Help Us Make Information and Communication Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities — Please Tell the Ford Government If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Draft Recommendations to Improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Help Us Make Information and Communication Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities — Please Tell the Ford Government If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on that Committee’s Draft Recommendations to Improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

November 26, 2019

          SUMMARY

It’s finished and delivered! The AODA Alliance has submitted its final brief to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. In that brief we give that Committee our feedback on its July 24, 2019 draft recommendations for improving Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that was enacted under the (AODA).

Our detailed brief, which we set out below, includes all the content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on November 5, 2019. There has been minor editing and a small amount of additional material, thanks to the helpful feedback we received on that draft. Thanks to all who read our draft and offered their feedback.

Let’s build support for our cause. Help in a snap, by notifying the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief. We encourage individuals and disability organizations to do so. Even though the deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee has passed, nothing stops you from sending a short email stating your support. Write the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee at [email protected]

You could simply say: “I support the November 25, 2019 brief on the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

Here is a short summary of what we say in this brief. This is the summary that is also included in the brief itself.

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

If you want more background on this issue, you can explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Information and Communication Accessibility Standard enacted in Ontario by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/infoandcom/

Now 299 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report found that the Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA has been too weak. The Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

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

November 25, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

A. Introduction

1. Overview

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

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

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

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

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

This brief provides the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee with our feedback on the Committee’s draft recommendations. Our 49 recommendations throughout this brief are also gathered together in one place in Appendix 1. We hope that this feedback will assist the Committee as it finalizes its recommendations to the Government.

This brief embodies the accumulated input that we have received over the years from a broad and diverse spectrum of sources across the disability community. That includes feedback both disability organizations and individuals with disabilities. Over the years, we have found that many from within the disability community have come to rely on the AODA Alliance’s work formulating briefs such as this.

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

We have offered to make an in-person presentation directly to the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee on our feedback. We thank the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for accepting this offer, and look forward to presenting to the Committee on January 22, 2020. Given the extensive detail in this brief, we would appreciate it if the Committee was able to give us more than 15 minutes to present. The Transportation Standards Development Committee and Employment Standards Development Committee each gave us 30 minutes to present. We realize that the Committee’s time is limited, and welcome whatever time can be provided. We would also welcome guidance from the Committee on which topics, covered in this brief, would be most helpful for us to concentrate on during our presentation.

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

We thank the members of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee for their commendable efforts to strengthen the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We also acknowledge with thanks the feedback and input that we regularly receive from our supporters that enable us to provide informed feedback to the Government and the public in areas such as this. For example, we publicly circulated a draft of this brief on November 5, 2019 for comment. We have incorporated the feedback received into this finalized brief.

2. Who Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Summary of this Brief

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

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

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

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

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

a) A Commendable Start

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

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

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

Second, it appears that several Standards Development Committees that reviewed an existing AODA accessibility standard got substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Transportation Standards Development Committee, Employment Standards Development Committee and the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, each stated that its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working “as intended”. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations state in the introduction:

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

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

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

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

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would leave information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers long after 2025.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

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

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

Substantial progress on accessibility is easier to achieve in the area of information and communication than in many other areas like the built environment. Information technology is rapidly evolving and replacing earlier products. The inaccessible technology, websites or mobile apps of last year will often be superceded in the next months or years.

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

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

1. Accessibility Standard’s Long Term Objective

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

2. Section 2 – Definitions

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

available.”

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

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The Committee should recommend that either:

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

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

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

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

6. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

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

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

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

As an example, we have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems.

The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its poor example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Government‘s long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontario’s education system available via PDF documents.

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The Committee should recommend the addition to the standard of a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can then of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements. However this should not reduce Ontario’s accessibility protections.

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in “duty to accommodate” cases. (See D. Lepofsky “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law) We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate that includes investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

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

9. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

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

However we do not agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where these propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism.

Moreover, it is not clear to us that ASAC even now exists. At the time of writing, the Government’s website only lists one person as a member of ASAC. We do not know if ASAC has been meeting since the 2018 Ontario election, much less that it has been meeting with sufficient frequency to do this work in a timely way. ASAC’s membership has, in the past, not been selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

10. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASR’s requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken them. We would want to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not reduce any rights of people with disabilities.

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are recommending:

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

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

Existing resources:

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

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

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

We have information about making justice services accessible at

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

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

Making your services accessible for people with communication disabilities

  1. Written guidelines on communication access at

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

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

15. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

The Committee’s idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add a few refinements.

First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has an erroneous upside-down approach to organizations’ duties and timelines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it.

That is inappropriate here. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest timelines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest timelines. This makes no sense.

The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is irrelevant for those timelines that have already expired.

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We agree with the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements.

If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessible than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organization’s resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

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

21. Committee’s Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

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

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

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

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

22. Committee’s Recommendation 17: Practicability

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

24. Committee’s Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

25. Committee’s Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of pre-2012 inaccessible online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

28. Committee’s Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

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

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a senior executive position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This is a critical position that could be decisive in enhancing the accessibility of information, especially digital information.

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

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

Excellent research provided to the AODA Alliance by Emily Prosser, an Osgoode Hall Law School, which she prepared at the ARCH Disability Law Centre, includes the following:

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

 

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

That research also stated:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

32. Committee’s Recommendation 14: Procurement

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch.

Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or the IASR.

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

This section of the Standard unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, “where it is not practicable to do so.” We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of procurement. Moreover, the “not practicable” standard erroneously falls substantially short of the “without undue hardship” standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful for the Standard to point obligated organizations to a test that is transparently lower than the Human Rights Code.

If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committee’s commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the Standard should also be amended to create a class of “high impact” private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#36. Section 6(2) of the IASR should be amended to read:

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

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

“(5) In this section,

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

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

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

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

The proposed Framework also includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Sections 15 to 18 of the Standard should be amended to ensure the accessibility of instructional and other information in Ontario’s education system, in accordance with Recommendations 8.1, 8.2, 12.1 and 12.2 of the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 proposed framework for the contents of the K-12Education Accessibility Standard.

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#41. Section 15 of the Standard should be amended to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 17(1) and (2) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

41. Committee’s Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

42. Committee’s Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We agree with the Committee that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

The Ontario Government’s economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice in this area, which we repeatedly gave over several years. We had recommended to the Ontario Government that it should attach strings to its funding in that sector that require that sector to develop expertise in accessible information technology design. That would promote the expansion of Ontario’s technology sector so that it has more accessible design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 16(1) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

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

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

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

45. Committee’s Recommendation 30: Education Standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similarly the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion later states:

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

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

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

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

The 2014 Moran Report included;

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

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

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

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

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAPS IN STANDARDS

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

Information and Communications

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

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

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

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

Appendix 2 List of the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations in this Brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6. The Committee should recommend the addition to the standard of a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

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

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

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

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

#10. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#23. The Committee’s Draft Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of pre-2012 inaccessible online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#36. Section 6(2) of the IASR should be amended to read:

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

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

“(5) In this section,

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

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

#39. Sections 15 to 18 of the Standard should be amended to ensure the accessibility of instructional and other information in Ontario’s education system, in accordance with Recommendations 8.1, 8.2, 12.1 and 12.2 of the AODA Alliance’s October 10, 2019 proposed framework for the contents of the K-12Education Accessibility Standard.

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

#41. Section 15 of the Standard should be amended to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#42. Section 17(1) and (2) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#49. Section 16(1) of the Standard should be amended to provide:

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

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

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

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

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



Source link

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


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

November 5, 2019

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.

2. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

3. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committee s draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them as is or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.

4. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committees draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.

5. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committees Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.

6. Some of the Committees specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

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

Draft Only
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

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

November 5, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

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

A. Introduction

1. Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Who Are We?

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

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” To learn about us, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Summary of this Brief

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

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

1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.

2. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

3. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committees draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them as is or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.

4. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committees draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.

5. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committees Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.

6. Some of the Committees specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

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

a) A Commendable Start

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

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

b) Committees Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working As Intended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

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

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

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

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

1. Accessibility Standards Long Term Objective

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

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The standards long term objective should be:

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

2. Section 2 – Definitions

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASRs definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

4. Committees Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulations Feedback Requirements

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

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,
(a) it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or
(b) the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily available.

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

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The committees recommendations should be expanded to recommend that either: (a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or
(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,
a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committees Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

7. Committees Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

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

(2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:
1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

8. Committees Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

9. Committees Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

10. Committees Draft Recommendation 8

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

11. Committees Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

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

12. Committees Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

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

We therefore recommend that:

*10. The Committees draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to implement and require the Committees proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and

b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committees Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

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

12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,
(a) in a timely manner that takes into account the persons accessibility needs due to disability; and
(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,
(a) in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and
(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

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

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

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the Standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.
At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorates website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

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

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

We are recommending:

* The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.

* The mandate of this committee should go beyond processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities to include processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.

* Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.

* Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, sign language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.

* Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.

* Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.

* Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.

* Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

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

Existing resources:

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

1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at http://www.access-to-justice.org/

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

3. A webinar on making services accessible at
http://courses.cdacanada.com/courses/making-your-services-accessible-for-people-with-communication-disabilities/

4. Written guidelines on communication access at
http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf

We therefore recommend that:

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

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

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

15. Committees Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

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

16. Committees Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We share the Committees view that the standards website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committees Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.

b) That will measure the number of an organizations users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.

c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committees draft recommendations propose.

d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

20. Committees Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

21. Committees Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy and unacceptable end-run around the provision.
We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14
Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and branding (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.

22. Committees Recommendation 17: Practicability

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

24. Committees Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

25. Committees Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

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

26. Committees Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

27. Committees Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

28. Committees Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

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

29. Chief Information Officer

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organizations efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility.

b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIOs performance contract that the CIO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility.

c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIOs performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.

d) In considering whom to hire as CIO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidates knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

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

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

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

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an Accessibility Statement.1

That research also stated:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organizations website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and

b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committees Recommendation 14: Procurement

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall
(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and
(b) Shall acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

(5) In this section,

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

34. Committees Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below in our more specific submissions. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.
In the key part of the AODA Alliances proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

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

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

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

8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

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

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

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

a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.

b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.

c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.

d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.

e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

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

The proposed Framework also includes:

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

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

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

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

a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.

b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.

c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

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

36. Committees Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

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

15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:
1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
i. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
ii. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
2. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:
1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act. 5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Section 15 be amended to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

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

17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).
(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

39. Committees Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

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

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

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

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:
1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

41. Committees Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

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

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

42. Committees Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

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

We therefore recommend that:

#44. The Committees Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliances proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

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

a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.

b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.

c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.

d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.

43. Committees Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

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

We therefore recommend that:

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

44. Committees Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committees draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

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

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

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

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

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.
Section 16 of the standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

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

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

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

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

45. Committees Recommendation 30: Education Standards

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

C. Our Feedback on The Committees Proposed Phase 2

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

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

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

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

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We dont want there to be any risk that The Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODAs terms in any way.

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

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

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

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

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canadas national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/ The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:
Students, many of whom participate in projects such as mapathons, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
Non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law Persons with disabilities and their families or support communities Professional organizations
Community volunteers
Civil society

Similarly the Committees Phase 2 discussion later states:

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

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

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support. Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

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

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

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

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

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.
At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

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

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:
Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

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

GAPS IN STANDARDS

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

Information and Communications

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

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

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

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

1 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents
2 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).
3 The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b). 4 Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).




Source link

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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

November 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft Only

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

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

November 5, 2019

Via email to: [email protected]

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

A. Introduction

1. Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Who Are We?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on disability accessibility issues. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that desired legislation.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The AODA Alliance has played a leading and highly-visible role in Ontario in raising a wide range of accessibility issues, including in the information and communication context. We have connections across Canada and internationally with, and are regularly consulted by accessibility advocates and governments as they grapple with how to tackle these issues.

As but one example, the AODA Alliance played a leading role in campaigning to enable the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to get back to work after the work of all Standards Development Committees was frozen in the wake of the 2018 Ontario election. We were happy and relieved when the Ontario Government lifted that freeze on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee in the fall of 2018 and allowed it to go back to work.

3. Summary of this Brief

The AODA Alliance has solicited input from its supporters through its website, its mass email list, and on Twitter. Drawing on that feedback and on our extensive involvement in advocacy on accessibility issues in Ontario, this brief provides our feedback on those draft recommendations.

Our feedback set out in this brief is summarized as follows:

  1. The 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard was the strongest of the accessibility standards that the Ontario Government has enacted under the AODA. Despite this, it has several significant deficiencies. If every organization fully complied with it, it would not ensure that information and communication is accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever.
  1. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, does not address all of the recurring information and communication barriers that people with disabilities face. Where it does address a known recurring accessibility barrier, its guarantees are too often too weak. They have too many exemptions that are too broad, and that fall below requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  1. We agree with many, if not most or all, of the ‘Information and Communication Standards Development Committees findings of deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Many, if not most, of the Committees draft recommendations in its Phase 1 discussion are quite good and commendable. For the most part, we approve them “as is” or make recommendations for modest refinements or additions to them.
  1. We also offer additional recommendations to address deficiencies in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that the Committee’s draft recommendations do not fix. Overall, our recommendations aim to ensure that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is strengthened so that it addresses the full range of accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in relation to information and communication, to ensure that it specifies the actions that organizations need to take to ensure that information and communication becomes accessible, and to narrow the excessively broad exemptions in the standard.
  1. In its draft Phase 2 recommendations, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Makes a commendable effort to find ways to make the AODA work more effectively. We do not endorse certain parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 recommendations, because they raise legal issues that we have not had time to address, and because they would necessitate amendments to the AODA itself. We would object to any effort to re-open the AODA in the Ontario Legislature or any effort to amend it, as we do not want to risk having the AODA weakened by the Legislature.
  1. Some of the Committee’s specific suggestions that form part of its Phase 2 draft recommendations can be implemented without requiring amendments to the AODA. We identify those that fit this description and with which we agree.

4. Preliminary Thoughts Before Proceeding to Our Specific Recommendations

Here are three important themes which we ask the Committee to bear in mind as it reviews our recommendations.

a) A Commendable Start

First, we strongly commend the Committee for its efforts and for the draft recommendations. As will become evident, we agree with many if not most of the Committee’s Phase 1 recommendations. We urge adjustments to several of the Committee’s recommendations to further strengthen them. These are in a number of cases request from us for minor adjustments or refinements to the Committee’s work. We also point out several additional improvements to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, to supplement those which the Committee has prepared.

Based on its work so far, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee has done by far the best job of any Standards Development Committee that has been appointed to review an existing AODA accessibility standard. It has prepared far stronger draft recommendations for reform than did ASAC when it reviewed the 2007 Customer Service Accessibility Standard or the Transportation Standards Development Committee when it reviewed the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard.

b) Committee’s Job Not Merely to Assess if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard Has Been Working “As Intended”

Second, it appears obvious that several of the Standards Development Committees that have been reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard has been working under substantially erroneous advice from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Each such Standards Development Committee, including the current Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, has stated that it understood its job, when reviewing an existing AODA accessibility standard, is to determine if the standard is working “as intended”. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations state in the introduction:

“The Act requires that each of Ontario’s accessibility standards be reviewed within five years of becoming law, to determine whether they are working as intended and to allow for changes to be made if they are required.”

Substantially the same erroneous language was included in the initial draft recommendations of the Transportation Standards Development committee that were circulated in 2017 for public comment and the draft recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee which were circulated earlier this year for public comment.

To simply see if the standard is working “as intended” seriously and substantially understates the goal of this mandatory review of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA does not limit a Standards Development Committee to inquiring on such a review to see if the standard is working “as intended”.

Rather, this review’s purpose is to ascertain whether the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working sufficiently to ensure that information and communication become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s goal. This Review should recommend improvements to ensure that the Standard will achieve that goal.

It is not sufficient for the Standards Development Committee to just ask if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is working “as intended.” By that lesser and palpably weak approach, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard would be fine, and would need no improvements, if it led obligated organizations to merely do whatever the original 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard spelled out. That would be sufficient, even if that left information and communication in Ontario full of disability barriers, now and even long after 2025. If the original intent of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard fell below what the AODA requires for information and communication accessibility by 2025, neither we nor the Standards Development Committee should be locked into or handcuffed by that insufficient goal.

As this brief documents, the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, while helpful, was not capable of ensuring that information and communication will become fully accessible by 2025, or indeed, ever. We have publicly shared our strong disagreement with the Accessibility Directorate‘s substantial dilution of the aim of these five year reviews of AODA accessibility standards, and have alerted the Directorate about our concerns. Despite this, and with no explanation or justification, that Directorate appears to have persisted in pressing Standards Development Committees to adopt this incorrect and unduly restrictive understanding of their mandate. We identified this concern in our briefs to the Transportation and Employment Standards Development Committees. We also identified it in Chapter 5 of our January 15, 2019 brief to the Third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. It was there explained under the heading: “Inappropriate Government Attempts to Unduly Restrict the Work of Standards Development Committees”.

Even though the Information and Communication Standards Development refers to this erroneous “working as intended” approach to its review, it is clear from its draft recommendations that the Committee did not allow itself to be improperly hog-tied by the Directorate’s erroneous advice or direction. We congratulate the Committee for doing so.

c) Committee Should Use the Findings in the Moran and Onley Reports As Its Starting Point

Third, we agree with the Standards Development Committee‘s draft recommendations’ general assessment of the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as summarized in this paragraph:

“The Committee’s discussions reflected a consensus that the current standards are not keeping pace with technology. There was mention that the standards are not always strong enough and are often too difficult to apply. The Committee also discussed the fact that the standards are confusing and prevent innovation in accessible technology. Overall, Committee members agreed that the Standards need to be modernized and crafted to ensure they remain relevant in the future, as technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace.”

However, it is vital for the Committee to proceed from the starting point that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is substantially more deficient than that, even though it is the strongest of the accessibility standards enacted to date. The Committee should work from the starting point established by the second AODA Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran and the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley. The key findings in the reports of those reviews appear to come directly from the detailed briefs that the AODA Alliance submitted to those reviews.

In 2014, the second mandatory Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran, found that there are very serious deficiencies in the accessibility standards enacted to date. These included the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. Nothing in that accessibility standard has been changed since that report to address those concerns. Appendix 1 to this brief sets out key excerpts from the Moran Report.

The third Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by David Onley, reinforced and supplemented the Moran Report’s overall findings. It did not disagree with the Moran Report’s findings regarding the IASR’s deficiencies. Because the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s provisions had remained unchanged over the five years between the Moran Report and the Onley Report, there was no basis to revise the earlier report’s concerns.

In 2019, the third AODA Independent Review conducted by David Onley accepted the Moran Report as a correct starting point. It did not contradict any of the Moran Report’s findings about the problems with the accessibility standards enacted to date. It did not find that in the intervening four years, the Ontario Government had done anything to reduce those serious deficiencies.

To the contrary, the Onley Report made even more pointed and blistering findings about the AODA’s overall implementation. It did not exempt the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard from those blistering findings.

Based on public feedback, Onley’s report found that the pace of change regarding accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With then under six years left before 2025, the report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” He concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. It in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership. He recommended:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

Since the Onley Report was received over nine months ago, the Ontario Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement it, nor has it publicly said that it will do so in the future. As such, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind the goal of full accessibility, while the 2025 deadline looms closer and closer.

d) The Bottom Line for This Committee

As such, we urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to see its job as pivotal. It should recommend fixes to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard that will rectify the substantial deficiencies in the AODA’s implementation in so far as they pertain to the accessibility of information and communication. This brief aims to help the Committee with that task.

If the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is to be strengthened in order to ensure that the AODA’s goal is achieved by 2025 in relation to information and communication, this must happen now. The next mandatory review of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not have to be appointed until the eve of the 2025 deadline. By then, if Ontario has not yet been put back on schedule for the 2025 deadline in connection with the accessibility of information and communication, it will be too late.

In the following discussion, our recommendations track the sequence of the Committee’s draft recommendations. We insert additional topics where they best fit, following the structure of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard itself.

B. Our Specific Feedback on the Draft Recommendations’ Phase 1 Proposals

1. Accessibility Standard’s Long Term Objective

We commend the Committee for reviewing the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s long term objective, and its effort to simplify it. We believe that all that needs to be added to the Committee’s proposed simplified language is the AODA’s 2025 deadline.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The standard’s long term objective should be:

“By no later than 2025 and thereafter, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully and equally in the creation and use of information and communications.”

2. Section 2 – Definitions

The term “accessible formats” should be clarified so that organizations know that digital formats are an option, but only if they are in a format that is screen-reader-friendly.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. The Committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that the definition of “accessible formats” in s. 2 of the standard should be expanded to add “digital accessible formats that are readily readable on computers and portable technologies such as smart phones, using adaptive technology, but does not include documents in PDF format unless also accompanied by other accessible digital formats.”

3. Definition of Electronic Self-Serve Kiosks

The IASR’s definition of an electronic self-serve kiosk is far too narrow.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section, “kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

4. Committee’s Recommendation 1 Consolidating the Regulation’s Feedback Requirements

We agree with the committee’s Recommendation 1 to immediately consolidate in one place in the IASR all feedback requirements, in language that makes them clear and consistent as long as this makes it clear that this that does not reduce any existing obligations.

5. Section 9 – Definitions and Exceptions

The standard’s definition of “conversion-ready” information is too loose. Section 9 provides:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that facilitates conversion into an accessible format;”

That definition does not ensure that the material is capable of ready conversion into an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. The Committee should expand its recommendations to recommend that section 9(1) of the standard should be amended to define “conversion-ready” as follows:

“conversion ready” means an electronic or digital format that ensures ready conversion into an accessible format that effectively retains the information content that can be read on a computer using widely available adaptive technology, and on hand-held or portable digital technology such as smart phones;”

Section 9(4) defines unconvertible information in a manner that is far too broad. This would weaken the rights of people with disabilities. Section 9(4) provides:

“For the purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

(a)        it is not technically feasible to convert the information or communications; or

(b)       the technology to convert the information or communications is not readily available.”

That provision dramatically reduces obligations of organizations below what they are required to do under the Human Rights Code, and, where applicable, the Charter of Rights. Our proposal for amending s. 9(2) makes s. 9(4) unnecessary.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The committee’s recommendations should be expanded to recommend that either:

(a) Section 9(4) should be deleted, or

(b) Section 9(4) should be amended to provide as follows:

“(4) For purposes of this Part, information or communications are unconvertible if,

  1. a) It is not possible to convert the information or communications without undue hardship; or
  2. b) The technology to convert the information or communications is not available without undue hardship.”

6. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 2 PDF Documents

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations where they conclude that PDF documents are often inaccessible and that the required expertise to make them accessible is seldom present in obligated organizations.

The Committee’s draft recommendations indicate that they do not propose banning PDF formats. We have never proposed banning anyone from creating a PDF document. It has always been our position, which we urge here, that if an obligated organization creates a pdf document in connection with activities to which this accessibility standard would apply, an accessible alternate format document, such as an MS Word, txt or HTML document should also be posted and made available at the same time.

The Committee’s draft recommendations state that the Committee considered non-regulatory measures such as education for Government employees, but did not vote on this. We do not believe that such non-regulatory measures are sufficient. They would not solve this persistent but easily-remedied problem.

We have been struggling for well over a decade to get the Ontario Government to change its own practices with PDFs, so that it will always simultaneously post an accessible format for a document whenever it publicly posts a PDF. This has too often been a frustrating and futile effort, even after we repeatedly raised this at the highest levels within the Ontario Public Service. We still continue to face serious problems. The Ontario Government has repeatedly claimed to be leading Ontario by its example on accessibility. Yet its example in this context is not one by which we would want Ontario to be led. For example, the Ontario Government even released in inaccessible PDF documents such important things as the 2014 final report of Mayo Moran’s Independent Review of the AODA, and the previous Government‘s long-awaited anti-poverty strategy. Years after being told that PDFs present an accessibility problem, the Ministry of Education continues to make important publicly-facing documents regarding Ontario’s education system available via PDF documents.

A simple, clear enforceable rule in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is the only effective measure that will have a hope of success, not only for the Ontario Government, but for other obligated organizations as well.

Some may think that a PDF can be made fully accessible. With such a view, we strongly and respectfully disagree, based on years of ample experience. However, this is a moot point.

First, as the committee correctly recognizes, obligated organizations mostly do not have the expertise to make a PDF accessible, even if it is assumed that this goal can be accomplished. Second, when a person receives a PDF, there is no way to know from the file name whether anyone has even attempted to incorporate accessibility features in it, and if so, how many such features. Third, it makes no sense to ask obligated organizations to divert their resources into trying in vain to remediate a new PDF, when they could instead quickly, easily and at no cost simply post the document in an accessible format like MS Word, whenever they post a pdf.

It would take enormous resources to try to persuade obligated organizations to voluntarily change their practices. It is far more effective to set a simple rule which obligated organizations can readily understand and which is easy to enforce.

Documents are not written in PDF. They are written in another application like MS Word. After they are written, accessibility is stripped from that document when it is converted to a PDF.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The draft recommendations should be revised to include a requirement that if an obligated organization posts a PDF online, it should also simultaneously post the same document in an accessible format such as MS Word, txt or html.

7. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 4: Products and Product Labels

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 4 that the loophole in the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard must be closed which exempts products and product labels from information and communication accessibility. Section 9(2) of the standard states:

“      (2) The information and communications standards do not apply to the following:

  1. Products and product labels, except as specifically provided by this Part.”

We commend the Committee for attempting to address this. However the draft recommendations do not go far enough to address this. The Committee’s draft recommendations call on the Ontario Government to try to work out a shared regulatory solution with the Federal Government and/or in the interim, that the Ontario Government explore non-regulatory solutions with obligated organizations.

Here again, an enforceable mandatory and specific standard is needed to change practices on the ground. Almost 15 years into the AODA, Ontarians with disabilities do not have time to hope that non-regulatory voluntary measures will change practices that have not substantially changed. In this context, we re-emphasize the finding in the Onley Report that progress on accessibility has been far too slow, and that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers.”

To hold off any regulatory action on this pending Ontario working out a coordinated action by the Federal Government would, we regret, indefinitely delay any regulatory action. Getting agreement with the Federal Government will predictably take years. The Federal Government will no doubt want to try to work out a common approach for all the provinces. While that would be ideal, it will take even longer. It will also lead to Ontario risking its being driven down to the lowest common denominator among the provinces. Ontario should lead with the strongest standard, and not follow others to the weakest standard.

In the recent federal election, most of the federal parties were not prepared to make any commitments at all on new measures they would take to promote accessibility for people with disabilities. Only one party was prepared to make commitments with any detail or that embodied real change for disability accessibility. After the election, there is little reason to expect that they will become more eager to make this a priority.

There is no compelling reason to await federal regulatory action in this sphere, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose what Ontario should do. The committee is worried about the possible overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. In any area of public regulation of economic activity, there are innumerable situations where there may be an overlap between federal and provincial jurisdiction. Ontario nevertheless takes action, without waiting for the Federal Government. We have a federal labour board and a provincial labour board. We have a national building code and the Ontario Building Code. The list goes on.

Our constitution fully accommodates this without a province having to simply withhold regulatory action. In 2011, it is commendable that the Ontario Government did not withhold enacting regulatory standards for the accessibility of websites. For the same reason, it can and should act now in the area of the accessibility of product labels. If the Federal Government later decides to take action in this area, Ontario can of course discuss ways to harmonize their requirements, should the Federal Government at last decide to act in this area. However this should only be done so long as this does not lead to any reduction in Ontario’s accessibility protections.

While it would be helpful for the Ontario Government to work with industries to come up with creative new solutions in this area as the committee proposes, that too is no reason to withhold the enactment now of a regulatory requirement. Indeed, the presence of a mandatory Ontario regulatory accessibility requirement would help motivate industries to develop creative new solutions, including harnessing new technologies.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 4 should be revised to recommend that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended now to set enforceable standards for products and product labels. This should not await Ontario working out a joint approach to this with the Federal Government, or the Ontario Government working with the private sector on developing non-regulatory innovations in this area. Section 9(2) (should be amended to provide an exemption only for:

“Products and product labels, where compliance with the information and communication requirements would impose an undue hardship on the organization.”

8. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 5 Alternative Formats and Communication Supports

We agree with the Committee’s concern with s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. It requires an obligated organization to consult with a person with a disability on a needed accessible document format. It leaves the ultimate decision to the obligated organization in unilateral terms. The Committee’s draft recommendation commendably found:

“The Committee noted that this is resulting in the provision of formats that do not meet the needs of people with disabilities.”

We agree with the Committee that this provision needs to be strengthened. We also agree with the Committee’s proposal that the obligated organization should endeavour to get the agreement of the person requesting the alternative format. However, we are concerned that this does not go far enough.

The Supreme Court of Canada has held that obligated organizations have a duty to investigate alternative solutions in “duty to accommodate” cases. (See D. Lepofsky “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic Scho  ol Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” to be published in 2020 40.1 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

We anticipate that many obligated organizations do not know of their existing procedural duty to accommodate by investigating alternative solutions up to the point of undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 should be expanded to propose that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard be amended to state that where an obligated organization does not agree to provide the accessible format which the person with a disability requested, the obligated organization must investigate alternative ways to meet this need, up to the point of undue hardship.

9. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 6 and 7

We agree with the Committee where it states that s. 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard is unduly vague, by providing that an alternative format document must be provided in a timely manner. We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 6 that the obligated organization and the requesting individual should endeavour to reach an agreement on the time frame for this.

However we do not agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 5 through 7 where they propose to refer to the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (ASAC) the task of developing some sort of alternative dispute resolution mechanism for addressing situations where the obligated organization and requesting individual cannot reach an agreement. We commend the Committee here for trying to be creative. Yet we fear that it might take years to develop that new mechanism. Moreover, ASAC’s membership was presumably not selected based on its expertise in designing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

The creation of the required legal machinery to which the committee’s draft recommendations refer might well require legislative amendment, if there is to be an enforceable requirement and monetary penalties for non-compliance. We have not had a chance to investigate that complex question. As further addressed later in this brief, we do not want the Government to re-open the AODA’s provisions in the Legislature.

Moreover, the AODA requires that the development of such ideas for accessibility standards be done initially through a Standards Development Committee which is subject to the AODA’s procedural safeguards and openness requirements (including requirements for public input). ASAC is not subject to any of those procedures and safeguards, for which we fought so hard. For example, its meeting minutes are not required to be made public. In contrast, the minutes of meetings of a Standards Development Committee must be made public according to the AODA. The development of recommendations for the content of an element of an accessibility standard should not be sub-delegated to ASAC.

Instead to strengthen requirements in this area to address the shortcoming which the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee commendably identified, it would be helpful for the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to be amended to set clear timelines, or presumptive timelines for an organization to respond to a request. This could vary depending on the organizations size and the importance of the requested information. If the information is to come from a hospital and relates to a patient’s medical condition, then the response time should be very short. Given the readily-available availability of technology to produce alternative formats for documents, and the low cost for doing so, there is no reason for such timelines to be lengthy. If the Ontario Government were to post online helpful information on how to convert documents to accessible formats, and a list of venders who can be retained to do this, then an obligated organization should be able to act quickly when a request is received.

We therefore recommend that:

#9. Section 12 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be amended to set specific fixed or presumptive time lines for an obligated organization to provide an accessible alternative format for a document when requested. If the timeline is to be a presumptive one, rather than a categorical one, it should only be subject to an undue hardship defence for non compliance. The Committee should recommend timelines that are short e.g. 48-72 hours, where the obligated organization is a large one, and or the requested information relates to important matters such as health or safety or other vital services. Otherwise nothing longer than a 7 day time line should apply.

10. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 8

We agree with the aim of the Committee’s draft Recommendation 8. It calls for the IASR’s various requirements to provide accessible formats and communication supports to be brought together in one place in the IASR, as long as nothing is done to weaken these in any way. Our only concern will be to screen the proposed wording of any regulatory changes to be sure that they do not have the effect of reducing any rights of people with disabilities.

 11. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 9: On-Demand Conversion Ready Formats

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 9. It would require the Ontario Government and the Legislature to immediately ensure that all publicly facing documents are available in an accessible format. If this is required for new documents, this is not a major burden for the Ontario Government. As noted earlier, documents are typically first created in an accessible format, and then counterproductively rendered inaccessible by converting them to formats such as PDF.

12. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 10: On-Demand ASL and LSQ Translations

The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 commendably aims to find a creative way to address the need for on-demand Government information in ASL and LSQ. We share the intent of that proposal, but believe it should be strengthened.

We therefore recommend that:

*10. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 10 should be expanded to:

  1. a) propose an amendment to the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to implement and require the Committee’s proposed measures regarding the Ontario Government translating certain information into the Sign Languages ASL and LSQ on demand, and
  1. b) expand that requirement to include captioning for any such video content, for the benefit of people with hearing loss who need captioning and not Sign Language.

13. Other Deficiencies with Section 12 that the Committee’s Draft Recommendations Do Not Fix

Section 12(1)(a) sets the obligation here too low. It states:

“      12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is not sufficient for an obligated organization to take “into account” the needs of people with disabilities. The requirement should be to provide supports that meet the needs of people with disabilities unless to do so would cause the organization undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The Committee should recommend that section 12(1) of the standard be amended to provide:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a)        in a timely manner that meets the person’s accessibility needs due to disability, except where doing so would cause an undue hardship to the organization; and

(b)       at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons.”

It is commendable that section 12(3) requires organizations to notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. However the provision is too vague. It requires more detail to make it effective. Section 12:3) provides:

“      (3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports.”

We therefore recommend that:

#12. Section 12(3) of the standard should be amended to provide:

“(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public in an accessible format about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, shall post such notification in an accessible format on the organization’s website, if it has one.”

Unlike the clear language used in a number of other parts of the IASR, section 12(4) is unintelligible. An organization will need a lawyer to figure it out. It states:

“      (4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section.”

We do not know what this provision means. We fear others will also not know what it means. Whatever it means to say, it should be said in much clearer language – language that lets an organization and persons with disabilities understand it without needing to hire and pay a lawyer to decipher it.

We therefore recommend that:

#13. Section 12(4) should be re-written in plain language to make it intelligible.

As a general matter, we also commend and endorse the concerns and advice that Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC provided to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho in its January 19, 2019 letter to the minister. CDAC is an amazing and well-respected expert in its field. It has cutting-edge knowledge and good ideas on how to make progress.

We quote from the key part of that letter here:

“Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial, non-profit organization that addresses accessibility for people who have speech, language and communication disabilities. Over 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication, that are not caused primarily by deafness or significant hearing loss. Diverse disabilities such as physical, neurological, cognitive, learning, hearing, vision, and linguistic disabilities can affect one or more areas of a person’s speech, comprehension, reading and writing.

Communication access to goods and services is as important as physical access for people who have little or no speech and who use picture, symbol, letter boards and devices to convey their messages.

The current integrated standards do not provide sufficient directives for businesses and organizations on ways to make their services accessible for people with speech, language and communication disabilities. For example, most people with speech and language disabilities experience significant barriers to services in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and forums and written communication. These contexts are not adequately or comprehensively addressed in any of the Standards. They are either oversimplified or omitted.

At this time, the Information and Communications Standard primarily focuses on making written information (print and digital) accessible. Examples of accessible formats cited on the Accessibility Directorate’s website, include human assistance, large print, text transcripts of audio or visual information, handwritten notes instead of speech, plain language and electronic documents.

Many of these accessibility accommodations are extremely useful and appropriate for people who have speech and language disabilities. However, the accessibility needs of people with speech and language disabilities go beyond access to written information and occur in face-to-face and telephone interactions, group meetings and written communication. Many of these contexts are critical communication situations, such as police, legal and justice services, where communication barriers can have serious consequences.

To address this significant gap in the Standards, we propose that the Information and Communications (IC) Standard expand its mandate to include regulations that address two-way, interactive communication for people who have disabilities that affect their communication.

We are recommending:

  • The IC Standards Development Committee should include people who have a thorough knowledge and proven track record to represent the communication access needs of people with diverse speech and language disabilities.
  • The mandate of this committee should go beyond “processes that businesses and organizations must follow to create, provide, and receive information and communications that are accessible to people with disabilities” to include “processes, and resources to ensure effective two-way communication in face-to-face, telephone and group interactions and written communication.
  • Development of regulations, guidelines and resources for: Face-to-face, telephone and group interactions. Standards and guidelines are required for all service providers who interact with the public within these contexts, so that they have the knowledge, skills and resources to interact with people who communicate in ways other than speech. They need to know how-to make telephone services accessible and how to make meetings and public forums inclusive for people who have communication disabilities.
  • Communication supports: Service providers need information about how and when to provide and work with communication assistants, communication intermediaries, sign language interpreters and other formal communication support services. Formal communication assistance services are essential in critical communication contexts such as health care, police, legal and justice services. In these situations, appropriate communication support services must be mandatory.
  • Communication accommodations: Service providers need information about simple, non-technical communication tools that they may provide when a person has no effective means to communicate. They need clarification on the use of communication devices that people may use.
  • Writing: Regulations are required to address writing activities for people who cannot physically write or who cannot write due to learning or linguistic disabilities. Writing includes accessible forms, procedures for note taking and signatures.
  • Environmental accommodations: Services need guidelines on creating and designing accessible signage and wayfaring, counter spaces, and elevators with a communication access lens.
  • Policies are required for communication procedures in emergency evacuation situations, as well as authentic assistance in critical contexts, including medical assistance in dying, police, legal and justice settings.

We believe that many of these accessibility features could be included in the IC Standard to provide a foundation upon which sector-specific communication standards could be developed, such as transportation, healthcare, education and employment. An example of a generic baseline communication standard would-be mandatory training for all service providers on how to communicate with a person who has unclear speech or who uses a communication device. An example of a sector-specific communication standard would be that health care providers must ensure that a communication assistant is authorized by a patient when supporting them in the provision of informed consent to treatment.

Existing resources:

CDAC has developed a range of free guidelines and resources on ways to make services communication accessible. These resources are available for the Accessibility Directorate to promote and use across the province, resources include:

  1. A database of qualified Communication Intermediaries to assist people with speech and language disabilities communicating in police, legal and justice situations

http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/.

We have information about making justice services accessible at

http://www.access-to-justice.org/

  1. A database of communication assistants who are available to support people with speech and language disabilities communicating at meetings, forums and on committees at http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/
  1. A webinar on making services accessible at

Making your services accessible for people with communication disabilities

  1. Written guidelines on communication access at

http://www.communication-access.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Guidelines-for-Communication-Access-1.pdf”

We therefore recommend that:

#14. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee should seek direct input including a face-to-face meeting with Communications Disabilities Access Canada and address its concerns regarding the standard.

14. Part 3: Section 13 Emergency Plans Generally

We share the Committee’s commendable call for greater action to ensure the accessibility of information regarding emergency plans and procedures.

15. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 11: Emergency Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendation 11 that all the IASR’s various provisions regarding emergency plans and procedures should be consolidated in one part of the regulation. We add that nothing should be done to weaken these provisions.

16. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 12: Unacceptable Emergency Outcomes and Preparedness

The Committee concluded that “the preparedness of all levels of Government for emergencies involving people with disabilities is unacceptable.” We share this concern.

The Committee commendably recommended that the Government should review overall emergency preparedness measures from a disability perspective. However, it did not recommend anything to strengthen s. 13 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We turn attention to that need here.

Section 13 does not spell out the most obvious and important aspect of emergency procedures in this area. It does not explicitly require an organization to incorporate in any emergency procedure, a process for ensuring that it makes emergency announcements in an accessible format or manner during an emergency or crisis. Even if it is implicitly covered by earlier provisions in the IASR, it is very important to have a specific, clear and strong requirement here.

We therefore recommend that:

#15. Section 13 should be expanded to impose a requirement that an organization include in any emergency procedures plan, specific measures to ensure that emergency announcements (such as fire alarms) are available in an accessible means (e.g. flashing lights for the benefit of persons with hearing loss).

17. Part 4: Section 14 Website and Web Content Accessibility Generally

We share the Committee’s view that the standard’s website accessibility provisions need to be strengthened.

18. Committee’s Recommendation 15: Differentiating Organizations/High Impact Organizations

We strongly and heartily endorse the Committee’s proposal that an organization’s number of employees should not be the sole determinant of an organization’s accessibility obligations. We have been urging that view upon the Ontario Government for over a decade without success.

We agree as well that the Committee’s idea of defining high impact organizations for purposes of defining their accessibility obligations has merit. We would add, however, a few variations. First, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, as now constituted, has had an upside-down approach to organizations ‘ duties and time lines. As in all other areas of the IASR, the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard starts from a mechanistic approach whereby the bigger the organization, the more it must do, and the sooner it must do it. In the case of small organizations, such as smaller businesses, website and mobile app accessibility should be attainable more quickly than by larger organizations, especially where the measures are required on a go-forward basis. A small company with a small website can ensure that the accessibility of its entire web footprint much more quickly than can the Ontario Government. Yet the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard erroneously places the least obligations on that small company and gives it the longest time lines. It places the greatest obligations on the Ontario Government and gives it the shortest time lines. This makes no sense. The Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised where needed to correct this incorrect approach. It is of course irrelevant for those time lines that have already expired.

Second, the measure of what constitutes a high impact organization should include more than does the Committee’s Recommendation 15.

We therefore recommend that:

#16. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 15, to create a category of high-impact private organizations, should be refined to:

  1. a) Create criteria that will be easily measured and enforced, where possible.
  1. b) That will measure the number of an organization’s users, customers or interactions inside or outside Ontario. If for example, the organization has a huge customer base around the world, the fact that a smaller number of users in Ontario should not militate against it being categorized as a high-impact organization.
  1. c) Make the threshold revenue as $1 million not $10 million as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose.
  1. d) Recommend the revision of s. 14 (website accessibility) to make website requirements extend further within the private sector, beyond the proposed new category of high impact organizations.

19. Extending the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to Require WCAG 2.1, Not the Current 2.0

At present, the specific standard for website accessibility that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard sets is Web Content Accessibility Group (WCAG) 2.0. That was established by the W3C consortium at least a decade ago. Since then, we understand that it has been updated much more recently to WCAG 2.1. As we read it, the Committee’s recommendations merely refer to the old WCAG 2.0. They and do not recommend updating the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard to require WCAG 2.1. The Committee’s draft recommendations do not explain this. It is critically important.

We therefore recommend that:

#17. Section 14 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard should be revised to require websites to comply with the new international standard of WCAG 2.1, not the old WCAG 2.0 which the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard now requires.

As well, it is entirely unjustifiable in late 2019 for the standard to lead any organization to think that it is sufficient in the interim to only meet WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not, as a bare minimum, Level AA. Yet s. 14(3) still provides as follows, with an end date of 2021:

“      (2) Designated public sector organizations and large organizations shall make their internet websites and web content conform with the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, initially at Level A and increasing to Level AA, and shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in this section.”

No organization should now waste its efforts at merely meeting Level A as an interim goal, when it makes more sense to set Level AA as its goal from the outset.

We therefore recommend that:

#18. As an alternative, section 14(2) should be amended to eliminate WCAG 2.0 Level A, and not Level AA, as a bare minimum for any organization, in the event that WCAG 2.1 is not set as the new standard to meet.

20. Committee’s Draft Recommendation 13: Mobile Applications & New Technologies

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 13. It would extend the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements to mobile applications. However we do not agree that all small organizations should be exempted from this requirement, just as we do not believe that all small organizations should be categorically exempted from the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s website accessibility requirements. If anything, a well-resourced small organization could at least in some cases find it easier to make its website and mobile apps accessibility than can a larger organization. The IASR arbitrarily defines the size of an organization solely by its number of employees, regardless of the organization’s resources or its impact on the market. If for example a small organization has a broadly-selling app, there is no reason why it should not meet accessibility requirements. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not grant any such exemption for small organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#19. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 13 should be expanded to recommend that section 14 should be amended to set full accessibility requirements to mobile applications, and to the websites, web applications and mobile applications of small organizations where compliance would not pose an undue hardship.

21. Committee’s Recommendation 16: Significant Refresh

The Committee’s draft recommendations correctly identify another serious deficiency with s. 15 of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, namely that key requirements are only triggered by an obligated organization creating a new website or undertaking a significant refresh of an existing site. We agree with the Committee that this vague threshold provides obligated organizations with an easy and unacceptable end-run around the provision.

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 16 to fix this, and the stated intent underlying it, namely:

“•    Any content that is new or which an obligated organization changes, updates or adds to a web site must meet the accessibility requirements of Section 14

  • Furthermore, when content is added, changed or updated, it is recommended that organizations take the opportunity to make all content accessible
  • The Committee recommends that content should include all functions, interactions and ‘branding’ (look and feel) for a site. It is recommended that Section 14 include examples for the sake of clarity
  • Timeline: Regulation to be changed immediately, to be effective six months after the new regulation comes into force.”

22. Committee’s Recommendation 17: Practicability

We agree with the Committee’s concern that s. 14(5) includes too broad an exemption to its website accessibility requirements, by only requiring obligated organizations to take the required action to make websites accessible “where practicable”. We agree with the Committee that

“…this term is too vague and might allow some organizations to avoid doing something they are actually able to do.”

We encourage the Committee to fortify and further reinforce this serious concern. The sweeping “where practicable” exemption is far broader than the relevant Human Rights Code exemption from the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, which is only available where it is impossible to provide more accessibility without undue hardship. “Undue hardship “is a much more exacting requirement than mere practicability. Moreover the failure to use the stronger undue hardship terminology sends a harmful and erroneous signal to obligated organizations that they need not meet this higher undue hardship test. It misleads obligated organizations. This is a disservice both to obligated organizations and to people with disabilities.

To define the existing term “practicable” in s. 14(5) to mean the same as undue hardship, as the Committee is contemplating, risks confusing obligated organizations or suggesting to them that undue hardship means the same as merely not practicable. It is neater and cleaner, and less risk-prone, to simply replace the term “not practicable” in the standard with the correct “undue hardship”.

We would prefer if no “exception” clause was included. Compliance with well-established international standards for new web postings simply does not create an undue hardship. At the very least, if there is to be an exemption clause, the exemption should be no broader than that provided under the Human Rights Code.

We therefore recommend that:

#20. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 17 should be replaced with a recommendation that the exception for not practicable is removed. As a weaker and less desirable alternative, if there is to remain some sort of exemption in s. 14(5), it should provide that an obligated organization need not meet these accessibility requirements only if it can show that it would be impossible to meet such requirements without causing that organization undue hardship, and that the obligated organization has the duty to never less take all accessibility action that is possible up to the point of undue hardship.

It is important for the regulation to make it clear that all organizations covered by this provision have a clear duty to promptly provide people with disabilities, on request, in an accessible format, with any information that is inaccessible on their website. This would include, for example, any information that need not yet be made accessible because of the time lines in the regulation, or any archival material that need never be made accessible on the website.

We therefore recommend that:

#49. Section 14 should be amended to require any organization to promptly make available, on the request of a person with a disability, and in an accessible format that meets his or her needs, any information on the organization’s website that is not accessible to that person because of his or her disability.

23. Part 4, Subpart 1: Section 14 Exemptions Generally

We agree that the standards’ exemptions are too broad and need to be narrowed.

24. Committee’s Recommendation 19: Extranet Exemption

We agree with the intent and content of the Committee’s Draft Recommendation 19 that the exemption for public-facing websites with a log-in should be removed and that these types of websites should be required to comply with the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. We however believe that the proposed 2023 deadline for all publicly-facing websites, other than new ones, should be 2023. This is too long a time line, especially where meeting it would not provably pose an undue hardship.

We therefore recommend that:

#21. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 19 should be revised to set the deadline for all publicly-facing websites to meet accessibility requirements as 2022, not 2023.

25. Committee’s Recommendation 20: Intranet Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s important finding that “technology has advanced to the point where all organizations should be able to make their websites accessible under Section 14.” We therefore agree with extending this requirement to the broader public sector and large organizations, including employee-facing websites. As such, we agree that “all definitions related to a type of website be removed and that Section 14 simply apply to all websites, internet or intranet for all obligated organizations”. Indeed this is a critical reform to strengthen the current weak Employment Accessibility Standard. As indicated earlier, we would go further, and urge that it be extended to at least some small organizations, even if they do not fit within the proposed definition of high impact organization.

26. Committee’s Recommendation 21: Pre-2012 Exemption

We agree with the Committee’s view that the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard’s exemption for pre-2012 web content is overbroad and should be narrowed. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 21 seems on first examination to be sensible. We would add that where historic, archived content is available on the web, and where a customer or employee needs it in an accessible format for purposes of seeking or using an obligated organization’s goods, services or facilities, or for purposes of their employment, the obligated organization should be required to make that content available on request in an accessible format.

We therefore recommend that:

#22. The Committee’s Recommendation 21 should be expanded to require an obligated organization to provide an item of online content or document in an accessible format on request if needed for purposes of seeking or using that organization’s goods, services or facilities or for purposes of employment.

27. Committee’s Recommendation 22: Live Captioning and Audio Description

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 22 that sets out requirements so that by 2025, the standard’s live captioning and audio description exemptions will be eliminated. We would add that by 2021, this exemption should be lifted for the city of Toronto, a public sector organization which is larger and more resourced than a number of entire provinces in Canada.

We therefore recommend that:

#23. The Committee’s Recommendation 22 should be revised to provide that the current exemption for live captioning and audio description should be lifted by 2021 for the City of Toronto.

28. Committee’s Recommendation 23: Web Hosting Location

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 23 which would clarify that s. 14 obligations apply to a website whether or not it is hosted in Ontario. This is a loophole that should not be permitted to remain.

29. Chief Information Officer

A number of larger organizations in the public and private sector now have a position often called the Chief Information Officer (CIO). This is a critical position which could be decisively in enhancing accessibility of information and especially digital information.

At present, there is nothing in place in the standard to help ensure that a CIO has sufficient knowledge and training on digital accessibility, or even knows that they have lead responsibility for the organization‘s digital accessibility. There is similarly nothing in place to require that a CIO is held accountable within the organization for the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital accessibility.

We therefore recommend that:

#24. a) Where a large organization, a high impact organization or a public sector organization has a Chief Information Officer position or its equivalent:

  1. a) The CIO is responsible and accountable for leading the organization’s efforts at ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. b) If the organization has a performance contract or performance review process for its officers, it shall be a condition of the CIO’s performance contract that the CIO is responsible and accountable for ensuring digital information accessibility.
  1. c) In any performance review, performance-based pay review or promotion processes, the CIO’s performance on digital information accessibility shall be considered as a relevant factor.
  1. d) In considering whom to hire as CIO, a hiring factor or criterion should be a candidate’s knowledge and experience with respect to digital information accessibility.

30. Teleconference Platforms Used by Public Sector Organizations

Increasingly, organizations use web-based teleconferencing and meeting platforms for internal meetings of their employees or officials, and for public-facing meetings, such as electronic town hall meetings. Some of these platforms are more accessible than others. It is critical that organizations only use the most accessible ones. A requirement to this effect in the Standard would help get all such platforms to become accessible.

We therefore recommend that:

#25. The standard should be amended to require that when any public sector or large organization or high impact private sector organization uses a web-based teleconferencing platform, it should only use a platform which is accessible. If no such platforms are fully accessible, then such organizations should be required to use the most accessible platforms of those which are available. The standard should provide key criteria for assessing the, accessibility of such platforms.

31. Digital Information Accessibility Statement

The standard does not now require any obligated organization to prepare and make public a comprehensive statement of the status of the accessibility of its website or related mobile apps. This might be covered to some extent in an accessibility plan or progress report on accessibility that the organization must prepare under the existing IASR. However, there is no assurance that the needed information will be included and will be comprehensive.

Helpful research provided to the AODA Alliance by the ARCH Disability Law Centre includes the following:

“The United Kingdom Statutory Instrument 2018 No.952, entitled The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (the “Regulation”) is comparable to certain provisions within the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. There is also a Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (the “Directive”) which is relevant.

 

Both the Regulation and the Directive require public organizations to create an “Accessibility Statement”.[1]

That research also stated:

“An Accessibility Statement as defined by the Regulation and Directive is: “a detailed, comprehensive and clear statement produced by a public sector body on the compliance of its website or mobile application with these Regulations”.[2] The Accessibility Statement is a useful tool especially where an organization determines it is unable to meet accessibility standards. The Regulation requires a public sector body to explain in its Accessibility Statement any instances where it cannot comply with the accessibility requirement and provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.[3]

Under the AODA Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, obligated organizations are required to provide a requesting party with an explanation when it determines that it is unable to convert information and communications to an accessible format.[4] This requirement is similar to the Accessibility Statement required under the Regulation and Directive. However, Accessibility Statements are more robust. Accessibility Statements outline both an organization’s compliance and lack thereof meaning they go beyond simply addressing instances where an organization cannot comply with standards. Additionally, Accessibility Statements are required whether or not there is a ‘requesting party’ who has been denied accessible/convertible information. Further, the term ‘explanation’ is undefined in the Information and Communication Standard and so it lacks the formal requirements of an Accessibility Statement. As a result, there is no guarantee as to the quality of an explanation given to a requesting party under the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.”

We therefore recommend that:

#26. The Standard should be revised to require that public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall prepare an annual or biennial accessibility statement and make it public on its website which:

  1. a) Specifies in detail the extent to which the organizations website and mobile apps are accessible and specifies where they are not and
  1. b) Gives reasons for any deficiencies in the accessibility of the website or mobile apps and indicates what the organization plans to do to rectify this, and by when.

32. Committee’s Recommendation 14: Procurement

We agree with the Committee’s draft recommendations that the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement of accessible goods, services and facilities “…are not strong enough to result in accessible digital procurement.” We also agree with the general thrust of the ideas in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 on the substantive requirements to add to the IASR in so far as accessible procurement of information technology is concerned. We would however like to see the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard go further. It should include specifics of what kinds of accessibility features or functionality should be required. These should be expressed in terms of end-user-usability, and not the specific technology to include. This is so because technology in this area is so rapidly evolving. In other words, these amendments to the standard should not only set process requirements, but also requirements for end results in terms of functional end-user experience. We anticipate that obligated organizations generally know little or nothing about this and need as much regulatory direction as possible.

We therefore recommend that:

#27. Beyond the measures in the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14, the IASR’s general procurement provisions should be strengthened to specify end-user functionality requirements that are sufficiently flexible to accommodate emerging technologies.

We agree with the Committee that beyond the specific context of procuring information technology, the IASR’s general provisions regarding procurement need to be strengthened. We however, do not agree with the Committee’s suggestion that this be referred to ASAC. As noted earlier, under the AODA, the review of any accessibility standard must be conducted at least every five years by a Standards Development Committee that is appointed for that purpose.

The members of the Standards Development Committee appointed to conduct that review should be chosen based on their expertise and experience in this specific area. No Standards Development Committee has been appointed since 2011 to review the IASR’s general provisions, such as the procurement provisions. It would be open to the Government to assign that review to an existing Standards Development Committee that was already appointed to review any other parts of the IASR or to recommend new accessibility standards.

The Government is in violation of the AODA for not having done so. That review was required to have been started in 2016. As noted earlier, the Standards Development Committee that conduct such a review should comply with all the procedural safeguards in the AODA conducting a review of an accessibility standard.

We therefore recommend that:

#28. The Government should fulfil its overdue duty under the AODA to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the general provisions in the IASR, sections 1 through 8.

We agree that the Government and public sector organizations need to be given some time to implement any changes in the area of procurement. However, we do not agree that this should extend out to 2021, as the Committee’s draft recommendations propose. This is so for several reasons.

First, public sector organizations have had accessible procurement duties under the AODA for years. They are not starting from scratch. Second, their duty not to create new barriers is enshrined in pre-existing human rights law. It is not a new creation of the AODA or of the IASR.

Third, 2025 is not far away. We cannot afford any delays, especially on the part of public sector organizations that are supposed to be leading by example.

Fourth, any such delay inappropriately suggests to public sector organizations that it is okay for them to continue to use public money to create new disability barriers. Yet that harmful use of public money must stop.

Fifth, especially as it applies to the Ontario Government that is the very body that is creating this regulation. As noted earlier, the Ontario Government has claimed for years to be leading Ontario by example in the area of accessibility. The Ontario Government is hardly caught by surprise by new regulatory requirements in this area.

For the same reasons, we respectfully disagree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 14 where it proposes that an obligated organization can be exempt from any of this new requirement if it has entered into a contract regarding the matter before January 1, 2021. That would let an obligated organization disregard this new requirement even if it was amply aware that it was coming e.g. because it was earlier posted in a draft regulation.

We therefore recommend that:

*29. Any changes to the requirements for procurement of goods, services or facilities should go into effect within six months of the new regulation being enacted, and should apply to any procurement thereafter, or for which a contract was signed after the draft of this new regulation was publicly posted for comment, unless the obligated organization can show that to comply would cause it an undue hardship.

We propose further measures to strengthen the IASR procurement provisions, whether they apply to information technology or other goods, services or facilities.

Section 5 of the IASR falls well short of the duty to prevent the creation of new barriers that the Supreme Court of Canada mandated years ago in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 S.C.R. 650.

This section unjustifiably exempts any organization from even having to ask for accessible goods, services or facilities when seeking to procure them, “where it is not practicable to do so.” We know of no situation where it is impracticable to even ask vendors for accessible goods, services or facilities, as part of a procurement endeavour. Moreover, the “not practicable” standard falls substantially short of the “without undue hardship” standard in the Human Rights Code. It is counterproductive and harmful to try to get organizations to meet standards that are transparently lower than the Human Rights Code. If there were to be any exemption clause in this part of the IASR at all, it should be considerably narrowed. We here draw on the Committee’s commendable recommendation, further addressed later in this brief, that the standard should also be amended to create a class of “high impact” private sector organizations.

We therefore recommend that:

#30. Section 5(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“5. (1) The Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly and designated public sector organizations shall

(a) Incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, for purposes of acquiring or procuring goods, services or facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities, and

(b) Shall acquire or procure goods, services and facilities for use in their organization, or for the benefit of the public, that are accessible to persons with disabilities, except where it is not possible to procure or acquire them without undue hardship.”

#31. Section 5(2) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(2) If the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly or a designated public sector organization determines that it was not able to acquire or procure accessible goods, services or facilities without undue hardship in accordance with paragraph 5(1) (b), it shall provide, upon request, an explanation in writing.”

The duty to procure accessible goods, services and facilities should be extended to large or high impact private sector organizations. This is important for ensuring accessibility of goods, services, facilities and employment.

We therefore recommend that:

#32. Sections 5(1) and (2) should be amended to extend their requirements to large private sector organizations and to high impact private sector organizations.

Moreover, these procurement requirements should be extended to any private sector organization when engaging in a project or contract for the Ontario Government. The Government should not be able to get around these procurement requirements by contracting out some of its work to the private sector.

We therefore recommend that:

#33. The IASR’s procurement requirements should be amended to apply to any private sector organization in connection with any work it is doing for or on behalf of the Ontario Government.

33. Section 6 – Self-Service Kiosks

Related to the issue of procurement, the IASR’s section regarding electronic kiosks, s.6, remains far too weak. Its requirements should be strengthened. Features of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard bear on such kiosks, just as they can apply to other customer-facing technology. These requirements should extend further in the private sector than at present.

We therefore recommend that:

#34. Section 6(1) of the IASR should be amended to read:

“6. (1) Without limiting the generality of section 5, the Government of Ontario, Legislative Assembly, designated public sector organizations, large private sector organizations and high impact private sector organizations shall incorporate accessibility features when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any point-of-sale technology for use by the public, to ensure that they are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. “

It is also important for private sector organizations with less than 50 employees to take serious action on this front especially where they offer technology for use by the public during point-of-sale transactions.

We therefore recommend that:

#35. Section 6(2) should be amended to read:

“(2) Small organizations shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks or any other point-of-sale technology for use by the public, and in any event, shall use accessible point-of-sale equipment when acquiring new point-of-sale equipment for use by customers, or replacing existing point-of-sale equipment.”

#36. Section 5(5) of the IASR should be amended to provide:

“(5) In this section,

“kiosk” means an interactive electronic terminal intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services, facilities, or products or a combination of them, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes any device used by a member of the public to make in whole or in part a transaction relating to a product, good, service or facility or combination thereof, such as a point of sale device that allows the customer to pay for items with a debit, credit or other electronic funds card.”

34. Committee’s Recommendation 18: Harmonization and Application across Requirements

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 that the IASR should be amended to make it clear that its website accessibility provisions in s.14 apply to all websites that are referred to across the IASR. We would go further. The IASR should be refined to make it clear that these website accessibility requirements apply to any website specified in any provincial legislation or regulations, such as any provincial law that requires anything to be posted on a website.

We therefore recommend that:

#37. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 18 should be amended to call for the website accessibility requirements in s. 14 to apply to any website to which provincial legislation or apply, such as a provincial law that requires specified information to be posted on a website.

35. Part 5: Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 Generally

It is inexcusable in 2019, over 14 years after the AODA was enacted, that students continue to face difficulties in getting timely access to needed educational materials in an accessible format.

The AODA Alliance has released a proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard and has submitted it to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. We set out the relevant passages below. We do however urge the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee to press forward with its recommendations in this area, as elaborated upon below in our more specific submissions. If the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee or the post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee opt to make further recommendations on point, that can only enrich the discussion. However, we ask the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee not to hold off proceedings on these recommendations due to the forthcoming work of the two Education Standards Development Committees.

In the key part of the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, a vision is offered of what an accessible education system would look like. This vision includes, among other things:

“2.5 Instructional materials used in Ontario’s education system would be available in formats that are fully accessible to students with disabilities who need to use them and would be available in accessible formats when needed.

2.6 All digital technology used in Ontario’s education system, such as hardware, software and online learning, used in class or from home, would be fully accessible and would fully embody the principle of universal design. Education staff working with students with disabilities would be properly trained to use the accessibility features of that hardware, software and online learning technology, and to effectively assist students with disabilities to use them.”

Among the recommendations in that proposed Framework for the contents of the Education Accessibility Standard is the following:

“8. Ensuring Digital Accessibility at School

Barrier: School boards using classroom technology, such as hardware, software, online learning systems and internal or external websites that lack digital accessibility; school board policies that can be obstacles to using adaptive technology designed for people with disabilities; Insufficient staff training and familiarity with the use of accessibility features of mainstream technology, and with disability-specific adaptive technology.

8.1 Each school board should ensure that:

Educational equipment and technology, including hardware, software, and tablet/mobile apps deployed in educational settings should be designed based on universal design principles, to ensure that students with disabilities can use them.

  1. a) A school board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) should be accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. They should have all accessibility features turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools. Each school board should ensure that no teacher is able to turn off any feature of the LMS that is accessible in favour of one that is not.
  1. b) Each school board’s internal and external websites and intranet content, including internet content available to students for learning purposes, including all online learning programs, should be fully accessible, with all new information posted on them to be fully accessible.
  1. c) Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise. PDF format should be avoided. If a PDF document is created, an alternate version of the content should be simultaneously provided and posted in an accessible Microsoft Word or HTML format.
  1. d) Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.
  1. e) Textbooks and learning software should be procured only if they include full information technology accessibility. Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement. Here again, PDF should not be used unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

8.2 The Ministry of Education and each school board should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board, or by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included in all Requests for Proposal (RFP) or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry.”

The proposed Framework also includes:

“12. Ensuring Accessibility of Instructional Materials that Students with Disabilities Use

Barrier: Instructional materials, such as textbooks and other instructional materials and teaching resources that are not provided at the same time in an accessible format for students with disabilities.

Section 15 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted in June 2011, and in force for school boards since 2013 or 2015 (depending on their size) requires education organizations to provide instructional materials on request in an accessible format, and to make this part of their procurement of such resources. However, this provision has not been effective and sufficient to effectively ensure that students with disabilities face no barriers in this context. Therefore, stronger measures are needed.

12.1 To ensure that instructional materials are fully accessible on a timely basis to students with disabilities such as vision loss and those with learning disabilities that affect reading, each school board should:

  1. a) Survey students with disabilities who need accessible instructional materials, and their teachers and families, to get their front-line experiences on whether they get timely access to accessible instructional materials, and to get specifics on where this has been most lacking.
  1. b) Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis, either alone or in combination with other school boards.
  1. c) Review its procurement practices to ensure that any new instructional materials that are acquired is fully accessible or conversion-ready and monitor to ensure that this is always done in practice. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible materials at its own expense.

12.2 The Education Accessibility Standard should require the Ministry of Education to implement, monitor and publicly report on province-wide strategies to ensure the procurement of and use of accessible instructional materials across school boards.”

36. Committee’s Recommendation 24: Purchase of Accessible Teaching/Training Materials

We agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 24 that “obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order text books or other printed curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as print copies.” This should apply to both print and electronic teaching materials.

We therefore recommend that:

#38. The Committee’s Recommendation 24 should be expanded to also require that obligated organizations that are educational or training institutions be required to order electronic text books or other electronic curricula materials from producers who agree to provide accessible or conversion-ready versions, in the same time frame as non-accessible versions.

37. Section 15 – Educational and Training Resources and Materials

Beyond this, s. 15, on providing accessible educational and training materials, while helpful, needs to be strengthened. It now provides:

“      15. (1) Every obligated organization that is an educational or training institution shall do the following, if notification of need is given:

  1. Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that takes into account the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by,
  2. Procuring through purchase or obtaining by other means an accessible or conversion ready electronic format of educational or training resources or materials, where available, or
  3. Arranging for the provision of a comparable resource in an accessible or conversion ready electronic format, if educational or training resources or materials cannot be procured, obtained by other means or converted into an accessible format.
  4. Provide student records and information on program requirements, availability and descriptions in an accessible format to persons with disabilities.

(2) For the purposes of this section and sections 16, 17 and 18, an obligated organization is an educational or training institution if it falls into one of the following categories:

  1. It is governed by the Education Act or the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
  2. It offers all or part of a post-secondary program leading to a degree pursuant to a consent granted under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act, 2000.
  3. It is a designated public sector organization described in paragraph 3 or 4 of Schedule 1.
  4. It is a public or private organization that provides courses or programs or both that result in the acquisition by students of a diploma or certificate named by the Minister of Education under paragraph 1 of subsection 8 (1) of the Education Act.
  5. It is a private school within the meaning of the Education Act.”

We therefore recommend that:

#39. Section 15 be amended to:

(a) Amend the opening words of section 15(1) to provide:

“1.       Provide educational or training resources or materials in an accessible format that meet the accessibility needs due to a disability of the person with a disability to whom the material is to be provided by…”

(b) Require each obligated organization that is an educational or training institution to notify their students, applicants for admission and faculty/teachers, via accessible means, of their commitment to provide accessible curriculum and teaching materials;

(c) Post on their website, if any, their commitment to provide accessible teaching and curriculum materials, and an indication of who within the organization is responsible for their provision;

(d) Add to ss. 15(1) and (2) a requirement that these teaching and curriculum materials are to be available at the same time as the same teaching or curriculum materials are provided to students in the same program or course, except in exceptional cases where it is impossible to do so, in which case alternative measures will be immediately taken to enable a person with a disability to fully participate in the course or program.

(e) Add to section 15 a requirement that where curriculum materials such as text books are to be ordered from other sources, the curriculum materials shall be in an accessible format or conversion-ready, except where it can be shown that these cannot be obtained without undue hardship.

(f) Add to section 15 a requirement that notwithstanding the time lines for accessible websites, any information posted to a website for use by students shall be in an accessible format and shall comply forthwith with WCAG 2.0 Level AA unless it can be shown that to do so is impossible without undue hardship, in which case accessible alternative format materials shall be provided immediately on request.

(g) No school, college or university shall provide books or other like materials via paperless technology such as on mobile apps on the iPad or Kindle unless that technology has become accessible for persons with disabilities.

38. Section 17 – Producers of Educational or Training Material

It is helpful that s. 17 requires publishers to make accessible educational textbooks and certain other printed instructional materials available on request, in an accessible format. It however needs to be expanded. It now only applies to textbooks. Section 17 provides:

“      17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of educational or training textbooks for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (1).

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed materials available to the institutions. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 17 (2).”

It should also apply to any other course materials produced in printed form, as well as course materials and books produced in electronic form. With the spread of e-books, this is increasingly important.

We therefore recommend that:

#40. Section 17(1) and (2) should be amended to provide:

“17. (1) Every obligated organization that is a producer of education or training textbooks or other teaching materials (whether in printed form or electronic form) for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the textbooks or other teaching materials available to the institutions.

(2) Every obligated organization that is a producer of print-based or electronic educational or training supplementary learning resources for educational or training institutions shall upon request, promptly make accessible or conversion ready versions of the printed or electronic materials available to the institutions.”

39. Committee’s Recommendation 25: Definition of Educational and Training Institutions

We agree that the standard’s requirements for educational organizations should extend to any organization that provides any education or training programs, whether or not they meet the standard’s current definition of education organization.

We therefore recommend that:

#41. The Committee’s Recommendation 25 should be expanded to define the scope of education programs to which its obligations should attach. This should be tied to the nature of the program and the extent to which ensuring accessibility would trigger an undue hardship

40. Section 18 – Libraries of Educational and Training Institutions

Section 18 is a helpful provision addressing accessibility at public libraries. However, it has an exception for “special collections” that, if not defined, could sweep away much-needed protections. Section 18 provides:

“      18. (1) Subject to subsection (2) and where available, the libraries of educational or training institutions that are obligated organizations shall provide, procure or acquire by other means an accessible or conversion ready format of print, digital or multimedia resources or materials for a person with a disability, upon request.

(2) Special collections, archival materials, rare books and donations are exempt from the requirements of subsection (1).

(3) Obligated organizations to which this section applies shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:

  1. In respect of print-based resources or materials, January 1, 2015.
  2. In respect of digital or multimedia resources or materials, January 1, 2020.”

A law school at a university might argue that its entire law library is a “special collection”, that is thus exempt from any accessibility requirements. We do not anticipate that this was what the Government meant to achieve here.

We therefore recommend that:

#42. Section 18(2) should be amended to include a clear and narrow definition of “special collection”, or that exemption should be removed from this provision.

41. Committee’s Recommendation 26: Increasing Captionist Capacity

We share the Committee’s concern that there is a limited number of trained captionists in Ontario. We agree with the need for new efforts to increase their numbers. The Committee appears to make a non-regulatory recommendation.

We add that technology exists now to facilitate off-site captioning from distant locations. The captionist can be anywhere in the world. An audio hookup is set up via the web so the captionist can hear the spoken words to transcribe.

The Government can further facilitate this by either creating or funding a start-up that would crowd source these services, so that captionists around Ontario, or indeed around the world, could get quick and easy access to customers in Ontario. This could be part of an economic development strategy. A well-run Ontario-based service could sell its services around the world, bringing in new revenues to Ontario.

We therefore recommend that:

#43. the Committee’s Recommendation 26 should be expanded to recommend that the Government create or fund the creation of an Ontario-based remote captioning service that could service clients in Ontario and around the world by remotely-located captionists, providing their services online.

42. Committee’s Recommendation 27: Accessibility in Education

We share the Committee’s advice that disability accessibility curriculum should be included at all levels of Ontario’s education system.

We therefore recommend that:

#44. The Committee’s Recommendation 27 should be expanded to incorporate the AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard, which includes:

”11.1 To eliminate attitudinal barriers among students, school board employees and some families of students, each school board should:

  1. a) Develop and implement a multi-year program/curriculum for teaching students, school board staff and families of school board students, about inclusion and full participation of students with disabilities, tailored to age levels. Because online courses are inadequate for this, where possible, this should include hearing from, meeting and interacting with people with disabilities e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations.
  1. b) Post in all schools and send information to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  1. c) Provide specific training to all school board staff that deal with parents or students, on the importance of inclusion.
  1. d) Implement human resources policies and practices to expand school board staff knowledge and skills regarding inclusion.”

43. Committee’s Recommendation 28: Accessibility in Information and Communications Tools and Systems

We agree with the Committee that:

“There is often a lack of knowledge regarding the needs of people with disabilities on the part of the designers of information and communications tools and systems, and this leads to a lack of accessibility in these products.”

We also agree with the Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 where it proposes that “all obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems shall include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities…” We see value in this recommendation being further refined.

We therefore recommend that:

#45. The Committee’s draft Recommendation 28 (calling for obligated organizations which provide education or training on the design, production, innovation, maintenance or delivery of information and communication tools and systems to include curricula that address the needs of people with disabilities) should give some examples of the needed training, including differently affected disabilities, beyond its reference to Sign language.

The Ontario Government’s economic development strategy has tried to promote the development of the information technology sector in Ontario, to serve both the Ontario market and markets around the world. However, as far as we can tell, the Ontario Government has never acted on our advice, which we gave over several years, that it should incorporate in that effort a strategy, including funding strings, to promote the expansion of Ontario’s technology sector so that it has more accessibility design expertise to offer organizations around the world.

We therefore recommend that:

#46. The Committee should recommend that the Ontario Government should now adopt a concerted strategy, as part of its economic development program, of promoting the expansion of Ontario’s technology development sector with expertise in accessible design.

44. Committee’s Recommendation 29: Accessibility in Provincially Regulated Professions

We endorse the Committee’s draft Recommendation 29. It provides:

“Certification requirements of provincially regulated professions must include knowledge and application of accessibility (including accessible formats, language, communication and IT support) and the prevention of attitudinal barriers.”

The AODA Alliance’s proposed Framework for the Education Accessibility Standard points in a similar direction. It includes:

“Barrier: Too often, teachers and other school staff who work with students are not sufficiently trained on how to teach all students, including students with disabilities. Teacher’s colleges and other programs that are publicly funded to train professionals who will work with students in Ontario schools are therefore creating new generations of barriers that will impede students with disabilities.”

The solution requires both reforms to the required training of future new teachers while they are in teachers’ college, and measures to expand the training of those who are already graduates of teachers’ college and who are already working as teachers. This also applies to other school staff with teaching-related roles, such as principals and education assistants.

9.2 The Ontario Government should require that to be qualified to teach or serve as a principal in an Ontario-funded school, a teacher or principal must have specified training in the education of students with disabilities, covering the spectrum of different learning needs and learning styles. Any teacher’s college or like program that receives any provincial funding should require, as part of its degree programming, specified course contents on the education of students with disabilities for all teachers, and not only for special education teachers. Time lines for implementing this should be specified for the transition to this new approach. Each school board should be required to train school board staff, including teachers and other staff who work with students, on ensuring digital/information technology accessibility in the classroom, on the use of access technology (where needed) and on steps how to create accessible documents and web content.”

Section 16 of the standard commendably requires training organizations to provide for their teachers, training on the needs of students with disabilities. However, it does not require any of their employees to ever take that training.

Regarding teacher training, we therefore recommend that:

#47. Section 16(1) should be amended to provide:

“16. (1) In addition to the requirements under section 7, obligated organizations that are school boards or educational or training institutions shall provide educators with accessibility awareness training related to accessible program or course delivery and instruction, and their educators shall satisfactorily complete that training.”

It is essential that the Committee’s proposal take the form of a mandatory regulation, and not merely a policy or “best practice”. Too many professions need this reform to try to convince them voluntarily, one profession at a time.

Moreover, the AODA Alliance has been trying without success to secure voluntary action by the Ontario Government for over a decade. In the 2007 Ontario election, the AODA Alliance asked the parties to commit to ensure that relevant professions require their members to have sufficient accessibility training. In that election, the McGuinty Government promised to advocate to self-governing professions on this. In the ensuing 11 years that the Liberal Government was in power, we repeatedly asked it to keep this promise. We never saw or were shown any Government action to act on this promise.

45. Committee’s Recommendation 30: Education Standards

This recommendation only deals with where to locate certain requirements within the IASR. We take no issue with this as a pure housekeeping matter.

C. Our Feedback on The Committee’s Proposed Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the Committee’s draft recommendations, it proposes a major overhaul of how accessibility barriers should be regulated under the AODA. We commend the Committee for trying to take a broad and creative look at how progress is going under the AODA, and for trying to come up with innovative solutions, thinking beyond the regulatory status quo. Any effort in that regard should be encouraged.

Below we offer a few general responses to the Committee’s proposed reforms to the AODA’s overall design. These are only preliminary thoughts. A fuller response requires substantially more time and research than is currently available. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal goes far beyond the scope of the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

The Committee’s Phase 2 reforms call, among other things, for the creation of a new public authority. The Committee calls it the “Trusted Authority”. That new public agency would have a series of new powers, including powers which bear directly on the AODA’s interpretation, implementation and enforcement.

These reforms would require the Legislature to amend the AODA itself. These are not measures which can be enacted as accessibility standard regulations under the AODA, as it is now written.

As noted earlier, we are opposed to the Ontario Legislature re-opening the AODA and considering making any amendments to it at this time. We don’t want there to be any risk that The Government would try to weaken or reduce any provisions in the AODA. Re-opening the legislation would create such a risk. We would react very strenuously against any Government effort to re-open the AODA’s terms in any way.

Even if we had wanted The Government to re-open the legislation, the likelihood of it doing so now is extremely low. Throughout the first third of its mandate the current Government treated the AODA as a very low priority. It took months and months for the Government just to unfreeze the work of existing AODA Standards Development Committees, including the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. It took more months after that to get the Government to re-start the important work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. This was so even though while in opposition, the Conservatives criticized the former Ontario Government for dragging its feet on appointing an Education Standards Development Committee.

Over two thirds of a year has passed since The Government received the blistering report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review. Despite our pressure, The Government has announced no comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As such, we would not agree to the Government proceeding with the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal, in so far as it requires legislative amendments. There is a second important reason why the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal should not proceed at this time. The Committee’s Phase 2 proposal contemplates delegation of certain powers to the proposed Trusted Authority which itself raises a number of significant legal concerns, beyond any policy discussion over the proposal‘s pros and cons. We have not had the time or opportunity to explore those issues in preparation for this brief. They would have to be resolved before a profitable discussion of the proposal’s pros and cons should be undertaken.

There are other important avenues and arenas for such proposals regarding reform of the AODA to be presented. For example, there have been three successive Government-appointed Independent Reviews of the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018-19. Another AODA Independent Review will have to be appointed by March 7, 2022. Those are but one appropriate place to present such suggestions. We do not know if the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee or any of its members presented these ideas to the any of the three AODA Independent Reviews for their consideration.

As a visible player on the provincial front regarding the AODA, the AODA Alliance would want to be a major player in any such discussions. For our part, we pointed out serious problems with the way the AODA has been operating, in our proposals to the Federal Government regarding the design of the new Accessible Canada Act. See for example our Discussion Paper on what Canada’s national accessibility law should include, published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law and available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

The same goes for our recent proposals to the BC Government on what the promised BC accessibility law should include, available at https://www.AODAalliance.org/whats-new/the-british-columbia-government-commits-to-provincial-accessibility-legislation-and-seeks-public-input-on-a-proposed-framework-for-a-bc-disabilities-act-read-the-AODA-alliances-submission-to-the-b/

Despite the foregoing concerns, some parts of the Committee’s Phase 2 proposal can be undertaken now, without needing any reforms to the AODA or to any accessibility standards. For example, the Committee raises concerns about the use of the term “obligated organization.” The term “obligated organization” can be changed, in The Government’s communications on the AODA. The term “obligated organization” does not itself appear in the AODA.

Similarly, The Government could do a far better job of outreach to and inclusion of people with disabilities in its ongoing AODA consultation and implementation efforts, including in its consultation on the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations which are the focus of this brief. That too requires no amendment to the AODA.

The Government could now create far better resources to guide obligated organizations. At least two of the AODA Independent Reviews have called for that very action. We strongly support the need for that.

Finally, it is open to the Government to review the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard more frequently than every five years, in order to keep it up to date in connection with new developments, such as new developments in the world of information technology or the creation of new international standards for the accessibility of information technology.

We also want to alert the Committee that we respectfully disagree with some of the key points in its Phase 2 discussion. We agree that the AODA’s implementation has fallen far short of what we all expected, what we all need and what the AODA promised. Our 450-page January 15, 2019 brief to the David Onley Independent Review is perhaps the most detailed documentation of this failure. It explores in detail the causes of this failure and offers constructive proposals to get the AODA back on track. The Onley Report echoes our analysis in key ways, as did the 2015 Moran AODA Independent Review Report that proceeded it and on which it built.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion seems in no small part to be constructed on the premise that the AODA has failed because it has been undertaken as an exercise of a regulator compelling compliance through enforcement, rather than by trying to get obligated organizations to understand that it is in their self-interest to ensure that their goods, services, facilities and employment are accessible. For example, the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion states:

“In the current model, the primary participants are the participating organizations and the provincial government compliance authority. The relationship is one of obligation and policing. The primary questions from obligated organizations are about what is required of them, and whether there might be exemptions. Their primary motivation for complying is avoiding penalties and/or reputational damage.

It is hard to blame organizations for this approach, because accessibility and inclusive design have traditionally been framed primarily as something that organizations must be legally compelled to do, rather than something that is also in their best interests. The fact is however, that there is significant evidence showing that inclusive design is in the interests of business. Research has shown that an organization that attends to inclusive design and accessibility, for customers and employees with disabilities, will garner economic, social and innovation benefits. There are both micro and macro-economic gains to be made for the participating company and for Ontario society as a whole, but that case is not being made clearly or often enough.”

As our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review and our website amply documents, the opposite has in fact been the case. We have demonstrated over and over that the Ontario Government has throughout this decade taken an extremely gentle and minimalist approach to AODA enforcement. For years, it would barely if ever even utter the word “enforcement” in public in connection with the AODA. It conducts “audits” of very few organizations each year.

These are only paper audits. We have only seen documentation of one on-site AODA audit or inspection from the day the AODA was passed up to at least 2017. That was a pre-announced inspection of one Government ministry by another Government ministry. In that case, the deputy minister of the inspecting ministry gave written prior notice to the deputy minister of the ministry to be inspected, that an inspection would be upcoming.

Despite knowing year after year about rampant AODA violations since 2013, the Government has imposed a tiny number of monetary penalties. In 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s less than two monetary penalties for each of those years. That conveys the clear message to violators that their risk of a monetary penalty is extremely slim.

The Toronto Star has run editorials that support our concern in this regard. It has slammed the Ontario Government for its weak AODA enforcement. Contrary to the Committee’s characterization of events, Minister after Minister responsible for the AODA has publicly said that their primary focus is on doing exactly what the Committee proposed in the passage quoted above, i.e. showing businesses the business case for accessibility. A good example of this is the following passage from the February 26, 2015 interview on CBC Radio Toronto’s flagship Metro Morning program by the previous Liberal Government’s Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid (then responsible for AODA implementation and enforcement):

“[Matt Galloway] But her, her real, her real thrust in this, in the report, is that Ontario’s not moving quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal of full accessibility. I wanna read something to you that one of your predecessors put together, which was Marie Bountrogianni, who, uh, when the legislature passed the disabilities act said, “What was missing in the previous act was enforcement compliance.

When you leave it to the good will of the people, it doesn’t get done.” What’s changed since then?

[Brad Duguid] Well, there- there’s two things. Number one, you can’t enforce that if the businesses aren’t aware of what their responsibilities are. So, the first thing we need to do is make businesses more aware, and we’re doing that through a number of different initiatives. There’s the advertising campaign. We also have a partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce where we’re reaching out to businesses an- and educating them on what they need to do.

Secondly, and this is the key, and when you, and I, I just recently appointed David Onley as our special advisor, and this is something we’re working very, very closely on. We need to make sure that businesses are, are aware of why there’s a competitive advantage for them to become accessible.

We don’t want businesses just to reach a standard, we want them to go beyond the standard and there’s every- there’s a really good business case for businesses across this province to do this. In fact, the Martin Institute indicates that there’s 7.9 billion dollars in our economy if we can become more accessible.

So, that- what I’m saying there is, I don’t want to come in and, and take a really hard approach on businesses and turn them off. What I wanna do is get businesses to embrace what this will do to their bottom line. There’s a really good business case.”

No minister responsible for this legislation has publicly proclaimed a contrary view. No minister coming after Mr. Duguid has ever disagreed with his view, criticized it, or proclaimed a different approach. Certainly, the new Ford Government has not repudiated it.

The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion addresses a criticism at the AODA itself, which should instead be directed at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario and the Ontario Government. The Committee’s Phase 2 discussion includes:

“The current model also does not harness the significant energy, knowledge and support of many community stakeholders who are deeply committed to accessibility. These include:

  • Students, many of whom participate in projects such as “mapathons”, design challenges and curriculum-based assignments
  • Ontario’s world-leading cluster of researchers specializing in accessibility and inclusive design
  • Non-obligated organizations that recognize the importance of accessibility without being compelled to comply by law
  • Persons with disabilities and their families or support communities
  • Professional organizations
  • Community volunteers
  • Civil society”

Similarly the Committee’s Phase 2 discussion later states:

“Ontario is home to many innovators, many of whom have turned their ingenuity to addressing accessibility challenges. Unfortunately, there is currently no easy way for these innovators, including obligated organizations or other stakeholders, to propose new and better strategies for addressing barriers. The relationship is strictly one way, with the Act essentially telling organizations what to do. This removes an incentive to innovate in accessibility.”

The Committee has commendably identified a legitimate area for improvement, but is identifying the wrong culprit. It is open to the Government to do a far more inclusive job of consulting and including the diverse voices to which the Committee points, in its work on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. For example, Standards Development Committees could readily engage more such voices in their work developing standards. The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario can and should do much more of this within the ample mandate that the AODA gives it. Nothing in the AODA prohibits the Ontario Government from doing so.

As well, the Committee presents a very good series of suggestions for reform in its Appendix B. No Trusted Authority or other amendments to the AODA or to its current overall structure are needed to implement them. The IASR can and should be amended, such as in ss. 5 and 6, to incorporate the very helpful requirements that the Committee formulated in its Appendix B. With such a revision to the IASR we would be in clear support.

Appendix 1 Excerpts from the Mayo Moran Second Independent Review of the AODA

The 2014 Moran Report included;

“However, the Review also heard considerable discussion about the content of the standards. In particular, members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever. They identified two problems. First, the current standards have serious gaps and deficiencies. And second, important aspects of everyday life fall entirely outside the scope of the current requirements. At the same time, obligated organizations also provided valuable feedback about the content of the current standards and some of the challenges that they pose. Below, I summarize the central themes of the feedback on these issues, including both suggestions about where there may be gaps in the existing standards as well as recommendations for additional standards.

Proposed Revisions to Current Standards

The Review heard many comments that suggested revisions to existing standards. Various disability groups advocated specific changes to the standards to better reflect the needs of their members and clients. More generally, many participants believed that timelines in the standards are too long, several requirements are weak, little is being done to remove existing barriers, and exemptions and exceptions are too broad. One disability stakeholder considered the deficiencies in the IASR so serious that the mandatory review of the Transportation, Employment and Information and Communications standards should begin in 2015 instead of 2016 as currently planned. Many obligated organizations in both the public and private sectors had other concerns, emphasizing that the overall AODA regime is too complex and should be simplified as much as possible.

Members of the disability community emphasized that the five standards in place so far – even if complied with to the letter – will not get us to full accessibility by 2025, or in fact ever.

IMPACT ON SPECIFIC DISABILITIES

The Review was told by some participants that they do not believe that the AODA has been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities, such as mental illness, autism, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and others. They suggested that more extensive training requirements to recognize and respond to the needs of people with these disabilities were essential.

The mental health community feels strongly that mental health and other non-visible disabilities should be better integrated into the content of standards. For example, it was suggested that the Employment standard should provide clear guidelines for accommodating employees with mental health disabilities.

Groups supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss pointed out that the vagueness about support persons leaves doubt about an organization’s responsibility to provide interpreters or other communication facilitators. Individuals with speech and language disabilities not caused by hearing loss believe standards should more fully outline requirements for communications assistance, especially in essential services.

People with environmental sensitivities and multi-chemical sensitivities want to see these conditions explicitly included in the definition of disability. Participants with episodic or fluctuating disabilities likewise urged a direct reference to their type of disability in the definition. Representatives of people with bowel disorders called for a network of open, accessible public toilets to be established through the Customer Service, Transportation and Design of Public Spaces standards.

The Review was told that the AODA has not been effective in addressing non-visible disabilities.

EXEMPTIONS AND EXCEPTIONS

The existing regulations set different requirements based on the size of the organization. Where the line should be drawn between small and large businesses was a major source of contention in the feedback received by this Review. In fact, some felt it was a mistake to create any exemptions on the basis of the number of employees, as very small organizations can have huge revenue streams.

At present, there are many exemptions under the IASR for organizations with under 50 employees. For example, they are exempt from requirements to prepare multi-year accessibility plans, make their websites accessible, develop a written process for employment accommodation, provide accessible exterior paths of travel, prepare written accessibility policies and file compliance reports, among other obligations. It was suggested that one reason the AODA has not lived up to its potential is the number of organizations that are exempt from such obligations.

The Customer Service standard currently sets the threshold for certain requirements at 20 employees rather than 50. Currently, organizations with under 20 employees are exempt from requirements to prepare documents on their accessibility policies – including policies on service animals and support persons and the handling of service disruptions – and to produce copies on request, as well as from obligations to document training policies, keep training records and file accessibility reports. In its review of the Customer Service standard – which coincided with this Review – ASAC proposed to raise that threshold to 50 employees instead of 20 to align with the IASR, and several disability groups voiced their concerns about this proposal to this Review.

In addition to the exemptions based on organizational size, the Review also received some feedback on several other provisions that were questioned including the following:

  • Exemption of owner-operated sole proprietorships from the entire IASR as they have no employees.
  • Exclusion of the entire private sector from the duty to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when acquiring goods, service and facilities.
  • Exclusion of products and product labels from the Information and Communications standard.
  • Exclusion of unconvertible information from accessible format requirements, which some described as a loophole that should be closed.
  • Exemptions for all organizations except the provincial Government from the website provisions on live captioning and pre-recorded audio descriptions.

As well, disability stakeholders took issue with various exceptions that are less exacting than undue hardship under the Human Rights Code. This issue will be addressed later in the section on the AODA’s Relationship with Other Legislation.

GAPS IN STANDARDS

Beyond exemptions and the impact on certain disability groups, participants highlighted a host of gaps in existing standards and put forward numerous suggestions to close them.

Information and Communications

One of the gaps identified that was among the most serious sources of concern was the exclusion of extranets from the website standards. An extranet is a controlled extension of an organization’s internal network that allows access to outside users over the internet. It was pointed out that the standards development committee expected everything behind the log-in to be covered. The fact that this was not done is seen as a step backward.

Unless Ontario keeps standards in line with evolving information technology, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

The importance of keeping the Information and Communications standards in line with evolving international standards was also stressed. Unless a mechanism is created to do this, the Review was told, we risk reaching 2025 and realizing we have made Ontario accessible, but for the citizens of 2005.

Some participants raised concerns about the provision of accessible formats for various purposes “on request”. They proposed that all educational resources should be accessible, with no need for a request. On the other hand, some post-secondary stakeholders pointed out that this might not be a wise use of resources as there may turn out to be no demand for many of the materials.”

[1] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, S.8(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/952/made#f00004; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies, S.7(1). Retrieved at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eudr/2016/2102/contents

[2] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, s.3; Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Article 7(1).

[3] The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018, section 4(a)(b).

[4] Integrated Accessibility Standards, s.9(3)(a).



Source link

Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities- Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

 

Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities– Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments

 

October 16, 2019

 

            SUMMARY

 

With the October 21 federal election so near, so close in the polls, and with every vote so important, what are the federal parties committing to do for over six million people with disabilities in Canada? The grassroots AODA Alliance has sought 11 specific commitments to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced. So far, only two federal parties have even answered.

Polls are suggesting that Canadians are about to elect a minority government. If there is a minority government, no matter who is our next Prime Minister, there is a real potential that Canada’s next Parliament could be persuaded to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. While in opposition last year, the Greens, NDP and Conservatives all advocated for this law to be strengthened.

On October 15, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada announced which election pledges it would make to people with disabilities, in response to the July 18, 2019 request for 11 major commitments which the AODA Alliance directed to the leaders of the six major federal parties. The Liberals’ response and its accompanying online statement on disability equality which it posted on its website on October 15, 2019, both set out below, give fewer promises than the only other federal party to respond to date.

On September 16, 2019, the federal New Democratic Party became the first federal party to answer the AODA Alliance’s request for these 11 commitments. The NDP response is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

With only five days left before voting day, the AODA Alliance is continuing its blitz. The federal Conservatives, Greens, People’s Party and Bloc Quebecois have not yet answered. Last year, the Greens and Tories teamed up with the NDP in an unsuccessful to press for amendments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, at the request of a number of disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. During debates on the bill in the House of Commons last fall, the Tories promised to make it a priority to strengthen this law if they form the next Government. On November 22, 2018, Tory MPP John Barlow pledged: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.” Tory MP Alex Nuttall promised Parliament “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Below we also set out the excellent October 15, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, posted online by Global News. It is the only news article we have seen in this election campaign covering the parties’ positions on this issue, and disability community efforts to secure such commitments. We urge the media to give this issue more coverage in the election campaign’s final days.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate. It seeks to secure the strongest commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities from all the parties. As part of this campaign, it is tweeting to as many federal candidates across Canada as possible to press for the commitments it seeks. This evening, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak on a panel that will give action tips for the election campaign’s final days at a federal election disability issues public forum in Toronto, organized by a number of disability organizations. It takes place from 7 to 9 pm at Ryerson University’s Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

Here is a summary of the 11 commitments that the AODA Alliance asked each party to make in its July 18, 2019 letter to the leaders of the six major federal parties:

  1. Enforceable accessibility standard regulations should be enacted within four years.
  1. The ACA should be effectively enforced.
  1. Federal public money should never be used to create or perpetuate barriers.
  1. The ACA should never reduce the rights of people with disabilities.
  1. Section 172(3) of the ACA should be amended to remove its unfair and discriminatory ban on the Canadian Transportation Agency ever awarding monetary compensation to passengers with disabilities who are the victims of an undue barrier in federally-regulated transportation (like air travel), where a CTA regulation wrongly set the accessibility requirements too low.
  1. The ACA’s implementation and enforcement should be consolidated in One federal agency, not splintered among several of them.
  1. No federal laws should ever create or permit disability barriers.
  1. Federal elections should be made accessible to voters with disabilities.
  1. Power to exempt organizations from some ACA requirements should be eliminated or reduced.
  1. Federally-controlled courts and tribunals should be made disability-accessible.
  1. Proposed Opposition amendments to the ACA that were defeated in the House of Commons in 2018 and that would strengthen the ACA should be passed.

The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the voting process in federal elections has not been assured to be barrier-free for voters with disabilities. We will be monitoring for these barriers, and are urging voters with disabilities to alert us of any problems they encounter. To follow all the action on Twitter over the last days leading to the election, follow @aodaalliance Email reports of voting barriers to us at [email protected]

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance’s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

October 15, 2019 Response from the Liberal Party of Canada to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

Over the past four years, we have made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. For a full list of these actions please refer to Appendix A.

There is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

To read our full statement on disability equality and inclusion, as well as consult our 2019 platform, please visit: https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Specific Additional Information in Response to Your Questions

Questions 1 and 2:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, as well as the positions of Chief Accessibility Officer and Accessibility Commissioner, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 3 (application to public policy):

Disability rights are human rights and we will always stand up to see these rights brought to life across government. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act. This builds on the work we have done over the past four years, putting into place measures that harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre, as well as the update to procurement policies across government.

Questions 4 to 6 (implementation and enforcement issues):

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. Our government established the broadest definitions of disability and barrier to date within federal legislation, and we will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

We have already established a working group that includes all agencies involved in the ACA, and they have already started working on the coordination of the implementation and enforcement. This will be furthered by the leadership of the Minister of Accessibility, the Chief Accessibility Officer and the Accessibility Commissioner. As we move forward, we will continue to look for new ways to ensure that Canadians with disabilities are able to identify and resolve complaints in a timely and effective way.

As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will also ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 7

As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 8:

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.

Question 9:

Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.

Question 10:

We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.

Question 11:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

Appendix A: Our shared progress

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

        We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

         We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

         We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

         We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility.  And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

         We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

         We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

         We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

         We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

         We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making.  This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

         We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

         We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility.  We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

         We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

October 15, 2019 Online Statement on Disability Equality by the Liberal Party of Canada

DISABILITY EQUALITY STATEMENT

Originally posted at https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

OUR SHARED PROGRESS

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

THE PATH TO EQUALITY THROUGH DISABILITY INCLUSION

Moving forward, there is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

We will also focus on the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. As we operationalize the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization, we will ensure that Canadians with disabilities and stakeholder groups are engaged in the process. We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

 Global News October 15, 2019

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6034294/canadians-disabilities-election-campaign/

Canadians with disabilities cast doubt next federal government will address needs

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE -THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amy Amantea, who lost her eyesight due to complications while undergoing surgery more than a decade ago, poses for a photograph at her home in North Vancouver, on Oct. 11, 2019.

Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

The Green party did not respond to request for comment, and the People’s Party of Canada said its platform contained “no policy related to disabled persons.”

The NDP did not provide comment to The Canadian Press, but made several commitments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act in a letter sent to an Ontario-based disability advocacy group.

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

“The Liberals hailed this bill as a historical piece of legislation. But without substantial amendments, it is yet another in a long line of Liberal half-measures,” reads the NDP’s response. “New Democrats are committed to ensuring that C-81 actually lives up to Liberal party rhetoric.”

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”

Other disabled voters expressed concerns about the handful of relevant promises that have been put forward on the campaign trail. In addition to pledging expanded eligibility for the disability tax credit, the Conservatives have said they would implement a $50-million national autism strategy focusing on research and services for children. The NDP and Greens have followed suit with similar proposals and larger pots of cash.

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other  words — most of us.”



Source link

The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit our open filing cabinet at https://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.

  1. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
  2. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
  3. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
  4. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation 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.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

  1. a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.
  1. b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.
  1. c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.
  1. d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.
  1. e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix – List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.



Source link

Why Haven’t Any of the Federal Parties Except the NDP Answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 Letter, Seeking Election Commitments on Promoting Accessibility for Over Six Million People with Disabilities in Canada?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

September 25, 2019

SUMMARY

The federal election is less than four weeks away. Why haven’t the federal Liberals, Tories, and Green Party answered our request, sent to them over two months ago, for specific election commitments on accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Last fall and again this past June, these parties each voted unanimously for Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act and all spoke passionately about its importance to Canada.

On July 18, 2019, over two months ago, we wrote a letter to their leaders, asking for a series of election commitments. These commitments would be a roadmap for the strong and effective implementation of this new legislation.

The only federal political party that has answered us so far is the New Democratic Party. You can see the NDP response to us at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

Why have the Liberals not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? The Accessible Canada Act is legislation that they said they were so proud to introduce. They said the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. They promised it would do so much to tear down the many barriers that face people with disabilities in Canada. Their provincial counterparts, the Ontario Liberal Party, made election commitments on the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, in each of the four provincial elections since it was passed in 2005.

Why have the Conservatives not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? When the Accessible Canada Act was debated in the House of Commons and the Senate, they vigourously pointed to the weaknesses in this bill that we and others from the disability community had raised. On behalf of people with disabilities in Canada, they pressed for amendments to the bill to address those weaknesses amendments that the Government mostly voted down.

Less than a year ago, on November 22, 2019 during third reading debates in the House of Commons on this legislation, two Tory MPs with leadership roles on this bill explicitly committed that if the Tories are elected in 2019, they will strengthen this legislation. Those commitments came from MP John Barlow, who was vice chair of the Standing Committee that held hearings on the bill, and Alex Nuttall, who was then the Tory critic on this bill. We set out their statements, below.

Why has the Green Party not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May did a good job of raising our concerns with Bill C-81 when it was being debated in the House of Commons, even though her party had the least resources to mount such an effort.

We are continuing our non-partisan campaign to get strong commitments from all the parties and candidates in this election on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act. Please press your local candidates to get us an answer from their parties! Here are resources to help you help us all!

* Go on Twitter and follow us @aodaalliance. We are sending tweets each day to different federal candidates. We are asking them to give the commitments we seek on the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. Please take a few moments each day to retweet our tweets. When you retweet them, you are adding your voice to ours.

* Use suggestions for helping our blitz that are set out in our new Federal Election Action Kit. You can find it at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/

Would you like to watch the all-candidates’ debate in Toronto on issues surrounding the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, being hosted by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre and the Reena Foundation tonight at the Bloorview facility , 150 Kilgour Road, Toronto? Our friends and colleagues at the Ontario Autism Coalition have volunteered to live stream the event on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 7 to 9 pm eastern time. The precise link for viewing it won’t be available until right before the event. However, you can go to the OAC’s Facebook page where the link will appear near the top of the page when the stream is ready to start. The OAC can make no promises about the quality of the live stream and no doubt will do their best. To go to the Ontario Autism Coalition’s Facebook page, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/4179793644/

Learn all about the campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act by visiting our website’s Canada page.

MORE DETAILS

House of Commons of Canada Hansard

November 22, 2018

Excerpts from Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Conservative

Alex Nuttall BarrieSpringwaterOro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

House of Commons Hansard November 22, 2018

Third Reading Debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.




Source link

Why Haven’t Any of the Federal Parties Except the NDP Answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 Letter, Seeking Election Commitments on Promoting Accessibility for Over Six Million People with Disabilities in Canada?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Why Haven’t Any of the Federal Parties Except the NDP Answered the AODA Alliance’s July 18, 2019 Letter, Seeking Election Commitments on Promoting Accessibility for Over Six Million People with Disabilities in Canada?

September 25, 2019

SUMMARY

The federal election is less than four weeks away. Why haven’t the federal Liberals, Tories, and Green Party answered our request, sent to them over two months ago, for specific election commitments on accessibility for over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada? Last fall and again this past June, these parties each voted unanimously for Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act and all spoke passionately about its importance to Canada.

On July 18, 2019, over two months ago, we wrote a letter to their leaders, asking for a series of election commitments. These commitments would be a roadmap for the strong and effective implementation of this new legislation.

The only federal political party that has answered us so far is the New Democratic Party. You can see the NDP response to us at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

Why have the Liberals not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? The Accessible Canada Act is legislation that they said they were so proud to introduce. They said the Accessible Canada Act is historic legislation. They promised it would do so much to tear down the many barriers that face people with disabilities in Canada. Their provincial counterparts, the Ontario Liberal Party, made election commitments on the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, in each of the four provincial elections since it was passed in 2005.

Why have the Conservatives not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? When the Accessible Canada Act was debated in the House of Commons and the Senate, they vigourously pointed to the weaknesses in this bill that we and others from the disability community had raised. On behalf of people with disabilities in Canada, they pressed for amendments to the bill to address those weaknesses – amendments that the Government mostly voted down.

Less than a year ago, on November 22, 2019 during third reading debates in the House of Commons on this legislation, two Tory MPs with leadership roles on this bill explicitly committed that if the Tories are elected in 2019, they will strengthen this legislation. Those commitments came from MP John Barlow, who was vice chair of the Standing Committee that held hearings on the bill, and Alex Nuttall, who was then the Tory critic on this bill. We set out their statements, below.

Why has the Green Party not answered our July 18, 2019 letter? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May did a good job of raising our concerns with Bill C-81 when it was being debated in the House of Commons, even though her party had the least resources to mount such an effort.

We are continuing our non-partisan campaign to get strong commitments from all the parties and candidates in this election on the implementation and enforcement of the Accessible Canada Act. Please press your local candidates to get us an answer from their parties! Here are resources to help you help us all!

* Go on Twitter and follow us @aodaalliance. We are sending tweets each day to different federal candidates. We are asking them to give the commitments we seek on the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. Please take a few moments each day to retweet our tweets. When you retweet them, you are adding your voice to ours.

* Use suggestions for helping our blitz that are set out in our new Federal Election Action Kit. You can find it at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/federal-election-action-kit-raise-disability-accessibility-issues-in-canadas-2019-federal-election/

Would you like to watch the all-candidates’ debate in Toronto on issues surrounding the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, being hosted by the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab Centre and the Reena Foundation tonight at the Bloorview facility , 150 Kilgour Road, Toronto? Our friends and colleagues at the Ontario Autism Coalition have volunteered to live stream the event on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 from 7 to 9 pm eastern time. The precise link for viewing it won’t be available until right before the event. However, you can go to the OAC’s Facebook page where the link will appear near the top of the page when the stream is ready to start. The OAC can make no promises about the quality of the live stream and no doubt will do their best. To go to the Ontario Autism Coalition’s Facebook page, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/4179793644/

Learn all about the campaign for a strong and effective Accessible Canada Act by visiting our website’s Canada page.

          MORE DETAILS

House of Commons of Canada Hansard

November 22, 2018

Excerpts from Third Reading Debates on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act

Posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/transcript-of-the-2nd-and-final-day-of-third-reading-debates-on-bill-c-81-the-proposed-accessible-canada-act-in-the-house-of-commons-on-november-22-2018/

Erin O’Toole   Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the comments from the Liberal parliamentary secretary suggesting my colleague and friend is misleading people. I spoke to my friend just yesterday about the conversation I had last week with David Lepofsky, probably the most prominent Canadian in terms of disability advocacy. He has the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada, as a constitutional lawyer and disability advocate.

What my friend is saying to the House today is exactly what is being said by people like David Lepofsky. One of the things I heard from him was the fact that there is no end date for accessibility within Bill C-81, no timeline. Ontario has set a 20-year goal of making sure accessibility is paramount. The other thing I heard from him was that there is no clear commitment in Bill C-81 to ensure no infrastructure dollars would go to new projects unless accessibility is at the centre of the project. There are no timelines and no teeth.

The Liberal member is suggesting that my friend is misleading Canadians. This is what disability advocates are asking for. Will my friend comment on the fact that we have an opportunity with Bill C-81 to get it right, if only the Liberals will listen?

Conservative

Alex Nuttall   Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to commit to the member that we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians. It is interesting the member brought up Mr. Lepofsky, because he said the following:

…the bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Those are the words of Mr. Lepofsky. It is unfortunate that the Liberal Party did not listen to them.

House of Commons Hansard November 22, 2018

Third Reading Debates over Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act

John Barlow Foothills, AB

We mentioned David Lepofsky today who is with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I really want to put in his comment here today. He said:

The bill that is now before you is very strong on good intentions but very weak on implementation and enforcement…When you come to vote on amendments before this committee and when you go back to your caucuses to decide what position you’re going to take, we urge you not simply to think of the immediate political expediency of today; we do urge you to think about the imminent election a year from now and the needs of the minority of everyone, for whom no party or politician can go soft.

Mr. Lepofsky was speaking for Canadians across the country asking us as parliamentarians to not get cold feet. This is an opportunity to make some substantial, historic change for Canadians with disabilities, and we failed.

I have to share a little of the frustration on this, as we will be voting in support of Bill C-81. For those organizations, those stakeholders listening today, the reason we are voting in support of Bill C-81 is certainly not because we agree with it. In fact, I have outlined today in my speech the many reasons why we are not. We heard from the stakeholders time and time again of their disappointment. But their comments were always that, although it fell well short of what they wanted, it was a start, and I will grant them that, it is a start.

I know they were expecting much more from the minister, the Liberal government and from us as members of that committee. Therefore, my promise to those Canadians in the disabilities community across the country is that when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81. I know how much work they have put into this proposed legislation. I know how much time and effort they put in working with us on the committee. I know what their vision was for Bill C-81. Unfortunately, this falls short. We will not make that same mistake in 2019.



Source link

Tell the Ford Government if You Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief and Recommendations on the Government’s Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project to Allow Electric Scooters in Ontario


And Lots More Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance September 13, 2019

SUMMARY

1. Please Tell the Ford Government If you Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief on the Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project Allowing E-scooters in Ontario

Please email the Doug Ford Government as soon as you can to support the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief on the Government’s proposal to permit the use of electric scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths for the next 5 years as a pilot project. Even though the Government’s incredibly-rushed 2.5 week public consultation on this proposal ended yesterday, nothing stops you from now writing the Government. Send your email to: [email protected]

It’s best when you use your own words in your email. If you are in a rush, you can simply say:

I support the September 12, 2019 brief to the Ontario Government on its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot project.

Feel free to copy us on your email to the Government if you wish. Our email address is [email protected]

You can write the Government as an individual. We are also eager for any community organizations to write the Government to support our brief as an organization.
In summary, the AODA Alliance brief calls for the Government not to allow e-scooters in Ontario. It urges the Government to withdraw its proposal to hold an excessive 5-year pilot that would allow anyone age 16 and up to ride e-scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths, even if they and the e-scooter have no training, are uninsured and have no license.

E-scooters racing at up to 32 KPH will create serious new public safety and disability accessibility problems. Either riding or leaving an e-scooter on a sidewalk should be banned. An e-scooter left on a sidewalk should be immediately forfeited and confiscated.

If, despite this, e-scooters are allowed at all, e-scooter rentals, like those dominating in some US cities, should not be permitted. An e-scooter and its driver should be required to have a license and insurance. Virtually silent e-scooters should be required to audibly beep when in use, to warn pedestrians, including those who are blind, that they are racing towards them.

The AODA Alliance opposes the idea of the Province first permitting e-scooters and then leaving it to municipalities to regulate them. Ontarians with disabilities and others who do not welcome a risk to their safety should not have to fight separate battles, in one city after the next. Each municipality should not be burdened to clean up the mess that the Province is proposing to create.

If, despite these serious concerns, the Government wishes to proceed with a pilot, it should be for 6 months, not 5 years. It should be restricted to a small part of Ontario. The residents of an area selected for such a pilot should have to first consent to the pilot taking place there.

To make it easier for you, below we set out the 16 recommendations in our brief. You can read the entire AODA Alliance September 12, 2019 brief on this topic by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-files-a-brief-with-ontarios-doug-ford-government-urging-that-ontario-should-not-allow-e-scooters-should-withdraw-its-proposal-for-a-5-year-e-scooter-pilot-project-or-if-allowed-sh/

We again thank the people who took the time to send us their feedback on our earlier draft of this brief. Their input helped us as we turned that draft into the finished product that we made public yesterday. We are encouraged by the strong support for our concerns that has been voiced.

2. Yet More Great Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks

To supplement the recent coverage of the disability concerns regarding the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot that has been reported in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, City TV news and several CBC radio programs, our accessibility issues have kept getting great media coverage. We set out a sampling below. We also include an item that concerns weak action by the Federal Government on the eve of the current federal election in its early days to implement the brand-new Accessible Canada Act.

1. The September 9, 2019 Toronto Star included a good editorial that raised a number of concerns that we had earlier raised with the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario. We applaud this editorial, even though the Star did not refer to the specific disability concerns that we had raised and did not mention the AODA Alliance.

2. The September 10, 2019 Toronto Star included a letter to the editor from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. It pointed out the additional disability concerns with the Ford Government’s e-scooter proposal that the Star’s September 9, 2019 editorial did not mention.

3. The Toronto Star’s September 10, 2019 edition also included an article on concerns with e-scooters that were raised at a meeting of a Toronto City council Committee. We were not involved in that committee’s meeting. That article reported on Toronto Mayor John Tory’s commendable reluctance to allow e-scooters in Toronto.

4. On September 11, 2019, CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning program included an interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the e-scooters issue. CBC posted an online news report on that issue, based on that interview. That interview supplements the interviews on the same issue that all seven other CBC local morning programs aired one week earlier, on September 4, 2019, with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

5. The September 12, 2019 Toronto Star included another letter to the editor on the e-scooters issue. It voiced strong opposition to allowing e-scooters in Ontario. It did not refer to disability-specific concerns with e-scooters.

6. The September 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail included an article by the Canadian Press that a number of other media outlets also posted on their websites. It focuses on a number of concerns with new regulations enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency to address disability accessibility needs in federally-regulated transportation, such as air travel. That article quoted a number of sources from the disability community, including the AODA Alliance. Its quotes of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky are to some extent inaccurate.

The regulation addressed in this article is the first such regulation enacted in this area since Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act last June. The problems with that regulation exemplify the serious concerns we raised over the past year at the House of Commons and Senate with the Accessible Canada Act leaving the Canadian Transportation Agency with responsibility for creating regulations in the area of accessible transportation. Regulations seem to cater far more to the resistance of airlines and other federally-regulated transportation providers, and too little to the needs of passengers with disabilities.

3. The Ford Government’s Dithering on the Onley Report Continues

There have been 226 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has not announced any plan of action to implement the Onley report.

The Onley report showed that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, and that Ontario Government action to redress these has been inadequate.

MORE DETAILS

List of the 16 Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 Brief to the Ontario Government Regarding E-scooters

Recommendation #1
There should be no pilot project allowing e-scooters to be driven in public places in Ontario.

Recommendation #2
The Government should withdraw this e-scooter public consultation and go back to the drawing board. If it is not prepared to withdraw this public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.

Recommendation #3
The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.

Recommendation #4
There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.

Recommendation #5
If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.

Recommendation #6
The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.

Recommendation #7
A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.

Recommendation #8
Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.

Recommendation #9
The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.

Recommendation #10
All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.

Recommendation #11
No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.

Recommendation #12
If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.

Recommendation #13
If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.

Recommendation #14
The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk, while necessary, as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.

Recommendation #15
nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.

Recommendation #16
The Ontario Government should not permit e-scooters and then leave it to each municipality to regulate them or leave it to each municipality to decide if they want to permit e-scooters.

The Toronto Star September 9, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/09/09/ontario-can-do-better-on-electric-scooters.html Editorial
Let’s do better on e-scooters

Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that two-wheeled electric scooters are finding their way onto streets, cycle paths and sidewalks all over the world.

So Ontario’s plan to regulate them is welcome, and a pilot project is a good way to find out if its rules work or a different approach is needed.

But there are significant problems with the proposal the Ford government quietly posted online last week.

The first relates to speed. That’s both the 32 km/h allowable speed for e-scooters, which is too fast to be safe for riders or the people around them, and the public consultation period.

Originally, the government thought two days would be sufficient for consultation. After an uproar that was extended until Sept. 12, which is still unnecessarily hasty.

The second concern is over the length of Ontario’s pilot project – an astonishing five years.

That’s longer than the mandate of a provincial government and it’s far too long for an e-scooter trial, especially if problems arise here as they have elsewhere. The results should be reviewed after no more than a year to decide whether it should continue, be changed or be scrapped entirely.

The current proposal would limit scooters to roads, lanes and paths where bicycles are allowed and set a minimum age of 16 to ride one.

If these rules go forward, they’ll throw open the door to rental companies that operate like bike-share programs but with dockless scooters that can be left anywhere. Tourists and locals use an app to find and unlock them.

The government’s summary of its plan breezily states that “e-scooters have been launched in more than 125 cities across the United States.”

They’re in Canadian and European cities, too. But none of that has been without considerable controversy and problems.

Chicago has fined rental companies for failing to live up to the rules it set. Nashville just ended its pilot and banned e-scooters entirely.

People in Los Angeles are vandalizing them in protest. And in Paris, a group of victims of e-scooter accidents are threatening to sue the city and demanding stricter rules to deal with the “chaos and anarchy in the streets.”

Even their credentials as a particularly green form of transport are being challenged. Are they replacing car trips or healthier walking?

While the annoyance of e-scooters cluttering sidewalks and creating tripping hazards or riders breaking laws and behaving badly gets the lion’s share of the negative attention, the people at the greatest risk are users themselves. (Most don’t wear helmets and, like cyclists, they really should.) An American study found an emergency room surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations related to scooters.

All of this is of particular concern in Toronto, which is already struggling with its Vision Zero plan to make roads safer for everyone. There’s a lot of tension on city streets and the addition of scooter rental companies catering in part to tourists unfamiliar with the city’s traffic rules and its many potholes will only add to that.

The province’s pilot project must give municipalities the flexibility they need to manage the challenges of e-scooters and come up with local solutions.
That’s the only hope of reaping the potential benefits of this new form of shared transportation.

Around the world e-scooters have grown faster than the rules to regulate them, much like ride-hailing and home-sharing services. So, yes, let’s get ahead of it for once.

But let’s not pretend we’re starting from scratch. Ontario needs to design a pilot project that learns from mistakes elsewhere rather than simply repeating them.

The Toronto Star September 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/09/10/ontarians-with-disabilities-on-losing-end-of-e-scooter-pilot.html Letters to the Editor Ontarians with disabilities on losing end of e-scooter pilot Let’s do better on e-scooters, Editorial, Sept. 9

It’s great that your editorial demands the Ford government be more cautious before exposing Ontarians to the dangers that electric scooters pose if allowed. But you missed key problems.

The Star said “The people at the greatest risk are users themselves.” In fact, Ontarians with disabilities are among those at greatest risk. Rental e-scooters, routinely left on sidewalks in other cities where allowed, are a serious tripping hazard for blind people like me. They are a new accessibility barrier for people using wheelchairs or walkers. Silent e-scooters are also a danger to us blind people when we cross streets.

The Disabilities Act requires the government to lead Ontario to become barrier-free for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. The Ford government is way behind on this. E-scooters would create new disability barriers.

Those injured by e-scooters aren’t just the users, but innocent pedestrians. Premier Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine. The hours of waiting to see a doctor in emergency rooms will only get longer as they are cluttered up with e-scooters’ victims, drivers and pedestrians.

If Ontario is to pilot e-scooters, it should have safeguards like your editorial mentioned. We must go further. Ontario shouldn’t run any pilot until and unless e-scooters’ safety risks are eliminated.

Banning e-scooters from being driven on sidewalks won’t protect us. Such a ban, while needed, is extremely difficult to enforce.

Don’t burden municipalities with cleaning up this mess. Strict provincial rules must ensure our safety.

David Lepofsky, chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Toronto

The Toronto Star September 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/09/09/toronto-committee-wants-e-scooters-barred-from-sidewalks.html City wants e-scooters off sidewalks Bird CEO argues temporary ban will make launch impossible
Francine Kopun
The Toronto Star Sept. 10, 2019

Barring e-scooters from city sidewalks, recommended by a city committee on Monday, would make it impossible to introduce the concept to Toronto, according to the CEO of Bird Canada, an e-scooter company hoping to launch here in the spring of 2020.

“If you can’t park them on the sidewalk and you can’t park them on the street, I guess we’re parking them in the air?” Stewart Lyons said.

“I don’t know where we’re parking them. They can’t fly.”

Lyons was speaking after the city’s infrastructure and environment committee passed a motion that would temporarily prevent e-scooters from occupying sidewalks – at least until city staff can come up with a better plan, expected later this year.

Lyons said being able to park e-scooters on some sidewalks is a key part of the e-scooter program.

He said it would be hard to create enough demand if the scooters can’t be made available to customers right where they live and work, arguing that docking stations, such as those used by the current Bike Share Toronto program, wouldn’t be accessible enough.

Currently, users in cities where shared e-scooter programs are in place can locate scooters near them using an app.

Mayor John Tory said he supports the motion, saying it’s meant to preserve the status quo, so Toronto doesn’t have an uncontrolled and undisciplined entry of e-scooters into the market.

Tory said he is concerned about the safety of scooter use and clutter they may create, adding Toronto has many narrow sidewalks and the city must be careful with regulations controlling their use.

The mayor said he has seen scooters littering sidewalks in Austin, Texas, and has asked mayors from other cities about their experiences with the dockless devices.

“They described it all the way from successful to others who would describe it … as a gong show,” Tory said. “We don’t want any gong shows in Toronto, we don’t want people to have their safety imperiled on sidewalks or elsewhere and we don’t want the city to become cluttered.”

Tory said he personally doesn’t think e-scooters should be allowed to be driven on sidewalks, or left helter-skelter there, but he’ll wait to see what city staff propose.

The fact that e-scooters from companies such as Bird and rival firm Lime have no docking stations has led to problems in some cities, with scooters being littered across sidewalks, thrown into bushes and even into bodies of water.

Lyons said that was a problem in the early days of the program, but it’s mostly been resolved. He said the scooters were being left around because the company was hiring workers on contract who were ditching them instead of relocating them in order to save time.

These days, the company uses a more secure method to collect, charge and redistribute the scooters. The program is active in Edmonton and Calgary and is set to launch in Montreal in a couple of weeks, Lyons said.

“The good thing about Canada starting a little bit later is we have now the lessons learned and now we want to be better …. operators,” Lyons said.

The province intends to release regulations soon concerning the use of e-scooters on roads. But it’s up to the city to police sidewalks.

Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said the ban on sidewalk use by e-scooters, if council adopts it, would be temporary, until city staff can come up with a more detailed plan.

He said the committee is already thinking of ways to refine it, but they wanted to get out in front of the issue quickly.

“We wanted to make sure that the city’s regulatory regime is out front before one of these companies tried to come into a municipality and impose a system,” said Layton, who supports the idea of docking stations for e-scooters.

The province is looking at a five-year pilot program that would allow e-scooters to be operated in the same places bicycles can operate. It’s looking for feedback by Sept. 12 on the proposal.

The proposed rules would set a minimum age for drivers at 16 and a maximum speed of 32 km/h.

E-scooters, which have been adopted in numerous cities in North America and Europe, are being pitched as a solution to gridlock in big cities and an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, but have proven controversial.

Nashville banned them entirely after a pilot project. In Los Angeles, people are vandalizing them in protest.

The problem is they clutter sidewalks when not in use, presenting obstacles for pedestrians, people pushing strollers and anyone with a visual or mobility impairment.

One U.S. study traced a surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations treated in emergency rooms to scooter use. And researchers at North Carolina State University found that scooter travel produces more greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre than travelling by foot, bicycle or public transit.

Bird Canada is offering free trials of its scooters in the Distillery District until Sunday.

It expects to charges $1.15 to unlock its scooters and 35 cents a minute to ride them when it introduces the service next spring.

“Hopefully some cooler heads prevail between now and council,” Lyons said.

CBC Radio Ottawa September 11, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/e-scooters-disabilities-ontario-feedback-pilot-project-1.5278879 Ottawa Scrap Ontario e-scooter pilot, disability advocate urges

Province seeking feedback ahead of proposed 5-year pilot project

The Ontario government is considering a five-year pilot project that would allow e-scooters on the province’s roads, but disability advocates have major concerns with the plan. (Mike

A group that advocates for the rights of disabled Ontarians is urging the province to hit the brakes on a proposed five-year e-scooter pilot project before it begins.

The province has been seeking public feedback on their plan to allow electric scooters on the same roads where bicycles can operate, save for provincial highways.

Ontario plans to launch 5-year pilot project that allows e-scooters on roads Why an image problem is slowing e-scooter rollout in Canada

Under the proposed pilot, drivers would have to be at least 16 years old and could not have passengers. The e-scooters could not exceed a maximum operating speed of 32 km/h.

Even with those limitations, allowing e-scooters on the roads will make it harder for people with disabilities to get around, and could lead to more injuries, said David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“We’ve got lots of proof that these pose a lot of problems,” Lepofsky told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. “We don’t need to experiment on Ontarians.”

‘An instant barrier’

Many e-scooter rental services around the world allow users to sign out the devices using an app and then once they’re done with them simply leave them behind on a sidewalk or other public space.

While Lepofsky’s group has asked the Ontario government to kill its pilot project entirely, it has also come up with 12 draft recommendations should the experiment ultimately go ahead.

They include cutting the maximum speed limit by as much as half, requiring drivers to be licensed and levying strict penalties if the scooters are dumped on sidewalks though Lepofsky admits that last recommendation could be hard to enforce.

Something can be barrelling at me at 32 kilometres an hour … and I can’t know they’re coming.

“You’re walking down the street, you’re blind, and all of the sudden there’s an instant barrier, a tripping hazard in your path,” said Lepofsky, who’s been blind most of his life.

“Five minutes later it could be gone … how do you prove your case? We don’t have police on every corner just waiting to enforce [that restriction].”

Then, there’s the fact the scooters are largely silent: Lepofsky also wants the e-scooters, if they’re allowed, to emit beeping noises that warn others of their approach.

“Something can be barrelling at me at 32 km/h, ridden at me by an unlicensed and uninsured driver,” Lepofsky said. “And I can’t know they’re coming.”

David Lepofsky, a law professor and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says the province should rethink its plans for a five-year e-scooter pilot project. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Safety ‘key consideration’

Lepofsky also questioned the need for a five-year study that would be rolled out from one end of Ontario to the other.

“If you want to see if it’s safe on our roads, you do it for a much [narrower] piece of territory, not the entire province of Ontario, and for a much shorter period six months or something like that is what we’d propose,” he said.

San Francisco-based Lime has already been lobbying Ottawa city councillors, claiming its dockless e-scooters would be an ideal fit with the city’s stated transportation goals.

The company recently wrapped up a trial rollout at the University of Waterloo, with competitor Bird Canada slated to launch a similar project this month in Toronto’s Distillery District.

E-scooter pilot project to launch in Toronto, but major hurdles remain Lime e-scooter pilot project to end in Waterloo

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation declined an interview with CBC News, but said in a statement that all feedback heard during the consultation process “will be taken into consideration before any final decisions on the pilot take place.”

“Ensuring that new vehicle types can integrate safely with pedestrians and other vehicles is a key consideration before any new vehicle type will be allowed on-road,” the statement said.

The public consultation period wraps up Sept. 12.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning

The Toronto Star September 12, 2019
Letters to the editor
E-scooters have no place in current infrastructure
City wants e-scooters off sidewalks, Sept. 10

Toronto is in the throes of a traffic crisis. Deaths and injuries are occurring daily.

To this we plan to add e-scooters, which can travel at 32 kph, into the already-congested bike lanes, to be ultimately discarded on our sidewalks?

Surely wisdom dictates that adding another form of transportation into this chaos is not a move to be contemplated until our city figures out a way to make commuters safe within our present infrastructure. E-scooters? Eek!

Judith Butler, Toronto

The Globe and Mail September 9, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-advocates-say-new-canadian-air-travel-rules-present-greater-barriers/ Report on Business Advocates of accessible air travel say new rules raise barriers to mobility By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL – Tracy Odell recalls with a mix of pride and pain the sunny spring day two years ago that her daughter got married in California.

Pride in the milestone. Pain at having to miss it.

Airlines, she said, effectively failed to accommodate her disability, a problem that thousands of Canadians continue to face despite new rules designed in theory to open the skies to disabled travellers.

As seating space shrank and cargo doors were often too small for customized wheelchairs, Ms.Odell cut back on the flights she once took routinely for her work with a non-profit.

“My wheelchair is part of me,” said Ms. Odell, 61, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that gradually prevents forming and keeping the muscles needed to walk, balance, eat and even breathe. “I’m helpless without it.”

“It’s like if someone says, I’m sorry, you can travel but we have to unscrew your legs,’ ” said Ms.Odell, who last took an airplane in 2009.

Her $18,000 mobility device is not allowed in the aircraft cabin, nor can it fit through some cargo doors without being tipped on its side, risking damage. As a result, her husband opted to stay by her side and miss their daughter’s San Jose wedding, too.

Ms. Odell, president of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, is one of a number of advocates who say new rules ostensibly designed to make air travel more accessible fail to go far enough – and, in some cases, mark a step backward.

“It’s called second-class citizenry. I’ve felt it all my life,” said Marcia Yale, a lifelong advocate for blind Canadians.

The regulations, rolled out in June under a revised Canada Transportation Act – with most slated to take effect in June, 2020 – do little to improve spotty airport service or accommodate attendants and service dogs on international flights, she said.

“These are going backwards,” Ms. Yale said, citing carriers’ legal duty to accommodate. “We wanted pro-active regulations that were going to raise the bar. And in some ways, they’ve lowered it.”

The new rules require travellers to notify airlines anywhere from 48 to 96 hours in advance to receive certain accommodations, such as being guided through security or receiving help transferring from a wheelchair to a smaller, cabin-compatible mobility device. There are currently no rules requiring notification that can jeopardize last-minute travel for work or emergencies.

Many passenger planes’ cargo doors are about 79 centimetres in height – a little more than 2 1/2 – slightly smaller than a typical power wheelchair for youth, said Terry Green, chairman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ transportation committee.

“These aircraft are totally restricting adults who use large mobility devices from travelling,” he said, saying many wheelchairs cannot fit into cargo at all.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says it will be “monitoring … very closely” a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration study on wheelchair anchor systems, with an eye to allowing passengers to remain seated in the cabin in their mobility devices. A report is expected in the next three years.

David Lepofsky, an adjunct law professor at the University of Toronto, is reminded of the challenges facing disabled passengers by the case of a couple abandoned in their wheelchairs for 12 hours after being dropped at a service counter in the Vancouver airport en route to Edmonton from their home in Nepal earlier this year.

He can relate.

“There are times it takes me longer to get out of the airport than it took to fly here,” said Prof. Lepofsky, who is blind and travels frequently for lectures.

Prof. Lepofsky says he’ll often ask a passerby to guide him to the gate rather than go through the stop-and-go relay he’s experienced with airport and airline agents.

The Canadian Transportation Agency’s stated goals, variously defined as “equal access” and “more accessible” service, conflict with each other, leaving levels of accommodation unclear, Prof. Lepofsky said.

The rules require an airport to provide a disabled passenger with curb-to-gate assistance, except “if the transportation provider is providing that service.”

“It’s good that they spell out what has to be provided; it’s bad that there are so many escape clauses,” Prof. Lepofsky said.

He added that the confusion may be more tolerable if airports were required to install way-finding beacons – which connect with an app on a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth to offer verbal directions (Toronto’s Pearson airport recently added the devices) – or kiosks with audio output, an omission he deemed “inexcusable.”

The new rules come alongside a passenger bill of rights that beefs up compensation for travellers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Consumer- rights advocates have said the regulations grant airlines loopholes to avoid payment, while Canadian carriers have launched a legal challenge to quash provisions they argue breach international standards.

Meanwhile, the new accessibility regulations require free travel for an attendant or guide dog in an adjacent seat only on domestic flights, with taxes and fees still applicable. A second phase of the regulatory process, now under way, will consider extending the one-person-one-fare requirement to international flights, according to the CTA.




Source link

Tell the Ford Government if You Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief and Recommendations on the Government’s Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project to Allow Electric Scooters in Ontario – and – Lots More Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Tell the Ford Government if You Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief and Recommendations on the Government’s Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project to Allow Electric Scooters in Ontario – and – Lots More Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks

September 13, 2019

SUMMARY

1. Please Tell the Ford Government If you Support the AODA Alliance’s Brief on the Proposal to Hold a 5-Year Pilot Project Allowing E-scooters in Ontario

Please email the Doug Ford Government as soon as you can to support the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 brief on the Government’s proposal to permit the use of electric scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths for the next 5 years as a pilot project. Even though the Government’s incredibly-rushed 2.5 week public consultation on this proposal ended yesterday, nothing stops you from now writing the Government. Send your email to: [email protected]

It’s best when you use your own words in your email. If you are in a rush, you can simply say:

I support the September 12, 2019 brief to the Ontario Government on its proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot project.

Feel free to copy us on your email to the Government if you wish. Our email address is [email protected]

You can write the Government as an individual. We are also eager for any community organizations to write the Government to support our brief as an organization.

In summary, the AODA Alliance brief calls for the Government not to allow e-scooters in Ontario. It urges the Government to withdraw its proposal to hold an excessive 5-year pilot that would allow anyone age 16 and up to ride e-scooters on Ontario roads and bike paths, even if they and the e-scooter have no training, are uninsured and have no license.

E-scooters racing at up to 32 KPH will create serious new public safety and disability accessibility problems. Either riding or leaving an e-scooter on a sidewalk should be banned. An e-scooter left on a sidewalk should be immediately forfeited and confiscated.

If, despite this, e-scooters are allowed at all, e-scooter rentals, like those dominating in some US cities, should not be permitted. An e-scooter and its driver should be required to have a license and insurance. Virtually silent e-scooters should be required to audibly beep when in use, to warn pedestrians, including those who are blind, that they are racing towards them.

The AODA Alliance opposes the idea of the Province first permitting e-scooters and then leaving it to municipalities to regulate them. Ontarians with disabilities and others who do not welcome a risk to their safety should not have to fight separate battles, in one city after the next. Each municipality should not be burdened to clean up the mess that the Province is proposing to create.

If, despite these serious concerns, the Government wishes to proceed with a pilot, it should be for 6 months, not 5 years. It should be restricted to a small part of Ontario. The residents of an area selected for such a pilot should have to first consent to the pilot taking place there.

To make it easier for you, below we set out the 16 recommendations in our brief. You can read the entire AODA Alliance September 12, 2019 brief on this topic by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-files-a-brief-with-ontarios-doug-ford-government-urging-that-ontario-should-not-allow-e-scooters-should-withdraw-its-proposal-for-a-5-year-e-scooter-pilot-project-or-if-allowed-sh/

We again thank the people who took the time to send us their feedback on our earlier draft of this brief. Their input helped us as we turned that draft into the finished product that we made public yesterday. We are encouraged by the strong support for our concerns that has been voiced.

2. Yet More Great Media Coverage of Our Issues Over the Past Two Weeks

To supplement the recent coverage of the disability concerns regarding the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario for a 5-year pilot that has been reported in the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, City TV news and several CBC radio programs, our accessibility issues have kept getting great media coverage. We set out a sampling below. We also include an item that concerns weak action by the Federal Government on the eve of the current federal election in its early days to implement the brand-new Accessible Canada Act.

  1. The September 9, 2019 Toronto Star included a good editorial that raised a number of concerns that we had earlier raised with the Ford Government’s proposal to allow e-scooters in Ontario. We applaud this editorial, even though the Star did not refer to the specific disability concerns that we had raised and did not mention the AODA Alliance.
  1. The September 10, 2019 Toronto Star included a letter to the editor from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. It pointed out the additional disability concerns with the Ford Government’s e-scooter proposal that the Star’s September 9, 2019 editorial did not mention.
  1. The Toronto Star’s September 10, 2019 edition also included an article on concerns with e-scooters that were raised at a meeting of a Toronto City council Committee. We were not involved in that committee’s meeting. That article reported on Toronto Mayor John Tory’s commendable reluctance to allow e-scooters in Toronto.
  1. On September 11, 2019, CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning program included an interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the e-scooters issue. CBC posted an online news report on that issue, based on that interview. That interview supplements the interviews on the same issue that all seven other CBC local morning programs aired one week earlier, on September 4, 2019, with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.
  1. The September 12, 2019 Toronto Star included another letter to the editor on the e-scooters issue. It voiced strong opposition to allowing e-scooters in Ontario. It did not refer to disability-specific concerns with e-scooters.
  1. The September 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail included an article by the Canadian Press that a number of other media outlets also posted on their websites. It focuses on a number of concerns with new regulations enacted by the Canadian Transportation Agency to address disability accessibility needs in federally-regulated transportation, such as air travel. That article quoted a number of sources from the disability community, including the AODA Alliance. Its quotes of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky are to some extent inaccurate.

The regulation addressed in this article is the first such regulation enacted in this area since Parliament passed the Accessible Canada Act last June. The problems with that regulation exemplify the serious concerns we raised over the past year at the House of Commons and Senate with the Accessible Canada Act leaving the Canadian Transportation Agency with responsibility for creating regulations in the area of accessible transportation. Regulations seem to cater far more to the resistance of airlines and other federally-regulated transportation providers, and too little to the needs of passengers with disabilities.

3. The Ford Government’s Dithering on the Onley Report Continues

There have been 226 days, or over seven months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of Ontario’s accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has not announced any plan of action to implement the Onley report.

The Onley report showed that Ontario remains full of “soul-crushing” barriers against over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities, and that Ontario Government action to redress these has been inadequate.

          MORE DETAILS

List of the 16 Recommendations in the AODA Alliance’s September 12, 2019 Brief to the Ontario Government Regarding E-scooters

Recommendation #1

There should be no pilot project allowing e-scooters to be driven in public places in Ontario.

Recommendation #2

The Government should withdraw this e-scooter public consultation and go back to the drawing board. If it is not prepared to withdraw this public consultation on e-scooters, the Ontario Government should at least extend the consultation period to October 31, 2019.

Recommendation #3

The rental of e-scooters should be strictly forbidden, even if private ownership of an e-scooter by a user of that e-scooter were to be permitted.

Recommendation #4

There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like location. If an e-scooter is left in such a place, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.

Recommendation #5

If e-scooters are to be permitted in Ontario, they should be required to make an ongoing beeping sound when they are powered on, to warn others of their approach.

Recommendation #6

The speed limit for e-scooters should initially be set much lower than 32 KPH, such as 15 or 20 KPH, until a strong showing can be made that a higher speed limit poses no safety threat to the public.

 

Recommendation #7

A person wishing to drive an e-scooter should be required to first take required training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and then to obtain a license.

Recommendation #8

Each e-scooter should be required to be licensed and to display a readily-seen license plate number.

Recommendation #9

The owner and driver of an e-scooter should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or other damages that the e-scooter causes to others.

Recommendation #10

All e-scooter drivers, regardless of their age, should be required to wear a helmet whenever operating an e-scooter.

Recommendation #11

No e-scooter pilot project should be held in Ontario until the Ontario Government effectively studies the impact on public safety of e-scooters in jurisdictions that have allowed them, and on options for regulatory controls of them, and has made the details of these public. A pilot project should only be held in Ontario if public safety can be fully and effectively protected.

Recommendation #12

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, it should only take place for a period much shorter than five years, e.g. six months, and should only take place in a specific community that has consented to permit that pilot project there.

Recommendation #13

If Ontario is to hold an e-scooter pilot project, the Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety to study the impact of e-scooters during that pilot project, and to make the full results of that study public.

Recommendation #14

The Government should not treat a ban on riding e-scooters on the sidewalk, while necessary, as a sufficient protection against the threat to public safety that e-scooters present.

Recommendation #15

nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities.

Recommendation #16

The Ontario Government should not permit e-scooters and then leave it to each municipality to regulate them or leave it to each municipality to decide if they want to permit e-scooters.

The Toronto Star September 9, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/09/09/ontario-can-do-better-on-electric-scooters.html

Editorial

Let’s do better on e-scooters

Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that two-wheeled electric scooters are finding their way onto streets, cycle paths and sidewalks all over the world.

So Ontario’s plan to regulate them is welcome, and a pilot project is a good way to find out if its rules work or a different approach is needed.

But there are significant problems with the proposal the Ford government quietly posted online last week.

The first relates to speed. That’s both the 32 km/h allowable speed for e-scooters, which is too fast to be safe for riders or the people around them, and the public consultation period.

Originally, the government thought two days would be sufficient for consultation. After an uproar that was extended until Sept. 12, which is still unnecessarily hasty.

The second concern is over the length of Ontario’s pilot project – an astonishing five years.

That’s longer than the mandate of a provincial government and it’s far too long for an e-scooter trial, especially if problems arise here as they have elsewhere. The results should be reviewed after no more than a year to decide whether it should continue, be changed or be scrapped entirely.

The current proposal would limit scooters to roads, lanes and paths where bicycles are allowed and set a minimum age of 16 to ride one.

If these rules go forward, they’ll throw open the door to rental companies that operate like bike-share programs but with dockless scooters that can be left anywhere. Tourists and locals use an app to find and unlock them.

The government’s summary of its plan breezily states that “e-scooters have been launched in more than 125 cities across the United States.”

They’re in Canadian and European cities, too. But none of that has been without considerable controversy and problems.

Chicago has fined rental companies for failing to live up to the rules it set. Nashville just ended its pilot and banned e-scooters entirely.

People in Los Angeles are vandalizing them in protest. And in Paris, a group of victims of e-scooter accidents are threatening to sue the city and demanding stricter rules to deal with the “chaos and anarchy in the streets.”

Even their credentials as a particularly green form of transport are being challenged. Are they replacing car trips or healthier walking?

While the annoyance of e-scooters cluttering sidewalks and creating tripping hazards or riders breaking laws and behaving badly gets the lion’s share of the negative attention, the people at the greatest risk are users themselves. (Most don’t wear helmets and, like cyclists, they really should.) An American study found an emergency room surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations related to scooters.

All of this is of particular concern in Toronto, which is already struggling with its Vision Zero plan to make roads safer for everyone. There’s a lot of tension on city streets and the addition of scooter rental companies catering in part to tourists unfamiliar with the city’s traffic rules and its many potholes will only add to that.

The province’s pilot project must give municipalities the flexibility they need to manage the challenges of e-scooters and come up with local solutions.

That’s the only hope of reaping the potential benefits of this new form of shared transportation.

Around the world e-scooters have grown faster than the rules to regulate them, much like ride-hailing and home-sharing services. So, yes, let’s get ahead of it for once.

But let’s not pretend we’re starting from scratch. Ontario needs to design a pilot project that learns from mistakes elsewhere rather than simply repeating them.

The Toronto Star September 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/09/10/ontarians-with-disabilities-on-losing-end-of-e-scooter-pilot.html

Letters to the Editor

Ontarians with disabilities on losing end of e-scooter pilot

Let’s do better on e-scooters, Editorial, Sept. 9

It’s great that your editorial demands the Ford government be more cautious before exposing Ontarians to the dangers that electric scooters pose if allowed.

But you missed key problems.

The Star said “The people at the greatest risk are users themselves.” In fact, Ontarians with disabilities are among those at greatest risk. Rental e-scooters, routinely left on sidewalks in other cities where allowed, are a serious tripping hazard for blind people like me. They are a new accessibility barrier for people using wheelchairs or walkers. Silent e-scooters are also a danger to us blind people when we cross streets.

The Disabilities Act requires the government to lead Ontario to become barrier-free for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. The Ford government is way behind on this. E-scooters would create new disability barriers.

Those injured by e-scooters aren’t just the users, but innocent pedestrians. Premier Doug Ford promised to end hallway medicine. The hours of waiting to see a doctor in emergency rooms will only get longer as they are cluttered up with e-scooters’ victims, drivers and pedestrians.

If Ontario is to pilot e-scooters, it should have safeguards like your editorial mentioned. We must go further. Ontario shouldn’t run any pilot until and

unless e-scooters’ safety risks are eliminated.

Banning e-scooters from being driven on sidewalks won’t protect us. Such a ban, while needed, is extremely difficult to enforce.

Don’t burden municipalities with cleaning up this mess. Strict provincial rules must ensure our safety.

David Lepofsky, chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Toronto

The Toronto Star September 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/09/09/toronto-committee-wants-e-scooters-barred-from-sidewalks.html

City wants e-scooters off sidewalks

Bird CEO argues temporary ban will make launch impossible

Francine Kopun

The Toronto Star Sept. 10, 2019

Barring e-scooters from city sidewalks, recommended by a city committee on Monday, would make it impossible to introduce the concept to Toronto, according to the CEO of Bird Canada, an e-scooter company hoping to launch here in the spring of 2020.

“If you can’t park them on the sidewalk and you can’t park them on the street, I guess we’re parking them in the air?” Stewart Lyons said.

“I don’t know where we’re parking them. They can’t fly.”

Lyons was speaking after the city’s infrastructure and environment committee passed a motion that would temporarily prevent e-scooters from occupying sidewalks – at least until city staff can come up with a better plan, expected later this year.

Lyons said being able to park e-scooters on some sidewalks is a key part of the e-scooter program.

He said it would be hard to create enough demand if the scooters can’t be made available to customers right where they live and work, arguing that docking stations, such as those used by the current Bike Share Toronto program, wouldn’t be accessible enough.

Currently, users in cities where shared e-scooter programs are in place can locate scooters near them using an app.

Mayor John Tory said he supports the motion, saying it’s meant to preserve the status quo, so Toronto doesn’t have an uncontrolled and undisciplined entry of e-scooters into the market.

Tory said he is concerned about the safety of scooter use and clutter they may create, adding Toronto has many narrow sidewalks and the city must be careful with regulations controlling their use.

The mayor said he has seen scooters littering sidewalks in Austin, Texas, and has asked mayors from other cities about their experiences with the dockless devices.

“They described it all the way from successful to others who would describe it … as a gong show,” Tory said. “We don’t want any gong shows in Toronto, we don’t want people to have their safety imperiled on sidewalks or elsewhere and we don’t want the city to become cluttered.”

Tory said he personally doesn’t think e-scooters should be allowed to be driven on sidewalks, or left helter-skelter there, but he’ll wait to see what city staff propose.

The fact that e-scooters from companies such as Bird and rival firm Lime have no docking stations has led to problems in some cities, with scooters being littered across sidewalks, thrown into bushes and even into bodies of water.

Lyons said that was a problem in the early days of the program, but it’s mostly been resolved. He said the scooters were being left around because the company was hiring workers on contract who were ditching them instead of relocating them in order to save time.

These days, the company uses a more secure method to collect, charge and redistribute the scooters. The program is active in Edmonton and Calgary and is set to launch in Montreal in a couple of weeks, Lyons said.

“The good thing about Canada starting a little bit later is we have now the lessons learned and now we want to be better …. operators,” Lyons said.

The province intends to release regulations soon concerning the use of e-scooters on roads. But it’s up to the city to police sidewalks.

Committee member Mike Layton (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) said the ban on sidewalk use by e-scooters, if council adopts it, would be temporary, until city staff can come up with a more detailed plan.

He said the committee is already thinking of ways to refine it, but they wanted to get out in front of the issue quickly.

“We wanted to make sure that the city’s regulatory regime is out front before one of these companies tried to come into a municipality and impose a system,” said Layton, who supports the idea of docking stations for e-scooters.

The province is looking at a five-year pilot program that would allow e-scooters to be operated in the same places bicycles can operate. It’s looking for feedback by Sept. 12 on the proposal.

The proposed rules would set a minimum age for drivers at 16 and a maximum speed of 32 km/h.

E-scooters, which have been adopted in numerous cities in North America and Europe, are being pitched as a solution to gridlock in big cities and an environmentally friendly mode of transportation, but have proven controversial.

Nashville banned them entirely after a pilot project. In Los Angeles, people are vandalizing them in protest.

The problem is they clutter sidewalks when not in use, presenting obstacles for pedestrians, people pushing strollers and anyone with a visual or mobility impairment.

One U.S. study traced a surge in head injuries, fractures and dislocations treated in emergency rooms to scooter use. And researchers at North Carolina State University found that scooter travel produces more greenhouse gas emissions per kilometre than travelling by foot, bicycle or public transit.

Bird Canada is offering free trials of its scooters in the Distillery District until Sunday.

It expects to charges $1.15 to unlock its scooters and 35 cents a minute to ride them when it introduces the service next spring.

“Hopefully some cooler heads prevail between now and council,” Lyons said.

CBC Radio Ottawa September 11, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/e-scooters-disabilities-ontario-feedback-pilot-project-1.5278879

Ottawa

Scrap Ontario e-scooter pilot, disability advocate urges

Province seeking feedback ahead of proposed 5-year pilot project

The Ontario government is considering a five-year pilot project that would allow e-scooters on the province’s roads, but disability advocates have major concerns with the plan. (Mike

A group that advocates for the rights of disabled Ontarians is urging the province to hit the brakes on a proposed five-year e-scooter pilot project before it begins.

The province has been seeking public feedback on their plan to allow electric scooters on the same roads where bicycles can operate, save for provincial highways.

  • Ontario plans to launch 5-year pilot project that allows e-scooters on roads
  • Why an image problem is slowing e-scooter rollout in Canada

Under the proposed pilot, drivers would have to be at least 16 years old and could not have passengers. The e-scooters could not exceed a maximum operating speed of 32 km/h.

Even with those limitations, allowing e-scooters on the roads will make it harder for people with disabilities to get around, and could lead to more injuries, said David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“We’ve got lots of proof that these pose a lot of problems,” Lepofsky told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning. “We don’t need to experiment on Ontarians.”

‘An instant barrier’

Many e-scooter rental services around the world allow users to sign out the devices using an app and then — once they’re done with them — simply leave them behind on a sidewalk or other public space.

While Lepofsky’s group has asked the Ontario government to kill its pilot project entirely, it has also come up with 12 draft recommendations should the experiment ultimately go ahead.

They include cutting the maximum speed limit by as much as half, requiring drivers to be licensed and levying strict penalties if the scooters are dumped on sidewalks — though Lepofsky admits that last recommendation could be hard to enforce.

Something can be barrelling at me at 32 kilometres an hour … and I can’t know they’re coming.

“You’re walking down the street, you’re blind, and all of the sudden there’s an instant barrier, a tripping hazard in your path,” said Lepofsky, who’s been blind most of his life.

“Five minutes later it could be gone … how do you prove your case? We don’t have police on every corner just waiting to enforce [that restriction].”

Then, there’s the fact the scooters are largely silent: Lepofsky also wants the e-scooters, if they’re allowed, to emit beeping noises that warn others of their approach.

“Something can be barrelling at me at 32 km/h, ridden at me by an unlicensed and uninsured driver,” Lepofsky said. “And I can’t know they’re coming.”

David Lepofsky, a law professor and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says the province should rethink its plans for a five-year e-scooter pilot project. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Safety ‘key consideration’

Lepofsky also questioned the need for a five-year study that would be rolled out from one end of Ontario to the other.

“If you want to see if it’s safe on our roads, you do it for a much [narrower] piece of territory, not the entire province of Ontario, and for a much shorter period — six months or something like that is what we’d propose,” he said.

San Francisco-based Lime has already been lobbying Ottawa city councillors, claiming its dockless e-scooters would be an ideal fit with the city’s stated transportation goals.

The company recently wrapped up a trial rollout at the University of Waterloo, with competitor Bird Canada slated to launch a similar project this month in Toronto’s Distillery District.

  • E-scooter pilot project to launch in Toronto, but major hurdles remain
  • Lime e-scooter pilot project to end in Waterloo

Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation declined an interview with CBC News, but said in a statement that all feedback heard during the consultation process “will be taken into consideration before any final decisions on the pilot take place.”

“Ensuring that new vehicle types can integrate safely with pedestrians and other vehicles is a key consideration before any new vehicle type will be allowed on-road,” the statement said.

The public consultation period wraps up Sept. 12.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning

The Toronto Star September 12, 2019

Letters to the editor

E-scooters have no place in current infrastructure

City wants e-scooters off sidewalks, Sept. 10

Toronto is in the throes of a traffic crisis. Deaths and injuries are occurring daily.

To this we plan to add e-scooters, which can travel at 32 kph, into the already-congested bike lanes, to be ultimately discarded on our sidewalks?

Surely wisdom dictates that adding another form of transportation into this chaos is not a move to be contemplated until our city figures out a way to make commuters safe within our present infrastructure. E-scooters? Eek!

Judith Butler, Toronto

The Globe and Mail September 9, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-advocates-say-new-canadian-air-travel-rules-present-greater-barriers/

Report on Business

Advocates of accessible air travel say new rules raise barriers to mobility

By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL – Tracy Odell recalls with a mix of pride and pain the sunny spring day two years ago that her daughter got married in California.

Pride in the milestone. Pain at having to miss it.

Airlines, she said, effectively failed to accommodate her disability, a problem that thousands of Canadians continue to face despite new rules designed in theory to open the skies to disabled travellers.

As seating space shrank and cargo doors were often too small for customized wheelchairs, Ms.Odell cut back on the flights she once took routinely for her work with a non-profit.

“My wheelchair is part of me,” said Ms. Odell, 61, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that gradually prevents forming and keeping the muscles needed to walk, balance, eat and even breathe. “I’m helpless without it.”

“It’s like if someone says, ‘I’m sorry, you can travel but we have to unscrew your legs,’ ” said Ms.Odell, who last took an airplane in 2009.

Her $18,000 mobility device is not allowed in the aircraft cabin, nor can it fit through some cargo doors without being tipped on its side, risking damage. As a result, her husband opted to stay by her side and miss their daughter’s San Jose wedding, too.

Ms. Odell, president of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, is one of a number of advocates who say new rules ostensibly designed to make air travel more accessible fail to go far enough – and, in some cases, mark a step backward.

“It’s called second-class citizenry. I’ve felt it all my life,” said Marcia Yale, a lifelong advocate for blind Canadians.

The regulations, rolled out in June under a revised Canada Transportation Act – with most slated to take effect in June, 2020 – do little to improve spotty airport service or accommodate attendants and service dogs on international flights, she said.

“These are going backwards,” Ms. Yale said, citing carriers’ legal duty to accommodate. “We wanted pro-active regulations that were going to raise the bar. And in some ways, they’ve lowered it.”

The new rules require travellers to notify airlines anywhere from 48 to 96 hours in advance to receive certain accommodations, such as being guided through security or receiving help transferring from a wheelchair to a smaller, cabin-compatible mobility device. There are currently no rules requiring notification that can jeopardize last-minute travel for work or emergencies.

Many passenger planes’ cargo doors are about 79 centimetres in height – a little more than 2 1/2 – slightly smaller than a typical power wheelchair for youth, said Terry Green, chairman of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ transportation committee.

“These aircraft are totally restricting adults who use large mobility devices from travelling,” he said, saying many wheelchairs cannot fit into cargo at all.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says it will be “monitoring … very closely” a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration study on wheelchair anchor systems, with an eye to allowing passengers to remain seated in the cabin in their mobility devices. A report is expected in the next three years.

David Lepofsky, an adjunct law professor at the University of Toronto, is reminded of the challenges facing disabled passengers by the case of a couple abandoned in their wheelchairs for 12 hours after being dropped at a service counter in the Vancouver airport en route to Edmonton from their home in Nepal earlier this year.

He can relate.

“There are times it takes me longer to get out of the airport than it took to fly here,” said Prof. Lepofsky, who is blind and travels frequently for lectures.

Prof. Lepofsky says he’ll often ask a passerby to guide him to the gate rather than go through the stop-and-go relay he’s experienced with airport and airline agents.

The Canadian Transportation Agency’s stated goals, variously defined as “equal access” and “more accessible” service, conflict with each other, leaving levels of accommodation unclear, Prof. Lepofsky said.

The rules require an airport to provide a disabled passenger with curb-to-gate assistance, except “if the transportation provider is providing that service.”

“It’s good that they spell out what has to be provided; it’s bad that there are so many escape clauses,” Prof. Lepofsky said.

He added that the confusion may be more tolerable if airports were required to install way-finding beacons – which connect with an app on a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth to offer verbal directions (Toronto’s Pearson airport recently added the devices) – or kiosks with audio output, an omission he deemed “inexcusable.”

The new rules come alongside a passenger bill of rights that beefs up compensation for travellers subjected to delayed flights and damaged luggage.

Consumer- rights advocates have said the regulations grant airlines loopholes to avoid payment, while Canadian carriers have launched a legal challenge to quash provisions they argue breach international standards.

Meanwhile, the new accessibility regulations require free travel for an attendant or guide dog in an adjacent seat only on domestic flights, with taxes and fees still applicable. A second phase of the regulatory process, now under way, will consider extending the one-person-one-fare requirement to international flights, according to the CTA.



Source link