In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

May 31, 2021 Toronto: During National AccessAbility Week, the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance releases a report card (set out below) on the Ford Government’s record for tearing down the barriers that people with disabilities face, awarding the Government an “F” grade.

When he was campaigning for votes in the 2018 election, Doug Ford said that our issues “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and that:

“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.”

Yet three years after taking office, people with disabilities are no better off, and in some important ways, are worse off, according to today’s new report card. Passed unanimously in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Ontario is nowhere near that goal with under four years left. The Ford Government has no effective plan to meet that deadline.

This report card’s key findings include:

  1. The Ford Government has no comprehensive plan of action on accessibility, 851 days after receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review.
  1. The Government has not ensured that public money will never be used to create new accessibility barriers.
  1. The Ford Government has failed to enact or strengthen any accessibility standards under the AODA.

 

  1. The Ford Government has announced no new action to effectively ensure the accessibility of public transportation.

 

  1. The Ford Government imposed substantial and harmful delays in the work of Five important AODA Standards Development Committees that was underway before the Government took office.

 

  1. The Ford Government has repeatedly violated its mandatory duty under the AODA to make public the initial or final recommendations of a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” those recommendations.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed for 3 years to fulfil its mandatory duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

 

  1. The Ford Government has made public no detailed plan for effective AODA enforcement.

 

  1. In a waste of public money, the Ford Government diverted 1.3 million dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s controversial private accessibility certification process. This has resulted in no disability barriers being removed or prevented.

 

  1. The Ford Government unfairly burdened Ontarians with disabilities with having to fight against new safety dangers being created by municipalities allowing electric scooters.

 

  1. The Ford Government’s rhetoric has been harmfully diluting the AODA’s goal of full accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has given public voice to false and troubling stereotypes About disability accessibility.

 

  1. The Ford Government has failed to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

  1. The lives of vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities are endangered by the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage during the COVID-19 pandemic, If hospitals cannot serve All critical care Patients.

“We keep offering the Ford Government constructive ideas, but too often, they are disregarded,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “Premier Ford hasn’t even met with us, and has turned down every request for a meeting.”

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to a court application (now pending) to get the Ford Government to fulfil one of its important duties under the AODA, and a Freedom of Information application to try to force the Ford Government to release its secret plans for critical care triage if the COVID-19pandemic worsens, requiring rationing of critical care.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

 A Report Card on the Ford Government’s Record, After Three Years in Office, on Achieving Disability Accessibility

May 31, 2021

Prepared by the AODA Alliance

 Introduction

This year’s National AccessAbility Week takes place when Ontario’s Ford Government is completing its third year of a four year term in office. This is an especially appropriate time to take stock of how well the Ford Government is doing at advancing the goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enshrines in Ontario law.

It is with a strong sense of frustration that we award the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its record on this issue.

The Ontario Public Service includes quite a number of public officials who are deeply and profoundly dedicated to the goal of tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities, and preventing the creation of new disability barriers. They have commendably found quite a number of willing partners within the disability community (both individuals and disability organizations), and among obligated organizations in the public and private sectors. These partners are also committed to the goal of accessibility, and have in their spheres of influenced tried to move things forward. To all these people we and people with disabilities generally are indebted.

For example, several Standards Development Committees have been appointed under the AODA to craft recommendations on what enforceable AODA accessibility standards should include to be strong and effective. They have invested many hours, trying to come up with workable recommendations.

As well, over the past three years, the Ontario Government has continued to operate voluntary programs that have existed for years to contribute to the goal of accessibility. The Ford Government has also, we believe, improved things by freeing its Standards Development Committees from excessive involvement by Public Service staff. This has enabled those staff to support the work of those committees, while leaving them free to do their own work, devising recommendations for the Government.

However, all of that cannot succeed in bringing Ontario to the goal of an accessible province by 2025, without strong leadership by the Ontario Government and those who steer it. This has been the conclusion of three successive Independent Reviews, conducted under the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018.

Over the past three years, we regret that that leadership has continued to be lacking. The result is that Ontario is falling further and further behind the goal of an accessible province by 2025. Less and less time is available to correct that.

This report details several of the key ways that the Ontario Government has fallen far short of what Ontarians with disabilities need. As the Government’s mandatory annual report on its efforts on accessibility back in 2019 reveals, the Government’s prime focus has been on trying to raise awareness about accessibility. As has been the Ontario Government’s practice for years, that 2019 annual report was belatedly posted on line on the eve of the 2021 National AccessAbility Week, two years after many of the events reported in it.

Decades of experience, leading to the enactment of the AODA in 2005, has proven over and over that such awareness-raising and voluntary measures won’t get Ontario to the goal of accessibility by 2025, or indeed, ever. As always, the AODA Alliance, as a non-partisan coalition, remains ready, willing, able, and eager to work with the Government, and to offer constructive ideas on how it can change course and fulfil the AODA’s dream that the Legislature unanimously endorsed in May 2005.

1. The Ford Government Has No Comprehensive Plan of Action on Accessibility, 851 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government said it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. On January 31, 2019, the Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

However, in the 851 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public a detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. The Government repeated pledges to lead by example on accessibility, and to take an all-of-Government approach to accessibility. But these pledges were backed by nothing new to make them mean anything more than when previous governments and ministers engaged in similar rhetorical flourishes.

2. The Government Has Not Ensured that Public Money Will Never Be Used to Create New Accessibility Barriers

In its three years in office, we have seen no effective action by the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers or to perpetuate existing barriers. The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars on infrastructure and on procuring goods, services and facilities, without ensuring that no new barriers are thereby created, and that no existing barriers are thereby perpetuated.

As but one example, last summer, the Ford Government announced that it would spend a half a billion dollars on the construction of new schools and on additions to existing schools. However, it announced no action to ensure that those new construction projects are fully accessible to students, teachers, school staff and parents with disabilities. The Ontario Ministry of Education has no effective standards or policies in place to ensure this accessibility, and has announced no plans to create any.

3. The Ford Government Has Enacted or Strengthened No Accessibility Standards

In its three years in power, the Ford Government has enacted no new AODA accessibility standards. It has revised no existing accessibility standards to strengthen them. It has not begun the process of developing any new accessibility standards that were not already under development when the Ford Government took office in June 2018.

As one major example, the Ford Government has not committed to develop and enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. No AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard now exists. None is under development.

This failure to act is especially striking for two reasons. First, the last two AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for new action under the AODA. Second, when he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included this:

  1. a) “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.”
  1. b) “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.”
  1. c) “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. d) “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.”

4. The Ford Government Has Announced No New Action to Effectively Ensure the Accessibility of Public Transportation

Just before the 2018 Ontario election, the Ontario Government received the final recommendations for reforms to the Transportation Accessibility Standard from the AODA Transportation Standards Development committee. Since then, and over the ensuing three years in office, the Ford Government announced no action on those recommendations. It has not publicly invited any input or consultation on those recommendations. At the same time, the Ford Government has made major announcements about the future of public transit infrastructure in Ontario. As such, barriers in public transportation remained while the risk remains that new ones will continue to be created.

 5. The Ford Government Imposed Substantial and Harmful Delays in the Work of Five Important AODA Standards Development Committees that was Underway Before the Government Took Office

When the Ford Government won the 2018 Ontario election, the work of five AODA Standards Development Committees were all frozen, pending the new Minister for Accessibility getting a briefing. Any delay in the work of those committees would further slow the AODA’s sluggish implementation documented in the Onley Report.

Those Standards Development Committees remained frozen for months, long after the minister needed time to be briefed. We had to campaign for months to get that freeze lifted.

Over four months later, in November 2018, the Ford Government belatedly lifted its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it did not then also lift the freeze on the work of the three other Standards Development Committees, those working on proposals for accessibility standards in health care and education.

We had to keep up the pressure for months. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. It was as long as half a year after that announcement that those three Standards Development Committees finally got back to work.

In the meantime, the many unfair disability barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remained in place, while new ones continued to be created. The final enactment of new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education was delayed commensurately, as was the enactment of revisions to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard and Ontario’s 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

6. The Ford Government Has Repeatedly Violated Its Mandatory Duty Under the AODA to Make Public the Initial or Final Recommendations of a Government-Appointed Standards Development Committee “Upon Receiving” Those Recommendations

Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Government to make public the initial or final recommendations that it receives from a Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA “upon receiving” those recommendations. The Ontario Government under successive governments and ministers has wrongly taken the approach that it can delay making those recommendations public for months despite the AODA‘s clear, mandatory and unambiguous language.

The Ford Government has certainly taken this troubling approach. It delayed some two years before making public the final recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee earlier this year. It delayed some six months before making public the final recommendations of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee last year. It delayed over five months before making public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee earlier this month. It has delayed over two months so far in making public the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

As a result, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has brought a court application, now pending, to seek an order compelling the Ford Government to obey the AODA. This is especially disturbing, because the Government is leading by such a poor example when it comes to the AODA. Its delay in complying with s. 10 of the AODA slows the already-slow process of developing and enacting or revising accessibility standards under the AODA.

7. The Ford Government Has for 3 Years Failed to Fulfil Its Mandatory Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement.

The Ford Government has had three years in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government very soon after it took office in 2018.

8. The Ford Government Has Made Public No Detailed Plan for Effective AODA Enforcement

During its three years in office, the Ford Government has announced no public plan to substantially strengthen the AODA’s weak enforcement. Three years ago, the Ford Government inherited the previous McGuinty Government’s and Wynne Government’s multi-year failure to effectively and vigourously enforce the AODA. What little enforcement that took place fell far short of what people with disabilities needed, as is confirmed in both the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to Ontario falling so far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

 

9. In a Waste of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverted 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only significant new action that the Ford Government has announced on accessibility over its first three years in office was its announcement over two years ago in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. In two years, this has not been shown to lead to the removal or prevention of a single barrier against people with disabilities anywhere in the built environment. It has predictably been a waste of public money.

The Ford Government did not consult the AODA Alliance or, to our knowledge, the disability community, before embarking on this wasteful project. It ignored serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over five years. The Ford Government gave no public reasons for rejecting these concerns.

A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing.

A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still have serious accessibility problems. Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If an organization gets a good -level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be misled to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This can turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses the Rick Hansen Foundation’s insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if the assessor’s only training is the inadequate short training that the Rick Hansen Foundation created.

For example, the Ford Government got the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify as accessible the huge New Toronto Courthouse now under construction. Yet we have shown that its plans are replete with serious accessibility problems. The Rick Hansen Foundation’s assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to find out about our serious concerns with the courthouse’s design before giving it a rating of “accessible.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It operates behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement. For more details on the problems with private accessibility certification processes, read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process.

10. The Ford Government Unfairly Burdened Ontarians with Disabilities with Having to Fight Against New Barriers Being Created by Municipalities Allowing Electric Scooters

It is bad enough that the Ford Government did too little in its first three years in office to tear down the many existing barriers that impede people with disabilities. It is even worse that the Government took action that will create new disability barriers, and against which people with disabilities must organize to battle at the municipal level.

When the Ford Government took office in June 2018, it was illegal to ride electric scooters (e-scooters) in public places. In January 2019, over the strenuous objection of Ontario’s disability community, the Ford Government passed a new regulation. It lets each municipality permit the use of e-scooters in public places, if they wish. It did not require municipalities to protect people with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose to them.

Silent, high-speed e-scooters racing towards pedestrians at over 20 KPH, ridden by an unlicensed, untrained, uninsured joy-riders, endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Leaving e-scooters strewn all over in public places, as happens in other cities that permit them, creates physical barriers to people using wheelchairs and walkers. They create tripping hazards for people with vision loss.

Torontonians with disabilities had to mount a major campaign to convince Toronto City Council to reject the idea of allowing e-scooters. They were up against a feeding-frenzy of well-funded and well-connected corporate lobbyists, the lobbyists who clearly hold sway with the Ontario Premier’s office.

Unlike Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor have allowed e-scooters, disregarding the danger they now pose for people with disabilities. Some other Ontario cities are considering allowing them.

Thanks to the Ford Government, people with disabilities must now campaign against e-scooters, city by city. This is a huge, unfair burden that people with disabilities did not need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a cruel irony that the Ford Government unleashed the danger of personal injuries by e-scooters at the same time as it has said it wants to reduce the number of concussions in Ontario.

11. The Ford Government’s Rhetoric Has Been Harmfully Diluting the AODA’s Goal of Full Accessibility

A core feature of the AODA is that it requires Ontario become “accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It does not merely say that Ontario should become “more accessible” by that deadline.

Yet, the Ford Government too often only talks about making Ontario more accessible. In fairness, the previous Ontario Liberal Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty and later Premier Kathleen Wynne too often did the same.

This dilutes the goal of the AODA, for which people with disabilities fought so hard for a decade. It hurts people with disabilities. It is no doubt used to try to lower expectations and over-inflate any accomplishments.

 

12. The Ford Government Has Given Public Voice to False Troubling Stereotypes About Disability Accessibility

 

Two years ago, the Ford Government publicly voiced very troubling and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and disability accessibility during National AccessAbility Week.

In 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, NDP MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. 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.”

Premier Ford had every good reason to support this proposed resolution, as we explained in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update. Yet, as described in detail in the June 11, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Doug Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution on May 30, 2019, right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. Those statements in effect called into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

13. The Ford Government Has Failed to Effectively Address the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

All of the foregoing would be enough in ordinary times to merit the “F” grade which the Ford Government is here awarded. However, its treatment of people with disabilities and their accessibility needs during the COVID-19 pandemic makes that grade all the more deserved.

In the earliest weeks, the Government deserved a great deal of leeway for responding to the pandemic, because it was understandably caught off guard, as was the world, by the enormity of this nightmare. However, even well after the initial shock period when the pandemic hit and for the year or more since then, the Ford Government has systemically failed to effectively address the distinctive and heightened urgent needs of people with disabilities in the pandemic.

People with disabilities were foreseeably exposed to disproportionately contract COVID-19, to suffer its worst hardships and to die from it. Yet too often the Government took a failed “one size fits all” approach to its emergency planning, that failed to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities. This issue has preoccupied the work of the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations over the past 14 months.

Two of the areas where the Government most obviously failed were in health care and education. This is especially inexcusable since the Government had the benefit of a Health Care Standards Development Committee, a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to give the Government ideas and advice throughout the pandemic. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered a detailed package of recommendations for the pandemic response four months into the pandemic. Yet those recommendations have largely if not totally gone unimplemented.

The Government repeatedly left it to each school board, college, university, and health care provider to each separately figure out what disability barriers had arisen during the pandemic, and how to remove and prevent those barriers. This is a predictable formula for wasteful duplication of effort, for increased costs and workloads, all in the middle of a pandemic.

For example, the Ford Government largely left it to each frontline teacher and principal to figure out how to accommodate the recurring needs of students with different disabilities during distance learning. The Government relied on TVO as a major partner in delivering distance learning to school students, even though TVO’s distance learning offerings have accessibility barriers that are unforgivable at any time, and especially during a pandemic.

As another example, the Ford Government did not properly plan to ensure that the process for booking and arranging a COVID-19 vaccine was disability-accessible. There is no specific accessible booking hotline to help people with disabilities navigate the booking process from beginning to end.

There is no assurance that drug stores or others through whom vaccines can be booked have accessible websites. We have received complaints that the Government’s own online booking portal has accessibility problems. Arranging for a barrier-free vaccination for People with Disabilities is even harder than the public is finding for just booking a vaccination for those with no disabilities.

14. The Lives of Vulnerable People with Disabilities are Endangered by the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage During the COVID-19 Pandemic, If Hospitals Cannot Serve All Critical Care Patients

The AODA Alliance, working together with other disability organizations, has also had to devote a great deal of effort to try to combat the danger that vulnerable people with disabilities would face disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care if the pandemic overloads hospitals, leading to critical care triage. The Ford Government has created new disability barriers by allowing clear disability discrimination to be entrenched in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Even though formal critical care triage has not yet been directed, there is a real danger that it has occurred on the front lines without proper public accountability e.g. by ambulance crews declining to offer critical care to some patients at roadside, when called via 911.

The Ford Government has allowed a concerted disinformation campaign to be led by those who designed the Ontario critical care triage protocol, and who are falsely claiming that there is no disability discrimination in that protocol.

Further Background

Further background on all of the issues addressed in this report card can be found on the AODA Alliance’s web site. It has separate pages, linked to its home page, addressing such topics as accessibility issues in transportation, health care, education, information and communication, the built environment, AODA enforcement, and disability issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Follow @aodaalliance



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In a Detailed Report Card Delivered During National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government Gets a Blistering “F” Grade for Its Three Year Record Since Taking Office on Action to Make Ontario Accessible for 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

May 31, 2021 Toronto: During National AccessAbility Week, the non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance releases a report card (set out below) on the Ford Government’s record for tearing down the barriers that people with disabilities face, awarding the Government an “F” grade.

When he was campaigning for votes in the 2018 election, Doug Ford said that our issues “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus” and that:

“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.”

Yet three years after taking office, people with disabilities are no better off, and in some important ways, are worse off, according to today’s new report card. Passed unanimously in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Ontario is nowhere near that goal with under four years left. The Ford Government has no effective plan to meet that deadline. This report card’s key findings include:

1. The Ford Government has no comprehensive plan of action on accessibility, 851 days after receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review.

2. The Government has not ensured that public money will never be used to create new accessibility barriers.

3. The Ford Government has failed to enact or strengthen any accessibility standards under the AODA.

4. The Ford Government has announced no new action to effectively ensure the accessibility of public transportation.

5. The Ford Government imposed substantial and harmful delays in the work of Five important AODA Standards Development Committees that was underway before the Government took office.

6. The Ford Government has repeatedly violated its mandatory duty under the AODA to make public the initial or final recommendations of a Government-appointed Standards Development Committee “upon receiving” those recommendations.

7. The Ford Government has failed for 3 years to fulfil its mandatory duty to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard.

8. The Ford Government has made public no detailed plan for effective AODA enforcement.

9. In a waste of public money, the Ford Government diverted 1.3 million dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s controversial private accessibility certification process. This has resulted in no disability barriers being removed or prevented.

10. The Ford Government unfairly burdened Ontarians with disabilities with having to fight against new safety dangers being created by municipalities allowing electric scooters.

11. The Ford Government’s rhetoric has been harmfully diluting the AODA’s goal of full accessibility.

12. The Ford Government has given public voice to false and troubling stereotypes About disability accessibility.

13. The Ford Government has failed to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

14. The lives of vulnerable Ontarians with disabilities are endangered by the Ford Government’s secret plans for critical care triage during the COVID-19 pandemic, If hospitals cannot serve All critical care Patients.

“We keep offering the Ford Government constructive ideas, but too often, they are disregarded,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with disabilities. “Premier Ford hasn’t even met with us, and has turned down every request for a meeting.”

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has had to resort to a court application (now pending) to get the Ford Government to fulfil one of its important duties under the AODA, and a Freedom of Information application to try to force the Ford Government to release its secret plans for critical care triage if the COVID-19pandemic worsens, requiring rationing of critical care.

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

A Report Card on the Ford Government’s Record, After Three Years in Office, on Achieving Disability Accessibility

May 31, 2021

Prepared by the AODA Alliance

Introduction

This year’s National AccessAbility Week takes place when Ontario’s Ford Government is completing its third year of a four year term in office. This is an especially appropriate time to take stock of how well the Ford Government is doing at advancing the goal of making Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enshrines in Ontario law.

It is with a strong sense of frustration that we award the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its record on this issue.

The Ontario Public Service includes quite a number of public officials who are deeply and profoundly dedicated to the goal of tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities, and preventing the creation of new disability barriers. They have commendably found quite a number of willing partners within the disability community (both individuals and disability organizations), and among obligated organizations in the public and private sectors. These partners are also committed to the goal of accessibility, and have in their spheres of influenced tried to move things forward. To all these people we and people with disabilities generally are indebted.

For example, several Standards Development Committees have been appointed under the AODA to craft recommendations on what enforceable AODA accessibility standards should include to be strong and effective. They have invested many hours, trying to come up with workable recommendations.

As well, over the past three years, the Ontario Government has continued to operate voluntary programs that have existed for years to contribute to the goal of accessibility. The Ford Government has also, we believe, improved things by freeing its Standards Development Committees from excessive involvement by Public Service staff. This has enabled those staff to support the work of those committees, while leaving them free to do their own work, devising recommendations for the Government.

However, all of that cannot succeed in bringing Ontario to the goal of an accessible province by 2025, without strong leadership by the Ontario Government and those who steer it. This has been the conclusion of three successive Independent Reviews, conducted under the AODA, by Charles Beer in 2010, by Mayo Moran in 2014 and by David Onley in 2018.

Over the past three years, we regret that that leadership has continued to be lacking. The result is that Ontario is falling further and further behind the goal of an accessible province by 2025. Less and less time is available to correct that.

This report details several of the key ways that the Ontario Government has fallen far short of what Ontarians with disabilities need. As the Government’s mandatory annual report on its efforts on accessibility back in 2019 reveals, the Government’s prime focus has been on trying to raise awareness about accessibility. As has been the Ontario Government’s practice for years, that 2019 annual report was belatedly posted on line on the eve of the 2021 National AccessAbility Week, two years after many of the events reported in it.

Decades of experience, leading to the enactment of the AODA in 2005, has proven over and over that such awareness-raising and voluntary measures won’t get Ontario to the goal of accessibility by 2025, or indeed, ever. As always, the AODA Alliance, as a non-partisan coalition, remains ready, willing, able, and eager to work with the Government, and to offer constructive ideas on how it can change course and fulfil the AODA’s dream that the Legislature unanimously endorsed in May 2005.

1. The Ford Government Has No Comprehensive Plan of Action on Accessibility, 851 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office, to lay out how it will get Ontario to the AODA’s mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. It has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government said it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities. On January 31, 2019, the Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of “soul-crushing” barriers impeding people with disabilities. It concluded that progress on accessibility has taken place at a “glacial pace.” It determined that that the goal of accessibility by 2025 is nowhere in sight, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed.

However, in the 851 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public a detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. The Government has staged some media events with the Accessibility Minister to make announcements, but little if anything new was ever announced. The Government repeated pledges to lead by example on accessibility, and to take an all-of-Government approach to accessibility. But these pledges were backed by nothing new to make them mean anything more than when previous governments and ministers engaged in similar rhetorical flourishes.

2. The Government Has Not Ensured that Public Money Will Never Be Used to Create New Accessibility Barriers

In its three years in office, we have seen no effective action by the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers or to perpetuate existing barriers. The Ontario Government spends billions of public dollars on infrastructure and on procuring goods, services and facilities, without ensuring that no new barriers are thereby created, and that no existing barriers are thereby perpetuated.

As but one example, last summer, the Ford Government announced that it would spend a half a billion dollars on the construction of new schools and on additions to existing schools. However, it announced no action to ensure that those new construction projects are fully accessible to students, teachers, school staff and parents with disabilities. The Ontario Ministry of Education has no effective standards or policies in place to ensure this accessibility, and has announced no plans to create any.

3. The Ford Government Has Enacted or Strengthened No Accessibility Standards

In its three years in power, the Ford Government has enacted no new AODA accessibility standards. It has revised no existing accessibility standards to strengthen them. It has not begun the process of developing any new accessibility standards that were not already under development when the Ford Government took office in June 2018.

As one major example, the Ford Government has not committed to develop and enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA, to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. No AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard now exists. None is under development.

This failure to act is especially striking for two reasons. First, the last two AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for new action under the AODA. Second, when he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included this:

a) “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.”

b) “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.”

c) “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.”

d) “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.”

4. The Ford Government Has Announced No New Action to Effectively Ensure the Accessibility of Public Transportation

Just before the 2018 Ontario election, the Ontario Government received the final recommendations for reforms to the Transportation Accessibility Standard from the AODA Transportation Standards Development committee. Since then, and over the ensuing three years in office, the Ford Government announced no action on those recommendations. It has not publicly invited any input or consultation on those recommendations. At the same time, the Ford Government has made major announcements about the future of public transit infrastructure in Ontario. As such, barriers in public transportation remained while the risk remains that new ones will continue to be created.

5. The Ford Government Imposed Substantial and Harmful Delays in the Work of Five Important AODA Standards Development Committees that was Underway Before the Government Took Office

When the Ford Government won the 2018 Ontario election, the work of five AODA Standards Development Committees were all frozen, pending the new Minister for Accessibility getting a briefing. Any delay in the work of those committees would further slow the AODA’s sluggish implementation documented in the Onley Report.

Those Standards Development Committees remained frozen for months, long after the minister needed time to be briefed. We had to campaign for months to get that freeze lifted.

Over four months later, in November 2018, the Ford Government belatedly lifted its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it did not then also lift the freeze on the work of the three other Standards Development Committees, those working on proposals for accessibility standards in health care and education.

We had to keep up the pressure for months. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. It was as long as half a year after that announcement that those three Standards Development Committees finally got back to work.

In the meantime, the many unfair disability barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remained in place, while new ones continued to be created. The final enactment of new accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education was delayed commensurately, as was the enactment of revisions to strengthen Ontario’s 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard and Ontario’s 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard.

6. The Ford Government Has Repeatedly Violated Its Mandatory Duty Under the AODA to Make Public the Initial or Final Recommendations of a Government-Appointed Standards Development Committee “Upon Receiving” Those Recommendations

Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Government to make public the initial or final recommendations that it receives from a Standards Development Committee, appointed under the AODA “upon receiving” those recommendations. The Ontario Government under successive governments and ministers has wrongly taken the approach that it can delay making those recommendations public for months despite the AODA’s clear, mandatory and unambiguous language.

The Ford Government has certainly taken this troubling approach. It delayed some two years before making public the final recommendations of the Employment Standards Development Committee earlier this year. It delayed some six months before making public the final recommendations of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee last year. It delayed over five months before making public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee earlier this month. It has delayed over two months so far in making public the initial recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

As a result, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has brought a court application, now pending, to seek an order compelling the Ford Government to obey the AODA. This is especially disturbing, because the Government is leading by such a poor example when it comes to the AODA. Its delay in complying with s. 10 of the AODA slows the already-slow process of developing and enacting or revising accessibility standards under the AODA.

7. The Ford Government Has for 3 Years Failed to Fulfil Its Mandatory Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement.

The Ford Government has had three years in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government very soon after it took office in 2018.

8. The Ford Government Has Made Public No Detailed Plan for Effective AODA Enforcement

During its three years in office, the Ford Government has announced no public plan to substantially strengthen the AODA’s weak enforcement. Three years ago, the Ford Government inherited the previous McGuinty Government’s and Wynne Government’s multi-year failure to effectively and vigourously enforce the AODA. What little enforcement that took place fell far short of what people with disabilities needed, as is confirmed in both the 2015 Moran Report and the 2019 Onley Report. The failure to effectively enforce the AODA has contributed to Ontario falling so far behind the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

9. In a Waste of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverted 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only significant new action that the Ford Government has announced on accessibility over its first three years in office was its announcement over two years ago in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. In two years, this has not been shown to lead to the removal or prevention of a single barrier against people with disabilities anywhere in the built environment. It has predictably been a waste of public money.

The Ford Government did not consult the AODA Alliance or, to our knowledge, the disability community, before embarking on this wasteful project. It ignored serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over five years. The Ford Government gave no public reasons for rejecting these concerns.

A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing.

A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still have serious accessibility problems. Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

If an organization gets a good -level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they need to do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be misled to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This can turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses the Rick Hansen Foundation’s insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if the assessor’s only training is the inadequate short training that the Rick Hansen Foundation created.

For example, the Ford Government got the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify as accessible the huge New Toronto Courthouse now under construction. Yet we have shown that its plans are replete with serious accessibility problems. The Rick Hansen Foundation’s assessor never contacted the AODA Alliance to find out about our serious concerns with the courthouse’s design before giving it a rating of “accessible.”

The Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It operates behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement. For more details on the problems with private accessibility certification processes, read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process.

10. The Ford Government Unfairly Burdened Ontarians with Disabilities with Having to Fight Against New Barriers Being Created by Municipalities Allowing Electric Scooters

It is bad enough that the Ford Government did too little in its first three years in office to tear down the many existing barriers that impede people with disabilities. It is even worse that the Government took action that will create new disability barriers, and against which people with disabilities must organize to battle at the municipal level.

When the Ford Government took office in June 2018, it was illegal to ride electric scooters (e-scooters) in public places. In January 2019, over the strenuous objection of Ontario’s disability community, the Ford Government passed a new regulation. It lets each municipality permit the use of e-scooters in public places, if they wish. It did not require municipalities to protect people with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose to them.

Silent, high-speed e-scooters racing towards pedestrians at over 20 KPH, ridden by an unlicensed, untrained, uninsured joy-riders, endanger people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. Leaving e-scooters strewn all over in public places, as happens in other cities that permit them, creates physical barriers to people using wheelchairs and walkers. They create tripping hazards for people with vision loss.

Torontonians with disabilities had to mount a major campaign to convince Toronto City Council to reject the idea of allowing e-scooters. They were up against a feeding-frenzy of well-funded and well-connected corporate lobbyists, the lobbyists who clearly hold sway with the Ontario Premier’s office.

Unlike Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor have allowed e-scooters, disregarding the danger they now pose for people with disabilities. Some other Ontario cities are considering allowing them.

Thanks to the Ford Government, people with disabilities must now campaign against e-scooters, city by city. This is a huge, unfair burden that people with disabilities did not need, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a cruel irony that the Ford Government unleashed the danger of personal injuries by e-scooters at the same time as it has said it wants to reduce the number of concussions in Ontario.

11. The Ford Government’s Rhetoric Has Been Harmfully Diluting the AODA’s Goal of Full Accessibility

A core feature of the AODA is that it requires Ontario become “accessible” to people with disabilities by 2025. It does not merely say that Ontario should become “more accessible” by that deadline.

Yet, the Ford Government too often only talks about making Ontario more accessible. In fairness, the previous Ontario Liberal Government under Premier Dalton McGuinty and later Premier Kathleen Wynne too often did the same.

This dilutes the goal of the AODA, for which people with disabilities fought so hard for a decade. It hurts people with disabilities. It is no doubt used to try to lower expectations and over-inflate any accomplishments.

12. The Ford Government Has Given Public Voice to False Troubling Stereotypes About Disability Accessibility

Two years ago, the Ford Government publicly voiced very troubling and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and disability accessibility during National AccessAbility Week.
In 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, NDP MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. 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.”

Premier Ford had every good reason to support this proposed resolution, as we explained in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update. Yet, as described in detail in the June 11, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Doug Ford Government used its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution on May 30, 2019, right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. Those statements in effect called into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

13. The Ford Government Has Failed to Effectively Address the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

All of the foregoing would be enough in ordinary times to merit the “F” grade which the Ford Government is here awarded. However, its treatment of people with disabilities and their accessibility needs during the COVID-19 pandemic makes that grade all the more deserved.

In the earliest weeks, the Government deserved a great deal of leeway for responding to the pandemic, because it was understandably caught off guard, as was the world, by the enormity of this nightmare. However, even well after the initial shock period when the pandemic hit and for the year or more since then, the Ford Government has systemically failed to effectively address the distinctive and heightened urgent needs of people with disabilities in the pandemic.

People with disabilities were foreseeably exposed to disproportionately contract COVID-19, to suffer its worst hardships and to die from it. Yet too often the Government took a failed “one size fits all” approach to its emergency planning, that failed to address the urgent needs of people with disabilities. This issue has preoccupied the work of the AODA Alliance and many other disability organizations over the past 14 months.

Two of the areas where the Government most obviously failed were in health care and education. This is especially inexcusable since the Government had the benefit of a Health Care Standards Development Committee, a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and a Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to give the Government ideas and advice throughout the pandemic. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered a detailed package of recommendations for the pandemic response four months into the pandemic. Yet those recommendations have largely if not totally gone unimplemented.

The Government repeatedly left it to each school board, college, university, and health care provider to each separately figure out what disability barriers had arisen during the pandemic, and how to remove and prevent those barriers. This is a predictable formula for wasteful duplication of effort, for increased costs and workloads, all in the middle of a pandemic.

For example, the Ford Government largely left it to each frontline teacher and principal to figure out how to accommodate the recurring needs of students with different disabilities during distance learning. The Government relied on TVO as a major partner in delivering distance learning to school students, even though TVO’s distance learning offerings have accessibility barriers that are unforgivable at any time, and especially during a pandemic.

As another example, the Ford Government did not properly plan to ensure that the process for booking and arranging a COVID-19 vaccine was disability-accessible. There is no specific accessible booking hotline to help people with disabilities navigate the booking process from beginning to end.

There is no assurance that drug stores or others through whom vaccines can be booked have accessible websites. We have received complaints that the Government’s own online booking portal has accessibility problems. Arranging for a barrier-free vaccination for People with Disabilities is even harder than the public is finding for just booking a vaccination for those with no disabilities.

14. The Lives of Vulnerable People with Disabilities are Endangered by the Ford Government’s Secret Plans for Critical Care Triage During the COVID-19 Pandemic, If Hospitals Cannot Serve All Critical Care Patients

The AODA Alliance, working together with other disability organizations, has also had to devote a great deal of effort to try to combat the danger that vulnerable people with disabilities would face disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical care if the pandemic overloads hospitals, leading to critical care triage. The Ford Government has created new disability barriers by allowing clear disability discrimination to be entrenched in Ontario’s critical care triage protocol. Even though formal critical care triage has not yet been directed, there is a real danger that it has occurred on the front lines without proper public accountability e.g. by ambulance crews declining to offer critical care to some patients at roadside, when called via 911.

The Ford Government has allowed a concerted disinformation campaign to be led by those who designed the Ontario critical care triage protocol, and who are falsely claiming that there is no disability discrimination in that protocol.

Further Background

Further background on all of the issues addressed in this report card can be found on the AODA Alliance’s web site. It has separate pages, linked to its home page, addressing such topics as accessibility issues in transportation, health care, education, information and communication, the built environment, AODA enforcement, and disability issues arising during the COVID-19 pandemic, among others. Follow @aodaalliance




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AODA Alliance to Present Tomorrow at Virtual Meeting of Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee to Oppose Allowing Electric Scooters – Submits Detailed Brief that Shows A City Staff Report Proves E-Scooters Endanger Public Safety and Accessibility for People with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AODA Alliance to Present Tomorrow at Virtual Meeting of Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee to Oppose Allowing Electric Scooters – Submits Detailed Brief that Shows A City Staff Report Proves E-Scooters Endanger Public Safety and Accessibility for People with Disabilities

July 8, 2020

Tomorrow, July 9, 2020 starting at 9:30 am, the City of Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee will consider if the City should take steps to allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Toronto. The AODA Alliance is scheduled to make a deputation to the Committee. The Committee meeting will be live-streamed at this link: http://www.youtube.com/torontocitycouncillive

The AODA Alliance has just filed a detailed brief with the City’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, set out below. It documents in exquisite and exhaustive detail that the City of Toronto’s June 24, 2020 E-Scooters Staff Report amply proves that e-scooters would endanger public safety, lead to injuries and even deaths, create barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities, and force the taxpayer to shoulder new financial burdens. That Staff Report also shows that the supposed social benefits of e-scooters reducing road traffic and pollution are in effect unproven.

“If this gets approved, the taxpayer will get stuck paying the expenses while e-scooter rental companies, who are pushing for their product to get into Toronto, will earn the profits and try to dodge liability for injuries they cause,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that has spearheaded advocacy to protect people with disabilities from the dangers that e-scooters pose. “In the middle of this COVID-19 crisis, don’t our City Council members have more important priorities to deal with?”

The only proper conclusion that flows from this City Staff Report is that Toronto should continue to ban e-scooters. Yet the Staff Report instead wrongly proposes that the City of Toronto take steps towards allowing e-scooters. It does not explain why this should be done in the face of the known dangers that the Staff Report shows e-scooters create. We anticipate that the City has been the subject of relentless pressure behind closed doors by corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies that have been trying to dominate this debate.

The City Staff Report proposes working towards a pilot project in Toronto with e-scooters. The AODA Alliance brief shows that this would be nothing less than a human experiment on the public and would endanger the public, including people with disabilities, without their consent. Human experimentation on non-consenting people is universally condemned.

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

For more background, visit the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.

Don’t Introduce Electric Scooters to Toronto, Since A City Staff Report Shows They Create Dangers to Public Safety and Accessibility for People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Brief to the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee on Proposal to Allow Electric Scooters in Toronto

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

July 8, 2020

Via email: [email protected]

1. Introduction and Summary

The AODA Alliance calls on the City of Toronto and its Infrastructure Committee to categorically reject the proposal before its July 9, 2020 meeting to take steps towards permitting electric scooters (e-scooters) in Toronto. The City of Toronto and its Infrastructure and Environment Committee should instead focus 100% of their time on the horrific COVID-19 crisis that now engulfs us all. If the Committee feels it must do something short of an outright rejection of e-scooters, it should simply direct City staff to do more research on the harms that e-scooters have caused in places where they are allowed.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters. To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit its e-scooters web page.

The detailed and well-researched June 24, 2020 City of Toronto Staff Report on e-scooters shows that to allow e-scooters in Toronto will endanger public safety, send both e-scooter riders and innocent pedestrians to our hospital emergency rooms, require significant new law enforcement efforts and impose new financial burdens on the taxpayer to cover added costs that e-scooters will trigger. The Staff Report also shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

The Staff Report’s detailed analysis supports only one conclusion, namely that e-scooters should not be allowed. Yet despite all e-scooters harms and dubious benefits, the Staff Report proposes instead (without convincing explanation) that the City take steps towards conducting a pilot with e-scooters, deferring a decision to early 2021. This may be because the City has been subjected to relentless pressure from corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies, who are the driving force behind this issue.

In the face of the dangers from e-scooters that the Staff Report reveals, the Report only says that the action it recommends “…reduces the likelihood of e-scooter risks to riders, impacts on people with accessibility needs, community nuisance, and liability to the City…” The Staff Report does not claim that these dangers would be eliminated, or even that they would be substantially reduced. It only says that those risks would be “reduced.” That could be a mere microscopic reduction. Torontonians–especially those with disabilities–deserve better protection.

The City of Toronto should not conduct a “pilot project” with e-scooters to find out how they will work out. The Staff Report shows from the experience with e-scooters elsewhere that the problems that e-scooters present have already been borne out in practice. Moreover, to run a “pilot project” on Torontonians is to conduct a human experiment on them, without their consent, knowing that e-scooters present dangers to public safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. It is wrong to experiment on non-consenting human beings, and especially those who are vulnerable.

It is good that the Staff Report does not recommend actually unleashing e-scooters on Toronto now, with the COVID-19 crisis nearing the end of its fourth month, with no end in sight. With the COVID-19 pandemic working such havoc on our society, Toronto and its residents have far greater priorities to contend with than meeting the needs of those who want to race around this city on e-scooters.

It is unfair for the City of Toronto and its Infrastructure Committee to be bringing this issue forward in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. City Council and Committee meetings are not open to the public to physically attend. Members of the public are struggling to cope with the multiple pressures that they face, compounding over the past 16 weeks. At the start of July, many are trying to just get something of a holiday, if possible. For its part, the AODA Alliance is overloaded with issues on which to advocate for people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. For the City of Toronto to force us to divert our volunteer advocacy efforts to this e-scooter issue now is just one more unfair hardship.

If the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee is looking for a new and important priority agenda item to address, it should work comprehensively on making Toronto’s infrastructure fully accessible to people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Toronto, including its infrastructure, to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, under 4.5 years from now. Toronto is not anywhere close to being on schedule to reach that goal.

2. E-Scooters Endanger Public Safety Causing Injuries and Deaths

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our hospitals and emergency rooms were backlogged, resulting in the scourge of hallway medicine. The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed unprecedented added demands and pressures on our health care system, including our hospitals.

The Staff Report’s analysis amply shows that if e-scooters are allowed, this will lead to an increase in personal injuries, both to e-scooter riders and innocent pedestrians. Of course, this will create additional demands and pressures on over-burdened hospital emergency rooms. The Staff Report states:

“The City has a Vision Zero commitment to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities resulting from roadway crashes, particularly around six emphasis areas including pedestrians, school children, and older adults. Replacing car trips with e-scooter trips presents an opportunity to address some road safety issues if e-scooters produce a net safety benefit, especially for these groups. A 2020 International Transport Forum study notes that the risk of hospital admission may be higher for e-scooter riders than for cyclists, but that there are too few studies to draw firm conclusions. While not comprehensive, the emerging evidence of the health impacts associated with e-scooter use warrants a cautious approach to mitigate risks to e-scooter riders, pedestrians, and the City. Some of the findings are below.

New e-scooters users are most likely to be injured with 63 percent of injuries occurring within the first nine times using an e-scooter. (CDC and City of Austin)

A comparison of serious injury rates between Calgary’s 2019 shared e-scooter pilot and Bike Share Toronto suggests riding a shared e-scooter is potentially about 350 times more likely to result in a serious injury than riding a shared bike on a per km basis, and about 100 times more likely on a per trip basis. This includes a limited sample size, differing definitions for serious injuries, different city contexts (e.g., Calgary allowed e-scooter riding on sidewalks, whereas bicycle riding is not allowed on sidewalks in Toronto) and serious injuries may decline over time as people gain experience riding e-scooters. (Montréal reported few e-scooter injuries for its 2019 pilot, however, it is unclear whether and how data for serious injuries was gathered.) Calculations are based on: 33 ER visits requiring ambulance transport over three months (Jul to Sep 2019) in Calgary for e-scooter-related injuries with a reported 750,000 trips, and average trip length of 0.9km; and 2,439,000 trips for Bike Share Toronto, with 3km average trip length, over 12 months in 2019, and no serious injuries (e.g., broken bones, head trauma, hospitalization) but attributing one for comparison purposes. Further data collection and studies of injuries are needed on a per km basis, by type of trip (i.e., recreational versus commuting, facility type), and by injury type.

The fatality rate for shared e-scooter users is potentially nine to 18 times the rate of bike share-related deaths in the U.S., based on a news report in the Chicago reader.

Head trauma was reported in nearly one third of all e-scooter-related injuries in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018 – more than twice the rate of head injuries to bicyclists. In a City of Austin study in 2018 over three months, 48 per cent of e-scooter riders who were hurt had head injuries (91 out of 190), with 15 per cent (28 riders) experiencing more serious traumatic brain injuries.

Falling off e-scooters was the cause of 80 percent of injuries (183 riders); 20 percent (45 riders) had collided with a vehicle or an object, according to a 2019 UCLA study of two hospital ERs in one year. Just over eight per cent of the injuries were to pedestrians injured as a result of e-scooters (11 hit by an e-scooter, 5 tripped over a parked e-scooter, and 5 were attempting to move an e-scooter not in use).

Hospital data will be key to track injuries and fatalities by type and severity, especially for incidents where no motor vehicle has been involved (e.g., losing control) or for a trip and fall involving improperly parked e-scooters. As an ICD-10 code (international standard injury reporting code) specific to e-scooters will not be implemented in Canada until at least spring 2021, a reliable method to track serious e-scooter related injuries and fatalities presenting at hospitals is currently not available.”

“Finally, the risk of injury for new users is high, and could put additional burden on local hospitals and paramedics at this time. For the reasons above, City staff do not recommend permitting e-scooters in ActiveTO facilities in 2020.”

“Cities that initially allowed e-scooters on sidewalks have since banned them due to safety issues (pedestrian deaths and injuries), e.g., France, Spain, Singapore and San Diego; and other jurisdictions such Ottawa’s National Capital Commission have banned e-scooters on mixed use trails/paths.

E-scooters have been prohibited also from mixed use paths or in parks because of the intermixing with people and children on foot, who are slower, and also making unpredictable movements when using public space for leisure and recreational purposes. In cities such as Berlin, Paris and Tel Aviv, where e-scooters are permitted for operation on roads or bike lanes, and not sidewalks, there have been compliance and enforcement issues with these rules. Some cities (such as Atlanta) and countries (such as the UK) have accelerated bicycle infrastructure projects after e-scooter fatalities, and in anticipation of expanding micro mobility. In May 2020, the UK announced a £250 million emergency active travel fund – the first stage of a £2 billion investment supporting cycling, walking and bus-only infrastructure.”

“Paris and Singapore banned e-scooters from being used on sidewalks. This ban occurred as a result of pedestrian deaths from e-scooter collisions on sidewalks.”

“In the City of Austin, 63% of injuries occurred within the first nine rides of using an e-scooter. About 50% are head injuries and 35% are fractures. Less than 1% wore helmets. (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and City of Austin)”

“In Chicago, 10 pedestrians were sent to the emergency room after being hit by e-scooter users in their 4 month pilot project. There were a total of 192 emergency room visits related to e-scooters in these 4 months.”

As well, the PowerPoint that City staff presented at the February 3, 2020 meeting of the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee noted these statistics from Calgary:

“Calgary mid-pilot report for period approx. July to mid-October 2019:

  • 33 ER visits requiring ambulance rides, one of these was a pedestrian; 677 ER visits total”

3. E-Scooters Endanger Safety and Accessibility for People with Disabilities

The Staff Report also shows that e-scooters endanger safety and accessibility for people with disabilities. It states:

“E-scooters pose a risk to people with disabilities due to their faster speeds and lack of noise. Cities that have allowed e-scooters have observed a high incidence of sidewalk riding by riders, whether permitted or not on sidewalks. Parked e-scooters, especially when part of a dockless sharing system, can pose trip hazards and obstacles. Seniors, people with disabilities, and those with socio-economic challenges could face negative outcomes if injured in a collision or fall. Solutions to enforcement and compliance are still in their infancy.””

“Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Persons with disabilities and seniors have considerable concerns about sidewalk and crosswalk interactions with e-scooter users, as well as concerns regarding trip hazards and obstructions from poorly parked or excessive amounts of e-scooters. The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, a body required under the AODA, recommends that City Council prohibit the use of e-scooters in public spaces, including sidewalks and roads. In other jurisdictions outside of Ontario, some legal action has been undertaken against municipalities by persons injured as a result of e-scooter sidewalk obstructions, as well as by persons with disabilities.”

The Staff Report’s recommendations to take steps towards allowing e-scooters in Toronto are directly contrary to the strong, unanimous recommendation to the City of Toronto by the statutorily-mandated Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee. As the Staff Report notes, that Committee recommended that e-scooters not be allowed in Toronto. The Staff Report states:

“On February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee recommended City Council prohibit e-scooters for use in public spaces including sidewalks and roads, and directed that any City permission granted to e-scooter companies be guided by public safety, in robust consultation with people living with disabilities, and related organizations serving this population.””

The City staff’s PowerPoint, presented to the February 3, 2020 meeting of the City of Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee also identified this feedback that the City had received:

“Key Stakeholder Feedback So Far

  • Accessibility / persons with disabilities groups
  • Visually-impaired/blind cannot hear or see e-scooter riders, trip hazards with e-scooters, collisions and near collisions/friction on sidewalks and serious injuries from losing balance and falling, no insurance, challenges with enforcement / claims
  • Pedestrian-related – walkability, friction on sidewalks, trip hazards, collisions”

The Staff Report’s recommendations to take steps towards allowing e-scooters in Toronto are also totally contrary to the strong recommendations of 11 disability organizations in the January 22, 2020 open letter sent by the AODA Alliance to the mayors and councils of all Ontario municipalities, set out in this brief’s appendix.

4. If E-Scooters Are Allowed in Toronto, They Will Be Ridden on Sidewalks Even If That is Forbidden

Any consideration of e-scooters must operate on the premise that e-scooter riders will ride e-scooters on sidewalks, even if this is strictly banned. This contributes to the dangers to the public including people with disabilities. The Staff Report states:

  • “Cities that have allowed e-scooters have observed a high incidence of sidewalk riding by riders, whether permitted or not on sidewalks.”
  • “Most jurisdictions experienced illegal sidewalk riding by e-scooter users…”
  • “E-scooter riders will also likely ride on sidewalks, even if not allowed.”

(from feedback from a focus group of Toronto cyclists)

5. E-Scooters Will Saddle the Taxpayer With Financial Burdens While the E-Scooter Rental Companies Make the Profits

The Staff Report demonstrates that to allow e-scooters will inflict new costs and financial burdens on the taxpayer. The AODA Alliance takes the position that these burdens should not be inflicted on the public, especially after our society has had to suffer the crushing financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis, an impact that is continuing with no end in sight. If more public money were now to be spent, it should not be on the costs that the City of Toronto would have to shoulder due to the introduction of e-scooters.

The Staff Report states:

* “There is a significant risk that the City may be held partially or fully liable for damages if e-scooter riders or other parties are injured. Transportation Services staff consulted with the City’s Insurance and Risk Management office (I&RM) to understand the magnitude of the City’s liability if allowing e-scooters. At this time, loss data is lacking on e-scooters due to generally lengthy settlement times for bodily injury claims. The City has significant liability exposure, however, due to joint and several liability, as the City may have to pay an entire judgement or claim even if only found to be 1 percent at fault for an incident. The City has a $5M deductible per occurrence, which means the City will be responsible for all costs below that amount. In terms of costs, Transportation Services staff will also be required to investigate and serve in the discovery process for claims.”

“If Council were to permit e-scooters to be operated on City streets – without the commensurate resources to provide oversight, education, outreach and enforcement, there would be considerable risks to public safety for e-scooter riders and other vulnerable road users; additional burdens on hospitals and paramedics; impacts on accessibility, community nuisance and complaints; impacts on current initiatives to enhance the public realm for COVID-19 recovery efforts, such as CurbTO and CaféTO; and liability and costs to the City. For the reasons above, staff recommend that personal use of e-scooters not be considered until 2021.”

“FINANCIAL IMPACT:

Funding and resources required in various programs for the following will be included as part of future budget submissions for consideration during the budget process to address the financial and additional staff resources required to: manage implementation, operational, and enforcement issues of e-scooters in Toronto; and the resolution of e-scooter issues, including, but not limited to, injury/fatality and collision investigations and data collection and tracking (e.g., in consultation with health agencies and/or academic partners, Toronto Police Services, and others), further standards development for e-scooter device design, and consultations on proposed by-law changes with accessibility and other stakeholders.”

The key proponents of e-scooters are the e-scooter rental companies that stand to profit from their use. The Staff Report shows that e-scooter rental companies take active steps to dodge any liability for the damage that their e-scooters cause. The Staff Report also shows that the insurance industry does not have the insurance products needed in this area. City staff explored the possibility of injury claims being covered by The Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. That fund is financed by the taxpayer. That option would again let e-scooter rental companies reap the profits while the taxpayer covers the consequent costs.

The Staff Report states:

“E-scooter sharing/rental companies typically require a rider to sign a waiver, placing the onus of compensating injured parties on the rider. Riders are left financially exposed due to a lack of insurance coverage and if unable to pay, municipalities will be looked to for compensation (e.g., in settlements and courts). Claims related to e-scooter malfunction have been reported by the media (such as in Atlanta, Auckland, New Zealand and Brisbane, Australia). In 2019, a Grand Jury faulted the City of San Diego for inadequate regulation and enforcement of e-scooter sharing companies. By opting in to the Pilot, the City will be exposed to claims associated with improperly parked e-scooters as evidenced by lawsuits filed by persons with disabilities and those injured by e-scooter obstructions (such as in Minneapolis and Santa Monica, California).

The insurance industry does not currently have insurance products available for e-scooter riders. In Fall 2019, City staff explored whether the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund could be expanded or if a similar kind of fund in principle could be created to address claims where e-scooter riders or non-users are injured and their expenses are not covered by OHIP, nor by other insurance policies (e.g., homeowner’s or personal auto). Further research and consultation would be needed to look into these considerations.

It will be critical to ensure that insurance evidenced by e-scooter sharing companies will cover their operations for all jurisdictions operated in (e.g., all cities nationally or internationally). Further, there needs to be full indemnification for the municipality by e-scooter sharing companies, and not limitations in their indemnification contracts.”

6. Stronger Provincial Regulations Needed Before Even Starting with E-Scooters

Even if the City Council were to consider moving forward at all with e-scooters, the Staff Report’s analysis shows that any municipal consideration of this should be deferred until key missing action by the Ontario Government has been taken. The Staff Report shows the need for stronger provincial regulations on e-scooters safety to be enacted as an important precursor to introducing e-scooters. The Staff Report states:

“Although the HTA sets out some e-scooter standards, such as maximum speed and power wattage, due to the nature of urban and suburban conditions such as Toronto’s, City staff recommend that the Province strengthen the device standards for greater rider safety. Based on an extensive literature review, items recommended for further Provincial exploration include a maximum turning radius, a platform surface grip, wheel characteristics (e.g., minimum size, traction, tire width), braking and suspension.

In addition, the Province has not established set fine amounts for offences under the HTA e-scooter regulations. Without this in place, for the police to lay a charge in respect of a violation, a “Part III Summons” is required, which means the police must attend court for each charge laid regardless of severity, and a trial is required for a conviction and fine to be set. This may make it less likely that charges are laid. Fines outside of ones the City could set (e.g. e-scooter parking violations, illegal sidewalk riding) would create workload challenges for Police and courts.”

“In spite of the Pilot requirement to collect data, there is currently no vehicle type for e-scooters in the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) Motor Vehicle Collision Report (MVCR) template used by all police services to report collisions. Unless the Province specifies e-scooters are motor vehicles for the purposes of collision reporting, and has a field for this in its template, e-scooter collisions may not be reported reliably and meaningful collision data analysis will not be possible. In Fall 2019, City staff requested that the MTO add e-scooters as a separate vehicle type, but MTO has not yet communicated they would make this change.”

“This report also recommends the need for improved industry standards at the provincial and federal levels for greater consumer protection in the purchase and/or use of e-scooters. While staff are aware that e-scooters are being considered as an open-air transportation option, the absence of improved standards and available insurance for e-scooter riders, coupled with lack of enforcement resources, would risk the safety of riders and the public on the City’s streets and sidewalks, especially for people with disabilities.”

(Among the Staff Report’s recommendations)

“3. City Council requests that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation amend the Motor Vehicle Collision Report to add electric kick-scooters as a vehicle type and to treat e-scooters as a motor vehicle for reporting purposes….

  1. City Council requests that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General establish set fines for violations of O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters, and communicate these set fines to Toronto Police Services through an All Chiefs Bulletin.

  1. City Council requests that the Ontario Ministry of Transportation strengthen its standards and specifications for e-scooters in O. Reg. 389/19, Pilot Project – Electric Kick-Scooters based on the latest best practice research.”

7. Substantial Effective Enforcement Would Be Needed But Has Not Been Planned For

The Staff Report repeatedly recognizes the importance of rule enforcement regarding the use of e-scooters. The AODA Alliance adds that it is deeply troubling that the City of Ottawa allocated no additional funds for enforcement during its current pilot with e-scooter and appears to have imposed no fine for law-breakers.

The Toronto Staff Report does not spell out how many enforcement officers would be needed to effectively enforce e-scooter rules if allowed in Toronto, or what this would cost the taxpayer to enforce (including court resources). As noted above, certain key standards are missing which would be important for effective enforcement. The Staff Report states:

“Solutions to enforcement and compliance are still in their infancy.”

“Other key issues raised in the consultations include lack of enforcement and adequate infrastructure; and questions about environmental sustainability, public space and the potential for clutter and safety hazards particularly for people with disabilities.”

“In general, jurisdictions do not have the capacity to enforce compliance. For example, Tel Aviv has a unit of 22 inspectors dedicated to enforcing that e-scooters do not ride on sidewalks. These inspectors are able to issue tickets for sidewalk violations, but only the police have the authority to issue tickets to riders not wearing helmets, as required by law. 21,000 tickets for sidewalk offenses were issued in 2019.”

8. Toronto Is Especially Ill-Suited For E-Scooters

The Staff Report’s contents give additional reasons why Toronto is in reality especially ill-suited for allowing e-scooters. The Staff Report states:

“In addition to the experiences in other jurisdictions, several risk factors are unique to the City of Toronto and play a role in informing the recommended approach to e-scooters:

Streetcar tracks: Toronto has an extensive track network (177 linear kilometres) which poses a hazard to e-scooter riders due to the vehicle’s small wheel diameter.

Winter and State-Of-Good-Repair: Toronto experiences freezing and thawing that impacts the state-of-good-repair for roads. A large portion of roads are 40 to 50 years old, with 43 percent of Major Roads and 24 percent of Local Roads in poor condition. Coupled with lack of standards for e-scooter wheels (e.g., traction, size), this makes this particular device more sensitive to uneven road surfaces.

High construction activity: In addition to the city’s various infrastructure projects, Toronto has been one of the fastest growing cities with about 120 development construction sites in 2019.

Narrow sidewalks and high pedestrian mode shares in the Downtown Core and City Centres: Most jurisdictions experienced illegal sidewalk riding by e-scooter users, with some business districts saying e-scooters deterred patrons from visiting their previously pedestrian-friendly main streets. This is especially challenging with physical distancing requirements and other COVID-19 recovery programs expanding the use of the City’s sidewalks and boulevards.”

9. Toronto Should At Least Defer Discussion of E-Scooters Until After the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Over

The Staff Report’s analysis supports the conclusion that any actual introduction of e-scooters in Toronto should not take place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Staff Report states:

“Other cities have suspended e-scooter sharing services until after COVID-19 (e.g., Windsor approved a shared e-scooter pilot in April 2020, but has now deferred its pilot until after COVID-19). Prior to the pandemic, a number of jurisdictions (e.g., Boulder, Honolulu, and Houston) had refused to allow or banned the use of e-scooters due to public safety concerns. Key cities with similar population, urban form, and/or climate have not yet piloted e-scooters such as New York City (Manhattan/New York County ban), Philadelphia, and Sydney, Australia.”

“While staff have considered a potential e-scooter pilot on ActiveTO major road closures, it would pose risks to vulnerable road users and leave the City open to considerable liability and risk due to lack of resources for oversight, education and enforcement at this time. A key purpose of ActiveTO is to provide a mixed use space for physical activity for people of all ages for walking, jogging and human-powered cycling. Piloting a new vehicle type that is throttle-powered and can potentially exceed speeds of 24km/hr poses risks to vulnerable road users in such conditions. It could also lead to confusion about which infrastructure or facilities under ActiveTO are permissible, and this would pose public safety risks that the City does not have resources to manage at this time.”

“If Council were to permit e-scooters to be operated on City streets – without the commensurate resources to provide oversight, education, outreach and enforcement, there would be considerable risks to public safety for e-scooter riders and other vulnerable road users; additional burden on hospitals and paramedics; impacts on accessibility, community nuisance and complaints; impacts on current initiatives to enhance the public realm for COVID-19 recovery efforts, such as CurbTO and CaféTO; and liability and costs to the City. For the reasons above, staff recommend that personal use of e-scooters not be considered until 2021.”

10. E-Scooters Not Shown to Significantly Reduce Road Traffic or Pollution

The corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim that if e-scooters are allowed, this will reduce road traffic. The Staff Report shows that e-scooters do not bring the major benefits that the corporate lobbyists claim. The Staff Report states:

“While some mode shift from driving to using an e-scooter has occurred in other cities, the majority of e-scooter trips would have been by walking or public transit (around 60% for Calgary and Portland; and 86% in Greater Paris). For example, 55 per cent would have walked instead of using an e-scooter (Calgary). From a Paris area survey, 44 per cent would have walked, 30 percent would have used public transit, and 12 per cent would have used a bicycle/shared bike; while this study noted that e-scooters had no impact on car equipment reduction, an extrapolation would assume that 14 per cent would have used a car/ride hail/taxi, which still represents a minor shift away from motorized vehicular use.”

“Transportation accounts for about 38% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Toronto (2017). E-scooters are promoted as a near-zero local GHG transportation option as the electricity grid in Ontario is very low-carbon. A 2019 study based on life-cycle analysis suggests that average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per e-scooter mile travelled were half the amount associated with a car, but 20 times than that of a personal bicycle. Suggesting that reliance on e-scooters alone to shift people out of cars and to reduce GHGs and environmental impacts may not be entirely effective. Environmental impacts of e-scooters include disused e-scooters arising from the device’s short lifespan, toxic materials from battery waste, and emissions from the manufacturing, shipping, and maintenance of sharing fleets. In May 2020, Jump reportedly scrapped thousands (possibly 20,000) still functional e-bikes, and in June 2020, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Circ e-scooters were scrapped in the Middle East.”

The main reason for allowing e-scooters (beyond the profits of e-scooter rental companies) would be that they are fun to ride. The AODA Alliance proposes that this is hardly a reason to incur the dangers to safety, to accessibility for people with disabilities and the greater financial burdens on the taxpayer. The Staff Report states:

“The key appeal and popularity of e-scooters is that they are fun and convenient, particularly to people under the age of 35. They are often used for recreation and touring, but can also be used as a method of commuting or for taking short utilitarian trips. They reduce effort and sweat from exertion compared to human-powered kick-scooters and bicycles. They also enable people to go farther distances than on foot. A large part of the convenience is that there is no need to search for parking as there is with a car; adding to that e-scooters are easy to access, if folded and carried with the user, or if available through a dockless sharing system where the devices are widely available on the street.”

11. Steps that Must Be Taken If the City of Toronto Nevertheless Allows E-Scooters Despite Their Dangers

If e-scooters are to be allowed, over the many objections and despite all the evidence showing their dangers and lack of proven benefits, these requirements should be mandatory:

  1. a) Riding an e-scooter on any sidewalk should be strictly prohibited with a very substantial law enforcement presence and with very steep penalties, including a lifetime ban on using e-scooters. A mere fine is insufficient for such dangerous conduct.
  1. b) The rental of e-scooters should be prohibited with steep penalties for renting an e-scooter.
  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 far 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, e-scooter rental companies should be liable for loss or injuries caused by any renter of the company’s e-scooter, with no waiver of this liability being permitted.
  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. This should not be simply done through a smartphone, where a person can simply click that they read the training materials, even if they did not.
  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. l) A very small number of e-scooters should be permitted in any pilot, such as 250.
  1. m) If e-scooter rentals are to be permitted, a rider must be required to register their own name for each ride, and not merely rely on an app which could be signed up under a friend’s name. It should be made easy to identify a rented e-scooter–rider. The identity of the renter should be mandatorily disclosed on request to any person alleging that they were injured by the e-scooter.
  1. n) If e-scooter rentals are to be allowed via a “BikeShare” regime, the law should require that the e-scooter parking stations be located in a place that cannot block accessibility for people with disabilities. (Note: the draft bylaw included in the Staff Report imposes no such requirement)
  1. o) If the City is to take any further steps, it should convene an actual (not virtual) town hall meeting on e-scooters once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, to bring together both people with disabilities and the e-scooter rental companies for a joint public meeting to discuss all issues, at which the City’s leadership should be present.

Appendix – January 22, 2020 Open Letter from Major Disability Organizations

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 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

(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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Michael Coteau is First Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate to Write Us with All the Detailed Commitments on Accessibility We Seek


Brenda Hollingsworth Said She’ll Do the Same And Still Waiting for the Other Four Candidates to Do So

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

February 3, 2020

SUMMARY

The campaign for the Ontario Liberal Party to choose its next leader is well underway, ending at the party’s March 7, 2020 convention. As in the past, the AODA Alliance is trying to get all the leadership candidates to give strong commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

On January 11, 2020, we wrote an open letter to the six declared candidates. We asked for 10 pledges.

So far, we have heard something substantive back from three of the six candidates. In sum, Mr. Coteau has made all the commitments we seek. Ms. Hollingsworth said she would be writing us to make all the commitments we seek. Mr. Tedjo said he would come forward in 2022 with a platform on accessibility but has not made any of the other commitments we seek. Ms. Graham wrote us, thanking us for our request, but has made no commitments. Candidates Steven Delduca and Mitzie Hunter have not responded at all to us. Here’s what we have heard:

* On January 11 or 12, 2020, Alvin Tedjo sent us a tweet on Twitter. He said:

“@AlvinTedjo: @DavidLepofsky Hi David. As leader, I’ll consult with Ontarians with disabilities, advocates and service providers to make sure our party puts forward a robust and achievable accessibility platform in 2022.”

His answer does not give most of the ten commitments we sought. In response, we tweeted back to him asking him to make all the commitments we sought. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote Mr. Tedjo this on Twitter around January 12, 2020:

“@AlvinTedjo Thanks for your response. We’re eager to get your commitments on all 10 requests. Let’s talk! #accessibility”

To date, Mr. Tedjo has not responded.

* Around January 11, 2020 we received a message from Brenda Hollingsworth on Facebook. She said she would be sending us a letter, making all the commitments we seek. However, we have not yet received that letter from her. Her Facebook message said:

“Hi David, You will get a formal reply from me but I can tell you that I will answer yes to each of your questions. I have supported and fought for the rights of Ontarians with disabilities for my entire career.”

* On January 18, 2020, we received an email from Kate Graham. It stated:

“Thanks for sharing!”

* On January 27, 2020, Michael Coteau wrote us. In his letter, he made all the commitments we seek. That letter, set out below, lists each of our questions and gives his answers.

We are regularly tweeting to the candidates to encourage them to answer our request for commitments. Our goal is to get them all to make all the commitments we seek.

We will keep you posted on future responses, if any, that we receive. We would like to receive all the candidates’ commitments before the February 19, 2020 televised leaders’ debate that Steve Paikin will moderate on TVO. In the 2012-2013 Ontario Liberal leadership race, every candidate gave us commitments on disability accessibility. In the last two Ontario Conservative Party leadership races, none of the candidates answered our requests for commitments in this area.

As always, in this leadership race or in similar races in other parties, we do not support or oppose any candidate.

As of today, 368 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It called for strong new action to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. The Ford Government has still not announced a plan of action to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the AODA. On January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held a media event where it mainly re-announced some measures that will not strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, measures which we describe as thin gruel for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

Want to send us feedback? Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

The January 27, 2020 Letter from Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau to the AODA Alliance

1. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials).

If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

I commit to meeting within 60 days if I become Party leader, as well as meetings with appropriate caucus members. If the Ontario Liberal Party is elected to form Government, I as Premier agree to periodically meet with you, in addition to meetings with appropriate cabinet ministers.

2. Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?

Yes, we will make sure to press the Government to keep its commitments.

3. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?

Yes, I commit to making specific election commitments to you, in letters, on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities.

4. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?

Yes, under my leadership, the Liberal Party will fully maintain the implementation of the AODA, 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or any Government policies that assist in implementation.

5. Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.

Yes, I commit to keeping past commitments that the Ontario Liberal Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility.

6. Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter)

If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?

Yes, if I become Premier, I will show strong leadership on accessibility and implementation of the AODA.

7. Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?

Yes, I will include the Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility.

8. If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?

If I become Premier, I will ensure to the best of my ability that Ontario is on schedule, or if not possible at the time we form government, as close as possible, for full accessibility by 2025. In the event that the 2025 deadline cannot be achieved, I will also commit to working with you to take the action necessary to create a new deadline and to institute measures to get to full accessibility.

9. The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

Under my leadership, I will ensure to the best of my ability that provincial public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

10. Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

As premier, I commit to bring forward measures necessary to make provincial and municipal elections in Ontario fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.




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Michael Coteau is First Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate to Write Us with All the Detailed Commitments on Accessibility We Seek – Brenda Hollingsworth Said She’ll Do the Same – And Still Waiting for the Other Four Candidates to Do So


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Michael Coteau is First Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate to Write Us with All the Detailed Commitments on Accessibility We Seek – Brenda Hollingsworth Said She’ll Do the Same – And Still Waiting for the Other Four Candidates to Do So

February 3, 2020

          SUMMARY

The campaign for the Ontario Liberal Party to choose its next leader is well underway, ending at the party’s March 7, 2020 convention. As in the past, the AODA Alliance is trying to get all the leadership candidates to give strong commitments on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

On January 11, 2020, we wrote an open letter to the six declared candidates. We asked for 10 pledges.

So far, we have heard something substantive back from three of the six candidates. In sum, Mr. Coteau has made all the commitments we seek. Ms. Hollingsworth said she would be writing us to make all the commitments we seek. Mr. Tedjo said he would come forward in 2022 with a platform on accessibility but has not made any of the other commitments we seek. Ms. Graham wrote us, thanking us for our request, but has made no commitments. Candidates Steven Delduca and Mitzie Hunter have not responded at all to us. Here’s what we have heard:

* On January 11 or 12, 2020, Alvin Tedjo sent us a tweet on Twitter. He said:

“@AlvinTedjo: @DavidLepofsky Hi David. As leader, I’ll consult with Ontarians with disabilities, advocates and service providers to make sure our party puts forward a robust and achievable accessibility platform in 2022.”

His answer does not give most of the ten commitments we sought. In response, we tweeted back to him asking him to make all the commitments we sought. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote Mr. Tedjo this on Twitter around January 12, 2020:

“@AlvinTedjo Thanks for your response. We’re eager to get your commitments on all 10 requests. Let’s talk! #accessibility”

To date, Mr. Tedjo has not responded.

* Around January 11, 2020 we received a message from Brenda Hollingsworth on Facebook. She said she would be sending us a letter, making all the commitments we seek. However, we have not yet received that letter from her. Her Facebook message said:

“Hi David, You will get a formal reply from me but I can tell you that I will answer yes to each of your questions. I have supported and fought for the rights of Ontarians with disabilities for my entire career.”

* On January 18, 2020, we received an email from Kate Graham. It stated:

“Thanks for sharing!”

* On January 27, 2020, Michael Coteau wrote us. In his letter, he made all the commitments we seek. That letter, set out below, lists each of our questions and gives his answers.

We are regularly tweeting to the candidates to encourage them to answer our request for commitments. Our goal is to get them all to make all the commitments we seek.

We will keep you posted on future responses, if any, that we receive. We would like to receive all the candidates’ commitments before the February 19, 2020 televised leaders’ debate that Steve Paikin will moderate on TVO. In the 2012-2013 Ontario Liberal leadership race, every candidate gave us commitments on disability accessibility. In the last two Ontario Conservative Party leadership races, none of the candidates answered our requests for commitments in this area.

As always, in this leadership race or in similar races in other parties, we do not support or oppose any candidate.

As of today, 368 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It called for strong new action to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. The Ford Government has still not announced a plan of action to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the AODA. On January 28, 2020, the Ford Government held a media event where it mainly re-announced some measures that will not strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, measures which we describe as thin gruel for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

Want to send us feedback? Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

The January 27, 2020 Letter from Ontario Liberal Leadership Candidate Michael Coteau to the AODA Alliance

  1. We have welcomed face-to-face meetings with the past two Premiers, Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne, to discuss accessibility issues (in addition to face-to-face meetings with different cabinet ministers, successive Secretaries of Cabinet, and other senior government officials).

If you become your Party’s leader, will you maintain the practice of personally meeting with us to discuss accessibility issues, in addition to our meetings with your appropriate caucus members? As part of this, will you meet with us within 60 days of becoming your party’s leader, so that we can brief you on these issues? If your Party is elected to form the Government, will you as Premier agree to periodically meet with us, in addition to our meeting with appropriate cabinet ministers?

 

I commit to meeting within 60 days if I become Party leader, as well as meetings with appropriate caucus members. If the Ontario Liberal Party is elected to form Government, I as Premier agree to periodically meet with you, in addition to meetings with appropriate cabinet ministers.

 

  1. Under your leadership, will your Party make it a priority to press the current Government to keep its commitments and fulfil its duties on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities?

Yes, we will make sure to press the Government to keep its commitments.

  1. In Ontario elections, will you continue the practice of the last three Ontario Liberal Party leaders, of making specific election commitments to us on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities, in letters to us?

Yes, I commit to making specific election commitments to you, in letters, on the issue of achieving an accessible province for persons with disabilities.

  1. Under your leadership, will the Liberal Party fully maintain the implementation of the AODA 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or regulations enacted under them, or any Government policies, practices, strategies or initiatives that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives?

Yes, under my leadership, the Liberal Party will fully maintain the implementation of the AODA, 2005 and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation or any Government policies that assist in implementation.

  1. Will you keep the past commitments that your Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility, including e.g. its previous commitments to effectively enforce the AODA? We set out links to those commitments below.

Yes, I commit to keeping past commitments that the Ontario Liberal Party has made to Ontarians with disabilities regarding disability accessibility.

  1. Under the AODA, three Government-appointed mandatory Independent Reviews have examined the Government’s implementation of the AODA. These were conducted in 2009-2010 by Charles Beer, in 2013-2014 by Prof. Mayo Moran and in 2018-2019 by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. All three reports called on the Government to revitalize and breathe new life into the implementation of the AODA, and for the Government to show strong new leadership on this issue. The Moran report and the Onley Report specifically recommended that Ontario’s Premier should show strong new leadership on disability accessibility. (See a quotation later in this letter)

If you become Ontario’s Premier, will you show new, strong leadership on accessibility and breathe new life into and revitalize the Government’s implementation of the AODA?

Yes, if I become Premier, I will show strong leadership on accessibility and implementation of the AODA.

  1. Each premier sends Mandate Letters to each of his or her cabinet ministers, setting out their priorities. In your Mandate Letters, will you direct your cabinet ministers, the Secretary of Cabinet and other senior public officials to implement your Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility?

Yes, I will include the Government’s duties and commitments on disability accessibility.

  1. If you become Premier, will you ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility for persons with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA requires? Should your party form the Government at a time when it is too late to achieve that deadline, will you commit to get Ontario as close to being accessible as reasonably possible by 2025? In that event, will you also commit to work with us and to take any needed action, including passing new legislation, to set a new achievable deadline and to institute measures that will ensure that it is achieved (and that will not weaken or reduce any provisions or policies then in place)?

If I become Premier, I will ensure to the best of my ability that Ontario is on schedule, or if not possible at the time we form government, as close as possible, for full accessibility by 2025. In the event that the 2025 deadline cannot be achieved, I will also commit to working with you to take the action necessary to create a new deadline and to institute measures to get to full accessibility.

 

  1. The Moran and Onley reports expressed concerns that public money has been used to create new accessibility barriers against people with disabilities. Will you commit that under your leadership, public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities?

Under my leadership, I will ensure to the best of my ability that provincial public money will not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities.

  1. Ontario voters and candidates with disabilities still face too many barriers in provincial and municipal elections. Under your leadership as premier, will the Government bring forward new measures, including new legislation, to ensure that provincial and municipal elections in Ontario are fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities?

As premier, I commit to bring forward measures necessary to make provincial and municipal elections in Ontario fully accessible to voters and candidates with disabilities.



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102 Days after the Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It


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

May 13, 2019

SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.

2. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Governments identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

3. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.

4. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and

5. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to himthree times, I went to see himand he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. Thats why were going to focus and Im going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at [email protected]

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019
Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queens Park because were hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our provinces agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Id like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, Id like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

Id like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and Ill try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendationsSpeaker, to the ministerfor improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to himthree times, I went to see himand he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. Thats why were going to focus and Im going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.



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102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It


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

102 Days after the Ford Government Received the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA, the Government Has Still Not Announced a Detailed Plan to Implement It

May 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

We have recently focused a lot of attention on Parliament in Ottawa, and on Bill C-81, the proposed federal Accessible Canada Act. Yet we never lose sight of important issues at the provincial level at Queen’s park. Here’s the latest!

In a nutshell, the Ford Government has been proceeding at the speed of a turtle in slow motion, when it comes to the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Almost 11 months after the new Ontario Government took office, we’ve seen no indication of any action to speed up and strengthen the AODA’s faltering implementation and enforcement. This stands in striking contrast to certain other areas of governing, where the new Ontario Government has shown itself quite ready to act in a swift and decisive way. In this Update you can read the latest about the following issues, and then read the actual documents on point:

* Ontario Accessibility Minister wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2019 but had little to say.

* On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister was questioned in Question Period in the Legislature about the Onley Report on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, but again had little to say.

* Letters to the editor in newspapers continue to be a great way to help our accessibility campaign, as recent examples show, and

* Over two months after the Ford Government said it was lifting its 9-month freeze on the work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, no new meetings of These Committees have even been scheduled.

We will have more to say on recent developments on the Ontario front over the next weeks.

          MORE DETAILS

1. A Closer Look at Recent Developments on the Provincial Front

a) Ontario Accessibility Minister Wrote the AODA Alliance on April 10, 2-019 But Had Little to Say

On April 3, 2019, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho wrote the AODA Alliance. We set out his letter below.

The minister was answering two earlier letters from the AODA Alliance. In our February 6, 2019 letter, we asked the Minister to immediately lift his Government’s long freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees that were developing recommendations on what to include in new AODA accessibility standards to tear down disability barriers in the areas of health care and education. We also asked his Government to quickly make public the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

In our March 11, 2019 letter, we asked the Government to “clearly and publicly accept the findings in the Onley report regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.” We also asked him to quickly take action on five priority areas identified in the Onley report, namely:

  1. to appoint a new Standards Development Committee under the AODA to address the removal and prevention of all kinds of disability barriers in the built environment. The Onley report identified this as a top priority. That Standards Development Committee should be free to address, among other things, requirements in the deficient Ontario Building Code. It should be able to address built environment in residential housing. It should also conduct the mandatory 5-year review of the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. The Ontario Government remains in violation of the AODA, because it has not yet appointed a Standards Development Committee to conduct that mandatory review. It was obligatory to appoint that review by the end of 2017, when the former Ontario Government was still in power.
  1. to now launch a short, focused public consultation leading to your Government’s identifying the other accessibility standards that need to be developed to ensure that the AODA leads Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.
  1. to substantially strengthen the Government’s enforcement of the AODA, which the Onley report showed to be substantially deficient and ineffective.
  1. to launch a major reform to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, whether as a result of public spending on infrastructure, procurement, business grants or loans, or research grants. As part of this, a major reform is desperately needed regarding how Infrastructure Ontario deals with disability accessibility needs in the projects in which it is involved. We would add to the Onley report the fact that a similar reform is desperately needed at Metrolinx when it spends billions of public dollars on public transit infrastructure, and
  1. to now implement a program to ensure that students in Ontario schools receive curriculum on accessibility for and inclusion of people with disabilities in society, and to ensure that key professional, like architects, get much-needed training on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Our March 11, 2019 letter thanked the Government for releasing the Onley report to the public on March 7, 2019 and for announcing that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the existing AODA Standards Development Committees that had been working in the areas of health care and education. Our letter urged the Government to get these existing advisory committees back to work as quickly as possible.

Minister Cho’s responding April 3, 2019 letter to us, set out below, was exceedingly general. It said nothing and committed to nothing on any of the issues we had raised and that then remained outstanding. He re-announced that the Government had lifted the freeze on the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of disability barriers in health care and education, something he’d earlier announced on March 7, 2019. Beyond that he only said that he’d have more to say at some unspecified future time.

The minister also said this in his letter:

“We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility.”

He made no mention of consulting with people with disabilities on accessibility. This takes on greater significance below. Read on!

b) On April 10, 2019 Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Was Questioned in Question Period About the Onley Report But Had Little to Say

On April 10, 2019, MPP Joel Harden, the NDP accessibility critic, directed questions at Accessibility Minister Cho about the Onley Report. He asked the minister if the Government accepts the findings in the Onley Report. He also asked for the minister’s plans regarding the implementation of the Onley Report’s recommendations. Below we set out the Hansard transcript of that exchange.

This was raised in the Legislature on an especially appropriate day. Later that day, NDP MPP Joel Harden held and hosted a Town Hall meeting at the Legislature for people with disabilities to describe the disability barriers they face and the corrective action they need. MPPs of all parties were invited to attend.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to co-MC the Town Hall. For several hours stretching through the afternoon, individuals and disability organizations presented pointed and troubling illustrations of the barriers that persist in 2019, 14 years after the AODA was enacted.

In response to MPP Harden’s question whether the minister accepts the Onley Report’s findings, Minister Cho said that Mr. Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Minister criticized the previous Ontario Liberal Government’s performance on the accessibility issues and said “…the accessibility is not done even 30%.” This seems to be a helpful recognition by the minister that Ontario has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, as the AODA requires. The Onley Report did not cite a specific 30% figure, but found that Ontario is far behind its goal of reaching accessibility by 2025.

In response to Mr. Harden’s question whether the minister would be releasing a plan of action in response to the Onley Report, and if so, when, the Minister said:

“After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community.”

That answer included no commitment to create a plan of action in response to the Onley Report. The minister committed to no time lines for doing so.

The only action that the minister announced was a plan to hold a town hall for businesses. Of course, that could be one helpful step. However it is far less than what we need or what the Onley Report calls for. Here again, as in the case of the minister’s April 3, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance the minister talked about consulting businesses, but not people with disabilities. We need the Government to do much more than to hold a town hall for businesses.

We want to thank MPP Harden for raising this issue in Question Period. We also thank him, his staff, and the other NDP MPPs and staff who helped make this Town Hall such a success. We also thank the MPPs from other parties who came to watch some of the Town Hall. In our usual spirit of non-partisanship, we encourage and invite all parties to host similar Town Hall events for the public including people with disabilities.

c) Letters to the Editor in Newspapers Continue to Be a great Way to Help Our Accessibility Campaign

As in the past, letters to the editor in Ontario newspapers remain a great way to help advance our ongoing non-partisan accessibility campaign.

On March 15, 2019, the Toronto Star ran two letters to the editor about the need for more provincial action on accessibility. One was by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other was by Janis Jaffe-White, a tenacious advocate for students with disabilities. We set these out below.

These letters were written to comment on and follow up on a great March 13, 2019 Toronto Star editorial that had called for action on accessibility as a result of the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report.

Whenever you notice an article on an accessibility issue in a newspaper, we encourage you to take the opportunity to get more coverage for this issue by sending in your own letter to the editor. If it gets published, let us know. You can always write us at [email protected].

d) Over Two Months After the Ford Government Said It Was Lifting Its 9-Month Freeze on the Work of the AODA Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees, No New Meetings of These Committees Have Even Been Scheduled

Last June, in the wake of the June Ontario election, the work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the areas of disability barriers in our health care system and education system were frozen. For those of you who have been following our AODA Alliance Updates for several months, You will recall that we spent a great deal of time and effort to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

After months of this effort, the Ford Government agreed partway through last fall to lift its freeze on the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. However it left the other Standards Development Committees frozen. They were focusing on disability barriers in health care and education. We need those remaining advisory committees to get back to work, developing recommendations on the disability barriers and education that need to be removed and prevented in new AODA accessibility standards.

The Ford Government gave various excuses for that freeze. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors needed time to be briefed, we were originally told. Six months after the freeze went into effect, and long after the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors had had ample time to be briefed, the Government said for the first time that it was awaiting the David Onley AODA Independent Review Report before it decide what to do about the freeze.

That reason for continuing the freeze was unconvincing. It was quite obvious that Mr. Onley would recommend that that freeze be lifted. Mr. Onley submitted his report to the Ontario Government on January 31, 2019, fully 102 days ago. He did indeed recommend that that freeze be lifted.

The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 to announce that it was lifting that freeze. Yet over two months since that announcement, and over four months since the Ford Government received the Onley Report, no meetings have yet even been scheduled for the Standards Development Committees working in the areas of health care or education.

On May 6, 2019, members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee. We set that email out below.

On the one hand, it is good that Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is finally reaching out with preliminary steps that aim towards scheduling the next meeting of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. As well, the email describes some changes to the way the Standards Development Committee will be operating.

We are open to improving the process for the Standards Development Committees. Our brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review included an entire chapter that detailed problems with the way the former Ontario Government operated those committees. The previous minister had, we regret, been unwilling to make changes as a result of concerns we had raised last spring.

We are, however, concerned about some of the specific changes announced in this new email. There is no reason why the Government should have waited over two months since it announced it decision to lift its freeze on these Standards Development Committees just to ask members of those committees whether they want to continue on those committees, and whether they have changed their job. That inquiry should have been made back on March 7, 2019, when the Government announced that these committees would resume their work. The Government has not yet canvassed about available dates so that the next committee meeting can be scheduled.

It appears that the Government has substantially reduced the amount of actual time when the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee can meet and do its important work. We assume that the same will be the case for the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee and the Health Care Standards Development Committee. The Government is reducing meetings from two days to one, and reducing by an undisclosed amount the total number of meeting days. This is especially problematic since the committees lost the chance to do any work over the past year due to the Government’s freeze on their work. During that year, they could have been making substantial progress if not coming close to finishing their work. students with disabilities and health care patients with disabilities are suffering the consequences.

It appears that the Government wants out-of-town committee members to take part in meetings by phone rather than in person. While reasonable cost-saving measures are understandable, this measure threatens to create real problems. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee has over 20 members. It is hard to build the kind of cooperative exchange of ideas and views if some if not many are taking part over a speaker phone.

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario’s email says that Committee members will later receive a letter of re-engagement from the minister. This is an unnecessary step. Those who were previously appointed to these Standards Development Committees remain as members of these Standards Development Committees under the AODA. The June 2018 election and its results did not change that, or dissolve these Committees. There is no need to add yet another bureaucratic step to this process which has already been delayed for too long.

We will keep you posted on developments on this front.

2. April 3, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho, In Response to the AODA Alliance’s February 6 and March 11, 2019 Letters to the Minister

Thank you for your letters regarding the review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns.

The government is taking immediate action as it continues to work towards improving the lives of people with disabilities. We are resuming the Health Care and K-12 and Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees, which is something we’ve heard Ontarians ask for.

We are always interested in listening to businesses, non-profit organizations and the broader public sector to hear their views on accessibility. I am also working with my colleagues across other Ministries to review the Honourable David Onley’s Third Legislative review of the AODA and move forward with a plan to improve accessibility in Ontario.

The government will continue to consider Mr. Onley’s recommendations and will have more to say on next steps in the future. We are committed to working with Ontarians towards improving accessibility and we will take the time to get this right for all Ontarians.

Thank you again for writing. Please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

3. Ontario Hansard April 10, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/house-documents/parliament-42/session-1/2019-04-10/hansard

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question today is for the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. Today, people with disabilities from across Ontario are converging right here at Queen’s Park because we’re hosting an open forum for them. They are fed up with our province’s agonizingly slow progress towards making this province fully accessible and the barriers that are preventing them from living their lives to the fullest.

In his report on the third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Honourable David Onley said the following: “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

My question to the minister: Do you accept the findings of the Onley report?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I’d like to thank the member for raising that question. First of all, I’d like to thank the Honourable David Onley. He did a marvelous job; I read the report.

I’d like to refer that question to the Liberal Party. They were in government for 15 years and the accessibility is not done even 30%.

By the way, I will drop by your town hall meeting.

Our government is open for business for everybody, even people with disabilities, and I’ll try my best as minister.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Joel Harden: Thank you to the minister for that answer, but 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities actually deserve better. This is a human rights issue. Stalling any further and only looking backwards is not an option.

The AODA sets a target for this province to be fully accessible by 2025, but the Onley report says we are nowhere near achieving that goal. Mr. Onley has 15 recommendations—Speaker, to the minister—for improving accessibility through stronger enforcement, new standards for buildings and making sure public money is never used again to create new barriers. Will the minister be releasing a plan of action and response to the Onley report, and if so, Speaker, when can we expect that plan of action?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Thank you again for the question. After the Honourable David Onley completed his review, we tabled the review. I talked to him—three times, I went to see him—and he emphasized getting jobs for people with disabilities is most important. That’s why we’re going to focus and I’m going to hold my own town hall meeting with the business community. Thank you for the question.

4. The Toronto Star March 15, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2019/03/15/praising-advocacy-for-those-with-disabilities.html

Letters to the Editor

Praising advocacy for those with disabilities

Time to clear the way, Editorial, March 13

Three cheers for the Star editorial “Time to clear the way.” It calls for the Ford Government to swiftly implement former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s report that shows that 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities still face far too many disability accessibility barriers. As the leading non-partisan disability coalition that’s campaigned for accessibility for almost a quarter century, we strongly support Onley’s findings and key recommendations.

We’ve asked Ford’s minister to accept Onley’s findings and to get to work swiftly on taking action. Ontarians with disabilities cannot afford more months of waiting.

As Onley said, Premier Ford needs to make accessibility for people with disabilities a major priority.

David Lepofsky, Toronto

The editor is right. This situation is “clearly unacceptable.” Thisis a violation of human rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The basic problem is lack of enforcement of the law. Everyone has the legal right to be treated equitably.

Onley is right as well. People with disabilities often feel they “don’t belong here.” School is a mini-society where inclusion develops attitudes of acceptance and belonging. It is not the curriculum that is the problem. It is the living of acceptance of all individuals within the school system and wider community. To achieve accessibility and full participation of everyone, an emphasis must be placed on compliance with and enforcement of the legally mandated human-rights requirements.

Janis Jaffe-White, Toronto

5. May 6, 2019 Email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to Members of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee

Please see the message below, sent from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division. We ask that you kindly provide your response by Friday May 10th.

________________________________________

Dear Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee Members,

We are pleased to confirm that the Government has announced that it will be resuming the work of the committees that have been exploring the development of new accessibility standards in Health Care, Kindergarten – Grade 12 and Post-Secondary Education under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We wish to confirm your continued interest to sit on this committee. In addition, per the requirements of the Act regarding committee composition, we will be reviewing members’ institutional affiliations or roles to determine if any have changed – for example, if any members have switched employers or organizational affiliations, or moved to new roles within the same organization.

It is important to note that since your last meeting, there have been some changes to the way the committees will move forward. Changes will include:

  • The overall number of meeting days will be decreased;
  • The time allocated for meetings will be decreased (e.g., 1-day versus 2-day meetings);
  • Members are asked to participate in meetings via teleconference, where appropriate; and,
  • Before scheduling travel and/or accessibility supports, Ministry pre-approval is required.

This new approach is consistent with the government’s efforts to increase efficiencies and is intended to help the committees reach their goal of submitting an initial recommendations report to the minister in a more effective and streamlined way.

Please reply to this email to confirm your continued interest in sitting on the Kindergarten-Grade 12 Education Standards Development Committee, as well as any relevant changes to your status.

All returning members will receive a formal invitation to re-engage from the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho.

We look forward to working with you once again soon.

Sincerely,

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division



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