Ontario’s New Democratic Party and the Ontario Human Rights Commission Press the Ford Government to Take Substantially More Action to Address Ontarians with Disabilities’ Urgent Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis


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

April 22, 2020

SUMMARY

Here are even more calls for the Ford Government to take substantially more action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Below we set out four important recent documents showing this crisis. The first three are from the Ontario New Democratic Party, and the fourth is from the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

1. On April 22, 2020, an NDP news release called on the Ford Government to include in a long-overdue emergency plan for people with disabilities a number of important measures, including mobile testing for people with disabilities who need to be tested for COVID-19.

2. On April 17, 2020, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and NDP disabilities critic Joel Harden wrote to the Ford Government, combining to echo the AODA Alliance’s call for the Ford Government to create a focused plan to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning. The NDP also echoed our call for the Government to consult the grassroots disability community on this. As their letter shows, the NDP was inspired to take this action by the April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. In the two weeks since that virtual public forum, it has been viewed over 2,000 times. It remains available to be viewed online, with captions and American Sign Language interpretation.

3. In the April 6, 2020 letter from NDP health critic France Gelinas to Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott, the NDP urged the Government to re-open the shuttered Assistive Devices Program (ADP) and to treat it as an essential service for people with disabilities. The Government’s failure to do so is symptomatic of its larger and recurring failure to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this crisis.

4. In the April 6, 2020 letter from Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane to Health Minister Christine Elliott, the Commission raised important human rights concerns with the Government’s controversial and secret March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol. Yesterday, as detailed in the AODA Alliance’s April 21, 2020 news release, the Government has walked back that protocol and agreed to consult human rights and community experts on it. We have not yet heard whether the Ford Government will include the AODA Alliance among those it will consult.

We thank and commend the NDP and the Ontario Human Rights Commission for these efforts. For more background, check out and widely share:

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have now been 447 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That is making worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 28 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is made even worse by that delay.

MORE DETAILS

April 22, 2020 News Release from the Ontario New Democratic Party

Government must make in-home testing available for people with disabilities: NDP
Province needs a plan to meet the needs of 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

QUEEN’S PARK The Official Opposition is calling for the Ford government to make COVID-19 testing available at home for people with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to testing sites.

“There are 2.6 million Ontarians living with disabilities, yet Doug Ford has not announced any plans to support them during the pandemic despite the fact that many people with disabilities are among the most susceptible to COVID-19, and often face barriers in accessing testing and treatment,” said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition.

“Access to testing must not discriminate based on ability,” said Joel Harden, NDP critic for Accessibility and People with Disabilities. “If we are truly all in this together, that means making sure every Ontarian who should get a test can get one.”

Harden said that for people like John Mossa, the testing system simply excludes them. Mossa has a mobility disability, and fragile health with limited lung function. When he came down with cold-like symptoms, including a cough, he felt he needed a test but would have needed a PSW to go along with him to a hospital or assessment centre, and worried about exposing his weak system to transit staff and others along the way. Ultimately, medical professionals advised him not to get a test, because the risks were too great and supports too few.

“People with disabilities, their families, and their caregivers cannot be an afterthought in the government’s response to COVID-19,” said Harden. “We need urgent action to ensure that their needs are met during this pandemic.”

Home-based tests for people with disabilities should be delivered by workers wearing full personal protective equipment, noted Harden.

Horwath and Harden wrote to Doug Ford calling for his government to adopt a plan in consultation with experts and grassroots disability community leaders. The plan should include, but not be limited to:

* Adopting a clinical triage protocol that respects the human rights of people with disabilities
* Ensuring that attendant care workers who help people with disabilities in their own homes have access to personal protective equipment
* Resources and clear guidelines to support 330,000 special education students with e-learning
* Provide remote and distance supports to assist the families of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home
* Declaring the Assistive Devices Program an essential service so that no one is deprived of critical mobility or medical aides

Media contact: Jodie Shupac, 416-806-9147
Quotes

John Mossa,Toronto:
“There should be COVID testing in the home of people with disabilities, especially if they are symptomatic, to prevent community spread and properly treat their illness. It is an accessibility accommodation the government should provide to vulnerable Ontarians – in keeping with the AODA.”

April 17, 2020 Letter to Premier Doug Ford from the Ontario New Democratic Party April 17, 2020

Premier Doug Ford
Room 281
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier,

We write to you having convened an urgent discussion with disability rights groups and leaders within this important sector. We are urging your government to adopt a comprehensive plan in consultation with them that ensures people with disabilities’ needs are met during this pandemic.

There are 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario, and their concerns are not being properly addressed in our province’s response to COVID-19. The same is true for their paid and unpaid caregivers. These are among the most vulnerable people to the spread of the virus.

Ontario has not announced a disability strategy for COVID-19, and the government has not responded to repeated appeals by grassroots disability rights groups. These groups have identified a number of concerns with respect to the government’s response, including but not limited to:

* According to Ontario Health’s Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID pandemic, dated March 28, some people will not get critical care because of their disability. Over 200 organizations have signed an open letter calling on the government to adopt a triage protocol that respects the human rights and needs of people with disabilities.
* Attendant care for Ontarians with disabilities is also precarious given the lack of access to personal protective equipment. Social distancing is impossible between care workers and their disabled clients, so the lack of access to PPE presents a real threat to the spread of COVID-19.
* Over 330,000 children with disabilities are currently attempting to learn from home with little or no strategy or support from the Ministry of Education. We cannot assume that all families and students can easily adjust to online learning, particularly when the format itself can be a barrier.
* Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program was not declared an essential service under COVID-19, and has effectively ceased functioning. This has left thousands of disabled Ontarians without access to the crucial supports they need.

Last week, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition convened a virtual town hall that brought together a variety of experts and disability rights organizations. They presented a number of recommendations that would help key departments, including health and education, in the fight against the virus. We urge your office to reach out to them without delay so these ministries get the best advice possible.

Ontario has a legal obligation to ensure no new barriers are created for people with disabilities, and that requires ensuring their voices are heard as our COVID-19 response continues.

In the end, Ontario will be judged by how we care for the most vulnerable among us during COVID-19. We urge you to consult experts and grassroots leaders from the disability community, and take immediate action given what you hear.

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath Joel Harden
Leader of the Official Opposition MPP for Ottawa-Centre

Cc: Minister Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

April 6, 2020 Letter from Ontario NDP to the Ontario Health Minister

Hon. Christine Elliott April 6, 2020
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
5th Floor, 777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2J3

Minister Elliott,

I understand the need to keep employees safe and take the advice of Public Health during this pandemic. Your office has shared with me that the ADP is closed. I am concerned with the impact the closure of the Assistive Devices Program office is having on families across Ontario. I would like to share a few examples with you.

In London, a palliative cancer care patient was taken home by her husband in order to decrease the occupancy rate and free up a bed at the hospital. Dave Houghton tried to re-apply to ADP to restore his wife’s grant for ostomy supplies and possibly rent/purchase a chair lift. The LHIN agreed to provide the ostomy supplies this month but supplies for next month are in limbo. Approval of funding for the needed chair lift, remains in limbo too as the ADP is closed.

In Windsor, a family needed an enteral feeding pump for the first time. They rented this from an ADP vendor. They tried to apply to ADP for funding to purchase a pump outright but the Office is closed. The LHIN paid to rent the pump for April but no one knows where funding will come from for May, since the ADP is closed.

In Barrie, 16-year old Ten Morgan needs a power wheelchair. She has an undiagnosed muscular condition that leaves her flat in bed most of the time. She is unable to hold herself upright. Her second-hand wheelchair was sized for a 7-year old so she cannot attend school as a result. Her family applied for a power wheelchair to ADP over one year ago, but a response was not received before the Office closed.

These situations create hardship for families in this stressful time. The services of the Assistive Devices Program are needed now, during the pandemic, as hospitals try to free up as many beds as possible. I know ADP has made financial arrangements so vendors are not too affected. Similar arrangements are needed for patients. Families with loved ones living with serious medical conditions have enough to deal with and they should not be left scrambling to find funding for medically necessary supplies and mobility devices because the ADP is closed.

Minister, I hope you will find a way to make the services of the ADP accessible to the families who need them.

Regards,

France Gelinas
Official Opposition Health Critic
MPP, Nickel Belt

April 9 2020 Letter to the Ontario Minister of Health from the Ontario Human Rights Commission

April 9, 2020

The Honourable Christine Elliott
Minister of Health
College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario
M7A 2J3
[email protected]

Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Potential human rights issues in the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response

I hope this finds you and your team safe and healthy. On behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), thank you for your ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OHRC is ready and willing to assist the government to proactively consider, assess and address human rights concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may know, last week, the OHRC released policy guidance to help Ontario adopt a human rights-based approach to pandemic management.

I am writing today to encourage the Ministry of Health (MOH) to engage with the OHRC on COVID-19 responses that raise potential human rights issues, including but not limited to: 1. MOH’s development of a “clinical triage protocol”
2. Collection and public reporting of human rights-based data related to COVID-19.

1. Clinical triage protocol

The media has recently reported that Ontario is developing a clinical triage protocol to address limited critical care capacity in anticipation of a potential major surge in COVID-19 cases. Disability rights groups have contacted the OHRC because they are concerned that such a protocol could have a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on Ontarians with disabilities.

Development of such protocols is obviously complex, raising many difficult ethical and moral questions. However, it is vitally important that any process to develop clinical triage protocols include, not only medical professionals and ethicists, but also human rights experts and representatives from vulnerable groups that may be disproportionately affected by its operation, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous and racialized people, etc.

Consistent with the its Actions consistent with a human rights-based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, the OHRC strongly recommends that MOH establish a mechanism to ensure human rights oversight and accountability before finalizing any clinical triage protocol.

To this end, the OHRC would be pleased to support MOH by providing input on the protocol, either informally or as part of the ethics table established for the government’s coordinated COVID-19 response.

2. Human rights-based pandemic data
The OHRC is also concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a disproportionate and potentially discriminatory effect on Code-protected groups. As such, MOH must collect and publicly report on human rights data to properly assess and address these impacts.

It is clear that some vulnerable groups may have a more difficult time following public health guidance around isolation and physical distancing, which may increase their risk of contracting COVID-19. These vulnerable groups include people with disabilities and addictions, Indigenous and racialized people, women and children facing domestic violence, people who do not have access to stable housing, amongst others. At the same time, people from vulnerable groups may be over-represented in essential service professions (cleaners, cashiers, construction workers etc.) and tend to be recipients of essential services themselves.

The immediate risk to vulnerable groups is amplified when one considers pre-existing health inequalities and poor health outcomes within these communities, especially and including Indigenous communities. In the United States, for example, media reports indicate that Black Americans comprise 70% of reported COVID-19 deaths in Chicago while making up only 29% of the population. In Louisiana, where Black Americans make up one-third of the population, the media reports that they represent 70% of COVID-19-related deaths.

Unfortunately, unlike many jurisdictions outside Canada, MOH’s public data on COVID-19 is not disaggregated on human rights grounds and cannot be used to identify any disparate impacts on vulnerable groups. This is a serious problem and should be immediately remedied to ensure that Ontario’s short-term and long-term response to the pandemic is effective and equitable.

The OHRC has extensive experience advising governments and other public bodies on the collective and reporting of human rights-based data, and would be pleased to assist MOH in developing the necessary protocols in the context of COVID-19.

Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss these issues further. Sincerely,

Original Signed by

Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Chief Commissioner

cc: Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General
Roberto Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance
OHRC Commissioners




Source link

Ontario’s New Democratic Party and the Ontario Human Rights Commission Press the Ford Government to Take Substantially More Action to Address Ontarians with Disabilities’ Urgent Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Ontario’s New Democratic Party and the Ontario Human Rights Commission Press the Ford Government to Take Substantially More Action to Address Ontarians with Disabilities’ Urgent Needs During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 22, 2020

          SUMMARY

Here are even more calls for the Ford Government to take substantially more action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Below we set out four important recent documents showing this crisis. The first three are from the Ontario New Democratic Party, and the fourth is from the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

  1. On April 22, 2020, an NDP news release called on the Ford Government to include in a long-overdue emergency plan for people with disabilities a number of important measures, including mobile testing for people with disabilities who need to be tested for COVID-19.
  1. On April 17, 2020, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and NDP disabilities critic Joel Harden wrote to the Ford Government, combining to echo the AODA Alliance’s call for the Ford Government to create a focused plan to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities as part of its COVID-19 emergency planning. The NDP also echoed our call for the Government to consult the grassroots disability community on this. As their letter shows, the NDP was inspired to take this action by the April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities that was jointly organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition. In the two weeks since that virtual public forum, it has been viewed over 2,000 times. It remains available to be viewed online, with captions and American Sign Language interpretation.
  1. In the April 6, 2020 letter from NDP health critic France Gelinas to Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott, the NDP urged the Government to re-open the shuttered Assistive Devices Program (ADP) and to treat it as an essential service for people with disabilities. The Government’s failure to do so is symptomatic of its larger and recurring failure to effectively address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during this crisis.
  1. In the April 6, 2020 letter from Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Renu Mandhane to Health Minister Christine Elliott, the Commission raised important human rights concerns with the Government’s controversial and secret March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol. Yesterday, as detailed in the AODA Alliance’s April 21, 2020 news release, the Government has walked back that protocol and agreed to consult human rights and community experts on it. We have not yet heard whether the Ford Government will include the AODA Alliance among those it will consult.

We thank and commend the NDP and the Ontario Human Rights Commission for these efforts. For more background, check out and widely share:

* The guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky in the April 20, 2020 online Toronto Star, which summarizes our major COVID disability issues in one place.

* The widely viewed April 7, 2020 online Virtual Public Forum on what Government Must Do to Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities.

* Action tips on how to help ensure that patients with disabilities don’t face discrimination in access to critical health care.

* The April 8, 2020 open letter to Premier Ford, organized by the ARCH Disability Law Centre, voicing concerns about the Ontario Government’s protocol for rationing medical care during the COVID crisis.

* The AODA Alliance’s March 25, 2020 letter to Premier Ford, which has gone unanswered.

There have now been 447 days since the Ford Government received the groundbreaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has still announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That is making worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 28 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is made even worse by that delay.

          MORE DETAILS

April 22, 2020 News Release from the Ontario New Democratic Party

Government must make in-home testing available for people with disabilities: NDP

Province needs a plan to meet the needs of 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities

QUEEN’S PARK — The Official Opposition is calling for the Ford government to make COVID-19 testing available at home for people with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to testing sites.

“There are 2.6 million Ontarians living with disabilities, yet Doug Ford has not announced any plans to support them during the pandemic — despite the fact that many people with disabilities are among the most susceptible to COVID-19, and often face barriers in accessing testing and treatment,” said Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition.

“Access to testing must not discriminate based on ability,” said Joel Harden, NDP critic for Accessibility and People with Disabilities. “If we are truly all in this together, that means making sure every Ontarian who should get a test can get one.”

Harden said that for people like John Mossa, the testing system simply excludes them. Mossa has a mobility disability, and fragile health with limited lung function. When he came down with cold-like symptoms, including a cough, he felt he needed a test — but would have needed a PSW to go along with him to a hospital or assessment centre, and worried about exposing his weak system to transit staff and others along the way. Ultimately, medical professionals advised him not to get a test, because the risks were too great and supports too few.

“People with disabilities, their families, and their caregivers cannot be an afterthought in the government’s response to COVID-19,” said Harden. “We need urgent action to ensure that their needs are met during this pandemic.”

Home-based tests for people with disabilities should be delivered by workers wearing full personal protective equipment, noted Harden.

Horwath and Harden wrote to Doug Ford calling for his government to adopt a plan in consultation with experts and grassroots disability community leaders. The plan should include, but not be limited to:

  • Adopting a clinical triage protocol that respects the human rights of people with disabilities
  • Ensuring that attendant care workers who help people with disabilities in their own homes have access to personal protective equipment
  • Resources and clear guidelines to support 330,000 special education students with e-learning
  • Provide remote and distance supports to assist the families of people with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home
  • Declaring the Assistive Devices Program an essential service so that no one is deprived of critical mobility or medical aides

Media contact: Jodie Shupac, 416-806-9147

Quotes

 

John Mossa, Toronto:

“There should be COVID testing in the home of people with disabilities, especially if they are symptomatic, to prevent community spread and properly treat their illness. It is an accessibility accommodation the government should provide to vulnerable Ontarians – in keeping with the AODA.”

April 17, 2020 Letter to Premier Doug Ford from the Ontario New Democratic Party

April 17, 2020

Premier Doug Ford

Room 281

Legislative Building, Queen’s Park

Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Dear Premier,

We write to you having convened an urgent discussion with disability rights groups and leaders within this important sector. We are urging your government to adopt a comprehensive plan in consultation with them that ensures people with disabilities’ needs are met during this pandemic.

There are 2.6 million people with disabilities in Ontario, and their concerns are not being properly addressed in our province’s response to COVID-19. The same is true for their paid and unpaid caregivers. These are among the most vulnerable people to the spread of the virus.

Ontario has not announced a disability strategy for COVID-19, and the government has not responded to repeated appeals by grassroots disability rights groups. These groups have identified a number of concerns with respect to the government’s response, including but not limited to:

  • Attendant care for Ontarians with disabilities is also precarious given the lack of access to personal protective equipment. Social distancing is impossible between care workers and their disabled clients, so the lack of access to PPE presents a real threat to the spread of COVID-19.
  • Over 330,000 children with disabilities are currently attempting to learn from home with little or no strategy or support from the Ministry of Education. We cannot assume that all families and students can easily adjust to online learning, particularly when the format itself can be a barrier.
  • Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program was not declared an essential service under COVID-19, and has effectively ceased functioning. This has left thousands of disabled Ontarians without access to the crucial supports they need.

Last week, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition convened a virtual town hall that brought together a variety of experts and disability rights organizations. They presented a number of recommendations that would help key departments, including health and education, in the fight against the virus. We urge your office to reach out to them without delay so these ministries get the best advice possible.

Ontario has a legal obligation to ensure no new barriers are created for people with disabilities, and that requires ensuring their voices are heard as our COVID-19 response continues.

In the end, Ontario will be judged by how we care for the most vulnerable among us during COVID-19. We urge you to consult experts and grassroots leaders from the disability community, and take immediate action given what you hear.

Sincerely,

Andrea Horwath                                                        Joel Harden

Leader of the Official Opposition                              MPP for Ottawa-Centre

Cc: Minister Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility

April 6, 2020 Letter from Ontario NDP to the Ontario Health Minister

Hon. Christine Elliott                                                             April 6, 2020

Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

5th Floor, 777 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario M7A 2J3

Minister Elliott,

I understand the need to keep employees safe and take the advice of Public Health during this pandemic. Your office has shared with me that the ADP is closed. I am concerned with the impact the closure of the Assistive Devices Program office is having on families across Ontario. I would like to share a few examples with you.

In London, a palliative cancer care patient was taken home by her husband in order to decrease the occupancy rate and free up a bed at the hospital. Dave Houghton tried to re-apply to ADP to restore his wife’s grant for ostomy supplies and possibly rent/purchase a chair lift. The LHIN agreed to provide the ostomy supplies this month but supplies for next month are in limbo. Approval of funding for the needed chair lift, remains in limbo too as the ADP is closed.

In Windsor, a family needed an enteral feeding pump for the first time. They rented this from an ADP vendor. They tried to apply to ADP for funding to purchase a pump outright – but the Office is closed. The LHIN paid to rent the pump for April but no one knows where funding will come from for May, since the ADP is closed.

In Barrie, 16-year old Ten Morgan needs a power wheelchair. She has an undiagnosed muscular condition that leaves her flat in bed most of the time. She is unable to hold herself upright. Her second-hand wheelchair was sized for a 7-year old so she cannot attend school as a result. Her family applied for a power wheelchair to ADP over one year ago, but a response was not received before the Office closed.

These situations create hardship for families in this stressful time. The services of the Assistive Devices Program are needed now, during the pandemic, as hospitals try to free up as many beds as possible. I know ADP has made financial arrangements so vendors are not too affected. Similar arrangements are needed for patients. Families with loved ones living with serious medical conditions have enough to deal with and they should not be left scrambling to find funding for medically necessary supplies and mobility devices because the ADP is closed.

Minister, I hope you will find a way to make the services of the ADP accessible to the families who need them.

Regards,

France Gelinas

Official Opposition Health Critic

MPP, Nickel Belt

April 9 2020 Letter to the Ontario Minister of Health from the Ontario Human Rights Commission

April 9, 2020

The Honourable Christine Elliott

Minister of Health

College Park, 5th Floor

777 Bay Street

Toronto, Ontario

M7A 2J3

[email protected]

Dear Minister Elliott:

RE: Potential human rights issues in the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response

I hope this finds you and your team safe and healthy. On behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), thank you for your ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OHRC is ready and willing to assist the government to proactively consider, assess and address human rights concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you may know, last week, the OHRC released policy guidance to help Ontario adopt a human rights-based approach to pandemic management.

I am writing today to encourage the Ministry of Health (MOH) to engage with the OHRC on COVID-19 responses that raise potential human rights issues, including but not limited to:

  1. MOH’s development of a “clinical triage protocol”
  2. Collection and public reporting of human rights-based data related to COVID-19.
  1. Clinical triage protocol

The media has recently reported that Ontario is developing a clinical triage protocol to address limited critical care capacity in anticipation of a potential major surge in COVID-19 cases. Disability rights groups have contacted the OHRC because they are concerned that such a protocol could have a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on Ontarians with disabilities.

Development of such protocols is obviously complex, raising many difficult ethical and moral questions. However, it is vitally important that any process to develop clinical triage protocols include, not only medical professionals and ethicists, but also human rights experts and representatives from vulnerable groups that may be disproportionately affected by its operation, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous and racialized people, etc.

 

Consistent with the its Actions consistent with a human rights-based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, the OHRC strongly recommends that MOH establish a mechanism to ensure human rights oversight and accountability before finalizing any clinical triage protocol.

To this end, the OHRC would be pleased to support MOH by providing input on the protocol, either informally or as part of the ethics table established for the government’s coordinated COVID-19 response.

  1. Human rights-based pandemic data

The OHRC is also concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a disproportionate and potentially discriminatory effect on Code-protected groups. As such, MOH must collect and publicly report on human rights data to properly assess and address these impacts.

It is clear that some vulnerable groups may have a more difficult time following public health guidance around isolation and physical distancing, which may increase their risk of contracting COVID-19. These vulnerable groups include people with disabilities and addictions, Indigenous and racialized people, women and children facing domestic violence, people who do not have access to stable housing, amongst others. At the same time, people from vulnerable groups may be over-represented in essential service professions (cleaners, cashiers, construction workers etc.) and tend to be recipients of essential services themselves.

The immediate risk to vulnerable groups is amplified when one considers pre-existing health inequalities and poor health outcomes within these communities, especially and including Indigenous communities. In the United States, for example, media reports indicate that Black Americans comprise 70% of reported COVID-19 deaths in Chicago while making up only 29% of the population. In Louisiana, where Black Americans make up one-third of the population, the media reports that they represent 70% of COVID-19-related deaths.

Unfortunately, unlike many jurisdictions outside Canada, MOH’s public data on COVID-19 is not disaggregated on human rights grounds and cannot be used to identify any disparate impacts on vulnerable groups. This is a serious problem and should be immediately remedied to ensure that Ontario’s short-term and long-term response to the pandemic is effective and equitable.

The OHRC has extensive experience advising governments and other public bodies on the collective and reporting of human rights-based data, and would be pleased to assist MOH in developing the necessary protocols in the context of COVID-19.

Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss these issues further.

Sincerely,

Original Signed by

Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.

Chief Commissioner

cc:        Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General

Roberto Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre

David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance

OHRC Commissioners



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Disability Community Wins Interim Step Forward – Ford Government Backs Down on Its Controversial Secret Protocol for Rationing Critical Medical Care During the COVID Crisis and Agrees to Consult Human Rights and Community Experts


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Community Wins Interim Step Forward – Ford Government Backs Down on Its Controversial Secret Protocol for Rationing Critical Medical Care During the COVID Crisis and Agrees to Consult Human Rights and Community Experts

April 21, 2020 Toronto: Today, after mounting pressure from Ontarians with disabilities and others, the Ford Government appears to have backed down on its controversial secret protocol for rationing critical medical care during the COVID crisis, and has at last openly agreed to consult with human rights and community experts. We urge The Government to confirm that it will include the AODA Alliance and others from the grassroots disability community among those it will consult. (Letter from the Ford Government set out below)

Within the disability community there has been wrenching worry and mounting public pressure, because the Ford Government had in circulation a secret document that spells out how scarce medical care would be rationed or triaged if, for example, there were not enough ventilators for all the COVID patients needing them. For example:

* On April 8, 2020, the ARCH Disability Law Centre made public an open letter to the Ford Government, signed by over 200 community organizations (including the AODA Alliance). That open letter raised grave concerns that the Ford Government’s secret COVID medical rationing or triage protocol threatened to discriminate against some patients with disabilities.

* On April 18, 2020, CBC posted online a guest column by two respected law professors raising human rights concerns.

* On April 20, 2020, the Toronto Star posted online a      guest column by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky raising these concerns, among others.

In an open letter made public earlier today from Ontario’s Ministers of Health, Seniors/Accessibility and Community and Social Services, set out below, the Ford Government appears to have backed down and distanced itself from its controversial secret protocol. It is especially important that the Government committed as follows:

“We believe that a human life cannot be valued differently. As such, Ontario Health has been asked to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as human rights and key community experts, to make certain that any medical protocols that may be required during this outbreak do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous communities and racialized people.”

“This is an important relief and a helpful step forward, but only an interim relief. It is one for which we should not have had to tenaciously fight, while isolated in our homes struggling with this COVID crisis, said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which has been working alongside many others to get this medical triage protocol rescinded. “This is but one illustration of the pressing and enormous need for the Ford Government to work with the grassroots disability community on strategies to stop this COVID crisis from disproportionately harming Ontarians with disabilities.”

Despite this step in the right direction, there are also concerns with the Government’s statement:

* As an effort to distance itself from this controversial triage protocol, The Government claims this triage protocol was only a draft, even though the document was not labelled “draft”, as draft Government documents always are. The Ford Government must explicitly rescind the March 28, 2020 triage protocol already in circulation, and direct that it is not to be followed.

* The Ford Government also tries to distance itself from its controversial triage protocol by claiming it was developed by Ontario Health. Yet Ontario Health is an agency of the Ontario Government to which the Ford Government has given a substantially expanded mandate. , the Ford Government appoints its board of directors and funds it. In a system of democratic responsible government, the buck stops with the Government and the Premier, especially on such matters of life and death.

* The Government states that in creating this controversial triage protocol, Ontario Health “worked with critical care experts and bioethicists to develop a clinical triage protocol to support frontline physicians…” This in effect concedes that Ontario Health did not include the voices of the grassroots disability community, against whom the protocol threatened discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical services. We question whether the Government got legal advice in this area that so obviously touches on human and constitutional rights. There needs at the right time to be a serious look into how this unacceptable protocol was allowed to happen, even if it were only a draft.

* This open letter does not reaffirm the important commitment of Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, reported in the April 8, 2020 Toronto Sun, that any such protocol must be approved by Ontario’s Cabinet. Instead, this open letter leaves the strong impression that this is now all being left to Ontario Health (from which the Government is evidently trying to distance itself). It is vital that no such life and death matter be left to such a Crown agency as Ontario Health, with our elected leaders distancing themselves from responsibility for it. It is vital that Premier Ford clear this up by reaffirming that no COVID medical triage or rationing protocol will be adopted for Ontario until and unless it is approved by Ontario’s Cabinet.

We are eager to directly work with the Government on this issue. To that end, last week, we made public a helpful Discussion Paper on ways to prevent discrimination against patients with disabilities in access to critical health care during the COVID crisis.

If there is a revised draft of this medical triage protocol already prepared or in the works, the Government should immediately make it public so that we all can study it and offer swift feedback on it. It has not yet done so.

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

April 21, 2020 Open Letter from Ontario Minister of Health, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility, and Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

From the very outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have been driven by a clear commitment to protect the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians. This has included taking decisive action to stop the spread of this virus and ensuring the province’s readiness to respond to a wide range of new outbreak scenarios.

The government’s immediate priority since the very beginning of this outbreak has been to significantly expand both acute and critical care capacity in our province’s hospitals, including the number of ventilators.

As part of this response, Ontario Health, an arms-length Crown agency, has worked with critical care experts and bioethicists to develop a clinical triage protocol to support frontline physicians in the event the system is faced with the near-impossible circumstances that require the allocation of severely constrained critical care resources caused by a major surge. To be clear, this protocol is a draft document developed by Ontario Health. It has not been approved or authorized by our government.

We believe that a human life cannot be valued differently. As such, Ontario Health has been asked to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as well as human rights and key community experts, to make certain that any medical protocols that may be required during this outbreak do not disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, older persons, Indigenous communities and racialized people.

If hospitals are indeed faced with near-impossible circumstances, those critical decisions must be left with those highly-trained medical professionals providing care on our front lines. They are best positioned to make those difficult decisions, on an individual basis.

We would like to once again thank you for your ongoing and considerable efforts in supporting Ontario’s continued response to COVID-19. Together, we will stop the spread of this virus and protect the health of all Ontarians, including and especially our most vulnerable.

Sincerely,

Christine Elliott

Deputy Premier

and Minister of Health

Todd Smith

Minister of Children, Community

and Social Services

Raymond Cho

Minister for Seniors

and Accessibility



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Lack of Progress on Human Rights Order Frustrates Accessibility Activist


Gus Reed says government taking too long to update and enforce accessibility rules Michael Gorman · CBC News
Posted: Aug 09, 2019

Gus Reed says the government isn’t doing enough to follow its own accessibility rules.

Gus Reed got tired of waiting.

Reed was part of a group successful in a human rights challenge against the Nova Scotia government, arguing he and other wheelchair users could not wash their hands in many restaurants where accessible washrooms are not available. A board of inquiry found the government was not enforcing its own accessibility regulations.

That was in September 2018. Almost a year later, Reed said things haven’t played out the way he’d hoped and aren’t going nearly fast enough.

“Essentially, I thought that it was sort of over, that we won and now it’s time for [the government] to do their thing,” he said.

In January, Reed and the others received a proposal to go through a restorative justice approach to the matter. He was sceptical of the idea, unsure if it was appropriate, but went along because others wanted to give it a chance.

‘It requires action’

In June he left the process after several meetings, deciding he’d heard enough.

“I got a sense from that that everybody was deeply concerned and perfectly nice, but they weren’t the people who were going to be able to do stuff. It requires a minister or deputy minister or policy leader to say, ‘Just go off and do this,’” he said.

“It doesn’t require, for me anyway, somebody to be concerned and apologetic and understanding. It requires action.”

A Justice Department spokesperson said a working group would be established this fall to develop a standard for accessible washrooms. Regulations would follow.

There are about 6,000 eating establishments in the province, although officials don’t know how many of those have accessible washrooms. In late 2017, the government launched a grant program businesses could access to make their locations accessible.

Waiting for regulations

Initially, 16 projects were funded to a total of $900,000. In 2018-19, more than $1 million was granted to 41 businesses and there again is $1 million available for 2019-20. But Reed still sees plenty of establishments where he can’t wash his hands and is frustrated the government isn’t compelled to ensure businesses follow accessibility rules.

“I don’t think I’m so much of a literalist that I would believe that the government always does the right thing, but I think in this case they should be doing the right thing,” he said. “It’s a health issue, not a money issue.”

A spokesperson for the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said that although some businesses have accessed the government program to make changes to existing sites, many more are waiting for the regulations to be finalized to ensure they know all the steps that will be required.

While Reed has left the restorative justice process, other participants remain.

Paul Vienneau says he wishes the restorative justice process was faster, but he’s sticking with it in hopes of being able to influence how the government approaches accessibility regulations.

Paul Vienneau, who said there is an agreement as part of the process that participants won’t discuss it until it’s complete, said he decided it is important to see it through.

“What we’re doing is restoring the relationship between the injured group, which is us, and the government and the departments involved,” he said.

Vienneau said the process wasn’t designed to happen quickly, and so he’ll see it through in hopes of having input in how regulations will be enforced, establishing a relationship with the restaurant industry and perhaps even changing the way the government deals with groups looking to have their rights acknowledged.

“At this point I don’t know if this is going to work yet, but what I do know is this won’t have a chance to work if I don’t just submit to the process,” he said.

‘Keep up the pressure’

Vienneau’s view is that while part of this process is indeed about the group getting what the human rights commission said they are entitled to, “which is actually a [United Nations] health human right,” it’s also about changing the way things like this work in the future.

“Systems are the ones that are rigged against people, but there are people working inside there and those are the people we can influence,” he said.

Reed worries the government is simply trying to wait them out, but he doesn’t plan to go away.

“I’m persistent. Others are at least as persistent. So I’m confident that we can keep up the pressure. I don’t quite know when to expect anything, but, you know, the more nothing happens, the more shame on them,” he said.

About the Author

Michael Gorman
Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at [email protected]

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/human-rights-accessibility-government-1.5240482



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How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important Disability Accessibility Case


Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.

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

July 5, 2019

SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



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How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important  Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School

July 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



Source link

NWT Human Rights Commission backs call for accessibility legislation


Says accessibility is about a persons dignity and is good for business Emily Blake · CBC News · Posted: May 03, 2019

The N.W.T. Human Rights Commission says accessibility legislation would help people understand how to make communities barrier-free and help businesses and organizations avoid human rights complaints. (Guy Quenneville/CBC )

The NWT Human Rights Commission is supporting the development of accessibility legislation in the territory after a woman has called for the move to make the North barrier-free.

In an opinion piece published by CBC on April 23, 2019, Therese Estacion, who was born able-bodied but became a below-the-knee amputee in 2016 and a partial hands amputee in 2018, highlights the daily obstacles people with disabilities can face in Yellowknife and argues for the need for legislation.

“I’ve gotten a lot of really positive reaction,” Estacion said of the piece, noting that local advocates and organizations like the Yellowknife chapter of the MS Society of Canada have long raised issues about accessibility in the North.

In a media release issued on May 1, 2019, the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission said it also supports the development of accessibility legislation. The press release states “accessibility is good for business” and that “at its core, accessibility is about a person’s dignity.”

“Accessibility is more than a legal standard. It involves fostering a sense of inclusion so people with disabilities can flourish,” it adds.

Estacion said the press release is “the beginning of something” and that awareness and education is key to promoting change. She added that it takes all levels of government, organizations, businesses and community members to push for that change.

“It takes the whole community really coming together to kind of bring this about.”

Currently in Canada, only Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have accessibility legislation in place. Estacion says that if the N.W.T. were to develop legislation, it could be a be a model for other jurisdictions.

“I think what it would mean is that the N.W.T. is actually listening to the people that reside in the Northwest Territories and they’re listening in particular to people that have often been marginalized or perhaps have been forgotten.”

Charles Dent, chair of the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission, has previously told CBC News he hears a lot of concerns about physical barriers people with disabilities face in communities across the territory.

“Across the North, it’s something that we need to try and do better at,” he said.

According to the human rights commissions’ last annual report, 72 per cent of the 39 human rights complaints filed in the 2017-2018 fiscal year alleged discrimination based on disability.

One issue the commission highlighted is that the national building code, which governs buildings in the Northwest Territories, doesn’t require people to build an accessible standard.

“So when somebody uses the building code and builds a building, right off the bat they’re not really providing something that is totally accessible to people who have mobility issues,” Dent said.

The territorial government has recognized there is room to grow when it comes to addressing accessibility in the North. In November 2018, it released its disabilities action plan which includes a number of goals the territory plans to carry out by 2022 to support people with disabilities and their caregivers.

The Department of Infrastructure is currently updating the Good Building Practices for Northern Facilities which has guidelines on accessible design. And last year, the department developed an accessibility toolkit to help with accessible design in government offices. It said this will affect renovations to the third floor of the Stuart M. Hodgson building and construction of a new air terminal building in Inuvik.

For people that want to improve accessibility, the human rights commission also has an accessibility checklist for organizing public events on its website.

And federal funding is available for non-profits, businesses and governments, up to $100,000 per project, through the Enabling Accessibility for renovations, retrofits or other projects that address accessibility barriers.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nwt-human-rights-commission-accessibility-legislation-1.5120961



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers 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

April 24, 2019

SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.
There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]
To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81 April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers 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

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

April 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.

There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81

April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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