Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities- Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

 

Liberal Party of Canada Answers Request for Election Commitments on Achieving an Accessible Canada for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities– Liberals Promise Less Than the NDP – Tories Greens, People’s Party and the Bloc Haven’t Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for 11 Commitments

 

October 16, 2019

 

            SUMMARY

 

With the October 21 federal election so near, so close in the polls, and with every vote so important, what are the federal parties committing to do for over six million people with disabilities in Canada? The grassroots AODA Alliance has sought 11 specific commitments to strengthen the recently-enacted Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced. So far, only two federal parties have even answered.

Polls are suggesting that Canadians are about to elect a minority government. If there is a minority government, no matter who is our next Prime Minister, there is a real potential that Canada’s next Parliament could be persuaded to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. While in opposition last year, the Greens, NDP and Conservatives all advocated for this law to be strengthened.

On October 15, 2019, the Liberal Party of Canada announced which election pledges it would make to people with disabilities, in response to the July 18, 2019 request for 11 major commitments which the AODA Alliance directed to the leaders of the six major federal parties. The Liberals’ response and its accompanying online statement on disability equality which it posted on its website on October 15, 2019, both set out below, give fewer promises than the only other federal party to respond to date.

On September 16, 2019, the federal New Democratic Party became the first federal party to answer the AODA Alliance’s request for these 11 commitments. The NDP response is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/what-pledges-will-the-federal-party-leaders-make-in-this-election-to-make-canada-accessible-for-over-6-million-people-with-disabilities-federal-ndp-leader-jagmeet-singh-is-first-national-leader-to-wr/

With only five days left before voting day, the AODA Alliance is continuing its blitz. The federal Conservatives, Greens, People’s Party and Bloc Quebecois have not yet answered. Last year, the Greens and Tories teamed up with the NDP in an unsuccessful to press for amendments to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, at the request of a number of disability organizations including the AODA Alliance. During debates on the bill in the House of Commons last fall, the Tories promised to make it a priority to strengthen this law if they form the next Government. On November 22, 2018, Tory MPP John Barlow pledged: “…when a Conservative government comes into power, we will do everything we can to address the shortcomings of Bill C-81.” Tory MP Alex Nuttall promised Parliament “…we will get it right, right after the next election. This will be among the first things we ensure we put right, because it is concerning the most vulnerable Canadians.”

Below we also set out the excellent October 15, 2019 Canadian Press article by reporter Michelle McQuigge, posted online by Global News. It is the only news article we have seen in this election campaign covering the parties’ positions on this issue, and disability community efforts to secure such commitments. We urge the media to give this issue more coverage in the election campaign’s final days.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate. It seeks to secure the strongest commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities from all the parties. As part of this campaign, it is tweeting to as many federal candidates across Canada as possible to press for the commitments it seeks. This evening, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to speak on a panel that will give action tips for the election campaign’s final days at a federal election disability issues public forum in Toronto, organized by a number of disability organizations. It takes place from 7 to 9 pm at Ryerson University’s Tecumseh Auditorium, Ryerson Student Centre, 55 Gould Street, Toronto.

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

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

The AODA Alliance is deeply concerned that the voting process in federal elections has not been assured to be barrier-free for voters with disabilities. We will be monitoring for these barriers, and are urging voters with disabilities to alert us of any problems they encounter. To follow all the action on Twitter over the last days leading to the election, follow @aodaalliance Email reports of voting barriers to us at [email protected]

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

For background on the AODA Alliance’s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

          MORE DETAILS

October 15, 2019 Response from the Liberal Party of Canada to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

Over the past four years, we have made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. For a full list of these actions please refer to Appendix A.

There is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

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

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

To read our full statement on disability equality and inclusion, as well as consult our 2019 platform, please visit: https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Specific Additional Information in Response to Your Questions

Questions 1 and 2:

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

Question 3 (application to public policy):

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

Questions 4 to 6 (implementation and enforcement issues):

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

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

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

Question 7

As stated above, we are fully committed to continuing to work with stakeholders and the disability community as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented to ensure it is fulfilling its objectives.

We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes.

We will also work with Provincial and Territorial governments, and Indigenous peoples to promote consistency in accessibility standards and a consistent experience of accessibility and inclusion for all Canadians.

Question 8:

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote. As we do after every election, we will review lessons learned from these changes and work with stakeholders and the disability community on further steps we can take to address barriers that may exist.

Question 9:

Should any exemptions be implemented in accordance with the Accessible Canada Act these will be limited and due to very exceptional circumstances. The rationale for the exemptions will also be made public.

Question 10:

We will examine this issue as part of promised comprehensive review of federal policies and programs. In doing so we will work closely with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the disability community to effectively identify and reduce barriers.

Question 11:

We are fully committed to the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act so that it can fully benefit all Canadians. We will continue to work with stakeholders and the disability community to ensure the Act is implemented effectively and achieves its objectives.

Appendix A: Our shared progress

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

        We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

         We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

         We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

         We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility.  And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

         We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

         We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

         We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

         We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

         We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making.  This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

         We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

         We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility.  We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

         We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

October 15, 2019 Online Statement on Disability Equality by the Liberal Party of Canada

DISABILITY EQUALITY STATEMENT

Originally posted at https://www.liberal.ca/disability-equality-statement/

Disability equality benefits everyone. When Canadians with disabilities have equal opportunities to contribute to their communities, to have the same quality of service from their government, to have equal opportunities to work, and to enjoy the same quality of life as everyone else, we build a stronger economy – and a stronger country.

Since 2015, we’ve worked to make this the reality for more Canadians. We started with a human rights-based approach to disability equality — fundamentally changing the way we, as a country, treat inclusion and accessibility. Part of that meant moving beyond individual accommodation and instead addressing discrimination as a whole.

Now, we’re making another choice. We’re choosing forward — taking the progress we’ve achieved and going even further to make Canada a more fair, equal and affordable place to live.

OUR SHARED PROGRESS

After a decade of neglect from Harper’s Conservatives, over the past four years we’ve made accessibility and disability inclusion a priority. This started with the appointment of Canada’s first-ever Cabinet Minister responsible for Canadians with Disabilities. We also held a national discourse on disability issues through what would become the most inclusive consultation any government has ever had in the history of our country – on any topic. We held the first ever national summit for youth with disabilities, attended by the Prime Minister. The result: the Accessible Canada Act.

Canada is a proud signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). Since 2015, we taken a human rights-based approach to disability equality, making fundamental changes to the way we put the principles of inclusion and accessibility into practice. We recognized the need for systems, policies and practices to be designed inclusively from the start. We recognized the need to move beyond relying on individual accommodation to address discrimination. We recognized the economic benefit of disability inclusion. And we moved beyond “Nothing About Us, Without Us”, to “Nothing Without Us”, because every decision the federal government makes impacts its citizens with disabilities. Our efforts culminated in the Accessible Canada Act, which is considered the most significant advancement in disability rights since the Charter in 1982.

At the same time, we worked across government to make federal laws, policies, procedures and programs more equitable and inclusive of Canadians with disabilities:

We applied a disability lens to our flagship policies and programs, such as the Canada Child Benefit, the National Housing Strategy, and the National Infrastructure Program.

We improved tax policies through measures such as permitting registered nurse practitioners to complete Disability Tax Credit (DTC) medical forms, and the enhanced caregiver credit.

We addressed the financial security of Canadians with disabilities through important changes to the Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP).

We improved our immigration system by amending the outdated provisions on medical inadmissibility. And we removed the processing fee to hire foreign caregivers, making these services more affordable.

We modernized our electoral system, making it easier for citizens with disabilities to vote.

We increased access to alternate format material, including the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty in 2016.

We created the Accessible Technology Fund.

We included persons with disabilities in decision-making. Examples include the Disability Advisory Group to Elections Canada, the Canada Post Accessibility Advisory Panel, and the reconstituted Disability Advisory Group to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) — which was disbanded by Harper’s Conservatives.

We focused on data collection to inform government decision-making. This included enhancements the Canadian Survey on Disability, and funding a study on intersectionality as it relates to gender and disability called “More than a Footnote”.

We appointed the first-ever Deputy Minister of Public Service Accessibility, and committed to hiring at least 5,000 persons with disabilities over the next five years into the federal public service. This will be complemented by a new internship program that will provide placements across the federal government for persons with disabilities.

We invested in making government workspaces more accessible, and began working towards ensuring our buildings and properties meet the highest standards of accessibility. We put into places measures that will harness the Government of Canada’s purchasing and contracting power to advance accessibility, including creating the Accessible Procurement Resource Centre.

We adhered to our international human rights obligations: we signed the Optional Protocol to the UNCRPD, and appointed the Canadian Human Rights Commission to monitor the UNCRPD.

THE PATH TO EQUALITY THROUGH DISABILITY INCLUSION

Moving forward, there is more work to be done. Canadians with disabilities continue to face barriers and experience discrimination.

Canada requires strong leadership to ensure that a human rights-based approach to disability is reflected in all Government of Canada policies, programmes, practices and results. To ensure systemic disability inclusion and to lead by example as the Accessible Canada Act is implemented, a re-elected Liberal government will put these policies and practices into place, in consultation with the disability community. We will conduct a comprehensive review to ensure a consistent approach to disability inclusion and supports across government that addresses the unfairness and inequities in our programs and services, and challenges the biases built into our processes. This includes a definition of disability consistent with the Accessible Canada Act.

We heard from Canadians with disabilities that the most significant economic and social barrier they face to full economic and social participation is in the area of employment. This is particularly so for youth with disabilities. From the Canadian Survey on Disability, we know that approximately 59% of working-age adults with disabilities are employed compared to 80% of those without disabilities.

That’s why a re-elected Liberal government will improve the economic inclusion of persons with disabilities through various measures that target these barriers, address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses in a coordinated way. One component of this will be the creation of a workplace accessibility fund to help increase the availability of accommodations that help close gaps in access to good paying jobs and education. We know that improving workplace accessibility and employment outcomes for Canadians with disabilities will have an overwhelmingly positive impact, leading to increased productivity and greater profits for businesses, as well as financial independence and a better quality of life for all Canadians.

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

Canada needs continued leadership to make sure people with disabilities can not only find good jobs, but can succeed for years and decades to come.

We won’t get that leadership from the Conservatives, who’ve proved that they only want to give a break to the very wealthiest Canadians — and cut programs and services for everyone else. Of the $53 billion they promise to cut, $14 billion is in hidden, mystery cuts could hurt Canadians with disabilities the most.

Only a re-elected Liberal government will continue on the progress we’ve made together. To help more Canadians with disabilities find and keep good jobs, we’ll address discrimination and stigma, raise public awareness, and work with employers and businesses.

These and other measures will ensure that disability inclusion is a priority for a re-elected Liberal government. We know that this is the best way to ensure that all Canadians have an equal and fair chance to succeed.

 Global News October 15, 2019

Originally posted at https://globalnews.ca/news/6034294/canadians-disabilities-election-campaign/

Canadians with disabilities cast doubt next federal government will address needs

BY MICHELLE MCQUIGGE -THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amy Amantea, who lost her eyesight due to complications while undergoing surgery more than a decade ago, poses for a photograph at her home in North Vancouver, on Oct. 11, 2019.

Amy Amantea tuned in to the English-language federal leaders’ debate with modest hope there would be at least some discussion of issues relevant to disabled Canadians.

The first half of the campaign had passed with barely a reference, even from the party that had delivered a historic achievement in national disability policy. Earlier this year, the Liberals made good on a 2015 campaign promise when the Accessible Canada Act received royal assent, marking the first time any government had enacted accessibility legislation at the federal level.

The government estimates one in five Canadians over the age of 15 is disabled, and Amantea, who is legally blind, hoped leaders would use the Oct. 7 debate to address some of the many issues they face. But those hopes faded as the debate progressed, giving way instead to doubts about how Canada’s disabled residents would fare after the Oct. 21 election.

“We have a lot of very unique needs and circumstances in our community that don’t get addressed,” Amantea said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “Just a nod, just a mention would have been kind of nice, but it was not to be.”

Amantea said that relative silence has persisted into the final week of the campaign, giving rise to concerns throughout Canada’s disabled community. Many fear that parties who fail to make mention of key issues facing disabled Canadians while courting votes may prove even more dismissive once those votes have been cast.

They point to party platforms and public pledges, most of which make scant mention of either the Accessible Canada Act or disability-specific measures on issues such as infrastructure, health and affordable housing.

The Liberals response to questions on disability policy largely focused on past achievements. Spokesman Joe Pickerill did offer some future plans, including doubling the disability child benefit, establishing a $40-million-per-year national fund meant to help disabled Canadians find work, and simplifying the process veterans use to access disability benefits.

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

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

The act, while widely acknowledged as a significant milestone, was also broadly criticized by nearly a hundred grass-roots organizations across the country as too weak to be truly effective. Such critiques continued even after the government agreed to adopt some Senate amendments sought by the disability groups, who hoped future governments would continue to build on the new law.

Only the NDP agreed to do so when approached by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, which contacted all major parties in July.

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

The Conservatives, too, pledged to “work closely with the disability community to ensure that our laws reflect their lived realities.” Spokesman Simon Jefferies also noted party members pushed to strengthen the act but saw their amendments voted down by the government.

The vagueness of these commitments troubles Gabrielle Peters, a wheelchair-user and writer.

“Canada’s approach to accessibility has been to grant it as a gift they give us rather than a right we deserve,” Peters said. “Now that we have the ACA, the concern is that the broader public and the government think the issue is resolved when this law is, at best, a beginning.”

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

While widely lauded among parent-led advocacy groups, some autistic adults view the proposals with skepticism.

Alex Haagaard, who is autistic and uses a wheelchair, said that while much modern disability policy including the ACA tends to apply a social lens, discussion of autism is still framed through the outmoded medical model that positions the disability as an ailment to be cured rather than a part of a person’s identity.

Haagaard said action is clearly needed to help parents seeking supports for their children and teachers working to integrate autistic students into their classrooms, but said current attitudes at the heart of the campaign rhetoric are troubling.

A national strategy, Haagaard said, also risks undermining the goal of broader inclusion for other disabled populations.

“That is counter to the goals of disability justice to silo autism as this individual condition that warrants this level of attention compared to other disabilities,” Haagaard said.

Like Amantea, Peters felt let down by the leaders debates, citing the prevalence of discussion around medical assistance in dying over other issues that affect disabled people. The subject is polarizing, with many advocacy groups and individuals asserting such legislation devalues the lives of disabled people and places them at greater risk.

Such a narrow focus, Peters said, shows all parties’ failure to reckon with or address the diverse, complex needs of an overlooked demographic.

“What strikes me as missing in policy and in this election is us,” she said. “Disabled people. The not inspirational, not motivational, not middle class, not white, disabled people of this country. In other  words — most of us.”



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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.



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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.




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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.



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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.




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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.



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The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today


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 Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today

August 15, 2019

          SUMMARY

There have now been 197 days since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley that called for strong new action to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Instead of announcing a plan to take the key new actions that the Onley Report recommended, the Ford Government has just doubled down on its troubled plan to divert $1.3 million to the voluntary private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF). A new supplemental report by the AODA Alliance, made public today, shows that the Government’s plan has even more problems than earlier discovered.

Over three and a half years ago, the AODA Alliance showed that there are serious problems with the entire idea of a private building accessibility certification process, no matter who conducts it. Last month, in an AODA Alliance report that we made public on July 25, 2019, we unearthed serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million of public funds to the specific program that the RHF offers, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Today’s supplemental report digs deeper into the RHF program. It is based on an AODA Alliance review of some of the documents from the RHF that the Government has recently disclosed to the AODA Alliance. Today’s supplemental report also analyzes the Ford Government’s first detailed response to concerns which the AODA Alliance has raised about this plan.

Below, we show you the AODA Alliance’s supplemental report on the RHFAC. It includes a summary near the start that lists its key findings. At the end of this report is the text of the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance in which the Government answers a number of the questions we have asked about that program. We appreciate the Government providing a detailed response, although we are deeply troubled by much of its contents, as the supplemental report explains in detail.

Our serious concerns with the Ford Government’s plans have gotten good media coverage and were in significant part echoed in a strong editorial that the Toronto Star ran on August 6, 2019. We repeat our call for the Government to put on hold its plan to fund the RHFAC, and to immediately convene a steakholders’ roundtable or summit to explore strategies for effectively addressing the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment. We also call on the Government to now make public a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          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

Supplemental Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC)

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government.

On July 25, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public its detailed July 3, 2019 report which shows serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan. That report garnered good print, broadcast and online media coverage. On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial echoing a number of the AODA Alliance’s concerns with the Ford Government’s plan.

On July 3, 2019 the AODA Alliance sent the Ford Government a copy of its report on the proposed public funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). The AODA Alliance also wrote the Ford Government, asking a series of important questions about the Government’s plans.

On July 29, 2019, the Ford Government wrote back to the AODA Alliance. It provided a number of answers and disclosed several documents regarding the RHFAC.

In this supplemental report, the AODA Alliance makes public a series of its supplemental and additional concerns with the Government’s plan to provide public funding to the RHFAC. These are based on the new information that the Government has disclosed to us. We thank the Government for providing this information. At the end of this supplemental report, we make public the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to us and its answers to our earlier questions, as an appendix to this supplemental report.

This supplemental report is based on our review of the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter, and two of the documents from the RHF. Those documents are the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide and the RHFAC Student’s Guide. These are used in the course which the RHF has provided for people who want to train to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings as part of the RHFAC.

The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

  1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.
  1. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.
  1. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.
  1. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.
  1. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.
  1. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.
  1. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.
  1. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.
  1. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.
  1. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.
  1. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.
  1. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.
  1. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.
  1. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.
  1. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.
  1. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.
  1. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.

1. The Ford Government Held No Open Competitive Bidding Process Before Deciding to Give $1.3 Million to the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Program

It is clear from the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the Government did not hold an open competitive bidding process before it decided to award $1.3 million to the RHF. The Ford Government was elected in 2018 on a core pledge to be responsible in the use of public money. It is fundamental that a competitive bidding process be held before such a large sum of money is awarded to any private organization for a public project.

The Ford Government gave poor reasons for refusing its not doing so. For example, in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance it said:

“For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.”

To the extent that that sentence could create the impression that the RHF has been operating its accessibility rating service for 30 years, this would be a substantial exaggeration. The RHF only started its private accessibility certification program within the past three or four years. It has not been operating it for 30 years, as the Ford Government claimed.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter suggested that the RHF private accessibility certification program is somehow unique. It states:

“The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.”

This does not justify the failure to hold an open competitive bidding process. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and this supplemental report show that there are serious problems with each of the Government’s core claims about the RHF program. Beyond them, the RHF program at bottom gives an organization its advice on the accessibility of a building. The RHF is not unique in this regard. Ontario has several private organizations which have been providing accessibility advice on the built environment to organizations for a fee. There are such organizations that have been doing so for much longer than has the RHF. There are examples of such organizations that use far more experienced and qualified people than an RHF-trained free-lance assessor who has only taken a two-week course.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter emphasized the RHF’s reputation and years of work in the area of accessibility. Yet that is no excuse for not providing others who do accessibility consulting with the same chance to compete for public funding for their accessibility advisory services, if the Ford Government wishes to provide public funding for such services. Just because one bidder is believed to have a good reputation is no reason to prevent others from bidding on the same project.

To generally support its decision to fund the RHFAC program, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance relied on the fact that the RHF accessibility program has been deployed in BC and Nova Scotia. That does not disprove any of our documented concerns or displace the need for a proper and open competition. The Ford Government has not presented any proof from the BC or Nova Scotia experience that shows that our concerns are unfounded. Much to the contrary, we have shown that the RHF gave a gold certification to the Vancouver International Airport, even though it has hangout steps – an identified accessibility problem.

2. There are No Measures in Place to Address Serious Conflict of Interest Concerns with the RHFAC

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHFAC program raised serious concerns about the risk that the RHF itself and its free-lance accessibility assessors could encounter conflict of interest situations. We asked the Ford Government what the Government was doing to address this.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government identified no measures that it has put in place or that it plans to put in place to address these serious conflict of interest concerns that we have raised both regarding the RHF itself, and its free-lance assessors. Even more troubling, the Government did not even acknowledge that there is any conflict of interest concerns.

To answer the possibility of RHF conflicts of interest, the Government points to the RHF’s background and reputation. However, that is no answer. The most accomplished and esteemed lawyer or law firm can nevertheless find itself in a conflict of interest position. That lawyer or law firm must then take action to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. It is no answer that the lawyer or law firm has a great reputation and track record. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, no matter how reputable is the person or organization that has that conflict of interest.

To answer the conflict of interest concern regarding the free-lance assessors, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter in substance emphasized that they are professionals and have no gain to falsify assessments. Yet the Government’s calling them “professionals” is no answer. A professional can in some situations experience a conflict of interest. Being a professional does not mean one is immune from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, this specific professional designation is an invention of the RHF itself. It does not have the same safeguards as apply to other self-governing professionals, like doctors, lawyers or social workers.

As well, the issue of conflict of interest goes beyond the risk of deliberate falsification of an accessibility assessment. As shown later in this supplemental report, these RHF accessibility assessments have a clear and significant discretionary element to them. The risk of conflicts of interest can especially arise when exercising that discretion.

As the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter acknowledges, this is the livelihood for some of these assessors. As such, they have a clear financial interest in getting more organizations to hire them to do more assessments. That is the very genesis of this conflict of interest problem. They risk leaning in favour of finding more accessibility in order to get more organizations to hire them to do their accessibility assessments.

3. Key and Basic Aspects of this Public Funding Program Have Still Not Yet Been Worked out Months After it was Announced

From the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, it is clear that key aspects of this Government program have still not yet been worked out, even though it was first announced back on April 11, 2019, over four months ago. For example, it is not yet known which buildings will be assessed, or who will choose them, or what role if any the RHF will have in this, or by which criteria they will be chosen, or whether the Government will subsidize all or only part of the cost of this assessment. We only know that the Government says it is working on these important and rather basic details with the RHF.

This illustrates how Ontarians with disabilities are being effectively excluded from the very table where key decisions are to be made and where they deserve a central role. We only know that the RHF is at that table.

4. It is Troubling that the RHF Accessibility Certification Program Tries to Shift Responsibility and Risk onto Others

The public, including organizations that seek to have the RHF assess their buildings, would reasonably believe that it is the RHF that is doing the assessing and certifying. This is an obvious conclusion to draw from the program’s name, the “Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification” or RHFAC program. The RHF has gone to the effort of trademarking this name.

Passers-by who see a sign on a building that it is certified as accessible by the RHFAC would very likely conclude that it was the RHF that did the accessibility certifying. It is also an obvious conclusion to draw from the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 media announcement of this public funding program. It states:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

We would expect that the RHF would have seen that wording before the Ford Government made it public. We have seen no statement by the RHF asking the Ford Government to correct that statement.

Yet on our closer inspection, the reality seems very different. The RHF has taken clear and troubling steps to distance itself from responsibility for key aspects of any accessibility certification that is done in its trademarked name.

As a first illustration of this, the RHF makes it clear that it is not responsible in any way for the activity of those free-lance assessors who conduct an RHFAC accessibility assessment. The RHF strongly encourages those free-lance assessors to carry their own liability insurance, presumably at their own expense. This is a clear shifting of responsibility for these assessments to these individuals, and away from the RHF. The RHF Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Professional Liability: A designated RHFAC Professional shall assume any and all personal liability associated with their work or conduct. RHF shall not assume any responsibility or liability, of any kind, whatsoever, for a designated RHFAC Professional’s work or conduct. RHFAC Professionals are strongly encouraged to obtain professional liability insurance.”

As a second illustration of this, the RHFAC Student’s Guide includes a very strong disclaimer. It says it absolves the RHF from any responsibility for its contents. Therefore, a student in the RHF course is supposed to assume all the risk. RHF takes no responsibility for the contents of its curriculum that it requires an assessor to complete.

The RHFAC Student’s Guide sets out the course curriculum. It is what a student is required to read and learn. The RHFAC Student’s Guide disclaims right near the start:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, site alterations, repairs and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

It would be very troubling if a law professor or an architecture professor began their class or course by disclaiming responsibility for what they teach when it comes to the law, or to design principles.

As a third illustration of this, the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide includes a similar disclaimer. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide sets out the RHF’s instructions to the instructors that teach the RHF course. This disclaimer also says it absolves the RHF for responsibility for the course’s contents, in so far as the course instructors are concerned. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide states:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, building alterations, repairs, and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, by laws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

Taken together, it appears as if the RHF is trying to shift as much responsibility as possible onto the free-lance assessors and course instructors, and away from the RHF itself. This is so even though the so-called accessibility certification and the training course are heavily and repeatedly branded with the RHF name and related RHFAC trademark. This is also so despite the fact that the RHF appears to have set the course contents and requirements.

5. The RHFAC Accessibility Ratings are Clearly Left in Significant Part to Each Free-Lance Assessor’s Subjective Discretion, Despite the Government’s Claims that These Accessibility Assessments are Consistently Applied

The Ford Government indicated in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that:

“The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.”

Yet documents that we obtained from the Ontario Government have demonstrated our concern that the RHFAC program leaves a great deal of discretion to each free-lance assessor. Assessors can readily differ on what they consider to be accessible. As such, an RHF “accessibility certification” may not demonstrate that the building is in fact accessible.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

” The instructor should emphasize the following:

  • The importance of using the Professional Handbook.
  • In conducting an assessment, there is much ambiguity. It is not a black and white science, and there will often be differing opinions. Thus, it is essential that students understand the importance of providing clear rationale to defend their positions.”

The Instructor’s Guide also shows that an assessment of a building’s accessibility under the RHFAC program is subject to the highly discretionary and open-ended criterion of “appropriate access.” No doubt, what is “appropriate access” can easily vary from one free-lance assessor to another, or from one adjudicator to another. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a building’s rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a “show-stopper”, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

The Student Guide similarly shows that the assessment process is ultimately left to the personal or subjective discretion of each assessor. Each assessor can form their own personal view of what ratings are “reasonable.” The Student Guide states:

“• Preview the results to see if they look reasonable.”

The Government and the RHF suggest that consistency in the accessibility assessments of buildings is assured by the fact that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reviews each RHFAC assessment’s documents. However, there is no plausible way that the CSA can rectify this risk of inconsistency from one assessor to the next, when the standard each assessor ultimately uses to evaluate a building’s accessibility ends up being so subjective and discretionary. This is made worse since there is no suggestion that the CSA visits any of the buildings being assessed, to monitor and ensure that each assessor’s assessments are consistent.

6. It is Problematic for the RHFAC to Take Averages of the Accessibility of a Building’s Features Like Bathrooms

According to the Student Guide, a rating of the accessibility of a feature, such as a building’s bathrooms, is an average of the accessibility rating point scores of each of the building’s bathrooms. The Student Guide states:

“Important: If an element, such as a parking area, is provided in multiple locations for the facility, then rate each area individually and take an average of the assessment values for each feature.”

This is problematic. A person with a disability does not use an average of the building’s bathrooms. He or she uses a specific bathroom. An average figure may leave a person with the wrong impression that there is good accessibility across the board among bathrooms. In fact, some of those bathrooms may have real accessibility problems.

We offer a stark example to illustrate this point. Assume that a building has two bathrooms. One is fully accessible and gets a 5 point score. The other is completely inaccessible and gets a 1 point score. The resulting average would be a 2.5 points out of 5 overall score for the building’s bathrooms. This would lead an observer to think that the building’s bathrooms are at least partially accessible. Yet in fact, one of the two bathrooms is entirely inaccessible. There is only one place in the building where people with disabilities who need such accessibility can go to the bathroom.

7. The RHFAC Program Repeatedly Emphasizes the Problematic Idea of Getting Organizations to Go “Beyond Code”, As If Building Code Compliance Is All That Is Required

At some points in the RHFAC program’s documents that we have reviewed, the RHF makes the repeated error of talking about the goal of getting organizations to go “beyond Code.” By this, the RHF clearly means going beyond the accessibility requirements of the applicable Building Code. The RHF speaks of this as a virtue to be rewarded, as if it means that an organization is doing more than they are required to do.

This fundamentally misconceives and understates an organization’s accessibility obligations. An organization’s accessibility obligations also include those under the applicable human rights code, and in the case of the public sector, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These can well exceed what the applicable Building Code requires. Moreover, local municipal bylaws can set accessibility requirements that are higher than the applicable Building Code. Elsewhere in the RHFAC Student’s Guide and Instructor’s guide, these points are at times made. However, the repeated reversion to “going beyond Code” risks confusing students, and/or leaving them with the wrong impression.

It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations and designers to mistakenly think that all they need to do on accessibility is to comply with the applicable Building Code. The RHFAC materials at times appear to reinforce that mistaken view.

For example, the Student Guide makes this mistake where it states:

“The main triggers that stimulate demand for an RHFAC rating are as follows:

  1. Any site that involves design and construction.

For buildings, this includes both new construction and major retrofits or conversions. In terms of design, the minimum requirement regarding accessibility is compliance with building code. The site owner, and hence designers and builders, are legally bound only to meet requirements set out in the building code. As those in the construction industry develop an increased awareness of Universal Design concepts and its long-term benefits, they may seek the advice and assistance of a trained assessor to help them go beyond building code compliance.”

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

The RHFAC program depends heavily on an RHF adjudicator assessing the quality and sufficiency of the free-lance assessor’s evaluation of a building’s accessibility. Yet the RHF adjudicator appears not to go to the building themselves, in so far as we can discern from the documents we have reviewed. We found no requirement that the adjudicator themselves visit the building in issue. They instead depend on the free-lance assessor to take enough photos and videos of the building, which the adjudicator can then review.

The Student Guide places a burden on the assessor to record everything an adjudicator might need to know about the building. The Student Guide states:

“Make sure you provide any information you think the adjudicator may need in order for them to understand your rating for each line entry.”

Accordingly, the adjudicator’s review can only be as good as the photos and videos they are given to review. If the assessor does not take sufficient photos, the adjudicator may not know it. The adjudicator may agree with the free-lance assessor’s evaluations depicted in the photos and videos received, even though the building could have serious accessibility problems that the assessor did not photograph.

If, for example, a free-lance assessor does not take a picture of “hangout steps” at a building, the adjudicator won’t know that the building has hangout steps. The AODA Alliance’s widely-viewed online video on the serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre demonstrated how hangout steps can present serious accessibility problems.

The RHF has pointed to oversight by the CSA as reinforcing the validity of this accessibility certification process. Yet from our review, it appears that the CSA, like the RHF adjudicator, is entirely dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the photos and videos that the free-lance assessor takes. This is not a reliable system.

As well, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance makes it clear that to qualify to be an RHFAC adjudicator, a person needs only to have completed the RHFAC course. We have detailed earlier, and further show here, that this training is insufficient to be an effective assessor. The same goes for an adjudicator.

9. There Are Insufficient Safeguards to Ensure that an RHF-Certified Building Remains Accessible After It Is So-Certified

Based on information the Ford Government provided, it is possible for a building to get an RHFAC accessible or gold rating, and then make changes that impede accessibility, without this necessarily changing the organization’s rating for months, if at all. There are several concerns:

  1. a) According to the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, an organization must declare “substantial changes to the site” to the RHF. This appears to be entirely self-policing.
  1. b) “Substantial changes” is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.
  1. c) The Government indicated that if such changes are reported, the RHF “may” investigate such reported changes. That provides no assurance that they will be investigated. The Government did not say the RHF “will” investigate any such changes.
  1. d) The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter also stated:

“In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.”

That too appears entirely self-policing. If an organization does not self-declare a change to accessibility, there is no assurance that such changes will affect their accessibility rating.

  1. e) Beyond an organization self-reporting changes to its building’s accessibility, the Government was palpably silent on there being anything in this process to enable members of the public to report accessibility problems at a building that the RHF has rated as accessible. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter repeated our earlier question to the Government, as follows, without answering it. We asked:

“what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?”

10. The Mandatory RHFAC Course Is Even Shorter Than the Two Weeks We Earlier Announced

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report expressed the serious concern that to be qualified as an RHF accessibility assessor, a person with no prior knowledge or experience with accessibility must only complete a two-week RHF course. A review of RHF documents shows that it is even less than two weeks in length.

According to RHF documentation, the course is only 8 days long. The 8th day is an on-site day, not a classroom training day. A person in the course is only required to attend 80% of the seven days of classroom instruction, which is only 5.6 days. The Student Guide states:

“A minimum of 80% classroom attendance and 100% field experience attendance is required to pass the course.”

11. An Instructor in the RHFAC Course Need Not Have Demonstrated Expertise in the Accessibility of the Built Environment

A person does not need to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment to be an instructor in the RHFAC course. The AODA Alliance asked the Government what requirements a person must meet to be qualified to teach in that course. In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government said in material part:

“All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.”

A person can have extensive experience in the built environment and yet have no demonstrated knowledge or expertise about accessibility of the built environment. As amplified by the concerns documented here, completion of the RHFAC course does not qualify someone to be an instructor in that course.

To try to show the sufficiency of the RHFAC course, the Ford Government listed in its July 29, 2019 a series of colleges and universities where this course has been offered. However, it is clear from the documents disclosed to us that it is the RHF that designed this course, and not any of those colleges and universities. It is also clear that the instructors do not need to come from any of the faculties of those colleges or universities.

12. The RHF Training Course Crams Far Too Much Curriculum into Too Short a Time

It is totally unrealistic to expect a student to effectively learn all or even most of the information and analytical skills which the RHF jams into its training course for its accessibility assessors. We reached this conclusion based on our review of the RHF Instructor’s Guide, for those teaching the RHF curriculum, and the Student’s Guide, for students taking the course.

The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide specifies that a student, taking this short course, should end up in the end with these huge results:

“Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities.
  2. Integrate relevant legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
  3. Integrate Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
  4. Interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings.
  5. Communicate and support assessment findings to clients, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive standards.
  6. Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
  7. Display professionalism and promote inclusiveness when working with clients.”

In this course, the RHF expects a person with no required prior background in the law to be able, after the course, to locate, become familiar with, learn and be ready to advise an organization about the different laws governing the built environment at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of Canada’s Constitution), federal and provincial human rights codes, federal and provincial building codes, provincial accessibility laws such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and municipal bylaws that set requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in different municipalities. The RHF also expects its assessors to learn how to figure out which of these laws governs the accessibility in a particular building. That can require assessments of constitutional questions as well as the interpretation of different provincial laws and municipal bylaws. These can be complicated legal questions.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to explain the legal environment related to human rights and disability. Assessors need to be able to interpret the intent and requirements of relevant legislation and to understand the roles of various organizations, agencies and levels of government in promoting accessibility.”

Referring to one of the discussions of law in the course, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Explain human rights and disability legislation and their impact on accessibility.
  • Explain the relationship and hierarchy among employment & human rights and disability legislation.”

As well, the Student Guide states:

“Locate Applicable Building Code or Standards

For a building assessment, you need to determine building classification, ownership and jurisdiction and to locate/review applicable building code and accessibility standards. Make sure you know and understand the accessibility provisions of CSA B651-12 that are applicable to the site to be reviewed (these are covered in “Unit 5.2 Accessibility Legislation, Regulations and Standards”).”

An RHF free-lance assessor is expected to end this course with sufficient expertise to form judgements on whether a proposed building meets Building Code accessibility requirements. The Student Guide states:

“Recommendations provided for new construction must ensure that sites meet code requirements for basic accessibility.”

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

“Compliance equals only minimal levels of accessibility.

  • Compliance with legislation is essential. It is the law. You must confirm that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that minimum site specifications are adhered to. This includes human rights legislation and disability legislation, which protect people from discrimination, as well as building code regulations, which provide minimal levels of accessibility requirements. This is covered in “Section Five: Legal Framework and Compliance”.”

The Instructor’s Guide also makes it clear that a student is expected to learn to write a report on their assessment of a building that will include showing where the building complies or does not comply with relevant laws on accessibility, including accessibility legislation and human rights laws. The Instructor’s Guide sets as an outcome of one of its units:

“Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive design standards.”

We had asked the Ford Government if an RHF assessor needs to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario, or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter’s long response does not give a clear and unequivocal “yes” to this important question.

Moreover the RHF does not give students in this course a copy of the relevant voluntary accessibility standard from the CSA on which the RHF relies. It does not give students the relevant accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code, the AODA, or municipal bylaws dealing with accessibility of the built environment. it appears to be the responsibility of each student to get these for themselves.

Beyond those substantial legal topics, in this course, a student is also expected to be able to learn at least in a preliminary way how to read technical professional drawings such as blueprints for a proposed new building. This is so even if the student has no prior background on how to read such technical drawings.

The student is expected to learn how to evaluate those drawings, in order to assess whether or how much they meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. A student is also expected to learn how to visit a construction site when the building construction is underway, to advise whether the actual accessibility corresponds to the technical drawings. Here again, a student need not have any background in any of this to enroll in the course.

The Student Guide states:

“With new construction, an assessor will review construction documents or drawings based on the RHFAC Rating Survey to establish the level of access provided in the design. The assessor must identify and review elements related to accessibility solely from sketches, construction drawings and sometimes from only an artist’s rendering.”

The Student Guide also states:

“In addition to drawing reviews, assessors may need to conduct site inspections at various stages of construction to ensure the requirements developed in the design stage are transferred to the construction site.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to provide participants with a high-level introduction to construction documents such that they can identify and interpret the main building elements, and in particular, elements related to accessibility.

NOTE: As construction documents can be highly technical and complex, this will serve only as a basic introduction for those who have limited prior exposure to the construction industry. Participants who intend to develop their practice as RHFAC Professionals and who do not have prior experience would benefit by taking additional training. This unit may not be relevant for experienced contractors, or for professional architects or engineers.”

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

“Goals

  • The main goal of this unit is to help students who have limited or no prior experience with construction documents to understand construction documents at a basic level.

Objectives

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain standard types of construction drawings.
  • Identify standard information displayed on construction drawings.
  • Explain key features and symbols displayed on construction drawings.”

It would be too much to try to fit into such a short course all of the foregoing content regarding the law and regarding the reading of technical drawings. Yet the RHF course aims to also teach much more. The course materials present the student with a veritable blizzard of detailed information about the kinds of accessibility features or needs for which they should be looking, when they assess a building. This appears to be far more of such information than a person could effectively learn in up to 7 days of classroom learning.

There is still more content that this course covers. The course materials also aim to ensure that the student is up to speed on the RHF internal process for conducting an assessment of a building. this includes visiting the building, documenting observations, scoring the results, and providing for an internal review or adjudication.

Taken together, the course contents do not just bear upon a pile of facts or data that a student can memorize and then recall when needed, whether on a test or when assessing a building. The course focuses on key topics that require analytical skills. These include, for example, deciding which accessibility law applies to a building, how to interprete and apply those laws, analyzing technical drawings of a planned building, and, of course, analyzing the design features of a building for accessibility problems. A student cannot effectively develop these analytical skills in such a short course. they cannot be effectively acquired through a teaching format that is largely (though not exclusively) lectures, PowerPoint slides, and reading materials supplemented by some group discussions.

13. The RHFAC Course Appears to Emphasize Barriers Facing People with Physical Disabilities Such as People Using Wheelchairs

The Ford Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the RHFAC uses “all components of the CSA B651 standard” and that the RHFAC thereby measures “holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.” This further demonstrates our concern that this gives primary if not exclusive emphasis to the accessibility needs of only people with some disabilities. Our review of the RHFAC Instructor’s and Student’s Guides reinforces this concern, even though at some points, other disabilities are to some extent addressed.

Even though the course materials at times refer to other disabilities or to all disabilities, there are a number of points in the course materials that clearly suggest that a primary focus is on people with physical disabilities, including those using wheelchairs. If so, there is a real risk that the RHFAC program will continue that emphasis, to the disadvantage of people with other disabilities that can face barriers in the built environment.

14. It is Misleading to Suggest that Building Code Compliance Means that a Building is Accessible

At one point, the Instructor’s Guide makes the incorrect if not misleading suggestion that if a building complies with a Building Code, then it is accessible. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“As a general guideline, code compliance warrants an Accessibility Certified (AC) level rating. However, assessors also need to understand that there are situations in which this does not apply. For example, ramps are often not designed to code, but they are still accessible to most people.”

Yet elsewhere, the Student’s Guide appears to give a contradictory message. The Student’s Guide states:

“The RHF Accessibility Certification Program is intended to encourage meaningful access. Thus, an RHFAC rating goes beyond compliance with building code or adherence to standards or guidelines and provides a snapshot of the real level of accessibility of a site. Site owners or managers can then use this information to make positive changes that will help to ensure all users of their facilities feel welcome.”

Moreover, the Instructor’s Guide seems at at least one point to contradict the view that Building Code compliance is sufficient to amount to accessibility, where the Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a building’s rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a “show-stopper”, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

15. It Is Inappropriate and Potentially Harmful to Use Certain Disability Simulations as Part of the Course

It is wrong, potentially harmful and deeply troubling for the RHF course to include subjecting students to simulations of trying to walk with vision loss, e.g. by blindfolding them or putting vision-obstructing goggles on them and having them try to navigate using a white cane. We do not here comment on the RHF course’s use of simulations for hearing loss or mobility loss.

The RHF Instructor’s Guide and Student’s Guide each seek to train a student on the accessibility needs of people with certain disabilities. To enroll in the course, a student does not have to have any prior knowledge or experience with any disability. The course materials are written as if the students have no such background whatsoever. Of course, it is possible that some students who take the course have some background or experience with at least some disabilities.

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“This lesson aims to shift students’ attitudes and motivate them to become agents of change. Through simulation experiences, participants will gain a first-hand experience, albeit limited, of how people with disabilities experience the environment and the barriers they face at both a physical and emotional level.”

It also states:

“By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Describe how people with different disabilities navigate and adapt to the physical and social environment”

Such simulation exercises that seek to have a student experience blindness or vision loss through vision-obstructing goggles and through attempting to navigate with a white cane are extremely problematic. Except perhaps in very rare and extremely controlled circumstances that do not apply here, this should never be done. The RHF course is not one of those rare and controlled exceptions.

It is wrong to lead students to think that undergoing such a “simulation” has them experience anything like the experience of living with blindness or some degree of vision loss. Placing a blindfold or vision-obstructing goggles on a sighted person for a short period of time does not simulate the experience of a person living with blindness or vision loss.

A person who has lived with blindness or vision loss for years has had a chance to acquire a series of vital skills, such as the effective use of a white cane while walking. To acquire those skills, a person needs extensive time and practice, and a qualified and highly trained orientation and mobility specialist as their instructor.

In sharp contrast, when a sighted person dons a blindfold or vision-reducing goggles, they experience something extraordinarily different. They suddenly face the sudden loss of their full vision, for which they have had absolutely no prior training or time to adjust. They typically experience disorientation, confusion and palpable fear.

These so-called “simulations” are properly frowned upon because they produce such harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about living with vision loss. It is not unusual for some sighted people undergoing such “simulations” to project their feelings of fear and disorientation on people with vision loss, believing that such is what people with vision loss daily experience. It is hard to counter-act such strong emotional reactions. Indeed, it is reasonable to fear that pervasive pity and stereotypes about vision loss have their genesis in no small part to people trying to “experience blindness” by closing their eyes and trying to find their way around.

It is manifestly insufficient to simply caution students, going under blindfold, not to project those strong feelings on people with vision loss. The risk is that the memory of the stress and disorientation will far outlast any memory of that verbal caution.

The Student’s Guide treats as accurate the very harmful and incorrect stereotype about vision loss that gives rise to our objection to this simulation exercise. The Student’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience

Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. Spending some time wearing a simulator and attempting to do various everyday tasks can quickly give a fully sighted person a sense of some of the issues involved and how frustrating even the simplest of tasks can be. Often, participants become impressed with the capabilities of a person with limited sight.”

Making this worse, there is no assurance that the RHFAC instructor will have sufficient experience and expertise with the disabilities to be “simulated”. The Instructor’s Guide recommends but does not require that a more expert facilitator be recruited for this exercise. That Guide places very substantial responsibility on the course instructor, as follows:

“• Plan the route. Find a suitable route for the vision and mobility simulation experiences. Participants will be required to navigate these routes using a vision kit and wheelchair respectively.

  • Create a “Disability Simulation Exercise Schedule” and post on a whiteboard. The following is an example of a schedule:

Time    Vision  Mobility (wheelchair)

1:00 – 2:00      Group 1           Group 2

2:00 – 3:00      Group 2           Group 1

Trained Facilitators

It is important that simulation exercises are facilitated by trained industry professionals who preferably are themselves people with disabilities. Having a facilitator with a disability present will help to put a face on disability. It also adds credibility and ensures the most relevant information is available to the course participants.

Note: If trained industry professionals or additional support staff are not available, students may be asked to assist each other in the simulations by rotating roles of participant and facilitator. In this case, the instructor should simplify the simulation activities to ensure they are completely without risk.

Facilitators should accompany participants throughout the simulation exercise to provide guidance and ensure safety. Accordingly, the role of the facilitator is as follows:

  • To provide guidance regarding the use of equipment.
  • To ensure the safety of participants. This includes making any adjustments required to meet the individual abilities or needs of participants.
  • To offer a genuine perspective by sharing personal stories and anecdotes. The more personal anecdotes and stories that the facilitators can share with the class, the more effective the session will be. It is important that these stories are short, light-hearted and on point.
  • To stimulate discussion about disabilities in a safe environment that allows participants to be open, honest and curious.

Prior to conducting simulation exercises, the simulation facilitators will:

  • Explain the mobility aids and technology that will be used in the simulation.
  • Determine if anyone has any physical restrictions that could be aggravated by participating in the simulations (shoulder, back, wrist, etc.) and determine if possible to/how to accommodate.
  • Explain safe use of the equipment and safety procedures.
  • Explain the timing and logistics of the simulation exercise.
  • Explain the route and key features.
  • Give participants a sense of the level of access provided in the environment in which the simulation is being staged – is it a good example of accessibility or not?
  • Provide participants with broad understanding about the scope of disability in the community and the impact that a steadily increasing population of older adults and seniors and an increasingly active community of people with disabilities is having on the built environment.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s guide dives into several different kinds of vision loss. It shows that the instructor should be able to explain how a white cane is used. Yet an instructor (whose only relevant qualification needs to be a background in the built environment and prior completion of the RHFAC course) is not required to have any of the training or knowledge that a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist would have. Those are the professionals who teach white cane use, a complex subject. It shows that a long walking experience is expected. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience

Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators (white cane and goggles) that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. The most common conditions of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Each of these conditions can be simulated for participants. If simulators are not available, the instructor can provide more basic options to block vision for students, such as a blindfold.

Session facilitators should give detailed instructions for using a white cane and for ways of navigating with a vision impairment. The facilitator should also accompany participants to ensure their safety at all times. Some participants become quite frightened when they are unable to see where they are going.

Note: Participants in this simulation should be prepared to walk fairly long distances; therefore, appropriate footwear and casual clothing is advised.”

A very narrow and rare exception when such simulations of vision loss can be appropriate is in the case of the extensive post-secondary programs that provide professional training of orientation and mobility specialists for people with vision loss. In those highly controlled situations, a student only goes under blindfold or other vision obstructions when supervised by a qualified orientation and mobility faculty member at a college or university that offers a post-secondary course for such specialists. They do so in the context of an entire lengthy course (much more than an 8 day course) on orientation and mobility instruction. They may be expected to repeatedly and systematically go under blindfold for an hour or more each day, day after day, for a period of weeks or months of training.

In such training, the white cane is gradually introduced, but not at the very start of this process. White cane skills are slowly and systematically taught. The RHFAC course is far, far different from such a rare exceptional case where such simulations should be considered.

16. It is Unhelpful for The RHFAC Course to Ask Students to Consider Which Disability They’d Rather Have or Not Have

While trying to cram too much into too short a time, the RHFAC course also gives instructors the suggestion of having the students consider which of three disabilities they would like or not like to themselves have. The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“Ideas for Additional Learning Activities

Group Questioning Activity: Provide students with the following list of disabilities:

  • Deaf
  • Blind
  • Mobility impaired

Pose the question, “If you had a disability, which would you choose and why?” Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

Pose another question, this time reversing the question, “Which disability would you not want to have?” Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

For the disability that you have chosen to have, how would it impact your current job or your family?”

This is problematic. This exercise risks reinforcing stereotypes and fears about acquiring these disabilities. Unless the students have a very thorough understanding of each disability, their views will be influenced by stereotypes or insufficient knowledge.

Unless a student is planning on injuring themselves in a way that will cause one of these disabilities, this question is not relevant to assessing a building’s accessibility. Whether or not a student would prefer to have a mobility, vision or hearing disability, the fact is that people in the community have these disabilities.

17. RHFAC Testing of Course Participants Is Not Shown to Be Sufficient

To pass the RHFAC course, a student must pass a multiple choice examination. We cannot fully assess the sufficiency of the test, since we have not seen it. However, we seriously question whether a multiple-choice test is a sufficient way to test rigourous analytical skills, such as those on which the course focuses, and the information that this course tries to cover.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government did not give a specific answer to the question, inquiring what the specifics are of the knowledge assessed in the RHF test at the end of the course. all the Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter is that the test

“… is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course.”

That tells us nothing new.

As well, a student must complete and submit a written accessibility assessment of a building of the instructor’s choosing. Here again, we have concerns. This written report gets a pass-fail grade, which is a minimal marking threshold.

The Student Guide states:

“Students will conduct a review of the site and complete an RHFAC rating.

  • As this is a class exercise only, students will submit their results to the instructor for adjudication. They will not submit results to the RHFAC Registry.”

The Student Guide also states:

“Criteria for successful completion of this assignment

  • Appropriate categories, elements and features are identified and assessed.
  • Clear rationale to support the rating is provided.
  • All required supporting documentation is submitted.
  • Key areas of success and key areas for improvement are aligned with the assessment findings.
  • Writing is clear and relatively free of any grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.”

Appendix Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho’s July 29, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised regarding the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). Please be assured that we take your feedback very seriously, and your comments will be carefully considered as we continue discussions with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

We are proud to partner with RHF, a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a proven track record across the country. The RHFAC program has also been successfully implemented in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In 2016, British Columba piloted the program and conducted 129 assessments. Given the success of the program, in 2018 that government committed to a second expanded partnership with the RHF to roll out the program province-wide.

We know that many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. And when buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the RHFAC program in communities across the province.

Through this partnership, the government is investing in an Ontario focused certification program that will allow organizations to understand their level of accessibility, based on nationally recognized standards, and learn in a concrete way what they can do to make improvements.

Through the government’s investment, RHF will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. This will include accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

We are working with the Foundation on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

Please refer to the background section below for additional information and detailed responses to your questions.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

Confidentiality Warning: This e-mail contains information intended only for the use of the individual emailed above. If you have received this e-mail in error, we would appreciate it if you could advise us through the ministry’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-seniors-accessibility and destroy all copies of this message. Thank you.

Enclosure

Q and As

Process for Selecting the RHF for Funding

  • Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation is not a private sector business. It is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
    • For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.
  • The Ontario Government provides transfer payments to recipients external to government to fund activities that benefit the public and are designed to achieve public policy objectives.
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation submitted a proposal to help the Government improve accessibility in the built environment through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
  • Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, as part of Budget 2019, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across the province.
  • The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.
  • As is the case with all transfer payments, this partnership will be implemented in line with the accountability framework for oversight set out in Ontario’s Transfer Payment Accountability Directive.

Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

  • What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) program is the first and only program in Canada that uses a rating system to identify and rate accessible built environments, creating a national benchmark and aspirational goal for the industry.
  • The program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard. The RHFAC Guide to Certification provides a step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings currently available across the country.
  • Please find enclosed the RHFAC Guide to Certification, outlining the step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0

  • Trained professionals use the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey for the assessments, these can be found in the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
  • These tools are reviewed regularly by the following:
    • RHFAC Advisory Committee – The purpose of the RHFAC Advisory Committee is to advise RHF staff on the design, scope, development, and distribution of RHF Accessibility Certification program, and related topics as required. Committee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
    • RHFAC Experts Taskforce – The purpose of the RHFAC Experts Taskforce is to serve as a platform for detailed review, feedback and discussion in regards to the RHFAC program materials. Committee members are chosen from leaders from a selected list of national disability organizations with experience in built environment accessibility.
    • RHFAC Technical Advisory Subcommittee – The purpose of the RHFAC Technical Subcommittee is to advise the RHFAC Advisory Committee on the technical components of the RHFAC Rating Survey and Handbook. This Subcommittee will serve as a platform for review, feedback, and discussion of the technical components of the RHFAC materials.  Subcommittee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
  • The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?
  • The RHFAC term ‘meaningful access’ is based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.
  • Only trained RHFAC Professionals can submit RHFAC ratings into the RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA. Please find below step-by-step process for how to become an RHF Accessibility Certification Professional. Further, additional information is available in the RHFAC Guide to Professional Designation, enclosed:   https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
    • Pass the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course. Participants in this course will learn about:
      • The impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities;
      • The relevant legislation, regulations, and standards needed when planning and executing an assessment;
      • The Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment;
      • How to interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings; and
      • How to communicate and support assessment findings to clients, and prepare a recommendation report of the assessment findings, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
      • Further, there are prerequisites for taking RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course including the following:
        • Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
        • Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or
        • Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or
        • Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
        • Minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.
      • Pass the examination. The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the above Training Course. This exam is designed to test understanding of concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered separately through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
        • The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring. Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before they can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
      • Uphold the designation. To uphold the designation, RHFAC Professionals must follow: (1) The RHFAC Professional Code of Ethics; and (2) Continuing education requirements; and (3) Policies regarding the use of RHF logos and marks.
    • To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
    • Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

 

  • Please find enclosed the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey, outlining all program detail, including references as provided: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
  • How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

 

  • Early in the development stages of the RHFAC program, it was recognized that it would be essential for each RHFAC Professional to reach the same conclusions on any given site.
  • As part of the development process, numerous single sites were reviewed by a number of RHFAC Professionals to check that the outcomes were consistent. This is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis. The RHFAC Professional is not reliant only on code requirements without any real understanding of how these required elements are used by people with disabilities.
  • The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.
  • During the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course, the instructors also go through each feature with students and complete a mock ratings.
  • Further, as outlined above, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

RHF Accessibility Certification Duration of Buildings

  • Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

 

  • An RHFAC Certification is valid for five years from the date of the adjudication. All substantial changes to the Site must be declared to RHF.
  • An RHFAC Professional and/or RHFAC adjudicator may investigate any declared changes to determine if the Site continues to meet certification levels. RHF reserves the right to withdraw RHFAC Certification at its own discretion.
  • In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.

Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators

  • What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

 

  • Each post-secondary institution is responsible for all RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course administration, including hiring of appropriate instructors.
  • All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
  • The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course is offered across the country at:
    • George Brown College
    • Carleton University
    • Vancouver Community College
    • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
    • and Nova Scotia Community College
    • In addition, RHF has partnered with Athabasca University to launch an online course in January 2020.
  • What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?

 

 

  • What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?

 

  • The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
  • This exam is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered through a separate process and independently through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
  • The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring.
  • Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before applicants can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
  • Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

 

  • RHFAC Professionals are trained to identify barriers to people with disabilities on a cross- disability basis.
  • RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in. However, they are not Building Code auditors.
  • Their job is to identify barriers based on their training, which uses CSA B-651 as a baseline. Their training and the RHFAC rating system itself takes them well beyond code minimum requirements in the identification of barriers to people with disabilities – for example emergency entrances and wayfinding.
  • Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

 

  • While CSA materials are provided in the classroom during training, it is the responsibility of the individual participant to purchase copies of various CSA materials (B651, B-44, etc.) as well as provincial or municipal code documents as required in the jurisdiction they are operating in.
  • RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in However, they are not Building Code auditors.
  • The RHFAC rating is intended as a snapshot of the current accessibility conditions vis-à-vis the ability for people with disabilities to use that facility.
  • The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course curriculum includes units on legal framework and compliance which focus on integrating legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment. The CSA exam covers all units of the curriculum to ensure proper understanding of the RHFAC program. It is also important to note that not everyone taking the course will take the exam. Further, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course prerequisites include the following:
    • Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
    • Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or
    • Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or
    • Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
    • Minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.

Conflicts of Interest

  • What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?

 

  • The Rick Hansen Foundation is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
  • Over the past 30 years, the RHF has worked consistently to raise awareness around accessibility and improve the built environment, wherever and whenever possible, across Canada. It is known for its transparency and has a reputation of being a forthright organization interested in the public good. The RHF is also known for engaging Canadians from all backgrounds including people with disabilities, engineers, designers, architects, business, developers and builders in its quest to achieve its mission.
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. All RHFAC ratings in Ontario will be conducted by independent RHFAC Professionals.
  • To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.  Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
  • The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.
  • What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

 

  • Like all self-employed professionals, those who are trained to conduct accessibility ratings are armed with only their skills, dedication and their reputations. There is no gain for trained RHFAC professionals to falsify assessments.
  • As this is a livelihood for some trained professionals, it is in their best interest as well as that of the RHF’s that transparency and accuracy are paramount.
  • The trained professionals who will conduct accessibility ratings are contracted by the Foundation as independent professionals, who have received the RHFAC Professional designation after taking the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course (offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario and other post-secondary institutions throughout Canada) and have successfully passed examination by the CSA Group.
  • To complete a rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification trained professional’s evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process

  • What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

 

  • The trained professionals who will conduct the ratings are independent professionals who have gained the RHFAC Professional designation with examinations administered by the CSA Group after taking the RHFAC course.
  • As mentioned above, this is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis.
  • The RHFAC process has been successfully applied on a national level and ratings have been conducted across Canada.
  • Furthermore, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.

Choice of Buildings to Assess for Accessibility

  • Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

 

  • As announced in the 2019 Budget, the RHFAC program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.
  • Through this investment, the RHF’s and Government of Ontario’s joint objective is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of the people of this province.
  • Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

 

  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.
  • What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

 

  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?
  • As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and associated processes, more details to come at a later date.

Amount of Government Funding for RHF Accessibility Assessment

  • Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

 

  • As noted earlier, the objective of this investment on the part of the Government of Ontario is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working on the detailed design of the program and will release more details at a later time.



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The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today


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 August 15, 2019

SUMMARY

There have now been 197 days since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley that called for strong new action to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Instead of announcing a plan to take the key new actions that the Onley Report recommended, the Ford Government has just doubled down on its troubled plan to divert $1.3 million to the voluntary private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF). A new supplemental report by the AODA Alliance, made public today, shows that the Government’s plan has even more problems than earlier discovered.

Over three and a half years ago, the AODA Alliance showed that there are serious problems with the entire idea of a private building accessibility certification process, no matter who conducts it. Last month, in an AODA Alliance report that we made public on July 25, 2019, we unearthed serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million of public funds to the specific program that the RHF offers, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Today’s supplemental report digs deeper into the RHF program. It is based on an AODA Alliance review of some of the documents from the RHF that the Government has recently disclosed to the AODA Alliance. Today’s supplemental report also analyzes the Ford Government’s first detailed response to concerns which the AODA Alliance has raised about this plan.

Below, we show you the AODA Alliance’s supplemental report on the RHFAC. It includes a summary near the start that lists its key findings. At the end of this report is the text of the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance in which the Government answers a number of the questions we have asked about that program. We appreciate the Government providing a detailed response, although we are deeply troubled by much of its contents, as the supplemental report explains in detail.

Our serious concerns with the Ford Government’s plans have gotten good media coverage and were in significant part echoed in a strong editorial that the Toronto Star ran on August 6, 2019. We repeat our call for the Government to put on hold its plan to fund the RHFAC, and to immediately convene a steakholders’ roundtable or summit to explore strategies for effectively addressing the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment. We also call on the Government to now make public a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

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

Supplemental Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC)

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government.

On July 25, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public its detailed July 3, 2019 report which shows serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan. That report garnered good print, broadcast and online media coverage. On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial echoing a number of the AODA Alliance’s concerns with the Ford Government’s plan.

On July 3, 2019 the AODA Alliance sent the Ford Government a copy of its report on the proposed public funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). The AODA Alliance also wrote the Ford Government, asking a series of important questions about the Government’s plans.

On July 29, 2019, the Ford Government wrote back to the AODA Alliance. It provided a number of answers and disclosed several documents regarding the RHFAC.

In this supplemental report, the AODA Alliance makes public a series of its supplemental and additional concerns with the Government’s plan to provide public funding to the RHFAC. These are based on the new information that the Government has disclosed to us. We thank the Government for providing this information. At the end of this supplemental report, we make public the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to us and its answers to our earlier questions, as an appendix to this supplemental report.

This supplemental report is based on our review of the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter, and two of the documents from the RHF. Those documents are the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide and the RHFAC Student’s Guide. These are used in the course which the RHF has provided for people who want to train to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings as part of the RHFAC.

The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.

2. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.

3. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.

4. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.

5. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.

6. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.

7. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.

8. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.

9. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.

10. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.

11. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.

12. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.

13. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.

14. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.

15. It Is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.

16. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.

17. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.

1. The Ford Government Held No Open Competitive Bidding Process Before Deciding to Give $1.3 Million to the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Program

It is clear from the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the Government did not hold an open competitive bidding process before it decided to award $1.3 million to the RHF. The Ford Government was elected in 2018 on a core pledge to be responsible in the use of public money. It is fundamental that a competitive bidding process be held before such a large sum of money is awarded to any private organization for a public project.

The Ford Government gave poor reasons for refusing its not doing so. For example, in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance it said:

“For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.”

To the extent that that sentence could create the impression that the RHF has been operating its accessibility rating service for 30 years, this would be a substantial exaggeration. The RHF only started its private accessibility certification program within the past three or four years. It has not been operating it for 30 years, as the Ford Government claimed.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter suggested that the RHF private accessibility certification program is somehow unique. It states:

“The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.”

This does not justify the failure to hold an open competitive bidding process. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and this supplemental report show that there are serious problems with each of the Government’s core claims about the RHF program. Beyond them, the RHF program at bottom gives an organization its advice on the accessibility of a building. The RHF is not unique in this regard. Ontario has several private organizations which have been providing accessibility advice on the built environment to organizations for a fee. There are such organizations that have been doing so for much longer than has the RHF. There are examples of such organizations that use far more experienced and qualified people than an RHF-trained free-lance assessor who has only taken a two-week course.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter emphasized the RHF’s reputation and years of work in the area of accessibility. Yet that is no excuse for not providing others who do accessibility consulting with the same chance to compete for public funding for their accessibility advisory services, if the Ford Government wishes to provide public funding for such services. Just because one bidder is believed to have a good reputation is no reason to prevent others from bidding on the same project.

To generally support its decision to fund the RHFAC program, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance relied on the fact that the RHF accessibility program has been deployed in BC and Nova Scotia. That does not disprove any of our documented concerns or displace the need for a proper and open competition. The Ford Government has not presented any proof from the BC or Nova Scotia experience that shows that our concerns are unfounded. Much to the contrary, we have shown that the RHF gave a gold certification to the Vancouver International Airport, even though it has hangout steps an identified accessibility problem.

2. There are No Measures in Place to Address Serious Conflict of Interest Concerns with the RHFAC

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHFAC program raised serious concerns about the risk that the RHF itself and its free-lance accessibility assessors could encounter conflict of interest situations. We asked the Ford Government what the Government was doing to address this.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government identified no measures that it has put in place or that it plans to put in place to address these serious conflict of interest concerns that we have raised both regarding the RHF itself, and its free-lance assessors. Even more troubling, the Government did not even acknowledge that there is any conflict of interest concerns.

To answer the possibility of RHF conflicts of interest, the Government points to the RHF’s background and reputation. However, that is no answer. The most accomplished and esteemed lawyer or law firm can nevertheless find itself in a conflict of interest position. That lawyer or law firm must then take action to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. It is no answer that the lawyer or law firm has a great reputation and track record. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, no matter how reputable is the person or organization that has that conflict of interest.

To answer the conflict of interest concern regarding the free-lance assessors, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter in substance emphasized that they are professionals and have no gain to falsify assessments. Yet the Government’s calling them “professionals” is no answer. A professional can in some situations experience a conflict of interest. Being a professional does not mean one is immune from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, this specific professional designation is an invention of the RHF itself. It does not have the same safeguards as apply to other self-governing professionals, like doctors, lawyers or social workers.

As well, the issue of conflict of interest goes beyond the risk of deliberate falsification of an accessibility assessment. As shown later in this supplemental report, these RHF accessibility assessments have a clear and significant discretionary element to them. The risk of conflicts of interest can especially arise when exercising that discretion.

As the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter acknowledges, this is the livelihood for some of these assessors. As such, they have a clear financial interest in getting more organizations to hire them to do more assessments. That is the very genesis of this conflict of interest problem. They risk leaning in favour of finding more accessibility in order to get more organizations to hire them to do their accessibility assessments.

3. Key and Basic Aspects of this Public Funding Program Have Still Not Yet Been Worked out Months After it was Announced

From the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, it is clear that key aspects of this Government program have still not yet been worked out, even though it was first announced back on April 11, 2019, over four months ago. For example, it is not yet known which buildings will be assessed, or who will choose them, or what role if any the RHF will have in this, or by which criteria they will be chosen, or whether the Government will subsidize all or only part of the cost of this assessment. We only know that the Government says it is working on these important and rather basic details with the RHF.

This illustrates how Ontarians with disabilities are being effectively excluded from the very table where key decisions are to be made and where they deserve a central role. We only know that the RHF is at that table.

4. It is Troubling that the RHF Accessibility Certification Program Tries to Shift Responsibility and Risk onto Others

The public, including organizations that seek to have the RHF assess their buildings, would reasonably believe that it is the RHF that is doing the assessing and certifying. This is an obvious conclusion to draw from the program’s name, the “Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification” or RHFAC program. The RHF has gone to the effort of trademarking this name.

Passers-by who see a sign on a building that it is certified as accessible by the RHFAC would very likely conclude that it was the RHF that did the accessibility certifying. It is also an obvious conclusion to draw from the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 media announcement of this public funding program. It states:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

We would expect that the RHF would have seen that wording before the Ford Government made it public. We have seen no statement by the RHF asking the Ford Government to correct that statement.

Yet on our closer inspection, the reality seems very different. The RHF has taken clear and troubling steps to distance itself from responsibility for key aspects of any accessibility certification that is done in its trademarked name.

As a first illustration of this, the RHF makes it clear that it is not responsible in any way for the activity of those free-lance assessors who conduct an RHFAC accessibility assessment. The RHF strongly encourages those free-lance assessors to carry their own liability insurance, presumably at their own expense. This is a clear shifting of responsibility for these assessments to these individuals, and away from the RHF. The RHF Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Professional Liability: A designated RHFAC Professional shall assume any and all personal liability associated with their work or conduct. RHF shall not assume any responsibility or liability, of any kind, whatsoever, for a designated RHFAC Professionals work or conduct. RHFAC Professionals are strongly encouraged to obtain professional liability insurance.”

As a second illustration of this, the RHFAC Student’s Guide includes a very strong disclaimer. It says it absolves the RHF from any responsibility for its contents. Therefore, a student in the RHF course is supposed to assume all the risk. RHF takes no responsibility for the contents of its curriculum that it requires an assessor to complete.

The RHFAC Student’s Guide sets out the course curriculum. It is what a student is required to read and learn. The RHFAC Student’s Guide disclaims right near the start:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, site alterations, repairs and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

It would be very troubling if a law professor or an architecture professor began their class or course by disclaiming responsibility for what they teach when it comes to the law, or to design principles.

As a third illustration of this, the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide includes a similar disclaimer. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide sets out the RHF’s instructions to the instructors that teach the RHF course. This disclaimer also says it absolves the RHF for responsibility for the course’s contents, in so far as the course instructors are concerned. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide states:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, building alterations, repairs, and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, by laws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (Building Laws). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the users right of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors (the RHF Personnel), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

Taken together, it appears as if the RHF is trying to shift as much responsibility as possible onto the free-lance assessors and course instructors, and away from the RHF itself. This is so even though the so-called accessibility certification and the training course are heavily and repeatedly branded with the RHF name and related RHFAC trademark. This is also so despite the fact that the RHF appears to have set the course contents and requirements.

5. The RHFAC Accessibility Ratings are Clearly Left in Significant Part to Each Free-Lance Assessor’s Subjective Discretion, Despite the Government’s Claims that These Accessibility Assessments are Consistently Applied

The Ford Government indicated in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that:

“The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.”

Yet documents that we obtained from the Ontario Government have demonstrated our concern that the RHFAC program leaves a great deal of discretion to each free-lance assessor. Assessors can readily differ on what they consider to be accessible. As such, an RHF “accessibility certification” may not demonstrate that the building is in fact accessible.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

” The instructor should emphasize the following:
The importance of using the Professional Handbook.
In conducting an assessment, there is much ambiguity. It is not a black and white science, and there will often be differing opinions. Thus, it is essential that students understand the importance of providing clear rationale to defend their positions.”

The Instructor’s Guide also shows that an assessment of a building’s accessibility under the RHFAC program is subject to the highly discretionary and open-ended criterion of “appropriate access.” No doubt, what is “appropriate access” can easily vary from one free-lance assessor to another, or from one adjudicator to another. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

The Student Guide similarly shows that the assessment process is ultimately left to the personal or subjective discretion of each assessor. Each assessor can form their own personal view of what ratings are “reasonable.” The Student Guide states:

” Preview the results to see if they look reasonable.”

The Government and the RHF suggest that consistency in the accessibility assessments of buildings is assured by the fact that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reviews each RHFAC assessment’s documents. However, there is no plausible way that the CSA can rectify this risk of inconsistency from one assessor to the next, when the standard each assessor ultimately uses to evaluate a building’s accessibility ends up being so subjective and discretionary. This is made worse since there is no suggestion that the CSA visits any of the buildings being assessed, to monitor and ensure that each assessor’s assessments are consistent.

6. It is Problematic for the RHFAC to Take Averages of the Accessibility of a Building’s Features Like Bathrooms

According to the Student Guide, a rating of the accessibility of a feature, such as a building’s bathrooms, is an average of the accessibility rating point scores of each of the building’s bathrooms. The Student Guide states:

“Important: If an element, such as a parking area, is provided in multiple locations for the facility, then rate each area individually and take an average of the assessment values for each feature.”

This is problematic. A person with a disability does not use an average of the building’s bathrooms. He or she uses a specific bathroom. An average figure may leave a person with the wrong impression that there is good accessibility across the board among bathrooms. In fact, some of those bathrooms may have real accessibility problems.

We offer a stark example to illustrate this point. Assume that a building has two bathrooms. One is fully accessible and gets a 5 point score. The other is completely inaccessible and gets a 1 point score. The resulting average would be a 2.5 points out of 5 overall score for the buildings bathrooms. This would lead an observer to think that the building’s bathrooms are at least partially accessible. Yet in fact, one of the two bathrooms is entirely inaccessible. There is only one place in the building where people with disabilities who need such accessibility can go to the bathroom.

7. The RHFAC Program Repeatedly Emphasizes the Problematic Idea of Getting Organizations to Go “Beyond Code”, As If Building Code Compliance Is All That Is Required

At some points in the RHFAC program’s documents that we have reviewed, the RHF makes the repeated error of talking about the goal of getting organizations to go “beyond Code.” By this, the RHF clearly means going beyond the accessibility requirements of the applicable Building Code. The RHF speaks of this as a virtue to be rewarded, as if it means that an organization is doing more than they are required to do.

This fundamentally misconceives and understates an organization’s accessibility obligations. An organization’s accessibility obligations also include those under the applicable human rights code, and in the case of the public sector, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These can well exceed what the applicable Building Code requires. Moreover, local municipal bylaws can set accessibility requirements that are higher than the applicable Building Code. Elsewhere in the RHFAC Student’s Guide and Instructor’s guide, these points are at times made. However, the repeated reversion to “going beyond Code” risks confusing students, and/or leaving them with the wrong impression.

It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations and designers to mistakenly think that all they need to do on accessibility is to comply with the applicable Building Code. The RHFAC materials at times appear to reinforce that mistaken view.

For example, the Student Guide makes this mistake where it states:

“The main triggers that stimulate demand for an RHFAC rating are as follows:

1. Any site that involves design and construction.
For buildings, this includes both new construction and major retrofits or conversions. In terms of design, the minimum requirement regarding accessibility is compliance with building code. The site owner, and hence designers and builders, are legally bound only to meet requirements set out in the building code. As those in the construction industry develop an increased awareness of Universal Design concepts and its long-term benefits, they may seek the advice and assistance of a trained assessor to help them go beyond building code compliance.”

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

The RHFAC program depends heavily on an RHF adjudicator assessing the quality and sufficiency of the free-lance assessor’s evaluation of a building’s accessibility. Yet the RHF adjudicator appears not to go to the building themselves, in so far as we can discern from the documents we have reviewed. We found no requirement that the adjudicator themselves visit the building in issue. They instead depend on the free-lance assessor to take enough photos and videos of the building, which the adjudicator can then review.

The Student Guide places a burden on the assessor to record everything an adjudicator might need to know about the building. The Student Guide states:

“Make sure you provide any information you think the adjudicator may need in order for them to understand your rating for each line entry.”

Accordingly, the adjudicator’s review can only be as good as the photos and videos they are given to review. If the assessor does not take sufficient photos, the adjudicator may not know it. The adjudicator may agree with the free-lance assessor’s evaluations depicted in the photos and videos received, even though the building could have serious accessibility problems that the assessor did not photograph.

If, for example, a free-lance assessor does not take a picture of “hangout steps” at a building, the adjudicator won’t know that the building has hangout steps. The AODA Alliance’s widely-viewed online video on the serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre demonstrated how hangout steps can present serious accessibility problems.

The RHF has pointed to oversight by the CSA as reinforcing the validity of this accessibility certification process. Yet from our review, it appears that the CSA, like the RHF adjudicator, is entirely dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the photos and videos that the free-lance assessor takes. This is not a reliable system.

As well, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance makes it clear that to qualify to be an RHFAC adjudicator, a person needs only to have completed the RHFAC course. We have detailed earlier, and further show here, that this training is insufficient to be an effective assessor. The same goes for an adjudicator.

9. There Are Insufficient Safeguards to Ensure that an RHF-Certified Building Remains Accessible After It Is So-Certified

Based on information the Ford Government provided, it is possible for a building to get an RHFAC accessible or gold rating, and then make changes that impede accessibility, without this necessarily changing the organization’s rating for months, if at all. There are several concerns:

a) According to the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, an organization must declare “substantial changes to the site” to the RHF. This appears to be entirely self-policing.

b) Substantial changes is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.

c) The Government indicated that if such changes are reported, the RHF “may” investigate such reported changes. That provides no assurance that they will be investigated. The Government did not say the RHF “will” investigate any such changes.

d) The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter also stated:

“In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.”

That too appears entirely self-policing. If an organization does not self-declare a change to accessibility, there is no assurance that such changes will affect their accessibility rating.

e) Beyond an organization self-reporting changes to its building’s accessibility, the Government was palpably silent on there being anything in this process to enable members of the public to report accessibility problems at a building that the RHF has rated as accessible. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter repeated our earlier question to the Government, as follows, without answering it. We asked:

“what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?”

10. The Mandatory RHFAC Course Is Even Shorter Than the Two Weeks We Earlier Announced

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report expressed the serious concern that to be qualified as an RHF accessibility assessor, a person with no prior knowledge or experience with accessibility must only complete a two-week RHF course. A review of RHF documents shows that it is even less than two weeks in length.

According to RHF documentation, the course is only 8 days long. The 8th day is an on-site day, not a classroom training day. A person in the course is only required to attend 80% of the seven days of classroom instruction, which is only 5.6 days. The Student Guide states:

“A minimum of 80% classroom attendance and 100% field experience attendance is required to pass the course.”

11. An Instructor in the RHFAC Course Need Not Have Demonstrated Expertise in the Accessibility of the Built Environment

A person does not need to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment to be an instructor in the RHFAC course. The AODA Alliance asked the Government what requirements a person must meet to be qualified to teach in that course. In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government said in material part:

“All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.”

A person can have extensive experience in the built environment and yet have no demonstrated knowledge or expertise about accessibility of the built environment. As amplified by the concerns documented here, completion of the RHFAC course does not qualify someone to be an instructor in that course.

To try to show the sufficiency of the RHFAC course, the Ford Government listed in its July 29, 2019 a series of colleges and universities where this course has been offered. However, it is clear from the documents disclosed to us that it is the RHF that designed this course, and not any of those colleges and universities. It is also clear that the instructors do not need to come from any of the faculties of those colleges or universities.

12. The RHF Training Course Crams Far Too Much Curriculum into Too Short a Time

It is totally unrealistic to expect a student to effectively learn all or even most of the information and analytical skills which the RHF jams into its training course for its accessibility assessors. We reached this conclusion based on our review of the RHF Instructor’s Guide, for those teaching the RHF curriculum, and the Student’s Guide, for students taking the course.

The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide specifies that a student, taking this short course, should end up in the end with these huge results:

“Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
1. Explain the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities.
2. Integrate relevant legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
3. Integrate Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment. 4. Interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings.
5. Communicate and support assessment findings to clients, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive standards.
6. Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards. 7. Display professionalism and promote inclusiveness when working with clients.”

In this course, the RHF expects a person with no required prior background in the law to be able, after the course, to locate, become familiar with, learn and be ready to advise an organization about the different laws governing the built environment at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of Canada’s Constitution), federal and provincial human rights codes, federal and provincial building codes, provincial accessibility laws such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and municipal bylaws that set requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in different municipalities. The RHF also expects its assessors to learn how to figure out which of these laws governs the accessibility in a particular building. That can require assessments of constitutional questions as well as the interpretation of different provincial laws and municipal bylaws. These can be complicated legal questions.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to explain the legal environment related to human rights and disability. Assessors need to be able to interpret the intent and requirements of relevant legislation and to understand the roles of various organizations, agencies and levels of government in promoting accessibility.”

Referring to one of the discussions of law in the course, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:
Explain human rights and disability legislation and their impact on accessibility.
Explain the relationship and hierarchy among employment & human rights and disability legislation.”

As well, the Student Guide states:

“Locate Applicable Building Code or Standards
For a building assessment, you need to determine building classification, ownership and jurisdiction and to locate/review applicable building code and accessibility standards. Make sure you know and understand the accessibility provisions of CSA B651-12 that are applicable to the site to be reviewed (these are covered in Unit 5.2 Accessibility Legislation, Regulations and Standards).”

An RHF free-lance assessor is expected to end this course with sufficient expertise to form judgements on whether a proposed building meets Building Code accessibility requirements. The Student Guide states:

“Recommendations provided for new construction must ensure that sites meet code requirements for basic accessibility.”

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

“Compliance equals only minimal levels of accessibility.
Compliance with legislation is essential. It is the law. You must confirm that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that minimum site specifications are adhered to. This includes human rights legislation and disability legislation, which protect people from discrimination, as well as building code regulations, which provide minimal levels of accessibility requirements. This is covered in Section Five: Legal Framework and Compliance.”

The Instructor’s Guide also makes it clear that a student is expected to learn to write a report on their assessment of a building that will include showing where the building complies or does not comply with relevant laws on accessibility, including accessibility legislation and human rights laws. The Instructor’s Guide sets as an outcome of one of its units:

“Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive design standards.”

We had asked the Ford Government if an RHF assessor needs to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario, or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter’s long response does not give a clear and unequivocal “yes” to this important question.

Moreover the RHF does not give students in this course a copy of the relevant voluntary accessibility standard from the CSA on which the RHF relies. It does not give students the relevant accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code, the AODA, or municipal bylaws dealing with accessibility of the built environment. it appears to be the responsibility of each student to get these for themselves.

Beyond those substantial legal topics, in this course, a student is also expected to be able to learn at least in a preliminary way how to read technical professional drawings such as blueprints for a proposed new building. This is so even if the student has no prior background on how to read such technical drawings.

The student is expected to learn how to evaluate those drawings, in order to assess whether or how much they meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. A student is also expected to learn how to visit a construction site when the building construction is underway, to advise whether the actual accessibility corresponds to the technical drawings. Here again, a student need not have any background in any of this to enroll in the course.

The Student Guide states:

“With new construction, an assessor will review construction documents or drawings based on the RHFAC Rating Survey to establish the level of access provided in the design. The assessor must identify and review elements related to accessibility solely from sketches, construction drawings and sometimes from only an artists rendering.”

The Student Guide also states:

“In addition to drawing reviews, assessors may need to conduct site inspections at various stages of construction to ensure the requirements developed in the design stage are transferred to the construction site.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to provide participants with a high-level introduction to construction documents such that they can identify and interpret the main building elements, and in particular, elements related to accessibility.

NOTE: As construction documents can be highly technical and complex, this will serve only as a basic introduction for those who have limited prior exposure to the construction industry. Participants who intend to develop their practice as RHFAC Professionals and who do not have prior experience would benefit by taking additional training. This unit may not be relevant for experienced contractors, or for professional architects or engineers.”

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

“Goals
The main goal of this unit is to help students who have limited or no prior experience with construction documents to understand construction documents at a basic level.

Objectives
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Explain standard types of construction drawings.
Identify standard information displayed on construction drawings. Explain key features and symbols displayed on construction drawings.”

It would be too much to try to fit into such a short course all of the foregoing content regarding the law and regarding the reading of technical drawings. Yet the RHF course aims to also teach much more. The course materials present the student with a veritable blizzard of detailed information about the kinds of accessibility features or needs for which they should be looking, when they assess a building. This appears to be far more of such information than a person could effectively learn in up to 7 days of classroom learning.

There is still more content that this course covers. The course materials also aim to ensure that the student is up to speed on the RHF internal process for conducting an assessment of a building. this includes visiting the building, documenting observations, scoring the results, and providing for an internal review or adjudication.

Taken together, the course contents do not just bear upon a pile of facts or data that a student can memorize and then recall when needed, whether on a test or when assessing a building. The course focuses on key topics that require analytical skills. These include, for example, deciding which accessibility law applies to a building, how to interprete and apply those laws, analyzing technical drawings of a planned building, and, of course, analyzing the design features of a building for accessibility problems. A student cannot effectively develop these analytical skills in such a short course. they cannot be effectively acquired through a teaching format that is largely (though not exclusively) lectures, PowerPoint slides, and reading materials supplemented by some group discussions.

13. The RHFAC Course Appears to Emphasize Barriers Facing People with Physical Disabilities Such as People Using Wheelchairs

The Ford Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the RHFAC uses “all components of the CSA B651 standard” and that the RHFAC thereby measures “holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.” This further demonstrates our concern that this gives primary if not exclusive emphasis to the accessibility needs of only people with some disabilities. Our review of the RHFAC Instructor’s and Student’s Guides reinforces this concern, even though at some points, other disabilities are to some extent addressed.

Even though the course materials at times refer to other disabilities or to all disabilities, there are a number of points in the course materials that clearly suggest that a primary focus is on people with physical disabilities, including those using wheelchairs. If so, there is a real risk that the RHFAC program will continue that emphasis, to the disadvantage of people with other disabilities that can face barriers in the built environment.

14. It is Misleading to Suggest that Building Code Compliance Means that a Building is Accessible

At one point, the Instructor’s Guide makes the incorrect if not misleading suggestion that if a building complies with a Building Code, then it is accessible. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“As a general guideline, code compliance warrants an Accessibility Certified (AC) level rating. However, assessors also need to understand that there are situations in which this does not apply. For example, ramps are often not designed to code, but they are still accessible to most people.”

Yet elsewhere, the Student’s Guide appears to give a contradictory message. The Student’s Guide states:

“The RHF Accessibility Certification Program is intended to encourage meaningful access. Thus, an RHFAC rating goes beyond compliance with building code or adherence to standards or guidelines and provides a snapshot of the real level of accessibility of a site. Site owners or managers can then use this information to make positive changes that will help to ensure all users of their facilities feel welcome.”

Moreover, the Instructor’s Guide seems at at least one point to contradict the view that Building Code compliance is sufficient to amount to accessibility, where the Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

15. It Is Inappropriate and Potentially Harmful to Use Certain Disability Simulations as Part of the Course

It is wrong, potentially harmful and deeply troubling for the RHF course to include subjecting students to simulations of trying to walk with vision loss, e.g. by blindfolding them or putting vision-obstructing goggles on them and having them try to navigate using a white cane. We do not here comment on the RHF course’s use of simulations for hearing loss or mobility loss.

The RHF Instructor’s Guide and Student’s Guide each seek to train a student on the accessibility needs of people with certain disabilities. To enroll in the course, a student does not have to have any prior knowledge or experience with any disability. The course materials are written as if the students have no such background whatsoever. Of course, it is possible that some students who take the course have some background or experience with at least some disabilities.

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“This lesson aims to shift students attitudes and motivate them to become agents of change. Through simulation experiences, participants will gain a first-hand experience, albeit limited, of how people with disabilities experience the environment and the barriers they face at both a physical and emotional level.”

It also states:

“By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Describe how people with different disabilities navigate and adapt to the physical and social environment”

Such simulation exercises that seek to have a student experience blindness or vision loss through vision-obstructing goggles and through attempting to navigate with a white cane are extremely problematic. Except perhaps in very rare and extremely controlled circumstances that do not apply here, this should never be done. The RHF course is not one of those rare and controlled exceptions.

It is wrong to lead students to think that undergoing such a “simulation” has them experience anything like the experience of living with blindness or some degree of vision loss. Placing a blindfold or vision-obstructing goggles on a sighted person for a short period of time does not simulate the experience of a person living with blindness or vision loss.

A person who has lived with blindness or vision loss for years has had a chance to acquire a series of vital skills, such as the effective use of a white cane while walking. To acquire those skills, a person needs extensive time and practice, and a qualified and highly trained orientation and mobility specialist as their instructor.

In sharp contrast, when a sighted person dons a blindfold or vision-reducing goggles, they experience something extraordinarily different. They suddenly face the sudden loss of their full vision, for which they have had absolutely no prior training or time to adjust. They typically experience disorientation, confusion and palpable fear.

These so-called “simulations” are properly frowned upon because they produce such harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about living with vision loss. It is not unusual for some sighted people undergoing such “simulations” to project their feelings of fear and disorientation on people with vision loss, believing that such is what people with vision loss daily experience. It is hard to counter-act such strong emotional reactions. Indeed, it is reasonable to fear that pervasive pity and stereotypes about vision loss have their genesis in no small part to people trying to “experience blindness” by closing their eyes and trying to find their way around.

It is manifestly insufficient to simply caution students, going under blindfold, not to project those strong feelings on people with vision loss. The risk is that the memory of the stress and disorientation will far outlast any memory of that verbal caution.

The Student’s Guide treats as accurate the very harmful and incorrect stereotype about vision loss that gives rise to our objection to this simulation exercise. The Student’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. Spending some time wearing a simulator and attempting to do various everyday tasks can quickly give a fully sighted person a sense of some of the issues involved and how frustrating even the simplest of tasks can be. Often, participants become impressed with the capabilities of a person with limited sight.”

Making this worse, there is no assurance that the RHFAC instructor will have sufficient experience and expertise with the disabilities to be “simulated”. The Instructor’s Guide recommends but does not require that a more expert facilitator be recruited for this exercise. That Guide places very substantial responsibility on the course instructor, as follows:

” Plan the route. Find a suitable route for the vision and mobility simulation experiences. Participants will be required to navigate these routes using a vision kit and wheelchair respectively.
Create a Disability Simulation Exercise Schedule and post on a whiteboard. The following is an example of a schedule:

Time Vision Mobility (wheelchair)
1:00 2:00 Group 1 Group 2
2:00 3:00 Group 2 Group 1

Trained Facilitators
It is important that simulation exercises are facilitated by trained industry professionals who preferably are themselves people with disabilities. Having a facilitator with a disability present will help to put a face on disability. It also adds credibility and ensures the most relevant information is available to the course participants.

Note: If trained industry professionals or additional support staff are not available, students may be asked to assist each other in the simulations by rotating roles of participant and facilitator. In this case, the instructor should simplify the simulation activities to ensure they are completely without risk.

Facilitators should accompany participants throughout the simulation exercise to provide guidance and ensure safety. Accordingly, the role of the facilitator is as follows: To provide guidance regarding the use of equipment.
To ensure the safety of participants. This includes making any adjustments required to meet the individual abilities or needs of participants.
To offer a genuine perspective by sharing personal stories and anecdotes. The more personal anecdotes and stories that the facilitators can share with the class, the more effective the session will be. It is important that these stories are short, light-hearted and on point.
To stimulate discussion about disabilities in a safe environment that allows participants to be open, honest and curious.

Prior to conducting simulation exercises, the simulation facilitators will: Explain the mobility aids and technology that will be used in the simulation.
Determine if anyone has any physical restrictions that could be aggravated by participating in the simulations (shoulder, back, wrist, etc.) and determine if possible to/how to accommodate. Explain safe use of the equipment and safety procedures.
Explain the timing and logistics of the simulation exercise. Explain the route and key features.
Give participants a sense of the level of access provided in the environment in which the simulation is being staged is it a good example of accessibility or not?
Provide participants with broad understanding about the scope of disability in the community and the impact that a steadily increasing population of older adults and seniors and an increasingly active community of people with disabilities is having on the built environment.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s guide dives into several different kinds of vision loss. It shows that the instructor should be able to explain how a white cane is used. Yet an instructor (whose only relevant qualification needs to be a background in the built environment and prior completion of the RHFAC course) is not required to have any of the training or knowledge that a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist would have. Those are the professionals who teach white cane use, a complex subject. It shows that a long walking experience is expected. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators (white cane and goggles) that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. The most common conditions of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Each of these conditions can be simulated for participants. If simulators are not available, the instructor can provide more basic options to block vision for students, such as a blindfold.

Session facilitators should give detailed instructions for using a white cane and for ways of navigating with a vision impairment. The facilitator should also accompany participants to ensure their safety at all times. Some participants become quite frightened when they are unable to see where they are going.

Note: Participants in this simulation should be prepared to walk fairly long distances; therefore, appropriate footwear and casual clothing is advised.”

A very narrow and rare exception when such simulations of vision loss can be appropriate is in the case of the extensive post-secondary programs that provide professional training of orientation and mobility specialists for people with vision loss. In those highly controlled situations, a student only goes under blindfold or other vision obstructions when supervised by a qualified orientation and mobility faculty member at a college or university that offers a post-secondary course for such specialists. They do so in the context of an entire lengthy course (much more than an 8 day course) on orientation and mobility instruction. They may be expected to repeatedly and systematically go under blindfold for an hour or more each day, day after day, for a period of weeks or months of training.

In such training, the white cane is gradually introduced, but not at the very start of this process. White cane skills are slowly and systematically taught. The RHFAC course is far, far different from such a rare exceptional case where such simulations should be considered.

16. It is Unhelpful for The RHFAC Course to Ask Students to Consider Which Disability They’d Rather Have or Not Have

While trying to cram too much into too short a time, the RHFAC course also gives instructors the suggestion of having the students consider which of three disabilities they would like or not like to themselves have. The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“Ideas for Additional Learning Activities
Group Questioning Activity: Provide students with the following list of disabilities: Deaf
Blind
Mobility impaired
Pose the question, If you had a disability, which would you choose and why? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

Pose another question, this time reversing the question, Which disability would you not want to have? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

For the disability that you have chosen to have, how would it impact your current job or your family?”

This is problematic. This exercise risks reinforcing stereotypes and fears about acquiring these disabilities. Unless the students have a very thorough understanding of each disability, their views will be influenced by stereotypes or insufficient knowledge.

Unless a student is planning on injuring themselves in a way that will cause one of these disabilities, this question is not relevant to assessing a building’s accessibility. Whether or not a student would prefer to have a mobility, vision or hearing disability, the fact is that people in the community have these disabilities.

17. RHFAC Testing of Course Participants Is Not Shown to Be Sufficient

To pass the RHFAC course, a student must pass a multiple choice examination. We cannot fully assess the sufficiency of the test, since we have not seen it. However, we seriously question whether a multiple-choice test is a sufficient way to test rigourous analytical skills, such as those on which the course focuses, and the information that this course tries to cover.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government did not give a specific answer to the question, inquiring what the specifics are of the knowledge assessed in the RHF test at the end of the course. all the Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter is that the test

” is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course.”

That tells us nothing new.

As well, a student must complete and submit a written accessibility assessment of a building of the instructor’s choosing. Here again, we have concerns. This written report gets a pass-fail grade, which is a minimal marking threshold.

The Student Guide states:

“Students will conduct a review of the site and complete an RHFAC rating.
As this is a class exercise only, students will submit their results to the instructor for adjudication. They will not submit results to the RHFAC Registry.”

The Student Guide also states:

“Criteria for successful completion of this assignment
Appropriate categories, elements and features are identified and assessed. Clear rationale to support the rating is provided.
All required supporting documentation is submitted.
Key areas of success and key areas for improvement are aligned with the assessment findings.
Writing is clear and relatively free of any grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.”

Appendix Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho’s July 29, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised regarding the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). Please be assured that we take your feedback very seriously, and your comments will be carefully considered as we continue discussions with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

We are proud to partner with RHF, a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a proven track record across the country. The RHFAC program has also been successfully implemented in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In 2016, British Columba piloted the program and conducted 129 assessments. Given the success of the program, in 2018 that government committed to a second expanded partnership with the RHF to roll out the program province-wide.

We know that many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. And when buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the RHFAC program in communities across the province.

Through this partnership, the government is investing in an Ontario focused certification program that will allow organizations to understand their level of accessibility, based on nationally recognized standards, and learn in a concrete way what they can do to make improvements.

Through the governments investment, RHF will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. This will include accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

We are working with the Foundation on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

Please refer to the background section below for additional information and detailed responses to your questions.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

Confidentiality Warning: This e-mail contains information intended only for the use of the individual emailed above. If you have received this e-mail in error, we would appreciate it if you could advise us through the ministry’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-seniors-accessibility and destroy all copies of this message. Thank you.

Enclosure

Q and As
Process for Selecting the RHF for Funding
Q1. Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is not a private sector business. It is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
* For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.
* The Ontario Government provides transfer payments to recipients external to government to fund activities that benefit the public and are designed to achieve public policy objectives.
* The Rick Hansen Foundation submitted a proposal to help the Government improve accessibility in the built environment through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
* Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, as part of Budget 2019, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across the province.
* The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.
* As is the case with all transfer payments, this partnership will be implemented in line with the accountability framework for oversight set out in Ontarios Transfer Payment Accountability Directive. Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility
Q2. What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program is the first and only program in Canada that uses a rating system to identify and rate accessible built environments, creating a national benchmark and aspirational goal for the industry.
* The program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard. The RHFAC Guide to Certification provides a step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings currently available across the country.
* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Guide to Certification, outlining the step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Trained professionals use the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey for the assessments, these can be found in the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0 * These tools are reviewed regularly by the following:
* RHFAC Advisory Committee – The purpose of the RHFAC Advisory Committee is to advise RHF staff on the design, scope, development, and distribution of RHF Accessibility Certification program, and related topics as required. Committee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
* RHFAC Experts Taskforce The purpose of the RHFAC Experts Taskforce is to serve as a platform for detailed review, feedback and discussion in regards to the RHFAC program materials. Committee members are chosen from leaders from a selected list of national disability organizations with experience in built environment accessibility.
* RHFAC Technical Advisory Subcommittee – The purpose of the RHFAC Technical Subcommittee is to advise the RHFAC Advisory Committee on the technical components of the RHFAC Rating Survey and Handbook. This Subcommittee will serve as a platform for review, feedback, and discussion of the technical components of the RHFAC materials. Subcommittee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
Q3. The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?

* The RHFAC term meaningful access is based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.
* Only trained RHFAC Professionals can submit RHFAC ratings into the RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA. Please find below step-by-step process for how to become an RHF Accessibility Certification Professional. Further, additional information is available in the RHFAC Guide to Professional Designation, enclosed: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Pass the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course. Participants in this course will learn about: * The impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities;
* The relevant legislation, regulations, and standards needed when planning and executing an assessment;
* The Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment; * How to interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings; and
* How to communicate and support assessment findings to clients, and prepare a recommendation report of the assessment findings, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
* Further, there are prerequisites for taking RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course including the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.
* Pass the examination. The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the above Training Course. This exam is designed to test understanding of concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered separately through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring. Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before they can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
* Uphold the designation. To uphold the designation, RHFAC Professionals must follow: (1) The RHFAC Professional Code of Ethics; and (2) Continuing education requirements; and (3) Policies regarding the use of RHF logos and marks.
* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
Q4. Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey, outlining all program detail, including references as provided: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
Q5. How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

* Early in the development stages of the RHFAC program, it was recognized that it would be essential for each RHFAC Professional to reach the same conclusions on any given site.
* As part of the development process, numerous single sites were reviewed by a number of RHFAC Professionals to check that the outcomes were consistent. This is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis. The RHFAC Professional is not reliant only on code requirements without any real understanding of how these required elements are used by people with disabilities.
* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.
* During the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course, the instructors also go through each feature with students and complete a mock ratings.
* Further, as outlined above, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

RHF Accessibility Certification Duration of Buildings
Q6. Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

* An RHFAC Certification is valid for five years from the date of the adjudication. All substantial changes to the Site must be declared to RHF.
* An RHFAC Professional and/or RHFAC adjudicator may investigate any declared changes to determine if the Site continues to meet certification levels. RHF reserves the right to withdraw RHFAC Certification at its own discretion.
* In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility. Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators
Q7. What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

* Each post-secondary institution is responsible for all RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course administration, including hiring of appropriate instructors.
* All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course. * The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course is offered across the country at: * George Brown College
* Carleton University
* Vancouver Community College
* Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
* and Nova Scotia Community College
* In addition, RHF has partnered with Athabasca University to launch an online course in January 2020.

Q8. What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course Instructor Manual and Student Manual, including details in regards to the disability simulation: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0

Q9. What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?

* The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
* This exam is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered through a separate process and independently through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring.
* Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before applicants can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
Q10. Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

* RHFAC Professionals are trained to identify barriers to people with disabilities on a cross- disability basis.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in. However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* Their job is to identify barriers based on their training, which uses CSA B-651 as a baseline. Their training and the RHFAC rating system itself takes them well beyond code minimum requirements in the identification of barriers to people with disabilities for example emergency entrances and wayfinding.
Q11. Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

* While CSA materials are provided in the classroom during training, it is the responsibility of the individual participant to purchase copies of various CSA materials (B651, B-44, etc.) as well as provincial or municipal code documents as required in the jurisdiction they are operating in.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* The RHFAC rating is intended as a snapshot of the current accessibility conditions vis-à-vis the ability for people with disabilities to use that facility.
* The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course curriculum includes units on legal framework and compliance which focus on integrating legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment. The CSA exam covers all units of the curriculum to ensure proper understanding of the RHFAC program. It is also important to note that not everyone taking the course will take the exam. Further, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course prerequisites include the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.

Conflicts of Interest
Q12. What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

* Over the past 30 years, the RHF has worked consistently to raise awareness around accessibility and improve the built environment, wherever and whenever possible, across Canada. It is known for its transparency and has a reputation of being a forthright organization interested in the public good. The RHF is also known for engaging Canadians from all backgrounds including people with disabilities, engineers, designers, architects, business, developers and builders in its quest to achieve its mission.

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. All RHFAC ratings in Ontario will be conducted by independent RHFAC Professionals.

* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.

Q13. What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

* Like all self-employed professionals, those who are trained to conduct accessibility ratings are armed with only their skills, dedication and their reputations. There is no gain for trained RHFAC professionals to falsify assessments.

* As this is a livelihood for some trained professionals, it is in their best interest as well as that of the RHFs that transparency and accuracy are paramount.

* The trained professionals who will conduct accessibility ratings are contracted by the Foundation as independent professionals, who have received the RHFAC Professional designation after taking the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course (offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario and other post-secondary institutions throughout Canada) and have successfully passed examination by the CSA Group.

* To complete a rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification trained professionals evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process
Q14. What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

* The trained professionals who will conduct the ratings are independent professionals who have gained the RHFAC Professional designation with examinations administered by the CSA Group after taking the RHFAC course.

* As mentioned above, this is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis.

* The RHFAC process has been successfully applied on a national level and ratings have been conducted across Canada.

* Furthermore, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.

Choice of Buildings to Assess for Accessibility
Q15. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

* As announced in the 2019 Budget, the RHFAC program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

* Through this investment, the RHFs and Government of Ontarios joint objective is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of the people of this province.

Q16. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

Q17. What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

Q18. Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?

* As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and associated processes, more details to come at a later date.

Amount of Government Funding for RHF Accessibility Assessment
Q19. Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

* As noted earlier, the objective of this investment on the part of the Government of Ontario is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working on the detailed design of the program and will release more details at a later time.




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A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

August 6, 2019

SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



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A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program

August 6, 2019

          SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html

Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible

under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



Source link