Accessibility Law Reviews Across Canada


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility law reviews across Canada.

Accessibility Law Reviews Across Canada

Ontario

Every four (4) years, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario appoints someone to review the AODA. This reviewer spends time meeting with the public, especially people with disabilities, discussing possible improvements the AODA might need. Based on this public feedback, the reviewer writes a report about how effective the AODA and its mandates are. In addition, the reviewer recommends steps the government can take to improve the Act. The reviewer then submits this report to the Minister in charge of the AODA.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia

Manitoba and Nova Scotia’s accessibility acts include similar review processes. However, these reviews take place every five (5) years, instead of every four (4) years. Moreover, while Ontario’s review process includes consultation with people who have disabilities, the other provinces’ review processes mandate more consultation. For instance, the reviewer of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act must consult with:

  • People with disabilities
  • Members of organizations that represent people with disabilities

In addition, reviewers of the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act must consult people representing the sectors of the economy that accessibility standards impact.

Accessible Canada Act

Likewise, committees from the Canadian House of Commons or the Senate must review how effective the Accessible Canada Act is. While preparing their review, committee members must consult with:

  • People with disabilities
  • Members of organizations that represent people with disabilities
  • People representing the sectors of the economy that accessibility standards impact

The second review of the Act must take place five (5) years after the first. However, the Act only mandates later reviews every ten (10) years.

Requirements under all these accessibility laws ensure that, from time to time, one or more people analyze how effective standards are. Moreover, accessibility law reviews ensure that the provincial and federal governments know whether or not standards are working well. In addition, the governments also receive reviewers’ suggestions about ways to improve the standards. If governments choose to implement any recommendations in the reviews of these laws, structures and services may gradually become accessible to people of all abilities.

However, none of these accessibility laws require the governments to implement any of the recommendations that reviewers make. As a result, these valuable suggestions for making Canada a more accessible country may never become reality.




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New affordable housing announced for downtown Kelowna – Okanagan



A new affordable housing complex has been announced for downtown Kelowna.

The 68-unit building is expected to provide homes for low- to moderate-income individuals and families at below-market rates, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The six-storey wood-frame building with above-ground parking will be located at 555 Fuller Ave. near Bertram Street.

Read more:
Kelowna named 6th most expensive rent market in Canada

Eight units are expected to be fully accessible for people with disabilities, and Pathways Abilities Society will manage the entire site.

The building will be called Hadgraft Wilson Place, in recognition of two families who were strong advocates for persons with disabilities, according to a news release.

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“Every Canadian deserves a safe and affordable place to call home,” federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen said.

“Investments like this one right here in downtown Kelowna demonstrates our government’s commitment to providing access to safe, affordable homes for singles, seniors, families and persons with disabilities, while helping create good middle-class jobs and stimulate the economy.”

Read more:
Kelowna residents can’t afford to purchase real estate, report says

The land is owned by the City of Kelowna, which is providing it for use on a long-term lease.

“This development will not only increase the amount of affordable housing in the city, but also supports the city’s official community plan and the desire for a more dense, walkable downtown core,” Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said.

The federal government is providing at least $2.48 million towards the project, while the province is contributing at least $7.7 million.

Read more:
Suburbs fuel rise in housing completions, construction, CMHC says

Another $2.45 million will also be provided through an affordable housing fund that involves joint funding between the provincial and federal governments.

The new building is expected to open in the fall of 2022.




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





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Accessibility Compliance Appeals Across Canada


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility compliance appeals across Canada.

Accessibility Compliance Appeals Across Canada

Ontario

In Ontario, tribunals judge appeals that organizations make after they have received orders to comply with AODA standards. The Lieutenant Governor appoints AODA tribunals and specifies the types of appeals each tribunal can judge. In addition, the Lieutenant Governor can give tribunals other tasks or duties.

Organizations have fifteen (15) days after receiving an order to file an appeal. However, the tribunal can extend this time limit to accommodate someone with a disability, or for any other reason. Organizations must pay a filing fee.

During the appeal process, organizations are not required to comply with the order they are appealing.

People or organizations involved in an appeal to a tribunal include:

  • The organization appealing an order
  • The director who gave the order being appealed
  • Any other person or organization the Tribunal believes necessary for the appeal hearing

Moreover, appeal hearings most often take place in writing. Nonetheless, organizations can request to make their appeals in person. In some cases, the full tribunal hears appeals. In others, the chair of a tribunal can appoint a panel to oversee a hearing.

Orders of Tribunals

After a hearing, a tribunal makes a decision about whether the organization must obey the director’s order. For instance, the tribunal may:

  • Confirm the director’s order
  • Rescind the director’s order
  • Vary the director’s order

In other words, the tribunal may require the organization to comply with the director’s order. In contrast, the tribunal may remove the order. Alternatively, the tribunal may make changes to the order and require the organization to comply with the revised version.

Mediation

AODA tribunals may try to settle part or all of an appeal through mediation. The organization and director involved in the appeal must agree to the mediation. In addition, the tribunal must believe that mediation would be in the public interest. However, the AODA gives no further details about the mediation process, such as how tribunals proceed if mediation does not resolve an appeal.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia

In Manitoba and Nova Scotia, organizations also have the option of appealing directors’ orders. However, organizations appeal directly to a court, instead of to a tribunal. Nonetheless, many of the same rules of Ontario tribunal appeals also apply under other provincial accessibility laws. For example, the organization and director both take part in appeals. Likewise, organizations are not required to comply with orders that they are in the process of appealing. In addition, provincial courts can confirm, rescind, or vary orders.

However, directors and ministers in the other provinces have more power to enforce orders and the outcomes of appeals. For instance, in Manitoba, directors can publish reports that list the names of organizations that have received orders or penalties. Similarly, in Nova Scotia, the Minister in charge of the Act has the same power to publicize the names of non-compliant organizations. In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends that Ontario should follow this example, to better enforce the AODA.

Accessible Canada Act

The Accessible Canada Act outlines a similar appeal process. After reviewing and confirming a compliance order, the Accessibility Commissioner may send a warning to organizations that continue not to comply. These organizations can request another review to appeal the finding of non-compliance or the penalty the Accessibility Commissioner has given them. Alternatively, an organization can enter into a compliance agreement with the Accessibility Commissioner. This agreement, like an incentive agreement, allows the organization to work toward compliance, instead of paying a penalty.

As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, some AODA mandates may change so that law in Ontario corresponds more closely with laws in other provinces, or with the Accessible Canada Act. For instance, AODA appeals could one day take place in court, instead of in front of tribunals. Alternatively, Ontario organizations that violate the AODA could enter into compliance agreements, instead of attempting to settle appeals through mediation.




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Halifax project set to create accessible sex toys for people with disabilities – Halifax


Sex should be part of any conversation and it’s already happening around people with disabilities, said the Atlantic regional coordinator of Tetra Society of North America.

“It’s a subject that is kind of seen as taboo,” said Andrew Jantzen, whose organization is working with Venus Envy on a project focusing on creating accessible sex toys for people with disabilities in Halifax.

The project is called “Adaptations for Accessible Sex Practices Project.”


Andrew Jantzen of Tetra Society.

“Sex toys are not designed for people with disabilities, just like most other things that exist out there, so it’s trying to fill that gap,” said Jantzen.

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“And out there, people are talking about it. People want this to happen. So I’m just saying, how can we adapt things? How can we use some of the the handy skills that come with Tetra volunteers to be able to fill this gap?”

Read more:
People with disabilities still want sex, according to U of R research

The purpose of Tetra is to recruit skilled volunteer engineers and technicians to create assistive devices for people with disabilities, and creating adaptive and innovative equipment for sexual practices is just one of their many projects.

The education coordinator at Venus Envy, a sex shop and bookstore, said that the first phase of the project is to interview a group of people from the disabled community who want to talk about their sex lives, and to test out some of the devices that the project will be making.

“A lot of sex toys up until sort of five, 10 years ago were made for like straight penetrative sex. It’s not just disabled bodies that are being left out of kind of the thoughts around sex toys. It’s a lot of bodies,” said Rachele Manett.

Read more:
Young people with disabilities aren’t being taught sex-ed — and it’s putting them in danger

She said certain kinds of sex toys are just not working for people with disabilities.

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“Sometimes they’re too heavy. Buttons don’t work specifically when it comes to certain kinds of mobility limitations,” said Manett.

This is why she said the first phase of the project will look into what kind of sex toys people have access to that have made things better or more difficult, so that in the second phase the team of engineers and design specialists will have the information they need to create the equipment.

Manett said 40 people have applied as participants in just three weeks since the project has been announced.


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N.B. people with disabilities call for priority in COVID-19 vaccine plan


N.B. people with disabilities call for priority in COVID-19 vaccine plan – Feb 8, 2021

She said they’re now in the process of creating a diverse group of participants to interview for the project.

“We’re trying to create a group of people that is quite diverse in the types of disabilities (they have), but also in terms of identities. We are looking to prioritize people with intersecting marginalized identities. So really making sure that we’re including voices who are sort of often left on the margins,” said Manett.

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She said that as a society, “we have very much infantilized people with disability and we treat them like children.”

“It’s really easy for us to say, well, that means disabled people aren’t having sex, which is not true … or that disabled people have more important things to worry about than sex,” Manett added.


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Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities


Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities – Jan 2, 2021

But that’s not what the project is all about, she said.

“We already know that people with disabilities are having sex and want to be having sex. That’s the part that we’re not exploring,” said Manett.

“What we’re literally saying is how can we make sex better or more accessible or more inclusive and how can we as sort of a society, change our views instead of sort of asking more questions?”

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Tetra Society is asking anyone who would like to volunteer for the project to complete the online volunteer intake application here. 




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





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Accessibility Compliance Orders Across Canada


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility compliance orders across Canada.

Accessibility Compliance Orders Across Canada

Ontario

In Ontario, directors of the AODA review the accessibility reports that organizations are required to submit. Moreover, directors can ask a person or organization for more details about their compliance. The person or organization must provide the director with this information. When an organization has not submitted a report or information, the director can order the organization to do so. In addition, the order can include a fine. Similarly, a director can order a non-compliant person or organization to obey AODA standards and pay fines. Finally, if organizations do not comply with these orders, directors can fine those organizations using more orders.

All these types of orders must include a description of the AODA rule or previous order that the person or organization has failed to comply with. Furthermore, the order must explain what the organization must do to comply. Finally, the order must include a time limit for organizations to comply. However, the director can extend this time limit to accommodate someone with a disability, or for any other reason.

More Directors’ Orders

A director may also create an order when a non-compliant person or organization claims that they do not need to comply with a standard. For instance, an organization might claim that it does not belong to the industry or sector of the economy that a standard applies to. For example, a rideshare company might claim that it does not need to obey the Transportation Standards. The company might make this claim because it is not a bus, train, ferry, or taxi service. However, a director can order that this organization does belong to an industry that must comply with the standard.

Likewise, a director can order that two organizations be treated as one organization, for the purposes of the AODA. For instance, an employer with a private company of sixty workers might not want to obey AODA rules for companies with fifty or more workers. As a result, this employer might divide their company into two organizations. However, a director can order that these two companies must be treated as one company.

Notice of Orders

Before giving any order, directors must give notice to the non-compliant organizations. This notice tells the organizations what the order is about and what steps they should take to comply with the Act. Moreover, notice allows these organizations to explain any reasons they might have for not complying with the AODA. Furthermore, organizations have thirty days after receiving notice to explain in writing. However, the director can extend this time limit to accommodate someone with a disability, or for any other reason.

In addition, organizations who receive any order can appeal it in front of a tribunal that the Lieutenant Governor appoints.

Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Accessible Canada Act

In Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors have similar mandates to order organizations to comply with their accessibility laws. Similarly, under the Accessible Canada Act, the Accessibility Commissioner can also order organizations to comply with the Act. Moreover, under all these acts, organizations may need to pay fines, or they can request that a director or Accessibility Commissioner review the order. However, these laws do not mention the possibility that organizations can choose not to comply by claiming that certain standards do not apply to them. As a result, some organizations may choose not to comply, since the law does not state that inspectors or directors can make orders that prevent this loophole.

In contrast, the Nova Scotia Accessibility Act includes a mandate that the other provincial laws do not. Under this act, fines from non-compliant organizations must be used to improve accessibility. For instance, they could fund efforts to raise awareness about why accessibility matters.

As governments align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change to correspond more closely with standards in other provinces, or with the Accessible Canada Act. For instance, AODA fines could fund efforts to raise public awareness of accessibility. In contrast, other accessibility laws could give inspectors and directors more power to remove loopholes and encourage more widespread compliance.




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City of Calgary to invest $2.5M for upgrades to new home for National accessArts Centre – Calgary


Much-needed funding has been secured to help The National accessArts Centre, formerly known as Indefinite Arts Centre, move into its new home after a roof collapse at the Fairview Arena in 2018.

The arts organization, which provides artistic training for people with developmental, physical and acquired disabilities, is expected to set up shop in the Scouts Canada building along Memorial Drive.

Read more:
Indefinite Arts Centre finds new name and potential new home

According to a letter addressed to the organization from the City of Calgary, the City has secured $2.5 million for accessibility upgrades and repairs to the building, which is also a City of Calgary Historic Resource.

“These improvements are being done with the intention of offering the National accessArts Centre the space as their future new home,” City of Calgary building infrastructure manager Susan Specht wrote in the letter.

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Specht said the City is in the process of looking for a consultant, and engagement with the National accessArts Centre on interior renovation requirements in early-April.

The location was identified as a potential location for the centre to move into in November, but money was needed for upgrades on the city-owned facility to make it accessible for artists with disabilities.

“This is an exciting step forward for our organization,” National accessArts Centre CEO Jung-Suk Ryu said. “For three years, we’ve faced tremendous challenges and uncertainty following the collapse of the adjoining arena, and this has had an impact on our community of more than 300 artists living with disabilities.”

“Now, we are moving towards having a safe, fully accessible home for our organization.”

Read more:
Officials to begin demolition at Fairview Arena, inspections at other arenas underway

The Centre’s current location is in an adjoining facility to the Fairview Arena, which had its roof collapse in 2018.

The collapse prompted the arts organization to evacuate its adjoining space for six months while the City of Calgary completed an assessment of the building.  In November it was decided the building the arts organization occupied would also be demolished.

The arena, built in 1972, was demolished in March.

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According to the City, the process to designate the Scouts Canada building as a municipal heritage resource is underway, and may come with requirements that affect project timelines.

Ryu said the group is expected to take occupancy of the building in late 2021 or early 2022.




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





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Canmore minor hockey team named Good Deeds Cup regional finalist – Calgary



Hockey teams are playing for more than just a trophy when it comes to the Good Deeds Cup.

The winner of the Canada-wide competition will win $100,000 to make a difference in their community, and a Canmore minor hockey team has just made the finals.

Read more:
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“Obviously excited, but hugely surprised,” Canmore Eagles head coach Sean Kjemhus said. “The idea to support an organization that initiates programs or experiences for kids and others living with disabilities, to try a variety of sports and it being in our backyard was very inspiring.”

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Players on the U13 Canmore Eagles held a vote and chose to support Rocky Mountain Adaptive, a charity that helps people with disabilities access sports and take advantage of the great outdoors.

“We’re really lucky that a lot of our participants that are locals are in school with some of these (Eagles) athletes,” RMA program manager Kim Cosman said.

“To see that carry through outside of school and have them pick us just reinforces the message that we’re trying to get across and that inclusion piece in the community.”

Prior to the pandemic, Rocky Mountain Adaptive assisted roughly 2,000 people in a year.

Transit from the city, providing equipment and subsidizing programs have been major barriers for the group in the past, and COVID-19 has prevented them from holding their usual major fundraisers.

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WinSport launches adaptive sports program

By becoming regional finalists, the Eagles have already won $2,000 to help out Rocky Mountain Adaptive. That alone is a game-changer for the charity.

“The main thing that it will help us do is reduce those barriers, allow more people to access sport and recreation in the mountains,” Cosman added.

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“We would like to create a camp that is fully inclusive and allows people that have never experienced mountain sport and recreation to come out free of charge, access these sports and engage members of the community to come out to the camp as well.”

Voting for the Good Deeds Cup is open until Feb. 24.




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





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Accessibility Inspections Across Canada


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility inspections across Canada.

Accessibility Inspections Across Canada

Ontario

AODA Inspections allow the government to find out if businesses are complying with the Act. An inspector can enter a business without a warrant if the inspector believes the place contains relevant documents or things. However, the inspector must enter during the hours the place is open for business. Alternatively, if a place does not have business hours, an inspector must enter during daylight hours.

Moreover, during the inspection, the inspector can ask for any item that is related to the inspection. For instance, the inspector can request a document or record. However, the inspector must make this request in writing. Furthermore, the inspector can use any equipment, such as a computer, to retrieve the items they need to view. In addition, the inspector can borrow these documents, records, or things, to make copies. However, the inspector must give a receipt for the documents, records, or things they borrow. In addition, the inspector must give the owner of the documents or things access to them, if needed. This access must take place at a time convenient for both the inspector and the owner.

Inspectors can bring other people, such as people with expert knowledge, to help with inspections. In addition, the inspector can question any person on the premises about the inspection. People on the premises must give the inspector all the help they can. For instance, they must help the inspector use computers or other devices to retrieve documents, if required.

Inspections with Warrants

If an inspector believes that a business is not complying with the AODA, thee inspector can acquire a search warrant from a justice of the peace. A warrant gives inspectors more power than they have during inspections without warrants. For instance, warrants allow inspectors to:

  • Enter dwellings
  • Search before or after business hours
  • Use force, or ask for assistance from police officers

Inspectors have thirty (30) days, after a warrant has been issued, to conduct a search. However, this time limit can be renewed for another thirty (30) days.

Manitoba and Nova Scotia

In Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors have many of the same duties and guidelines. For instance, inspectors can:

  • Enter any place to inspect it, except a dwelling
  • Enter a dwelling only with a warrant
  • Request and receive copies of documents or other relevant records

As in Ontario, inspectors in Manitoba and Nova Scotia can also require the assistance of people on the premises during the inspection. However, in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, inspectors can only Ask for assistance, or written responses, from people in charge of the premises or its records. In contrast, Ontario inspectors can ask for assistance from any person on the premises. This wider mandate could allow inspectors in Ontario to access more information about how an organization meets the needs of people with disabilities.

The Accessible Canada Act

Similarly, under the Accessible Canada Act, the Accessibility Commissioner can enter any location under federal jurisdiction to verify its compliance with parts of the Act, including:

In addition, inspectors can also examine anything on the premises, including hard-copy or electronic documents. Moreover, inspectors can borrow or make copies of documents, in whole or in part. Furthermore, inspectors have the power to start or stop:

  • Activities that will help or hinder an inspection
  • Movements of conveyances
  • Activities involving any new standards that the Act has mandated

Like Ontario inspectors, the Commissioner can have another person assist in conducting the inspection.

The Act also allows the Commissioner to conduct inspections remotely, as well as in person. These requirements will make it possible for the Commissioner to perform more frequent or thorough inspections. However, inspections under the Act only oversee an organization’s accessibility plans, progress reports, and feedback processes. In contrast, the wider mandates of provincial inspectors may allow them to encounter more organizations and encourage more accessible service.




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Accessibility Incentive Agreements Across Canada


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we explore accessibility incentive agreements across Canada.

Accessibility Incentive Agreements Across Canada

Under the AODA, the minister in charge of the act can make incentive agreements with organizations. Incentive agreements provide support to businesses that choose to become more accessible than the law requires. For instance, customer service providers can offer more extensive AODA training for workers. Similarly, small businesses, not required to document their customer service policies, can do so. Furthermore, businesses can enhance their hiring practices and actively recruit qualified workers with disabilities. Likewise, small private businesses, not required to create processes for writing accommodation plans, can do so.

In addition, businesses can prepare accessible formats and communication supports in advance, instead of waiting until a customer makes a request. Similarly, businesses with older websites can make that web content accessible. Moreover, transportation providers can offer more in-depth AODA training for transportation workers. Likewise, providers with older vehicles can retrofit them for accessibility or buy new vehicles. Finally, businesses can retrofit their spaces to include accessible features, such as parking. Similarly, small businesses, not required to have accessible outdoor eating areas, can install them.

When businesses make agreements with the minister, the two parties decide which requirements the business will exceed. In addition, they will agree on a timeframe, so that the business has a deadline for its goal. Finally, the minister may exempt some businesses from filling in part of their accessibility reports. This exemption may help businesses focus on meeting their new requirements.

Businesses may begin making incentive agreements because they value the incentives they receive. However, they may come to value how their efforts allow new customers, clients, and workers to access their spaces and services.

Exemptions

Nova Scotia is the only other province where the accessibility law references incentive agreements. In contrast, all three provincial accessibility laws, as well as the Accessible Canada Act, mention exemptions. For instance, under the Accessible Canada Act, organizations can receive exemptions from:

These exemptions, like the exemption in the AODA, reduces the paperwork that organizations need to complete. As a result, exempted organizations have more time to focus on concrete accessibility. However, organizations may sometimes receive exemptions that do not require this level of increased accessibility. Instead, there is a chance that organizations could use exemptions to avoid improving their accessibility. On the other hand, under incentive agreements, organizations are required to improve their structures and services to meet the needs of customers and workers with disabilities.

As governments work together to align their accessibility laws, the AODA may change to correspond more closely to laws in other provinces, as well as the Accessible Canada Act. As a result, the AODA may one day no longer include the possibility of incentive agreements. On the other hand, other jurisdictions may decide that incentive agreements offer benefits to the organizations and governments that make them.




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Comedian Mike Ward heads to Supreme Court over jokes about Jérémy Gabriel – Montreal


The Supreme Court of Canada heard an appeal Monday from comedian Mike Ward, who was found by a lower court to have discriminated against a disabled singer in one of his routines.

Ward’s lawyer told the nine judges that Canadians don’t have a right not to be offended, and making fun of someone doesn’t take away their rights.

The lawyer for singer Jeremy Gabriel — who was awarded $35,000 by a rights tribunal — said Ward’s joke went too far and had long-lasting consequence’s on the disabled man’s life.

The nine justices took the case under deliberation at the end of the hearing.

READ MORE: Comedian Mike Ward loses appeal over penalty for joke about disabled boy

Lawyer Julius Grey argued Monday that his client’s joke about Gabriel — part of the comedian’s routine between 2010 and 2013 — targeted sacred cows in society as opposed to the singer’s disability.

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“There is no right not to be offended,”Grey said. “To insult someone doesn’t deprive that person of a service or of a right.”

A 2016 Quebec human rights tribunal ruling had ordered Ward to pay $35,000 in moral and punitive damages to Gabriel, who has Treacher Collins syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by skull and facial deformities. Gabriel became a celebrity in Quebec after he sang with Céline Dion and for the Pope.

In his act, Ward joked that he had thought Gabriel’s illness was terminal and people were only nice to him because he would soon die. Ward then joked that after he realized the child was not dying, he tried to drown him.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in a 2-1 decision in November 2019 that Ward’s comments compromised the young performer’s right to the safeguarding of his dignity and could not be justified, even in a society where freedom of expression is valued.

READ MORE: Comedian Mike Ward says Hells Angels protected him after joke about missing girl

Grey told the Supreme Court, “one could argue that Mike Ward provided equality for Jeremy (Gabriel) by treating him in the same way as other sacred cows.” The comment drew a response from Justice Russell Brown.

“Oh c’mon!” Brown said, interrupting Grey. “Don’t go that far. We aren’t talking about Galileo or Salman Rushdie, here. He’s no hero,” he added, referring to Ward.

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Justice Sheilah Martin also reacted to Grey’s comments, stating: “We’re talking about somebody saying that they tried to drown a 13-year-old child that has a physical disability.”

Christopher Bredt, a lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the case arguing on the side of freedom of expression, told the court that “a lot of comedy is in bad taste.”


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Supreme Court set to hear comedian’s case


Supreme Court set to hear comedian’s case

But Stephanie Fournier, a lawyer representing Quebec’s human rights tribunal, said the case wasn’t about morality or taste but about discrimination.

She said the joke attacked Gabriel’s human dignity. She told the court that Ward’s comedy routine was widely available online, which she said was a “major element” in the case, because the videos were accessible to Gabriel’s peers at school.

“He was mocked and intimidated at school …. He also had to deal with the stress of his parents. Therefore, there were enormous consequences for (Gabriel),” Fournier said.

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Ward’s case has received a lot of attention in the province because of its implications for artistic freedom and the place of human rights tribunals to adjudicate issues of freedom of expression.

Another intervener in the case before the Supreme Court is an association representing professionals in Quebec’s comedy industry, l’Association des professionnels de l’industrie de l’humour.

The group’s lawyer, Walid Hijazi, said Monday that the industry is worried about the possibility of Ward losing the case. He warned of a possible “chilling effect” that would lead to self-censorship among comedians.




© 2021 The Canadian Press





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