Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees


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

Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees

February 7, 2019

SUMMARY

1. The Ford Government’s Stated Reason for Maintaining its Freeze on the Work of Ontario’s Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees has now Vanished –It’s Time for the Government to Lift that Freeze

On January 31, 2019, David Onley submitted the final report of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to The Ford Government. The Ford Government had said it was waiting for that report before it would make a decision on lifting the seven-month freeze it has maintained on the work of the Education and the Health Care Standards Development Committees. Those committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend which barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system should be removed or prevented. The freeze on those committees has dragged on for 231 days.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. In that letter, set out below, we call on the Government to:

* Now let the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees get back to work.

* Immediately make public the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, in an accessible format, and

* Table the David Onley report with the Ontario Legislature immediately upon its resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019.

2. Let Us Know What Disability Barriers You Have Faced in Ontario’s Health Care System

In the hope that we will succeed in getting the Ford Government to lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, we are working, together with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, to prepare a joint brief to that Standards Development Committee. We plan to spell out in that brief what an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

We need your help. Let us know about disability barriers you have had to face in Ontario’s health care system. Give concrete examples. We don’t need the names of specific patients, doctors, or other health care providers. We won’t make public any names or identifying details.

We would also appreciate receiving your suggestions on what health care facilities can do to provide barrier-free health care to patients with any kind of disability. Good success stories can help with this effort.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

As you think about what to suggest to us, we recommend that you take a look at an earlier introductory brief on health care barriers that the AODA Alliance submitted to the Ontario Government on August 26, 2016.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2019 Letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

February 6, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors

Via Email: [email protected]

Frost Building South

6th Floor

7 Queen’s Park Cres

Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: The Need to Now End Your Government’s Freeze on the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the Areas of Education and Health Care

We write to ask you to now end your Government’s 7-month freeze on the important work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that have been appointed to develop recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. On December 20, 2018, you wrote the chairs of the two Education Standards Development Committees and, we believe, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, to say that you were awaiting the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act before deciding on this issue.

We understand that on Thursday, January 31, 2019, your Government received the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. As such, you are now in a position to know what Mr. Onley recommended in this regard. As such, we ask you to immediately lift your Government’s freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. Let them get back to their important work.

You have had our request to end this freeze on your desk as Minister for Accessibility for over seven months. The media has reported on it. You have had briefings on it. Moreover, the topic is not new to your Party. When in opposition, the Ontario Conservative Party helped us by pressing the former Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Your party criticized The former Government for dragging its feet before appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

It is also very important for the public, including Ontarians with disabilities to know what David Onley has found and what he has recommended regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We therefore ask that you immediately make public the report that the David Onley AODA Independent Review has rendered to the Government. We also ask that pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, you file that report with the Legislature immediately upon the Legislature’s resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019. Nothing in the AODA restricts your Government from making Mr. Onley’s report public now, before the Legislature resumes sitting.  Section 41(4) of the AODA provides:

”      (4)   The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.”

Please be sure that Mr. Onley’s report is made public in an accessible format. PDF format is insufficient for that purpose. Please make sure that when it is released, it is simultaneously available in an accessible format such as MS Word. When The former Government released the last AODA Independent Review report, prepared by Mayo Moran, it did so in PDF format. We had to intervene to get this accessibility barrier corrected. It was illustrative of the many preventable disability barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario.

We look forward to working with you on the implementation of Mr. Onley’s report.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont

Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]

Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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Now that The Ford Government Received David Onley’s Independent Review Report on the AODA, the AODA Alliance Has Called on Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho to Immediately Lift the Government’s Freeze on the Work of the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees


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

February 7, 2019

SUMMARY

1. The Ford Government’s Stated Reason for Maintaining its Freeze on the Work of Ontario’s Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees has now Vanished It’s Time for the Government to Lift that Freeze

On January 31, 2019, David Onley submitted the final report of his Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to The Ford Government. The Ford Government had said it was waiting for that report before it would make a decision on lifting the seven-month freeze it has maintained on the work of the Education and the Health Care Standards Development Committees. Those committees were appointed under the AODA to recommend which barriers in Ontario’s education system and health care system should be removed or prevented. The freeze on those committees has dragged on for 231 days.

On February 6, 2019, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. In that letter, set out below, we call on the Government to:

* Now let the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees get back to work.

* Immediately make public the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review, in an accessible format, and

* Table the David Onley report with the Ontario Legislature immediately upon its resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019.

2. Let Us Know What Disability Barriers You Have Faced in Ontario’s Health Care System

In the hope that we will succeed in getting the Ford Government to lift its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, we are working, together with the ARCH Disability Law Centre, to prepare a joint brief to that Standards Development Committee. We plan to spell out in that brief what an AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

We need your help. Let us know about disability barriers you have had to face in Ontario’s health care system. Give concrete examples. We don’t need the names of specific patients, doctors, or other health care providers. We won’t make public any names or identifying details.

We would also appreciate receiving your suggestions on what health care facilities can do to provide barrier-free health care to patients with any kind of disability. Good success stories can help with this effort.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

As you think about what to suggest to us, we recommend that you take a look at an earlier introductory brief on health care barriers that the AODA Alliance submitted to the Ontario Government on August 26, 2016.

MORE DETAILS
Text of the AODA Alliance’s February 6, 2019 Letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho

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

February 6, 2019

To: The Hon. Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility and Seniors Via Email: [email protected]
Frost Building South
6th Floor
7 Queen’s Park Cres
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y7

Dear Minister,

Re: The Need to Now End Your Government’s Freeze on the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees in the Areas of Education and Health Care

We write to ask you to now end your Government’s 7-month freeze on the important work of the AODA Standards Development Committees that have been appointed to develop recommendations on the disability barriers that need to be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system. On December 20, 2018, you wrote the chairs of the two Education Standards Development Committees and, we believe, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, to say that you were awaiting the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act before deciding on this issue.

We understand that on Thursday, January 31, 2019, your Government received the final report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review. As such, you are now in a position to know what Mr. Onley recommended in this regard. As such, we ask you to immediately lift your Government’s freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees. Let them get back to their important work.

You have had our request to end this freeze on your desk as Minister for Accessibility for over seven months. The media has reported on it. You have had briefings on it. Moreover, the topic is not new to your Party. When in opposition, the Ontario Conservative Party helped us by pressing the former Government to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Your party criticized The former Government for dragging its feet before appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to recommend what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

It is also very important for the public, including Ontarians with disabilities to know what David Onley has found and what he has recommended regarding the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. We therefore ask that you immediately make public the report that the David Onley AODA Independent Review has rendered to the Government. We also ask that pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, you file that report with the Legislature immediately upon the Legislature’s resuming its sittings on February 19, 2019. Nothing in the AODA restricts your Government from making Mr. Onley’s report public now, before the Legislature resumes sitting. Section 41(4) of the AODA provides:

” (4) The Minister shall submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall cause the report to be laid before the Assembly if it is in session or, if not, at the next session.”

Please be sure that Mr. Onley’s report is made public in an accessible format. PDF format is insufficient for that purpose. Please make sure that when it is released, it is simultaneously available in an accessible format such as MS Word. When The former Government released the last AODA Independent Review report, prepared by Mayo Moran, it did so in PDF format. We had to intervene to get this accessibility barrier corrected. It was illustrative of the many preventable disability barriers that people with disabilities continue to face in Ontario.

We look forward to working with you on the implementation of Mr. Onley’s report.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance cc: Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, [email protected]
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]



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The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier ? The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School


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

January 24, 2019

SUMMARY

There have been 216 days since work on developing a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was frozen in the wake of the election of Ontario’s new Government. The work of the two Education Standards Development Committees, appointed to recommend reforms in Ontario’s school system (the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee) and in Ontario’s colleges and universities (the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee), still remains on hold. School boards, colleges and universities continue to leave disability barriers in place. They spend public money to create new barriers, without an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in place to stop that from continuing.

In the meantime, It is great that the Globe and Mail recently focused attention on one of the troubling and recurring barriers in Ontario’s school system that we have wanted to raise at the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee one which the Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue. It is the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. The outdated section 265(1)(m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265. (1) It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principals duties as a teacher,

(m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principals judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; ”

We have been concerned that this power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with special education needs away from school. Below we set forth a powerful article in the January 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail focusing on this issue. An earlier January 5, 2019 Globe and Mail article also addresses this issue.

This unfair power is sometimes called the power to exclude a student from school and at other times is called the power to refuse to admit a student to school. It needs to be substantially reined in.

The status quo is unacceptable. Principals have a sweeping discretion to exclude students from school, without any real accountability. Students and their families need not be given proper notice, reasons or due process. Refusals to admit can go on for days, weeks or months. A school board need never track how often students are excluded from school, or for how long, or for what reason.

Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

“9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).”

There is a much better way to deal with this issue. The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board passed a detailed motion over one year ago, in January 2018. It called for TDSB to adopt a policy that will ensure that this power is not abused or misused. It includes great ideas on how to deal with this issue.

We support that TDSB SEAC recommendation, which we set out below. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky led the development of that recommendation while he served as chair of TDSB’s SEAC. All are still awaiting a new TDSB policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Earlier this month, TDSB staff told the TDSB SEAC that a draft policy would be shared with them shortly. We do not yet know how much, if any, of the SEAC recommendation will be adopted.

We offer two important observations on the January 9, 2019 Globe and Mail article that is set out below. First, the article, which is otherwise very commendable, incorrectly confuses the issue of exclusions from school or refusals to admit a student to school, on the one hand, with issues surrounding inclusion of students with disabilities in a regular classroom on the other. This can be a distraction from the problems with the use of the power to exclude a student from school.

When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom does not even arise when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all. It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom.

Second, the Globe article focuses in part on situations where a principal excludes a student from school due to violence. Yet the concern has been raised that principals don’t only refuse students from school due to violence.

When will the Ford Government let us know what it is going to do with the Education Standards Development Committees? As we announced in the January 20, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Government now says it is awaiting the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review before it decides what to do with these Standards Development Committees. The same goes for the Health Care Standards Development Committee, whose work has also been frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election. CBC asked the Ford Government about this freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees in August and November 2018. Back then, the Ford Government did not say it was awaiting David Onley’s report. Had it done so, we would have pressed Mr. Onley to immediately issue an interim report addressing the need to lift that freeze.

We urge one and all to send David Onley a short email as soon as possible. Please tell him if you support the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief on how to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including our call for the Ford Government to immediately lift its freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees . You can email David Onley at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS
Globe and Mail, January 7, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-for-students-with-disabilities-call-on-ontario-to-stop/ Autism advocates push Ontario to ban school exclusions

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO
Staff

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal’s power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.

A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days.

Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.

The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an “outdated” provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.

On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board.

Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is usually done at a principal’s discretion; and it can last for months.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parentrun group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she’s seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.

“We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that’s being used now is we’ll just throw the kids out,” she said.

“Our kids are not disposable.

They’re not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution.

But neither is full exclusion.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson did not address the question of how the minister plans to address the situation.

In an e-mail statement, Kayla Iafelice said that exclusions are not to be used as a form of discipline. She added: “Our government’s top priority will always be to ensure that every student in Ontario has access to a meaningful education in safe and supportive school environments.”

Including special-needs students with behavioural issues in regular classrooms has become a matter of debate in many parts of the country, and some educators wonder if it’s gone too far without a rethinking of how children with diverse needs are taught.

Teachers report an increase in violence in schools, from threats to physical attacks, that they say makes teaching more difficult.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said there has been some good work over the past few years to recognize and address the issue of violence in classrooms. But “we still have a long way to go because … the supports in the classrooms aren’t necessarily as they should be to make sure that people are safe,” he said.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, noted an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.

Similarly, a survey of parents of children with special needs released in November, 2017, by the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that children with special needs were missing anywhere from half an hour to three hours of school a day, or being told to stay home because of staff shortages. A number of children, the survey found, were sent home because of behavioural incidents at school and these exclusions, which were undocumented, would continue for days or weeks.

The North Vancouver and Greater Victoria school districts passed motions this fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, or are sent home early or dropped off late and being excluded from field trips.

“It is useful, for the school district and for parents, to have formally tracked information about modified instructional schedules. This can help to provide the best possible educational programs for all students,” said Deneka Michaud, a spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

Toronto District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Motion #6 Need for TDSB to Establish A Policy on “Refusals to Admit”

BACKGROUND

At its February 2017 meeting, SEAC received a presentation by the ARCH Disability Law Centre. It raised concerns that school boards, including TDSB, at times inappropriately use “refusals to admit” students to school. This issue can significantly affect students with special education needs and all students with disabilities. A school or principal may tell a their family to keep the student at home for hours, days, or longer, without giving reasons or following safeguards required when a student is suspended or expelled.

ARCH told SEAC it learned that TDSB did not then centrally collect statistics on how often these exclusions occur. ARCH expressed concerns (not limited to TDSB) for example, that a school may tell a family to keep a student with a disability at home, either because proper accommodations have not yet been arranged at school, or because supports, such as a Special Needs Assistant, were away. ARCH said when ARCH lawyers intervene, these situations are more likely corrected (again, not limited to TDSB).

TDSB staff made presentations to SEAC at its May, June and November 2017 meetings. TDSB staff said TDSB has no policy on the use of refusals to admit. Practices can vary from school to school. TDSB has a procedure (not a policy) regarding appeals from a refusal to admit. TDSB staff have been working on draft reforms after SEAC raised this.

Recommendation

SEAC recommends as follows:
TDSB Needs a Refusal to Admit Policy
1. TDSB should promptly adopt a comprehensive, mandatory policy on when TDSB will exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school. What is a Refusal to Admit?
2. The refusal to admit policy should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with the policy.
a) A “refusal to admit” should include any time TDSB formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
b) A refusal to admit includes a TDSB request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
c) A refusal to admit does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but TDSB is willing to let the student attend school. Ensuring Alternative Education to Student Whom TDSB Refuses to Admit to School
3. The “refusal to admit” policy should require TDSB to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program, and that TDSB keeps record of and publicly accounts for its doing so. When a Refusal to Admit is Allowed
4. The policy should specifically spell out the situations when TDSB can consider refusing to admit a student, including:
a) A refusal to admit should only be imposed when necessary to protect health and safety. b) A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary.
c) A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.
d) If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. TDSB should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school.
e) The policy should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.
f) A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days.
g) TDSB should justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the students family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.
h) When TDSB staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.
i) TDSB should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that TDSB staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent. Extension of Refusal to Admit
5. The policy should set these terms:
a) If after a refusal to admit expires, TDSB wants to extend it, TDSB staff must justify it.
b) The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return.
c) An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools.
d) An extension should not be permitted if TDSB has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive education. Fair Procedure
6. The “refusal to admit” policy should set out fair procedures that TDSB must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of TDSB and its employees, including:
a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when TDSB is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
b) The principal should be required to notify the school superintendent in writing that the principal is going to refuse to admit a student and the reasons for this.
c) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
d) The superintendent should independently assess whether TDSB has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the TDSB refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
e) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that TDSB has taken or will be taking to expedite a students return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
f) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps TDSB is taking to expedite the students return to school and time lines for those steps, the TDSB’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
g) These procedures should again be followed any time TDSB extends a refusal to admit.
h) A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the executive superintendent of the Learning Centre where that student ordinarily attends.
i) No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education. Appeals
7. The refusal to admit policy should include a fair and prompt appeal process which includes:
a) The appeal should be to officials at TDSB who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
b) TDSB should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly.
e) On the appeal, the TDSB should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons. Accountability and Transparency of TDSB’s Refusals to Admit
8. The policy should include:
a) TDSB should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.
g) Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has special education needs or otherwise has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school. c) TDSB should centrally collect these reports.
d) TDSB should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve , students with special education needs or any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit. Funding for Emergency Disability Accommodation Needs
9. To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, the TDSB should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

Interim Safeguards
10. Starting immediately, and until a new refusal to admit policy is approved, TDSB should require that any formal or informal refusal to admit a student be in writing, with reasons for it, and with the student’s family being told of their right to appeal under the existing TDSB appeal procedure. TDSB should require that any refusals to admit during this period be centrally reported in writing, with statistics reported quarterly to the Board, the public and SEAC.



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The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School


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

The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School

January 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

There have been 216 days since work on developing a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was frozen in the wake of the election of Ontario’s new Government. The work of the two Education Standards Development Committees, appointed to recommend reforms in Ontario’s school system (the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee) and in Ontario’s colleges and universities (the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee), still remains on hold. School boards, colleges and universities continue to leave disability barriers in place. They spend public money to create new barriers, without an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in place to stop that from continuing.

In the meantime, It is great that the Globe and Mail recently focused attention on one of the troubling and recurring barriers in Ontario’s school system that we have wanted to raise at the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee – one which the Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue. It is the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. The outdated section 265(1)(m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265.  (1)  It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principal’s duties as a teacher,…

… (m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils; …”

We have been concerned that this power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with special education needs away from school. Below we set forth a powerful article in the January 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail focusing on this issue. An earlier January 5, 2019 Globe and Mail article also addresses this issue.

This unfair power is sometimes called the power to exclude a student from school and at other times is called the power to refuse to admit a student to school. It needs to be substantially reined in.

The status quo is unacceptable. Principals have a sweeping discretion to exclude students from school, without any real accountability. Students and their families need not be given proper notice, reasons or due process. Refusals to admit can go on for days, weeks or months. A school board need never track how often students are excluded from school, or for how long, or for what reason.

Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

“9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).”

There is a much better way to deal with this issue. The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board passed a detailed motion over one year ago, in January 2018. It called for TDSB to adopt a policy that will ensure that this power is not abused or misused. It includes great ideas on how to deal with this issue.

We support that TDSB SEAC recommendation, which we set out below. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky led the development of that recommendation while he served as chair of TDSB’s SEAC. All are still awaiting a new TDSB policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Earlier this month, TDSB staff told the TDSB SEAC that a draft policy would be shared with them shortly. We do not yet know how much, if any, of the SEAC recommendation will be adopted.

We offer two important observations on the January 9, 2019 Globe and Mail article that is set out below. First, the article, which is otherwise very commendable, incorrectly confuses the issue of exclusions from school or refusals to admit a student to school, on the one hand, with issues surrounding inclusion of students with disabilities in a regular classroom on the other. This can be a distraction from the problems with the use of the power to exclude a student from school.

When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom does not even arise when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all. It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom.

Second, the Globe article focuses in part on situations where a principal excludes a student from school due to violence. Yet the concern has been raised that principals don’t only refuse students from school due to violence.

When will the Ford Government let us know what it is going to do with the Education Standards Development Committees? As we announced in the January 20, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Government now says it is awaiting the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review before it decides what to do with these Standards Development Committees. The same goes for the Health Care Standards Development Committee, whose work has also been frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election. CBC asked the Ford Government about this freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees  in August and November 2018. Back then, the Ford Government did not say it was awaiting David Onley’s report. Had it done so, we would have pressed Mr. Onley to immediately issue an interim report addressing the need to lift that freeze.

We urge one and all to send David Onley a short email as soon as possible. Please tell him if you support the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief on how to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including our call for the Ford Government to immediately lift its freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees . You can email David Onley at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 Globe and Mail,  January 7, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-for-students-with-disabilities-call-on-ontario-to-stop/

Autism advocates push Ontario to ban school exclusions

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO

Staff

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal’s power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.

A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days.

Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.

The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an “outdated” provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.

On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board.

Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is usually done at a principal’s discretion; and it can last for months.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parentrun group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she’s seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.

“We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that’s being used now is we’ll just throw the kids out,” she said.

“Our kids are not disposable.

They’re not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution.

But neither is full exclusion.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson did not address the question of how the minister plans to address the situation.

In an e-mail statement, Kayla Iafelice said that exclusions are not to be used as a form of discipline. She added: “Our government’s top priority will always be to ensure that every student in Ontario has access to a meaningful education in safe and supportive school environments.”

Including special-needs students with behavioural issues in regular classrooms has become a matter of debate in many parts of the country, and some educators wonder if it’s gone too far without a rethinking of how children with diverse needs are taught.

Teachers report an increase in violence in schools, from threats to physical attacks, that they say makes teaching more difficult.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said there has been some good work over the past few years to recognize and address the issue of violence in classrooms. But “we still have a long way to go because … the supports in the classrooms aren’t necessarily as they should be to make sure that people are safe,” he said.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, noted an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.

Similarly, a survey of parents of children with special needs released in November, 2017, by the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that children with special needs were missing anywhere from half an hour to three hours of school a day, or being told to stay home because of staff shortages. A number of children, the survey found, were sent home because of behavioural incidents at school and these exclusions, which were undocumented, would continue for days or weeks.

The North Vancouver and Greater Victoria school districts passed motions this fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, or are sent home early or dropped off late and being excluded from field trips.

“It is useful, for the school district and for parents, to have formally tracked information about modified instructional schedules. This can help to provide the best possible educational programs for all students,” said Deneka Michaud, a spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

Toronto District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Motion #6 Need for TDSB to Establish A Policy on “Refusals to Admit”

BACKGROUND

At its February 2017 meeting, SEAC received a presentation by the ARCH Disability Law Centre. It raised concerns that school boards, including TDSB, at times inappropriately use “refusals to admit” students to school. This issue can significantly affect students with special education needs and all students with disabilities. A school or principal may tell a their family to keep the student at home for hours, days, or longer, without giving reasons or following safeguards required when a student is suspended or expelled.

ARCH told SEAC it learned that TDSB did not then centrally collect statistics on how often these exclusions occur. ARCH expressed concerns (not limited to TDSB) for example, that a school may tell a family to keep a student with a disability at home, either because proper accommodations have not yet been arranged at school, or because supports, such as a Special Needs Assistant, were away. ARCH said when ARCH lawyers intervene, these situations are more likely corrected (again, not limited to TDSB).

TDSB staff made presentations to SEAC at its May, June and November 2017 meetings. TDSB staff said TDSB has no policy on the use of refusals to admit. Practices can vary from school to school. TDSB has a procedure (not a policy) regarding appeals from a refusal to admit. TDSB staff  have been working on draft reforms after SEAC raised this.

Recommendation

SEAC recommends as follows:

TDSB Needs a Refusal to Admit Policy
  1. TDSB should promptly adopt a comprehensive, mandatory policy on when TDSB will exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school.
What is a Refusal to Admit?
  1. The refusal to admit policy should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with the policy.
  2. a) A “refusal to admit” should include any time TDSB formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  3. b) A refusal to admit includes a TDSB request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  4. c) A refusal to admit does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but TDSB is willing to let the student attend school.
Ensuring Alternative Education to Student Whom TDSB Refuses to Admit to School
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should require TDSB to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program, and that TDSB keeps record of and publicly accounts for its doing so.
When a Refusal to Admit is Allowed
  1. The policy should specifically spell out the situations when TDSB can consider refusing to admit a student, including:
  2. a) A refusal to admit should only be imposed when necessary to protect health and safety.
  3. b) A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary.
  4. c) A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.
  5. d) If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. TDSB should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school.
  6. e) The policy should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.
  7. f) A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days.
  8. g) TDSB should justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the student’s family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.
  9. h) When TDSB staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.
  10. i) TDSB should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that TDSB staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.
Extension of Refusal to Admit
  1. The policy should set these terms:
  2. a) If after a refusal to admit expires, TDSB wants to extend it, TDSB staff must justify it.
  3. b) The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return.
  4. c) An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools.
  5. d) An extension should not be permitted if TDSB has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive education.
Fair Procedure
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should set out fair procedures that TDSB must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of TDSB and its employees, including:
  2. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when TDSB is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  3. b) The principal should be required to notify the school superintendent in writing that the principal is going to refuse to admit a student and the reasons for this.
  4. c) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  5. d) The superintendent should independently assess whether TDSB has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the TDSB refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  6. e) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that TDSB has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  7. f) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps TDSB is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the TDSB’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
  8. g) These procedures should again be followed any time TDSB extends a refusal to admit.
  9. h) A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the executive superintendent of the Learning Centre where that student ordinarily attends.
  10. i) No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.
Appeals
  1. The refusal to admit policy should include a fair and prompt appeal process which includes:
  2. a) The appeal should be to officials at TDSB who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
  3. b) TDSB should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  4. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  5. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly.
  6. e) On the appeal, the TDSB should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  7. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons.
Accountability and Transparency of TDSB’s Refusals to Admit
  1. The policy should include:
  2. a) TDSB should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.
  3. g) Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has special education needs or otherwise has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school.
  4. c) TDSB should centrally collect these reports.
  5. d) TDSB should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve , students with special education needs or any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.
Funding for Emergency Disability Accommodation Needs
  1. To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, the TDSB should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

Interim Safeguards

Starting immediately, and until a new refusal to admit policy is approved, TDSB should require that any formal or informal refusal to admit a student be in writing, with reasons for it, and with the student’s family being told of their right to appeal under the existing TDSB appeal procedure. TDSB should require that any refusals to admit during this period be centrally reported in writing, with statistics reported quarterly to the Board, the public and SEAC.



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In the Legislature Yesterday, the Ford Government Refused to Lift Its 168-Day Freeze on Standards Development Committees that Were Working on Recommendations to Remove Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care System


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

Yet Two Years Ago Tomorrow, It Was the Tory Party That Had Demanded in the Legislature that Ontario Create the Very Education Accessibility Regulation that the Ford Government Has Now Frozen Work on Developing

December 4, 2018

SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday, the Government also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

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

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

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

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

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

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

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

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

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

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

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

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

December 4, 2018

         SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday, the Government also said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

         MORE DETAILS

Ontario Hansard December 3, 2018

Question Period

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

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

My question is to the Deputy Premier.

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

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

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

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

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

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary.

Mr. Joel Harden: Back to the Deputy Premier:

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

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

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

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

Ontario Legislature Question Period December 5, 2016

ACCESSIBILITY FOR THE DISABLED

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

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

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

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

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

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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CBC Radio and TV Report on the Ford Government’s Continued Freeze on the Work of Standards Development Committees to Tackle Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care Systems


The Ford Government Makes the Obviously Incorrect Claim that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Doesn’t Cover Accessibility of Buildings

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

November 16, 2018

SUMMARY

1. Still No End in Sight for the Ford Government’s Four-Month-long Freeze of the Work on Removing and Preventing Barriers Against Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education system, and Barriers Against Patients with Disabilities in Ontario’s Health Care System

On November 13, 2018, CBC TV and radio news aired excellent reports on the Ford Government’s ongoing and unjustified freeze on the work of the Standards Development Committees that were appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to recommend what disability barriers must be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and health care system. This freeze has gone on for over four months. From what the Government told CBC, this freeze appears to have no end in sight. The Government says that it will be giving this issue “further consideration””

We set out below the text of the online version of this CBC news report. While preparing this report, CBC news sent AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky a statement, which the Ford Government sent to CBC on November 9, 2018 on point. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on the Government’s statement. We set that full statement out below.

The Government’s statement notes that the Government is resuming the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. All that Government statement said about the work on education and health care standards was this:

“We will have more to say regarding the resumption of the Education and Health Standards Development Committees upon further consideration.”

The Government has made no public statement on what “further consideration” is needed, or how long this further consideration will take, or why it has taken over four months so far, with no end in sight. The new Government has shown itself capable of acting quickly and decisively on other issues, when it wishes to do so.

Early last summer, the Ontario Government said that it needed to brief the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors on this. It does not take this long to brief a minister.

The AODA Alliance wrote the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho back on August 29, 2018, to spell out in detail why it is important for the Ford Government to lift this freeze now. the Government has not answered that letter.

If it takes the Government this long just to decide on resuming the work of these Standards Development Committees, there can be real concern whether the Government will act promptly and effectively to get Ontario back on schedule to reach accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. This delay in resuming the work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees does not square with the commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities that Doug Ford made in the 2018 Ontario election. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

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

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

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

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

2. The Ford Government Wrongly Claims that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Doesn’t Cover Accessibility of Buildings

Is the Ford Government trying to substantially cut back on the reach of the AODA? We have a basis for concern.

The Government’s November 9, 2018 statement to CBC includes a very disturbing new and clearly incorrect statement on the reach of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The CBC’s November 13, 2018 news report does not address this issue.

The Ford Government told CBC:

“It is important to note that accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but under the Ontario Building Code. Accessibility requirements for buildings are included in Ontarios Building Code to make it easier for organizations by ensuring that all construction requirements are found in one place. The Building Code is the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.”

This is obviously untrue. Accessibility in buildings falls well within the AODA. It is true that the Ontario Building Code has provisions, albeit chronically insufficient ones, on accessibility in new buildings and in major renovations of existing buildings. However, it is incorrect for the Government to claim that accessibility of buildings is somehow outside the scope of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The very first section of the AODA specifically includes accessibility of buildings. It defines the scope and purpose of the AODA. Section 1 of the AODA provides:

” 1. Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the purpose of this Act is to benefit all Ontarians by,
(a) developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025; and
(b) providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities, of the Government of Ontario and of representatives of industries and of various sectors of the economy in the development of the accessibility standards.”

Section 3(d) of the AODA makes the AODA apply, to among others, a person who:

” (d) owns or occupies a building, structure or premises”

Section 6 of the AODA requires an accessibility standard to address, among other things, barriers in buildings. Section 6 includes:

” (6) An accessibility standard shall,
(a) set out measures, policies, practices or other requirements for the identification and removal of barriers with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, premises or such other things as may be prescribed, and for the prevention of the erection of such barriers;”

In February 2015, the former Ontario Government released the report of an Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by former University of Toronto law dean Mayo Moran. Her report said this, among other things:

* “The Building Code does not require retrofitting of existing buildings to improve accessibility and most of the accessibility provisions do not apply to houses.

* “The issue of retrofits to remove existing barriers was a particular subject of discussion during the consultations. Current accessibility requirements apply to new buildings and extensive renovations as well as to newly constructed or redeveloped public spaces. They do not call for the retrofitting of the built environment, but many in the disability community and in the business sector do not realize this. As a result, people with disabilities may feel betrayed when they encounter physical barriers, while some businesses are turned against accessibility by what they fear will be high retrofit costs.”

* “As mentioned above, the current Built Environment Standards do not cover retrofits to remove existing barriers. Many disability stakeholders argued that this must change. They pointed out that barriers in buildings mean people with disabilities cannot use them, whether to shop, study, work, play or obtain services from health care to drivers licences.

During the Review, considerable discussion of retrofits arose in different sectors. Many concerns were raised about the built environment in health care, such as lack of elevators to doctors offices and inaccessible hospital washrooms. A strong view was expressed that all health care facilities in particular should be physically accessible to people with disabilities. The importance of access to buildings was also underlined in the education sector. In the housing sector, a suggestion was made for retrofits of all apartment suites to install power door openers.

Generally speaking, the Review heard that if accessibility standards were expanded to require building retrofits, it would be necessary to create exemptions in cases of undue hardship. For example, some people with disabilities who contended that the AODA should require retrofits of ramps and door openers felt this should apply only where it can be done without undue hardship. Other disability stakeholders observed that such exemptions would be inconsistent with the usual approach under the Building Code, which is to impose accessibility requirements without providing for exceptions if the cost would result in undue hardship. It was argued that this usual practice should be overlooked if it stands in the way of retrofits to improve accessibility.”

* “On the content of other possible new standards, it may be helpful to summarize the gap analysis that emerged from the Review. The gap that stood out most clearly from the perspective of this Review concerned the built environment and the issue of retrofits. As mentioned earlier, of all the barriers facing people with disabilities, those involving the built environment attracted the most comment during the Review. Yet, as noted above, barriers in existing facilities as opposed to those in new construction or renovations are not covered by the current accessibility standards, leading to much frustration in the disability community. The Review repeatedly heard that in the absence of an obligation to ensure that the built environment eventually incorporates at least some accessibility features, it will be very difficult to celebrate the Ontario of 2025 as a leader in accessibility. At the same time, it is also very clear that retrofit obligations (which many assume are already part of the AODA standards) can be costly undertakings and imposing any new obligations in this regard requires sensitivity.

Ontario could begin to address this issue by considering standards resembling the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations which require private facilities that provide goods or services to remove existing architectural barriers where this is readily achievable, i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. (ADA Title III Regulations, section 36.304). This approach would lend itself to setting some priorities for accessibility enhancements, such as entry ways and washrooms (the two areas most frequently referred to in the consultations). Although by no means a full solution, beginning to address the built environment through a relatively modest option would significantly improve access for people with disabilities without generating major worries about cost.

As is the case with all AODA standards, compliance with such a requirement would not relieve organizations of their obligation under the Human Rights Code to accommodate people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship. Individuals who believed their needs were not adequately met by readily achievable measures would still have the option of seeking recourse through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.”

It is true that AODA standards to date have not comprehensively addressed disability accessibility barriers in the built environment. The former Ontario Government promised to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, but did not ever do so. It only enacted a much narrower accessibility standard, addressing barriers in a limited number of public spaces.

However, that does not mean that “accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act” as the Ford Government claims. It is very important for the Ford Government to correct this serious misunderstanding of its obligations under the AODA.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected] or tweet us at @aodaalliance

More Details

CBC News November 13, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-standards-development-committees-1.4901869 Accessibility advocates want the Ontario government to put them to work

Committees working on provincial accessibility standards say their work’s been paused for too long

Taylor Simmons CBC News
Posted: Nov 13, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: November 13

Kathleen Lynch, a student at Humber College, looks down at a garbage can blocking the path to her classroom. She wants Ontario to get back to work creating accessibility standards, so all of her classrooms will be equipped with automatic doors. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

A Toronto student with multiple sclerosis has a message for Premier Doug Ford: “Get in my chair” and see how you experience the province.

Kathleen Lynch, a journalism student at Humber College, is one of some 74,000 post-secondary students with disabilities in Ontario.

She says if Ford could only see the daily challenges she faces, he’d work much harder to ensure the province accomplishes its goal of becoming fully-accessible by 2025.

“Do you know how quickly he’d be snapping his fingers saying, ‘We need to do something about this?’” she said.

And Lynch isn’t alone in her criticism.

Kathleen Lynch wants to see the government do more to make post-secondary institutions more accessible to students with disabilities. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Accessibility advocates say the government hasn’t put several Standards Development Committees (SDCs) special groups looking at how to get rid of accessibility barriers in the province back to work almost five months after the spring election.

Their work is an essential part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), passed in 2005. All the parties voted to work toward making the province barrier-free by 2025.

Creating a standard

The SDCs are meant to study barriers in different sectors to make recommendations for an accessibility standard.

The three still paused looking at health care, schools K – 12 and post-secondary institutions are the most recent to begin their work.

They stopped work on May 8, 2018, when the provincial election campaign officially began.

Raymond Cho became Ontario’s new minister of Seniors and Accessibility in June 2018. He was a previously a Toronto city councillor. (John Sandeman/CBC)

In a statement, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility said they’ve resumed some of the other committees, but they’ll have more to say on the ones still paused “upon further consideration.”

That doesn’t sit well with David Lepofsky, the chair of the AODA Alliance.

He said as the official opposition, the PCs had previously criticized the former Liberal government for not moving fast enough to create the committees.

“On our behalf they slammed the former government when it delayed,” he said. “The Conservative Party that used to press to move forward on this has frozen our work … That’s not fair.”

When he inquired, Lepofsky said a spokesperson told him the government needed time to brief the new minister before resuming the committees’ work.

David Lepofsky is also a member of the K-12 Standards Development Committee. (CBC)

“It doesn’t take four months to brief a new minister,” he said. “Our students with disabilities have been facing this uphill situation in schools for years. It’s long overdue time to fix it, so we can’t afford a delay.”

Why the standards matter

In the absence of a standard, Lynch feels she’s been left to fight her own battle.

As a result of her disease, she isn’t able to move her left arm and uses a power wheelchair to get around.

Most of her classrooms are not equipped with automatic door openers, which she said makes it extremely difficult to get through them.

“If there is an automatic button that’s my independence,” she said. “There’s a lot of handicapped kids, and I don’t know if their needs are being met.”

Lynch said this is the only classroom door, as part of her program, she can open using an automatic door opener. Otherwise, she’s left flagging other students down for help. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

On top of that, she said other students are often using the barrier-free washrooms, which are the only ones she can use.

“Several times I’ve come here and I’m waiting 10, 15 minutes for somebody to walk out that door. And it’s kind of demoralizing, it’s kind of dehumanizing and it’s a basic need to go to the washroom,” she said.

As a fix, she’d like to see the college give out key cards to students with disabilities so only they can use those washrooms.

In a statement, Humber College said Lynch’s building exceeds accessibility standards, and has automatic door openers installed at all public entrances and at barrier-free washrooms.

But an accessibility standard might require them to do more.

When a student with a physical disability enrolls in a program, the standard might require the school to offer those classes in rooms already equipped with automatic openers.

Lynch said those openers would give her back her independence, which is why she’s also eager for the SDCs to get back to work.

“It’s 2018. They’re too far behind,” she said.

‘We’re disappointed to still be waiting’

Sandi Bell, the chair of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, agrees.

“We’re disappointed to still be waiting,” she said. “I have been particularly concerned because we are one of the most recent … committees to have been formed. So we’re still working on our very first set of recommendations.”

Bell said they’re looking at complex barriers, such as what a hospital might do with a person’s service animal should they experience an emergency.

“The issues are huge,” she said. “Every day that goes by, someone may not be being afforded the accessibility, the accommodation that they need.”

Jeanette Parsons is a member of the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Jeanette Parsons, the chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association and a member of the post-secondary SDC, is also eager to resume.

“We really, really do want to come back to the table with this and we’re looking forward to the resumption of this work,” she said.

Parsons’s committee had just begun to identify some of the biggest barriers facing post-secondary students with disabilities, such as transitioning from high school, accessible learning materials and mental health.

“It’s valuable for universities to sort of have a road map as to how they can enhance accessibility generally,” she said.

Many hospitals and schools have created their own accessibility standards, but according to Lepofsky: “There’s no specific accessibility standard regulation that’s enforceable in Ontario for schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care providers.”

There are accessibility requirements for buildings under the Ontario Building Code, but they’re “completely inadequate,” Lepofsky says.

People can also file complaints under the Ontario Human Rights Code, but it’s up to the individuals to fight those battles.

“If we set one provincial standard then everyone will know what they’ve got to do, Lepofsky said.

“We’re eager to get back to work so we can give this government good recommendations … but we can’t do that until they lift their freeze.”

Statement from the Ontario Government to CBC on Friday November 9, 2018

Everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in everyday life and we are committed to working with our partners to advance accessibility. Increasing accessibility is good for everyone including people with disabilities, businesses, seniors and families with young children.

It is important to note that accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but under the Ontario Building Code. Accessibility requirements for buildings are included in Ontarios Building Code to make it easier for organizations by ensuring that all construction requirements are found in one place. The Building Code is the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Also, Ontarians, including students should know that under Ontarios existing accessibility laws, organizations are required to ensure that if accessibility features are not in place, alternate measures are available so that a person with a disability can access goods or services. Organizations are also required to have a process in place to receive and respond to feedback.

Under the AODA, Standard Development Committees engage in important work recommending and reviewing Ontarios accessibility standards. Active committees were paused in advance of the spring election, however we are pleased to confirm that the Employment and Information & Communications Standards Development Committees have been notified that their work will be resuming this year. The Transportation standards committees work is complete, and their final recommendations were posted on Ontario.ca in May of 2018.

We will have more to say regarding the resumption of the Education and Health Standards Development Committees upon further consideration.



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CBC Radio and TV Report on the Ford Government’s Continued Freeze on the Work of Standards Development Committees to Tackle Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care Systems – and – The Ford Government Makes the Obviously Incorrect Claim that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Doesn’t Cover Accessibility of Buildings


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

CBC Radio and TV Report on the Ford Government’s Continued Freeze on the Work of Standards Development Committees  to Tackle Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education and Health Care Systems – and – The Ford Government Makes the Obviously Incorrect Claim that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Doesn’t Cover Accessibility of Buildings

November 16, 2018

          SUMMARY

1. Still No End in Sight for the Ford Government’s Four-Month-long Freeze of the Work on Removing and Preventing Barriers Against Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education system, and Barriers Against Patients with Disabilities in Ontario’s Health Care System

On November 13, 2018, CBC TV and radio news aired excellent reports on the Ford Government’s ongoing and unjustified freeze on the work of the Standards Development Committees that were appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to recommend what disability barriers must be removed and prevented in Ontario’s education system and health care system. This freeze has gone on for over four months. From what the Government told CBC, this freeze appears to have no end in sight. The Government says that it will be giving this issue “further consideration””

We set out below the text of the online version of this CBC news report. While preparing this report, CBC news sent AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky a statement, which the Ford Government sent to CBC on November 9, 2018 on point. CBC asked the AODA Alliance to comment on the Government’s statement. We set that full statement out below.

The Government’s statement notes that the Government is resuming the work of the Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. All that Government statement said about the work on education and health care standards was this:

“We will have more to say regarding the resumption of the Education and Health Standards Development Committees upon further consideration.”

The Government has made no public statement on what “further consideration” is needed, or how long this further consideration will take, or why it has taken over four months so far, with no end in sight. The new Government has shown itself capable of acting quickly and decisively on other issues, when it wishes to do so.

Early last summer, the Ontario Government said that it needed to brief the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors on this. It does not take this long to brief a minister.

The AODA Alliance wrote the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho back on August 29, 2018, to spell out in detail why it is important for the Ford Government to lift this freeze now. the Government has not answered that letter.

If it takes the Government this long just to decide on resuming the work of these Standards Development Committees, there can be real concern whether the Government will act promptly and effectively to get Ontario back on schedule to reach accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. This delay in resuming the work of the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees does not square with the commitments on accessibility for people with disabilities that Doug Ford made in the 2018 Ontario election. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

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

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

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

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

2. The Ford Government Wrongly Claims that Ontario’s Accessibility Law Doesn’t Cover Accessibility of Buildings

Is the Ford Government trying to substantially cut back on the reach of the AODA? We have a basis for concern.

The Government’s November 9, 2018 statement to CBC includes a very disturbing new and clearly incorrect statement on the reach of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The CBC’s November 13, 2018 news report does not address this issue.

The Ford Government told CBC:

“It is important to note that accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but under the Ontario Building Code. Accessibility requirements for buildings are included in Ontario’s Building Code to make it easier for organizations by ensuring that all construction requirements are found in one place. The Building Code is the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.”

This is obviously untrue. Accessibility in buildings falls well within the AODA. It is true that the Ontario Building Code has provisions, albeit chronically insufficient ones, on accessibility in new buildings and in major renovations of existing buildings. However, it is incorrect for the Government to claim that accessibility of buildings is somehow outside the scope of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The very first section of the AODA specifically includes accessibility of buildings. It defines the scope and purpose of the AODA. Section 1 of the AODA provides:

”      1. Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities

in Ontario, the purpose of this Act is to benefit all Ontarians by,

(a)    developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025; and

(b)    providing for the involvement of persons with disabilities, of the Government of Ontario and of representatives of industries and of various sectors of the economy in the development of the accessibility standards.”

Section 3(d) of the AODA makes the AODA apply, to among others, a person who:

”         (d)    owns or occupies a building, structure or premises…”

Section 6 of the AODA requires an accessibility standard to address, among other things, barriers in buildings. Section 6 includes:

”       (6)   An accessibility standard shall,

(a)    set out measures, policies, practices or other requirements for the identification and removal of barriers with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures, premises or such other things as may be prescribed, and for the prevention of the erection of such barriers;…”

In February 2015, the former Ontario Government released the report of an Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by former University of Toronto law dean Mayo Moran. Her report said this, among other things:

* “The Building Code does not require retrofitting of existing buildings to improve accessibility and most of the accessibility provisions do not apply to houses.

* “The issue of retrofits to remove existing barriers was a particular subject of discussion during the consultations. Current accessibility requirements apply to new buildings and extensive renovations as well as to newly constructed or redeveloped public spaces. They do not call for the retrofitting of the built environment, but many in the disability community and in the business sector do not realize this. As a result, people with disabilities may feel betrayed when they encounter physical barriers, while some businesses are turned against accessibility by what they fear will be high retrofit costs.”

* “As mentioned above, the current Built Environment Standards do not cover retrofits to remove existing barriers. Many disability stakeholders argued that this must change. They pointed out that barriers in buildings mean people with disabilities cannot use them, whether to shop, study, work, play or obtain services from health care to driver’s licences.

During the Review, considerable discussion of retrofits arose in different sectors.  Many concerns were raised about the built environment in health care, such as lack of elevators to doctors’ offices and inaccessible hospital washrooms.  A strong view was expressed that all health care facilities in particular should be physically accessible to people with disabilities.  The importance of access to buildings was also underlined in the education sector.  In the housing sector, a suggestion was made for retrofits of all apartment suites to install power door openers.

Generally speaking, the Review heard that if accessibility standards were expanded to require building retrofits, it would be necessary to create exemptions in cases of undue hardship.  For example, some people with disabilities who contended that the AODA should require retrofits of ramps and door openers felt this should apply only where it can be done without undue hardship.  Other disability stakeholders observed that such exemptions would be inconsistent with the usual approach under the Building Code, which is to impose accessibility requirements without providing for exceptions if the cost would result in undue hardship.  It was argued that this usual practice should be overlooked if it stands in the way of retrofits to improve accessibility.”

* “On the content of other possible new standards, it may be helpful to summarize the gap analysis that emerged from the Review.  The gap that stood out most clearly from the perspective of this Review concerned the built environment and the issue of retrofits.   As mentioned earlier, of all the barriers facing people with disabilities, those involving the built environment attracted the most comment during the Review.  Yet, as noted above, barriers in existing facilities – as opposed to those in new construction or renovations – are not covered by the current accessibility standards, leading to much frustration in the disability community.  The Review repeatedly heard that in the absence of an obligation to ensure that the built environment eventually incorporates at least some accessibility features, it will be very difficult to celebrate the Ontario of 2025 as a leader in accessibility.  At the same time, it is also very clear that retrofit obligations (which many assume are already part of the AODA standards) can be costly undertakings and imposing any new obligations in this regard requires sensitivity.

Ontario could begin to address this issue by considering standards resembling the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations which require private facilities that provide goods or services to remove existing architectural barriers where this is “readily achievable, i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”  (ADA Title III Regulations, section 36.304).  This approach would lend itself to setting some priorities for accessibility enhancements, such as entry ways and washrooms (the two areas most frequently referred to in the consultations).  Although by no means a full solution, beginning to address the built environment through a relatively modest option would significantly improve access for people with disabilities without generating major worries about cost.

As is the case with all AODA standards, compliance with such a requirement would not relieve organizations of their obligation under the Human Rights Code to accommodate people with disabilities to the point of undue hardship.  Individuals who believed their needs were not adequately met by “readily achievable” measures would still have the option of seeking recourse through the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.”

It is true that AODA standards to date have not comprehensively addressed disability accessibility barriers in the built environment. The former Ontario Government promised to enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard, but did not ever do so. It only enacted a much narrower accessibility standard, addressing barriers in a limited number of public spaces.

However, that does not mean that “accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act” as the Ford Government claims. It is very important for the Ford Government to correct this serious misunderstanding of its obligations under the AODA.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected] or tweet us at @aodaalliance

More Details

CBC News November 13, 2018

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-standards-development-committees-1.4901869

Accessibility advocates want the Ontario government to put them to work

Committees working on provincial accessibility standards say their work’s been paused for too long

Taylor Simmons CBC News

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: November 13

Kathleen Lynch, a student at Humber College, looks down at a garbage can blocking the path to her classroom. She wants Ontario to get back to work creating accessibility standards, so all of her classrooms will be equipped with automatic doors. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

A Toronto student with multiple sclerosis has a message for Premier Doug Ford: “Get in my chair” and see how you experience the province.

Kathleen Lynch, a journalism student at Humber College, is one of some 74,000 post-secondary students with disabilities in Ontario.

She says if Ford could only see the daily challenges she faces, he’d work much harder to ensure the province accomplishes its goal of becoming fully-accessible by 2025.

“Do you know how quickly he’d be snapping his fingers saying, ‘We need to do something about this?’” she said.

And Lynch isn’t alone in her criticism.

Kathleen Lynch wants to see the government do more to make post-secondary institutions more accessible to students with disabilities. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

Accessibility advocates say the government hasn’t put several Standards Development Committees (SDCs) — special groups looking at how to get rid of accessibility barriers in the province — back to work almost five months after the spring election.

Their work is an essential part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), passed in 2005. All the parties voted to work toward making the province barrier-free by 2025.

Creating a standard

The SDCs are meant to study barriers in different sectors to make recommendations for an accessibility standard.

The three still paused — looking at health care, schools K – 12 and post-secondary institutions — are the most recent to begin their work.

They stopped work on May 8, 2018, when the provincial election campaign officially began.

Raymond Cho became Ontario’s new minister of Seniors and Accessibility in June 2018. He was a previously a Toronto city councillor. (John Sandeman/CBC)

In a statement, the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility said they’ve resumed some of the other committees, but they’ll have more to say on the ones still paused “upon further consideration.”

That doesn’t sit well with David Lepofsky, the chair of the AODA Alliance.

He said as the official opposition, the PCs had previously criticized the former Liberal government for not moving fast enough to create the committees.

“On our behalf they slammed the former government when it delayed,” he said. “The Conservative Party that used to press to move forward on this has frozen our work … That’s not fair.”

When he inquired, Lepofsky said a spokesperson told him the government needed time to brief the new minister before resuming the committees’ work.

David Lepofsky is also a member of the K-12 Standards Development Committee. (CBC)

“It doesn’t take four months to brief a new minister,” he said. “Our students with disabilities have been facing this uphill situation in schools for years. It’s long overdue time to fix it, so we can’t afford a delay.”

Why the standards matter

In the absence of a standard, Lynch feels she’s been left to fight her own battle.

As a result of her disease, she isn’t able to move her left arm and uses a power wheelchair to get around.

Most of her classrooms are not equipped with automatic door openers, which she said makes it extremely difficult to get through them.

“If there is an automatic button … that’s my independence,” she said. “There’s a lot of handicapped kids, and I don’t know if their needs are being met.”

Lynch said this is the only classroom door, as part of her program, she can open using an automatic door opener. Otherwise, she’s left flagging other students down for help. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

On top of that, she said other students are often using the barrier-free washrooms, which are the only ones she can use.

“Several times I’ve come here and I’m waiting 10, 15 minutes for somebody to walk out that door. And it’s kind of demoralizing, it’s kind of dehumanizing and it’s a basic need to go to the washroom,” she said.

As a fix, she’d like to see the college give out key cards to students with disabilities so only they can use those washrooms.

In a statement, Humber College said Lynch’s building exceeds accessibility standards, and has automatic door openers installed at all public entrances and at barrier-free washrooms.

But an accessibility standard might require them to do more.

When a student with a physical disability enrolls in a program, the standard might require the school to offer those classes in rooms already equipped with automatic openers.

Lynch said those openers would give her back her independence, which is why she’s also eager for the SDCs to get back to work.

“It’s 2018. They’re too far behind,” she said.

‘We’re disappointed to still be waiting’

Sandi Bell, the chair of the Health Care Standards Development Committee, agrees.

“We’re disappointed to still be waiting,” she said. “I have been particularly concerned because we are one of the most recent … committees to have been formed. So we’re still working on our very first set of recommendations.”

Bell said they’re looking at complex barriers, such as what a hospital might do with a person’s service animal should they experience an emergency.

“The issues are huge,” she said. “Every day that goes by, someone may not be being afforded the accessibility, the accommodation that they need.”

Jeanette Parsons is a member of the Post-Secondary Standards Development Committee. (Grant Linton/CBC)

Jeanette Parsons, the chair of the Inter-University Disability Issues Association and a member of the post-secondary SDC, is also eager to resume.

“We really, really do want to come back to the table with this and we’re looking forward to the resumption of this work,” she said.

Parsons’s committee had just begun to identify some of the biggest barriers facing post-secondary students with disabilities, such as transitioning from high school, accessible learning materials and mental health.

“It’s valuable for universities to sort of have a road map as to how they can enhance accessibility generally,” she said.

Many hospitals and schools have created their own accessibility standards, but according to Lepofsky: “There’s no specific accessibility standard regulation that’s enforceable in Ontario for schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other health care providers.”

There are accessibility requirements for buildings under the Ontario Building Code, but they’re “completely inadequate,” Lepofsky says.

People can also file complaints under the Ontario Human Rights Code, but it’s up to the individuals to fight those battles.

“If we set one provincial standard then everyone will know what they’ve got to do,” Lepofsky said.

“We’re eager to get back to work so we can give this government good recommendations … but we can’t do that until they lift their freeze.”

Statement from the Ontario Government to CBC on Friday November 9, 2018

Everyone in Ontario deserves to fully participate in everyday life and we are committed to working with our partners to advance accessibility. Increasing accessibility is good for everyone including people with disabilities, businesses, seniors and families with young children.

It is important to note that accessibility in buildings does not fall under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but under the Ontario Building Code. Accessibility requirements for buildings are included in Ontario’s Building Code to make it easier for organizations by ensuring that all construction requirements are found in one place. The Building Code is the responsibility of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Also, Ontarians, including students should know that under Ontario’s existing accessibility laws, organizations are required to ensure that if accessibility features are not in place, alternate measures are available so that a person with a disability can access goods or services. Organizations are also required to have a process in place to receive and respond to feedback.

Under the AODA, Standard Development Committees engage in important work recommending and reviewing Ontario’s accessibility standards. Active committees were paused in advance of the spring election, however we are pleased to confirm that the Employment and Information & Communications Standards Development Committees have been notified that their work will be resuming this year. The Transportation standards committee’s work is complete, and their final recommendations were posted on Ontario.ca in May of 2018.

We will have more to say regarding the resumption of the Education and Health Standards Development Committees upon further consideration.



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Breaking News! The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario Tells the AODA Alliance that One Standards Development Committee is Going Back to Work After a 119-Day Freeze ? And News on the Federal Accessibility Front


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

October 19, 2018

SUMMARY

We’re busy on both the provincial and federal fronts of our accessibility campaign!

1. A Small Partial Victory on the Ontario Front

After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, the work of five Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was suspended by the Ontario Government. We have been campaigning for the past 119 days to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze so that these Standards Development Committees can get back to work. They are appointed to recommend what AODA accessibility standards should include.

Today, we received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It invites AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to make a presentation to the Employment Standards Development Committee at their meeting tentatively set for November 21, 2018. We had asked months ago for an opportunity to make a presentation to that committee. The October 19, 2018 email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario states in part:

“I am following up with your request of June 30th, 2018 on making a presentation to the Employment Standards Development Committee once it resumes its work on the review of the Employment Standards. The SDC will be reconvening in November to review the feedback received during the public posting period so that they can prepare their recommendations for the final proposed employment standard for submission to the Minister. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for November 21st, 2018 with two time slots available for presentations.”

That means that the Ford Government must have lifted its freeze, at least in so far as that one Standards Development Committee is concerned. The Ford Government has not made any public announcement that the freeze on the work of any of the other four Standards Development Committees has been lifted, as far as we have been able to determine. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He has not been notified that that Standards Development Committee has had its freeze lifted.

On receiving the email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky responded with an email that asks if the freeze on any of the other Standards Development Committees has been lifted. We have not yet received an answer to that email.

When the freeze was imposed last June, Standards Development Committees had been appointed under the AODA and had been working in the following areas:

1. The Employment Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on revisions needed to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard;

2. the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations to improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard;

3. The Health Care Standards Development Committee was developing recommendations on what the Ontario Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard;

4. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on what to include in an Education Accessibility Standard for public and Catholic schools, and

5. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on what to include in an Education Accessibility Standard for colleges and universities.

As part of our campaign against this freeze, for several weeks we have been posting daily tweets on Twitter that have kept a daily count of the number of days that this freeze has been in effect. As of this morning, that number was 119 days. Our tweets have been directed at MPPs in the Legislature from each of the political parties.

On August 29, 2018, we wrote Ontario’s new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho, to urge him to lift this freeze. That letter explains in detail why the freeze should be lifted, and why it flies in the face of positions the Ontario PC Party took while in opposition. You can read the AODA Alliance’s August 29, 2018 letter to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-presses-the-ford-government-to-immediately-lift-its-freeze-on-the-work-of-standards-development-committees-appointed-under-ontarios-disabilities-act-to-make-recommendations-on-needed/ The media has covered this freeze. Below we set out a transcript of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s interview on CBC Ottawa Radio’s “All in a Day” program on August 30, 2018. In that interview, CBC reported that an email from the Ontario Government to CBC stated in part:

“the Minister is in the process of reviewing the extensive portfolio of seniors and accessibility and the work of the standards development committees, the Minister has had several meetings and briefing with stakeholders and staff including the AODA alliance, and the Minister continues to receive key briefings on files related to the portfolio. The ministry will connect with the committees with information when it becomes available.”

We are happy that the Employment Standards Development Committee is now able to get back to work. We respectfully question why it would take almost four months to brief a minister on five advisory committees, whose job under the AODA is to bring forward recommendations to the Government, which the Government is not bound to follow. This minister is a full-time minister for accessibility and seniors.

We urge the Ford Government to now lift its freeze on all these Standards Development Committees. Any delay in their work drives Ontario further behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. If the Employment Standards Development Committee can get back to work, the other Standards Development Committees should also be able to do so.

We encourage you to press your MPP to help us get the freeze lifted from all Standards Development Committees.

2. More News on the Federal Front

The AODA Alliance’s October 25, 2018 presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities has been shifted a bit earlier. We are presenting on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

It will still be on the morning of October 25, 2018. However, it will take place between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m, 45 minutes earlier than we were previously told. We present along with four other organizations.

We remind you that you can attend in person. Contrary to an earlier AODA update, the hearing is not at the Parliament Buildings. It is instead at a nearby building in downtown Ottawa. Come to Room 415, 180 Wellington, Ottawa. (Entrance at 197 Sparks Street)

You can also watch it live online, or afterwards, when it is archived. Go to this link: https://www.bing.com/search?q=hearings+Bill+C-81+Standing+Committee+on+Human+Resources,+Skills+and+Social+Development+and+the+Status+of+Persons+with+Disabilities&go=Submit&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=hearings+Bill+C-81+Standing+Committee+on+Human+Resources,+Skills+and+Social+Development+and+the+Status+of+Persons+with+Disabilities&sc=10-14&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=d63c261e27184bb7b950c2bd9c5a8240 Up to October 25, you can email that Standing Committee to voice your support for the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81 and the amendments we seek to make that bill into a good law. Email the Committee at [email protected]

Also, please email the minister sponsoring this bill at [email protected] Please tell her if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81. Send a copy of your email to us at [email protected]

Please get more organizations to support our brief. It has already been supported by CNIB, the March of Dimes, the Ontario Autism Coalition, Communication Disabilities Access Canada, Barrier-Free Manitoba, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, the Environmental Health Association of BC, Quebec Accessible, Balance for Blind Adults, Easter Seals Ontario, and Autism Ontario. Please get other community organizations to support our brief as well.

There’s yet another way you can help. Please email or tweet to MPs to support our brief. A list of the email addresses and Twitter handles of all federal MPs is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/email-addresses-and-twitter-handles-for-all-members-of-canadas-parliament-as-of-october-11-2018/ We are very busy tweeting federal MPs to get them to support the amendments to Bill C-81 that we seek. Why not just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter, and retweet our tweets to MPs?

MORE DETAILS

CBC Radio Ottawa August 30th 2018

David Lepofsky Interview on All in a Day with Alan Neal

Alan: When the Provincial government transitioned from Premiere Wynne to Premiere Ford in June, some work was put on hold and that included the work of the Standards Development Committees. They are the groups that make recommendations on how to improve accessibility in education, healthcare and employment. Well two months later, there have been no promises from the Province that the committee’s work will continue, and that has disability rights advocate David Lepofsky worried. He’s a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He penned a letter to the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility urging the Minister to let the committees get back to work. David Lepofsky joins us now by phone from Toronto. Good afternoon.

David: Good Afternoon.

Alan: How did you find out your committee was frozen?

David: Well, we were originally scheduled to have a meeting to do the work we were appointed to do back on the 21st – 22nd of June that was tentative pending the election. After the election, the public service emailed us that the meetings are cancelled and since then we have basically been told everything is on hold, they haven’t given us any new dates. They asked us at one point to hold the week of September 24th and they told us to un-hold it and there has been no indication of when or if we will get further directions.

Alan: Now that’s for the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee–have you heard news from other committees?

David: Well, in fact the email that came to us was addressed to all standards development committees. Just so people understand, there is a law in place in Ontario called the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act. It was passed unanimously by all parties back in 2005 and I had the privilege of leading the collation that fought to get that law passed. It requires the Province to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to over 1.9 million people with disabilities by 2025. The way the government is supposed to do that is by passing a series of detailed regulations. They are called accessibility standards that will tell different sectors in the economy what they have to do, what barriers to fix and by when. Where do these come from? Well, the government appoints advisory committees called Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what needs to be enacted and then when the government gets their advice it can decide what to pass or what not to pass. There are a series of these that were appointed under this legislation back in the spring. I’m on one of them and we were all busy doing our work until the election came along and then it was all “put on hold.” As I said, we’re trying to get the government to lift the freeze, let us get back to work so we can come up with the best advice we can to give to the government.

Alan: David, can you give me an example of something that your committee was working on before the freeze?

David: Sure, the committee I am appointed to is looking into the kinds of barriers that impede students with disabilities that is: physical disabilities, mental disabilities, sensory disability, autism, learning disabilities, the whole spectrum in publically funded schools (public and Catholic schools) between kindergarten and Grade 12. That’s approximately a third of a million students in Ontario or somewhere between 1/5 and 1/6 of every student. We were looking at barriers in the design of school buildings, barriers in the curriculum, barriers in the technology that kids use. So often our education system has been designed and operated as if it’s only for kids with no disabilities and when these kids come along they have to try to fit into a system that was designed as if they weren’t there.

Alan: So that work has now been frozen. What conversations have you had with this government? And maybe the ministry as well? You’ve talked about that email you got, but anything about when the committees may be unfrozen?

David: We’ve got no indication. I lead the AODA Alliance. It’s a non-partisan coalition that campaigns to get this legislation effectively implemented. I wear several hats, and that’s one of them, and we’ve written the Premiere and the Minister responsible for accessibility, Raymond Cho, and we’ve asked them to un-freeze these committees, let them get back to work. Letting us go back to work does not commit the government on what it will do once we render our advice, so the government is free to take our advice and use all of it, some of it or none of it, but they can’t use our advice until we have the time to get it prepared and delivered. And one of the things that is significant is that we are non-partisan. I’ve got to explain when it came to education our coalition led the fight for getting a standard created that would tear down the barriers facing kids in schools. We spent years doing this, and the previous government, the Kathleen Wynne government, eventually agreed to do it, but took years making up its mind and we turned to the opposition parties including the Conservatives to support our cause, and commendably they did. The opposition Conservatives blasted the former government for when it hadn’t decided whether even to do work in this area and once it decided to, it blasted the former government for taking too long to set up our committee. Commendably, they did that, but we now need them to stick to that same agenda and not themselves cause further delay by maintaining this freeze.

Alan: David, we asked the ministry for clarification on the freeze. Spokesperson Michael Thomas emailed a statement saying, in part: “The Minister is in the process of reviewing the extensive portfolio of seniors and accessibility and the work of the standards development committees. The minister has had several meetings and briefings with stakeholders and staff including the AODA alliance, and the Minister continues to receive key briefings on files related to the portfolio. The Ministry will connect with the committees with information when it becomes available.” Does that reassure you?

David: No it doesn’t, and the reason is this: Yes, they did talk to us, and I did talk to the Ministry, it was a good call, just about a week ago, which we really appreciate, but here’s the problem. They were elected back in early June. The Minister was sworn in at the end of June. We have in Ontario commendably for the first time a full-time Minister for accessibility and seniors and we’ve congratulated the Premiere for doing that; it’s a first – and it’s good, but because we have a full-time minister, this minister has time to devote to this file that is much more than any previous minister has had. So it shouldn’t take them two months to decide to resume the work in committees like ours, which while in opposition they thought was so important that they blasted the previous government in question period for dragging its feet. So they knew it was important when they were in opposition. The commitments during the elections about the importance of accessibility and the unfairness of barriers that face people with disabilities including kids with disabilities in schools, they knew all that coming in. All they need to do now is to lift the freeze so we can get back to work; it’s going to be months before we render our advice. There is no policy justification for delaying any further, and that’s why we are actually urging everyone to contact their member of the legislature, whatever be their party, and say that for the benefit for people with disabilities, including kids with disabilities in school, please lift the freeze. Let these advisory committees get back to do our work so we can formulate the good advice that this government needs.

Alan: David thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.

David: Thanks so much for including us.

Alan: David Lepofsky is the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act Alliance and a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (which is currently frozen). We’ll tweet out a link to the letter he was written by the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.



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Breaking News! The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario Tells the AODA Alliance that One Standards Development Committee is Going Back to Work After a 119-Day Freeze – And News on the Federal Accessibility Front


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

Breaking News! The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario Tells the AODA Alliance that One Standards Development Committee is Going Back to Work After a 119-Day Freeze – And News on the Federal Accessibility Front

October 19, 2018

          SUMMARY

We’re busy on both the provincial and federal fronts of our accessibility campaign!

1. A Small Partial Victory on the Ontario Front

After the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, the work of five Standards Development Committees appointed under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was suspended by the Ontario Government. We have been campaigning for the past 119 days to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze so that these Standards Development Committees can get back to work. They are appointed to recommend what AODA accessibility standards should include.

Today, we received an email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. It invites AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to make a presentation to the Employment Standards Development Committee at their meeting tentatively set for November 21, 2018. We had asked months ago for an opportunity to make a presentation to that committee. The October 19, 2018 email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario states in part:

“I am following up with your request of June 30th, 2018 on making a presentation to the Employment Standards Development Committee once it resumes its work on the review of the Employment Standards.  The SDC will be reconvening in November to review the feedback received during the public posting period so that they can prepare their recommendations for the final proposed employment standard for submission to the Minister.  The meeting is tentatively scheduled for November 21st, 2018 with two time slots available for presentations.”

That means that the Ford Government must have lifted its freeze, at least in so far as that one Standards Development Committee is concerned. The Ford Government has not made any public announcement that the freeze on the work of any of the other four Standards Development Committees  has been lifted, as far as we have been able to determine. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He has not been notified that that Standards Development Committee has had its freeze lifted.

On receiving the email from the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky responded with an email that asks if the freeze on any of the other Standards Development Committees has been lifted. We have not yet received an answer to that email.

When the freeze was imposed last June, Standards Development Committees had been appointed under the AODA and had been working in the following areas:

  1. The Employment Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on revisions needed to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard;
  1. the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations to improve the 2011 Information and Communication Accessibility Standard;
  1. The Health Care Standards Development Committee was developing recommendations on what the Ontario Government should include in a Health Care Accessibility Standard;
  1. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on what to include in an Education Accessibility Standard for public and Catholic schools, and
  1. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee was working on recommendations on what to include in an Education Accessibility Standard for colleges and universities.

As part of our campaign against this freeze, for several weeks we have been posting daily tweets on Twitter that have kept a daily count of the number of days that this freeze has been in effect. As of this morning, that number was 119 days. Our tweets have been directed at MPPs in the Legislature from each of the political parties.

On August 29, 2018, we wrote Ontario’s new Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho, to urge him to lift this freeze. That letter explains in detail why the freeze should be lifted, and why it flies in the face of positions the Ontario PC Party took while in opposition. You can read the AODA Alliance’s August 29, 2018 letter to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors  by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/aoda-alliance-presses-the-ford-government-to-immediately-lift-its-freeze-on-the-work-of-standards-development-committees-appointed-under-ontarios-disabilities-act-to-make-recommendations-on-needed/

The media has covered this freeze. Below we set out a transcript of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s interview on CBC Ottawa Radio’s “All in a Day” program on August 30, 2018. In that interview, CBC reported that an email from the Ontario Government to CBC stated in part:

“the Minister is in the process of reviewing the extensive portfolio of seniors and accessibility and the work of the standards development committees, the Minister has had several meetings and briefing with stakeholders and staff including the AODA alliance, and the Minister continues to receive key briefings on files related to the portfolio. The ministry will connect with the committees with information when it becomes available.”

We are happy that the Employment Standards Development Committee is now able to get back to work. We respectfully question why it would take almost four months to brief a minister on five advisory committees, whose job under the AODA is to bring forward recommendations to the Government, which the Government is not bound to follow. This minister is a full-time minister for accessibility and seniors.

We urge the Ford Government to now lift its freeze on all these Standards Development Committees. Any delay in their work drives Ontario further behind schedule for becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s mandatory deadline. If the Employment Standards Development Committee can get back to work, the other Standards Development Committees should also be able to do so.

We encourage you to press your MPP to help us get the freeze lifted from all Standards Development Committees.

2. More News on the Federal Front

The AODA Alliance’s October 25, 2018 presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities has been shifted a bit earlier. We are presenting on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act.

It will still be on the morning of October 25, 2018. However, it will take place between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m, 45 minutes earlier than we were previously told. We present along with four other organizations.

We remind you that you can attend in person. Contrary to an earlier AODA update, the hearing is not at the Parliament Buildings. It is instead at a nearby building in downtown Ottawa. Come to Room 415, 180 Wellington, Ottawa. (Entrance at 197 Sparks Street)

You can also watch it live online, or afterwards, when it is archived. Go to this link: https://www.bing.com/search?q=hearings+Bill+C-81+Standing+Committee+on+Human+Resources,+Skills+and+Social+Development+and+the+Status+of+Persons+with+Disabilities&go=Submit&qs=n&form=QBLH&pq=hearings+Bill+C-81+Standing+Committee+on+Human+Resources,+Skills+and+Social+Development+and+the+Status+of+Persons+with+Disabilities&sc=10-14&sp=-1&sk=&cvid=d63c261e27184bb7b950c2bd9c5a8240

Up to October 25, you can email that Standing Committee to voice your support for the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81 and the amendments we seek to make that bill into a good law. Email the Committee at [email protected]

Also, please email the minister sponsoring this bill at [email protected] Please tell her if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81. Send a copy of your email to us at [email protected]

Please get more organizations to support our brief. It has already been supported by CNIB, the March of Dimes, the Ontario Autism Coalition, Communication Disabilities Access Canada, Barrier-Free Manitoba, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, the ARCH Disability Law Centre, the Environmental Health Association of BC, Quebec Accessible, Balance for Blind Adults, Easter Seals Ontario, and Autism Ontario. Please get other community organizations to support our brief as well.

There’s yet another way you can help. Please email or tweet to MPs to support our brief. A list of the email addresses and Twitter handles of all federal MPs is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/email-addresses-and-twitter-handles-for-all-members-of-canadas-parliament-as-of-october-11-2018/

We are very busy tweeting federal MPs to get them to support the amendments to Bill C-81 that we seek. Why not just follow @aodaalliance on Twitter, and retweet our tweets to MPs?

          MORE DETAILS

CBC Radio Ottawa August 30th 2018

David Lepofsky Interview on All in a Day with Alan Neal

Alan: When the Provincial government transitioned from Premiere Wynne to Premiere Ford in June, some work was put on hold and that included the work of the Standards Development Committees. They are the groups that make recommendations on how to improve accessibility in education, healthcare and employment. Well two months later, there have been no promises from the Province that the committee’s work will continue, and that has disability rights advocate David Lepofsky worried. He’s a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He penned a letter to the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility urging the Minister to let the committees get back to work. David Lepofsky joins us now by phone from Toronto. Good afternoon.

David: Good Afternoon.

Alan: How did you find out your committee was frozen?

David: Well, we were originally scheduled to have a meeting to do the work we were appointed to do back on the 21st – 22nd of June that was tentative pending the election. After the election, the public service emailed us that the meetings are cancelled and since then we have basically been told everything is on hold, they haven’t given us any new dates. They asked us at one point to hold the week of September 24th and they told us to un-hold it and there has been no indication of when or if we will get further directions.

Alan: Now that’s for the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee–have you heard news from other committees?

David:  Well, in fact the email that came to us was addressed to all standards development committees. Just so people understand, there is a law in place in Ontario called the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act. It was passed unanimously by all parties back in 2005 and I had the privilege of leading the collation that fought to get that law passed. It requires the Province to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to over 1.9 million people with disabilities by 2025. The way the government is supposed to do that is by passing a series of detailed regulations. They are called accessibility standards that will tell different sectors in the economy what they have to do, what barriers to fix and by when. Where do these come from? Well, the government appoints advisory committees called Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what needs to be enacted and then when the government gets their advice it can decide what to pass or what not to pass. There are a series of these that were appointed under this legislation back in the spring. I’m on one of them and we were all busy doing our work until the election came along and then it was all “put on hold.” As I said, we’re trying to get the government to lift the freeze, let us get back to work so we can come up with the best advice we can to give to the government.

Alan: David, can you give me an example of something that your committee was working on before the freeze?

David: Sure, the committee I am appointed to is looking into the kinds of barriers that impede students with disabilities that is: physical disabilities, mental disabilities, sensory disability, autism, learning disabilities, the whole spectrum in publically funded schools (public and Catholic schools) between kindergarten and Grade 12. That’s approximately a third of a million students in Ontario or somewhere between 1/5 and 1/6 of every student. We were looking at barriers in the design of school buildings, barriers in the curriculum, barriers in the technology that kids use. So often our education system has been designed and operated as if it’s only for kids with no disabilities and when these kids come along they have to try to fit into a system that was designed as if they weren’t there.

Alan: So that work has now been frozen. What conversations have you had with this government? And maybe the ministry as well? You’ve talked about that email you got, but anything about when the committees may be unfrozen?

David: We’ve got no indication. I lead the AODA Alliance. It’s a non-partisan coalition that campaigns to get this legislation effectively implemented. I wear several hats, and that’s one of them, and we’ve written the Premiere and the Minister responsible for accessibility, Raymond Cho, and we’ve asked them to un-freeze these committees, let them get back to work. Letting us go back to work does not commit the government on what it will do once we render our advice, so the government is free to take our advice and use all of it, some of it or none of it, but they can’t use our advice until we have the time to get it prepared and delivered.  And one of the things that is significant is that we are non-partisan. I’ve got to explain when it came to education our coalition led the fight for getting a standard created that would tear down the barriers facing kids in schools.  We spent years doing this, and the previous government, the Kathleen Wynne government, eventually agreed to do it, but took years making up its mind and we turned to the opposition parties including the Conservatives to support our cause, and commendably they did. The opposition Conservatives blasted the former government for when it hadn’t decided whether even to do work in this area and once it decided to, it blasted the former government for taking too long to set up our committee. Commendably, they did that, but we now need them to stick to that same agenda and not themselves cause further delay by maintaining this freeze.

Alan: David, we asked the ministry for clarification on the freeze. Spokesperson Michael Thomas emailed a statement saying, in part: “The Minister is in the process of reviewing the extensive portfolio of seniors and accessibility and the work of the standards development committees. The minister has had several meetings and briefings with stakeholders and staff including the AODA alliance, and the Minister continues to receive key briefings on files related to the portfolio. The Ministry will connect with the committees with information when it becomes available.” Does that reassure you?

David: No it doesn’t, and the reason is this: Yes, they did talk to us, and I did talk to the Ministry, it was a good call, just about a week ago, which we really appreciate, but here’s the problem. They were elected back in early June. The Minister was sworn in at the end of June. We have in Ontario commendably for the first time a full-time Minister for accessibility and seniors and we’ve congratulated the Premiere for doing that; it’s a first – and it’s good, but because we have a full-time minister, this minister has time to devote to this file that is much more than any previous minister has had. So it shouldn’t take them two months to decide to resume the work in committees like ours, which while in opposition they thought was so important that they blasted the previous government in question period for dragging its feet. So they knew it was important when they were in opposition. The commitments during the elections about the importance of accessibility and the unfairness of barriers that face people with disabilities including kids with disabilities in schools, they knew all that coming in. All they need to do now is to lift the freeze so we can get back to work; it’s going to be months before we render our advice. There is no policy justification for delaying any further, and that’s why we are actually urging everyone to contact their member of the legislature, whatever be their party, and say that for the benefit for people with disabilities, including kids with disabilities in school, please lift the freeze. Let these advisory committees get back to do our work so we can formulate the good advice that this government needs.

Alan: David thank you very much for joining us this afternoon.

David:  Thanks so much for including us.

Alan: David Lepofsky is the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act Alliance and a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (which is currently frozen). We’ll tweet out a link to the letter he was written by the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.



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