On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments


Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

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/

September 17, 2021

SUMMARY

The federal election is just three days away. We have more breaking news on our efforts to get the federal parties to all make strong commitments on making Canada accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

As of now, only the New Democratic Party has answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 election commitments on the topic of accessibility for people with disabilities. The NDP made many if not most of the 12 election pledges we requested.

We thank and congratulate the NDP for doing so. We urge all other parties to do the same, in our spirit of non-partisanship.

1. Federal Conservatives Say They Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 Letter

On September 16, 2021, the AODA Alliance received an email from the Conservative Party. It asks for a copy of the AODA Alliance’s request for election commitments, and says they will try to respond before voting day. The email indicates that they had not received our request for commitments before this.

We again quickly provided the Tories our August 3, 2021 letter to the federal parties in response to that email. We originally emailed it to Erin O’Toole on August 3, 2021. We posted it on the AODA Alliance website the next day. Over the past days, we have tweeted at Mr. O’Toole and many Conservative Candidates, trying to get them to answer this letter. Moreover, the September 6, 2021 report in the Hill Times, set out below, states that that newspaper reached out by email to the Tories about this issue but got no answer.

From the email we received from the Conservatives, it appears that they reached out to us because they had received a media inquiry on why they had not answered our request for commitments. This further shows how people with disabilities lose out when the media either do not cover this story at all, or delay coverage till late in the campaign.

2. Liberal Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough Says the Liberals Would Enact Accessibility Standards within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Enactment

The Liberal Party has also not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, requesting 12 pledges on disability accessibility. However, in an interview published in the influential Hill Times newspaper dated September 6, 2021, set out below, federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough commits that the Federal Government would enact accessibility standards within four years of the Accessible Canada Act’s enactment. However, she did not say which accessibility standards would be enacted within that time frame. She also said that “hundreds” of accessibility standards would be needed.

Finally, she recognized that the Accessible Canada Act has room for improvement. However, she did not commit to making any specific improvements.

The September 6, 2021 Hill Times article, set out below, states that none of the federal parties had answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, that seeks election commitments. Since that article was written, the NDP answered our request, as noted above.

3. More Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disabilities Issues Days Before the Election

In an earlier AODA Alliance Update, we noted that CBC was one of the media organizations that had not been covering the election’s disability issues. The CBC has now started to do so, but only in the past two days. Two articles are set out below. One could say “better late than never.” However, we qualify this by noting that for the millions of voters who already have voted, late is the same as never!

We have also benefitted from coverage on Sauga Radio with Karlene Nation, CHML Radio Hamilton with Bill Kelly, and Sirius XM Radio with Dahlia Kurtz. We thank them all for shining the spotlight on this election issue.

MORE DETAILS

The Hill Times September 6, 2021
Originally posted at https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/06/disability-groups-still-waiting-for-most-parties-to-address-accessibility/315130

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

Advocates say they are the largest minority in Canada. Some groups say that in the long run they are the minority of everybody, as the policies they are fighting for will impact everyone at some point in their life.

By Ian Campbell

Disability advocacy group says that it has yet to receive a reply from any of the federal parties after it sent them an open letter at the beginning of the campaign seeking specific commitments about making Canada more accessible.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), which is chaired by Osgoode Hall law professor David Lepofsky, said they released their open letter on Aug. 3 because they knew an election was imminent and wanted their concerns to be on the radar of parties and voters throughout the campaign.

The letter listed twelve commitments the group is seeking from the parties related to the implementation and amendment of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), a law that was passed by the Liberal government in June 2019.

Some of the items the group is calling for include a commitment that federal government grants will not go to projects that do not meet accessibility standards, and the removal of loopholes in the ACA that allow some organizations to be exempt from its requirements. The AODA Alliance also wants a four-year timeline for enforcement of the accessibility standards required by the Act.

We are concerned that the law itself is too weak and the governments actions to implement it fall short, said Mr. Lepofsky in an interview with The Hill Times. Not that theyre doing nothing. Theyre just not doing enough, and theyre not moving fast enough.

The Hill Times reached out to each of the four main federal parties that are running candidates across Canada, asking for an interview with one of their candidates who identified as having a disability and who could speak to the partys policies related to disability and accessibility. The Conservative Party did not reply to multiple emails. The Green Party replied with a policy statement but was not able to make a candidate available for an interview.

The AODA Alliance released a statement on Sept. 2, the day following the release of the Liberal party platform, criticizing the platform document as well as the continued lack of response from the other federal parties to their letter.

[The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP] mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms, said the statement. This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need.

The only party that says anything about strengthening the weak Accessible Canada Act is the NDP. [The Liberals and the Conservatives] dont really say very much at all on this. But none of them make the 12 commitments that we seek, Mr. Lepofsky said.

Mr. Lepofsky said his group always writes to parties in each election campaign, because platforms tend to offer a more general, high-level discussion of issues, and that seeking specific policy commitments is important to his organization.

We know that a platform may only have a couple of sentences, which is why we write to the parties. So the first thing thats worrisome is theyre not answering, said Mr. Lepofsky.

In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago: namely, promising a disability lens on all government decisions, and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The governments record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive.

As an example, Mr. Lepofsky pointed to the ArriveCan application, which can be used to facilitate the process of crossing the border into Canada. Mr. Lepofsky said the application has significant accessibility barriers for people who are visually impaired.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.), who has served as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion in the Liberal government, said now that the Liberal platform has been released, she is able to make more specific commitments in response to the items raised by Mr. Lepofsky in the AODA Alliances Aug. 3 letter.

I can tell him that there will be enforceable standards within four years, said Ms. Qualtrough. The goal in the act is a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and all the work that I think David and other advocates, and perhaps rightfully so, kind of worry will be at the back end of the next nineteen years is being done now.
Ms. Qualtrough added that while she is committed to having enforceable standards within four years, she cannot yet say which ones. She said that implementing the act involves developing highly detailed standards across every federally regulated sector.

Were talking standards in every aspect of federal government jurisdiction. So if you think of banks alone, there will be a standard for ATMs, for entrances, for money, for customer service. There are hundreds of standards that need to be developed over the course of the years. And theres big ones, like an employment standard, but then there will be super technical ones, like counter height at a bank. So all of this will take time.

Ms. Qualtrough said she understands the urgency that advocacy groups feel.

I think that 2040 feels like a long way away, and it is for people whove been discriminated against their entire life, of course it is. But that doesnt mean that work hasnt already started and wont be done.

Ms. Qualtrough said that the vast majority of time since the ACA has been in place was during the pandemic, but that progress was still made in that time.

I think that what weve done under the ACA, in the midst of all that, is phenomenal, she said. Weve set up Accessible Standards Canada. Weve set up the board, on which half of the members are persons with disabilities. Weve put in place technical groups that are headed by people with disabilities to work on the first four standards.

Mr. Lepofsky and other advocates have expressed concern that two key positions related to the enforcement of the ACA, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer, have not yet been filled.

NDP candidate Sidney Coles, who is running in Toronto-St. Pauls, said that part of her partys commitment to improve the ACA relates to looking at issues of jurisdiction.

[NDP leader Jagmeet Singh] has committed to work to improve the Accessibility Act. Where were not quite clear, jurisdictionally, is who is going to enforce standards, said Ms. Coles, who has limited mobility due to a leg injury.

We need to work with the provinces to figure out how we do that from the municipality, to the province, to the federal level, and specifically with jurisdictional overlays, transport being one. When youre improving a train, that may be a federal issue if its a national train. The municipality also has to respond and make sure that once passengers are coming off that train that the stations are set up to also accommodate passengers.

Ms. Qualtrough said she sees the ACA as a major accomplishment, but there remains room for improvement.

We will always look at making this law better. In my mindand Im saying this as a human rights lawyerthis is probably the most significant advancement in human rights for people with disabilities since the Charter. Like, this is an entirely new system of accountability and prospective barrier removal thats going to prevent discrimination. Were trying to make our disability conversations across the country about human rights. Its not this medical or charity model. Its a human rights and poverty reduction lens.

Ms. Qualtrough, who is legally blind, said she is thrilled to see these issues getting discussed during a federal election campaign.

Poverty relief essential: Adair

Mr. Lepofskys organization is not the only one calling for attention to disability issues during this election.

Bill Adair, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, said that poverty is one of the key issues his organizations would like to see addressed on the campaign trail.

The reality is that almost four million people in Canada live in poverty. One third of those people are people with disabilities, said Mr. Adair.

So our call is for a basic income to be provided to people living with disabilities to ensure that they no longer live in poverty.

Mr. Adair said that the Canada Disability Benefit, introduced by the Liberal government in June in the final days of the last Parliament, indicated the intent to do something specific about this, but there needs to be much more detail than was included in that announcement.

It needs to be much more robust, said Mr. Adair. Wed like to know, how soon is it going to be created? How much will be provided? How will this be coordinated with provinces and territories to ensure that they do not claw back benefits that people with disabilities are already receiving?

We understand this is not a simple equation that can just be solved quickly, but we are looking for something with details. We are looking for something which lifts people out of the poverty that is preventing them from participating in our great democracy.

Jewelles Smith, communications and government relations coordinator at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), said that democratic participation is one of the most important topics of all, and that means making election campaigns accessible so that voters who have a disability can fully participate in the process of shaping the government.

For people with disabilities to make an informed choice when casting their ballot they need full access to candidates campaigns, said Ms. Smith.

She said that she has not consistently seen sign language interpreters appearing next to the party leaders, such as was seen next to the public health officers during the pandemic, and that many of the parties websites are lacking in accessibility features.

I thought that with the pandemic its kind of a lesson learned, she said. I thought we would be seeing it from the primary candidates who are trying to get our votes.

Ms. Smith said that Elections Canada now allows candidates to spend money on accessibility-related costs that will not go towards their campaign spending limits. A portion of these costs also qualify for reimbursement from Elections Canada.

Mr. Lepofsky said that, with his groups focus on seeking public policy commitments related to accessibility, it is vital that all voters experience an accessible election process.

We say that were the minority of everybody, said Mr. Lepofsky. Because everybody either has a disability now or gets one later. If you can see perfectly right now, as you get older, you might not be able to. So the barriers were fighting, if its not relevant to you now, it could be relevant to you later. [email protected]
The Hill Times

CBC News September 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/priorities-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities-left-out-of-election-campaign-say-advocates-1.6178053

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities ‘left out’ of election campaign, say advocates

Kate McGillivray
CBC News
Toronto

An accessibility access point for a building through a parking garage in downtown Vancouver. It is behind a locked gate and has a grate that is difficult to cross with a wheelchair. (David Horemans/CBC)

One of Canada’s leading advocates for Canadians with disabilities says they are heading into election day on Monday with little confidence that their needs are a priority and few firm promises from federal parties.

David Lepofsky, who is blind, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, or AODA Alliance.

His group, which is non-partisan, sent each party a letter in early August requesting they make 12 specific commitments related to accessibility.

The requests range from making sure voting is fully accessible to promising not to spend public money on projects that perpetuate or create new barriers.

As of Friday, with the election now three days away, only one major party has come on board.

“The NDP made many, if not most, of our commitments. As for the other parties, we got a response from the Trudeau campaign merely acknowledging receipt of our letter,” said Lepofsky.

The Conservatives, he said, did not respond to the group at all.

“It’s enormously frustrating, unfair and troubling that disability issues in this election have yet again been given short shrift,” said Lepofsky.

“Six million people with disabilities and their families and loved ones get left out.”

Concern about lack of follow-through

The AODA Alliance is far from the only voice expressing disappointment with how little focus has gone to accessibility issues since campaigning began.

A recent Angus Reid study found that 67 per cent of Canadians with disabilities thought that their needs had not received enough attention during the election.

Other groups, such as the Accessible Housing Network, have also tried to put the issue on the agenda, calling on all parties to require that “all new and refurbished housing be 100 per cent accessible” to increase the dignity, freedom, wellbeing and social inclusion of people with disabilities.

Luke Anderson, who serves as executive director of the Stopgap Foundation, told CBC Toronto he’s had to “go digging pretty deep” to find any mention of disability in the party platforms.

Luke Anderson says people with disabilities are once again being left out of the pre-election conversation. His StopGap Foundation builds ramps for single-step storefronts and raises awareness about barriers in our built environment. (Luke Anderson)

Even after reading what the parties have to say, he has little faith that what’s being promised will actually happen.

“I’m scared that their platforms on accessibility and disability aren’t going to be enforced and followed through on.”

Legislative failures

One area that both Lepofsky and Anderson say badly needs work is the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), passed back in 2019.

The act’s stated purpose was to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction but Lepofsky says that in practice, implementation has been weak, and the rules are unclear.

“For example, this law does not require that when the federal government gives out billions for infrastructure projects that it ensures that those projects will be accessible to people with disabilities,” he said.

His group would like to see the act significantly strengthened, with loopholes closed, clear timelines for organizations to fall in line, and consequences for failing to do so.

David Lepofsky says: if the Liberal and Conservative leaders are ‘not prepared to respond to our inquiries now, in the middle of election, it doesnt give you any confidence that theyre going to be any more responsive once the election is over.’

The AODA Alliance would also like to see improvements to the National Building Code, which it says “falls short of the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, applicable human rights codes and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Of the three major parties, only the Conservatives responded to a request from CBC News for details on their platform and an explanation for why they did not respond to the AODA Alliance.

The party says it plans to “boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund by $80 million per year, double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, [and] overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits,” among other steps.

The Conservatives did not address their lack of response to Lepofsky’s group.

CBC News September 15, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-accessible-voting-election-disabilities-1.6175148

How accessible is voting for people with disabilities?

Tyler Bloomfield
CBC News

A lawn sign from a Disability Matters Vote (DMVote) campaign is seen in Manitoba in 2019. DMVote is a non-partisan public awareness campaign that supports Manitobans with disabilities so they can participate fully in election activities. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: [email protected]

For some people, voting isn’t as simple as showing up to the polls on election day and casting a ballot.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities.

CBC News readers have been asking us about them and the accessibility of the federal election in general.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, advocates say there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities. Listen to a text-to-speech version of this full story. 6:30

Getting the resources you need

Before someone with a disability even gets to the polls there are hurdles to clear. One, for example, is getting the voter information you need in a format that works for you.

Elections Canada offers voter information like its guide to the federal election and list of accepted forms of ID to register and vote as an American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) video with open captioning.

You can also order physical resources in braille, large print or as an audio CD.

Have an election question for CBC News? Email [email protected] Your input helps inform our coverage.

For people who are deaf or partly deaf, Elections Canada also has an ASL version of a video explaining how it is making federal elections accessible and an ASL version of its video that covers voting assistance tools and services.

If a family member or friend has asked you for help voting, Elections Canada has a section on its website clarifying what is and is not allowed when offering support.

Accessibility at the polls

If you’re voting in person on election day, you’ll want to make sure your assigned polling station has everything you require to vote safely and accurately.

Returning officers use an accessibility checklist, which contains 37 criteria 15 of which are mandatory.

A polling station, for example, is required to provide a level access instead of stairs to the entrance and the voting room must be on the same level as the entryway.

But Elections Canada does not mandate parking spaces for people with disabilities.

You can check to see exactly how accessible your nearest polling station is by searching your postal code on Elections Canada’s voter information service. If you are deaf or partly deaf you can Teletype (TTY) 1-800-361-8935 for more information.

If your assigned polling place does not meet your needs, the agency says to contact your local Elections Canada office and you may be issued a Transfer Certificate. This would allow you to vote at a more accessible polling place in your riding.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic also introduces barriers at the polls for electors with disabilities.

For instance, if a voter who is blind or partly blind shows up on their own, he says they might require another person to guide them, but “you can’t take someone’s arm and be guided if you’re trying to socially distance.”

Lepofsky adds that minimizing the distance between the doors of the polling station and where you go to cast your ballot could be one way to help address that issue, as well as including properly colour-contrasted tape and stanchions to assist people so they can know by touch.

Elections Canada says high-visibility physical distancing markers will be in place at polling places, so that electors who are partly blind can more easily see them and maintain physical distance.

Each polling station will also carry tools to make reading and marking your ballot more accessible. If you ask a poll worker they should be able to provide you with a large-print or braille list of candidates, tactile and braille voting templates, magnifiers, large-grip pencils and voting screens that let in more light.

The right to a private ballot

An issue Lepofsky says is harder to address is maintaining the right to a private ballot for people who are blind or partly blind.

We have never had that right. We have had to either have somebody else mark our ballot for us, which means you have to tell someone else a trusted friend or a public official who youre voting for, he said.

People without disabilities take this right for granted because they dont even have to think about it.

David Lepofsky, the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says people who are blind or partly blind have never had the right to mark and independently verify their own ballot in federal elections.

Elections Canada told CBC News in an email that the secrecy of those votes are maintained by the oaths taken by those who assist them.

In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector. Its always done in the presence of a witness. If the elector requests assistance from someone they know, that person is required to sign an oath before they provide assistance, said Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.

But Lepofsky says he believes the process still amounts to a systemic denial for people with disabilities to mark and verify a ballot on their own.

There are ways to ensure they can vote in private and to verify their choice, he says, but the federal government and Elections Canada have not applied those in this election.

More accessible voting methods

One of Lepofsky’s suggestions is to introduce more accessible ways of voting, like telephone voting. This method would allow electors to call in to vote and has been used in provincial elections across Canada.

In B.C., assisted telephone voting is available to voters who are blind, or who have a disability or underlying health condition that prevents them from voting on their own. It was also made available during the 2020 provincial election for people who had to self-isolate during the last week of the campaign period because of a positive COVID-19 test or exposure.

Introducing new technology and voting methods into federal elections raises security and accuracy concerns.

Aleksander Essex, an associate professor of software engineering at Western University in London, Ont., specializes in voting technology. He doesn’t recommend phone voting, he says, because of what he has seen in Ontario municipal elections that use the method.

He says there were instances where the call would drop, leading to more problems.

“The voter would call back and they would say, ‘Well, sorry, you can’t vote because you’ve already voted.’ So they had to go back and sort of work with the city to literally pull the vote out of the telephone system to have it reset.”

He acknowledges that methods like online voting could also reduce barriers, but he says the security risks outweigh the benefits.

“We can’t make this a zero-sum game between accessibility and cybersecurity. We have to have both.”

Lepofsky also mentioned that accessible voting machines are used in some places, but that they have had problems with reliability in the past.

Elections Canada says the voting methods used by Canadians are prescribed in the Canada Elections Act. Changes to the way votes are cast would require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change.

“I don’t believe that we need to just accept the status quo, replete with disability barriers or do nothing,” said Lepofsky.




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On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage


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 the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

September 17, 2021

        SUMMARY

The federal election is just three days away. We have more breaking news on our efforts to get the federal parties to all make strong commitments on making Canada accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

As of now, only the New Democratic Party has answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 election commitments on the topic of accessibility for people with disabilities. The NDP made many if not most of the 12 election pledges we requested.

We thank and congratulate the NDP for doing so. We urge all other parties to do the same, in our spirit of non-partisanship.

1. Federal Conservatives Say They Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 Letter

On September 16, 2021, the AODA Alliance received an email from the Conservative Party. It asks for a copy of the AODA Alliance’s request for election commitments, and says they will try to respond before voting day. The email indicates that they had not received our request for commitments before this.

We again quickly provided the Tories our August 3, 2021 letter to the federal parties in response to that email. We originally emailed it to Erin O’Toole on August 3, 2021. We posted it on the AODA Alliance website the next day. Over the past days, we have tweeted at Mr. O’Toole and many Conservative Candidates, trying to get them to answer this letter. Moreover, the September 6, 2021 report in the Hill Times, set out below, states that that newspaper reached out by email to the Tories about this issue but got no answer.

From the email we received from the Conservatives, it appears that they reached out to us because they had received a media inquiry on why they had not answered our request for commitments. This further shows how people with disabilities lose out when the media either do not cover this story at all, or delay coverage till late in the campaign.

2. Liberal Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough Says the Liberals Would Enact Accessibility Standards within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Enactment

The Liberal Party has also not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, requesting 12 pledges on disability accessibility. However, in an interview published in the influential Hill Times newspaper dated September 6, 2021, set out below, federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough commits that the Federal Government would enact accessibility standards within four years of the Accessible Canada Act’s enactment. However, she did not say which accessibility standards would be enacted within that time frame. She also said that “hundreds” of accessibility standards would be needed.

Finally, she recognized that the Accessible Canada Act has room for improvement. However, she did not commit to making any specific improvements.

The September 6, 2021 Hill Times article, set out below, states that none of the federal parties had answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, that seeks election commitments. Since that article was written, the NDP answered our request, as noted above.

3. More Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disabilities Issues Days Before the Election

In an earlier AODA Alliance Update, we noted that CBC was one of the media organizations that had not been covering the election’s disability issues. The CBC has now started to do so, but only in the past two days. Two articles are set out below. One could say “better late than never.” However, we qualify this by noting that for the millions of voters who already have voted, late is the same as never!

We have also benefitted from coverage on Sauga Radio with Karlene Nation, CHML Radio Hamilton with Bill Kelly, and Sirius XM Radio with Dahlia Kurtz. We thank them all for shining the spotlight on this election issue.

        MORE DETAILS

The Hill Times September 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/06/disability-groups-still-waiting-for-most-parties-to-address-accessibility/315130

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

Advocates say they are the largest minority in Canada. Some groups say that in the long run they are ‘the minority of everybody,’ as the policies they are fighting for will impact everyone at some point in their life.

By Ian Campbell

Disability advocacy group says that it has yet to receive a reply from any of the federal parties after it sent them an open letter at the beginning of the campaign seeking specific commitments about making Canada more accessible.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), which is chaired by Osgoode Hall law professor David Lepofsky, said they released their open letter on Aug. 3 because they knew an election was imminent and wanted their concerns to be on the radar of parties and voters throughout the campaign.

The letter listed twelve commitments the group is seeking from the parties related to the implementation and amendment of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), a law that was passed by the Liberal government in June 2019.

Some of the items the group is calling for include a commitment that federal government grants will not go to projects that do not meet accessibility standards, and the removal of loopholes in the ACA that allow some organizations to be exempt from its requirements. The AODA Alliance also wants a four-year timeline for enforcement of the accessibility standards required by the Act.

“We are concerned that the law itself is too weak and the government’s actions to implement it fall short,” said Mr. Lepofsky in an interview with The Hill Times. “Not that they’re doing nothing. They’re just not doing enough, and they’re not moving fast enough.”

 

The Hill Times reached out to each of the four main federal parties that are running candidates across Canada, asking for an interview with one of their candidates who identified as having a disability and who could speak to the party’s policies related to disability and accessibility. The Conservative Party did not reply to multiple emails. The Green Party replied with a policy statement but was not able to make a candidate available for an interview.

The AODA Alliance released a statement on Sept. 2, the day following the release of the Liberal party platform, criticizing the platform document as well as the continued lack of response from the other federal parties to their letter.

“[The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP] mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms,” said the statement. “This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need.”

“The only party that says anything about strengthening the weak Accessible Canada Act is the NDP. [The Liberals and the Conservatives] don’t really say very much at all on this. But none of them make the 12 commitments that we seek,” Mr. Lepofsky said.

Mr. Lepofsky said his group always writes to parties in each election campaign, because platforms tend to offer a more general, high-level discussion of issues, and that seeking specific policy commitments is important to his organization.

“We know that a platform may only have a couple of sentences, which is why we write to the parties. So the first thing that’s worrisome is they’re not answering,” said Mr. Lepofsky.

“In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago: namely, promising a disability lens on all government decisions, and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive.”

As an example, Mr. Lepofsky pointed to the ArriveCan application, which can be used to facilitate the process of crossing the border into Canada. Mr. Lepofsky said the application has significant accessibility barriers for people who are visually impaired.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.), who has served as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion in the Liberal government, said now that the Liberal platform has been released, she is able to make more specific commitments in response to the items raised by Mr. Lepofsky in the AODA Alliance’s Aug. 3 letter.

“I can tell him that there will be enforceable standards within four years,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “The goal in the act is a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and all the work that I think David and other advocates, and perhaps rightfully so, kind of worry will be at the back end of the next nineteen years is being done now.”

Ms. Qualtrough added that while she is committed to having enforceable standards within four years, she cannot yet say which ones. She said that implementing the act involves developing highly detailed standards across every federally regulated sector.

“We’re talking standards in every aspect of federal government jurisdiction. So if you think of banks alone, there will be a standard for ATMs, for entrances, for money, for customer service. There are hundreds of standards that need to be developed over the course of the years. And there’s big ones, like an employment standard, but then there will be super technical ones, like counter height at a bank. So all of this will take time.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she understands the urgency that advocacy groups feel.

“I think that 2040 feels like a long way away, and it is for people who’ve been discriminated against their entire life, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that work hasn’t already started and won’t be done.”

Ms. Qualtrough said that the vast majority of time since the ACA has been in place was during the pandemic, but that progress was still made in that time.

“I think that what we’ve done under the ACA, in the midst of all that, is phenomenal,” she said. “We’ve set up Accessible Standards Canada. We’ve set up the board, on which half of the members are persons with disabilities. We’ve put in place technical groups that are headed by people with disabilities to work on the first four standards.”

Mr. Lepofsky and other advocates have expressed concern that two key positions related to the enforcement of the ACA, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer, have not yet been filled.

NDP candidate Sidney Coles, who is running in Toronto-St. Paul’s, said that part of her party’s commitment to improve the ACA relates to looking at issues of jurisdiction.

“[NDP leader Jagmeet Singh] has committed to work to improve the Accessibility Act. Where we’re not quite clear, jurisdictionally, is who is going to enforce standards,” said Ms. Coles, who has limited mobility due to a leg injury.

“We need to work with the provinces to figure out how we do that from the municipality, to the province, to the federal level, and specifically with jurisdictional overlays, transport being one. When you’re improving a train, that may be a federal issue if it’s a national train. The municipality also has to respond and make sure that once passengers are coming off that train that the stations are set up to also accommodate passengers.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she sees the ACA as a major accomplishment, but there remains room for improvement.

“We will always look at making this law better. In my mind—and I’m saying this as a human rights lawyer—this is probably the most significant advancement in human rights for people with disabilities since the Charter. Like, this is an entirely… new system of accountability and prospective barrier removal that’s going to prevent discrimination. We’re trying to make our disability conversations across the country about human rights. It’s not this medical or charity model. It’s a human rights and poverty reduction lens.”

Ms. Qualtrough, who is legally blind, said she is thrilled to see these issues getting discussed during a federal election campaign.

Poverty relief essential: Adair

Mr. Lepofsky’s organization is not the only one calling for attention to disability issues during this election.

Bill Adair, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, said that poverty is one of the key issues his organizations would like to see addressed on the campaign trail.

“The reality is that almost four million people in Canada live in poverty. One third of those people are people with disabilities,” said Mr. Adair.

“So our call is for a basic income to be provided to people living with disabilities to ensure that they no longer live in poverty.”

Mr. Adair said that the Canada Disability Benefit, introduced by the Liberal government in June in the final days of the last Parliament, indicated the “intent to do something specific about this,” but there needs to be much more detail than was included in that announcement.

“It needs to be much more robust,” said Mr. Adair. “We’d like to know, how soon is it going to be created? How much will be provided? How will this be coordinated with provinces and territories to ensure that they do not claw back benefits that people with disabilities are already receiving?”

“We understand this is not a simple equation that can just be solved quickly, but we are looking for something with details. We are looking for something which lifts people out of the poverty that is preventing them from participating in our great democracy.”

Jewelles Smith, communications and government relations coordinator at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), said that democratic participation is one of the most important topics of all, and that means making election campaigns accessible so that voters who have a disability can fully participate in the process of shaping the government.

“For people with disabilities to make an informed choice when casting their ballot they need full access to candidates’ campaigns,” said Ms. Smith.

She said that she has not consistently seen sign language interpreters appearing next to the party leaders, such as was seen next to the public health officers during the pandemic, and that many of the parties’ websites are lacking in accessibility features.

“I thought that with the pandemic it’s kind of a lesson learned,” she said. “I thought we would be seeing it from the primary candidates who are trying to get our votes.”

Ms. Smith said that Elections Canada now allows candidates to spend money on accessibility-related costs that will not go towards their campaign spending limits. A portion of these costs also qualify for reimbursement from Elections Canada.

Mr. Lepofsky said that, with his group’s focus on seeking public policy commitments related to accessibility, it is vital that all voters experience an accessible election process.

“We say that we’re the minority of everybody,” said Mr. Lepofsky. “Because everybody either has a disability now or gets one later. If you can see perfectly right now, as you get older, you might not be able to. So the barriers we’re fighting, if it’s not relevant to you now, it could be relevant to you later.”

[email protected]

The Hill Times

 CBC News September 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/priorities-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities-left-out-of-election-campaign-say-advocates-1.6178053

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities ‘left out’ of election campaign, say advocates

Kate McGillivray

CBC News

Toronto

An accessibility access point for a building through a parking garage in downtown Vancouver. It is behind a locked gate and has a grate that is difficult to cross with a wheelchair. (David Horemans/CBC)

One of Canada’s leading advocates for Canadians with disabilities says they are heading into election day on Monday with little confidence that their needs are a priority — and few firm promises from federal parties.

David Lepofsky, who is blind, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, or AODA Alliance.

His group, which is non-partisan, sent each party a letter in early August requesting they make 12 specific commitments related to accessibility.

The requests range from making sure voting is fully accessible to promising not to spend public money on projects that perpetuate or create new barriers.

As of Friday, with the election now three days away, only one major party has come on board.

“The NDP made many, if not most, of our commitments. As for the other parties, we got a response from the Trudeau campaign merely acknowledging receipt of our letter,” said Lepofsky.

The Conservatives, he said, did not respond to the group at all.

“It’s enormously frustrating, unfair and troubling that disability issues in this election have yet again been given short shrift,” said Lepofsky.

“Six million people with disabilities and their families and loved ones get left out.”

Concern about lack of follow-through

The AODA Alliance is far from the only voice expressing disappointment with how little focus has gone to accessibility issues since campaigning began.

A recent Angus Reid study found that 67 per cent of Canadians with disabilities thought that their needs had not received enough attention during the election.

Other groups, such as the Accessible Housing Network, have also tried to put the issue on the agenda, calling on all parties to require that “all new and refurbished housing be 100 per cent accessible” to increase the dignity, freedom, wellbeing and social inclusion of people with disabilities.

Luke Anderson, who serves as executive director of the Stopgap Foundation, told CBC Toronto he’s had to “go digging pretty deep” to find any mention of disability in the party platforms.

Luke Anderson says people with disabilities are once again being left out of the pre-election conversation. His StopGap Foundation builds ramps for single-step storefronts and raises awareness about barriers in our built environment. (Luke Anderson)

Even after reading what the parties have to say, he has little faith that what’s being promised will actually happen.

“I’m scared that their platforms on accessibility and disability aren’t going to be enforced and followed through on.”

Legislative failures

 

One area that both Lepofsky and Anderson say badly needs work is the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), passed back in 2019.

The act’s stated purpose was to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — but Lepofsky says that in practice, implementation has been weak, and the rules are unclear.

“For example, this law does not require that when the federal government gives out billions for infrastructure projects that it ensures that those projects will be accessible to people with disabilities,” he said.

His group would like to see the act significantly strengthened, with loopholes closed, clear timelines for organizations to fall in line, and consequences for failing to do so.

David Lepofsky says: if the Liberal and Conservative leaders are ‘not prepared to respond to our inquiries now, in the middle of election, it doesn’t give you any confidence that they’re going to be any more responsive once the election is over.’

The AODA Alliance would also like to see improvements to the National Building Code, which it says “falls short of the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, applicable human rights codes and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Of the three major parties, only the Conservatives responded to a request from CBC News for details on their platform and an explanation for why they did not respond to the AODA Alliance.

The party says it plans to “boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund by $80 million per year, double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, [and] overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits,” among other steps.

The Conservatives did not address their lack of response to Lepofsky’s group.

 CBC News September 15, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-accessible-voting-election-disabilities-1.6175148

How accessible is voting for people with disabilities?

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

A lawn sign from a Disability Matters Vote (DMVote) campaign is seen in Manitoba in 2019. DMVote is a non-partisan public awareness campaign that supports Manitobans with disabilities so they can participate fully in election activities. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: [email protected]

For some people, voting isn’t as simple as showing up to the polls on election day and casting a ballot.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities.

CBC News readers have been asking us about them and the accessibility of the federal election in general.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, advocates say there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities. Listen to a text-to-speech version of this full story. 6:30

Getting the resources you need

Before someone with a disability even gets to the polls there are hurdles to clear. One, for example, is getting the voter information you need in a format that works for you.

Elections Canada offers voter information — like its guide to the federal election and list of accepted forms of ID to register and vote — as an American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) video with open captioning.

You can also order physical resources in braille, large print or as an audio CD.

Have an election question for CBC News? Email [email protected] Your input helps inform our coverage.

For people who are deaf or partly deaf, Elections Canada also has an ASL version of a video explaining how it is making federal elections accessible and an ASL version of its video that covers voting assistance tools and services.

If a family member or friend has asked you for help voting, Elections Canada has a section on its website clarifying what is and is not allowed when offering support.

Accessibility at the polls

If you’re voting in person on election day, you’ll want to make sure your assigned polling station has everything you require to vote safely and accurately.

Returning officers use an accessibility checklist, which contains 37 criteria — 15 of which are mandatory.

A polling station, for example, is required to provide a level access instead of stairs to the entrance and the voting room must be on the same level as the entryway.

But Elections Canada does not mandate parking spaces for people with disabilities.

You can check to see exactly how accessible your nearest polling station is by searching your postal code on Elections Canada’s voter information service. If you are deaf or partly deaf you can Teletype (TTY) 1-800-361-8935 for more information.

If your assigned polling place does not meet your needs, the agency says to contact your local Elections Canada office and you may be issued a Transfer Certificate. This would allow you to vote at a more accessible polling place in your riding.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic also introduces barriers at the polls for electors with disabilities.

For instance, if a voter who is blind or partly blind shows up on their own, he says they might require another person to guide them, but “you can’t take someone’s arm and be guided if you’re trying to socially distance.”

Lepofsky adds that minimizing the distance between the doors of the polling station and where you go to cast your ballot could be one way to help address that issue, as well as including properly colour-contrasted tape and stanchions to assist people so they can know by touch.

Elections Canada says high-visibility physical distancing markers will be in place at polling places, so that electors who are partly blind can more easily see them and maintain physical distance.

Each polling station will also carry tools to make reading and marking your ballot more accessible. If you ask a poll worker they should be able to provide you with a large-print or braille list of candidates, tactile and braille voting templates, magnifiers, large-grip pencils and voting screens that let in more light.

The right to a private ballot

 

An issue Lepofsky says is harder to address is maintaining the right to a private ballot for people who are blind or partly blind.

“We have never had that right. We have had to either have somebody else mark our ballot for us, which means you have to tell someone else — a trusted friend or a public official — who you’re voting for,” he said.

“People without disabilities take this right for granted because they don’t even have to think about it.”

David Lepofsky, the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says people who are blind or partly blind have never had the right to mark and independently verify their own ballot in federal elections.

Elections Canada told CBC News in an email that the secrecy of those votes are maintained by the oaths taken by those who assist them.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector. It’s always done in the presence of a witness. If the elector requests assistance from someone they know, that person is required to sign an oath before they provide assistance,” said Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.

But Lepofsky says he believes the process still amounts to a systemic denial for people with disabilities to mark and verify a ballot on their own.

There are ways to ensure they can vote in private and to verify their choice, he says, but the federal government and Elections Canada have not applied those in this election.

More accessible voting methods

 

One of Lepofsky’s suggestions is to introduce more accessible ways of voting, like telephone voting. This method would allow electors to call in to vote and has been used in provincial elections across Canada.

In B.C., assisted telephone voting is available to voters who are blind, or who have a disability or underlying health condition that prevents them from voting on their own. It was also made available during the 2020 provincial election for people who had to self-isolate during the last week of the campaign period because of a positive COVID-19 test or exposure.

Introducing new technology and voting methods into federal elections raises security and accuracy concerns.

Aleksander Essex, an associate professor of software engineering at Western University in London, Ont., specializes in voting technology. He doesn’t recommend phone voting, he says, because of what he has seen in Ontario municipal elections that use the method.

He says there were instances where the call would drop, leading to more problems.

“The voter would call back and they would say, ‘Well, sorry, you can’t vote because you’ve already voted.’ So they had to go back and sort of work with the city to literally pull the vote out of the telephone system to have it reset.”

He acknowledges that methods like online voting could also reduce barriers, but he says the security risks outweigh the benefits.

“We can’t make this a zero-sum game between accessibility and cybersecurity. We have to have both.”

Lepofsky also mentioned that accessible voting machines are used in some places, but that they have had problems with reliability in the past.

Elections Canada says the voting methods used by Canadians are prescribed in the Canada Elections Act. Changes to the way votes are cast would require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change.

“I don’t believe that we need to just accept the status quo, replete with disability barriers or do nothing,” said Lepofsky.



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Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots – 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/

Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots

September 14, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s September 20, 2021 election is just six days away. We have been trying very hard to get the media to cover this election’s disability issues, especially as they relate to the requirement in the Accessible Canada Act that Canada become accessible by 2040. It should be extremely newsworthy that only one of the federal party leaders has even answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 specific commitments regarding disability accessibility.

As we have found in past elections, it is very hard to get the media to cover this election issue. This is so, even though major media outlets devote a great deal of time and space to election issues. Of course, the accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance has concentrated is only one of several important disability issues in this election.

In this Update, we share three recent news reports:

  • CTV News Online on September 9, 2021
  • The September 13, 2021 report by the Canadian Press, published in different media, including that date’s Chat News Today. This article was picked up by a number of other news outlets, like the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, but the Star and Globe edited out its references to the party leaders who have not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 request for election pledges on accessibility.

In addition to that coverage, CTV’s September 8, 2021 national “Your Morning”, included a six -minute interview on the federal election’s disability issues. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed, as well as accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi. This interview is now available with captions at https://youtu.be/ZJ6yEOvOm8I We are tweeting this interview to as many candidates as possible during the federal election. We invite you to share it with candidates, voters and anyone else. Use email, social media or any other way you can to circulate it. If you want to see the names, email address and Twitter handles for as many of the candidates as our volunteers could dig up, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-federal-Election-Candidates-Final-List.docx

To date, we have not found CBC covering the election’s disability issues. We have reached out to CBC among many other media organizations.

One of the 12 commitments we have sought from the parties relates to making federal elections accessible to voters with disabilities. As with all of our requests, none of the parties have answered except the NDP. In the meantime, mail-in ballots have become much, much more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mail-in ballot system operated by Elections Canada is quite substantially inaccessible to voters with certain disabilities such as vision loss or dyslexia. Two of the articles set out below address this obvious barrier.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, himself totally blind, used the mail-in ballot. He tweeted about its inaccessibility. Elections Canada heard about these tweets and tweeted to David Lepofsky. David Lepofsky then responded to Elections Canada on Twitter. These tweets are all set out below.

MORE DETAILS

Sept 11 and 12 2021 tweets on accessibility of mail in votes by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

September 11, 2021

David Lepofsky: I voted by mail to avoid COVID-19 danger. Canada’s mail-in ballot is inaccessible to #blind voters like me. I can’t mark my ballot independently in private & verify my choice. This violates the Charter of Rights & Canada Human Rights Act. #elxn44 #CRPD

September 12, 2021

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

Elections Canda: @DavidLepofsky You can find the contact information for your local office here: https://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20 (3/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: Not ideal? The mail-in ballot process is totally inaccessible to #blind people like me. That’s much more than “not ideal”! #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #elxn55

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I don’t want any election officials seeing who I vote for. That violates the secret ballot. #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I did not go to the polling station, in order to avoid unnecessary exposure. My wife, who would come with me, has a compromised immune system #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

 CTV News September 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/canadians-with-disabilities-say-they-re-missing-from-the-election-discussion-1.5577558

 

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion

Jeremiah Rodriguez

CTVNews.ca Writer

@jererodriguezzz

TORONTO — Federal party leaders aren’t listening enough to the concerns of disabled Canadians, advocates say. They say key priorities missing from campaign pledges include equitable emergency relief, stronger housing, and workplace polices that address all types of disabilities.

Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, said this lack of scope boils down to a “lack of understanding of what systemic ableism looks like.”

“Nothing is prioritized by the government unless there’s people campaigning behind it,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

She said this could be partially addressed by having more disabled candidates running for office or being key parts of campaign decision-making. Jama said people in power don’t always make appreciate just how many Canadians have some form of a disability.

Disabled people make up approximately 22 per cent of Canada’s entire population. And between 62 and 75 per cent of people with disabilities have disabilities which aren’t immediately apparent, such as deafness, blindness or autism.

One of the biggest issues that Jama says hasn’t received enough attention during this campaign is overhauling care for vulnerable people who currently receive care at home or live in long-term care homes.

Jama said she likes the NDP’s platform commitments to end the private long-term care home system, but wants to see the next government go even beyond that.

“We need to reimagine what long-term care looks like in Canada,” she said. She said she wishes party leaders put forth policies that give vulnerable people more affordable options to receive care at home, keeping them out of long-term care facilities.

Jama also said “it’s also embarrassing” that Canada doesn’t yet have universal pharmacare, and that she wishes all parties agreed that it was essential, especially for people with disabilities.

Both the NDP and the Greens have advocated for a national pharmacare program that would provide prescription drug coverage for all Canadians and permanent residents. And while the Liberals have spent the past few years saying they’re moving forward on pharmacare, their platform only notes existing progress on the file, including the signing of the first provincial-territorial agreement to accelerate its implementation. The Conservatives haven’t endorsed a national pharmacare plan but, in their platform, they promise to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug prices.

Jama also called for more concrete provisions for disabled people during natural disasters, to ensure they’re prioritized during evacuations.

Many disability advocates have also been critical of recent expansion of access to medical assistance in dying (MAID). They argue that instead of making it easier for disabled people to die, the government should be working to make workplaces and housing more functional for them.

Jama says she supports the parts of the Conservative platform around strengthening protections for disabled people when it comes to MAID, including reinstating the 10-day waiting period, to ensure decisions aren’t made at people’s lowest point. No other major party references further adjustments to MAID in its platform.

ACCESIBILITY TO HOUSING, WORKPLACES TOO MUCH AN ‘AFTERTHOUGHT’

Thea Kurdi, vice president of DesignABLE Environments INC, told CTV’s Your Morning that the situation for disabled people is “much worse than non-disabled people suspect.”

She said accessibility in housing or workplace policies is too often treated as an “afterthought,” instead of a priority aligning with Canada’s commitments to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kurdi said that too often, although wheelchair access is prioritized, spaces aren’t also made to be truly accessible to deaf, blind or autistic people. Making spaces accessible for visually-impaired people for example, can mean ensuring braille materials or screen-reading software are available; and, for people with hearing concerns, ensuring there are clear fonts in materials and phone or video relay services.

Jama said any parties’ affordable housing policies must address accessibility concerns but only the Greens and NDP have explicitly connected the two.

The Greens are calling for housing developments receiving federal funding to ensure that 30 per cent of all units are affordable and/or available to people with disabilities. The NDP has advocated for accessibility in housing as well.

The Liberals’ platform says only that affordable housing should keep people with disabilities in mind, while the Conservatives haven’t explicitly linked housing and accessibility in their platform.

ACCESSIBLE CANADA ACT STILL TOO WEAK: ADVOCATE

David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said people with disabilities were left out of decision-making throughout the pandemic, including when it came to recovery programs and vaccine prioritization.

“We’ve disproportionately suffered the consequences of the pandemic, and disproportionately been left out of the proper planning for urgent needs during the pandemic,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. He cited the federal government’s one-time payment took months to get to recipients.

Lepofsky also said that the Accessible Canada Act, which passed two years ago, is still far too weak because it doesn’t include enforceable regulations nor adequate compensation for victims of discrimination.

“We’ve written all the parties to ask them if they will strengthen and offered 12 ways to make things better,” said Lepofsky. Only the NDP responded and pledged to make many of the commitments, he said.

Lepofsky said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau– who promised ambitious implementation of the act – and his government have been “dragging their feet.”

As for Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, he hasn’t pledged to make any of the commitments put forth by Lepofsky’s advocacy group — despite the fact that during parliamentary debates in 2018, his party said it would strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if the Liberals didn’t.

“We’re not partisan. We want all of the party leaders to make those commitments,” he said.

 Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

 

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, for ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

 CTV News September 6, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/mail-in-ballots-still-inaccessible-for-blind-voters-advocates-say-1.5575148

Mail-in ballots still inaccessible for blind voters, advocates say

Alexandra Mae Jones

CTVNews.ca

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

TORONTO — The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is calling on the government to do more for blind Canadians, pointing out that the Special Ballot to vote by mail is useless to blind voters unless they gain aid from a sighted person, impeding their right to vote in secret.

In a press release Friday, the organization said it was time to fix the discrimination that leaves out these voters, saying they expected more since this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which aiming to introduce more legislation to aid those with disabilities.

“Due to the pandemic, there are voters who want to vote by mail,” the release stated. “For blind voters, for whom print is a barrier, the mail-in Special Ballot, which is a printed paper ballot, is proving problematic.”

Since ballots need to be filled out exactly in order to be counted, a blind voter would need the assistance of a sighted person to verify that they had filled out the ballot correctly.

“The inaccessible Special Ballot robs blind voters of the right to vote in secret, which is a key principle of democracy,” the release states.

The release added that the requirement to upload scanned identification to register for mail-in ballots online also requires a blind voter to seek help from a sighted person, and that there is no information about candidates in Braille at advance polls.

“We have been hearing that the mail-in ballot process is not one that can be negotiated independently by all blind voters,” Heather Walkus, CCD 1st vice chair, stated in the release. “As this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which promised no new barriers, this is all very disappointing. Blind voters were expecting to finally exercise their franchise in secret this election the same as other voters.”

Elections Canada said in an email statement to CTVNews.ca that they are “committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.”

They said that among the accessibility services they offer, they have sign language interpretation and have redesigned the ballot to improve readability for people who use screen readers.

Elections Canada added that they have a number of tools and services for voting in person, such as large-print candidates lists on advance polling and election days, and Braille lists of candidates on election day. There are also Braille voting templates available on advance polling and election days, they stated.

“We recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for electors who are unable to mark their own ballot,” the statement continued. “Instead of voting by mail, electors who need help marking their ballot may contact their local Elections Canada office to make an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer, who will complete their registration and mark their ballot on their behalf.”

This does not address the issue of voters being entitled to a secret voting process, CCD pointed out. The CCD release stated that they have been calling for other methods to vote for years, such as adding the ability to vote through accessible voting machines and electronic voting.

“We are not seeking an end to the paper ballot, but the addition of accessible voting options so that all voters can exercise their franchise independently and in secret,” Walkus said.

The Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019, was intended to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for disabled Canadians. It did not specifically include promises for making the voting process more accessible.



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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040? – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

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

For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

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

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

 

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

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

 

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

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

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

 

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

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government—every budget, every policy and regulation—should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.

 



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Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities – 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/

Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities

September 3, 2021

        SUMMARY

The Ford Government’s plan to require vaccination passports starting September 22, 2021 to access certain places is an important step to get as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated. However, it is very important that this new vaccination passport requirement and system not create any new barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario. This can be achieved if the Ford Government shows strong leadership, and takes the steps outlined here as a swift and clear priority.

As it is, people with disabilities face far too many disability barriers when seeking goods, services facilities and jobs. It is good that the Government’s introductory announcement plans for an exemption for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. The Ford Government’s September 1, 2021 news release included:

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.

This general statement, while helpful, does not protect people with disabilities from the creation of new barriers. Before this vaccination passport requirement goes into effect, the Ontario Government must immediately put in place several important measures to ensure that the Government creates no new disability barriers. While this requires further exploration, we know that the following is absolutely necessary:

  1. Any mobile app for vaccine passports must be designed and tested to ensure it is fully accessible to adaptive technology for smart phone users with disabilities, such as screen readers. The Federal Government did not do so for its COVID-19-related smart phone ArriveCan app for entering Canada.
  1. The Ontario Government must make available an easily-accessed alternative hard copy document to a smart phone app for vaccine passports. Too many people cannot afford smart phones, including many people with disabilities (who disproportionately live in poverty).
  1. It is not sufficient for the Government to impose the burden on those individuals with disabilities, who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, to get a letter from their physician. This is especially a hardship if it needs to be accomplished in under three weeks.

As it is, well before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, people with disabilities have faced far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system. The initial report of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee documents this in detail. The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to that Standards Development Committee amplifies its concerns. Disability barriers in the health care system got considerably worse during the pandemic. See generally, the AODA Alliance website’s health care page and COVID-19 page.

Some people with disabilities have no doctor to give them an exemption letter. For those who do have a doctor, getting to a doctor can involve disability barriers. The Government has not announced that it is going to pay doctors to provide those letters. We fear that doctors will be even harder to reach if flooded with requests for vaccine exemption letters.

As a result, the Ford Government should immediately provide a vaccine exemption passport for people with disabilities who are medically unable to get the vaccine. The process for obtaining these passports should be ensured to be free of disability barriers. The Ford Government’s related record is not good. To apply for a replacement for one’s expired health care card, one can use a Government website and avoid going to a Service Ontario office, but only if one has a driver’s license. This is an obvious barrier for people with disabilities who cannot qualify for a driver’s license, such as blind people.

  1. The Ontario Government’s problematic roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine over the past months included real problems facing some people with disabilities who wanted to get vaccinated. The Government did not include in its roll-out plans for the start a comprehensive plan to ensure that there was a barrier-free way for people with disabilities to get vaccinated.

While more vaccination opportunities now exist, the Government needs to now put in place a swift, pro-active, accessible and comprehensive strategy for people with disabilities needing and wanting the vaccine, to get swift, barrier-free and ready access to vaccination

  1. Public protections need to be put in place for any vulnerable people with disabilities for whom a substitute decision-maker is in place, to address situations where the substitute decision-maker has refused to let a person with a disability for whom they are responsible get vaccinated, in circumstances where there is no medical justification for that refusal.

People with disabilities have disproportionally suffered the worst hardships of the pandemic. It is essential that this understandable new passport requirement not make things worse for any people with disabilities.

As our AODA Alliance Updates have documented, time and again the Ford Government has failed to effectively accommodate the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. Time and again, we and others from the disability community have come forward with constructive proposals to fix this.

Overall, the Ford Government has a poor track record, when it comes to achieving accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. We commend CTV news for focusing on this vaccine passport disability this issue, and for including it in a news report on August 31, 2021, set out below.

        MORE DETAILS

CTV News August 31, 2021

Originally posted at: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/how-will-vaccine-passport-system-work-in-ontario-for-people-without-cellphones-1.5568573

How will vaccine passport system work in Ontario for people without cellphones?

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Video Journalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates are cautioning a headlong rush into implementing a vaccine passport using only smartphone apps — warning it could leave the elderly, the poor or the homeless out in the cold.

Angie Peters of the Yonge St. Mission said designing a vaccine passport to work for disadvantaged people has to be as creative and motivated as the push to get those people vaccines was.

“They may have a cellphone but need to print it because technology is fleeting for them. They have a cellphone this month, but not next month,” she said.

And the solution of a printed out code may also not solve all the problems, Peters said.

“If they have a printer, they may not be able to afford the ink. There are people that we work with that lose their ID, they get rolled on the street regularly. If they’re keeping a printed card, it’s going to get lost and it’s going to have to get replaced, just like other ID on a regular basis,” she said.

It all could add up to a barrier that could result in properly vaccinated people denied entry for factors other than just vaccination, she said.

The Ontario government is expected to introduce some form of vaccine passport this week after calls from the medical community that checking vaccine status at the door could prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside any non-essential venues.

The business community has pushed for a vaccine passport, reasoning that it would lead to more business to be done if capacity limits could be raised safely.

But for those without cellphones, with older cellphones, or those who would have a more difficult time navigating the steps to prove that they are vaccinated, this could be a major headache, said David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance.

If there’s any reason why someone with a disability couldn’t get the passport, they would need an alternative passport, he said, pointing to people for whom there could be medical exemptions from vaccination.

“We don’t want this to become a long-term thing that could be used against people when the health situation has changed so it should be very time-limited and circumstance-dependent,” he said.

In Manitoba, an immunization card alternative has proved so popular that the government ran out of plastic to print it on.

In Quebec and in B.C.’s planned card, printing the code onto paper is an option as the readers can read the QR codes just as well from paper as from a screen.



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New Federal Liberal Party Platform Offers None of the Commitments on Disability Accessibility that the AODA Alliance Requested


The New Democratic Party Added One Requested Commitment in Its Response to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

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: aoda[email protected]
Twitter: @aodaalliance
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

September 2, 2021

SUMMARY

Here’s a rapid response to announcements we learned of yesterday by the federal Liberal and New Democratic Parties regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

The three major parties mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms. This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need. No party leader has yet answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, seeking commitments on disability accessibility.

We encourage you to learn more about the federal parties’ disability commitments. Urge them to make the 12 accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance sought in its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders. Below we set out a summary of the commitments we seek.

We remind you that the AODA Alliance is non-partisan. We do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to get the strongest commitments we can get from all parties on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada.

We comment here only on party commitments addressing the issue of making Canada accessible for people with disabilities. This election has other important disability issues as well. We encourage a careful review of the party platforms on all issues important to people with disabilities.

1. The Liberal party of Canada

Yesterday, the Liberal Party of Canada released its full election platform. It includes a “Disability Statement.” Below we set out excerpts from the platform that make commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

On the accessibility issue, in substance this new platform includes little or nothing new that is positive. The Liberals make none of the 12 commitments that we requested in the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the federal party leaders. It mainly restates promises it made two years ago, in the 2019 election, promises it failed to keep. It also makes one new commitment that is a source of serious concern.

All federal parties had ample time to consider our requests. We also made 11 of the 12 requests in the 2019 election.

In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago, namely promising a disability lens on all Government decisions and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The Government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive. As AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote in his August 31, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers:

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility.

That column was written before the Liberal Party released its new September 1, 2021 platform document. We regret that nothing in that new platform document reduces the guest column’s concerns.

Making this worse, we are very concerned about the Liberal Party’s commitment to the “the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada.” “Harmonization” initially sounds great. Yet there is a real danger that this could lead accessibility standards across Canada being reduced to the lowest common denominator. That would hurt people with disabilities. The Liberal Party needs to immediately rescind this platform pledge.

New Democratic Party of Canada

Yesterday, the New Democratic Party of Canada sent the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) a response to its request for election commitments. We set it out below as well.

The New Democratic Party’s response to the Questions from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians makes one of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance requested of all the major political parties. It commits the NDP to:

ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

So far, the NDP commitments on accessibility are stronger than those from the other parties. However, the NDP commitments fall well short of what that party committed to us on the same issues two years ago in the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance during the 2019 federal election campaign. We have no idea why the NDP hasn’t gone as far in this election as it did in the last one.

It is not too late for all parties to do better before voting day.

What We Requested of the Federal Parties

Here is a summary of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its August 3, 2021 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years of the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act.

2. The ACA should be effectively enforced.

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

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

5. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.

6. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in one federal agency, not splintered among several of them.

7. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.

8. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.

9. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.

10. Federally controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.

11. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

12. Ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities. For More Background

For more background, check out:

* The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the major federal party leaders, seeking election commitments on tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities.
* The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release, explaining why it was wrong for the Federal Government to give up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hanssen Foundation for its problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.
* The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and its August 15, 2019 supplemental report that each details serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification and training program.
* The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties as of that date on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.
* As a helpful point of comparison, read the AODA Alliance’s October 17, 2019 issue-by-issue comparison of the commitments that the federal parties made in that election on disability accessibility.

MORE DETAILS

Excerpts from the Liberal Party of Canada September 1, 2021 Platform

1. a re-elected Liberal government will… Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the Disability Tax Credit, CPP-Disability and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges. (page 5)

2. a re-elected government will… Double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, to $20,000, putting up to $1,500 back in the of Canadians who need it. (page 17, helping seniors and people with disabilities live at home)

3. a re-elected Liberal government will…
Develop and implement an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. This strategy will be focused on supports for workers and employers and creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces. It will also include an investment in the Ready, Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Create a new stream of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS) to support 5000 opportunities a year for young people. This would help young Canadians with disabilities gain the skills, experience, and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market and build successful careers (page 39)

4. (from the Liberal Party Platform’s “Disability Statement”)

Moving forward, there is much more work to be done. A re-elected Liberal government will build on our previous investments through the implementation of the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, in consultation with the disability community.

The objectives of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan are to:

Improve the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities.

Contribute to the realization of a barrier-free Canada.

Improve access to federal programs and services for persons with disabilities and ensure that disability inclusion is considered in all government programs, policies, and services.

Foster a culture of inclusion and a shift away from attitudes of disablism and discrimination.

As part of our Disability Inclusion Action Plan, a re-elected Liberal government will re-introduce and implement the Canada Disability Benefit Act, which will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities ages 18-64. This will reduce poverty amongst persons with disabilities in the same way the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit have reduced poverty among seniors and families with children.

A Liberal Government will also develop and implement an employment strategy focused on supports for workers and employers, creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces, and building business disability confidence.

This strategy will include an investment in the Opportunities Fund and the Ready Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support employment for persons with disabilities.

We will also commit to making permanent funding to support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities so that more Canadians are able to fully participate in these activities.

We will proceed with the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act and the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada. We will work across federal departments and agencies to uniformly adopt the definition of disability in the Accessible Canada Act. We will adopt a consistent approach to disability inclusion across the federal government. We will put a disability lens on decision making. This will specifically include our child care and infrastructure commitments. We will assume a more prominent role within the international disability inclusion community.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will build on the foundational work to date to support persons with disabilities in the post-pandemic recovery, by continuing to build back better, for everyone.
Response of the New Democratic Party of Canada to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
1. It is well recognized that there are barriers in Canadian society that people with disabilities are facing on a daily basis. People who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted face barriers such as transportation accessibility, access to the built environment and access to print materials. What is your party prepared to do to reduce and eliminate these barriers?

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

We will make sure that the federal government is a leader in removing barriers, applying a disability lens to government decisions, policies, and regulations, and ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

2. Since many Canadians were eligible for the CERB (up to $38,000), and disabled Canadians receiving the Disability Tax Credit were given a paltry one-time payment of $600, what is your party prepared to do to reduce the chronic level of poverty among blind, deafblind, partially sighted and otherwise disabled Canadians? If elected, when can we expect this to happen?

Far too many Canadians living with disabilities are living in poverty. The Liberals have been promising a new Canada Disability Benefit since 2020, but with no plan to implement the benefit before 2024. Then they chose to cynically introduce Bill C-35, a bill that provides no details on benefit amount or eligibility and no timeline, right before the legislature adjourned for the summer, knowing full well the bill would never be debated.

An NDP government will not play politics with the livelihood of people living with disabilities. An NDP government will move quickly to lift all persons living with a disability above the poverty line as part of our plan to build towards a basic guaranteed livable income for all Canadians. We will not make people with disabilities wait three years to receive an unknown amount of money but will take action immediately.

3. Many medical devices are currently not usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians. Will your party require Health Canada to approve only devices that are usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians? Will you commit to working with the provinces and territories to ensure all prescription and other healthcare information is made accessible?
New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and apply a disability lens to all of the decisions, policies, and programs of the federal government, including regulatory decisions. We will also apply this same lens to negotiations and management of shared programs with the provinces and territories to ensure that we are doing everything we can to remove barriers and promote full inclusion of people living with disabilities.

4. As you know, job creation and “building back better” are major preoccupations for Canadians and, as you are aware, our community suffers from an approximate unemployment rate of 75%, what is your party prepared to do to increase the level of employment for those of us who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted?

The many barriers to employment that still exist are one reason why so many Canadians with disabilities are living in poverty. An NDP government will work to dismantle barriers and expand employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to ensure that accessibility is real, meaningful, and enforced. Finally, we will invest in training programs that will help workers with disabilities gain the skills they need to find employment.

5. The National Housing Strategy requires that a mere 20% of new housing starts be accessible. As this is woefully inadequate, given the fact that our population is aging, by how much is your party committed to increasing this target?

Far too many Canadians don’t have access to affordable, accessible housing. But under the Liberal government, funding for affordable housing for low income Canadians has been declining and very few new homes have actually been built. An NDP government will get to work immediately to construct, repair, and preserve 1.7 million homes over the next decade. This will include investments in new, affordable, accessible housing for people living with disabilities and seniors in communities across the country. It will also include repairs to existing homes to make them more accessible and energy-efficient. We will also support innovative solutions for people living with disabilities and seniors such as co-housing.




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New Federal Liberal Party Platform Offers None of the Commitments on Disability Accessibility that the AODA Alliance Requested – The New Democratic Party Added One Requested Commitment in Its Response to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians


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/

New Federal Liberal Party Platform Offers None of the Commitments on Disability Accessibility that the AODA Alliance Requested – The New Democratic Party Added One Requested Commitment in Its Response to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

September 2, 2021

        SUMMARY

Here’s a rapid response to announcements we learned of yesterday by the federal Liberal and New Democratic Parties regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

The three major parties mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms. This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need. No party leader has yet answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, seeking commitments on disability accessibility.

We encourage you to learn more about the federal parties’ disability commitments. Urge them to make the 12 accessibility pledges that the AODA Alliance sought in its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders. Below we set out a summary of the commitments we seek.

We remind you that the AODA Alliance is non-partisan. We do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We aim to get the strongest commitments we can get from all parties on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities in Canada.

We comment here only on party commitments addressing the issue of making Canada accessible for people with disabilities. This election has other important disability issues as well. We encourage a careful review of the party platforms on all issues important to people with disabilities.

1. The Liberal party of Canada

Yesterday, the Liberal Party of Canada released its full election platform. It includes a “Disability Statement.” Below we set out excerpts from the platform that make commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities.

On the accessibility issue, in substance this new platform includes little or nothing new that is positive. The Liberals make none of the 12 commitments that we requested in the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the federal party leaders. It mainly restates promises it made two years ago, in the 2019 election, promises it failed to keep. It also makes one new commitment that is a source of serious concern.

All federal parties had ample time to consider our requests. We also made 11 of the 12 requests in the 2019 election.

In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago, namely promising a disability lens on all Government decisions and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The Government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive. As AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote in his August 31, 2021 guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland newspapers:

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility.

That column was written before the Liberal Party released its new September 1, 2021 platform document. We regret that nothing in that new platform document reduces the guest column’s concerns.

Making this worse, we are very concerned about the Liberal Party’s commitment to the “the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada.” “Harmonization” initially sounds great. Yet there is a real danger that this could lead accessibility standards across Canada being reduced to the lowest common denominator. That would hurt people with disabilities. The Liberal Party needs to immediately rescind this platform pledge.

New Democratic Party of Canada

Yesterday, the New Democratic Party of Canada sent the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) a response to its request for election commitments. We set it out below as well.

The New Democratic Party’s response to the Questions from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians makes one of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance requested of all the major political parties. It commits the NDP to:

… ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

So far, the NDP commitments on accessibility are stronger than those from the other parties. However, the NDP commitments fall well short of what that party committed to us on the same issues two years ago in the NDP’s September 16, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance during the 2019 federal election campaign. We have no idea why the NDP hasn’t gone as far in this election as it did in the last one.

It is not too late for all parties to do better before voting day.

What We Requested of the Federal Parties

Here is a summary of the 12 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its August 3, 2021 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years of the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  1. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in one federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.
  1. Ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities.

For More Background

For more background, check out:

  • The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the major federal party leaders, seeking election commitments on tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities.
  • The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release, explaining why it was wrong for the Federal Government to give up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hanssen Foundation for its problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.
  • The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and its August 15, 2019 supplemental report that each details serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification and training program.
  • The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties as of that date on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.
  • As a helpful point of comparison, read the AODA Alliance’s October 17, 2019 issue-by-issue comparison of the commitments that the federal parties made in that election on disability accessibility.

        MORE DETAILS

 Excerpts from the Liberal Party of Canada September 1, 2021 Platform

  1. a re-elected Liberal government will… Undertake a comprehensive review of access to the Disability Tax Credit, CPP-Disability and other federal benefits and programs to ensure they are available to people experiencing mental health challenges. (page 5)
  1. a re-elected government will… Double the Home Accessibility Tax Credit, to $20,000, putting up to $1,500 back in the of Canadians who need it. (page 17, helping seniors and people with disabilities live at home)
  1. a re-elected Liberal government will…
  • Develop and implement an employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities. This strategy will be focused on supports for workers and employers and creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces. It will also include an investment in the Ready, Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Create a new stream of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program (YESS) to support 5000 opportunities a year for young people. This would help young Canadians with disabilities gain the skills, experience, and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market and build successful careers (page 39)
  1. (from the Liberal Party Platform’s “Disability Statement”)

Moving forward, there is much more work to be done. A re-elected Liberal government will build on our previous investments through the implementation of the first-ever Disability Inclusion Action Plan, in consultation with the disability community.

The objectives of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan are to:

Improve the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities.

Contribute to the realization of a barrier-free Canada.

Improve access to federal programs and services for persons with disabilities and ensure that disability inclusion is considered in all government programs, policies, and services.

Foster a culture of inclusion and a shift away from attitudes of disablism and discrimination.

As part of our Disability Inclusion Action Plan, a re-elected Liberal government will re-introduce and implement the Canada Disability Benefit Act, which will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities ages 18-64. This will reduce poverty amongst persons with disabilities in the same way the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit have reduced poverty among seniors and families with children.

A Liberal Government will also develop and implement an employment strategy focused on supports for workers and employers, creating inclusive and welcoming workplaces, and building business disability confidence.

This strategy will include an investment in the Opportunities Fund and the Ready Willing and Able inclusive hiring program to support employment for persons with disabilities.

We will also commit to making permanent funding to support services that ensure equitable access to reading and other published works for Canadians with print disabilities so that more Canadians are able to fully participate in these activities.

We will proceed with the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act and the harmonization of accessibility standards across Canada. We will work across federal departments and agencies to uniformly adopt the definition of “disability” in the Accessible Canada Act. We will adopt a consistent approach to disability inclusion across the federal government. We will put a disability lens on decision making. This will specifically include our child care and infrastructure commitments. We will assume a more prominent role within the international disability inclusion community.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will build on the foundational work to date to support persons with disabilities in the post-pandemic recovery, by continuing to build back better, for everyone.

Response of the New Democratic Party of Canada to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

  1. It is well recognized that there are barriers in Canadian society that people with disabilities are facing on a daily basis. People who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted face barriers such as transportation accessibility, access to the built environment and access to print materials. What is your party prepared to do to reduce and eliminate these barriers?

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

We will make sure that the federal government is a leader in removing barriers, applying a disability lens to government decisions, policies, and regulations, and ensuring that all government spending, whether it is on infrastructure, transfer payments, research grants, or contracts, neither creates nor perpetuates barriers for people living with disabilities.

  1. Since many Canadians were eligible for the CERB (up to $38,000), and disabled Canadians receiving the Disability Tax Credit were given a paltry one-time payment of $600, what is your party prepared to do to reduce the chronic level of poverty among blind, deafblind, partially sighted and otherwise disabled Canadians? If elected, when can we expect this to happen?

Far too many Canadians living with disabilities are living in poverty. The Liberals have been promising a new Canada Disability Benefit since 2020, but with no plan to implement the benefit before 2024. Then they chose to cynically introduce Bill C-35, a bill that provides no details on benefit amount or eligibility and no timeline, right before the legislature adjourned for the summer, knowing full well the bill would never be debated.

An NDP government will not play politics with the livelihood of people living with disabilities. An NDP government will move quickly to lift all persons living with a disability above the poverty line as part of our plan to build towards a basic guaranteed livable income for all Canadians. We will not make people with disabilities wait three years to receive an unknown amount of money but will take action immediately.

  1. Many medical devices are currently not usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians. Will your party require Health Canada to approve only devices that are usable by blind, deafblind and partially sighted Canadians? Will you commit to working with the provinces and territories to ensure all prescription and other healthcare information is made accessible?

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and apply a disability lens to all of the decisions, policies, and programs of the federal government, including regulatory decisions. We will also apply this same lens to negotiations and management of shared programs with the provinces and territories to ensure that we are doing everything we can to remove barriers and promote full inclusion of people living with disabilities.

  1. As you know, job creation and “building back better” are major preoccupations for Canadians and, as you are aware, our community suffers from an approximate unemployment rate of 75%, what is your party prepared to do to increase the level of employment for those of us who are blind, deafblind or partially sighted?

The many barriers to employment that still exist are one reason why so many Canadians with disabilities are living in poverty. An NDP government will work to dismantle barriers and expand employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. We will uphold the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to ensure that accessibility is real, meaningful, and enforced. Finally, we will invest in training programs that will help workers with disabilities gain the skills they need to find employment.

  1. The National Housing Strategy requires that a mere 20% of new housing starts be accessible. As this is woefully inadequate, given the fact that our population is aging, by how much is your party committed to increasing this target?

Far too many Canadians don’t have access to affordable, accessible housing. But under the Liberal government, funding for affordable housing for low income Canadians has been declining and very few new homes have actually been built. An NDP government will get to work immediately to construct, repair, and preserve 1.7 million homes over the next decade. This will include investments in new, affordable, accessible housing for people living with disabilities and seniors in communities across the country. It will also include repairs to existing homes to make them more accessible and energy-efficient. We will also support innovative solutions for people living with disabilities and seniors such as co-housing.



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After Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters


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/

August 30, 2021

SUMMARY

Will it ever end? Now It’s London Ontario that is considering the possibility of legalizing electric scooters (e-scooters). Due to the Ford Government, we must fight this battle in one city after the next. It was the Ford Government that gave municipalities the power to allow e-scooters. Premier Ford ignored all disability concerns and acted instead at the behest of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

With this issue now rearing its ugly head in London Ontario, the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates are now hitting the ground running, in an effort to avert this danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others who live in or visit London. On Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at noon, this issue is an agenda item on the City of London’s Civic Works Committee. The AODA Alliance is one of the disability organizations that have sent in written submissions to that Committee, asking London to say no to e-scooters. The AODA Alliance’s August 27, 2021 brief to the London Civic Works Committee is set out below.

We understand that London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee has commendably recommended that London say no to e-scooters. Earlier this year, the AODA Alliance and several other disability organizations and advocates convinced the Toronto City Council to unanimously say no to e-scooters. We are now trying to convince London to do the same thing, without burdening people with disabilities with the hardship of having to mount another hard-fought campaign to protect our safety and accessibility. We need London City Council to stand up for people with disabilities, seniors and others, and to stand up to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

We have asked London’s Civic Works Committee to allow for a deputation by the AODA Alliance at its August 31, 2021 meeting. We understand that no final votes on the e-scooters issue are expected at that meeting.

You can watch the August 31, 2021 London Civic Works Committee meeting live-streamed on Youtube on the City of London’s Youtube stream at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmRugRQ2sUo

For more details on the battle that people with disabilities have fought in Ontario over the past two years to avert the danger that e-scooters pose for them, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

Riding Electric Scooters in London is Dangerous and Must Remain Banned — AODA Alliance brief to the City of London Civic Works Committee August 27, 2021
Via email: [email protected]

On its agenda for its August 31, 2021 meeting, the Civic Works Committee of London City Council has an agenda item regarding the possibility of allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in the City of London. The AODA Alliance submits this brief to London’s Civic Works Committee on that agenda item, and requests an opportunity to make a presentation or deputation at that meeting via whatever virtual platform is being used.

In summary, London City Council must not unleash dangerous e-scooters in London. Riding e-scooters in public places in London is now banned and remains banned unless City Council legalizes them.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters. To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit its e-scooters web page.

The AODA Alliance strongly commends the London Accessibility Advisory Committee for recommending that e-scooters should not be allowed in London. The AODA Alliance asks the City of London Civic Works Committee to follow that advice, and to recommend the following:

1. London should not permit the use of e-scooters, and should not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters.

2. If the City of London is going to explore the possibility of allowing e-scooters, e-scooters should not be permitted if they present any risk to the health or safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children or others, or if they are prone to create new accessibility barriers that would impede people with disabilities within London.

3. At the very least, if this issue is not simply taken right off the table, before proceeding any further, City staff should investigate the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. A public consultation on that issue should be held, beyond a purely online digital survey form.

London should benefit from the extensive and commendable work done on this issue in Toronto. This past spring, Toronto City Council voted unanimously not to allow e-scooters, after very extensive consideration of the issue. Toronto City Staff undertook the most thorough investigation of this issue of any Ontario municipality, as far as we have been able to discover.

An initial July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report, supplemented by a second February 2021 Toronto City Staff report, together amply show that e-scooters endanger public safety in communities that have permitted them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people cannot detect silent e-scooters that can accelerate at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for people with vision loss and an accessibility nightmare for wheelchair users.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The Toronto City Staff reports, referred to above, document the silent menace of e-scooters continuing to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. London would need police officers on every block. Toronto City Staff reported to Toronto City Council last summer that no city that allows e-scooters has gotten enforcement right.

E-scooters would cost taxpayers a great deal. This would include new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, and lawsuits by the injured. London has far more pressing budget priorities.

Especially with COVID still raging, London City Council should not be considering the legalization of dangerous e-scooters. In Toronto, a stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies had inundated City Hall with for months. The corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank, while injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital emergency rooms. That the Toronto City Council unanimously said no to e-scooters despite this massive corporate lobbying should signal to London how important it is to stand up for people with disabilities and others endangered by e-scooters.

London City Council should not conduct an e-scooter pilot. A pilot to study what? How many of people living in or visiting London will be injured? We already know they will, from cities that have allowed them. It would be immoral to subject people in London to a City-wide human experiment, especially without their consent, where they can get injured. The call for a “pilot project with e-scooters is just the corporate lobbyists’ ploy to try to get their foot firmly planted in the door, so it will be harder to later get rid of e-scooters.

London, like the rest of Ontario, already has too many disability barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires London and the rest of Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. To allow e-scooters would be to make things worse, not better, by creating new barriers impeding people with disabilities.

E-scooters create problems for businesses, as well as for people with disabilities. That is why Toronto’s Broadview Danforth BIA made an April 26, 2021 submission to the City of Toronto, set out below, that urged that e-scooters not be allowed. That BIA includes a part of Toronto that has similarities to downtown London.

Since we allow bikes, why not e-scooters? An e-scooter, unlike a bike, is a motor vehicle. As such, they should not be exempt from public safety regulations that apply to motor vehicles. A person who has never ridden an e-scooter can hop on one and instantly throttle up to race over 20 KPH. A person cannot instantly pedal a bike that fast, especially if they have never ridden a bike. In any event, London already has bikes. It does not need the dangers of e-scooters.

The July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

London should now call a stop to its exploration of e-scooters. Its residents with disabilities, its seniors and others should not have to mount an advocacy effort like the one that was necessary in Toronto to prevent the City from exposing its residents and visitors to the proven dangers that e-scooters pose. This is so especially while they along with all others must continue trying to cope with the pandemic.

Please make London easier and not harder for people with disabilities, seniors and others to get around. Protect those who need safe, accessible streets and sidewalks, not the interests of corporate lobbyists.

These references to banning e-scooters do not refer to the very different scooters that some people with disabilities use for mobility devices. Those mobility devices are now permitted and of course, should remain permitted.

Learn more about the dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, by visiting the AODA Alliance e-scooter web page and by watching the AODA Alliance’s short, captioned video on this issue. Read the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 detailed brief to Toronto City Council on e-scooters. Read the January 22, 2020 open letter to all municipalities and to Premier Doug Ford co-signed by 11 disability organization, that oppose e-scooters in Ontario.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org, by following @aodaalliance on Twitter, by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com or by emailing us at [email protected]

April 26, 2021 Written Submission to the City of Toronto by the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area

April 26, 2021

TO: Infrastructure and Environment Committee Clerk

FROM: The Broadview Danforth BIA

RE: Item: 1E21.7 Pilot Project: Electric Kick-Scooters

I’m writing on behalf of the 355 business members in the Broadview Danforth BIA to support the recommendation being made by the General Manager, Transportation Services to decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project for Electric Kick-Scooters. Our comments below can be shared with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting on April 28, 2021.

We have reviewed the components related to this proposed pilot project and have serious concerns that it would be very difficult to implement in a manner consistent with public safety and order.

Following a presentation made by Janet Lo from Transportation Services to BIAs, our key concerns are as follows:
Safety issues related to people with disabilities who use our sidewalks and wouldn’t be able to safely continue doing so if e-scooters were allowed on sidewalks.

Safety issues related to all people using sidewalks the potential of e-scooters being left on the sidewalks or tied to benches, tree guards etc. and falling over will lead to potential tripping hazards.

Lack of clarity on insurance coverage for riders, e-scooter rental companies and the general public who may be injured by e-scooter riders. Lack of City/police resources to enforce any kind of e-scooter laws. At the moment we have cyclists improperly using the roads and bike lanes and enforcement is almost non-existent. It’s impossible to believe that enforcement will be available for e-scooters. Our businesses are fighting for their survival during this pandemic and the last thing we need is for customers to feel unsafe using our sidewalks.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback on this issue.

Albert Stortchak
Board Chair
Broadview Danforth BIA




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After Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters


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/

After Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters

August 30, 2021

        SUMMARY

Will it ever end? Now It’s London Ontario that is considering the possibility of legalizing electric scooters (e-scooters). Due to the Ford Government, we must fight this battle in one city after the next. It was the Ford Government that gave municipalities the power to allow e-scooters. Premier Ford ignored all disability concerns and acted instead at the behest of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

With this issue now rearing its ugly head in London Ontario, the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates are now hitting the ground running, in an effort to avert this danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others who live in or visit London. On Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at noon, this issue is an agenda item on the City of London’s Civic Works Committee. The AODA Alliance is one of the disability organizations that have sent in written submissions to that Committee, asking London to say no to e-scooters. The AODA Alliance’s August 27, 2021 brief to the London Civic Works Committee is set out below.

We understand that London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee has commendably recommended that London say no to e-scooters. Earlier this year, the AODA Alliance and several other disability organizations and advocates convinced the Toronto City Council to unanimously say no to e-scooters. We are now trying to convince London to do the same thing, without burdening people with disabilities with the hardship of having to mount another hard-fought campaign to protect our safety and accessibility. We need London City Council to stand up for people with disabilities, seniors and others, and to stand up to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

We have asked London’s Civic Works Committee to allow for a deputation by the AODA Alliance at its August 31, 2021 meeting. We understand that no final votes on the e-scooters issue are expected at that meeting.

You can watch the August 31, 2021 London Civic Works Committee meeting live-streamed on Youtube on the City of London’s Youtube stream at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmRugRQ2sUo

For more details on the battle that people with disabilities have fought in Ontario over the past two years to avert the danger that e-scooters pose for them, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

Riding Electric Scooters in London is Dangerous and Must Remain Banned — AODA Alliance brief to the City of London Civic Works Committee

August 27, 2021

Via email: [email protected]

On its agenda for its August 31, 2021 meeting, the Civic Works Committee of London City Council has an agenda item regarding the possibility of allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in the City of London. The AODA Alliance submits this brief to London’s Civic Works Committee on that agenda item, and requests an opportunity to make a presentation or deputation at that meeting via whatever virtual platform is being used.

In summary, London City Council must not unleash dangerous e-scooters in London. Riding e-scooters in public places in London is now banned and remains banned unless City Council legalizes them.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters. To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit its e-scooters web page.

The AODA Alliance strongly commends the London Accessibility Advisory Committee for recommending that e-scooters should not be allowed in London. The AODA Alliance asks the City of London Civic Works Committee to follow that advice, and to recommend the following:

  1. London should not permit the use of e-scooters, and should not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters.
  1. If the City of London is going to explore the possibility of allowing e-scooters, e-scooters should not be permitted if they present any risk to the health or safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children or others, or if they are prone to create new accessibility barriers that would impede people with disabilities within London.
  1. At the very least, if this issue is not simply taken right off the table, before proceeding any further, City staff should investigate the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. A public consultation on that issue should be held, beyond a purely online digital survey form.

London should benefit from the extensive and commendable work done on this issue in Toronto. This past spring, Toronto City Council voted unanimously not to allow e-scooters, after very extensive consideration of the issue. Toronto City Staff undertook the most thorough investigation of this issue of any Ontario municipality, as far as we have been able to discover.

An initial July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report, supplemented by a second February 2021 Toronto City Staff report, together amply show that e-scooters endanger public safety in communities that have permitted them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people cannot detect silent e-scooters that can accelerate at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for people with vision loss and an accessibility nightmare for wheelchair users.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The Toronto City Staff reports, referred to above, document the silent menace of e-scooters continuing to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. London would need police officers on every block. Toronto City Staff reported to Toronto City Council last summer that no city that allows e-scooters has gotten enforcement right.

E-scooters would cost taxpayers a great deal. This would include new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, and lawsuits by the injured. London has far more pressing budget priorities.

Especially with COVID still raging, London City Council should not be considering the legalization of dangerous e-scooters. In Toronto, a stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies had inundated City Hall with for months. The corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank, while injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital emergency rooms. That the Toronto City Council unanimously said no to e-scooters despite this massive corporate lobbying should signal to London how important it is to stand up for people with disabilities and others endangered by e-scooters.

London City Council should not conduct an e-scooter pilot. A pilot to study what? How many of people living in or visiting London will be injured? We already know they will, from cities that have allowed them. It would be immoral to subject people in London to a City-wide human experiment, especially without their consent, where they can get injured. The call for a “pilot project with e-scooters is just the corporate lobbyists’ ploy to try to get their foot firmly planted in the door, so it will be harder to later get rid of e-scooters.

London, like the rest of Ontario, already has too many disability barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires London and the rest of Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. To allow e-scooters would be to make things worse, not better, by creating new barriers impeding people with disabilities.

E-scooters create problems for businesses, as well as for people with disabilities. That is why Toronto’s Broadview Danforth BIA made an April 26, 2021 submission to the City of Toronto, set out below, that urged that e-scooters not be allowed. That BIA includes a part of Toronto that has similarities to downtown London.

Since we allow bikes, why not e-scooters? An e-scooter, unlike a bike, is a motor vehicle. As such, they should not be exempt from public safety regulations that apply to motor vehicles. A person who has never ridden an e-scooter can hop on one and instantly throttle up to race over 20 KPH. A person cannot instantly pedal a bike that fast, especially if they have never ridden a bike. In any event, London already has bikes. It does not need the dangers of e-scooters.

The July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

London should now call a stop to its exploration of e-scooters. Its residents with disabilities, its seniors and others should not have to mount an advocacy effort like the one that was necessary in Toronto to prevent the City from exposing its residents and visitors to the proven dangers that e-scooters pose. This is so especially while they along with all others must continue trying to cope with the pandemic.

Please make London easier and not harder for people with disabilities, seniors and others to get around. Protect those who need safe, accessible streets and sidewalks, not the interests of corporate lobbyists.

These references to banning e-scooters do not refer to the very different scooters that some people with disabilities use for mobility devices. Those mobility devices are now permitted and of course, should remain permitted.

Learn more about the dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, by visiting the AODA Alliance e-scooter web page and by watching the AODA Alliance’s short, captioned video on this issue. Read the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 detailed brief to Toronto City Council on e-scooters. Read the January 22, 2020 open letter to all municipalities and to Premier Doug Ford co-signed by 11 disability organization, that oppose e-scooters in Ontario.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org, by following @aodaalliance on Twitter, by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com or by emailing us at [email protected].

April 26, 2021 Written Submission to the City of Toronto by the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area

April 26, 2021

TO: Infrastructure and Environment Committee Clerk

FROM: The Broadview Danforth BIA

RE: Item: 1E21.7 Pilot Project: Electric Kick-Scooters

I’m writing on behalf of the 355 business members in the Broadview Danforth BIA to support the recommendation being made by the General Manager, Transportation Services to decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project for Electric Kick-Scooters. Our comments below can be shared with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee — meeting on April 28, 2021.

We have reviewed the components related to this proposed pilot project and have serious concerns that it would be very difficult to implement in a manner consistent with public safety and order.

Following a presentation made by Janet Lo from Transportation Services to BIAs, our key concerns are as follows:

Safety issues related to people with disabilities who use our sidewalks and wouldn’t be able to safely continue doing so if e-scooters were allowed on sidewalks.

Safety issues related to all people using sidewalks — the potential of e-scooters being left on the sidewalks or tied to benches, tree guards etc. and falling over will lead to potential tripping hazards.

Lack of clarity on insurance coverage for riders, e-scooter rental companies and the general public who may be injured by e-scooter riders. Lack of City/police resources to enforce any kind of e-scooter laws. At the moment we have cyclists improperly using the roads and bike lanes and enforcement is almost non-existent. It’s impossible to believe that enforcement will be available for e-scooters. Our businesses are fighting for their survival during this pandemic and the last thing we need is for customers to feel unsafe using our sidewalks.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback on this issue.

Albert Stortchak

Board Chair

Broadview Danforth BIA



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What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million People with Disabilities? – 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/

What Do the Major Federal Political Parties Commit to Do in Their Published Election Platforms to Make Canada Accessible for Six Million People with Disabilities?

August 27, 2021

        SUMMARY

In the current federal election, what are the major national political parties promising to do, if elected, to make Canada accessible for people with disabilities? On August 3, 2021, we wrote the major parties to ask them to make 12 specific commitments. With less than a month left before voting day, none of the party leaders have written us back to make any commitments in response.

We have reviewed the publicly-posted platforms of the major national parties in this election to see if they make any commitments there on this issue. We set out below what we found. We emphasize that accessibility for people with disabilities is only one of the important disability issues in this federal election. The major national parties’ platforms have things to say on other issues that affect people with disabilities, beyond those excerpted below.

We will make public any commitments we receive in response to our requests. As always, we do not support or oppose any party or candidate. We urge all parties to make the commitments on disability accessibility that we seek.

The AODA Alliance is now tweeting as many federal candidates as we can to try to get them to make strong commitments on accessibility. Please follow @aodaalliance and @davidlepofsky on Twitter and retweet the tweets you find there. This will help put pressure on the candidates to make strong commitments.

2021 National Federal Parties’ Platform Key Excerpts on Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Liberal Party

More Accessible Workplaces and Schools

We will make it easier for people with disabilities to work or attend school.

Across Canada, nearly 650,000 people with disabilities have the potential to work or attend school, but aren’t able to do so because they don’t have access to the accommodations that would make this possible.

To help more people with disabilities go to school, enter the workforce, and join the middle class, we will move forward with a new $40 million per year national workplace accessibility fund, with a special focus on making small and medium-sized businesses more accessible. This fund will match costs with employers and schools, providing up to a combined $10,000 to cover the cost of an accommodation.

Employers and schools will continue to be required to meet their accessibility obligations under provincial and federal law. (Page 13)

New Democratic Party

Removing barriers for persons living with disabilities

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

To help tackle the unacceptable rate of poverty among Canadians living with a disability and ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive and live in dignity, we will expand income security programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income. While the Liberal government spends years talking about a new federal disability benefit, New Democrats will get to work immediately to deliver it.

When it comes to employment, everyone deserves a fair shot at a good job that fits their unique abilities. A New Democrat government will continue and expand employment programs to make sure that quality employment opportunities are available to all.

For Canadians facing a serious illness, we’ll make Employment Insurance work better by extending sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, and creating a pilot project to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as they need them.

Canadians living with disabilities shouldn’t need to worry about the cost of prescription medication, dental work, how to find housing, or how to get their mail. In addition to putting in place a universal, publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program that will offer full benefits to all Canadians, a New Democrat government will restore door-to door mail delivery for those who lost it under the Conservatives, and create affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.

Finally, we will work with Autistic Canadians to develop and implement a national Autism strategy that will coordinate support for research, ensure access to needs-based services, promote employment, and help expand housing options. (Page 62)

Conservative Party

Breaking Down Barriers for Canadians Living with Disabilities

One in five Canadians lives with a disability. They need our support – to live full lives and participate fully in society, including in the workforce. Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to break down the barriers faced by Canadians living with disabilities.

Doubling Disability Support in the Canada Workers Benefit

A disproportionate number of disabled Canadians are working part-time or for low wages.

  • Canada’s Conservatives will double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, providing a major boost to lower-income disabled Canadians on top of our increase in the Canada Workers Benefit. The most help will go to families where one member has a disability. We will help them achieve the security and financial independence they deserve.

Making Work Pay

Canada’s Conservatives will ensure that going to work never costs a disabled person money – as is too often the case today. The complex web of programs in place today means that someone can lose more than a dollar in benefit cuts and       higher taxes for every dollar they earn by working. This means               that for many disabled Canadians, the harder they work, the poorer they become.

This is simply wrong.

We will overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits to ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead. And we will work with the provinces to ensure that federal programs are designed to work with provincial programs to achieve this result.

This will augment the effect of our increase to the Canada Workers Benefit, which will help make work pay for disabled Canadians by boosting the        benefits of work.

Boosting the Enabling Accessibility Fund

We will  provide  an additional $80 million per year through the Enabling Accessibility Fund to provide:

  • Additional incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility.
  • Grants and support for all types of accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work.
  • Enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.

Making it Easier to Qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and Registered Disability Savings Plan

To give more Canadians with disabilities access to financial support, we will reduce the number of hours required to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan from 14 to 10 hours per week.

In 2017, Justin Trudeau took away the support that thousands of Canadians relied on when he changed how Canadians qualify for the Disability Tax Credit and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. To some, this credit was worth thousands of dollars. Conservatives joined diabetes advocates to successfully fight back against this tax grab.

Our changes will save a disabled person made eligible for the tax credit or their family an average of $2,100 per year. Making it easier to qualify for the tax credit will also make it easier to qualify for the RDSP, which provides up to $3,500 per year in matching grants for Canadians with disabilities. (Pages 135-136)



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