Inquest Into Death of Samuel Brown at Ontario-Run School for the Blind Postponed


Accessibility concerns were raised over virtual process for inquest, now expected in early 2022 Dan Taekema, CBC News
Posted: Nov 04, 2021

Brown’s family, who are in Brampton, had been calling for an inquest for years. On Oct. 27, the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General announced one would take place by video conference starting on Nov. 15, stretching over five days and hearing from approximately 13 witnesses.

However, eight days after the inquest was announced, the ministry said it would be delayed.

Brown, 18, was a deaf, blind and non-verbal student at the school in 2018. He died sometime overnight on Feb. 9 of that year.

In a news release Thursday, the ministry said the inquest would instead take place in early 2022 when an in-person inquest is expected to be possible.

“This will address concerns of accessibility voiced by the disability community as well as allow further exploration of the evidence without the constraints of a virtual environment,” it read.

David Lepofsky, a disability advocate and visiting professor at Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that with physical distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures, doing something in person should be possible.

Lepofsky is part of the Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee, which provides input into how to ensure the province’s courts are as open as possible. He said there are ways to ensure sign language or captions are infused in virtual court or inquest appearances, but noted some aspects, such as screen-sharing documents, can raise issues.

Lepofsky said inquests provide a format for the public can seek answers about a fatality.

“Given the vulnerability of any residential school setting – this is important,” he said of the inquest into Brown’s death, adding that’s especially true as W. Ross Macdonald School, where he died, is provincially run.

Family’s lawyer says province has apologized
The venue and new dates for the inquest have not yet been announced.

Saron Gebresellassi, the lawyer for Brown’s family, said she anticipates it will be held sometime in the first quarter of the new year.

The lawyer previously told CBC she and his parents “refuse” a virtual inquest process.

“We don’t believe that’s what the community deserves,” she said at the time.

The government of Ontario has formally apologized to the Browns, according to Gebresellassi, who described it as a “significant event.”

“They are really appreciative of the government apology,” said the lawyer, adding the family is still processing whether or not they accept it.

“They want the world to learn who Samuel is.”

Gebresellassi said there are pros and cons to the inquest being pushed off, but said she’s glad the coroner’s office understood doing it in person was the “right move.”

“Doing a cross-examination over the telephone – is not an attractive place to be,” she said.

That said, delaying it is a “destabilizing event” for those who involved with and following the case.

“We need the public to keep the foot on the gas pedal … keeping the eye on the ball, getting this inquest done as soon as possible,” said Gebresellassi.

The lawyer said her team was prepared for the inquest and remains “ready to go” whenever it’s held.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/samuel-brown-death-inquest-postponed-1.6237592




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Today 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

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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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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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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Blind Lawyer Says Lack of Accessible, Private Voting Options Violates Charter


By: Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
Posted: Monday, Sep. 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”

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

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

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

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 13, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Original at https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/federal-election/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter-575299372.html




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Lack of accessible, private election voting options violates Charter, blind lawyer says – National | Globalnews.ca


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

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

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

Read more:
How to vote by mail in the 2021 Canada election

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

Story continues below advertisement

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

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

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


Click to play video: 'Final day of advance voting and changes to polling stations'







Final day of advance voting and changes to polling stations


Final day of advance voting and changes to polling stations

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

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

Story continues below advertisement

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

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

Read more:
It’s time to vote: Advanced polling opening to Canadians during pandemic election

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

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

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

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


Click to play video: 'Canada election: Impact of COVID-19 on voting in advance polls'







Canada election: Impact of COVID-19 on voting in advance polls


Canada election: Impact of COVID-19 on voting in advance polls

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

Story continues below advertisement

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”

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

Read more:
Unhappy with the federal candidates? Your voting options may be limited

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

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

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

___

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.




© 2021 The Canadian Press





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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

September 2, 2021

        SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Liberal party of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Democratic Party of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

What We Requested of the Federal Parties

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

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

For More Background

For more background, check out:

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

        MORE DETAILS

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

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

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

The objectives of the Disability Inclusion Action Plan are to:

Improve the social and economic inclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Reduce poverty among Canadians with disabilities.

Contribute to the realization of a barrier-free Canada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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ArriveCAN app for cross-border travel includes hurdle for blind Canadians: advocate – National | Globalnews.ca


The federal government’s new ArriveCAN travel app is inaccessible to some Canadians with disabilities, raising questions of fair treatment and practical border-crossing concerns.

Robert Fenton, a board member of the CNIB — formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind — says he found a major bug when using the Apple VoiceOver screen reader on his iPhone as he tried to access the app, which is playing a pivotal role for those wishing to enter Canada by land, sea or air.

The obstacle arises when would-be users try to add the verification code sent to their email address after starting to set up their account.

“There’s no way to add the number without sighted help,” Fenton said in an interview.

“As people who are blind, we run into this problem frequently with all levels of government when trying to access public services.”

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Read more:
Canada’s new border rules have kicked in. Here’s what to know

Travellers to Canada must use the ArriveCAN app or online portal to submit their vaccine information and the results of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

Trouble accessing an app essential to international travel in the pandemic era could pose a real barrier to entry for Canadians with disabilities.

The federal law enforcement agency responsible for border control acknowledged the problem.

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is aware that there is a gap between the addition of new features to the ArriveCAN app and when it is fully accessible, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing for users. We are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” agency spokeswoman Jacqueline Callin said in an email.


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Minister Bill Blair outlines updated requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers at the border


Minister Bill Blair outlines updated requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers at the border – Jun 21, 2021

Unlike the app, the web-based version of ArriveCAN does meet federal accessibility requirements and can be used via desktop, smartphone and other devices, the agency said. It is encouraging travellers who rely on text-to-voice technology to use the online portal until the app store versions are updated.

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The Accessible Canada Act, passed in 2019, aims to remove barriers in areas under federal jurisdiction, such as transportation and telecommunications as well as federally run programs.

“It’s time now for the federal government at least to live up to its obligations in that legislation, and that includes making their websites and apps and other services they offer to Canadians fully accessible,” Fenton said.

The Canadian Press has confirmed the glitch in the app.

Read more:
COVID Alert app cost feds $20M but results ‘did not meet expectations’: new data

Fenton says it follows another problem that prevented blind and partially sighted Canadians from moving beyond the privacy screen that pops up when the app is opened, and which he said the Canada Border Services Agency recently fixed.

“We couldn’t get past the first screen,” he said, “so none of us would know about the second problem.”

The latest problem is particularly urgent as athletes gear up to travel to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games this summer.

Fenton is asking the Canada Border Services Agency to make the app accessible by July 23.





© 2021 The Canadian Press





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How accessible is Lethbridge for people with disabilities?


May 30 to June 5 marks National AccessAbility Week, which acknowledges and celebrates contributions made by Canadians with disabilities, the removal of barriers to accessibly and inclusion, and the work to oppose discrimination against those with a disability.

Diane Kotkas, director of DaCapo Disability Services with Lethbridge Family Services, said it’s important to see people for who they are and what abilities they have, and not just for their disability.

“Every one of us has challenges in some form or another,” she said.

“Individuals with disabilities are members of our community and should be treated with the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen.”

Kotkas added it’s important to acknowledge the barriers some face, and the ease at which many people are able to navigate the community.

Read more:
Lethbridge Transit introduces new cityLINK network

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“As ambulatory individuals, we more often than not take accessibility for granted,” she said. “But for many folks with a disability, accessibility is a daily challenge.”

According to Chris Witkowski, the parks planning manager with the City of Lethbridge, there have been recent improvements in the mobility accessibility around the city.

“(The) last couple years we’ve really put a high-priority on making the city more accessible,” Witkowski said.  “Probably the biggest accomplishment was completing our mobility accessibility master plan, which was completed in summer of 2020.”

Also a member of the Mobility Accessibility working group, Witkowski said the city is always welcoming input from residents and organizations about what improvements can be made.

“I know facilities is always making improvements to the public buildings,” he said. “If you’re walking on intersections, you’ll see new sidewalk ramps, trying to improve accessibility for wheelchair use, strollers, walkers, those with visual impairments.

“For playgrounds, we’ve started to add some playground surfacing, some hard-rubber surfacing to increase wheelchair access in there. Putting a lot more inclusive play pieces into our playgrounds.”


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Canada’s Week of AccessAbility


Canada’s Week of AccessAbility

For Bill Brown, who is blind and runs the Lethbridge Association for the Blind, many additions to the city have been positive.

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“City’s done a lot of work in putting ramps at all the corners, and that’s very beneficial to people in wheelchairs, but it certainly helps people who are visually impaired as well.”

However, he does believe some improvements could be made within the city’s transit operations, and hopes the general public is able to become more educated on disabilities.

“It’s amazing how people have difficulty in dealing with someone with a disability, and I think that’s not only blindness but practically every disability,” he admitted.
“People sometimes, when they meet someone who’s blind, they think they have to talk loud, because they’re thinking of deafness.”

According to Witkowski, the recently-approved Capitol Improvement Program includes funding for improvements to accessibility at city facilities and funding for a benchmark study.




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Coroner Calls Inquest Into Death of Teen at Brantford School for the Blind


Michelle McQuigge
The Canadian Press, May 29, 2020

The parents of a disabled teen who died in the care of an Ontario residential school for the blind say they’re hopeful a newly called inquest into their son’s death may protect a future generation of vulnerable students.

The province’s coroner’s office has confirmed to The Canadian Press that it will hold an inquest in to the February 2018 death of 18-year-old Samuel Brown at the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ont.

Brown’s parents have said their son’s death was shrouded in mystery and controversy, alleging he was in good health the weekend before he died. They also allege that only 12 hours passed between the time they received a phone call indicating their son was slightly unwell and when he was pronounced dead in hospital.

The couple began campaigning last fall for a province-led investigation into the matter, saying medical officials have reached conflicting conclusions about Brown’s cause of death.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Ontario’s Chief Coroner confirmed that an inquiry will take place, though details about a start date and location are still being determined.

The news comes as a relief to Brown’s parents, Andrea and Gladstone Brown, who said the inquest will hopefully provide answers for their family and others.

“I want to know what really transpired … because up to now we have no clue,” Andrea Brown said in a telephone interview. “We’re doing this not just for us, but for … those that cannot help themselves.”

The W. Ross Macdonald school referred questions on the pending inquest to the Ontario Ministry of Education, which referred them to the coroner’s office.

Andrea Brown said her son was born with a genetic condition that left him blind, deaf and non-verbal.

He began attending W. Ross Macdonald, the province’s only dedicated school for the blind and deafblind, starting at the age of four and experienced no problems for most of his tenure, she said.

Brown said her son was in perfect health on the weekend of Feb. 2, 2018 — the last time she saw him alive.

She heard no reports of illness until the evening of Feb. 8, when a staff member called to say her son was “a bit fussy” and unwilling to get up for dinner.

She next heard from the school at 6:30 the next morning, at which point she learned he had been rushed to a nearby hospital.

It wasn’t until she and her husband reached the hospital themselves, she said, that they learned their son was already dead by the time he was sent for medical help.

The Browns said the investigating coroner produced a report saying their son had died of natural causes.

Dissatisfied with the finding, the family requested an autopsy. The resulting report concluded he died of pneumonia, a finding that only deepened the family’s confusion.

The family began campaigning for an inquest in September and drew support from politicians, academics and others across Canada. An online petition in support of their cause drew more than 3,500 signatures.

Samuel Brown’s said a thorough inquiry into the circumstances leading to their son’s death is necessary for the sake of families of other disabled children without access to similar resources.

Their lawyer, Saron Gebresellassi, said she hopes the inquest will prompt a deeper examination of the way disabled lives are valued in the education system and beyond.

“It’s really a call for our society to put a mirror up to itself and ask some questions about … how something like this can happen and how we can prevent it in the future,” she said.

This is not the first time the school has faced allegations of student mistreatment.

A class-action lawsuit alleged students attending the school between 1951 and 2012 were subjected to psychological degradation, physical violence and sexual abuse.

The suit claimed staff members often resorted to violence, such as forcing students to drink from urinals and jumping on the backs of those as young as six years old.

The statement of claim also alleged staff preyed upon the visual impairments of students, sneaking up on them during private conversations and spinning students around to deliberately disorient them.

The plaintiffs settled the suit with the Ontario government for $8 million the day before a trial in the case was due to get underway.

Original at https://www.inthehammer.com/coroner-calls-inquest-into-death-of-teen-at-brantford-school-for-the-blind




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