Major Disability Organizations’ Open Letter to the Ford Government and Ontario Municipalities – Don’t Allow Electric Scooters On Our Roads, Sidewalks and Public Places Because They Endanger Our Safety and Create New Barriers to Accessibility


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Major Disability Organizations’ Open Letter to the Ford Government and Ontario Municipalities – Don’t Allow Electric Scooters On Our Roads, Sidewalks and Public Places Because They Endanger Our Safety and Create New Barriers to Accessibility

January 22, 2020 Toronto: Eleven major community organizations concerned with the rights of over 2 million Ontarians with disabilities today made public a compelling open letter (set out below) to the Ford Government and mayors and councils of all Ontario municipalities, urging them not to permit electric scooters (e-scooters) on roads, sidewalks or other public places.

Last November, the Ford Government passed a regulation which lets municipalities permit dangerously fast e-scooters on roads, sidewalks and other public places. It ignored serious safety and accessibility concerns documented by Ontarians with disabilities. Rental e-scooters, strewn in public places, will be new mobility barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities. Silent e-scooters, racing at 24 kph, driven by uninsured, unlicensed untrained riders as young as 16, will endanger the physical safety of people with disabilities and others on sidewalks and in other public places.

That regulation lifts the provincial ban on e-scooters, but none may be used unless a municipality passes a bylaw permitting it. The Ford Government did not set strong, mandatory provincial rules to prevent the dangers that e-scooters pose nor did it ensure that municipalities would do so.

This open letter urges the Ontario Government to call off this “pilot project”, now authorized for an excessive five years. It calls on the mayors and councils of each municipality not to allow e-scooters in their communities. If a municipality does nothing, the danger is avoided, at least in that community. We are confident that municipalities have many other pressing priorities to deal with.

“This regulation inflicts on Ontarians with disabilities the undue hardship of having to campaign in hundreds of municipalities across Ontario, one after the next, to prevent this danger,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance, a grassroots disability coalition that has led the campaign on this issue. “We fear that the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists are lobbying city councillors behind closed doors.”

This open letter opposes e-scooters altogether. However, if permitted, mandatory provincial laws should require each e-scooter and driver to have a license, a helmet (even if over age 17) and insurance. If an e-scooter is left in a public place like a sidewalk, it should be forfeited and confiscated. E-scooter rental companies should have liability for any injuries that e-scooters cause, and limits on the number of e-scooters.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Open Letter

January 22, 2020

To: Hon. Premier Doug Ford

Via Email: [email protected] [email protected]

Room 281, Legislative Building

Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 1A1

And to: All Members of the Ontario Legislature

And to: The Mayors and Councils of All Municipalities in Ontario

Copy to: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors

Via email: [email protected]

College Park 5th Floor

777 Bay St

Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

And copied to:

The Hon. Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation

Via email: [email protected]

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON M7A 1Z8

I. Introduction

The undersigned community organizations and groups ask the Ontario Government and Ontario municipalities to take the actions listed below to protect the public, and especially Ontarians with disabilities, from the danger to public safety and the accessibility of their communities that is created by the Ontario Government’s new regulation on electric scooters (e-scooters). This regulation lets municipalities choose to permit people to use e-scooters in public.

On November 27, 2019, the Ontario Government announced a new regulation. It lets Ontario municipalities allow the use of e-scooters for a pilot of up to five years. An e-scooter is a motor vehicle that a person rides standing up. It can be very quickly throttled up to fast speeds of at least 24 KPH. It is silent even when ridden at fast speeds.

This Ontario regulation lets e-scooters be ridden on roads as well as sidewalks. It does not require a rider to have a driver’s license, or to have training in the e-scooter’s safe use or in the rules of the road. It does not require the e-scooter’s driver or owner to have insurance.

The e-scooter model does not have to be certified as safe by the Canada Safety Association or other recognized certifying body. The e-scooter need not have a vehicle license, or display a license number, that could help identify the vehicle in the case of an injury.

The Ontario Government said that this pilot is to study use of e-scooters. However, the regulation has not required a municipality that permits e-scooters to study their impact, or to report any study to the public. There has been no showing why five years is needed.

II. E-Scooters Endanger Public Safety, Especially for People with Disabilities

Unlicensed, untrained, uninsured people racing on silent e-scooters in public places, including sidewalks, endanger the public, and especially people with disabilities. Ontarians with disabilities and others will be exposed to the danger of serious personal injuries or worse. Pedestrians cannot hear silent e-scooters racing towards them. This is especially dangerous for people who are blind or have low vision or balance issues, or whose disability makes them slower to move out of the way.

In jurisdictions where they are allowed, e-scooters present these dangers. Ontario does not need a pilot to prove this. In an August 30, 2019 CityTV report, the Ontario Government stated that it had compromised between protecting public safety on the one hand, and advancing business opportunities and consumer choice on the other, when it first designed its proposal for a five-year e-scooter pilot.

III. E-Scooters Will Create New Accessibility Barriers for People with Disabilities

The new Ontario e-scooter regulation will also lead to the creation of serious new accessibility barriers against accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. In jurisdictions where e-scooters are allowed, e-scooters are frequently left lying in public, strewed around sidewalks and other public places.

Leaving e-scooters on sidewalks is central to the plans of at least some businesses who want to rent e-scooters in Ontario, according to a September 10, 2019 Toronto Star article. The companies that rent e-scooters to the public provide a mobile app. Using that app, anyone can pick up an e-scooter, rent it, ride it to their destination, and then leave it in a random place on the sidewalk or other public place for another person to later pick it up and rent it.

For people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, e-scooters can be a serious and unexpected tripping hazard. There is no way to plan a walking route to avoid them. They should not have to face the new prospect of e-scooters potentially lying in their path at any time.

Leaving e-scooters randomly on sidewalks also creates a serious, unpredictable new accessibility barrier for people using a wheelchair, walker or other mobility device. An e-scooter can block them from continuing along an otherwise-accessible sidewalk. People with disabilities using a mobility device may not be able to go up on the grass or down onto the road, to get around an e-scooter blocking the sidewalk. Sidewalks or other public spaces should not be made available to private e-scooter rental companies as free publicly-funded parking spaces.

Under the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Government and municipalities are required to prevent the creation of new accessibility barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. As the 2019 final report of the most recent Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley revealed, Ontario is behind schedule for becoming accessible by 2025. The Onley report found that Ontario remains a province full of “soul-crushing barriers”. The introduction of e-scooters will create new barriers and make this worse.

IV. Measures In Place Don’t Effectively Remove These Serious Dangers to Public Safety and Disability Accessibility

The Ontario Government’s November 27, 2019 announcement of its new e-scooter regulation did not refer to any disability concerns. The Government announced some restrictions on use of e-scooters. However, those measures do not effectively address the serious concerns raised here.

The Government lists some optional recommended “best practices” for municipalities. Those don’t remove the dangers to public safety or accessibility for people with disabilities. In any event, no municipality is required to implement them.

The regulation permits the use of e-scooters on sidewalks if a municipality wishes. It has restrictions on the speed for riding an e-scooter on sidewalks, and on the rider leaving an e-scooter on the ground, blocking pedestrian travel. However, these are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. Municipalities don’t have enforcement officers on every sidewalk to catch offenders. When a pedestrian, including a person with a disability, is blocked by an e-scooter abandoned on the sidewalk, there is no way to identify the rider who left it there. A pedestrian who is the victim of a hit and run, will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to identify who hit them. E-scooter rental companies are not made responsible for their e-scooters endangering public safety or accessibility.

E-scooters will increase costs for the taxpayer, including hospital and ambulance costs and law enforcement costs. The Ontario Government has not announced any new funding for municipalities for these costs.

The new Ontario regulation leaves it to each municipality to decide whether to allow e-scooters, and if so, on what terms. This requires Ontarians with disabilities to have to advocate to hundreds of municipalities, one at a time, to protect their safety and accessibility in public places. Ontarians with disabilities don’t have the resources and capacity for this.

It would not be sufficient for e-scooter rental companies to launch a campaign to urge renters not to leave e-scooters on sidewalks, or for e-scooter rental companies to make it a condition on their mobile app that the user will not leave a rented e-scooter on a sidewalk. People routinely agree to mobile app conditions without reading them. This does not excuse e-scooter rental companies from e-scooters’ known dangers.

V. Actions We Ask the Ontario Government and Ontario Municipalities To Take

We therefore ask for the following actions to protect Ontarians with disabilities:

(i) Actions We Ask The Ontario Government To Take
  1. E-scooters should not be allowed in public places in Ontario. There should be no pilot project in Ontario because it would endanger public safety and disability accessibility. If the Ontario Government wants to study e-scooters, it should study their impact on public safety and disability accessibility in other jurisdictions that have allowed them.
  1. If, despite these concerns, the Ontario Government wants to hold a trial period with e-scooters, it should suspend its new Ontario e-scooters regulation until it has implemented measures to ensure that they do not endanger the public’s safety or accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. If Ontario holds an e-scooter pilot, it should be for much less than five years, e.g. six months. The Ontario Government should retain a trusted independent organization with expertise in public safety and disability accessibility to study e-scooters’ impact. It should make public the study’s findings.
  1. If despite these dangers, Ontario allows the use of e-scooters in public in Ontario, the Ontario Government should first enact and effectively enforce the following strong province-wide mandatory legal requirements for their use. Ontarians with disabilities should not have to advocate to each of the hundreds of Ontario municipalities to set these requirements:
  1. a) Riding an e-scooter on any sidewalk should be strictly prohibited with strong penalties.
  1. b) The rental of e-scooters should be prohibited, because the rental business model is based on e-scooters being left strewn about in public places like sidewalks.
  1. c) There should be a strict ban on leaving an e-scooter in a public sidewalk or like public location, except in a municipally-approved rack that is located well out of the path of pedestrian travel. If an e-scooter is left on a sidewalk or other public place that is not such a rack, it should be subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture, as well as a strict penalty.
  1. d) If e-scooter rentals are allowed, rental companies should be required to obtain a license. They should be liable for loss or injuries caused by any renter of the company’s e-scooter.
  1. e) There should be a ban on parking an e-scooter within 250 meters of a public establishment serving alcohol.
  1. f) If e-scooters are permitted, they should be required to make an ongoing clearly audible beeping sound when powered on, to warn others of their approach.
  1. g) The speed limit for e-scooters should be set much lower than 24 KPH, such as 15 KPH.
  1. h) An e-scooter driver should be required to successfully complete training on its safe operation and on the rules of the road, and to get a license.
  1. i) Each e-scooter should be required to have a vehicle license whose number is visibly displayed.
  1. j) An e-scooter’s owner and driver should be required to carry sufficient liability insurance for injuries or damages that the e-scooter causes to others.
  1. k) E-scooter drivers of any age should be required to wear a helmet, and not just those under 18.
  1. If the Ontario Government does not impose all the safety and accessibility requirements in Recommendation 4 above, then it should pass legislation that empowers each municipality to impose all the preceding requirements.
(ii) Actions We Ask Each Municipality in Ontario To Take
  1. To protect the safety of the public, including people with disabilities, and to avoid creating new barriers to accessibility impeding people with disabilities, no municipality should allow e-scooters in their community.
  1. If a municipality nevertheless decides to allow e-scooters, it should impose all the requirements in Recommendation 4 above. It should not allow e-scooters for more than six months as a pilot project, while undertaking the study on their impact on public safety and accessibility for people with disabilities.

In proposing these seven measures, we emphasize that nothing should be done to reduce or restrict the availability or use of powered mobility devices used by people with disabilities, which travel at much slower speeds and which are a vital form of accessibility technology.

Signed,

  1. Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
  2. March of Dimes of Canada
  3. Canadian National Institute for the Blind
  4. ARCH Disability Law Centre
  5. Spinal Cord Injury Ontario
  6. Ontario Autism Coalition
  7. Older Women’s Network
  8. Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
  9. Guide Dog Users of Canada
  10. Views for the Visually Impaired
  11. Citizens With Disabilities – Ontario



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During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”
  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

  1. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

  1. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

  1. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

So—What Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during

debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK — The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden

Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 — a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do — making Ontario more accessible — plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents – its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as

the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario PC Party



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During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

“That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.”

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”

2. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

3. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

4. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

5. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

6. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

2. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

3. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

SoWhat Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?
So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during
debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

That, in the opinion of this House, the Government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the Act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden
?
Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do making Ontario more accessible plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford
Leader, Ontario PC Party



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In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System – Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

December 4, 2018

         SUMMARY

In light of events yesterday in the Ontario Legislature, tomorrow, December 5, 2018, looks to be a troubling anniversary in our non-partisan campaign in Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities. Here is why!

Two years ago tomorrow, back on December 5, 2016, we were delighted that Ontario’s Conservative Party, then the opposition in the Ontario Legislature, rose during Question Period on our behalf, to demand that the Wynne Government finally agree to create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We need an Education Accessibility Standard enacted under the AODA because over one third   of a million students with disabilities in Ontario continue to face far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s schools, colleges, universities and other education organizations, when they try to get an education. You cannot get a good job unless you first get a good education.

We were also delighted two years ago tomorrow, when Premier Wynne at last agreed, in the face of the Conservatives’ demands, to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Premier Wynne’s agreement in the face of questions from Conservative MPP Bill Walker two years ago, came after years of dithering by the former Ontario Government in this area. We document those years of dithering in Chapters 4 and 5 of our draft brief to the David Onley AODA Independent Review. Below we set out the transcript of the historic exchange that took place in Ontario’s  Legislature back on December 5, 2016.

Fast-Forward two years, to the present. We still do not have an Education Accessibility Standard. Why is this? After a year of further delay, the former Ontario Government finally appointed two Education Standards Development Committees under the AODA last winter. These independent committees are mandated under the AODA to develop recommendations on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. One Education Standards Development Committee was appointed to make recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed in Ontario schools. The other Standards Development Committee was appointed to develop recommendations on the barriers that need to be removed in Ontario’s colleges and universities. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was appointed as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

Those Standards Development Committees, as well as three others, were busy at work last spring, right up to the spring 2018 election. Then everything was called to a sudden and total halt. After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, all the work of any Standards Development Committee under the AODA was frozen. We have been tenaciously campaigning to get this freeze lifted.

Over three months ago, on August 29, 2018, we wrote Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho a detailed letter. It spells out why The Ford Government should immediately lift its freeze on the work of AODA Standards Development Committees. The Ford Government has not answered that letter.

This freeze has garnered media attention, including CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning program on August 30, 2018, CBC Radio Ottawa’s All in A Day Program on August 30, 2018, and CBC TV and Radio news reports on November 13, 2018.

Last month, the Ford government finally lifted its freeze on the work of two AODA Standards Development Committees. One is addressing barriers in employment. The other is addressing barriers in information and communication.

However, three important Standards Development Committees are still frozen. They have remained frozen for 168 days, right up to this day. This freeze includes the work of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee. This freeze also includes the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. This latter committee has been working for some two years on recommendations to the Ontario Government on what the Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard. That accessibility standard would tear down disability barriers that hurt patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

So what happened yesterday? Yesterday, December 3, 2018, was the International Day for People with Disabilities. To mark that day, opposition NDP MPP Joel Harden, the NDP critic for disability issues, rose in the Ontario Legislature on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities to raise this important issue. In the exchange, set out in full below, MPP Harden called on the Ontario Government to lift the freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees.

Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho was not in the Legislature. Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones dodged the question, stating in part:

“There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

So in sum, two years ago tomorrow, the Tories stood for people with disabilities, to demand that the Ontario Government create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yesterday, almost two years later, the Tories are in power and can do something about it. Yet instead of moving forward on this, they have frozen work on it, with no end in sight.

What reasons has the Ford government given over the past 168 days for this freeze? These include:

* The Government earlier said the Government needs time to brief the new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. He has now had 157 days since Ontario’s new Cabinet was sworn in. That is sufficient time to brief a minister. This is especially so, since, to the new Government’s credit, Ontario now has a full-time Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This is a top priority in his portfolio.

* Yesterday, in the Legislature, the Ford Government said it needs to proceed “in a reasonable and measured way.” We respectfully suggest that this protracted delay is neither reasonable nor measured. It hurts hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities. It also hurts vulnerable patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

Yesterday, the Government also said:

“We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.”

Yet, the Education Standards Development Committee has the stakeholders directly involved in the process. Each Standards Development Committee is made up of disability c community representatives as well as representatives from the education or health care sectors. Each Standards Development Committee is required to consult the stakeholders as a core part of its work.

In answer to an earlier question from NDP MPP Joel Harden yesterday that called for the Government to create a plan to get Ontario to full accessibility by 2025, the Government said in part:

“It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.”

This is the first time the Ford Government said it is concerned that “no one gets hurt along the way.” We do not know why or how anyone would “get hurt along the way” for the Education Standards Development Committees and the Health Care Standards Development Committee to get back to work.

During last spring’s Ontario election, Doug Ford wrote the AODA Alliance to set out his party’s election commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities. His May 15, 2018 letter included:

“Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”

We encourage you to contact your member of the Ontario Legislature. Urge them to help us press The Ford Government to end its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees.

         MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Mr. Joel Harden: Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and, as I pose this question, I want to acknowledge some of our friends from the disability rights community in the Speaker’s gallery. Thank you for being here.

My question is to the Deputy Premier.

Today is a day that should be reminding us that our province is on a deadline. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act has to be set in place with a legitimate plan by 2025, but every disability rights leader and organization I’ve met has told us that we’re way behind in meeting that objective.

Does the minister believe that we’re on track to have a fully accessible province by 2025?

Hon. Christine Elliott: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

Hon. Sylvia Jones: I’m really glad that you’ve asked this question, because my colleague, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, has been working full out on these issues, and he’s actually away today doing a speech on this very issue.

It’s important that we work with all of our stakeholders. We need to make sure that we have the most open and accessible province, but we need to do it in a reasonable way that makes sure that no one gets hurt along the way. So we’re working with stakeholders, we’re working with the accessibility citizens and we’re making sure that we’re getting it right.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

Achieving full accessibility, according to experts who I’ve talked to, requires two things: a commitment and a plan. But right now, three out of five AODA standards committees, which are actually doing the work about accessible and inclusive health care and education for people living with a disability, their work has been frozen since the election. It’s one thing to say we support accessibility, but it’s another thing to actually make it a priority by putting those AODA committees to work.

My question is very simple: Will the minister unfreeze the committees and will the minister work with people with disabilities to develop a multi-year accessibility plan so Ontario is fully accessible by 2025?

Hon. Sylvia Jones: There is no doubt that everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in our lives, in the everyday lives, and that includes recreation, that includes our work force, that includes our families, our schools and our justice system.

But we need to do it in a reasonable and measured way. That is what my colleague is doing, that is what he is working on. We will make sure that work gets done, but we need to make sure that the stakeholders are involved and engaged in the process.

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

Mr. Bill Walker: My question is to the Premier. It has been 11 years since this Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Yet, today, over a third of a million students with disabilities continue to face far too many barriers when they try to go to school, college or university in Ontario.

Today’s Toronto Star reports that 22 respected community organizations wrote the Premier, urging her to finally say “yes” to creating an educational accessibility standard and tear down those unfair barriers.

Premier, on October 31, you told this House that you were considering this. Will you agree to do it today?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: As the member has said, I have already indicated that I think that this is important. I had a meeting with David Lepofsky, who is, I know, mentioned in the article. The Minister of Education and the Minister responsible for accessibility have also met with David Lepofsky and many other groups.

We recognize that, as we have developed standards in other areas, as a health standard is being developed, that also there needs to be a standard developed in the education sector.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Bill Walker: Back to the Premier: You’ve had 10 years and you spent $8 billion on the eHealth registry. I hope that this isn’t going to be another fiasco like that.

This government’s continued inaction on this file is inexcusable. This government has no comprehensive plan to ensure that our education system will become fully accessible by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. The AODA Alliance has pressed you for over half a decade to agree to develop the standard under the AODA to tackle these barriers.

Can you tell a third of a million students with disabilities and their families what the holdup is, after the five years of this issue being before your government?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: It’s interesting. Since we came into office in 2003—and when we came into office, under the previous Premier, there was legislation that was in place that had no teeth and would have produced no results in terms of accessibility. We scrapped that and started again, and put in place legislation that has, over time, developed standards and has put in place acceptable standards across our society.

There’s a lot more to do, which is why we are working in the health sector right now. There are billions of dollars that are spent within the education system, whether it’s on special education or the $1.1 billion in additional funding that is going into building and renovating schools—all of which goes toward building schools that are more accessible.

Because the reality is, when many of the schools were built—particularly in the Toronto District School Board, where there are many old buildings that are still being used as schools—they were not up to standard. They were not accessible in any way.

We recognize that there’s more to be done, and there will be an education standard developed.



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U of T Students Create Prize-Winning IDeA Project for Accessibility


Stairs and narrow doorways are not the sole barriers to accessing sport and physical activity spaces. Once up the steps and through the doors, stereotypes and prejudices still obstruct the way.

For U of T Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education recent graduate Sara Santos and fourth-year student Natasha Bruno, increasing accessibility means taking down attitudinal as well as physical barriers to participation. They are strong believers in the principle that no single barrier to accessibility should take precedence over another.

The duo were third-place finalists in the Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) competition, winning $1,000. Their submission comprises a series of posters with “can” statements such as one from a U of T student with hypermobility disorder, a condition that can cause joint pain, who wished people would see what she is able to do instead of concentrating on what she cannot: “I sometimes use a cane but I CAN dance.”

Focusing on the word “can,” Santos and Bruno are hoping to shift attention away from stereotypes about disability and instead emphasize individuals’ various levels of ability in sport and physical activity.

“We need to be aware of the different struggles individuals face,” says Bruno of the wide spectrum of physical challenges.

Individuals have varying levels of ability that can fluctuate on a daily basis, says Santos. Common perceptions about what disability looks like and questioning whether or not someone requires accessibility accommodations prevents some individuals from requesting them altogether, their project says.

The basis of their IDeA submission stems from Santos’s research for her undergraduate thesis project entitled “Student narratives surrounding accessibility within physical activity and sport spaces.” The statements from Humans that CAN are derived from her interviews with U of T students who identified as having a physical, sensory or intellectual disability.

“Our project is really about illuminating the voices of individuals with disabilities versus having able-bodied individuals speaking on behalf of them,” says Santos. These personal stories will hopefully remedy some incomplete representations of ability that can present a significant barrier to participation, she says.

The practical and cost-effective method of displaying statements from personal stories on posters was inspired by the format of the Change Room Project. This awareness-raising measure for the LGBTQ experience in change rooms was initiated by one of Santos’s thesis co-supervisors, Associate Professor Caroline Fusco of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education.

Read more about the Change Room Project at https://www.utoronto.ca/news/toronto-2015-pan-amparapan-am-games-change-room-project “Accessibility should be part of everything we do,” says Santos. She and Bruno had their first taste of developing innovative solutions for more accessible spaces through a course that is mandatory for kinesiology undergraduate students, called Adapted Physical Activity. The course is taught by Assistant Professor Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos, who had co-supervised Santos’s undergraduate thesis project and who is currently supervising Bruno’s.

Santos is now wrapping up her Student Narratives project, and hopes to get her paper published so that her findings can be available to a wider audience. The duo believes that a greater awareness of subtleties in personal narratives and a broader definition of disability can improve how we share and govern spaces.

“We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet,” says Santos, regarding the state of accessibility at U of T.

Santos and Bruno hope that their posters will soon appear in spaces across all three U of T campuses, cultivating a more accessible atmosphere.

IDeA is an Ontario-wide competition for undergraduate students, supporting the goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to make Ontario the most accessible province by 2025. Created by the Council of Ontario Universities in partnership with the Government of Ontario, it is now run by Universities Canada.

Original at https://www.utoronto.ca/news/yes-we-can-u-t-students-create-prize-winning-idea-project-accessibility



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