CNIB Response – AODA K-12 Education Accessibility Standards


In June 2021, the Ontario government published a report that contained 197 recommendations for Kindergarten to Grade 12 (K-12) Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These standards aim to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility gaps and barriers faced by students with disabilities from kindergarten to Grade 12. A further 75 recommendations were put forward addressing the transition from K-12 to post-secondary, the community and/or the workplace.

The government called for members of the public and organizations to submit a response to the recommendations before the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee finalizes them.

To help strengthen our response to these recommendations, CNIB held virtual consultation sessions with our community members to include that feedback in our report to the government. Interviewees included Ontario K-12 teachers and CNIB staff, as well as students who are blind or partially sighted and their parents. Thank you to everyone who participated and provided their feedback.

You can read our full detailed response to the Committee at the link below. We have also provided a summary below of key points that we would like the Committee to address:

1) Teacher training

We believe that the current Additional Qualifications (AQ) system for training Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) is inadequate. A person should complete post-secondary to become a TVI.

Our interviewees also reported that there wasn’t always a TVI available for the student but that an EA isn’t an adequate replacement. Therefore, we suggest that data on TVIs include areas where someone less qualified is substituting for a full TVI. This way, the school boards can address situations where children with sight loss are underserved.

2) Curriculum

CNIB endorses the implementation of the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with sight loss and recommends the formal adoption of the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth Who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including Those with Additional Disabilities.

Course materials must be gathered and made accessible before the beginning of the school year so that students who are blind or partially sighted will have access to it on the first day of class, like everyone else.

Accessibility standards for virtual learning platforms should be set and reviewed every year. We believe this should be prioritized in future drafts of these recommendations to ensure virtual learning is accessible to every student.

3) Individual Education Planning (IEP)

Currently, the recommendations have not explicitly identified IEPs as a tool to support students with disabilities. We recommend that IEPs be strengthened to include both extra-curricular activities like after-school programs and off-campus learning experiences, such as field trips. IEPs should also include individualized emergency planning. Finally, the IEP evaluation process should include everyone involved in the student’s learning journey: parents/guardians and the student themselves.

4) Expanded co-operative/experiential learning opportunities

The Committee correctly calls out that students with disabilities often have less access to co-op and experiential learning opportunities. Along with offering support and advice to employers, we recommend the Ontario government also set up a fund for students with disabilities for placement accommodations. We support the recommendations for increased experiential learning opportunities but would like to see a detailed plan for how this will be accomplished.

5) Transitions

High schools can help support the transition to post-secondary for students with disabilities by ensuring guidance and career counsellors have adequate knowledge on post-secondary student accessibility offices and how to access them. This information should be published on schools’ websites in an easily accessible place. We recommend the Committee strengthen the recommendations surrounding required documentation for post-secondary so the requirements are the same across all colleges and universities (not just “reasonably consistent”).

The Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility is considering public input over the coming months and will incorporate that feedback into the final version of the AODA K-12 Standard. Feedback on the recommendations can be provided at this link: Consultation – Initial Recommendations for K-12 Accessibility Standards, with a deadline of November 1, 2021.

Original at https://www.cnib.ca/en/news/cnib-response-aoda-k-12-education-accessibility-standards?region=on




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Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Divisional Court Declines to Rule on Argument that Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Violated Ontario’s Disabilities Act — AODA Alliance Urges Accessibility Minister to Obey the Law He’s Mandated to Spearhead

October 8, 2021

Summary

Here are two major updates in our campaign to get the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

1. Ontario’s Divisional Court Dismisses David Lepofsky’s Court Application, Without Ruling On Whether Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Violated the AODA

On Friday, October 1, 2021, the Ontario Divisional Court released its ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho. We set the 2-page ruling out below.

The Court dismissed the application by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, without ruling on his contention that Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho violated s. 10(1) of the AODA. That section requires the minister to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s initial report upon his receiving it. Minister Cho did not post the health care Standards Development Committee’s initial report until over four months after he received it. He did not post the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report until 3.5 months after he received it. He did not post the K-12 Education Standards Development Committees initial report until 2.5 months after he received it.

The Court decided not to rule on the merits of David Lepofsky’s claim, concluding that the application had become moot after the Government eventually publicly posted all three reports. The Court had the authority to rule on the case, even though it was moot, but decided not to, for the reasons set out below. Minister Cho had urged the Court not to rule on the question whether he had violated the AODA. David Lepofsky urged the Court to rule on the case even if it was moot.

This ruling does not vindicate the Ford Government’s conduct. There are at least two important developments arising from this case.

First, Minister Cho, through his lawyer, conceded in court for the first time that he must post a Standards Development Committees initial report after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. See the ruling, below. Second, the evidence in the case showed that the Government had created bureaucratic barriers that delayed the public posting of these reports. For example, the Government requires Cabinet Office to give permission to post something online, in accordance with Government marketing priorities. Yet, the AODA gives Cabinet Office no right to veto or delay the public posting of these reports.

2. AODA Alliance Writes Accessibility Minister Cho to Call on Him to Fulfil His Unmet Statutory Duties

On October 8, 2021, the AODA Alliance sent a detailed letter to Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho, set out below. It gives some specific examples of how the Ford Government has violated the AODA. It asks the Government to give these three commitments:

“1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?”

“2. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?”

“3. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:

  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?”

3. Getting Close to 1,000 Days of Ford Government Inaction on the David Onley Report

There have now been a breathtaking 981 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act undertaken by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. It found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing barriers” impeding people with disabilities. The Ford Government still has no comprehensive plan in place for implementing the Onley Report.

Send us your feedback. Write the AODA Alliance at [email protected]

        MORE DETAILS

October 1, 2021 Divisional Court Ruling in Lepofsky v. Cho

CITATION: Lepofsky v. Cho, 2021 ONSC 6466

DIVISIONAL COURT FILE NO.: 364/21 DATE: 2021/10/01

SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE – ONTARIO DIVISIONAL COURT

RE: DAVID LEPOFSKY, Applicant

AND:

RAYMOND CHO, THE MINISTER FOR SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY, Respondent

BEFORE: Sachs, R. D. Gordon and Kristjanson JJ.

COUNSEL: David Lepofsky, on his own behalf

Michael J. Sims and Wan Yao Chen, for the Respondent

Dianne Wintermute, for the Intervenor, Citizens with Disabilities, Ontario

HEARD at Toronto by videoconference: September 27, 2021

ENDORSEMENT

The Applicant initially sought an order in the nature of mandamus compelling the Respondent to make public proposed accessibility standards the Minister had received from three committees (the “Reports”). The Reports have now been made available. The Applicant amended his application to seek a declaration that the Respondent breached his duty to make the Reports public upon receipt, as is required by s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “Act”).

We agree with the Respondent that the Application’s application is moot. The live controversy between the parties, namely, the failure to make the Reports available to the public, has now disappeared.

The Applicant argues that even if we find that the application is moot, we should proceed to hear it as to do so would provide guidance to the parties for future cases. We agree with the Applicant that accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities is an urgent issue and that the deadline provided for in the Act for achieving the purpose of the Act is fast approaching. Thus, anything that can be done to eliminate delay in achieving the goal of accessibility should be done. We disagree that issuing a declaration in this case to the effect that the Respondent breached its duty to make the Reports public upon receipt would meaningfully advance this goal.

Page: 2

Issuing a declaration that would have a meaningful effect in the future requires adopting an interpretation of the term “upon receipt” used in the English version of s. 10(1) of the Act (the term does not appear in the French version) that is not dependent on the analysis of a particular set of circumstances. Yet, neither the Applicant nor the Respondent is advocating such an interpretation. Both agree that the Reports are required to be released only after the Respondent has taken the reasonable steps necessary to prepare the Reports for public release. Where they disagree is on the question of which steps were reasonably necessary in this particular case and how much time was reasonably required to take those steps. For example, the Respondent asserts that it was necessary to brief the government about the content of the Reports and to make sure that the Reports did not exceed the mandate of the committees who issued them and that the language in the reports is appropriate. The Applicant counters by stating that these steps were not necessary since in this case the Respondent had representatives on the committees that prepared the Reports, which should have obviated the necessity for any more review. Both parties agree that before the Reports could be released they had to be “coded” and translated into French. Where they disagree is on the question of how long this process should have taken.

The Respondent states that part of the delay in this case was due to COVID 19. The Applicant disputes this explanation. Determining whether the requested declaration should be issued would require this Court to assess the evidence about the circumstances in this particular case. If we were to conclude that in this case the Respondent breached its duty, this would say nothing about what a subsequent court might decide in a different case. The analysis is an individual and contextual one and will necessarily vary in each case. For the court to engage in this exercise when the desired objective (the release of the Reports) has been achieved would not be an appropriate use of its resources.

The Applicant argues that failing to hear his application would be deny him a remedy in the face of the Respondent’s breach of its statutory obligation. Again, we disagree. The Applicant’s remedy in this situation was to seek an order requiring the Respondent to comply with its obligation and make the Reports available. Due to the fact that the Reports have now been made available, there is no further need for court intervention.

For these reasons the application is dismissed. The parties agree that there should be no order as to costs.

Sachs J.

I agree

  1. D. Gordon J.

I agree

Kristjanson J.

Date: October 1, 2021

October 8, 2021 Letter from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

October 8, 2021

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

We ask you to take specific overdue actions, required of you as Ontario’s cabinet minister responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. These actions would help you fulfil your duty under section 7 of the AODA to oversee the development and implement all the accessibility standards necessary to achieving the AODA’s purpose.

The AODA’s purpose is to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. That looming deadline is only a little more than three years away. It is beyond dispute that Ontario is not on schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. A failure to swiftly take the actions we identify in this letter would push Ontario further behind in reaching that deadline.

The Duty to Appoint Standards Development Committees to Review the Sufficiency of an Accessibility Standard Enacted Under the AODA Within Five Years After It is Enacted

Within five years after an accessibility standard is enacted under the AODA, section 9 of the AODA requires the minister, responsible for the AODA, to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the sufficiency of that accessibility standard. You are in clear violation of that requirement in the following two instances.

  1. a) The Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard was enacted in December 2012. The AODA required that a Standards Development Committee be appointed to review it no later than December 2017. Yet in the almost four years since then, no Standards Development Committee has been appointed for that purpose.

The previous Kathleen Wynne Government is responsible for not taking this action over the last six months of its term in office, from December 2017 to June 2018. You and your Government have been in violation of that mandatory requirement for your entire term in office to date, well over three years.

We have brought this unfulfilled requirement to your Government’s attention. We and others have urged your Government on several occasions to develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, in order to fulfil the AODA’s requirement that buildings become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Your Government has never agreed to do so. To the contrary, during debates on this idea in the Legislature on May 30, 2019, during National Access Awareness Week, you inaccurately and hurtfully condemned this idea as creating “red tape.”

  1. b) In 2007, the previous Ontario Government enacted the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, the first accessibility standard to be enacted under the AODA. In June 2016, the previous Government enacted revisions to the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You were therefore required to appoint a Standards Development Committee no later than June 2021, to review the sufficiency of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard. You have not done so. As far as we have seen, you have announced no plans to do so.

People with disabilities in Ontario continue to face recurring disability barriers in many areas, such as in the built environment and in access to customer service. In important areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this situation even worse for people with disabilities. Moreover, your own Ministry enforcement data has revealed over the years that there have been rampant AODA violations in the context of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

  1. Will you commit to now appoint Standards Development Committees to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard, after advertising for people to apply to serve on those Committees? Will you give the latter Committee a mandate to make recommendations generally addressing measures needed to make the built environment accessible?

 The Pressing Need to Strengthen the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted three important accessibility standards under the AODA, the Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. These three standards are enacted together in one regulation, the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation 2011.

The AODA required the previous Government to appoint Standards Development Committees by 2016 to review the sufficiency of each of those three accessibility standards. It therefore appointed the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.

Quite some time ago, each of those advisory committees fully completed their reviews and submitted their final reports to the Ontario Government. The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report was made public in the spring of 2018, before the June 2018 Ontario election. The Employment Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over two and a half years ago, on January 22, 2019. The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee submitted its final report to you over one and a half years ago, on February 23, 2020.

According to the AODA, once the Government receives a Standards Development Committee’s final report, the Government can amend the accessibility standard that it reviewed. It can enact some, all or none of the changes that the Standards Development Committee recommended, and/or can make other reforms to the standard that the Government thinks helpful.

Despite all this work having been done, and all the recurring barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in transportation, employment and information and communication, your Government has enacted no revisions to the Transportation Accessibility Standard the Employment Accessibility Standard or the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. In fact, your Government has not enacted or strengthened any accessibility standards at all in its entire term in office.

You have failed to do so, even though over two and a half years ago, you received the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA. He found that Ontario is well behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025, and is full of “soul-crushing barriers” that hurt people with disabilities. In the Legislature, you said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in preparing his report.

  1. Will you commit to strengthen the insufficient Transportation Accessibility Standard, Employment Accessibility Standard and Information and Communication Accessibility Standard in the next four months, after you consult us on the revisions needed to strengthen them?

Ensuring that the Forthcoming Final Reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee Are Made Public Upon Your Receiving Them, Without Delay

Three Standards Development Committees, appointed under the AODA, are to resume their work this fall. They are required to review public feedback on their respective initial reports received over the summer and fall. They must then come up with their final reports and submit them to you. They will address disability barriers facing people with disabilities in the health care system, in the K-12 education system, and the post-secondary education system.

It is very important that you make public each of those Committees’ final reports upon receiving each of them, and that you not continue the Government’s practice of delaying for months the public posting of initial and final reports of Standards Development Committees appointed under the AODA.

These three forthcoming reports will, taken together, address serious disability barriers in the important areas of health care and education. The initial reports of these three Government-appointed advisory Standards Development Committees already documented that Students with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities. Their initial reports also reaffirm how patients with disabilities face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system.

The AODA requires the minister responsible for the AODA to make public the initial or final report of a Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” the report. Regarding a Standards Development Committee’s initial report, s. 10(1) of the AODA provides:

  1. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

As for any progress report that a Standards Development Committee submits to you, including the Committee’s final report, s. 11(2) of the AODA provides:

Progress reports

  1. (1) Each standards development committee shall provide the Minister with periodic reports on the progress of the preparation of the proposed standard as specified in the committee’s terms of reference or as may be required by the Minister from time to time.

Progress reports made public

(2) Upon receiving a report under subsection (1), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.

The Government has a troubling track record of withholding the initial or final reports of Standards Development Committees from the public for months or even years after receiving them, despite the minister’s statutory duty to post these reports upon receiving them. One troubling example of these was your Government’s withholding the final report of the Employment Standards Development Committee for over two years, from the time you received it in January 2019 to the time you publicly posted it in February 2021. You did so while people with disabilities continued to languish, facing troubling barriers in access to employment.

Another troubling illustration of this pattern was your withholding the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee from the public for over four months after you received it. You did this during some of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when you knew that people with disabilities were facing added barriers and hardships during that pandemic, and that the initial report you withheld from the public called for strong action on health care barriers, including those which are COVID-19-related.

In the recent case of David Lepofsky v. Raymond Cho, a senior Ministry official took the incorrect and harmful position that the AODA does not even require you to ever make public a Standards Development Committees final report. The Government had never before claimed that it had no statutory duty to make a Standards Development Committee’s final report public upon receiving it. That official’s affidavit, filed on your behalf, stated:

While posting of Initial Recommendations Reports is required by the Act and follows the process as outlined above, the Act does not require that the Minister post Final Recommendations Reports. In practice, the Ministry has posted these final reports as well.

In Lepofsky v Cho, I had filed a court application for judicial review on May 7, 2021, seeking a court order to force you to fulfil your duty to make public the initial reports that you had already received from the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. You had withheld those reports from the public much longer than necessary to post them online. It remains my position that you were in violation of your duty under s. 10(1) of the AODA to post each of those initial reports upon receiving them.

Although the court dismissed my application, it did not conclude that you complied with your legal obligations. Instead, at your request and over my objection, the Divisional Court declined to rule on my application, based on the fact that you had subsequently made all those initial reports public.

Your delay in posting those three initial reports was inexcusable. The Health Care Committee’s initial report was posted over four months after you received it. The K-12 Committee’s initial report was posted two-and-a-half months after you received it. The Post-Secondary Committee’s initial report was posted three-and-a-half months after you received it.

You made public the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial report just moments after I filed my court application on May 7, 2021, and no doubt before you had learned of my court application. You made public the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 1, 2021, over three weeks after I filed my court application. You made public the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s initial report on June 25, 2021, over six weeks after I filed my court application.

During the September 27, 2021 oral argument on my court application, your counsel conceded that section 10(1) of the AODA requires you to post an initial report that you have received after taking the steps that are reasonably necessary to prepare the report for public posting. The evidence that you placed before the Court showed that in the case of each of those three initial reports, your Ministry delayed its public posting well beyond the time it took to translate the report into French and to code it for online posting. (Even if it were assumed that your Ministry needed as much time as it actually took for French translation and coding.

According to your Ministry’s own evidence, you and your Government injected additional bureaucratic steps that delayed their posting. This included time taken to brief you or your office, and/or other Government officials. It included time taken to get Cabinet Office’s approval for their public posting in according with the Government marketing priorities, even though s. 10(1) gives Cabinet Office no authority to veto or delay their public posting. It included time taken to develop an online survey about each initial report, even though this is unnecessary to ready a report for public posting. It included time taken for the Government to develop a communication strategy (even though this too is unnecessary before a report is publicly posted). Finally, included time taken to edit the report for conformity with the Government’s standard for online posts, even though the Government has no authority to alter a Standards Development Committees report before publicly posting it.

It is extremely significant that your lawyer conceded in the face of the Court’s questions that the time needed to translate a report into French and to code it for public posting was a small part of the time which the Government actually took before it publicly posted an initial report. There was no evidence that your Government tried to speed up the reports’ translation or coding as a priority, or that most if not all of this work could not be done during the days or weeks before each report was formally submitted to you. Your staff were intimately involved with the work of each Standards Development Committee from beginning to end.

Your delays in publicly posting those three initial reports has further delayed Ontario’s progress toward reaching the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. As noted earlier, Ontario is already well behind in reaching that goal, as the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA amply documented over two years ago. Moreover, you withheld those reports from the public at an especially harmful time, during pivotal months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was especially urgent to let hospitals, other health care providers, schools, colleges, and universities know as soon as possible about their disability barriers, and about initial recommendations of what they should do to remove and prevent them. Instead, you stalled that process.

It is essential that the Health Care, K-12 and Post-Secondary Standards Development Committees are able to complete their work and submit their final reports to you as soon as possible. Your Ministry should take every step it can to facilitate this.

Once any of those Committees submit their final report to you, you should make public the fact that you have received it. You should publicly post it upon receiving it, without any delay. You should not hold up the public posting for such things as briefing ministers or other Government officials, for getting Cabinet Office approval, for formatting the report to meet Ontario Government posting standards, or for developing communication strategies or survey instruments.

The next Ontario election is only eight months away. We want to ask each party to make commitments to implement those final reports. For you to delay the public posting of any of those reports would impede and frustrate that effort.

  1. Will you commit that you will now put in place effective procedures to ensure that the final reports of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee will each be made public within a few days of your receiving a final report, at the latest? To do this will you commit as follows:
  1. a) Will you agree that under the AODA, you as Minister are required to publicly post a Standards Development Committee’s final report “upon receiving” it?
  1. b) When a Standards Development Committee submits its initial or final report to you, will you immediately let the AODA Alliance and the public know that it has been received?
  1. c) Since your Ministry officials work closely with a Standards Development Committee as it prepares and votes to approve an initial or final report, will you direct your officials to take all the steps that are reasonably necessary to publicly post the report as quickly as possible, and wherever possible, even before the report is formally transmitted to you? For example, most if not all of this work can be started and even completed after a Standards Development Committee formally votes to approve its report, and before that report is formally transmitted to you.
  1. d) Once you receive a Standards Development Committee’s initial or final report, will you have it immediately posted online as soon as it is translated into French and the minimum steps are taken that are needed to code the document for posting, e.g., as a downloadable file?
  1. e) Once you receive an initial or final report from a Standards Development Committee, will you agree not to delay its public posting in order for the Government to take steps that are not necessary for its public posting? For example, will you agree not to delay the report’s public posting until there are briefings of the minister, deputy minister or other public officials on it, and/or to prepare a public survey on it, and/or to prepare other web pages or communication web pages, or other strategies regarding it, and/or to seek permission of Cabinet Office for it to be publicly posted, and/or to edit it to conform to any Government style or writing standards for publicly posted documents, and/or to align the timing of its public posting with the Government’s political, marketing or other strategies or priorities?

As always, we remain ready, willing and able to assist the Government on the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. May we ask for your prompt reply to this letter, including the three commitments that we seek.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Alison Drumming, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

A New Captioned Video Gives You a Practical Guide to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities

October 6, 2021

Have you heard something about the duty to accommodate people with disabilities, but wanted to know what it actually means? Who owes this duty? To which people with disabilities? What does the duty include? What kinds of accommodations does it require? When does the duty to accommodate arise? Have you heard before that it is a duty to accommodate up to the point of “undue hardship,” but wondered what “undue hardship means?

Here’s a brand new captioned video that answers all these questions. It is called “The Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities 101 – An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate.” It is presented by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, who is also a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School.

This presentation talks about the duty to accommodate in a wide range of situations. It includes the duty of employers to accommodate employees and job applicants with disabilities. It also addresses the duty of those in the public and private sectors who provide goods, services or facilities to the public to accommodate people with disabilities. That includes a diverse range of organizations, like stores, restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care providers, public and private transportation providers, and so on.

This video is intended to help you whether you are a person with a disability, or a family member or friend of a person with a disability, or a public or private sector provider of goods, services or facilities.

Anyone involved in human resources work, or in direct customer service, or the management of an organization in the public or private sector can also benefit from this video. You don’t need any background in the law to benefit from this video.

It can be helpful to you if you are a member of a municipality’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, or of a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, or of a Standards Development Committee appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We encourage you to watch this video and to share it with others, including via social media. Post a link to it on your organization’s website. If you teach a course in college, university or other educational setting, feel free to use all or part of it as part of your instructional materials. Use this video as a tool to help in the campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to all ,people with disabilities.

The video runs about one and a quarter hours. To make is easier to use, and for those who don’t have time to watch it all, we provide links below to each of the major headings or topics addressed in the video.

Let us know what you think of this video. Send your feedback to [email protected]

An Introduction to the Duty to Accommodate People with Disabilities”

The video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y32XvjWmDAQ

Here are links to key topics in the video:

  1. Introduction and Overview 00:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeKQHuxP9XU
  2. Where does the Duty to Accommodate Come From? 2:27 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=147
  3. Who Must Accommodate People with Disabilities? Who Has the Duty to Accommodate? 5:12 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=312
  4. What is the Purpose of the Duty to Accommodate? 8:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=504
  5. What are the Benefits of Fulfilling the Duty to Accommodate? 11:15 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=675
  6. What Disabilities are Included within the Duty to Accommodate? 15:40 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=941
  7. Examples of Accommodations that Can be Required 17:26

https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1046

  1. What is the Content of the Duty to Accommodate? What Must an Organization Do? 26:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=1565
  2. Some Red Herrings We Can Eliminate from Discussion About the Duty to Accommodate 34:05 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2045
  3. When Does the Duty to Accommodate Arise? 35:25 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2125
  4. When, If Ever, Can You Ask a Person, Requesting Accommodation, for Medical Documentation of Their Disability? 37:50 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2270

12 The Undue Hardship Defence – General Principles 39:33 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2373

  1. When Can the Cost of Accommodation Justify a Failure to Accommodate? 49:14 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=2954
  2. When Can Health and Safety Considerations Justify a Refusal to Accommodate? 57:42 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3461
  3. Can the Failure to Accommodate Be Defended on the Basis that It Adversely Affects the Morale of Other Workers? 59:10 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3546
  4. How Does the Duty to Accommodate Apply to Trade Unions and Collective Agreements? 1:00:49 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3649
  5. What Happens if Fulfillment of the Duty to Accommodate May Conflict with Other Rights of Other People? 1:03:48 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=3829
  6. A Short, Punchy List of Defences or Arguments that Cannot Justify a Failure to Accommodate 1:06:56 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4016
  7. Concluding Thoughts 1:11:18 https://youtu.be/y32XvjWmDAQ?t=4282



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Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

September 27, 2021 Toronto: Today at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho, Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time anyone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE

As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

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

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g., by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by withholding those sets of recommendations from the public for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

Since May 7, 2021, all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed today.

Contact: [email protected]

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance



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AODA Alliance: Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing


Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

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

View this online, originally posted at https://www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare/

September 24, 2021 Toronto: On Monday, September 27, 2021 at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho,. Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time someone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

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

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by failing to publicly post those sets of recommendations for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/ Since May 7, 2021 all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Apart from announcing the forthcoming hearing, Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed on Monday. Contact: [email protected]

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance




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Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

September 24, 2021 Toronto: On Monday, September 29, 2021 at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho,. Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time someone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

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

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the Ford Government failed to do so for months in the case of three sets of such initial recommendations.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government back on December 3, 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted their respective initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Government appointed those Committees to advise on the disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system, and the disability barriers obstructing students with disabilities in Ontario’s schools, colleges and universities.

Mr. Lepofsky submits that the Minister contravened the AODA by failing to publicly post those sets of recommendations for five months, three and a half months, and two and a half months, respectively. The Minister denies he violated the AODA.

When Mr. Lepofsky filed this application on May 7, 2021, none of the three sets of advisory recommendations had been made public. Over the intervening time since then, the Minister eventually made them all public. Lepofsky argues that the minister’s delay in doing so contravened the law and hurt people with disabilities by further delaying progress towards making Ontario accessible.

Mr. Lepofsky’s original court application was made public on May 7, 2021 at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/disability-rights-advocate-launches-court-application-against-the-ford-government-for-violating-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

Since May 7, 2021 all parties to this case have filed additional evidence and other legal documents with the Court.

David Lepofsky will present his own argument. He has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Martha McCarthy and Richard Glennie of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP. The Minister will be represented by the Crown Law Office Civil of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

The Court granted leave to Citizens with Disabilities Ontario to intervene in the case. CWDO is supporting David Lepofsky’s position, and will be represented at the hearing by ARCH Disability Law Centre.

Apart from announcing the forthcoming hearing, Mr. Lepofsky and the AODA Alliance will not be making any public comment about the case before oral argument is completed on Monday.

Contact: [email protected]

We have been advised that section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take or attempt to take a photograph, motion picture, audio recording of a court proceeding,

More background at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/ and on Twitter @aodaalliance



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AODA and Human Rights Training for Educators


Currently, there are no AODA education standards. However, two AODA standards development committees have drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA education standards should include. One committee has recommended guidelines for the kindergarten to grade twelve (K-12) education system. In this article, we outline recommended AODA and human rights training for educators.

AODA and Human Rights Training for Educators

The AODA mandates accessibility training for educators. However, this training may leave educators unprepared for many situations. As a result, the Committee recommends many additional forms of accessibility training for educators. For instance, educators should have more thorough training about their legal responsibilities to accommodate people with disabilities, under:

This training should teach educators about the right to accommodation, and how this right applies to their interactions with:

Therefore, the Committee recommends that the government create a module that delivers all this information. A standardized module would ensure that every educator in every school board receives the same level of training.

In addition, the Committee recommends that educators should also receive standardized training on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). For example, some of the educators who should receive this training are:

  • School board administrators
  • School leaders, such as principals and vice-principals
  • Teachers, including supply teachers
  • Educational assistants (EAs)
  • Other support professionals

Educators should receive some of this training before the beginning of the school year. Furthermore, they should have more training throughout the year. This UDL training will help teachers present to, assess, and motivate their students. School board personnel can learn how policy impacts UDL, and how these policies can positively influence disability awareness.

These types of training should take place through a mixture of in-person and online instruction. This mixture will help educators recognize that learning happens in both ways, and the need to accommodate in both learning environments. Moreover, training material should be available in accessible formats. Finally, while the government develops the training, it should consult people who live with disabilities.




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Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News


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

September 19, 2021

Tomorrow is the final day to vote in the current federal election. Here is a last look at disability accessibility issues as they have been addressed in this election campaign.

We thank all those who lent their support to our effort to raise disability accessibility in this election campaign. Stay tuned for more federal and provincial news on accessibility issues after the votes are counted.

1. Election Front-Runners Trudeau and O’Toole Have Still Never Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges

With less than 24 hours to go, the AODA Alliance has still not received any election commitments from the two front-runners, the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, in response to our August 3, 2021 letter to all major federal party leaders. That letter sought 12 commitments to make Canada accessible to over six million people with disabilities, as the Accessible Canada Act aims to achieve.

The only party that has given commitments in response has been the New Democratic Party. We commend the NDP and have reminded the other parties over this last weekend that it was still not too late to meet or beat the NDP pledges.

Three days ago, the Conservative Party campaign emailed the AODA Alliance to ask for our letter in which we sought these commitments, stating that they had not received it. This is difficult to understand, since we have not only emailed it to them, but tweeted about it to Mr. O’Toole and to as many of their party’s candidates as we have been able. We quickly re-sent it to the Tories on September 16, 2021. We have still heard nothing back from them.

2. Minor Surge in Last-Minute Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disability Issues

There has been a bit of a surge in media coverage of disability issues in this election over the final weekend before election day. On Friday, September 17, 2021, City TV news included a story by reporter Mark McAllister entitled: “Accessibility advocates feel left out of election”, which began:

“As the election campaign nears a close, a large portion of the population are still waiting for their concerns to be addressed. Mark McAllister reports on why accessibility may play into the final vote on Monday.”

We could not find the text of that report online, but the report itself is available at https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/09/17/accessibility-advocates-feel-left-out-of-election/

As well, on Saturday, September 18, 2021, under 48 hours before the vote, CBC Radio’s health program White Coat Black Art with host Dr. Brian Goldman included an item on the election’s disability issues. It did not include the AODA Alliance or the specific issues we have raised. A transcript of that program is available at https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/transcript-for-white-coat-black-art-rabia-s-family-1.6181372

We appreciate this issue receiving any coverage. It appears that CBC came to it quite late in the campaign. This presents a challenge, since by the time CBC got around to considering it, at least 5 million voters have reportedly voted already. For them, that coverage came too late.

Let’s all watch to see whether the reporters and pundits who spend hours on TV and radio on Monday night, and who write article after article for newspapers and websites on the election results, have much if anything to say on the election’s implications for people with disabilities. After this election is over, the media needs to seriously reflect on why it so systemically and repeatedly treats such issues as secondary, or leaves them out altogether.

3. A Quick Closer Look at Two Troubling Elements in the Liberal platform.

First, in its published platform, the Liberals promise to harmonize accessibility standards for people with disabilities across Canada. “Harmonization” at first sounds positive. However, this promise should worry us.

This could easily lead to a reduction in accessibility protections. Standards on accessibility could be brought in line with each other by reducing them to the lowest common denominator. That would harmfully take protections away from people with disabilities.

In any event, we do not know how the Federal Government has authority to reduce accessibility standards across Canada. An accessibility standard enacted in Ontario under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act cannot be altered by the Federal Government.

Second, the Liberals have promised that if they are re-elected, the Federal Government will use the definition of disability in the Accessible Canada Act for all federal programs. This too at first blush sounds appealing. However, it too is a bad idea that can hurt people with disabilities.

The definition of “disability” in any particular federal program must be tailored to the purposes of that program. For some programs, such as the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, a broad definition of disability is desirable. For other programs, that broad definition would be harmful. A narrower definition of disability would be desirable.

For example, if the Federal Government used the Accessible Canada Act’s broad definition of disability for its employment equity programs, The Government could immediately claim that it has a massive number of people with disabilities now working in the Federal Government, and that no employment equity efforts are needed to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Yet people with disabilities face very troubling rates of unemployment and need to be front and center in any federal employment equity program.




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Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Neither Election Front-Runner, Trudeau or O’Toole, Ever Ended Up Answering the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges – And Other Last Minute Election News

September 19, 2021

Tomorrow is the final day to vote in the current federal election. Here is a last look at disability accessibility issues as they have been addressed in this election campaign.

We thank all those who lent their support to our effort to raise disability accessibility in this election campaign. Stay tuned for more federal and provincial news on accessibility issues after the votes are counted.

1. Election Front-Runners Trudeau and O’Toole Have Still Never Answered the AODA Alliance’s Request for Disability Accessibility Election Pledges

With less than 24 hours to go, the AODA Alliance has still not received any election commitments from the two front-runners, the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau and the Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole, in response to our August 3, 2021 letter to all major federal party leaders. That letter sought 12 commitments to make Canada accessible to over six million people with disabilities, as the Accessible Canada Act aims to achieve.

The only party that has given commitments in response has been the New Democratic Party. We commend the NDP and have reminded the other parties over this last weekend that it was still not too late to meet or beat the NDP pledges.

Three days ago, the Conservative Party campaign emailed the AODA Alliance to ask for our letter in which we sought these commitments, stating that they had not received it. This is difficult to understand, since we have not only emailed it to them, but tweeted about it to Mr. O’Toole and to as many of their party’s candidates as we have been able. We quickly re-sent it to the Tories on September 16, 2021. We have still heard nothing back from them.

2. Minor Surge in Last-Minute Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disability Issues

There has been a bit of a surge in media coverage of disability issues in this election over the final weekend before election day. On Friday, September 17, 2021, City TV news included a story by reporter Mark McAllister entitled:

“Accessibility advocates feel left out of election”, which began:

“As the election campaign nears a close, a large portion of the population are still waiting for their concerns to be addressed. Mark McAllister reports on why accessibility may play into the final vote on Monday.”

We could not find the text of that report online, but the report itself is available at https://toronto.citynews.ca/video/2021/09/17/accessibility-advocates-feel-left-out-of-election/

As well, on Saturday, September 18, 2021, under 48 hours before the vote, CBC Radio’s health program White Coat Black Art with host Dr. Brian Goldman included an item on the election’s disability issues. It did not include the AODA Alliance or the specific issues we have raised. A transcript of that program is available at https://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/transcript-for-white-coat-black-art-rabia-s-family-1.6181372

We appreciate this issue receiving any coverage. It appears that CBC came to it quite late in the campaign. This presents a challenge, since by the time CBC got around to considering it, at least 5 million voters have reportedly voted already. For them, that coverage came too late.

Let’s all watch to see whether the reporters and pundits who spend hours on TV and radio on Monday night, and who write article after article for newspapers and websites on the election results, have much if anything to say on the election’s implications for people with disabilities. After this election is over, the media needs to seriously reflect on why it so systemically and repeatedly treats such issues as secondary, or leaves them out altogether.

3. A Quick Closer Look at Two Troubling Elements in the Liberal platform.

First, in its published platform, the Liberals promise to harmonize accessibility standards for people with disabilities across Canada. “Harmonization” at first sounds positive. However, this promise should worry us.

This could easily lead to a reduction in accessibility protections. Standards on accessibility could be brought in line with each other by reducing them to the lowest common denominator. That would harmfully take protections away from people with disabilities.

In any event, we do not know how the Federal Government has authority to reduce accessibility standards across Canada. An accessibility standard enacted in Ontario under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act cannot be altered by the Federal Government.

Second, the Liberals have promised that if they are re-elected, the Federal Government will use the definition of disability in the Accessible Canada Act for all federal programs. This too at first blush sounds appealing. However, it too is a bad idea that can hurt people with disabilities.

The definition of “disability” in any particular federal program must be tailored to the purposes of that program. For some programs, such as the implementation of the Accessible Canada Act, a broad definition of disability is desirable. For other programs, that broad definition would be harmful. A narrower definition of disability would be desirable.

For example, if the Federal Government used the Accessible Canada Act’s broad definition of disability for its employment equity programs, The Government could immediately claim that it has a massive number of people with disabilities now working in the Federal Government, and that no employment equity efforts are needed to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Yet people with disabilities face very troubling rates of unemployment and need to be front and center in any federal employment equity program.



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


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

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

September 17, 2021

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

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

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

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

By Ian Campbell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty relief essential: Adair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC News September 17, 2021

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

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

Kate McGillivray
CBC News
Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concern about lack of follow-through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legislative failures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC News September 15, 2021

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

How accessible is voting for people with disabilities?

Tyler Bloomfield
CBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting the resources you need

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accessibility at the polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right to a private ballot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More accessible voting methods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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