead with a range of other public infrastructure projects, with no assurance that those projects will be fully accessible. The Ontario Government has a disturbing track-record in this context.

5. Promises Made Promises Not Kept

The Government’s failure to effectively address this issue flies in the face of Premier Doug Ford’s written commitments to the AODA Alliance during the 2018 Ontario general election. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out his party’s election pledges on disability accessibility, Doug Ford wrote, among other things:

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

We have written Premier Ford more than once to raise serious concerns about his Government’s failure to act effectively on accessibility issues such as this. He has never agreed to meet with us or to speak on the phone. He deflects all our issues and requests to the Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. Minister Cho has never agreed to create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

6. Ford Government’s Only New Initiative on Accessibility of the Built Environment is a Wasteful Failure

Since taking office in June 2018, the only new initiative to which the Ford Government repeatedly points for disability barriers in the built environment was its controversial spring 2019 announcement that it is diverting 1.3 million dollars over two years to the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to have its so called private accessibility certification program to look at some buildings in Ontario to decide if it would certify them as accessible. The AODA Alliance was never consulted on that decision.

We have strongly opposed this as a very poor use of public money. It will not help the accessibility cause.

The AODA Alliance has made public numerous concerns with the RHF certification process. Neither the Ford Government nor the RHF have publicly disputed the accuracy of our concerns.

For example, an RHF certification does not in fact certify anything. If the RHF gives a building a rating of accessible, it does not mean that that building is in fact accessible.

Those whom the RHF authorizes to conduct these inspections need not have the required expertise to assess a building’s accessibility. The RHF only requires an assessor to take an 8-day course. That course is far too short. Its training contents are quite deficient and problematic.

One and a half years after this Ford Government strategy was launched, there is no evidence that a single building has been thereby made accessible, or that a single barrier in the built environment was rectified. All that the Government may have accomplished is to give an inappropriate public subsidy to the RHF in its effort to break into the Ontario market, in competition with local Ontario-based accessibility consultants having far more expertise in this field.

For example, earlier this year, one could hear RHF advertisements on Toronto radio stations, promoting the RHF certification program. We asked the Ontario Government if these advertisements were directly or indirectly subsidized by the Ontario Government. The Government did not answer this inquiry.

It is not clear to us that the Government and RHF have found enough organizations to take up the offer of a Government-subsidized RHF appraisal. That would make sense, since the RHF assessment of their building’s accessibility is not reliable.

It would have been much more appropriate for the Government to have invested those public funds into the development and enactment of a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and on effectively enforcing the inadequate accessibility requirements that are already on the books.

7. What Have the Opposition Parties Said On Point?

The Ontario NDP committed as follows on November 9, 2020 as part of its housing plan:

“We’ll mandate Universal Design building codes, which are standards that reflect the needs of people of all ages, sizes, abilities and disabilities.”

The Ontario Liberal Party has not announced a platform on this issue since the 2018 election. In her May 14, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out the Liberal Party’s disability accessibility commitments in the 2018 election, Kathleen Wynne committed to the following:

1. exploring and determining next steps for preventing and removing accessibility barriers in the built environment

2. New and Existing Accessibility Standards

The creation of new standards is a critical element of the Ontario Liberal commitment to an accessible Ontario by 2025. We intend to continue the reviews already underway and continue the work of developing standards in the areas of health care and education. We would welcome advice from these committees on built environment issues and look forward to making the process more open and transparent to ensure all voices are heard without compromising necessary privacy and accountability measures.

Beyond ongoing work, we know that there are barriers in the province that need to be addressed through standards. Earlier this year, former Minister Tracy Machala publicly stated that the standards governing the built environment need to be strengthened to achieve our goal. That’s why she convened a summit on the subject attended by many impacted stakeholders, including the AODA Alliance. We will use the feedback gleaned from this summit and further consultation with stakeholders to determine the best path forward as we track toward the mandated review of the standard. Given the complexity of housing construction, building modification, and renovation, we will also work with builders, developers, architects, and other experts before committing to a path forward on residential housing and retrofits.

Getting to an accessible Ontario requires that we also ensure that the professionals most connected to design and construction know about accessibility. To this end, we will work with regulatory bodies, colleges, universities, and professional organizations to ensure that accessibility is included throughout the process.

Standards for AFPs differ project to project, but all Project Companies are required to comply with all legislation on AFP projects, including the AODA and accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code. This is the de facto minimum standard. Issues related to accessibility in AFP projects are therefore related to the content of the standards. On built environment issues specifically, that’s why we have committed to working with stakeholders toward the next review of the standard.

Accessibility in Education

In its May 4, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out its election pledges on disability accessibility in the 2018 election, the Green Party of Ontario committed:

e) Take Overdue Steps to Ensure the Accessibility of the Built Environment, Including Residential Housing
We support accessibility as an essential component of any new building project or retrofit. Training in accessible design should be a requirement across all licensing and educational institutions in Ontario, and all new building projects should meet standard accessibility requirements before approval. A strategy must be developed both to increase the supply of accessible housing within Ontario and to undertake the retrofitting of existing buildings in order for them to meet accessibility standards.




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It’s Time for the Ford Government to Agree to Create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under Ontario’s Disabilities Act – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

It’s Time for the Ford Government to Agree to Create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under Ontario’s Disabilities Act

November 30, 2020

            SUMMARY

Today is the first day of our non-partisan grassroots disability accessibility movement’s 27th year in action!!

We call on the Ford Government to immediately take effective action to tackle the many barriers that Ontarians with disabilities continue to face in the built environment. More specifically, we call on the Ford Government to announce that it will develop and enact a comprehensive, strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The Government should now post an announcement recruiting people to serve on a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA. That Committee is needed to consult the public and to make recommendations on what the Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include.

That AODA Standards Development Committee should be free to make whatever recommendations it deems helpful to address any aspect of the built environment. Part of its mandate should be to conduct the long-overdue mandatory review of Ontario’s weak and limited “Design of Public Spaces AODA Accessibility Standard”. The AODA required that review to begin three years ago. A review of the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard is only a small part of what is now needed.

The Ontario Government typically and wrongly treats the Ontario Building Code and existing AODA accessibility standards as the only legally required benchmark that it must meet in new or significantly renovated buildings. Yet those legal requirements fall far short of what people with disabilities need. A building that is built in full compliance with the Ontario Building Code and with existing AODA accessibility standards need not be fully accessible, and likely will not be fully accessible to people with disabilities. It will not meet the higher accessibility requirements guaranteed to people with disabilities by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Below we give more background on this issue. To learn even more about the AODA Alliance’s multi-year campaign to get a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted in Ontario under the AODA, check out the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

There have now been 669 days, or 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that blistering report, including its strong recommendations regarding disability barriers in the built environment. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, addressed in the new online video we unveiled last week.

            MORE DETAILS

 1. A Province Still Full of Disability Barriers in the Built Environment

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by January 1, 2025. This includes ensuring the accessibility of “buildings”, as well as employment, goods, services and facilities in Ontario. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to enact all the regulations (called accessibility standards) that are needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025.

Only a little over four years is left for Ontario to achieve this legally mandatory goal. Ontario remains far behind schedule for reaching it. One of the areas where Ontario remains far behind is in making the built environment accessible to people with disabilities. Although this AODA Alliance Update focuses on barriers in the built environment, we emphasize that Ontario remains full of many other kinds of disability barriers as well that need to be removed, beyond those in the built environment.

No one could credibly deny that the built environment in Ontario remains replete with too many accessibility barriers. Under the AODA, the Ontario Government must appoint an Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation every three years or so. The two most recent AODA Independent Reviews each found that barriers in the built environment remain a serious problem. This includes the 2014 report of Mayo Moran’s second AODA Independent Review and David Onley’s 2019 third Independent Review of the AODA.

Both Independent Reviews called for new Government action under the AODA to address the many persisting disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley Report described Ontario as full of “soul-crushing barriers”, with progress on accessibility taking place at a “glacial” pace.

 2. Ontario Has No Comprehensive Accessibility Standard Ensuring that the Built Environment Becomes Accessible

Many are shocked to learn that even though it is now over 15 years since the AODA was passed, there is still no Built Environment Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA to ensure that the built environment in Ontario becomes accessible by 2025.

Over 14 years ago, the Liberal Ontario Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty commendably committed to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Back then, the Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee under the AODA to make recommendations on what the promised Built Environment Accessibility Standard should include. That Standards Development Committee submitted its final recommendations to the Government by 2010.

In the 2011 Ontario election, Premier McGuinty promised to enact the Built Environment Accessibility Standard “promptly.” However, to this day, Ontario still does not have an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

In December 2012, the previous McGuinty Government passed a very weak and limited “Design of Public Spaces” Accessibility Standard under the AODA. That regulation only addresses a very limited range of disability barriers in the built environment, mainly some that are outside buildings. As for the vital area of disability barriers inside buildings, that Accessibility Standard only addresses some in public service areas, such as counter heights. Further limiting its effectiveness, the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard only deals with preventing the creation of some new barriers. It does not require removal of any existing barriers anywhere in the built environment inside or outside buildings.

As for the many other disability barriers inside buildings, in December 2013, the McGuinty Government passed very limited changes to the weak accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code. Even after those changes, the Ontario Building Code still fails to effectively ensure that a building, even a new building, will be barrier-free for people with disabilities. It requires no retrofits of existing buildings that are not undergoing a major renovation, even if accessibility would be readily achievable.

As a result, even if a new building fully complies with the Ontario Building Code and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, it can and usually does end up having accessibility barriers designed into it. The AODA Alliance has documented this cruel reality in three widely-viewed captioned online videos. Serious accessibility problems are revealed in the AODA Alliance‘s 2018 vid HYPERLINK “https://youtu.be/za1UptZq82o”eo about new and recently-renovated Toronto area transit stations, its 2017 video about the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre and its 2016 video about Centennial College’s new Culinary Arts Centre. Each of those videos secured great media coverage.

Yet such barriers in the built environment can expose providers of goods, services, facilities or employment to human rights complaints, alleging disability discrimination. Those organizations that must comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are also exposed to the possibility of claims that such barriers violate the guarantee of equality without discrimination because of disability in section 15 of the Charter of Rights.

 3. The Ontario Government is in Breach of Its AODA Obligations

Within five years after an AODA accessibility standard is enacted, section 9(9) of the AODA requires the Government to appoint a new Standards Development Committee to review that standard. This review is done to see if that accessibility standard is strong enough to ensure accessibility is achieved by 2025.

As explained earlier, the Government enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard in December 2012. The Government was therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review it by December 2017. Yet no Standards Development Committee has ever been appointed to conduct that mandatory review.

That mandatory deadline was reached and missed three years ago. The previous Liberal Government of Premier Kathleen Wynne is responsible for the first six months of that 3-year violation of the AODA. The Conservative Government is responsible for the other two and a half years of that AODA violation.

We have diligently and repeatedly alerted each successive Government and each accessibility minister well in advance of this obligation. They should not need a volunteer community coalition like the AODA Alliance to tell them of such basic obligations under the AODA. This is especially so since each successive Ontario Government has claimed to be leading the rest of Ontario by its example on accessibility. Such an overt breach of the law is hardly the example by which Ontarians should be led.

 4. Meanwhile, The Ford Government Uses Public Money to Create New Disability Barriers

It is bad enough that the Government leaves existing disability barriers in place. It makes this problem worse when the Government allows public money to be used to build new buildings and infrastructure without ensuring that these will be barrier-free for people with disabilities. It will cost much more to later remove those barriers. To use public money to create new disability barriers is a serious misuse of public money.

The Ford Government has not committed to never use public money to create new disability barriers. For example, last summer, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ford Government announced that it is spending half a billion dollars to build new schools and do major renovations to existing schools. The Government has no measures in place to ensure that those publicly-funded building projects will be barrier-free.

As well, the Government is in the process of building a new major court building in downtown Toronto. The AODA Alliance has raised serious accessibility concerns about that building’s design. The Government has also announced plans to move ahead with a range of other public infrastructure projects, with no assurance that those projects will be fully accessible. The Ontario Government has a disturbing track-record in this context.

 5. Promises Made – Promises Not Kept

The Government’s failure to effectively address this issue flies in the face of Premier Doug Ford’s written commitments to the AODA Alliance during the 2018 Ontario general election. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out his party’s election pledges on disability accessibility, Doug Ford wrote, among other things:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government…

…This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We have written Premier Ford more than once to raise serious concerns about his Government’s failure to act effectively on accessibility issues such as this. He has never agreed to meet with us or to speak on the phone. He deflects all our issues and requests to the Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho. Minister Cho has never agreed to create a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

 6. Ford Government’s Only New Initiative on Accessibility of the Built Environment is a Wasteful Failure

Since taking office in June 2018, the only new initiative to which the Ford Government repeatedly points for disability barriers in the built environment was its controversial spring 2019 announcement that it is diverting 1.3 million dollars over two years to the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) to have its so called “private accessibility certification program” to look at some buildings in Ontario to decide if it would “certify” them as accessible. The AODA Alliance was never consulted on that decision.

We have strongly opposed this as a very poor use of public money. It will not help the accessibility cause.

The AODA Alliance has made public numerous concerns with the RHF “certification” process. Neither the Ford Government nor the RHF have publicly disputed the accuracy of our concerns.

For example, an RHF “certification” does not in fact certify anything. If the RHF gives a building a rating of “accessible”, it does not mean that that building is in fact accessible.

Those whom the RHF authorizes to conduct these inspections need not have the required expertise to assess a building’s accessibility. The RHF only requires an assessor to take an 8-day course. That course is far too short. Its training contents are quite deficient and problematic.

One and a half years after this Ford Government strategy was launched, there is no evidence that a single building has been thereby made accessible, or that a single barrier in the built environment was rectified. All that the Government may have accomplished is to give an inappropriate public subsidy to the RHF in its effort to break into the Ontario market, in competition with local Ontario-based accessibility consultants having far more expertise in this field.

For example, earlier this year, one could hear RHF advertisements on Toronto radio stations, promoting the RHF “certification” program. We asked the Ontario Government if these advertisements were directly or indirectly subsidized by the Ontario Government. The Government did not answer this inquiry.

It is not clear to us that the Government and RHF have found enough organizations to take up the offer of a Government-subsidized RHF appraisal. That would make sense, since the RHF assessment of their building’s accessibility is not reliable.

It would have been much more appropriate for the Government to have invested those public funds into the development and enactment of a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, and on effectively enforcing the inadequate accessibility requirements that are already on the books.

 7. What Have the Opposition Parties Said On Point?

The Ontario NDP committed as follows on November 9, 2020 as part of its housing plan:

“We’ll mandate Universal Design building codes, which are standards that reflect the needs of people of all ages, sizes, abilities and disabilities.”

The Ontario Liberal Party has not announced a platform on this issue since the 2018 election. In her May 14, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out the Liberal Party’s disability accessibility commitments in the 2018 election, Kathleen Wynne committed to the following:

  1. “exploring and determining next steps for preventing and removing accessibility barriers in the built environment”
  1. “New and Existing Accessibility Standards

The creation of new standards is a critical element of the Ontario Liberal commitment to an accessible Ontario by 2025. We intend to continue the reviews already underway and continue the work of developing standards in the areas of health care and education. We would welcome advice from these committees on built environment issues and look forward to making the process more open and transparent to ensure all voices are heard without compromising necessary privacy and accountability measures.

Beyond ongoing work, we know that there are barriers in the province that need to be addressed through standards. Earlier this year, former Minister Tracy Machala publicly stated that the standards governing the built environment need to be strengthened to achieve our goal. That’s why she convened a summit on the subject attended by many impacted stakeholders, including the AODA Alliance. We will use the feedback gleaned from this summit and further consultation with stakeholders to determine the best path forward as we track toward the mandated review of the standard. Given the complexity of housing construction, building modification, and renovation, we will also work with builders, developers, architects, and other experts before committing to a path forward on residential housing and retrofits.

Getting to an accessible Ontario requires that we also ensure that the professionals most connected to design and construction know about accessibility. To this end, we will work with regulatory bodies, colleges, universities, and professional organizations to ensure that accessibility is included throughout the process.

Standards for AFPs differ project to project, but all Project Companies are required to comply with all legislation on AFP projects, including the AODA and accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code. This is the de facto minimum standard. Issues related to accessibility in AFP projects are therefore related to the content of the standards. On built environment issues specifically, that’s why we have committed to working with stakeholders toward the next review of the standard.”

“Accessibility in Education”

In its May 4, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance setting out its election pledges on disability accessibility in the 2018 election, the Green Party of Ontario committed:

“e) Take Overdue Steps to Ensure the Accessibility of the Built Environment, Including Residential Housing

We support accessibility as an essential component of any new building project or retrofit. Training in accessible design should be a requirement across all licensing and educational institutions in Ontario, and all new building projects should meet standard accessibility requirements before approval. A strategy must be developed both to increase the supply of accessible housing within Ontario and to undertake the retrofitting of existing buildings in order for them to meet accessibility standards.”



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On Friday, August 21, 2020 at 11 AM Eastern Time, Watch “Preparing for School Re-Opening — Action Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities” – A Virtual Town Hall Organized by the Ontario Autism Coalition and the 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

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

On Friday, August 21, 2020 at 11 AM Eastern Time, Watch “Preparing for School Re-Opening — Action Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities” — A Virtual Town Hall Organized by the Ontario Autism Coalition and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

August 19, 2020

Like all parents, parents of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario are very anxious about the re-opening of schools next month. Will their children be safe? Will their disability-related needs be accommodated?

So much remains uncertain and worrisome about school re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of that, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition would like to offer parents some practical action tips on how to get ready for school re-opening. We don’t have all the answers, but we want to offer what we can.

On Friday, August 21, at 11 AM Eastern time, log onto the Ontario Autism Coalition’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition/. The link to watch this one-hour virtual town hall will appear at or just before 11 AM.

This event will feature a conversation between three speakers, all experts in advocacy for students with disabilities:

  1. Laura Kirby-McIntosh. She is a high school teacher and president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. Among her many advocacy activities, last year she sat on the Ontario Government’s panel giving advice on reforming the Ontario Autism Program.
  1. David Lepofsky. He is a retired lawyer, a part-time visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, and chair of the AODA Alliance. He is also a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board. He is also a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and a member of its COVID-19 subcommittee.
  1. Robert Lattanzio. He is a lawyer and executive director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre. He and ARCH have done extensive work providing legal advice and representation to students with disabilities and their families.

Thanks is extended to the ARCH Disability Law Centre, which is providing American Sign Language interpretation and real time captioning for this event. After the event is concluded, it will be permanently available for viewing on Youtube.

This is the third in a series of virtual town halls that the Ontario Autism Coalition and the AODA Alliance have provided to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Taken together, the first two virtual town halls have been viewed thousands of times.

Please spread the word about this event. Post this announcement on your social media feeds. Encourage as many as possible to log on to this virtual Town Hall.

For more background check out:

* The first OAC/ AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on April 7, 2020 surveying the major issues facing people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The second OAC/AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on May 4, 2020, exploring strategies for teaching students with disabilities during distance learning.

* The Ontario Autism Coalition web page, setting out its advocacy efforts for people with autism.

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, describing its advocacy efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

* The ARCH Disability Law Centre’s website.

If you have questions that you would like the panel to address, send them in advance to [email protected]



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