Smitty’s pancake days charity for children with disabilities raises over $5000 this year – Kingston

Smitty’s Family Restaurant & Lounge hosted their 23rd annual Pancake Days in February, where a short stacks of pancakes were made available for $9.99, and all proceeds were donated to the Easter Seal Kids.

The restaurant announced in a statement Monday that their Pancake Days have raised a total of $5,083.53, which is over a thousand dollars more than last year’s charity.

“I know it’s a difficult time right now for people trying to raise money for good causes, the need is ongoing for these families,” says Smitty’s owner, Randy Loucks.

Loucks and his family donated $1,000 personally this year as well.

Read more:
Easter Seals amps up online fundraising as equipment requests climb

Pancake Days ran from Tuesday, Feb. 16 until Sunday, Feb. 28, with the very first day starting during a snowstorm.

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“It is what it is,” said Loucks of the weather to Global News that day, still prepared to serve pancakes for a good cause.

Easter Seals Ontario provides programs and services to children and youth with physical disabilities across the province, with the goal of helping them to achieve independence through integration.

The charity owns and runs two fully accessible summer camps where youth can enjoy a 10-day program away from home to take part in activities like its indoor climbing wall, sailing and kayaking. The Easter Seals also provide funding for accessible equipment of up to $3,000 per year, per child to help with purchases like wheelchairs and ramps.

The management and staff at Smitty’s ended their statement by thanking the residents of Kingston in helping them achieve this goal.

The restaurant has raised a total of $86,000 during the past 23 years of hosting Pancake Days.

Click to play video 'Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative'

Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

Kingston family turns a fun outdoor project into a local fundraising initiative

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Jantzen of Tetra Society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to play video 'N.B. people with disabilities call for priority in COVID-19 vaccine plan'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to play video 'Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities'

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities – Jan 2, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Town hall planned for Manitobans with disabilities to discuss effect of COVID-19 restrictions – Winnipeg

Although many Manitobans have been excited about the recent loosening of some COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by the province, some people feel they’ve been left behind when it comes to reopening plans.

The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities (MLPD) will be putting on a digital town hall Tuesday night, where people can raise their concerns about how they’ve been affected by the changes.

Carlos Sosa, a support worker and member of Inclusion Winnipeg and Inclusion Canada, will be co-moderating the town hall, and told 680 CJOB many of the issues facing Manitobans with disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and access to resources.

Read more:
Ottawa says coronavirus disability grant will be paid Friday after months-long delay

“The people I work with, many of whom live in poverty, have had limited options even before the pandemic,” he said.

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“(They’re) not able to access the internet to reserve books or to access the mental health supports, which are all online right now.

“Obviously, the issues of access to space is so critical. Libraries are critical. They provide programming, they allow people to meet, and with that being closed right now, your options are very limited to participate in the community.”

Click to play video 'Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities'

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities

Adaptive clothing for people with disabilities – Jan 2, 2021

Sosa said he understands that the pandemic has made it difficult — if not impossible — for those types of in-person programs to be active at the moment, but the situation is a good example of why more funding is needed for people with disabilities in their daily lives.

“This really echoes the need for increased social assistance rates so people with disabilities could afford computers and the internet so they could participate in events like this,” he said.

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“The gaps that exist in the first place are due to the systemic inequalities of poverty — and also added to it, the society. Physical barriers and also systemic biases, and I see that on a daily basis.

“Many people with disabilities are in poverty through no part of their own and in society we need to do a better job of including people in our communities.”

The town hall, co-moderated by Sosa and MLPD chair Whitney Hodgins, takes place online Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Click to play video 'Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech'

Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech

Manitoba commits funding to help health care, seniors and people with disabilities in throne speech – Oct 7, 2020

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

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Open House: Converting homes to safely age in place

The aging population spread of COVID-19 in care homes has lead to an increase in renovations on current homes to allow aging in place. One local company has been kept busy converting homes and especially bathrooms to safely allow people to stay in their homes longer.

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Short New Caption Video Explains Why Electric Scooters Endanger People with Disabilities and Others and Gives You Tips to Help Keep Them Out of Toronto

and — Sign Up to Tell the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee on February 25, 2021 Why Toronto Must Not Allow E-Scooters

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook:

February 12, 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have devastating impact on our society. That should be the focus of 100% of the time of our political leaders. Despite this, it is inexcusable that The City of Toronto, among some other Ontario cities, continues to actively consider the possibility of unleashing electric scooters (e-scooters) on the city.

E-scooters would endanger the safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children and everyone else. They would create new accessibility barriers in public spaces impeding people with disabilities. Toronto already has two many disability barriers.

E-scooters are now banned in Toronto. That should continue. It is not good enough to say they cannot be ridden on sidewalks. We know that people will ride them on sidewalks, if they are just banned from sidewalks.

Help us convince Toronto Mayor John Tory not to allow e-scooters in Toronto. Email him: [email protected] and call his office 416 397-2489. Tell him to say no to e-scooters. We know the e-scooter corporate lobbyists have a feeding frenzy going on at City Hall. We need Mayor Tory to listen to us, the people, and not to give in to the corporate lobbyists.

Take your pick! Here are two easy ways you can help us stop Toronto from allowing e-scooters.

1. Watch and Spread the Word About Our New Short Captioned Video on How to Help Us Stop Toronto from Endangering the Public by Unleashing Electric Scooters

We just made public a brand new short captioned video about why we must stop e-scooters from being allowed in Toronto. This video is available at

Please watch this video and spread the word about it. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky explains why e-scooters pose such a danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, and why they would create new disability barriers. This video offers you very practical tips on how you can help us get Toronto to say no to e-scooters.

Post the link to this video on your website, on Twitter, on Facebook or on whatever social media you use.

2. Sign Up to Make a Presentation over Zoom or the Phone to the February 25, 2021 Special Meeting of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, starting at 9:30 a.m., The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, appointed by the City of Toronto, is holding a special virtual meeting to receive feedback on the disability concerns with allowing e-scooters in Toronto. We encourage you to sign up to make a 5-minute presentation to that Committee. This would also help us oppose e-scooters in Toronto.

You can request a chance to speak to the Committee by emailing the Committee at [email protected] or phoning 416-338-5089. Below we set out the announcement of that meeting.

We commend the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee for holding this meeting. We urge Mayor Tory to log on to be a part of this meeting. As we said earlier, we need him to listen to us, and not only the corporate lobbyists who have had some 94 contacts with him or his office.

We also call on all members of Toronto City Council to log on to attend this meeting. It is especially important for 11 of them to do so, the 11 who voted on July 28, 2020 against having the City of Toronto further investigate disability concerns with allowing e-scooters in the city. Those 11 councilors who opposed us include: Councilors Ainslie, Bailao, Colle, Crawford, Filion, Ford, Grimes, Holyday, Lai, Layton and McKelvie.

It is great that one year ago, on February 3, 2020, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee unanimously recommended to Toronto City Council not to allow e-scooters at all. The City of Toronto should have dropped its consideration of allowing e-scooters then and there. It is wrong for us to have to continue to try to oppose it, especially when we are faced with the ordeal of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We also invite you to check out the AODA Alliance’s Action Kit on how to help us keep e-scooters out of Toronto.

You can learn even more about our effort to protect people with disabilities, seniors and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooters page.


Announcement of Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee February 25, 2021 Special Meeting

Originally posted at NOTICE OF SPECIAL MEETING


FEBRUARY 25, 2021

The Chair has called the meeting of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee of Thursday, February 25, 2021 as a special meeting to hear a presentation from Transportation Services staff on Electric Kick-scooters (E-scooters). The details of the meeting are as follows:

Date: Thursday, February 25, 2021

Time: 9:30 a.m.

Location: Video Conference

Meetings of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee will be held by electronic means and the proceedings of the Committee will be conducted publicly.

These measures are necessary to comply with physical distancing requirements and as civic buildings are closed to the public.

The video conference details will be published closer to the meeting dates.

The agenda will be distributed as soon as it is available. To view the most up-to-date schedule of meetings, please visit

To provide comments or make a presentation to the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee

The public may submit written comments or register to speak to the Committee on any item on the agenda.

Written comments may be submitted by writing to [email protected]

To speak to the Committee, please register by e-mail to [email protected] or by phone at 416-338-5089. Registered speakers will be provided with instructions on connecting to the meeting.

For further information or assistance, please contact Carol Kaustinen, Administrator, at 416-338-5089 or e-mail [email protected]


January 6, 2021

Closed Meeting Requirements: If the Committee wants to meet in closed session (privately), a member of the Committee must make a motion to do so and give the reason why the Committee has to meet privately (City of Toronto Act, 2006).

Notice to People Writing or Making Presentations to the Committee: The City of Toronto Act, 2006 and the City of Toronto Municipal Code authorize the City of Toronto to collect any personal information in your communication or presentation to City Council or its Committees and Boards. The City collects this information to enable it to make informed decisions on the relevant issue(s). If you are submitting letters, faxes, e-mails, presentations or other communications to the City, you should be aware that your name and the fact that you communicated with the City will become part of the public record and will appear on the City’s website. The City will also make your communication and any personal information in it – such as your postal address, telephone number or e-mail address – available to the public, unless you expressly request the City to remove it.

Many Committee, Board, and Advisory Body meetings are available over the internet for the public to view. If you speak at the meeting you may appear in the video record of the meeting.

If you want to learn more about why and how the City collects your information, write to the City Clerk’s Office, City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M5H 2N2 or call 416-338-5089.

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Alberta researchers want to improve transitional system for people with disabilities

Dr. Chester Ho, professor at the University of Alberta, says for years, patients with spinal cord injuries have been ringing the alarm about not having the same kind of access to disability care as those living in urban areas.

“We hear time after time from our patients that after they leave Glenrose or Foothills, they feel like they are falling off a cliff because although they got excellent services at these two regional centres… once they leave, it’s a whole different story,” explained Ho, who works in the division of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Ho, his assistant professor Adalberto Loyola-Sanchez and his team are looking for ways to make that transition period smoother for outpatients by exploring a model of transitional care that works like a hub and spokes system, akin to Alberta’s system of major and minor airports.

Edmonton and Calgary will primarily act as hubs, providing spinal cord injury specialty services and information to patients on managing their conditions.

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Whereas, health-care providers in communities outside of the two cities will be the spokes, providing ongoing care and support for outpatients in the community.

Ho says health-care providers in smaller communities that don’t regularly deal with spinal cord injuries often don’t have the experience or resources to manage the chronic issues that stem from the condition.

The four-year project was awarded a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s new Transitions in Care initiative. Several other entities have contributed funding for the project, totalling around $1 million.

Marty Rehman is one of Ho’s patients. Rehman, a Red Deer resident, sustained a spinal cord injury after falling and was left paralyzed from the neck down.

Read more:
‘Do our lives count for less?’: Coronavirus shows gaps in Canada’s disability aid, experts say

He spent nearly a year at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary before moving back home.

During his recovery process, he experienced some major roadblocks.

“There’s really no applicable therapy or equipment in the Red Deer Hospital,” Rehman said.

“They don’t really have anything as an outpatient for the physiotherapy. There’s nothing there that will help me improve.”

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But then Ho stepped in to find a resolution to help Rehman get the adequate rehabilitation care he needed.

“He got me hooked up with the therapist in Lacombe., Alta. It’s about a 50-kilometre drive from here,” he added.

Rehman has since met others in the same situation, who’ve had to commute from out of town in to receive care, further highlighting the need for more rehabilitation programs and equipment across the province.

Rehman says he received excellent care in Lacombe and is now able to have some movement in his arms, which has allowed him to operate a wheelchair with a joystick instead of having to use a chin-controlled wheelchair.

Ho’s study is expected to be completed by 2023.

Currently, both Lethbridge and Slave Lake are participants in the pilot project, however, the team is hoping to eventually expand the number of spokes to cover the entire province.

The researchers’ plan is to build capacity in spoke communities and constant communication between the hubs and spokes wherein patients with spinal cord injuries will experience a more consistent level of care, along with fewer complications in their lives.

Read more:
Canadians with disabilities struggling financially due to coronavirus pandemic: survey

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The Claresholm & District Transportation Society is a non-profit that has been helping bridge the gap for nearly two decades by helping provide rides to seniors and those with disabilities to their medical appointments.

“We’ve had [a situation]… where they had to discharge somebody and they did it at eight o’clock at night,” said Howard Paulsen, chair of the Claresholm & District Transportation Society.

“They were calling up our transportation service because they had no other way of getting home, so we will pick them up and bring them back home.”

He added that their drivers are qualified professionals who often go out of their way to offer clients personal safety and comfort.

Paulsen says with doctor appointments being daunting enough, those using their services have expressed gratitude for the drivers being there for them in support.

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

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People with disabilities request priority for COVID-19 vaccine in N.B.

The New Brunswick Coalition of Person with Disabilities is calling on the province to prioritize people with disabilities in its vaccine rollout schedule.

The group’s vice-president, Murielle Pitre, said people with disabilities often have other health conditions that leave them more vulnerable to the coronavirus which should be taking into consideration in the province’s vaccine plan.

“I think that we should figure somewhere on the schedule and the reality is that we are just not,” said Pitre.

Read more:
Coronavirus — Parents of Quebecers with developmental challenges call for vaccine priority

She said the coalition supports the decision to have health-care and senior-care workers and seniors at the top of the list to receive the vaccine. But she says people with disabilities should be included among the vulnerable population.

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“Many people with disabilities have lung issues. For example, I have scoliosis and my lungs don’t function at 100 per cent.”

Mike Parker of Moncton was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers from a heart and lung condition, which he said leave him more vulnerable to COVID-19.

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“In my case, it is a heart and lung disorder, which scares the heck out of me and that is why I don’t go out that much,” he said.

He said that as a person with a disability, he feels overlooked in the province’s vaccine rollout plans.

“Us the disabled, we are not even mentioned, so it is upsetting,” he said.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims'

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

COVID-19 long haulers denied disability insurance claims

People with disabilities are also not specifically listed in Nova Scotia’s vaccine rollout plans.

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Pitre said many people with disabilities have been housebound for months, which is impacting their mental health.

“Many people have been isolating since last year, I mean, since the beginning of the pandemic because they are afraid to go out,” she said.

Pitre said has spoken to her local MLA several times on the matter but hasn’t heard back yet.

“We are waiting on a response,” she said.

Read more:
People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Department of Health, Shawn Berry, said in an email to Global News that long-term care workers and residents and health-care workers are the priority and the province “will be providing more details in the coming weeks about the next groups in its vaccination roll out plans.”

Meanwhile, Parker said his shot cannot come soon enough.

“I am afraid that if I get (COVID-19) chances are I can’t say if I would survive or not. It is 50/50 with me,” he said.


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

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Waiting list ‘abyss’ in N.S. for care and housing of people with disabilities: doctor

A Nova Scotia family doctor says people with intellectual disabilities can develop illnesses ranging from diabetes to stroke when forced to live in unsuitable housing without expert help.

Dr. Karen McNeil told a legislature committee today many families feel like they’re experiencing “an abyss” because their loved ones languish on a 1,698-person waiting list, either to begin receiving care or in hope of being transferred to a more suitable living arrangement.

McNeil is a founding member of the Dalhousie family medicine adult developmental disability clinic in Halifax, where since 2010 she has supported primary care doctors who care for adults with intellectual disabilities

She told the committee that larger, so-called “congregate care” facilities that house about 525 of the 4,979 adults receiving care are unsuitable and that it’s well established they should be living in smaller, community homes.

Read more:
N.S. pledges homes for people with disabilities but advocate calls pace ‘glacial’

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McNeil says that’s particularly true during a pandemic when sharing bedrooms and bathrooms “is a recipe for disaster.”

The doctor says she sees people who are frustrated by living amid too much noise or who lack specialized care, leading to undiagnosed needs.

“When people with intellectual and development disabilities are forced to live in unhealthy situations, they try to communicate, and this is difficult when you have few words or no words,” McNeil told the Department of Community Services legislature committee.

“Sometimes they communicate very loudly, sometimes they get physical, sometimes they beat on themselves, sometimes out of desperation they beat on others.”

“I feel that they are telling us their environment is not suitable and in some cases it is oppressive,” she added.

The physician says family doctors often prescribe psychotropic medication because the province hasn’t created multidisciplinary teams of doctors who can probe the root causes of frustration. “There’s no reason we can’t create these teams,” she said. “And by not having this we are using more drugs. What do those drugs do? They create side effects such as diabetes and put them at risk of heart attack and stroke.”

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Facing eviction during COVID-19

Facing eviction during COVID-19

McNeil is part of the advocacy organization, Community Homes Action Group, which is urging the province to move more swiftly toward transferring people out of their congregate facilities – referred to as adult residential centres or regional rehabilitation centres – to small options homes where up to four people live with caregivers.

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Joyce d’Entremont, the chief executive of Mountains and Meadows Care Group, noted that a plan to shift 27 residents from Harbourside adult residential facility in Yarmouth to community homes – the first in the provincewide plan to phase out the institutions – has shown the process must take place at the pace that families and residents are comfortable with.

The Harbourside move, d’Entremont said, is happening over 12 to 18 months.

The hearing heard that Nova Scotia is the last jurisdiction in Canada to undertake the closure of institutions, after a moratorium on the construction of small options facilities occurred through the 1990s, as other provinces forged ahead with smaller residences.

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Battle over housing rights for people with intellectual disabilities in N.S. court

Maria Medioli, executive director of the disability support program, told the committee the advantage of being last is that the province has learned about the downside of shifting people into the community without adequate support.

“We have to set people up for success,” she said. “Some of these people have lived in an institution their whole lives. They’ve been told when to eat, when to sleep and who they have to live with. So to move to a community can be scary.”

The government has said in earlier news releases that it has budgeted $7.4 million in 2020-21 to create 50 new community placements, with plans to expand this transition “over the next several years.”

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Tracey Taweel, the deputy minister of Community Services, noted during today’s hearing that the department’s budget for the disabilities support program has grown $70 million in five years, to $389 million annually, with $75.5 million going toward the large congregate facilities.

She noted in her presentation that the province “remains fully committed to phasing out” the large facilities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2021.

Click to play video 'Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports'

Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports

Dalhousie University professor says older LGBTQ+ face challenges in accessing housing supports – Dec 30, 2020

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook:

January 29, 2021


Ontario is on the verge of a deeply troubling anniversary of Ontario Government inaction. This Sunday, January 31, 2021 marks the two year anniversary since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This report was written by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

In the two years since it received this report, the Ford Government has announced no strong, comprehensive plan to implement its recommendations. Most of its recommendations have not been implemented at all. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a marvelous job and that Ontario is only 30 percent along the way towards the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

It is a wrenching irony that this anniversary of inaction comes right after we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Canada’s Parliament deciding to include equality for people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That momentous breakthrough took place on January 28, 1981, 40 years ago yesterday. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in no small part to implement that constitutional right to equality for people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, the AODA Alliance has spearheaded grassroots efforts to get the Ford Government to come forward with a strong and comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. We have offered many constructive recommendations. We have also offered the Government our help. On Twitter and in our AODA Alliance Updates, we have maintained an ongoing count of the number of days that had passed since the Government received the Onley Report, keeping the spotlight on this issue. As of today, it has been 729 days.

The Government has taken a few new actions on accessibility since it took office in June 2018, the most important of which are summarized below. But these have been slow, halting and inadequate.


1. What the Onley Report Found About the Plight of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed David Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He was mandated to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, the goal which the AODA requires. Based on public feedback he received, the Onley report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years then left before 2025 (now less than four years), the Onley report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Onley concluded that progress on accessibility for people with disabilities under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley also found “this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley Report accurately concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley Report said damning things about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley Report made concrete, practical recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out below is the Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, David Onley called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

2. What New Has the Ford Government Done on Accessibility Since the Onley Report?

It was good, but long overdue, that when releasing the Onley report back in March 2019, the Ford Government at last lifted its inexcusable 258 day-long freeze on the important work of three Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the previous nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. Because of those delays, the Government delayed progress on accessibility for people with disabilities in health care and education. We are feeling the harmful effects of those delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ford Government’s main focus of its efforts on accessibility for people with disabilities has been on educating the public on the benefits of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. That is work that the previous Government had been doing for over a decade. That alone will not bring about significant progress.

Since releasing the Onley Report, the Ford Government has held a couple of staged ministerial events, on January 28, 2019 and on October 29, 2019 (for which an inaccessible email invitation was sent), supposedly to announce a framework to implement the Onley Report. However they announced little, if anything, new. To the contrary, they focused on re-announcing things the Government had been doing for years, including at least one measure dating back to the Bob Rae NDP Government that was in power over a quarter century ago.

The Government has announced no plans to implement any of the recommendations for reform of accessibility standards from the Transportation Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report to the Ontario Government in the spring of 2018, almost three years ago) or the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report some ten or eleven months ago).

The Government has had in hand for at least a month, if not more, the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It must be posted for public comment. The Government has not posted it, or announced when it will do so. In the midst of this pandemic, swift action in the area of health care accessibility is desperately needed for people with disabilities and all Ontarians.

In the meantime, the one major new strategy on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its over two and a half years in office has been an action that David Onley never recommended and has, to our knowledge, never publicly endorsed. The Government diverted 1.3 million public dollars to the seriously problematic Rick Hansen Foundation’s private building accessibility certification program. We have made public serious concerns about that plan. The Government never acted on those concerns. Almost two years later, there is no proof that that misuse of public money led to the removal of any barriers in an Ontario building.

Despite announcing that the Government will take an all of Government approach to accessibility in response to the Onley Report, we have seen the opposite take place. TVO has not fixed the serious accessibility problems with its online learning resources, much needed during distance learning in this pandemic. The Government is building a new courthouse in downtown Toronto with serious accessibility problems about which disability advocates forewarned. During the pandemic, the Government has had circulated two successive critical care triage protocols which direct hospitals to use an approach to triage that would discriminate against some patients with disabilities and has refused to directly speak to us about these concerns. Over our objection, the Government has unleashed electric scooters on Ontarians, exposing people with disabilities to dangers to their safety and accessibility. This is all amply documented on the AODA Alliance’s website.

Over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities deserve better.

3. The Onley Report’s Summary of Its Recommendations

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

11. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.

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