A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

August 6, 2019

SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



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A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

A New Toronto Star Editorial Blasts the Ford Government for Moving So Slowly on Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities and Echoes the AODA Alliance’s Objections to Doug Ford’s Diverting 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Problematic Private Accessibility Certification Program

August 6, 2019

          SUMMARY

The August 6, 2019 edition of the Toronto Star includes a powerful editorial. It slams the Doug Ford Government for spending 1.3 million dollars on the problematic private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF), when the Government should act more strongly and swiftly to speed up the sluggish implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). That editorial can be found below.

We applaud the Toronto Star for this editorial. This is the 16th editorial that a media outlet has run in the past quarter century that endorses some aspect of our non-partisan accessibility campaign, spearheaded since 2005 by the AODA Alliance, and from 1994 to 2005 by its predecessor, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.

This new editorial follows on and builds on the excellent July 24, 2019 Toronto Star article which reported on some of our serious concerns that the AODA Alliance has with the Ford Government’s plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. In the coming days, we will have more to say about our concerns with public funding of that program. This will supplement our July 25, 2019 news release and report on this topic.

This editorial comes 188 days, or over six months, since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement that was conducted by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has still announced no plan to implement that report. This is so, even though Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

It is time for Premier Doug Ford to suspend its controversial and trouble-ridden plan to divert public money to the RHF private accessibility certification program. It should instead promptly sit down with disability advocacy organizations like the AODA Alliance and other stakeholders, all together at one place and time, to quickly map out a far better plan of action.

There are two ways you can help: First, write a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star to support this editorial. Send your letter to the Star at: [email protected]

Second, join in our Dial Doug campaign. #DialDoug Phone or email Premier Doug Ford and ask him where is his plan to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. You can find out what to do by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/join-in-our-new-dial-doug-campaign-a-grassroots-blitz-unveiled-today-to-get-the-doug-ford-government-to-make-ontario-open-for-over-1-9-million-ontarians-with-disabilities/

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star August 6, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2019/08/06/ontario-should-move-faster-on-tearing-down-barriers.html

Editorial

Buildings must be for everyone

As accessibility advocates constantly warn, we’re all just one illness or accident away from becoming disabled.

And with 1,000 Ontario baby boomers turning 65 every day, more of us will be dealing with aging vision, hearing, hips and knees that will affect our quality of life and make our physical environment more difficult to navigate.

So it’s disappointing that six months after former lieutenant governor David Onley delivered a scathing report on the “soul crushing” barriers that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities face on a daily basis, the Ford government has yet to develop a clear way forward.

In March, Raymond Cho, Ontario’s minister for seniors and accessibility, finally authorized work to resume on three committees developing accessibility standards in the education and health-care systems.

But, so far, none of the committees have met and no dates have been set.

When NDP MPP Joe Harden introduced a motion in the legislature in May urging the government to implement Onley’s report, starting with the development of new accessibility standards for the built environment, Cho dismissed the idea as “red tape.”

Instead, Cho and the Ford government are trumpeting a two-year $1.3-million investment in a new accessibility certification program developed by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

By certifying 250 public and private buildings, the government says it will raise awareness and encourage the development industry to make accessibility a priority.

We have no quarrel with the foundation’s quest to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities and to fund research into spinal cord injury and care.

But we are concerned about a program that relies on building professionals who have completed just two weeks of accessibility training to conduct the certifications.

And we question why certifications will be given to entire buildings at a time when most accessibility advocates and seasoned consultants say few buildings are fully accessible.

For example, the foundation was recently criticized for awarding a “gold” rating to the Vancouver airport in 2018, even though the building includes so-called “hangout steps” for socializing, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs and are difficult to navigate for those with vision loss or difficulty with balance.

Far better for the foundation to give its stamp of approval on accessible design elements that are truly remarkable and worth highlighting as examples for others to follow.

But, for the province to be financially backing such a scheme – particularly when it was not among Onley’s 15 recommendations – is questionable.

Shouldn’t scarce public funds be spent on implementing Onley’s detailed blueprint to ensure that Ontario meets its 2025 deadline for becoming fully accessible

under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act?

As Onley rightly recommends, the province should be developing better provincial accessibility standards for public and private buildings and boosting enforcement of the few rules that currently exist.

And it should make accessibility courses mandatory in colleges and universities to ensure future architects and other design professionals get the training they need.

Just as physicians are trained to “do no harm,” architects and design professionals should be educated to create no barriers.

It’s hard to believe that during one of the biggest building booms in the history of Ontario, there are so few accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Nothing prevents a developer from building acres of single family homes inaccessible to people with disabilities.

And just 15 per cent of units in multiresidential buildings – condominiums and apartments – are required to be accessible.

Ottawa’s national housing strategy aims to ensure 20 per cent of homes created under the plan are accessible. And yet, according to the latest 2017 federal statistics, 22 per cent of Canadians report having a disability, a percentage that will only grow as the population ages.

Clearly, we are not addressing current need, let alone future demand. The Ford government must do better.



Source link

Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

July 29, 2019

SUMMARY

In both conventional media and social media, there has already been good coverage of the serious problems that we have publicly raised with the Ford Government plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the controversial Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility certification program. This helps reinforce our call for the Government to set this plan aside. Instead of this inappropriate use of public money, the Doug Ford Government should act now to implement the helpful recommendations in the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public its important July 3, 2019 report. It documents serious problems with the Government plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. Our July 3, 2019 report shows that it is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call an RHF assessment of a building an “accessibility certification”. It is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call someone who took a two-week course from the RHF on accessibility and who passed a multiple-choice test an “accessibility professional”. It is an exaggeration if not inaccurate for the Ford Government to claim that public funding for this will remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Our efforts have triggered quite a good early response. In this Update we highlight early attention that our concerns have gotten in conventional media and social media. We also let you know about a recent article in a BC news publication that reinforces our concerns. We also take a closer look at the first public statement to the media that the Doug Ford Government has made in response to our concerns. We show that the Ford Government’s responses do not eliminate our concerns at all.

In this Update we also identify the specific actions we want the Ford Government to now take. What we seek is rooted in the recommendations of the David Onley report, and in election commitments that Doug Ford made to the AODA Alliance and Ontarians with disabilities during last year’s election campaign.

Just before this Update was sent out, we received a letter from Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho. It responds to the questions about the plan to publicly fund the problematic RHF private accessibility certification program in our July 3, 2019 letter to the Accessibility Minister. We are hard at work analyzing this letter and will address it in an upcoming AODA Alliance Update.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

1. Great Conventional and Social Media Coverage

On July 24, 2019, the Toronto Star online ran a great article entitled “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.” This article is included below. It reported on several of the serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million to the RHF for this. Below we address the Government’s first public responses to our July 3, 2019 report.

As well, on Thursday, July 25, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Kitchener 570 News Radio station, as part of the “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” show. CFRB News Talk 1010 Radio in Toronto did a news interview with him on July 26, 2019. We have not heard if it was used on the air. At 4:45 pm today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa.

There has also been quite a positive and vocal reaction to our report on social media. We set out a sampling from Twitter, below, as well as a Facebook post by Optimal Consulting, an accessibility firm that operates in Ontario.

All the feedback we have seen or received from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns about the Ford Government’s plan to publicly fund the troubling RHF private accessibility certification program for 250 as-yet unspecified buildings in Ontario. They have also broadened the discussion with new information. Beyond what they say that is set out in our July 3, 2019 report, we have not investigated or verified facts set out in those posts. We present them to show that there is real controversy swirling around the Government’s plan.

Here are two tweets as examples. They were both replies to the Toronto Star tweeting about its July 24, 2019 article on this topic, which we provide for you later in this Update:

“Liz Hay. @Kurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail”

“Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06”

One of the tweets set out later in this Update , and that arises from our July 3, 2019 report, brought to our attention an important article in the July 9, 2019 edition of the Delta Observer news publication from British Columbia. We also set that article out below. It reports on a human rights complaint that has been filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against a BC restaurant. A customer with a disability alleges that the restaurant has accessibility problems that amount to a violation of their human rights. The article says the RHF had certified that venue as accessible.

This shows, as we have said, that just because the RHF “certifies” that a place is accessible does not mean that people with disabilities will experience that place as accessible. Moreover, the fact that the RHF “certified” a restaurant as accessible is no defence to a human rights complaint, if the complainant shows that they faced accessibility barriers. Calling this “accessibility certification” is therefore inaccurate.

2. A Closer Look Shows that the Ford Government’s First Official Response to the AODA Alliance Report Doesn’t Refute Our Serious Concerns

What has the Ford Government told the media in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the Government’s plan to fund the RHF private accessibility certification program to assess 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years? Twenty-two days before we made our report public, we sent it to the office of the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. We asked his office to let us know if there are any factual inaccuracies in our report. We explained that we have done our best to ensure that it is accurate, and don’t want to make any inaccurate statements in that report. We said we’d like to know before we make the report public, in case there is anything we need to correct. Knowing of our request, Minister Cho’s office and ministry has not suggested to us that there was anything inaccurate in the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report.

The Government’s first public response to the media was in the same Toronto Star July 24, 2019 article that was mentioned in the tweets above. We here take a closer look at that response, which is full of holes. The article’s key passage is:

“In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

The Government’s response to the Toronto Star does not disprove any of our serious concerns. We address seven points.

First, we have seen no indication that the Ford Government held any open competitive process before it decided whom it would engage to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. There are a number of accessibility experts in Ontario that have been doing this kind of accessibility advisory work for years. There is no indication whether any of them were considered, or even had a chance to bid on this project. We do not know why a Government, acting responsibly with public money, would choose the RHF assessors whose only required accessibility background comes from passing a multiple choice test after a two-week course. A public bidding process would be a more appropriate approach to the responsible use of public money.

On that issue, the Star article includes this Government response:

“The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

Yet that track record in BC is called into question by the problems with the RHF Gold rating for the Vancouver International Airport (addressed in our July 3, 2019 report), and the RHF’s rating a BC restaurant as “accessible” which is now being sued under BC’s human rights legislation for alleged accessibility problems. (as addressed in the news article set out later in this Update).

Second, according to the Toronto Star, an RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is geared towards industry, not consumers. That will hardly be encouraging for Ontarians with disabilities. We need an increased focus on consumers with disabilities. Even if it is geared for industry, there is no way the public can know if the RHF assessments are useful since they are being kept secret, unless an organization wants its RHF report made public.

Third, the RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is “an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities.” However, as our July 3, 2019 report highlighted, and as a tweet from Ontario-based accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi notes, it is not even clear that the RHF assessments will cover all accessibility requirements in Ontario provincial and municipal laws. Moreover, the “Code” that organizations must meet or exceed is the Ontario Human Rights Code, and not the inferior accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Fourth, according to the Toronto Star, Accessibility Minister Cho said that “CSA Group (i.e. the Canadian Standards Association) will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate.” However, the CSA is itself not a government agency. It is a private organization. To our knowledge, the CSA is not authorized under any law of which we are aware to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings in Ontario or to evaluate the correctness or consistency of assessments done by others. We have seen no proof that the CSA has any expertise in that field. It is certainly not an organization that we would advise a government to engage for that purpose.

Fifth, it is peculiar that the RHF told the Star that: When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation. This flies in the face of the fact that both the Ford Government and the RHF’s website emphasize the Rick Hansen Foundation’s name all over this process. In the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release (included in the appendix to our July 3, 2019 report), the Government states position that is quite contrary to what it here told the Star, where it says:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

It would likely come as a troubling surprise to an organization that had paid for the RHF certification and for permission to post an RHF certification sign on their building, as well as to members of the public who see a “Rick Hansen Foundation” accessibility certification sign in front of a building, that the RHF did not actually certify the building’s accessibility. This is especially so since it appears that a bedrock foundation of the RHF private accessibility certification program, and the Government’s promotion of this plan, is its prominent focus on Rick Hansen’s name and notoriety.

Sixth, assuming that the Star quoted it accurately, the RHF statement to the Toronto Star contradicts its own website where the RHF spokesperson said:

“The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”

The admission requirements to be able to take the RHF two-week course and to pass a multiple choice test to qualify to conduct these building accessibility assessments for the RHF do not require a person to have ” a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”, as our July 3, 2019 report documents. According to the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation, posted on the RHF website, the qualifications to take the RHF 2-week course are:

“Prerequisites include the following:
You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program;
You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in
a designated trade related to building construction;
You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as
an engineer;
You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building construction.”

If we are right, then the RHF statement to the Star is inaccurate on a very important issue, namely whether a person needs to have any accessibility experience before taking the RHF course. As noted earlier, the Ford Government did not tell us that we got any of our facts wrong in our July 3, 2019 report.

Seventh and finally, the Government’s response does not disprove our serious concerns with the twin risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent in this plan. Our report explains that there are two conflict of interest risks:

1. The RHF can be asked to assess the building of a public or private organization that has given a donation to the RHF, or that offers to do so in the future, or that otherwise signals a willingness to do so. This creates a conflict of interest for the RHF.

2. The RHF’s accessibility assessors are freelancers. They get hired on an ad hoc basis by an organization to do an RHF accessibility assessment and to submit it to the RHF for its adjudication and approval. These assessors are paid by the job. No doubt, they want to get more jobs. As such, they have an incentive to give more favourable accessibility ratings, so that other organizations will also want to choose them for future certification jobs.

To answer these concerns, the Ford Government told the Star:

“”In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.”

These Government statements do not eliminate any of our conflict of interest concerns. The fact that the assessors work as freelancers does not take away the fact that the RHF, which grants the ultimate award or certification in its own name, has a potential conflict of interest, in the case of organizations that may be past or potential future donors to the RHF.

As well, the fact that these assessors are paid by the job as freelancers is the very basis for the second conflict of interest concern listed above. By emphasizing that they are freelancers, the Minister’s statement simply reaffirms this problem.

3. What Should the Ford Government Do Now?

The Ford Government should take a long second look at this plan in light of our concerns, and should cancel it.

It’s time for the Ford Government instead to come up with a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government received the Onley report six months ago (or 179 days ago(. the Government has announced no plans to implement that report, even though over four months ago, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”.

To create disability accessibility in the built environment, we call on the Ford Government to act on Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. That is where Premier Ford set out his 2018 election pledges on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We need Ontario to enact new and modernized accessibility requirements to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The current Ontario Building Code is woefully inadequate. The Onley Report recommended this action. The AODA Alliance has called for this action. On May 15, 2018, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Codes accessibility provisions.”

We need Ontario to require that design professionals like architects be properly trained to design a built environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has recommended this. So did the Onley Report. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We also need the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The AODA Alliance has called for this. the Onley Report did the same. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford promised that there would be an end to mismanagement of public money.

Rather than taking these important actions, the Ford Government took the official position in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that this is all just undesirable “red tape”. The Doug Ford Government proudly pointed to its alternative plan of providing public funding to the RHF private accessibility certification program.

In the face of this, last week, the AODA Alliance launched its new grassroots “Dial Doug” campaign. It is inviting the public to call or email the Premier at his office (416 325-1941 or [email protected]) to ask for his plan to make Ontario accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Members of the public are already taking up this challenge.

4. Toronto Star Online July 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/17/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says its wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a certified gold rating to a building with such steps.

Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings

By Gilbert Ngabo Staff Reporter

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the provinces new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

In this springs budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the provinces disability accessibility laws said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

You cant say, Hey, youre about to inspect my house, heres some cash. You shouldnt be allowed to do that, said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. Thats a clear conflict of interest. Its actually quite troubling.

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as theyd be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said theres risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport a RHF certified gold rated building in 2018 as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows hangout steps for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson Universitys Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective, he said. It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing soul-crushing barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is nowhere in sight, Onleys report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing, Lepofsky said.

We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

5. The Delta Optimist July 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.delta-optimist.com/news/human-rights-tribunal-to-hear-disabled-customer-s-complaint-about-pat-quinn-s-1.23877536?fbclid=IwAR2YQfRum15xPmepCS7c10T4gO7lDhS-bJUfBimDOggHjSK5zzRiUBoB7mg BC Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customers complaint about Pat Quinns

An accessibility complaint against Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar will go before the Human Rights Tribunal later this year.

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassens Vince Miele who uses a wheelchair and has long been an advocate for people with disabilities.

According to his application, in February 2016 he made a reservation for four and informed the Tsawwassen Springs restaurant that one in the party uses a wheelchair.

When he arrived, he found his friends had been seated at a table in the lower area of the restaurant, but he was unable to independently join them because of three stairs. A server offered to help him down the stairs, but that was not feasible.

As a result, his friends were moved to the upper level of the restaurant. He said the experience attracted undue attention from other diners and that it was an incredibly embarrassing experience.

After the incident, Miele contacted the restaurant to complain about the lack of access to the lower floor.

I received less than a satisfactory response and in correspondence with others looked originally at a class-action lawsuit, Miele told the Optimist. The commissioner of the tribunal determined that a class-action complaint was a lot more complicated. They felt they would not accept it as a class-action, but continue it at the Human Rights Tribunal.

In January, an application was made to dismiss the complaint, but that was denied, so it will now be heard before the tribunal in November.

Miele said since he started the complaint process three years ago, the restaurant has made some improvements, including installing an automatic door opener from the parkade to the elevator and a door to enable access to the patio. As well, it now has a portable ramp, but Miele contends that does not meet the building code and a permanent ramp should be installed to meet all accessibility standards.

Were very surprised by all of this. Its a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there, he said. Im not in this to harm the reputation of the restaurant. I thought it was an oversight when I first wrote to them in good faith and thought it would be corrected.

Three years later we are still waiting. What are we to think? Im adamant about what I want and so are they and thats why we are heading to a hearing. To design something like this so poorly is quite surprising. It should be inclusive and accessible for all and its not.

Dave Symington also wrote to the Optimist about a similar experience he had at the restaurant in May.

Its surprising that a building this new still did not take into account that people with mobility-related disabilities might want to use the lower and main portion of the restaurant, he said. The building code specifically states that where there is a change in floor levels it must be made accessible, which means a permanent ramp or other means where an individual can independently access the area. If we have to make a fuss about sitting in an area that anyone else can, we are not being accommodated fairly.

Through its legal counsel, Tsawwassen Springs provided a written response to the Optimist.

We engaged the services of professional engineers and architects who created the building plans for the construction of Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar along with the entire building in which the restaurant is situate, which plans were in full compliance with the then current B.C. Building Code including the accessibility requirements provided therein, said the response.

Those building plans were approved by the City of Delta, whose representatives issued all necessary permits. The building, including the restaurant, is Accessibility Certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program.

We will not be providing any further comment while this matter is being considered by the tribunal.

6. Sampling of Recent Tweets

Liz Hay. @tkurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail

J E Sleeth. @DavidLepofsky @fordnation @HonDavidOnley Excellent article @TorontoStar re. #aoda #ford giving $ 2 @RickHansenFdn which is not bona fide #accessibility nor a means 2 have private sector be #openforbusiness to #peopleofallabilities it’s not just the #wheelchair

Joel Harden. $1.3 million for accessibility audits will not rid Ontario of the “soul-crushing” barriers that exist. We need immediate action to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, not meager investments. #onpoli #AODA https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter Web App

Allen Mankewich. This thread highlights concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Certification Program and reveals a lot of what I’m hearing in private conversations. Thanks @mssinenomine for compiling the thread, and thanks @DavidLepofsky for releasing a report exposing issues with this program. https://twitter.com/mssinenomine/status/1154420373187751936 twitter.com/mssinenomine/s

Michelle Sanders. #Ontario to allocate $1.3 million to #accessibility audits in partnership with @RickHansenFdn . Accessibility Certification requirements not available to the public + not based on public consult. What are we doing?? @fordnation @aodaalliance @AODAontario https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter for iPhone

Micaela Evans A case is heading to the BC Human Rights Tribunal soon that touches on these important issues of the certification https://twitter.com/micievans13/status/1154622550682456064?s=20

Gabrielle Peters The building is accessibility certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Check out the @aodaalliance report at the top of this thread detailing this wasteful use of public money and their “Dial Doug” campaign

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Trust the Doug Ford government to come up with a way to look like it’s doing something about accessibility when all its doing is spending money on a private foundation to ensure it makes the government look like it’s doing something. Ontario taxpayers deserve better. #onpoli
Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Unlike the government this private foundation has no obligation to make anything public. Ontarians won’t know which buildings are rated, or how they’re rated. The Ford gov will release results as it sees fit. There is no enforcement for buildings that fail. This fails us all.
While slashing education and health care the Doug Ford government is paying a private foundation 1.3 million to rate 250 buildings. That’s $5,200 per building. Government inspectors already employed could do this. Is this an attempt to ensure that these buildings pass?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. To work as a building accessibility certfier for RHF all you have to do is take a two week course and pass a multiple choice test. Then you’re fully trained to certify every single building you see as accessible or accessible enough for Doug Ford’s purposes. Right. #Accessibilty
Further to the detailed work of BC’s @mssinenomine Ontario disability activists also reject this ridiculously expensive private accessibility certification company that essentially does nothing but make itself money. twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/

Thea Kurdi. To move the needle on #accessibility , enforce existing laws but face reality we need to radically rewrite building codes. Older buildings need audits using detailed requ’ts from several standards to get even close to Human Rights. After renos *maybe then ready for celebration.

Thea Kurdi. My career has been focused on trying to remove barriers people with disabilities unjustly face in built environments. I wish we were ready for whole building certification by now, but current standard practice & building codes don’t create accessible places. Love encouraging…

…and celebrating progress but at best we are only ready to celebrate features. Areas of most progress? Bathrooms, service desks, parking, signage, but rarely more than minimum, & not what we’ve known for decades is needed. #Education is far more valuable than certification.

Thea Kurdi. …this report from @aodaalliance raises many reasonable questions. And for those who don’t know much about #accessibility in buildings I understand wishing one national standard, like the CSA B651, would cover everything. Sadly, it does not. Why? Read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-insider-secrets-whats-stopping-full-inclusion-design-thea-kurdi/ linkedin.com/pulse/top-insi

People have been asking what I think of new RHF certification program. I can see why business & government are attracted to what looks like an easy solution to a complex problem that they want to solve. I can see why people like the idea of celebrating through recognition. But… twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/
Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06

7. Facebook Post by Optimal Consultants, an Ontario-Based Accessibility Consulting Firm

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/93712137122/posts/10156628031122123/

(Note: The AODA Alliance has not investigated or verified any statements in this post)

Please read my article in Linked In and in Facebook yesterday about the @RickHansen certification system being flawed. This includes “auditors” who have no formal education in the areas of ergonomics, human factors, psychology or design. As mentioned yesterday we are aware of 1 very important building in Meadowvale Ontario that was deemed by RHF to be accessible and received an award (which is clearly displayed in the building owners website – (note the building is owned by and managed by a real estate company. The certification and award were not in any way pursued by the FI business who leases the building). The two formal audits conducted by Optimal Performance Consultants and paid for by the FI in the building found the building to not meet even basic #OntarioBuildingCode #BarrierFreeDesign let alone provide accessibility for people of ALL abilities. Remember, accessible and inclusive design is NOT just about the #Wheelchair We stand by our University educated, experienced and professional Auditors at Optimal Performance Consultants. Optimizing human performance through the built environment for 30 years. [email protected]





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Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program

July 29, 2019

SUMMARY

In both conventional media and social media, there has already been good coverage of the serious problems that we have publicly raised with the Ford Government plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the controversial Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility certification program. This helps reinforce our call for the Government to set this plan aside. Instead of this inappropriate use of public money, the Doug Ford Government should act now to implement the helpful recommendations in the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public its important July 3, 2019 report. It documents serious problems with the Government plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. Our July 3, 2019 report shows that it is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call an RHF assessment of a building an “accessibility certification”. It is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call someone who took a two-week course from the RHF on accessibility and who passed a multiple-choice test an “accessibility professional”. It is an exaggeration if not inaccurate for the Ford Government to claim that public funding for this will remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Our efforts have triggered quite a good early response. In this Update we highlight early attention that our concerns have gotten in conventional media and social media. We also let you know about a recent article in a BC news publication that reinforces our concerns. We also take a closer look at the first public statement to the media that the Doug Ford Government has made in response to our concerns. We show that the Ford Government’s responses do not eliminate our concerns at all.

In this Update we also identify the specific actions we want the Ford Government to now take. What we seek is rooted in the recommendations of the David Onley report, and in election commitments that Doug Ford made to the AODA Alliance and Ontarians with disabilities during last year’s election campaign.

Just before this Update was sent out, we received a letter from Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho. It responds to the questions about the plan to publicly fund the problematic RHF private accessibility certification program in our July 3, 2019 letter to the Accessibility Minister. We are hard at work analyzing this letter and will address it in an upcoming AODA Alliance Update.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

1. Great Conventional and Social Media Coverage

On July 24, 2019, the Toronto Star online ran a great article entitled “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.” This article is included below. It reported on several of the serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million to the RHF for this. Below we address the Government’s first public responses to our July 3, 2019 report.

As well, on Thursday, July 25, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Kitchener 570 News Radio station, as part of the “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” show. CFRB News Talk 1010 Radio in Toronto did a news interview with him on July 26, 2019. We have not heard if it was used on the air. At 4:45 pm today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa.

There has also been quite a positive and vocal reaction to our report on social media. We set out a sampling from Twitter, below, as well as a Facebook post by Optimal Consulting, an accessibility firm that operates in Ontario.

All the feedback we have seen or received from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns about the Ford Government’s plan to publicly fund the troubling RHF private accessibility certification program for 250 as-yet unspecified buildings in Ontario. They have also broadened the discussion with new information. Beyond what they say that is set out in our July 3, 2019 report, we have not investigated or verified facts set out in those posts. We present them to show that there is real controversy swirling around the Government’s plan.

Here are two tweets as examples. They were both replies to the Toronto Star tweeting about its July 24, 2019 article on this topic, which we provide for you later in this Update:

“Liz Hay. @Kurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail”

“Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings.

torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06”

One of the tweets set out later in this Update , and that arises from our July 3, 2019 report, brought to our attention an important article in the July 9, 2019 edition of the Delta Observer news publication from British Columbia. We also set that article out below. It reports on a human rights complaint that has been filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against a BC restaurant. A customer with a disability alleges that the restaurant has accessibility problems that amount to a violation of their human rights. The article says the RHF had certified that venue as accessible.

This shows, as we have said, that just because the RHF “certifies” that a place is accessible does not mean that people with disabilities will experience that place as accessible. Moreover, the fact that the RHF “certified” a restaurant as accessible is no defence to a human rights complaint, if the complainant shows that they faced accessibility barriers. Calling this “accessibility certification” is therefore inaccurate.

2. A Closer Look Shows that the Ford Government’s First Official Response to the AODA Alliance Report Doesn’t Refute Our Serious Concerns

What has the Ford Government told the media in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the Government’s plan to fund the RHF private accessibility certification program to assess 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years? Twenty-two days before we made our report public, we sent it to the office of the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. We asked his office to let us know if there are any factual inaccuracies in our report. We explained that we have done our best to ensure that it is accurate, and don’t want to make any inaccurate statements in that report. We said we’d like to know before we make the report public, in case there is anything we need to correct. Knowing of our request, Minister Cho’s office and ministry has not suggested to us that there was anything inaccurate in the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report.

The Government’s first public response to the media was in the same Toronto Star July 24, 2019 article that was mentioned in the tweets above. We here take a closer look at that response, which is full of holes. The article’s key passage is:

“In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

The Government’s response to the Toronto Star does not disprove any of our serious concerns. We address seven points.

First, we have seen no indication that the Ford Government held any open competitive process before it decided whom it would engage to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. There are a number of accessibility experts in Ontario that have been doing this kind of accessibility advisory work for years. There is no indication whether any of them were considered, or even had a chance to bid on this project. We do not know why a Government, acting responsibly with public money, would choose the RHF assessors whose only required accessibility background comes from passing a multiple choice test after a two-week course. A public bidding process would be a more appropriate approach to the responsible use of public money.

On that issue, the Star article includes this Government response:

“The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

Yet that track record in BC is called into question by the problems with the RHF Gold rating for the Vancouver International Airport (addressed in our July 3, 2019 report), and the RHF’s rating a BC restaurant as “accessible” which is now being sued under BC’s human rights legislation for alleged accessibility problems. (as addressed in the news article set out later in this Update).

Second, according to the Toronto Star, an RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is geared towards industry, not consumers. That will hardly be encouraging for Ontarians with disabilities. We need an increased focus on consumers with disabilities. Even if it is geared for industry, there is no way the public can know if the RHF assessments are useful since they are being kept secret, unless an organization wants its RHF report made public.

Third, the RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is “an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities.” However, as our July 3, 2019 report highlighted, and as a tweet from Ontario-based accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi notes, it is not even clear that the RHF assessments will cover all accessibility requirements in Ontario provincial and municipal laws. Moreover, the “Code” that organizations must meet or exceed is the Ontario Human Rights Code, and not the inferior accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Fourth, according to the Toronto Star, Accessibility Minister Cho said that “…CSA Group (i.e. the Canadian Standards Association) will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate.” However, the CSA is itself not a government agency. It is a private organization. To our knowledge, the CSA is not authorized under any law of which we are aware to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings in Ontario or to evaluate the correctness or consistency of assessments done by others. We have seen no proof that the CSA has any expertise in that field. It is certainly not an organization that we would advise a government to engage for that purpose.

Fifth, it is peculiar that the RHF told the Star that: “When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation”. This flies in the face of the fact that both the Ford Government and the RHF’s website emphasize the Rick Hansen Foundation’s name all over this process. In the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release (included in the appendix to our July 3, 2019 report), the Government states position that is quite contrary to what it here told the Star, where it says:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

It would likely come as a troubling surprise to an organization that had paid for the RHF certification and for permission to post an RHF certification sign on their building, as well as to members of the public who see a “Rick Hansen Foundation” accessibility certification sign in front of a building, that the RHF did not actually certify the building’s accessibility. This is especially so since it appears that a bedrock foundation of the RHF private accessibility certification program, and the Government’s promotion of this plan, is its prominent focus on Rick Hansen’s name and notoriety.

Sixth, assuming that the Star quoted it accurately, the RHF statement to the Toronto Star contradicts its own website where the RHF spokesperson said:

“The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments…”

The admission requirements to be able to take the RHF two-week course and to pass a multiple choice test to qualify to conduct these building accessibility assessments for the RHF do not require a person to have ” a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments”, as our July 3, 2019 report documents. According to the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation, posted on the RHF website, the qualifications to take the RHF 2-week course are:

“Prerequisites include the following:

  • You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering,

urban planning, interior design or a related program;

  • You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in

a designated trade related to building construction;

  • You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as

an engineer;

  • You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR
  • You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building

construction.”

If we are right, then the RHF statement to the Star is inaccurate on a very important issue, namely whether a person needs to have any accessibility experience before taking the RHF course. As noted earlier, the Ford Government did not tell us that we got any of our facts wrong in our July 3, 2019 report.

Seventh and finally, the Government’s response does not disprove our serious concerns with the twin risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent in this plan. Our report explains that there are two conflict of interest risks:

  1. The RHF can be asked to assess the building of a public or private organization that has given a donation to the RHF, or that offers to do so in the future, or that otherwise signals a willingness to do so. This creates a conflict of interest for the RHF.
  1. The RHF’s accessibility assessors are freelancers. They get hired on an ad hoc basis by an organization to do an RHF accessibility assessment and to submit it to the RHF for its adjudication and approval. These assessors are paid by the job. No doubt, they want to get more jobs. As such, they have an incentive to give more favourable accessibility ratings, so that other organizations will also want to choose them for future certification jobs.

To answer these concerns, the Ford Government told the Star:

“”In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.”

These Government statements do not eliminate any of our conflict of interest concerns. The fact that the assessors work as freelancers does not take away the fact that the RHF, which grants the ultimate award or certification in its own name, has a potential conflict of interest, in the case of organizations that may be past or potential future donors to the RHF.

As well, the fact that these assessors are paid by the job as freelancers is the very basis for the second conflict of interest concern listed above. By emphasizing that they are freelancers, the Minister’s statement simply reaffirms this problem.

3. What Should the Ford Government Do Now?

The Ford Government should take a long second look at this plan in light of our concerns, and should cancel it.

It’s time for the Ford Government instead to come up with a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government received the Onley report six months ago (or 179 days ago(. the Government has announced no plans to implement that report, even though over four months ago, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”.

To create disability accessibility in the built environment, we call on the Ford Government to act on Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. That is where Premier Ford set out his 2018 election pledges on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We need Ontario to enact new and modernized accessibility requirements to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The current Ontario Building Code is woefully inadequate. The Onley Report recommended this action. The AODA Alliance has called for this action. On May 15, 2018, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions.”

We need Ontario to require that design professionals like architects be properly trained to design a built environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has recommended this. So did the Onley Report. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We also need the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The AODA Alliance has called for this. the Onley Report did the same. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford promised that there would be an end to mismanagement of public money.

Rather than taking these important actions, the Ford Government took the official position in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that this is all just undesirable “red tape”. The Doug Ford Government proudly pointed to its alternative plan of providing public funding to the RHF private accessibility certification program.

In the face of this, last week, the AODA Alliance launched its new grassroots “Dial Doug” campaign. It is inviting the public to call or email the Premier at his office (416 325-1941 or [email protected]) to ask for his plan to make Ontario accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Members of the public are already taking up this challenge.

4. Toronto Star Online July 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/17/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says it’s wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a “certified gold” rating to a building with such steps.

Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings

By Gilbert Ngabo Staff Reporter

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the province’s new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

In this spring’s budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance — a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the province’s disability accessibility laws — said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

“You can’t say, ‘Hey, you’re about to inspect my house, here’s some cash.’ You shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. “That’s a clear conflict of interest. It’s actually quite troubling.”

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as they’d be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said there’s risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport — a RHF “certified gold” rated building in 2018 — as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows “hangout steps” for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

“It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective,” he said. “It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.”

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing “soul-crushing” barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is “nowhere in sight,” Onley’s report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

“The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing,” Lepofsky said.

“We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.”

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

5. The Delta Optimist July 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.delta-optimist.com/news/human-rights-tribunal-to-hear-disabled-customer-s-complaint-about-pat-quinn-s-1.23877536?fbclid=IwAR2YQfRum15xPmepCS7c10T4gO7lDhS-bJUfBimDOggHjSK5zzRiUBoB7mg

BC Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’s

An accessibility complaint against Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar will go before the Human Rights Tribunal later this year.

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassen’s Vince Miele who uses a wheelchair and has long been an advocate for people with disabilities.

According to his application, in February 2016 he made a reservation for four and informed the Tsawwassen Springs restaurant that one in the party uses a wheelchair.

When he arrived, he found his friends had been seated at a table in the lower area of the restaurant, but he was unable to independently join them because of three stairs. A server offered to help him down the stairs, but that was not feasible.

As a result, his friends were moved to the upper level of the restaurant. He said the experience attracted undue attention from other diners and that it was an “incredibly embarrassing experience.”

After the incident, Miele contacted the restaurant to complain about the lack of access to the lower floor.

“I received less than a satisfactory response and in correspondence with others looked originally at a class-action lawsuit,” Miele told the Optimist. “The commissioner of the tribunal determined that a class-action complaint was a lot more complicated. They felt they would not accept it as a class-action, but continue it at the Human Rights Tribunal.”

In January, an application was made to dismiss the complaint, but that was denied, so it will now be heard before the tribunal in November.

Miele said since he started the complaint process three years ago, the restaurant has made some improvements, including installing an automatic door opener from the parkade to the elevator and a door to enable access to the patio. As well, it now has a portable ramp, but Miele contends that does not meet the building code and a permanent ramp should be installed to meet all accessibility standards.

“We’re very surprised by all of this. It’s a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there,” he said. “I’m not in this to harm the reputation of the restaurant. I thought it was an oversight when I first wrote to them in good faith and thought it would be corrected.

“Three years later we are still waiting. What are we to think? I’m adamant about what I want and so are they and that’s why we are heading to a hearing. To design something like this so poorly is quite surprising. It should be inclusive and accessible for all and it’s not.”

Dave Symington also wrote to the Optimist about a similar experience he had at the restaurant in May.

“It’s surprising that a building this new still did not take into account that people with mobility-related disabilities might want to use the lower and main portion of the restaurant,” he said. “The building code specifically states that where there is a change in floor levels it must be made accessible, which means a permanent ramp or other means where an individual can independently access the area. If we have to make a fuss about sitting in an area that anyone else can, we are not being accommodated fairly.”

Through its legal counsel, Tsawwassen Springs provided a written response to the Optimist.

“We engaged the services of professional engineers and architects who created the building plans for the construction of Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar along with the entire building in which the restaurant is situate, which plans were in full compliance with the then current B.C. Building Code including the accessibility requirements provided therein,” said the response.

“Those building plans were approved by the City of Delta, whose representatives issued all necessary permits. The building, including the restaurant, is Accessibility Certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program.

“We will not be providing any further comment while this matter is being considered by the tribunal.”

6. Sampling of Recent Tweets

Liz Hay. @tkurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail

J E Sleeth. @DavidLepofsky @fordnation @HonDavidOnley Excellent article @TorontoStar re. #aoda #ford giving $ 2 @RickHansenFdn which is not bona fide #accessibility nor a means 2 have private sector be #openforbusiness to #peopleofallabilities it’s not just the #wheelchair

Joel Harden. $1.3 million for accessibility audits will not rid Ontario of the “soul-crushing” barriers that exist. We need immediate action to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, not meager investments.  #onpoli #AODA https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

thestar.com/news/gta/2019/… Twitter Web App

Allen Mankewich.  This thread highlights concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Certification Program and reveals a lot of what I’m hearing in private conversations. Thanks  @mssinenomine for compiling the thread, and thanks  @DavidLepofsky for releasing a report exposing issues with this program.  https://twitter.com/mssinenomine/status/1154420373187751936 twitter.com/mssinenomine/s…

Michelle Sanders.  #Ontario to allocate $1.3 million to  #accessibility audits in partnership with  @RickHansenFdn . Accessibility Certification requirements not available to the public + not based on public consult. What are we doing?? @fordnation @aodaalliance @AODAontario https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/… Twitter for iPhone

Micaela Evans A case is heading to the BC Human Rights Tribunal soon that touches on these important issues of the certification https://twitter.com/micievans13/status/1154622550682456064?s=20

Gabrielle Peters The building is accessibility certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Check out the  @aodaalliance report at the top of this thread detailing this wasteful use of public money and their “Dial Doug” campaign

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Trust the Doug Ford government to come up with a way to look like it’s doing something about accessibility when all its doing is spending money on a private foundation to ensure it makes the government look like it’s doing something. Ontario taxpayers deserve better.     #onpoli

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Unlike the government this private foundation has no obligation to make anything public. Ontarians won’t know which buildings are rated, or how they’re rated. The Ford gov will release results as it sees fit. There is no enforcement for buildings that fail. This fails us all.

While slashing education and health care the Doug Ford government is paying a private foundation 1.3 million to rate 250 buildings. That’s $5,200 per building. Government inspectors already employed could do this. Is this an attempt to ensure that these buildings pass?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  To work as a building accessibility certfier for RHF all you have to do is take a two week course and pass a multiple choice test. Then you’re fully trained to certify every single building you see as accessible or accessible enough for Doug Ford’s purposes. Right.  #Accessibilty

Further to the detailed work of BC’s @mssinenomine Ontario disability activists also reject this ridiculously expensive private accessibility certification company that essentially does nothing but make itself money. twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/…

Thea Kurdi.  To move the needle on  #accessibility , enforce existing laws but face reality we need to radically rewrite building codes. Older buildings need audits using detailed requ’ts from several standards to get even close to Human Rights. After renos *maybe then ready for celebration.

Thea Kurdi.  My career has been focused on trying to remove barriers people with disabilities unjustly face in built environments. I wish we were ready for whole building certification by now, but current standard practice & building codes don’t create accessible places. Love encouraging…

…and celebrating progress but at best we are only ready to celebrate features. Areas of most progress? Bathrooms, service desks, parking, signage, but rarely more than minimum, & not what we’ve known for decades is needed. #Education is far more valuable than certification.

Thea Kurdi.  …this report from  @aodaalliance raises many reasonable questions. And for those who don’t know much about  #accessibility in buildings I understand wishing one national standard, like the CSA B651, would cover everything. Sadly, it does not. Why? Read:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-insider-secrets-whats-stopping-full-inclusion-design-thea-kurdi/ linkedin.com/pulse/top-insi…

People have been asking what I think of new RHF certification program. I can see why business & government are attracted to what looks like an easy solution to a complex problem that they want to solve. I can see why people like the idea of celebrating through recognition. But… twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/…

Thea Kurdi.  @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing  #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and  #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners?  #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06

7. Facebook Post by Optimal Consultants, an Ontario-Based Accessibility Consulting Firm

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/93712137122/posts/10156628031122123/

(Note: The AODA Alliance has not investigated or verified any statements in this post)

Please read my article in Linked In and in Facebook yesterday about the @RickHansen certification system being flawed. This includes “auditors” who have no formal education in the areas of ergonomics, human factors, psychology or design. As mentioned yesterday we are aware of 1 very important building in Meadowvale Ontario that was deemed by RHF to be accessible and received an award (which is clearly displayed in the building owners website – (note the building is owned by and managed by a real estate company. The certification and award were not in any way pursued by the FI business who leases the building). The two formal audits conducted by Optimal Performance Consultants and paid for by the FI in the building found the building to not meet even basic #OntarioBuildingCode #BarrierFreeDesign let alone provide accessibility for people of ALL abilities. Remember, accessible and inclusive design is NOT just about the #Wheelchair  We stand by our University educated, experienced and professional Auditors at Optimal Performance Consultants.  Optimizing human performance through the built environment for 30 years.  [email protected]





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Join in Our New “Dial Doug” Campaign! — A Grassroots Blitz, Unveiled Today, to Get the Doug Ford Government to Make Ontario Open for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

Twitter: #DialDoug

July 24, 2019

Please help our new grassroots blitz, unveiled today! We want the Doug Ford Government to come up with a plan to make Ontario accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians who have any kind of disability. It just takes you a few minutes to help, from home, or anywhere.

Grab a smart phone! DIAL DOUG! Phone or email him! Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to be accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? Tell him our rights are not red tape!

The phone number for the Office of the Premier of Ontario is (416) 325-1941. Premier Ford’s email address is [email protected] He had made his cell number public and was open to getting calls and text messages from voters on it. He portrays himself as being a very accessible premier who wants to hear directly from the people. He recently cancelled that cell number. But we the public can still try to reach him on his office phone or his email address.

Doug Ford says he is the premier “for the People”. His Government says it’s focusing on what matters most to Ontarians. Let’s take him at his word. Call or email him. Have your say. Read on for action tips and helpful background at a glance, below. We’ll have even more tips for you in future AODA Alliance Updates.

Here’s What to Do

Please phone or email Premier Doug Ford, whichever makes you most comfortable. If you phone him at his office, you will likely get connected with one of his staff. You can tell them what you have to say to the premier. You can even ask him to call you back, if you like. You might get directed to a voice mail box to leave a message. If you send him an email, you can take the time to write out what you want. You can do both, phone him and email him.

What might you say? Here are some ideas. It’s best if you share your thoughts in your own words.

Tell Doug Ford how many people around you have disabilities. We’re voters! Describe disability barriers that hurt you or your friends or family members with disabilities. These might be barriers you or others face when trying to shop, use public transit or health care services, go to school or university, or get a job.

Most important, ask him what is his plan to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? That is the deadline that the Disabilities Act (AODA) sets.

You might tell him that our rights are not “red tape”. In the Legislature on May 30, 2019, several Conservative MPPs said it would just create red tape for the Ontario Government to make new regulations on accessibility or to do a better job at enforcing Ontario’s Disabilities Act (AODA).

Ontario won’t be open for business if it is not open to all Ontarians with disabilities as customers and employees. We need Doug Ford to use the Disabilities Act to tear down the barriers that close Ontario to so many of us.

Tell him that this past January, former Lieutenant Governor David Onley gave the Government a report that said that for people with disabilities, Ontario is full of “countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers”.

Be open about your concerns but also remember that it is important to be respectful, no matter how frustrated you may feel. That is far more effective and appropriate than sounding angry.

We are non-partisan. We work with all parties, commend them when they do good things, and hold them publicly accountable when they fall short on our issues.

Let us know what you tried and what you were told. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, tweet or post about your text message or call to Doug Ford. Use our new #DialDoug hashtag in your tweet or post. You can email us about it, at [email protected]

Encourage family and friends to also take part in our Dial Doug campaign. If you have more time, please also contact your nearest members of the Ontario Legislature with the same message. Their contact information is at https://www.ola.org/en/members

Background at a Glance

Over 1.9 million Ontarians have a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, learning, communication or other disability. This number is increasing as the population grows and ages.

In the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford said:

“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.”

In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 (less than 5 and a half years away). The Ontario Government must enact regulations, called accessibility standards. These tell organizations what they need to do to become accessible, and set time lines. the Government is supposed to enforce these standards.

Progress on accessibility since 2005 has been far too slow. Ontarians with disabilities know this from their experience. It was also the strong finding of a Government-appointed Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report concluded this province is mostly inaccessible.”

The Onley report found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership for years on this issue. The Onley Report recommended:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen.”

The Onley report made practical recommendations. Among other things, it called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for the built environment, strengthen existing AODA accessibility standards, and ensure that public money is never again used to create disability barriers.

The Ford Government has been studying the Onley Report for almost six months. It has announced no plan to implement the Onley Report.

Doug Ford’s Government voted against creating a plan to implement the Onley Report. Yet the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”. On May 30, 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government voted to defeat a motion in the Legislature proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion had called on the Ford Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report.

In statements in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that are hurtful to people with disabilities, several of Doug Ford’s members of the Legislature inaccurately rejected the Onley Report’s recommendations as leading to “more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Our rights to accessibility under the AODA are not red tape!

The AODA Alliance recently gave the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its work on accessibility in its first year in office.

On July 10, 2019, 21 disability organizations sent an open letter to Premier Ford, calling on his Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report. More organizations have signed on since then.

In one year, Doug Ford’s Government announced only one new measure to fix disability barriers. Doug Ford plans to give the Rick Hansen Foundation 1.3 million dollars of the public’s money to conduct a private accessibility certification of 250 public or private buildings over two years. This plan is riddled with problems. It’s an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead use that money to beef up AODA implementation and enforcement.



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Join in Our New “Dial Doug” Campaign! — A Grassroots Blitz, Unveiled Today, to Get the Doug Ford Government to Make Ontario Open for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities


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

Join in Our New “Dial Doug” Campaign! — A Grassroots Blitz, Unveiled Today, to Get the Doug Ford Government to Make Ontario Open for Over 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Twitter: #DialDoug

July 24, 2019

Please help our new grassroots blitz, unveiled today! We want the Doug Ford Government to come up with a plan to make Ontario accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians who have any kind of disability. It just takes you a few minutes to help, from home, or anywhere.

Grab a smart phone! DIAL DOUG! Phone or email him! Ask him where is his plan to get Ontario to be accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? Tell him our rights are not red tape!

The phone number for the Office of the Premier of Ontario is (416) 325-1941. Premier Ford’s email address is [email protected]. He had made his cell number public and was open to getting calls and text messages from voters on it. He portrays himself as being a very accessible premier who wants to hear directly from the people. He recently cancelled that cell number. But we the public can still try to reach him on his office phone or his email address.

Doug Ford says he is the premier “for the People”. His Government says it’s focusing on what matters most to Ontarians. Let’s take him at his word. Call or email him. Have your say. Read on for action tips and helpful background at a glance, below. We’ll have even more tips for you in future AODA Alliance Updates.

Here’s What to Do

Please phone or email Premier Doug Ford, whichever makes you most comfortable. If you phone him at his office, you will likely get connected with one of his staff. You can tell them what you have to say to the premier. You can even ask him to call you back, if you like. You might get directed to a voice mail box to leave a message. If you send him an email, you can take the time to write out what you want. You can do both, phone him and email him.

What might you say? Here are some ideas. It’s best if you share your thoughts in your own words.

Tell Doug Ford how many people around you have disabilities. We’re voters! Describe disability barriers that hurt you or your friends or family members with disabilities. These might be barriers you or others face when trying to shop, use public transit or health care services, go to school or university, or get a job.

Most important, ask him what is his plan to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025? That is the deadline that the Disabilities Act (AODA) sets.

You might tell him that our rights are not “red tape”. In the Legislature on May 30, 2019, several Conservative MPPs said it would just create red tape for the Ontario Government to make new regulations on accessibility or to do a better job at enforcing Ontario’s Disabilities Act (AODA).

Ontario won’t be open for business if it is not open to all Ontarians with disabilities as customers and employees. We need Doug Ford to use the Disabilities Act to tear down the barriers that close Ontario to so many of us.

Tell him that this past January, former Lieutenant Governor David Onley gave the Government a report that said that for people with disabilities, Ontario is full of “countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers”.

Be open about your concerns but also remember that it is important to be respectful, no matter how frustrated you may feel. That is far more effective and appropriate than sounding angry.

We are non-partisan. We work with all parties, commend them when they do good things, and hold them publicly accountable when they fall short on our issues.

Let us know what you tried and what you were told. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, tweet or post about your text message or call to Doug Ford. Use our new #DialDoug hashtag in your tweet or post. You can email us about it, at [email protected]

Encourage family and friends to also take part in our Dial Doug campaign. If you have more time, please also contact your nearest members of the Ontario Legislature with the same message. Their contact information is at https://www.ola.org/en/members

Background at a Glance

Over 1.9 million Ontarians have a physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, learning, communication or other disability. This number is increasing as the population grows and ages.

In the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford said:

“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.”

In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025 (less than 5 and a half years away). The Ontario Government must enact regulations, called accessibility standards. These tell organizations what they need to do to become accessible, and set time lines. the Government is supposed to enforce these standards.

Progress on accessibility since 2005 has been far too slow. Ontarians with disabilities know this from their experience. It was also the strong finding of a Government-appointed Independent Review by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Onley Report concluded this province is mostly inaccessible.”

The Onley report found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership for years on this issue. The Onley Report recommended:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen.”

The Onley report made practical recommendations. Among other things, it called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for the built environment, strengthen existing AODA accessibility standards, and ensure that public money is never again used to create disability barriers.

The Ford Government has been studying the Onley Report for almost six months. It has announced no plan to implement the Onley Report.

Doug Ford’s Government voted against creating a plan to implement the Onley Report. Yet the Ford Government’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”. On May 30, 2019, during National AccessAbility Week, the Ford Government voted to defeat a motion in the Legislature proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. That motion had called on the Ford Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report.

In statements in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that are hurtful to people with disabilities, several of Doug Ford’s members of the Legislature inaccurately rejected the Onley Report’s recommendations as leading to “more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Our rights to accessibility under the AODA are not red tape!

The AODA Alliance recently gave the Ford Government a failing “F” grade for its work on accessibility in its first year in office.

On July 10, 2019, 21 disability organizations sent an open letter to Premier Ford, calling on his Government to come up with a plan to implement the Onley Report. More organizations have signed on since then.

In one year, Doug Ford’s Government announced only one new measure to fix disability barriers. Doug Ford plans to give the Rick Hansen Foundation 1.3 million dollars of the public’s money to conduct a private accessibility certification of 250 public or private buildings over two years. This plan is riddled with problems. It’s an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead use that money to beef up AODA implementation and enforcement.



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The Ford Government Gets A Failing Grade on Making Progress on Disability Accessibility After One year in Power


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

June 21, 2019

SUMMARY

It’s time to look back on the past year, take stock and give a report card on the Ontario Government’s performance on achieving the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. The Ontario Government has now been in office for one year, or one quarter of its term in office. It has been blanketing social media and the web with glowing statements about its progress on various issues, exemplified in Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho’s June 14, 2019 email to disability stakeholders, set out below. It repeatedly tells the public that it is keeping its promises and protecting “what matters most” to Ontarians.

We regret that we must give the Ford Government a failing “F” grade. It has done virtually nothing helpful and new to improve the Ontario Government’s efforts on leading Ontario to become accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets. It has even exceeded the previous Wynne Government’s record for dithering and inaction on accessibility. When running for office, Doug Ford told all Ontarians that if he is elected, help is on the way. When it comes to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities, we are still waiting.

We were delighted at the start of the new Government that it appointed the closest thing to a fulltime accessibility minister. This meant that progress on accessibility could be sped up, since more ministerial time could be devoted to that issue. Yet no such progress occurred over the year that followed.

The only new initiative on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in an entire year is unhelpful. It appears to be a major distraction rather than a real significant help. That is the Ford Government’s decision to divert 1.3 million public dollars over two years into having the Rick Hansen Foundation undertake a private “certification” of a total of 250 buildings (125 per year), using the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problematic private accessibility certification process. We have been on the record for years in opposition to investing any public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. In an upcoming AODA Alliance Update, we will have more to say specifically about the Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility certification process which the Ford Government has chosen to endorse and finance in Ontario.

With yesterday’s Cabinet shuffle, the Ford Government is now broadly trying to do a re-set, since it has plummeted in the polls. This is a good time for the Government to do a re-set in its approach to accessibility for people with disabilities. We estimate that there are at least one million voters with disabilities in Ontario. We are ready and willing to help with this, in our ongoing spirit of non-partisanship.

We remain open to work with the Ford Government so that it turns the page and begins a new strategy on disability accessibility. We invite and encourage your feedback on what to do in response to the Ford Government’s failing grade on accessibility in its first year in office. Email us at [email protected]

In striking contrast to this “F” grade for the Ontario Government, today the Federal Government is scheduled to give Royal Assent to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. That means that it goes into operation as a federal law. While the Accessible Canada Act lacks important features for which we and others vigorously campaigned, it underwent a series of improvements over the year since it was introduced in the House of Commons for First Reading on June 20, 2018, just one year and one day ago. It was improved in the House of Commons last fall at public hearings. It was further improved this past spring in the public hearings in the Senate. Check out the seven preliminary observations we have offered in response to the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act, in the June 3, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

MORE DETAILS

The Doug Ford Government’s Record on Accessibility After One Year in Office A Closer Look

Here are the key developments over the past year which together lead to the Ford Government’s failing grade on promoting accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities during its first year in office.

1. Starting on a Positive Note

The Ford Government started its term in office on a positive note. In June 2018, on being sworn in, the Ford Government announced that it was appointing Ontario’s first ever Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This was the closest Ontario has ever come to having a much-needed full-time accessibility minister. Combining responsibility for accessibility and for seniors was a good idea, since these mandates overlap. A large percentage of people with disabilities are seniors.

We congratulated the Government for this move. We offered to work together with Raymond Cho, the new minister, and the new Government. We have had a number of discussions with the minister and the minister’s staff.

2. We Offered the Government Good Ideas Early On But Got Vague Answers

Within a month of the Ford Government taking office, we wrote to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors and to Premier Doug Ford. We made specific suggestions for priority actions. Check out our July 17, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Both Premier Ford and Minister Cho replied with pro forma letters. These letters said little and committed to nothing specific. Apart from our request that the Government revive the work of five Standards Development Committees (which the Government had just frozen due to the election and its outcome), addressed further below, the Ford Government has taken none of the actions in the past year that we recommended as priorities.

3. Chilling Progress on Accessibility by Freezing the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees for Many Months

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

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

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

We had to keep up the pressure. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As of now, over three and a half months since the Ford Government announced that it was lifting that freeze, none of those three remaining Standards Development Committees has had a single meeting, as far as we can tell.

The Ford Government has announced potential reductions in the number of days that they will be able to meet. In the meantime, the many barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remain in place, while new ones continue to be created.

4. No New Government Action on Ensuring the Accessibility of Public Transportation in Ontario

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

5. Failure to Fulfil Its Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement. The Ford Government has had a year in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government early on.

6. No Comprehensive Government Plan of Action on Accessibility 142 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review, Even Though the Government Thought Onley Did a “Marvelous Job”

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office. it has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government stated that it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

On January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 in the Ontario Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of serious barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed. However, in the 142 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public any detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. It says it is still studying the issue.

The Ford Government Voiced Very Troubling and Harmful Stereotypes About the AODA and Disability Accessibility During National Access Abilities Week

For years, Canada has held some form of National Access Week towards the end of May. During this week, provincial politicians typically make public statements in the Legislature committing to accessibility and focusing on what more needs to be done.

This year, during National Access Abilities Week, MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. In that letter, Doug Ford had set out the Conservative Party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility. The proposed resolution stated:

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

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

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. That was hurtful to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. Those statements in effect call into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

7. In an Inappropriate Use of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverts 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only new action the Ford Government has taken on accessibility over its first year in office is its announcement in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. We oppose any public funding for any private accessibility certification process, no matter who provides this service.

the Ford Government entirely ignored all our serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over three years. The Ford Government has given no public reasons for its rejecting all of these concerns.

We here summarize our major concerns with any kind of private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. A future AODA Alliance update will address concerns specific to the Ford Government’s funding the private accessibility certification process offered under the name of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

a) A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the very organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing. A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still has serious accessibility problems.

Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As well, the certification, for whatever it is worth on the day it is granted, can quickly become out-of-date. New accessibility rules might later be enacted or amended that the assessor did not even consider. The building might proudly display a gold accessibility certification, while something might have been changed inside the building that creates new barriers.

If an organization gets a top-level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they must do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

b) All a private accessibility is some kind of accessibility advice, dressed up in the seemingly more impressive and authoritative label of “certification”. There are a number of accessibility consultants available to organizations to provide accessibility reviews and advice. The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another, and conferring on it the seemingly superior designation of “certification”. There is no assurance that the people who do the certifying have as much training, experience and expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.

c) A private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It can operate behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement.

d) Especially in a period of austerity and major Ontario budget cuts, spending any public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money. It is not focusing Government funding and efforts on the things that “matter most”, to draw on the Ford Government’s slogan.

There are much more pressing areas for new public spending on accessibility. At the same time as it is diverting this new public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. There is a much more pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

e) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take. The Onley Report did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.

f) If a private organization wants to hire an accessibility consultant of any sort, that organization should pay for those services. The Government should not be subsidizing this.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitte on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

7. Text of the June 14, 2019 Email from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to Stakeholders on Accessibility Issues

Dear Stakeholder:

June 7th marks the one-year anniversary that our government has been in office, and together, we have much to celebrate. We were elected to be a government that works for the people, putting their interests first in everything we do. I am proud to share with you how our government has helped people with disabilities and their families across Ontario over this past year.

Premier Ford and our entire team made five core commitments to the people of Ontario: restoring trust, accountability, and transparency; putting more money in people’s pockets; cleaning up the hydro mess; ending hallway healthcare; and making Ontario open for business and open for jobs.

Today, we can proudly say: “Promises made, promises kept.” We have charted a reasonable and responsible path to a balanced budget in five years, invested in core public services like healthcare and education, and protected frontline workers.

As Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I am committed to helping seniors and people with disabilities stay independent, safe, active and socially connected. Our government has the highest regard for people with disabilities and is committed to protecting what matters most to them and their families. I am incredibly proud of the work that our Ministry has accomplished over the past year, working alongside terrific partners like AODA Alliance.

We are committed to making Ontario more accessible for all. That is why when the Honourable David C. Onley completed and submitted his review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in January 2019, our government tabled the report faster than either previous review. After tabling the report, we immediately announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees so that they can continue their valuable work to improve accessibility in those sectors. We are also continuing to work with the Information and Communications Standard Development Committee. Needless to say, we are taking Mr. Onley’s input very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

People with disabilities and seniors deserve to remain engaged and participate fully in their communities. Yet many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. That is why our government is investing $1.3 million over two years through a new partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program is expected to start this fall and will roll out over the next two years in select communities across Ontario. The certification program will provide accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings by trained professionals, and will help property managers and owners determine ways to remove identified barriers. Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.
We are also continuing to work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility. For instance, our Employers’ Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They are working on developing sector-specific business cases for hiring people with disabilities that will be shared with businesses in Ontario to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

Additionally, through our EnAbling Change Program, we partner with non-profit organizations to develop educational tools and resources to promote ways to make our communities and businesses more accessible.

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to work together to make Ontario more accessible for all.

As our track record shows, we have accomplished a great deal, but our work is far from over. Looking ahead, our government will continue turning this province around and building for the future.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to build an Ontario where everyone shares in greater opportunity and prosperity.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister



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The Ford Government Gets A Failing Grade on Making Progress on Disability Accessibility After One year in Power – AODA Alliance


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 Gets A Failing Grade on Making Progress on Disability Accessibility After One year in Power

June 21, 2019

SUMMARY

It’s time to look back on the past year, take stock and give a report card on the Ontario Government’s performance on achieving the goal of accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. The Ontario Government has now been in office for one year, or one quarter of its term in office. It has been blanketing social media and the web with glowing statements about its progress on various issues, exemplified in Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho’s June 14, 2019 email to disability stakeholders, set out below. It repeatedly tells the public that it is keeping its promises and protecting “what matters most” to Ontarians.

We regret that we must give the Ford Government a failing “F” grade. It has done virtually nothing helpful and new to improve the Ontario Government’s efforts on leading Ontario to become accessible to over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the deadline which the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets. It has even exceeded the previous Wynne Government’s record for dithering and inaction on accessibility. When running for office, Doug Ford told all Ontarians that if he is elected, help is on the way. When it comes to the accessibility needs of Ontarians with disabilities, we are still waiting.

We were delighted at the start of the new Government that it appointed the closest thing to a fulltime accessibility minister. This meant that progress on accessibility could be sped up, since more ministerial time could be devoted to that issue. Yet no such progress occurred over the year that followed.

The only new initiative on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in an entire year is unhelpful. It appears to be a major distraction rather than a real significant help. That is the Ford Government’s decision to divert 1.3 million public dollars over two years into having the Rick Hansen Foundation undertake a private “certification” of a total of 250 buildings (125 per year), using the Rick Hansen Foundation’s problematic private accessibility certification process. We have been on the record for years in opposition to investing any public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who runs it. In an upcoming AODA Alliance Update, we will have more to say specifically about the Rick Hansen Foundation private accessibility certification process which the Ford Government has chosen to endorse and finance in Ontario.

With yesterday’s Cabinet shuffle, the Ford Government is now broadly trying to do a re-set, since it has plummeted in the polls. This is a good time for the Government to do a re-set in its approach to accessibility for people with disabilities. We estimate that there are at least one million voters with disabilities in Ontario. We are ready and willing to help with this, in our ongoing spirit of non-partisanship.

We remain open to work with the Ford Government so that it turns the page and begins a new strategy on disability accessibility. We invite and encourage your feedback on what to do in response to the Ford Government’s failing grade on accessibility in its first year in office. Email us at [email protected]

In striking contrast to this “F” grade for the Ontario Government, today the Federal Government is scheduled to give Royal Assent to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act. That means that it goes into operation as a federal law. While the Accessible Canada Act lacks important features for which we and others vigorously campaigned, it underwent a series of improvements over the year since it was introduced in the House of Commons for First Reading on June 20, 2018, just one year and one day ago. It was improved in the House of Commons last fall at public hearings. It was further improved this past spring in the public hearings in the Senate. Check out the seven preliminary observations we have offered in response to the enactment of the Accessible Canada Act, in the June 3, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

          MORE DETAILS

The Doug Ford Government’s Record on Accessibility After One Year in Office – A Closer Look

Here are the key developments over the past year which together lead to the Ford Government’s failing grade on promoting accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities during its first year in office.

1. Starting on a Positive Note

The Ford Government started its term in office on a positive note. In June 2018, on being sworn in, the Ford Government announced that it was appointing Ontario’s first ever Minister for Accessibility and Seniors. This was the closest Ontario has ever come to having a much-needed full-time accessibility minister. Combining responsibility for accessibility and for seniors was a good idea, since these mandates overlap. A large percentage of people with disabilities are seniors.

We congratulated the Government for this move. We offered to work together with Raymond Cho, the new minister, and the new Government. We have had a number of discussions with the minister and the minister’s staff.

2. We Offered the Government Good Ideas Early On But Got Vague Answers

Within a month of the Ford Government taking office, we wrote to the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors and to Premier Doug Ford. We made specific suggestions for priority actions. Check out our July 17, 2018 letter to Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho and our July 19, 2018 letter to Premier Doug Ford.

Both Premier Ford and Minister Cho replied with pro forma letters. These letters said little and committed to nothing specific. Apart from our request that the Government revive the work of five Standards Development Committees (which the Government had just frozen due to the election and its outcome), addressed further below, the Ford Government has taken none of the actions in the past year that we recommended as priorities.

3. Chilling Progress on Accessibility by Freezing the Work of AODA Standards Development Committees for Many Months

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

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

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

We had to keep up the pressure. The Ford Government waited until March 7, 2019 before it announced that it was lifting its freeze on the work of the Health Care Standards Development Committee and the two Education Standards Development Committees. As of now, over three and a half months since the Ford Government announced that it was lifting that freeze, none of those three remaining Standards Development Committees has had a single meeting, as far as we can tell.

The Ford Government has announced potential reductions in the number of days that they will be able to meet. In the meantime, the many barriers in Ontario’s education system and Ontario’s health care system remain in place, while new ones continue to be created.

4. No New Government Action on Ensuring the Accessibility of Public Transportation in Ontario

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

5. Failure to Fulfil Its Duty to Appoint A Standards Development Committee to Review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard

The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by the end of 2017. Neither the previous Wynne Government nor the current Ford Government have fulfilled this legal duty. This is a mandatory AODA requirement. The Ford Government has had a year in office to learn about this duty and to fulfil it. We flagged it for the Government early on.

6. No Comprehensive Government Plan of Action on Accessibility 142 Days After Receiving the Report of David Onley’s AODA Independent Review, Even Though the Government Thought Onley Did a “Marvelous Job”

We have been urging the Ford Government to develop a detailed plan on accessibility since shortly after it took office. it has never done so.

In December 2018, the Ford Government stated that it was awaiting the final report of former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, before deciding what it would do regarding accessibility for people with disabilities.

On January 31, 2019, the Ford Government received the final report of the David Onley Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho publicly said on April 10, 2019 in the Ontario Legislature that David Onley did a “marvelous job.”

The Onley report found that Ontario is still full of serious barriers impeding people with disabilities, and that specific new Government actions, spelled out in the report, are needed. However, in the 142 days since receiving the Onley Report, the Ford Government has not made public any detailed plan to implement that report’s findings and recommendations. It says it is still studying the issue.

The Ford Government Voiced Very Troubling and Harmful Stereotypes About the AODA and Disability Accessibility During National Access Abilities Week

For years, Canada has held some form of National Access Week towards the end of May. During this week, provincial politicians typically make public statements in the Legislature committing to accessibility and focusing on what more needs to be done.

This year, during National Access Abilities Week, MPP Joel Harden proposed a that the Legislature pass a resolution that called for the Government to bring forward a plan in response to the Onley Report. The resolution was worded in benign and non-partisan words, which in key ways tracked Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. In that letter, Doug Ford had set out the Conservative Party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility. The proposed resolution stated:

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

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

The speeches by Conservative MPPs in the Legislature on the Government’s behalf, in opposition to that motion, voiced false and harmful stereotypes about disability accessibility. That was hurtful to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. Those statements in effect call into serious question the Ford Government’s commitment to the effective implementation and enforcement of the AODA. They denigrated the creation and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards as red tape that threatened to imperil businesses and hurt people with disabilities.

7. In an Inappropriate Use of Public Money, the Ford Government Diverts 1.3 Million Dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Process

The only new action the Ford Government has taken on accessibility over its first year in office is its announcement in the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget that it would spend 1.3 million public dollars over two years to have the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process “certify” some 250 buildings, belonging to business or the public sector, for accessibility. We oppose any public funding for any private accessibility certification process, no matter who provides this service.

the Ford Government entirely ignored all our serious concerns with spending public money on such a private accessibility certification process. These concerns have been public for well over three years. The Ford Government has given no public reasons for its rejecting all of these concerns.

We here summarize our major concerns with any kind of private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. A future AODA Alliance update will address concerns specific to the Ford Government’s funding the private accessibility certification process offered under the name of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

  1. a) A private accessibility certification risks misleading the public, including people with disabilities. It also risks misleading the very organization that seeks this so-called certification. It “certifies” nothing. A private organization might certify a building as accessible, and yet people with disabilities may well find that the building itself, or the services offered in the building, still has serious accessibility problems.

Such a certification provides no defence to an accessibility complaint or proceeding under the AODA, under the Ontario Building Code, under a municipal bylaw, under the Ontario Human Rights Code, or under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As well, the certification, for whatever it is worth on the day it is granted, can quickly become out-of-date. New accessibility rules might later be enacted or amended that the assessor did not even consider. The building might proudly display a gold accessibility certification, while something might have been changed inside the building that creates new barriers.

If an organization gets a top-level accessibility certification, it may think they have done all they must do on accessibility. The public, including people with disabilities, and design professionals may be led to think that this is a model of accessibility to be emulated, and that it is a place that will be easy to fully access. This may turn out not to be the case, especially if the assessor uses an insufficient standard to assess accessibility, and/or if it does not do an accurate job of assessing the building and/or if things change in the building after the certification is granted.

  1. b) All a private accessibility is some kind of accessibility advice, dressed up in the seemingly more impressive and authoritative label of “certification”. There are a number of accessibility consultants available to organizations to provide accessibility reviews and advice. The Government should not be subsidizing one accessibility consultant over another, and conferring on it the seemingly superior designation of “certification”. There is no assurance that the people who do the certifying have as much training, experience and expertise on accessibility as do other accessibility consultants.
  1. c) A private accessibility certification process lacks much-needed public accountability. The public has no way to know if the private accessibility assessor is making accurate assessments. It is not subject to Freedom of Information laws. It can operate behind closed doors. It lacks the kind of public accountability that applies to a government audit or inspection or other enforcement.
  1. d) Especially in a period of austerity and major Ontario budget cuts, spending any public money on a private accessibility certification process is not a priority for efforts on accessibility in Ontario or a responsible use of public money. It is not focusing Government funding and efforts on the things that “matter most”, to draw on the Ford Government’s slogan.

There are much more pressing areas for new public spending on accessibility. At the same time as it is diverting this new public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation, the Ford Government appears to be cutting its expenditures on existing Standards Development Committees that are doing work in the health care and education areas. There is a much more pressing need for the Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to recommend an appropriate accessibility standard to deal with barriers in the built environment. These public funds could also be far better used to beef up the flagging and weak enforcement of the AODA.

  1. e) The Onley report recommended important and much-needed measures to address disability barriers in the built environment that the Ford Government has not yet agreed to take. The Onley Report did not recommend spending scarce public money on a private accessibility certification process.
  1. f) If a private organization wants to hire an accessibility consultant of any sort, that organization should pay for those services. The Government should not be subsidizing this.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 1, 2016 brief to Deloitte on the problems with publicly funding any private accessibility certification process, visit https://www.aoda.ca/aoda-alliance-sends-the-deloitte-company-its-submission-on-the-first-phase-of-the-deloitte-companys-public-consultation-on-the-wynne-governments-problem-ridden-proposal-to-fund-a-new-private-ac/

7. Text of the June 14, 2019 Email from Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho to Stakeholders on Accessibility Issues

Dear Stakeholder:

June 7th marks the one-year anniversary that our government has been in office, and together, we have much to celebrate. We were elected to be a government that works for the people, putting their interests first in everything we do. I am proud to share with you how our government has helped people with disabilities and their families across Ontario over this past year.

Premier Ford and our entire team made five core commitments to the people of Ontario: restoring trust, accountability, and transparency; putting more money in people’s pockets; cleaning up the hydro mess; ending hallway healthcare; and making Ontario open for business and open for jobs.

Today, we can proudly say: “Promises made, promises kept.” We have charted a reasonable and responsible path to a balanced budget in five years, invested in core public services like healthcare and education, and protected frontline workers.

As Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, I am committed to helping seniors and people with disabilities stay independent, safe, active and socially connected. Our government has the highest regard for people with disabilities and is committed to protecting what matters most to them and their families. I am incredibly proud of the work that our Ministry has accomplished over the past year, working alongside terrific partners like AODA Alliance.

We are committed to making Ontario more accessible for all. That is why when the Honourable David C. Onley completed and submitted his review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in January 2019, our government tabled the report faster than either previous review. After tabling the report, we immediately announced that we would be resuming the Health Care and Education Standards Development Committees so that they can continue their valuable work to improve accessibility in those sectors. We are also continuing to work with the Information and Communications Standard Development Committee. Needless to say, we are taking Mr. Onley’s input very seriously as we continue to work towards making Ontario more accessible.

People with disabilities and seniors deserve to remain engaged and participate fully in their communities. Yet many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. That is why our government is investing $1.3 million over two years through a new partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program is expected to start this fall and will roll out over the next two years in select communities across Ontario. The certification program will provide accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings by trained professionals, and will help property managers and owners determine ways to remove identified barriers. Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.

We are also continuing to work closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility. For instance, our Employers’ Partnership Table, which was brought together to support the creation of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. They are working on developing sector-specific business cases for hiring people with disabilities that will be shared with businesses in Ontario to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

Additionally, through our EnAbling Change Program, we partner with non-profit organizations to develop educational tools and resources to promote ways to make our communities and businesses more accessible.

This is just the beginning. We look forward to continuing to work together to make Ontario more accessible for all.

As our track record shows, we have accomplished a great deal, but our work is far from over. Looking ahead, our government will continue turning this province around and building for the future.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to build an Ontario where everyone shares in greater opportunity and prosperity.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister



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