After the Federal Election, New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Canada and a Pressing Need for the Media to Take a Hard Look at the Short Shrift It Too Often Gave Disability Issues


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

September 21, 2021

1. Canada’s Media Must Take a Long Hard Look at Its Troubling Treatment of Disability Election Issues

We can be proud that we and the disability community managed to get more media coverage of at least some of this election’s disability issues than we have ever achieved in the past. As discussed further below, these issues got nowhere near the attention they deserve. However, the media coverage of them in the 2015 and 2019 federal elections was even worse. Very slowly we are making progress.

Canada’s media now needs to take a long and hard look at its troubling approach to disability issues, especially during an election. Six million people with disabilities in Canada matter and deserve better.

Some news outlets did not cover disability issues at all, as far as we have been able to tell. CBC gave the issue some coverage, but only over the past few days before the election.

For example, it was not until 2 pm on Sunday, September 19, 2021, the last day before the election, that CBC posted a specific report comparing the platforms of the parties on disability issues. We set that story out below. By that time, some six million voters had voted by mail or at advance polls. If it was newsworthy then, it was equally newsworthy weeks earlier.

A stunning illustration of the short shrift some media gave disability election issues concerns the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. On September 14, 2021, both newspapers commendably printed a Canadian Press report on the fact that the mail-in ballot was inaccessible for voters with vision loss. However, the original CP story included a passage on the fact that of all the major parties, only the NDP had responded to the AODA Alliance’s request for accessibility pledges. Yet both the Globe and the Star cut that important paragraph right out of that story. Here is the pivotal information that both the Star and Globe decided was not newsworthy enough for their readers:

” Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.””

Below, we set out the September 13, 2021 CP report in full published by the Chat News website, and the edited version that the Globe and Mail published.

We know of no reporter who pressed party leaders on their failure to answer our request for election commitments on accessibility.

Late in the campaign, a number of reporters who spoke to the AODA Alliance about disability issues in the election commented that this is an important story, and it is too bad they had not known of it earlier. Yet we sent several news releases to the media during the election campaign, as no doubt did other disability organizations.

2. Voting Barriers Must Go

Voting barriers impeding voters with disabilities were even worse in this election than in the past. Because of COVID-19, more voters wanted to resort to the mail-in ballot. Yet the mail-in ballot lacks accessibility for voters with disabilities like vision loss who cannot mark their own ballot in secret and verify their choice.

Moreover, the reduction in the number of polling stations per riding in this election meant further distances to travel and longer lineups for voters. This obviously generates more voting barriers for voters with disabilities, such as those facing public transit barriers, and those who lack the stamina to stay in a long lineup for a long time.

This was covered in Karlene Nation’s interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on voting day September 20, 2021 on Sauga Radio in Mississauga. Below we set out a September 20, 2021 article from CBC News that reported on long lineups, fewer polling stations, and barriers facing voters with disabilities.

That CBC report incorrectly states:

” Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations.”

What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had said is that Elections Canada does not have a record of ensuring accessibility for voters with disabilities at polling stations.

In its August 3, 2021 letter, the AODA Alliance asked the major parties to commit to election reform to make federal elections accessible for voters with disabilities. Only the NDP agreed to this or even replied.

3. What’s Next on the Federal Front

For many, the election’s outcome is frustrating. For us disability advocates, it presents new opportunities. We always are ready to work with any and all parties in our spirit of non-partisanship.

In Canada’s new Parliament, we aim to urge the NDP to act on its commitments to us. Even though no other party answered our August 3, 2021 letter, seeking election pledges, we intend to ask Erin O’Toole to stand by the Conservative Party’s 2018 commitment in the House of Commons to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if elected. Stay tuned.

4. And It’s Time to Focus Again on Provincial Issues in Ontario

With the federal election behind us, we will now turn prime attention to accessibility battles on the provincial front. Will the new COVID-19 vaccine be disability-accessible? Is the return to school treating students with disabilities better than in the past? With the fourth COVID-19 wave upon us, will the Ford Government eliminate the disability discrimination that seriously infects the critical care triage protocol that has been embedded in Ontario hospitals since January? Here again, stay tuned!

MORE DETAILS

CBC News September 20, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/long-lines-polling-stations-toronto-1.6182540 GTA voters contend with long lines, missing voter lists as election day draws to a close

Many ridings had significantly fewer polling stations than last election

Voters at a University-Rosedale polling station on Monday. Some people reported it had been a busy, and at times frustrating day for voters in the city. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Some frustrated voters at polling stations across the Greater Toronto Area on Monday found themselves dealing with long queues as they attempted to cast their ballots.

Lines outside polling stations, which closed at 9:30 p.m. ET, were longer this year in some cases due to COVID-19 precautions, logistical errors in voter ID cards and lists and a greatly reduced number of polling stations for some ridings.

In some cases, long lines stretched well into the evening.

At a polling station in King-Vaughan, voters reported a lineup of more than two hours and very little parking.

Aaron Kaufman, who lives in the area, said he gave up trying to vote because the line was so long and he had trouble finding parking shortly before 8 p.m. He never got out of his car but rolled down his window. People on the sidewalk told him not to bother trying to vote, he said.

“It was more than a long lineup. It was absolutely ridiculous,” Kaufman said after the polls closed on Monday night.

“The lineup for the actual polling station went around a giant sportsplex, across the street, around another building, and down the off ramp to the 400 Highway.”

Staff Sgt. Dave Mitchell of York Regional Police said there was a surge of voters at a polling station at 601 Cityview Blvd. in the Teston Road and Highway 400 area near Canada’s Wonderland before 8 p.m.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people tried to vote at that time, he said.

Mitchell said some people, in an effort to find parking, were getting out of their vehicles on the off ramp of Highway 400 at Teston Road and walking up on the ramp.

Kaufman said the experience left him angry. Not enough planning and thought went into the logistics of voting, he said.

“It’s unacceptable, to be honest in a country like ours, the organization around voting was so poor that people couldn’t even make their voice heard.”

King-Vaughan had 28 fewer polling locations than in 2019, which was a 62 per cent drop in locations.

Earlier Monday at the Bentway polling station for Spadina-Fort York, voters lined up for about an hour or more before they got in, but the balmy weather helped keep frustrations at bay.

“It’s fine, I was able to take some work calls in line, [it’s] not too bad. The weather’s pretty nice, been waiting for about an hour,” one voter at the Bentway polling station said.

“We’re all outside, so that makes me feel good. People are reasonable.”

A polling station at Oriole Park Public School, like many across Toronto, had long queues for most of the day, frustrating some voters.

Some ridings have fewer polling stations this year

It’s important to note that some electoral districts in the Greater Toronto Area have remarkably fewer polling stations than they did in the 2019 federal election.

Toronto Centre had 91 in 2019, and has 15 polling stations this year. Spadina-Fort York had 56, but has 15 today. Those are the two ridings with the largest decrease in polling stations at 84 per cent and 73 per cent fewer than the last election, respectively.

In York Region, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill went from 39 to 12, and in Peel Region, Brampton East and Mississauga-Malton are down to 12 and 15 stations from 26 and 31, respectively, in 2019.

Elections Canada website errors

Several people also reported being unable to locate their polling station on the Elections Canada website Monday.

“A message comes up saying they aren’t able to find my polling station,” Daniel Mustard said. “It then asks you to call a 1-800 number to speak to an agent, but when I did that the agency also can’t find the address.”

“I’m lucky as I have all day to figure this out and vote. Others who may not be as keen might give up at this point,” Mustard added.

Others who chose to vote by mail were experiencing similar frustrations. Barbara Allemeersch said she only received her ballot on Friday afternoon and was questioning whether her returned vote will be received in time. Mail-in votes had to be received by 6 p.m. Monday.

Elections Canada responded on Twitter to the numerous complaints and concerns of voters being unable to find their polling station.

“Please note that we are experiencing technical difficulties with the Voter Information Service application on our website,” the agency said in a tweet on Monday morning. “Please check your voter information card or call us at 1-800-463-6868 to find your assigned polling location.”

A couple of hours later that was followed by a tweet saying the online information system was back online.

Elderly, people with disabilities face obstacles

Meanwhile, advocates for seniors and people with disabilities also said they believe there could have been a drop in voter turnout in their communities this year due to accessibility issues and a lack of aid available due to the pandemic.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, said while Elections Canada had done as “much as possible” this year to ensure seniors were provided for at polling stations, “that doesn’t mean that seniors are able to get to polling stations easier.”

Many community and aid organizations, as well as political parties, were not offering seniors transport to polling stations this year due to the pandemic, she said. That, coupled with the fact that many seniors are reluctant to enter large group settings right now, will likely mean a drop in older voters this year, Tamblyn Watts said.

“Eighty per cent of all seniors vote in every election, but I think this year the barriers to voting are so significant that we will see a shift in voting patterns,” she said.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said it could be a similar story for his community.

Lepofsky, who is blind, said Canada had “never had properly accessible elections for Canadians with disabilities,” and this year was no exception.

“The private, secret ballot is a sacred thing. The ability to mark your own ballot in private and not to have to tell anyone else who you’ve voted for and to be able to verify that it’s been marked correctly is fundamental to a democracy and yet as a blind person, I don’t have that right in Canada,” he said.

Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations. While mail-in votes offered an alternative, many still relied on loved ones to fill out their ballots for them.

“If people have any disability that relates to marking your own ballet, if it’s a paper ballot, you’ve got a terrible choice: either go to a polling station where you face barriers or use a mail-in ballot where you face barriers.”

“For any number of people with disabilities in Canada we do not have barrier-free, accessible voting and we do not have a plan in place to get us there.”

With files from Ali Raza, Ashleigh Stewart, Muriel Draaisma and Chris Glover

CBC News September 19, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-party-promises-people-with-disabilities-1.6180063

What the parties have promised for people with disabilities

CBC News Loaded
Politics
ASK CBC NEWS

What the main political parties are pledging to do for the disabilities community Tyler Bloomfield
CBC News
Posted: Sep 19, 2021 2:00 PM ET |

A taxi cab loads a walker into a wheelchair accessible van cab in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: [email protected]

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities say they feel like their needs have not been a priority for the major political parties as campaigns draw to a close.

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities left out of election campaign, say advocates
??That could leave just over 1 in 5 Canadians on the outside looking in. There are more than six million Canadians aged 15 and over who say they have a disability, according to Statistics Canada. And the actual numbers could be even higher.

Ask CBC News heard from some of those Canadians and family members of those Canadians. They wanted to know what specifically the major political parties are promising for people with disabilities.

What the parties are promising

It’s worth noting that each party has a number of different platform planks that may not be covered below, many of which would affect all Canadians, including people with disabilities. With this in mind, here’s what each of the parties’ platforms say explicitly about some of the issues important to the disability community.

Liberals

If re-elected, the Liberals promise to reintroduce a Disability Benefit Act that will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities and between the ages of 18 to 64. They say the new benefit will reduce disability poverty, by using the same approach they took with the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit.

The Liberals say in the Disability Statement in their platform that they “have moved to a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion and are moving away from the medical and charity models, to a social model of disability and a focus on poverty reduction.”

They also point to the fact that during their time in office they have established Accessible Standards Canada, appointed Canada’s first minister responsible for disability inclusion. As well as making investments in disability-specific programs, including the Opportunities Fund, Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Ready, Willing & Able inclusive hiring program ??and Canada Student Grants for people with disabilities.

A Liberal government also promises a “robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities,” focused on support for workers and employers to create “inclusive and welcoming workplaces.”

They also say they are in the process of consulting the disability community to implement a Disability Inclusion Action Plan.

Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit to $1,500, from $713. They are also committing to ensuring that going to work never costs a disabled person money, saying they want to work with the provinces to be sure that programs are designed to “ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead.”

They say in their platform that they will boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund with an additional $80 million per year to provide incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility, grants and support for accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work. They say that would be on top of “enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.”

The Conservatives want to make it easier to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Conservatives say their changes to the DTC will save a qualifying person with disabilities an average of $2,100 per year.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole breaks down part of his party’s plan to help Canadians with disabilities during a campaign stop in Edmonton. 1:06

NDP

The New Democrats promise to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to strengthen the Accessibility Act to empower all federal agencies to make and enforce accessibility standards in a timely manner.

For income security, the NDP says it wants to expand support programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income, and to work to deliver a new federal disability benefit “immediately.” The party says this benefit would come in at $2,200 per month.

In its platform, the party promises to extend Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as needed and to expand employment programs to ensure quality job opportunities are available.

On the issue of accessible housing, the NDP says it will create “affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.”

For people with disabilities, it’s also worth noting the NDP platform includes a publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program, a national autism strategy and a commitment to restore door-to-door mail delivery.

Laura Beaudin, a student, single mother and disabled Canadian asks NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh about his plan to support people with disabilities during CBC The National’s Face to Face series. 1:11

Bloc Québécois

While there are no specific plans to specifically support people with disabilities laid out in the Bloc Québécois platform, some of its other policies might offer some relief to the community. For example, the Bloc has been vocal about wanting to establish its own standards for long-term care.

People’s Party of Canada

The people’s party of Canada doesn’t have much in their platform that pertains to people with disabilities, but it does offer some promises to veterans with disabilities.

It says it wants to “reinstate the fair disability pension as previously provided for by the Pension Act. The pension will apply retroactively to 2006 and lump sum payments received since then will be treated as advance payments.”

Green Party

A Green government promises to create a Canada Disabilities Act and to support a national equipment fund to provide accessibility tools to help persons with disabilities.

When it comes to accessible housing, the platform says the party will “invest in adaptable social housing to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options.”

The Greens say they are willing to work with the provinces on disability issues as well. They say they will provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled. They also suggest their equipment fund could be a joint program with provinces, for the sake of “equal access and common standards.”

For income support for Canadians with disabilities, the Green Party wants to institute a guaranteed livable income to lift anyone living with disabilities out of poverty. They are also committed to enforcing the Employment Equity Act, converting the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit and redesigning the Canada Pension Plan/Disability Benefit to incorporate the DTC definition of disability and permit employment.

The Globe and Mail September 14, 2021
News

Lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options a violation of Charter

THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Mr. Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday, saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Mr. Lepofsky said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

Maan Alhmidi
The Canadian Press
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 01:31 PM

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta

OTTAWA David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

Mr. Lepofsky said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”




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After the Federal Election, New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Canada and a Pressing Need for the Media to Take a Hard Look at the Short Shrift It Too Often Gave Disability Issues


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/

After the Federal Election, New Opportunities for People with Disabilities in Canada and a Pressing Need for the Media to Take a Hard Look at the Short Shrift It Too Often Gave Disability Issues

September 21, 2021

1. Canada’s Media Must Take a Long Hard Look at Its Troubling Treatment of Disability Election Issues

We can be proud that we and the disability community managed to get more media coverage of at least some of this election’s disability issues than we have ever achieved in the past. As discussed further below, these issues got nowhere near the attention they deserve. However, the media coverage of them in the 2015 and 2019 federal elections was even worse. Very slowly we are making progress.

Canada’s media now needs to take a long and hard look at its troubling approach to disability issues, especially during an election. Six million people with disabilities in Canada matter and deserve better.

Some news outlets did not cover disability issues at all, as far as we have been able to tell. CBC gave the issue some coverage, but only over the past few days before the election.

For example, it was not until 2 pm on Sunday, September 19, 2021, the last day before the election, that CBC posted a specific report comparing the platforms of the parties on disability issues. We set that story out below. By that time, some six million voters had voted by mail or at advance polls. If it was newsworthy then, it was equally newsworthy weeks earlier.

A stunning illustration of the short shrift some media gave disability election issues concerns the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. On September 14, 2021, both newspapers commendably printed a Canadian Press report on the fact that the mail-in ballot was inaccessible for voters with vision loss. However, the original CP story included a passage on the fact that of all the major parties, only the NDP had responded to the AODA Alliance’s request for accessibility pledges. Yet both the Globe and the Star cut that important paragraph right out of that story. Here is the pivotal information that both the Star and Globe decided was not newsworthy enough for their readers:

” Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.””

Below, we set out the September 13, 2021 CP report in full published by the Chat News website, and the edited version that the Globe and Mail published.

We know of no reporter who pressed party leaders on their failure to answer our request for election commitments on accessibility.

Late in the campaign, a number of reporters who spoke to the AODA Alliance about disability issues in the election commented that this is an important story, and it is too bad they had not known of it earlier. Yet we sent several news releases to the media during the election campaign, as no doubt did other disability organizations.

2. Voting Barriers Must Go

Voting barriers impeding voters with disabilities were even worse in this election than in the past. Because of COVID-19, more voters wanted to resort to the mail-in ballot. Yet the mail-in ballot lacks accessibility for voters with disabilities like vision loss who cannot mark their own ballot in secret and verify their choice.

Moreover, the reduction in the number of polling stations per riding in this election meant further distances to travel and longer lineups for voters. This obviously generates more voting barriers for voters with disabilities, such as those facing public transit barriers, and those who lack the stamina to stay in a long lineup for a long time.

This was covered in Karlene Nation’s interview with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on voting day September 20, 2021 on Sauga Radio in Mississauga. Below we set out a September 20, 2021 article from CBC News that reported on long lineups, fewer polling stations, and barriers facing voters with disabilities.

That CBC report incorrectly states:

” Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations.”

What AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had said is that Elections Canada does not have a record of ensuring accessibility for voters with disabilities at polling stations.

In its August 3, 2021 letter, the AODA Alliance asked the major parties to commit to election reform to make federal elections accessible for voters with disabilities. Only the NDP agreed to this or even replied.

 3. What’s Next on the Federal Front

For many, the election’s outcome is frustrating. For us disability advocates, it presents new opportunities. We always are ready to work with any and all parties in our spirit of non-partisanship.

In Canada’s new Parliament, we aim to urge the NDP to act on its commitments to us. Even though no other party answered our August 3, 2021 letter, seeking election pledges, we intend to ask Erin O’Toole to stand by the Conservative Party’s 2018 commitment in the House of Commons to strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if elected. Stay tuned.

4. And It’s Time to Focus Again on Provincial Issues in Ontario

With the federal election behind us, we will now turn prime attention to accessibility battles on the provincial front. Will the new COVID-19 vaccine be disability-accessible? Is the return to school treating students with disabilities better than in the past? With the fourth COVID-19 wave upon us, will the Ford Government eliminate the disability discrimination that seriously infects the critical care triage protocol that has been embedded in Ontario hospitals since January? Here again, stay tuned!

MORE DETAILS

CBC News September 20, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/long-lines-polling-stations-toronto-1.6182540

 

GTA voters contend with long lines, missing voter lists as election day draws to a close

Many ridings had significantly fewer polling stations than last election

Voters at a University-Rosedale polling station on Monday. Some people reported it had been a busy, and at times frustrating day for voters in the city. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Some frustrated voters at polling stations across the Greater Toronto Area on Monday found themselves dealing with long queues as they attempted to cast their ballots.

Lines outside polling stations, which closed at 9:30 p.m. ET, were longer this year in some cases due to COVID-19 precautions, logistical errors in voter ID cards and lists and a greatly reduced number of polling stations for some ridings.

In some cases, long lines stretched well into the evening.

At a polling station in King-Vaughan, voters reported a lineup of more than two hours and very little parking.

Aaron Kaufman, who lives in the area, said he gave up trying to vote because the line was so long and he had trouble finding parking shortly before 8 p.m. He never got out of his car but rolled down his window. People on the sidewalk told him not to bother trying to vote, he said.

“It was more than a long lineup. It was absolutely ridiculous,” Kaufman said after the polls closed on Monday night.

“The lineup for the actual polling station went around a giant sportsplex, across the street, around another building, and down the off ramp to the 400 Highway.”

Staff Sgt. Dave Mitchell of York Regional Police said there was a surge of voters at a polling station at 601 Cityview Blvd. in the Teston Road and Highway 400 area near Canada’s Wonderland before 8 p.m.

An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people tried to vote at that time, he said.

Mitchell said some people, in an effort to find parking, were getting out of their vehicles on the off ramp of Highway 400 at Teston Road and walking up on the ramp.

Kaufman said the experience left him angry. Not enough planning and thought went into the logistics of voting, he said.

“It’s unacceptable, to be honest in a country like ours, the organization around voting was so poor that people couldn’t even make their voice heard.”

King-Vaughan had 28 fewer polling locations than in 2019, which was a 62 per cent drop in locations.

Earlier Monday at the Bentway polling station for Spadina-Fort York, voters lined up for about an hour or more before they got in, but the balmy weather helped keep frustrations at bay.

“It’s fine, I was able to take some work calls in line, [it’s] not too bad. The weather’s pretty nice, been waiting for about an hour,” one voter at the Bentway polling station said.

“We’re all outside, so that makes me feel good. People are reasonable.”

A polling station at Oriole Park Public School, like many across Toronto, had long queues for most of the day, frustrating some voters.

Some ridings have fewer polling stations this year

It’s important to note that some electoral districts in the Greater Toronto Area have remarkably fewer polling stations than they did in the 2019 federal election.

Toronto Centre had 91 in 2019, and has 15 polling stations this year. Spadina-Fort York had 56, but has 15 today. Those are the two ridings with the largest decrease in polling stations at 84 per cent and 73 per cent fewer than the last election, respectively.

In York Region, Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill went from 39 to 12, and in Peel Region, Brampton East and Mississauga-Malton are down to 12 and 15 stations from 26 and 31, respectively, in 2019.

Elections Canada website errors

 

Several people also reported being unable to locate their polling station on the Elections Canada website Monday.

“A message comes up saying they aren’t able to find my polling station,” Daniel Mustard said. “It then asks you to call a 1-800 number to speak to an agent, but when I did that the agency also can’t find the address.”

“I’m lucky as I have all day to figure this out and vote. Others who may not be as keen might give up at this point,” Mustard added.

Others who chose to vote by mail were experiencing similar frustrations. Barbara Allemeersch said she only received her ballot on Friday afternoon and was questioning whether her returned vote will be received in time. Mail-in votes had to be received by 6 p.m. Monday.

Elections Canada responded on Twitter to the numerous complaints and concerns of voters being unable to find their polling station.

“Please note that we are experiencing technical difficulties with the Voter Information Service application on our website,” the agency said in a tweet on Monday morning. “Please check your voter information card or call us at 1-800-463-6868 to find your assigned polling location.”

A couple of hours later that was followed by a tweet saying the online information system was back online.

Elderly, people with disabilities face obstacles

 

Meanwhile, advocates for seniors and people with disabilities also said they believe there could have been a drop in voter turnout in their communities this year due to accessibility issues and a lack of aid available due to the pandemic.

Laura Tamblyn Watts, the CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy organization, said while Elections Canada had done as “much as possible” this year to ensure seniors were provided for at polling stations, “that doesn’t mean that seniors are able to get to polling stations easier.”

Many community and aid organizations, as well as political parties, were not offering seniors transport to polling stations this year due to the pandemic, she said. That, coupled with the fact that many seniors are reluctant to enter large group settings right now, will likely mean a drop in older voters this year, Tamblyn Watts said.

“Eighty per cent of all seniors vote in every election, but I think this year the barriers to voting are so significant that we will see a shift in voting patterns,” she said.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said it could be a similar story for his community.

Lepofsky, who is blind, said Canada had “never had properly accessible elections for Canadians with disabilities,” and this year was no exception.

“The private, secret ballot is a sacred thing. The ability to mark your own ballot in private and not to have to tell anyone else who you’ve voted for and to be able to verify that it’s been marked correctly is fundamental to a democracy and yet as a blind person, I don’t have that right in Canada,” he said.

Lepofsky said accessibility was not considered by Elections Canada at polling stations. While mail-in votes offered an alternative, many still relied on loved ones to fill out their ballots for them.

“If people have any disability that relates to marking your own ballet, if it’s a paper ballot, you’ve got a terrible choice: either go to a polling station where you face barriers or use a mail-in ballot where you face barriers.”

“For any number of people with disabilities in Canada we do not have barrier-free, accessible voting and we do not have a plan in place to get us there.”

With files from Ali Raza, Ashleigh Stewart, Muriel Draaisma and Chris Glover

CBC News September 19, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-party-promises-people-with-disabilities-1.6180063

What the parties have promised for people with disabilities

CBC News Loaded

Politics

ASK CBC NEWS

What the main political parties are pledging to do for the disabilities community

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

Posted: Sep 19, 2021 2:00 PM ET |

A taxi cab loads a walker into a wheelchair accessible van cab in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

This story idea came from an audience member, like you, who got in touch with us. Send us your questions and story tips. We are listening: [email protected]

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities say they feel like their needs have not been a priority for the major political parties as campaigns draw to a close.

Priorities for millions of Canadians with disabilities ‘left out’ of election campaign, say advocates

​​That could leave just over 1 in 5 Canadians on the outside looking in. There are more than six million Canadians aged 15 and over who say they have a disability, according to Statistics Canada. And the actual numbers could be even higher.

Ask CBC News heard from some of those Canadians and family members of those Canadians. They wanted to know what specifically the major political parties are promising for people with disabilities.

What the parties are promising

It’s worth noting that each party has a number of different platform planks that may not be covered below, many of which would affect all Canadians, including people with disabilities. With this in mind, here’s what each of the parties’ platforms say explicitly about some of the issues important to the disability community.

Liberals

If re-elected, the Liberals promise to reintroduce a Disability Benefit Act that will create a direct monthly payment for low-income Canadians with disabilities and between the ages of 18 to 64. They say the new benefit will reduce disability poverty, by using the same approach they took with the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Child Benefit.

The Liberals say in the Disability Statement in their platform that they “have moved to a human rights-based approach to disability inclusion and are moving away from the medical and charity models, to a social model of disability and a focus on poverty reduction.”

They also point to the fact that during their time in office they have established Accessible Standards Canada, appointed Canada’s first minister responsible for disability inclusion. As well as making investments in disability-specific programs, including the Opportunities Fund, Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Ready, Willing & Able inclusive hiring program ​​and Canada Student Grants for people with disabilities.

A Liberal government also promises a “robust employment strategy for Canadians with disabilities,” focused on support for workers and employers to create “inclusive and welcoming workplaces.”

They also say they are in the process of consulting the disability community to implement a Disability Inclusion Action Plan.

Conservatives

The Conservatives promise to double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit to $1,500, from $713. They are also committing to ensuring that going to work never costs a disabled person money, saying they want to work with the provinces to be sure that programs are designed to “ensure that working always leaves someone further ahead.”

They say in their platform that they will boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund with an additional $80 million per year to provide incentives for small business and community projects to improve accessibility, grants and support for accessibility equipment that disabled Canadians need to work. They say that would be on top of “enhancements to existing programs that will get more disabled Canadians into the workforce.”

The Conservatives want to make it easier to qualify for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) and the Registered Disability Savings Plan. Conservatives say their changes to the DTC will save a qualifying person with disabilities an average of $2,100 per year.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole breaks down part of his party’s plan to help Canadians with disabilities during a campaign stop in Edmonton. 1:06

NDP

 

The New Democrats promise to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to strengthen the Accessibility Act to empower all federal agencies to make and enforce accessibility standards in a timely manner.

For income security, the NDP says it wants to expand support programs to ensure Canadians living with a disability have a guaranteed livable income, and to work to deliver a new federal disability benefit “immediately.” The party says this benefit would come in at $2,200 per month.

In its platform, the party promises to extend Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to 50 weeks of coverage, to allow workers with episodic disabilities to access benefits as needed and to expand employment programs to ensure quality job opportunities are available.

On the issue of accessible housing, the NDP says it will create “affordable, accessible housing in communities across the country.”

For people with disabilities, it’s also worth noting the NDP platform includes a publicly funded national pharmacare and dental care program, a national autism strategy and a commitment to restore door-to-door mail delivery.

Laura Beaudin, a student, single mother and disabled Canadian asks NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh about his plan to support people with disabilities during CBC The National’s Face to Face series. 1:11

Bloc Québécois

 

While there are no specific plans to specifically support people with disabilities laid out in the Bloc Québécois platform, some of its other policies might offer some relief to the community. For example, the Bloc has been vocal about wanting to establish its own standards for long-term care.

People’s Party of Canada

 

The people’s party of Canada doesn’t have much in their platform that pertains to people with disabilities, but it does offer some promises to veterans with disabilities.

It says it wants to “reinstate the fair disability pension as previously provided for by the Pension Act. The pension will apply retroactively to 2006 and lump sum payments received since then will be treated as advance payments.”

Green Party

 

A Green government promises to create a Canada Disabilities Act and to support a national equipment fund to provide accessibility tools to help persons with disabilities.

When it comes to accessible housing, the platform says the party will “invest in adaptable social housing to meet particular needs, with both rental and purchase options.”

The Greens say they are willing to work with the provinces on disability issues as well. They say they will provide federal health transfer payments to provinces and territories directed to rehabilitation for those who have become disabled. They also suggest their equipment fund could be a joint program with provinces, for the sake of “equal access and common standards.”

For income support for Canadians with disabilities, the Green Party wants to institute a guaranteed livable income to lift anyone living with disabilities out of poverty. They are also committed to enforcing the Employment Equity Act, converting the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) to a refundable credit and redesigning the Canada Pension Plan/Disability Benefit to incorporate the DTC definition of disability and permit employment.

The Globe and Mail September 14, 2021

News

Lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options a violation of Charter

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Mr. Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday, saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Mr. Lepofsky said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 01:31 PM

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta

OTTAWA — David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, or ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

Mr. Lepofsky said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”



Source link

Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots


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

September 14, 2021

SUMMARY

Canada’s September 20, 2021 election is just six days away. We have been trying very hard to get the media to cover this election’s disability issues, especially as they relate to the requirement in the Accessible Canada Act that Canada become accessible by 2040. It should be extremely newsworthy that only one of the federal party leaders has even answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 specific commitments regarding disability accessibility.

As we have found in past elections, it is very hard to get the media to cover this election issue. This is so, even though major media outlets devote a great deal of time and space to election issues. Of course, the accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance has concentrated is only one of several important disability issues in this election.

In this Update, we share three recent news reports:
* CTV News Online on September 9, 2021
* The September 13, 2021 report by the Canadian Press, published in different media, including that date’s Chat News Today. This article was picked up by a number of other news outlets, like the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, but the Star and Globe edited out its references to the party leaders who have not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 request for election pledges on accessibility.

In addition to that coverage, CTV’s September 8, 2021 national “Your Morning”, included a six -minute interview on the federal election’s disability issues. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed, as well as accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi. This interview is now available with captions at https://youtu.be/ZJ6yEOvOm8I We are tweeting this interview to as many candidates as possible during the federal election. We invite you to share it with candidates, voters and anyone else. Use email, social media or any other way you can to circulate it. If you want to see the names, email address and Twitter handles for as many of the candidates as our volunteers could dig up, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-federal-Election-Candidates-Final-List.docx

To date, we have not found CBC covering the election’s disability issues. We have reached out to CBC among many other media organizations.

One of the 12 commitments we have sought from the parties relates to making federal elections accessible to voters with disabilities. As with all of our requests, none of the parties have answered except the NDP. In the meantime, mail-in ballots have become much, much more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mail-in ballot system operated by Elections Canada is quite substantially inaccessible to voters with certain disabilities such as vision loss or dyslexia. Two of the articles set out below address this obvious barrier.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, himself totally blind, used the mail-in ballot. He tweeted about its inaccessibility. Elections Canada heard about these tweets and tweeted to David Lepofsky. David Lepofsky then responded to Elections Canada on Twitter. These tweets are all set out below.

MORE DETAILS

Sept 11 and 12 2021 tweets on accessibility of mail in votes by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

September 11, 2021
David Lepofsky: I voted by mail to avoid COVID-19 danger. Canada’s mail-in ballot is inaccessible to #blind voters like me. I can’t mark my ballot independently in private & verify my choice. This violates the Charter of Rights & Canada Human Rights Act. #elxn44 #CRPD September 12, 2021

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

Elections Canda: @DavidLepofsky You can find the contact information for your local office here: https://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20 (3/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: Not ideal? The mail-in ballot process is totally inaccessible to #blind people like me. That’s much more than “not ideal”! #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #elxn55

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I don’t want any election officials seeing who I vote for. That violates the secret ballot. #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I did not go to the polling station, in order to avoid unnecessary exposure. My wife, who would come with me, has a compromised immune system #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

CTV News September 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/canadians-with-disabilities-say-they-re-missing-from-the-election-discussion-1.5577558

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion

Jeremiah Rodriguez
CTVNews.ca Writer
@jererodriguezzz

TORONTO — Federal party leaders aren’t listening enough to the concerns of disabled Canadians, advocates say. They say key priorities missing from campaign pledges include equitable emergency relief, stronger housing, and workplace polices that address all types of disabilities.

Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, said this lack of scope boils down to a “lack of understanding of what systemic ableism looks like.”

“Nothing is prioritized by the government unless there’s people campaigning behind it,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

She said this could be partially addressed by having more disabled candidates running for office or being key parts of campaign decision-making. Jama said people in power don’t always make appreciate just how many Canadians have some form of a disability.

Disabled people make up approximately 22 per cent of Canada’s entire population. And between 62 and 75 per cent of people with disabilities have disabilities which aren’t immediately apparent, such as deafness, blindness or autism.

One of the biggest issues that Jama says hasn’t received enough attention during this campaign is overhauling care for vulnerable people who currently receive care at home or live in long-term care homes.

Jama said she likes the NDP’s platform commitments to end the private long-term care home system, but wants to see the next government go even beyond that.

“We need to reimagine what long-term care looks like in Canada,” she said. She said she wishes party leaders put forth policies that give vulnerable people more affordable options to receive care at home, keeping them out of long-term care facilities.

Jama also said “it’s also embarrassing” that Canada doesn’t yet have universal pharmacare, and that she wishes all parties agreed that it was essential, especially for people with disabilities.

Both the NDP and the Greens have advocated for a national pharmacare program that would provide prescription drug coverage for all Canadians and permanent residents. And while the Liberals have spent the past few years saying they’re moving forward on pharmacare, their platform only notes existing progress on the file, including the signing of the first provincial-territorial agreement to accelerate its implementation. The Conservatives haven’t endorsed a national pharmacare plan but, in their platform, they promise to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug prices.

Jama also called for more concrete provisions for disabled people during natural disasters, to ensure they’re prioritized during evacuations.

Many disability advocates have also been critical of recent expansion of access to medical assistance in dying (MAID). They argue that instead of making it easier for disabled people to die, the government should be working to make workplaces and housing more functional for them.

Jama says she supports the parts of the Conservative platform around strengthening protections for disabled people when it comes to MAID, including reinstating the 10-day waiting period, to ensure decisions aren’t made at people’s lowest point. No other major party references further adjustments to MAID in its platform.

ACCESIBILITY TO HOUSING, WORKPLACES TOO MUCH AN ‘AFTERTHOUGHT’

Thea Kurdi, vice president of DesignABLE Environments INC, told CTV’s Your Morning that the situation for disabled people is “much worse than non-disabled people suspect.”

She said accessibility in housing or workplace policies is too often treated as an “afterthought,” instead of a priority aligning with Canada’s commitments to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kurdi said that too often, although wheelchair access is prioritized, spaces aren’t also made to be truly accessible to deaf, blind or autistic people. Making spaces accessible for visually-impaired people for example, can mean ensuring braille materials or screen-reading software are available; and, for people with hearing concerns, ensuring there are clear fonts in materials and phone or video relay services.

Jama said any parties’ affordable housing policies must address accessibility concerns but only the Greens and NDP have explicitly connected the two.

The Greens are calling for housing developments receiving federal funding to ensure that 30 per cent of all units are affordable and/or available to people with disabilities. The NDP has advocated for accessibility in housing as well.

The Liberals’ platform says only that affordable housing should keep people with disabilities in mind, while the Conservatives haven’t explicitly linked housing and accessibility in their platform.

ACCESSIBLE CANADA ACT STILL TOO WEAK: ADVOCATE

David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said people with disabilities were left out of decision-making throughout the pandemic, including when it came to recovery programs and vaccine prioritization.

“We’ve disproportionately suffered the consequences of the pandemic, and disproportionately been left out of the proper planning for urgent needs during the pandemic,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. He cited the federal government’s one-time payment took months to get to recipients.

Lepofsky also said that the Accessible Canada Act, which passed two years ago, is still far too weak because it doesn’t include enforceable regulations nor adequate compensation for victims of discrimination.

“We’ve written all the parties to ask them if they will strengthen and offered 12 ways to make things better,” said Lepofsky. Only the NDP responded and pledged to make many of the commitments, he said.

Lepofsky said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau who promised ambitious implementation of the act and his government have been “dragging their feet.”

As for Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, he hasn’t pledged to make any of the commitments put forth by Lepofsky’s advocacy group —
despite the fact that during parliamentary debates in 2018, his party said it would strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if the Liberals didn’t.

“We’re not partisan. We want all of the party leaders to make those commitments,” he said.

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

Maan Alhmidi
The Canadian Press
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, for ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

CTV News September 6, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/mail-in-ballots-still-inaccessible-for-blind-voters-advocates-say-1.5575148

Mail-in ballots still inaccessible for blind voters, advocates say

Alexandra Mae Jones
CTVNews.ca

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

TORONTO — The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is calling on the government to do more for blind Canadians, pointing out that the Special Ballot to vote by mail is useless to blind voters unless they gain aid from a sighted person, impeding their right to vote in secret.

In a press release Friday, the organization said it was time to fix the discrimination that leaves out these voters, saying they expected more since this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which aiming to introduce more legislation to aid those with disabilities.

“Due to the pandemic, there are voters who want to vote by mail,” the release stated. “For blind voters, for whom print is a barrier, the mail-in Special Ballot, which is a printed paper ballot, is proving problematic.”

Since ballots need to be filled out exactly in order to be counted, a blind voter would need the assistance of a sighted person to verify that they had filled out the ballot correctly.

“The inaccessible Special Ballot robs blind voters of the right to vote in secret, which is a key principle of democracy,” the release states.

The release added that the requirement to upload scanned identification to register for mail-in ballots online also requires a blind voter to seek help from a sighted person, and that there is no information about candidates in Braille at advance polls.

“We have been hearing that the mail-in ballot process is not one that can be negotiated independently by all blind voters,” Heather Walkus, CCD 1st vice chair, stated in the release. “As this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which promised no new barriers, this is all very disappointing. Blind voters were expecting to finally exercise their franchise in secret this election the same as other voters.”

Elections Canada said in an email statement to CTVNews.ca that they are “committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.”

They said that among the accessibility services they offer, they have sign language interpretation and have redesigned the ballot to improve readability for people who use screen readers.

Elections Canada added that they have a number of tools and services for voting in person, such as large-print candidates lists on advance polling and election days, and Braille lists of candidates on election day. There are also Braille voting templates available on advance polling and election days, they stated.

“We recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for electors who are unable to mark their own ballot,” the statement continued. “Instead of voting by mail, electors who need help marking their ballot may contact their local Elections Canada office to make an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer, who will complete their registration and mark their ballot on their behalf.”

This does not address the issue of voters being entitled to a secret voting process, CCD pointed out. The CCD release stated that they have been calling for other methods to vote for years, such as adding the ability to vote through accessible voting machines and electronic voting.

“We are not seeking an end to the paper ballot, but the addition of accessible voting options so that all voters can exercise their franchise independently and in secret,” Walkus said.

The Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019, was intended to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for disabled Canadians. It did not specifically include promises for making the voting process more accessible.




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Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots – AODA Alliance


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/

Some Media Cover the Federal Election’s Disability Accessibility Issues and/or the Inaccessibility of Mail-In Ballots

September 14, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s September 20, 2021 election is just six days away. We have been trying very hard to get the media to cover this election’s disability issues, especially as they relate to the requirement in the Accessible Canada Act that Canada become accessible by 2040. It should be extremely newsworthy that only one of the federal party leaders has even answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 specific commitments regarding disability accessibility.

As we have found in past elections, it is very hard to get the media to cover this election issue. This is so, even though major media outlets devote a great deal of time and space to election issues. Of course, the accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance has concentrated is only one of several important disability issues in this election.

In this Update, we share three recent news reports:

  • CTV News Online on September 9, 2021
  • The September 13, 2021 report by the Canadian Press, published in different media, including that date’s Chat News Today. This article was picked up by a number of other news outlets, like the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, but the Star and Globe edited out its references to the party leaders who have not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 request for election pledges on accessibility.

In addition to that coverage, CTV’s September 8, 2021 national “Your Morning”, included a six -minute interview on the federal election’s disability issues. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed, as well as accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi. This interview is now available with captions at https://youtu.be/ZJ6yEOvOm8I We are tweeting this interview to as many candidates as possible during the federal election. We invite you to share it with candidates, voters and anyone else. Use email, social media or any other way you can to circulate it. If you want to see the names, email address and Twitter handles for as many of the candidates as our volunteers could dig up, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-federal-Election-Candidates-Final-List.docx

To date, we have not found CBC covering the election’s disability issues. We have reached out to CBC among many other media organizations.

One of the 12 commitments we have sought from the parties relates to making federal elections accessible to voters with disabilities. As with all of our requests, none of the parties have answered except the NDP. In the meantime, mail-in ballots have become much, much more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The mail-in ballot system operated by Elections Canada is quite substantially inaccessible to voters with certain disabilities such as vision loss or dyslexia. Two of the articles set out below address this obvious barrier.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, himself totally blind, used the mail-in ballot. He tweeted about its inaccessibility. Elections Canada heard about these tweets and tweeted to David Lepofsky. David Lepofsky then responded to Elections Canada on Twitter. These tweets are all set out below.

MORE DETAILS

Sept 11 and 12 2021 tweets on accessibility of mail in votes by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky

September 11, 2021

David Lepofsky: I voted by mail to avoid COVID-19 danger. Canada’s mail-in ballot is inaccessible to #blind voters like me. I can’t mark my ballot independently in private & verify my choice. This violates the Charter of Rights & Canada Human Rights Act. #elxn44 #CRPD

September 12, 2021

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

Elections Canada: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

Elections Canda: @DavidLepofsky You can find the contact information for your local office here: https://www.elections.ca/Scripts/vis/FindED?L=e&QID=-1&PAGEID=20 (3/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: Not ideal? The mail-in ballot process is totally inaccessible to #blind people like me. That’s much more than “not ideal”! #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #elxn55

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky Hello David, we recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently. (1/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I don’t want any election officials seeing who I vote for. That violates the secret ballot. #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

David Lepofsky: @DavidLepofsky: I did not go to the polling station, in order to avoid unnecessary exposure. My wife, who would come with me, has a compromised immune system #accessibility #AccessibleCanada #Elxn44

@ElectionsCan_E: @DavidLepofsky If you require assistance to mark your ballot, we recommend you contact your local EC office to request an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer. They will help complete your registration process and then can mark your ballot on your behalf. (2/3)

 CTV News September 9, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/canadians-with-disabilities-say-they-re-missing-from-the-election-discussion-1.5577558

 

Canadians with disabilities say they’re missing from the election discussion

Jeremiah Rodriguez

CTVNews.ca Writer

@jererodriguezzz

TORONTO — Federal party leaders aren’t listening enough to the concerns of disabled Canadians, advocates say. They say key priorities missing from campaign pledges include equitable emergency relief, stronger housing, and workplace polices that address all types of disabilities.

Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, said this lack of scope boils down to a “lack of understanding of what systemic ableism looks like.”

“Nothing is prioritized by the government unless there’s people campaigning behind it,” she told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview.

She said this could be partially addressed by having more disabled candidates running for office or being key parts of campaign decision-making. Jama said people in power don’t always make appreciate just how many Canadians have some form of a disability.

Disabled people make up approximately 22 per cent of Canada’s entire population. And between 62 and 75 per cent of people with disabilities have disabilities which aren’t immediately apparent, such as deafness, blindness or autism.

One of the biggest issues that Jama says hasn’t received enough attention during this campaign is overhauling care for vulnerable people who currently receive care at home or live in long-term care homes.

Jama said she likes the NDP’s platform commitments to end the private long-term care home system, but wants to see the next government go even beyond that.

“We need to reimagine what long-term care looks like in Canada,” she said. She said she wishes party leaders put forth policies that give vulnerable people more affordable options to receive care at home, keeping them out of long-term care facilities.

Jama also said “it’s also embarrassing” that Canada doesn’t yet have universal pharmacare, and that she wishes all parties agreed that it was essential, especially for people with disabilities.

Both the NDP and the Greens have advocated for a national pharmacare program that would provide prescription drug coverage for all Canadians and permanent residents. And while the Liberals have spent the past few years saying they’re moving forward on pharmacare, their platform only notes existing progress on the file, including the signing of the first provincial-territorial agreement to accelerate its implementation. The Conservatives haven’t endorsed a national pharmacare plan but, in their platform, they promise to negotiate with the pharmaceutical industry to reduce drug prices.

Jama also called for more concrete provisions for disabled people during natural disasters, to ensure they’re prioritized during evacuations.

Many disability advocates have also been critical of recent expansion of access to medical assistance in dying (MAID). They argue that instead of making it easier for disabled people to die, the government should be working to make workplaces and housing more functional for them.

Jama says she supports the parts of the Conservative platform around strengthening protections for disabled people when it comes to MAID, including reinstating the 10-day waiting period, to ensure decisions aren’t made at people’s lowest point. No other major party references further adjustments to MAID in its platform.

ACCESIBILITY TO HOUSING, WORKPLACES TOO MUCH AN ‘AFTERTHOUGHT’

Thea Kurdi, vice president of DesignABLE Environments INC, told CTV’s Your Morning that the situation for disabled people is “much worse than non-disabled people suspect.”

She said accessibility in housing or workplace policies is too often treated as an “afterthought,” instead of a priority aligning with Canada’s commitments to the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Kurdi said that too often, although wheelchair access is prioritized, spaces aren’t also made to be truly accessible to deaf, blind or autistic people. Making spaces accessible for visually-impaired people for example, can mean ensuring braille materials or screen-reading software are available; and, for people with hearing concerns, ensuring there are clear fonts in materials and phone or video relay services.

Jama said any parties’ affordable housing policies must address accessibility concerns but only the Greens and NDP have explicitly connected the two.

The Greens are calling for housing developments receiving federal funding to ensure that 30 per cent of all units are affordable and/or available to people with disabilities. The NDP has advocated for accessibility in housing as well.

The Liberals’ platform says only that affordable housing should keep people with disabilities in mind, while the Conservatives haven’t explicitly linked housing and accessibility in their platform.

ACCESSIBLE CANADA ACT STILL TOO WEAK: ADVOCATE

David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said people with disabilities were left out of decision-making throughout the pandemic, including when it came to recovery programs and vaccine prioritization.

“We’ve disproportionately suffered the consequences of the pandemic, and disproportionately been left out of the proper planning for urgent needs during the pandemic,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. He cited the federal government’s one-time payment took months to get to recipients.

Lepofsky also said that the Accessible Canada Act, which passed two years ago, is still far too weak because it doesn’t include enforceable regulations nor adequate compensation for victims of discrimination.

“We’ve written all the parties to ask them if they will strengthen and offered 12 ways to make things better,” said Lepofsky. Only the NDP responded and pledged to make many of the commitments, he said.

Lepofsky said Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau– who promised ambitious implementation of the act – and his government have been “dragging their feet.”

As for Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole, he hasn’t pledged to make any of the commitments put forth by Lepofsky’s advocacy group — despite the fact that during parliamentary debates in 2018, his party said it would strengthen the Accessible Canada Act, if the Liberals didn’t.

“We’re not partisan. We want all of the party leaders to make those commitments,” he said.

 Chat News Today September 13, 2021

Originally posted at https://chatnewstoday.ca/2021/09/13/blind-lawyer-says-lack-of-accessible-private-voting-options-violates-charter/

Blind lawyer says lack of accessible, private voting options violates Charter

 

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021

David Lepofsky was not able to mark his choice independently on the mail-in ballot Elections Canada sent to him because he is blind.

He opted to not vote in person with his wife because she has a serious immune limitation and they don’t want to risk being infected with COVID-19.

Lepofsky, who is a lawyer advocating for accessibility for disabled people, said the voting options available for blind people don’t allow them to cast their ballots privately.

He said the lack of accessible voting options is a violation of section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which requires equal protection and benefit of the law to those living with mental or physical disabilities.

“This is just awful,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“The basic right we’re all supposed to enjoy is the right to mark our own ballot in private and to mark it independently, for ourselves, and to be able to verify this mark the way we want. And I currently don’t have that as a blind person at the federal level.”

Elections Canada responded to his complaint on Twitter on Sunday saying the agency recognizes “the special ballot process is not ideal for an elector who is unable to mark their ballot independently.”

Lepofsky said describing the situation as being “not ideal” is an “offensive understatement” because the mail-in ballots are not accessible.

He said the other option of voting in-person at a polling station also would not allow him to vote in private because an Elections Canada officer would have to read and verify his voting choice.

An Elections Canada spokesperson said those who provide assistance to voters must take oaths to protect the secrecy of those ballots.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector,” Matthew McKenna said in a statement.

According to Statistics Canada, about three per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older, or about 750,000 people, have a seeing disability that limits their daily activities and 5.8 per cent of this group are legally blind.

Lepofsky, who is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said his group sent a letter last month to all main federal parties asking for 12 commitments on accessibility, including one on accessibility of the electoral process.

“Only one leader has answered us. And that is (NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh,” he said.

“We don’t support anyone or oppose anyone. We try to get the strongest commitments we can, but we have not even gotten an answer from (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau or (Conservative Leader) Erin O’Toole.”

He said there should be voting options at the federal level for people with disabilities that allow them to vote without needing help from anyone. He said voting by phone through an automated system can be a good option.

“In New Zealand, they have a phone-in ballot which is not internet-connected. That’s available for voters with vision loss. There are different options around the world but we are lagging way behind,” he said.

“We’re in the dark ages.”

Last year, Elections BC provided a telephone voting option for voters who are unable to vote independently, including people who have vision loss, those who have a disability or an underlying health condition that prevents them from voting independently and those who were self-isolating during the last week of the campaign and unable to vote by mail.

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

“Changes to the way Canadians vote, including telephone voting, would in almost all cases require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change,” he said.

“When assessing new voting processes or services, we undertake significant planning and testing to ensure that the new option is accessible, and that the confidentiality, secrecy, reliability and integrity of the vote are preserved.”

 CTV News September 6, 2021

Originally posted at: https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/federal-election-2021/mail-in-ballots-still-inaccessible-for-blind-voters-advocates-say-1.5575148

Mail-in ballots still inaccessible for blind voters, advocates say

Alexandra Mae Jones

CTVNews.ca

A mail-in voting package that voters will receive if requested is seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021.

TORONTO — The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is calling on the government to do more for blind Canadians, pointing out that the Special Ballot to vote by mail is useless to blind voters unless they gain aid from a sighted person, impeding their right to vote in secret.

In a press release Friday, the organization said it was time to fix the discrimination that leaves out these voters, saying they expected more since this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which aiming to introduce more legislation to aid those with disabilities.

“Due to the pandemic, there are voters who want to vote by mail,” the release stated. “For blind voters, for whom print is a barrier, the mail-in Special Ballot, which is a printed paper ballot, is proving problematic.”

Since ballots need to be filled out exactly in order to be counted, a blind voter would need the assistance of a sighted person to verify that they had filled out the ballot correctly.

“The inaccessible Special Ballot robs blind voters of the right to vote in secret, which is a key principle of democracy,” the release states.

The release added that the requirement to upload scanned identification to register for mail-in ballots online also requires a blind voter to seek help from a sighted person, and that there is no information about candidates in Braille at advance polls.

“We have been hearing that the mail-in ballot process is not one that can be negotiated independently by all blind voters,” Heather Walkus, CCD 1st vice chair, stated in the release. “As this election follows the passage of the Accessible Canada Act, which promised no new barriers, this is all very disappointing. Blind voters were expecting to finally exercise their franchise in secret this election the same as other voters.”

Elections Canada said in an email statement to CTVNews.ca that they are “committed to responding to the diverse needs of Canadians.”

They said that among the accessibility services they offer, they have sign language interpretation and have redesigned the ballot to improve readability for people who use screen readers.

Elections Canada added that they have a number of tools and services for voting in person, such as large-print candidates lists on advance polling and election days, and Braille lists of candidates on election day. There are also Braille voting templates available on advance polling and election days, they stated.

“We recognize that the special ballot process is not ideal for electors who are unable to mark their own ballot,” the statement continued. “Instead of voting by mail, electors who need help marking their ballot may contact their local Elections Canada office to make an appointment to vote with the assistance of an election officer, who will complete their registration and mark their ballot on their behalf.”

This does not address the issue of voters being entitled to a secret voting process, CCD pointed out. The CCD release stated that they have been calling for other methods to vote for years, such as adding the ability to vote through accessible voting machines and electronic voting.

“We are not seeking an end to the paper ballot, but the addition of accessible voting options so that all voters can exercise their franchise independently and in secret,” Walkus said.

The Accessible Canada Act, which came into effect in 2019, was intended to eliminate barriers and provide greater opportunities for disabled Canadians. It did not specifically include promises for making the voting process more accessible.



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Improper e-Scooter Parking Causing Accessibility Issues in Kelowna


E-scooters parked in the middle of walkways can limit accessibility for people with disabilities Michael Rodriguez/
May. 4, 2021

While the City of Kelowna is touting e-scooters as a viable new way to get around town, they are posing new obstacles for some residents with disabilities.

Under a three-year provincial pilot program, Kelowna residents and tourists are now allowed to use the city’s road and shared-pathway networks to scoot around on shared or privately-owned electric scooters.

For Spring Hawes, who lives with tetraplegia and uses a wheelchair to get around, the scooter sharing programs are presenting an issue –
specifically regarding parking. She says for herself and other Kelowna residents with disabilities, improperly parked e-scooters can limit already restricted means of transportation.

Since the launch of e-scooter sharing programs in Kelowna in mid-April, several people, including Hawes, have taken to social media to show photos of scooters parked in the middle of narrow walkways in a way that makes it difficult or impossible for some people to get around them.

“I’ve seen many times where they’re just left in the middle of the sidewalk and they’re literally completely blocking the sidewalk,” said Hawes.

“That’s a very obvious barrier – not just for people in wheelchairs, but for all kinds of people who wouldn’t be able to get around them.”

Hawes said she’s not opposed to the idea of e-scooters, but with the – dockless’ system offered by local operators, scooters will continue to be left in inappropriate areas.

“If there’s no garbage can, people will still throw their garbage out; if there’s no place to leave a scooter, people will leave it wherever it stops.”

The City of Calgary experienced similar parking-based problems throughout its two-year pilot program for shared e-bike and e-scooter programs. According to the city’s final report on the pilot from December 2020, staff fielded 255 calls over e-scooter parking issues in 2020 and Calgarians listed parking as their third top concern in a survey on e-scooters.

To address the accessibility issues posed by improperly parked scooters, Calgary implemented 30 parking zones in high-use areas in 2020. Still, those zones experienced relatively low usage with around 2.5 per cent of trips ending in the zones, despite 10 per cent of e-scooters being deployed there by operators.

“If there were more parking zones and incentives to use them, usage would likely increase,” staff wrote in the report.

City of Kelowna mobility specialist Matt Worona says growing pains are to be expected with substantial programs like this, and expects adherence to parking guidelines to improve as people become more familiar with them. Through the first week of the programs running in Kelowna, Worona says around 13 per cent of scooters were parked improperly.

“We hope to see that number trend downwards,” said Worona. “It’s not where we want to see it today, but we think we can get it to a better level.”

Much like in Calgary, operators in Kelowna will be handing out $10 fines to riders who park improperly. Users have to send a photo of their parked scooter to the operator using the app and park jobs deemed out of line will net fines.

“The first time, they get a warning. The second time they get a fine and if you continue on (parking improperly), you can get booted from the service.”

Worona is reminding users of any of the city’s three shared scooter programs, Lime, Roll or Zip, that helmet use is mandatory, scooters are not permitted on the sidewalk and riding drunk is not allowed.

Original at https://www.pentictonwesternnews.com/news/improper-e-scooter-parking-causing-accessibility-issues-in-kelowna/




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CRA tax-filing portal hits issues day before deadline


Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) says its website was experiencing issues for up to two hours on Thursday evening, the day before the deadline to submit tax filings for many.

CRA spokesperson Jeremy Bellefeuille said that there was an update to the Canada.ca website on Thursday that resulted in links on CRA’s website being disabled, specifically for its Represent a Client and My Business Account services.

The issue is now fixed, Bellefeuille said.

Candace Nancke, a partner at accounting firm Loren Nancke, said the impact on the Represent a Client service, which allows authorized representatives online access to individuals and businesses’ tax information, affected her and many other accountants’ ability to file taxes.

Read more:
Locked out by CRA? How to gain access to your online account (March 12, 2021)

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“A lot of accountants are not happy,” she said. “Many taxpayers and accountants are reporting having to spend hours on the phone in a queue to speak to CRA.”

Bellefeuille said CRA will not be extending the April 30 deadline for filing taxes that applies to most Canadians.


Click to play video: 'Cyber security expert shares tips for safely filing taxes last-minute'







Cyber security expert shares tips for safely filing taxes last-minute


Cyber security expert shares tips for safely filing taxes last-minute




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





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Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues


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/

December 18, 2020
SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance joined the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a number of other advocates from Ontario’s disability, racialized and Indigenous communities, all invited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to a virtual roundtable discussion. It focused on the September 11, 2020 draft critical medical care triage protocol that was finally made public a week earlier. We have campaigned for three months to get that document made public.

Given the number of participants, we could only scratch the surface on this life-and-death issue during this two-hour roundtable. The painful fact that that day, Ontario had another record-breaking number of new COVID-19 infections made this discussion especially urgent and long-overdue.

A number of new important issues were identified at this roundtable by a spectrum of participants. All were in strong agreement on a range of concerns. The AODA Alliance’s concerns were echoed or endorsed by a number of participants.

Some of the key points which the AODA Alliance raised are spelled out in the newest letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot from the AODA Alliance, dated December 17, 2020 and set out below. We hope that the Minister will this time respond to our letter. The Ford Government has not answered any of our earlier letters to her on this topic.

Present to receive feedback at the roundtable were representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario-Government’s external Bioethics Table. As well, there were some representatives from the Ford Government, including from the Health Minister’s office, from Ontario Health, and from the Government’s internal Critical Care Command Centre. We asked to be sent the names and contact information for these provincial officials and are waiting to hear back. We also asked to be sent all the information on the Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol that the Government has sent to hospitals. No one spoke up to agree to send this to us.

This entire triage issue remains in flux. We will keep you posted. With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals getting filled to capacity, we fear that triage may be taking place right now.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol.
2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, and its December 15, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

MORE DETAILS

December 17, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
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/

December 17, 2020

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Via email: [email protected]
Ministry of Health
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: Ontario Government’s Protocol for Medical Triage of Life-Saving Critical Care in the Event Hospitals Cannot Handle All COVID-19 Cases

We urgently write to follow up on our five unanswered letters to you dated September 25, November 2, November 9, December 7 and December 15, 2020. These ask about the Ford Government’s plans for deciding which patients would be refused life-saving critical medical care that they need, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases overloads Ontario hospitals and requires rationing or “triage” of critical care beds and services.

This morning, we took part in a two-hour virtual roundtable, convened by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Government-appointed COVID-19 Bioethics Table. It was convened on very short notice to gather feedback on the Bioethics Table’s recently-released September 11, 2020 proposed critical care triage protocol.

These are among the many urgent points that arose at or from the discussion at that roundtable:

1. None of us invited to that roundtable from the disability, racialized or Indigenous communities had had anywhere near the time we needed to properly review the detailed 36-page September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol. Such virtual face-to-face consultations are vital but must be preceded by enough time to prepare. Sending in written submissions is no substitute. Don’t now consider that the consultation check box can be ticked.

2. No one has shown us that anything in the proposed triage protocol is authorized by law. We have raised this concern time and again. The most interesting and thorough discussion with the Bioethics Table on how triage should be carried out is utterly irrelevant if the protocol, whatever it says, is not properly mandated by law a law that passes constitutional muster.

For example, it will be shocking and deeply disturbing to many if not most to learn the draft triage protocol would have doctors under certain triage circumstances actually withdraw critical care services from a critical care patient who needs those services and who is in the middle of receiving those insured medical services. How can a mere memo from some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or from Ontario Health purport to authorize that, if there is no legislative authority for it? Couldn’t that give rise to possible criminal responsibility, for those taking such action? We don’t believe that a provincial memo overrides the Criminal Code of Canada.

3. It appeared that none of us, from whom input was being sought, could understand from this 36-page document exactly how a doctor is to specifically decide who will be refused critical care under the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol. We cannot give the kind of detailed input that is needed without that being clarified. We wrote the Bioethics Table co-chairs about this in advance of this meeting. No such clarification was provided.

4. An extremely worrisome revelation was made in the only statement we have heard from anyone within the Government’s internal critical care triage infrastructure. Dr. Andrew Baker identified himself as a member of the Ministry of Health’s Critical Care Command Centre. Right near the end of the roundtable, responding to feedback at the roundtable, Dr. Baker stated that doctors value life inherently, and that at present, doctors “default to life years, when we have finite resources. One principle, life years.”

What we take from this is that at present, such triage decisions would be made based on “life years saved.” He went on to say that a new approach to triage, embodying the concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find real merit), would in effect have to wait for a future time. That would have to be after this pandemic is over.

That statement in effect summarily and categorically dismissed all the serious human rights and constitutional concerns we had raised for two hours as not ready to be implemented during this pandemic, even if critical care triage becomes necessary.

We strongly disagree. The Government cannot give up on this now. The thought that we might not have time to put these principles into action now is especially cruel, since our community has been pleading with your Government since early April to directly consult us on this issue.

Dr. Baker’s endorsement of using “life years saved” points to an approach riddled with discrimination because of age, disability, or both. Minister, Dr. Baker’s single statement crystalizes so many of our concerns. It reveals that whatever is written in this or other triage protocols won’t matter at the front lines, and that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, among others, now have a great deal to worry about.

This requires you to immediately take over personal leadership on this issue, and to let our vulnerable communities speak directly to you and your senior officials.

5. From what we can determine, the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol would have a doctor or doctors assess, based on an individual clinical assessment, if a patient, needing critical care, has less than 12 months to live. As I pointed out at the roundtable, Dr. James Downar, of the Bioethics Table, has previously told us that when doctors assess whether a patient has less than 3 months to live in order to decide if that patient should be allowed to go into palliative care, doctors “lie”. By this, we understand him to mean that they try to make a result-oriented assessment to get palliative resources for their patient.

If doctors routinely lie for assessing a patient’s likely mortality within three months, we have every reason to fear that they could do the same when the figure is changed from three months to twelve months, in connection with critical care triage decisions. We realize that there is a difference between admission to palliative care on the one hand, and admission to critical care on the other. However, for current purposes, that difference does not make a difference.

6. The September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, like the two earlier versions that the Bioethics Table produced this year, give these life-and-death decisions over to doctors. As addressed in our next point, we think this needs reconsideration. It provides no appeal from those doctors to an outside independent body, such as a court or the Consent and Capacity Board. Such an appeal is needed. Moreover, it proposes to immunize doctors and other health care professionals making these life-and-death decisions from any accountability. It states that the protocol should:

“4. Ensure liability protection for all those who would be involved in implementing the Proposed Framework (e.g., physicians, clinical teams, Triage Team members, Appeals Committee members, implementation planners, etc.), including an Emergency Order related to any aspect requiring a deviation from the Health Care Consent Act.”

It is certainly questionable whether that can be done. We believe it is beyond question that it should not be done.

7. As we also emphasized at the roundtable, it is not clear to us that these purely medical triage criteria are the way for Ontario to go. Other non-medical triage criteria outside the preserve of doctors are worth considering.

Minister, please talk to us. Have your Ministry officials talk to us. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Enclosure: December 11, 2020 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Jennifer Gibson, Bioethics Table co-chair

cc:
Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected] Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]
Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission cc[email protected] Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected] Dianne Godkin, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]




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Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues


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/

Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues

December 18, 2020

SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance joined the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a number of other advocates from Ontario’s disability, racialized and Indigenous communities, all invited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to a virtual roundtable discussion. It focused on the September 11, 2020 draft critical medical care triage protocol that was finally made public a week earlier. We have campaigned for three months to get that document made public.

Given the number of participants, we could only scratch the surface on this life-and-death issue during this two-hour roundtable. The painful fact that that day, Ontario had another record-breaking number of new COVID-19 infections made this discussion especially urgent and long-overdue.

A number of new important issues were identified at this roundtable by a spectrum of participants. All were in strong agreement on a range of concerns. The AODA Alliance’s concerns were echoed or endorsed by a number of participants.

Some of the key points which the AODA Alliance raised are spelled out in the newest letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot from the AODA Alliance, dated December 17, 2020 and set out below. We hope that the Minister will this time respond to our letter. The Ford Government has not answered any of our earlier letters to her on this topic.

Present to receive feedback at the roundtable were representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario-Government’s external Bioethics Table. As well, there were some representatives from the Ford Government, including from the Health Minister’s office, from Ontario Health, and from the Government’s internal Critical Care Command Centre. We asked to be sent the names and contact information for these provincial officials and are waiting to hear back. We also asked to be sent all the information on the Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol that the Government has sent to hospitals. No one spoke up to agree to send this to us.

This entire triage issue remains in flux. We will keep you posted. With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals getting filled to capacity, we fear that triage may be taking place right now.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected].

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol.
  2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, and its December 15, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
  4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
  5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
  6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

MORE DETAILS

December 17, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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/

December 17, 2020

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health

Via email: [email protected]

Ministry of Health

5th Floor

777 Bay St.

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: Ontario Government’s Protocol for Medical Triage of Life-Saving Critical Care in the Event Hospitals Cannot Handle All COVID-19 Cases

We urgently write to follow up on our five unanswered letters to you dated September 25, November 2, November 9, December 7 and December 15, 2020. These ask about the Ford Government’s plans for deciding which patients would be refused life-saving critical medical care that they need, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases overloads Ontario hospitals and requires rationing or “triage” of critical care beds and services.

This morning, we took part in a two-hour virtual roundtable, convened by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Government-appointed COVID-19 Bioethics Table. It was convened on very short notice to gather feedback on the Bioethics Table’s recently-released September 11, 2020 proposed critical care triage protocol.

These are among the many urgent points that arose at or from the discussion at that roundtable:

  1. None of us invited to that roundtable from the disability, racialized or Indigenous communities had had anywhere near the time we needed to properly review the detailed 36-page September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol. Such virtual face-to-face consultations are vital but must be preceded by enough time to prepare. Sending in written submissions is no substitute. Don’t now consider that the consultation check box can be ticked.
  1. No one has shown us that anything in the proposed triage protocol is authorized by law. We have raised this concern time and again. The most interesting and thorough discussion with the Bioethics Table on how triage should be carried out is utterly irrelevant if the protocol, whatever it says, is not properly mandated by law – a law that passes constitutional muster.

For example, it will be shocking and deeply disturbing to many if not most to learn the draft triage protocol would have doctors under certain triage circumstances actually withdraw critical care services from a critical care patient who needs those services and who is in the middle of receiving those insured medical services. How can a mere memo from some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or from Ontario Health purport to authorize that, if there is no legislative authority for it? Couldn’t that give rise to possible criminal responsibility, for those taking such action? We don’t believe that a provincial memo overrides the Criminal Code of Canada.

  1. It appeared that none of us, from whom input was being sought, could understand from this 36-page document exactly how a doctor is to specifically decide who will be refused critical care under the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol. We cannot give the kind of detailed input that is needed without that being clarified. We wrote the Bioethics Table co-chairs about this in advance of this meeting. No such clarification was provided.
  1. An extremely worrisome revelation was made in the only statement we have heard from anyone within the Government’s internal critical care triage infrastructure. Dr. Andrew Baker identified himself as a member of the Ministry of Health’s Critical Care Command Centre. Right near the end of the roundtable, responding to feedback at the roundtable, Dr. Baker stated that doctors value life inherently, and that at present, doctors “default to life years, when we have finite resources. One principle, life years.”

What we take from this is that at present, such triage decisions would be made based on “life years saved.” He went on to say that a new approach to triage, embodying the concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find real merit), would in effect have to wait for a future time. That would have to be after this pandemic is over.

That statement in effect summarily and categorically dismissed all the serious human rights and constitutional concerns we had raised for two hours as not ready to be implemented during this pandemic, even if critical care triage becomes necessary.

We strongly disagree. The Government cannot give up on this now. The thought that we might not have time to put these principles into action now is especially cruel, since our community has been pleading with your Government since early April to directly consult us on this issue.

Dr. Baker’s endorsement of using “life years saved” points to an approach riddled with discrimination because of age, disability, or both. Minister, Dr. Baker’s single statement crystalizes so many of our concerns. It reveals that whatever is written in this or other triage protocols won’t matter at the front lines, and that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, among others, now have a great deal to worry about.

This requires you to immediately take over personal leadership on this issue, and to let our vulnerable communities speak directly to you and your senior officials.

  1. From what we can determine, the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol would have a doctor or doctors assess, based on an individual clinical assessment, if a patient, needing critical care, has less than 12 months to live. As I pointed out at the roundtable, Dr. James Downar, of the Bioethics Table, has previously told us that when doctors assess whether a patient has less than 3 months to live in order to decide if that patient should be allowed to go into palliative care, doctors “lie”. By this, we understand him to mean that they try to make a result-oriented assessment to get palliative resources for their patient.

If doctors routinely lie for assessing a patient’s likely mortality within three months, we have every reason to fear that they could do the same when the figure is changed from three months to twelve months, in connection with critical care triage decisions. We realize that there is a difference between admission to palliative care on the one hand, and admission to critical care on the other. However, for current purposes, that difference does not make a difference.

  1. The September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, like the two earlier versions that the Bioethics Table produced this year, give these life-and-death decisions over to doctors. As addressed in our next point, we think this needs reconsideration. It provides no appeal from those doctors to an outside independent body, such as a court or the Consent and Capacity Board. Such an appeal is needed. Moreover, it proposes to immunize doctors and other health care professionals making these life-and-death decisions from any accountability. It states that the protocol should:

“4.       Ensure liability protection for all those who would be involved in implementing the Proposed Framework (e.g., physicians, clinical teams, Triage Team members, Appeals Committee members, implementation planners, etc.), including an Emergency Order related to any aspect requiring a deviation from the Health Care Consent Act.”

It is certainly questionable whether that can be done. We believe it is beyond question that it should not be done.

  1. As we also emphasized at the roundtable, it is not clear to us that these purely medical triage criteria are the way for Ontario to go. Other non-medical triage criteria outside the preserve of doctors are worth considering.

Minister, please talk to us. Have your Ministry officials talk to us. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Enclosure: December 11, 2020 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Jennifer Gibson, Bioethics Table co-chair

cc:

Premier Doug Ford [email protected]

Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected]

Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]

Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]

Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]

Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]

Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected]

Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]

Dianne Godkin, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]



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Ontario Human Rights Commission Issues Statement on Accessible Housing


November 22, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need for safe housing, Ontarians with disabilities have always lived with the harsh reality that their housing choices are extremely limited, chronically inaccessible and often substandard and unsafe.

One in seven Ontarians have a disability. Yet, Ontarians with disabilities routinely face discriminatory screening practices by landlords and blanket refusals to retrofit accessibility features when accommodation needs arise. People with disabilities are regularly forced to file legal claims simply to get landlords to remove barriers and build safer environments; for example, litigating the installation of ramps, accessible parking, automated doors, brighter lighting, widened entrances, handrails, switching floors, etc. These are just a few of the types of claims that have gone before human rights tribunals and landlord and tenant boards.

For over a decade, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has pointed out that the onus is not just on housing providers to respect the right to accessibility. All levels of government, community planners and housing developers must promote disability rights by committing to universal design for any new housing construction. Accessible housing is not a panacea for eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but is a critical step toward facilitating safety, security and independence.

On National Housing Day, the OHRC calls on the Province to amend Ontario’s Building Code Regulation to require all units in new construction or major renovation of multi-unit residences to fully meet universal accessibility standards. The OHRC also calls on municipalities to prioritize universal design construction, consistent with their obligations under the Code. Government and housing providers must work together to make sure that new developments are fully inclusive, because Ontarians deserve no less.

“Universal design” makes housing accessible and adaptable not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.

A 2019 Angus Reid Institute study found that over half of Canadians surveyed were concerned about their home being inaccessible as their family aged. Universal design allows people to age with dignity ” in their own homes and communities ” without costly retrofits, searching for new housing or being forced into residential care.

The economic and social benefits of aging in our own homes are well established. The pandemic has exposed the unfortunate truth that residential care, while necessary for some people, is an expensive option that carries significant risks.

Universal design isn’t just a human rights ideal

Original at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-statement-national-housing-day-november-22-accessible-housing-makes-social-economic-sense




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Even More Media Coverage of Disability COVID Issues — and – Pressing Need for the Ford Government to Ensure that Hospital Patients with Communication Disabilities Face No Barriers to Using Technology that Lets Them Effectively Communicate


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/

Even More Media Coverage of Disability COVID Issues — and – Pressing Need for the Ford Government to Ensure that Hospital Patients with Communication Disabilities Face No Barriers to Using Technology that Lets Them Effectively Communicate

May 6, 2020

SUMMARY

Here are three more important media reports that focus directly or indirectly on disability issues during the COVID-19 crisis. All are set out below.

The first is a good CBC Radio news report on the need for the City of Toronto to include the accessibility needs of people with disabilities if it starts erecting barriers and signs on or around sidewalks to channel pedestrian traffic and people in line for stores during COVID-19 social distancing. The second is an interview on the May 5, 2020 CBC Radio Toronto Metro Morning program. It focused on our May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The third story did not involve the AODA Alliance at all. We comment on important broad disability issues it raises.

Premier Ford has pledged to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. There is a pressing need for the Ford Government to now publicly direct all hospitals and health care providers to ensure that they do not create any barriers that impede people with communication disabilities from being free to use the technology they need to be able to effectively communicate. In the middle of this COVID-19 crisis, patients with disabilities cannot wait for the months and months that it will take for the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard, now under development, to be enacted. They should not have to try to fight accessibility barriers one at a time under human rights laws.

A May 1, 2020 Toronto Sun article, set out below, reports that a Toronto area hospital is not allowing a patient with a significant communication disability to use his computer tablet while he is in hospital, except for one hour a day. He reportedly needs to use the tablet as a communication aid.

The family reportedly went to the media after they could not get the hospital to let him use the tablet when he wished. We do not have the capacity to investigate such situations, and cannot comment on the accuracy of the specific details in the Toronto Sun’s report.

This article raises very serious issues. It has very serious implications for patients with disabilities, if the facts set out in it are accurate. It further illustrates why the Ontario Government must immediately launch and implement an effective and comprehensive plan to ensure that the urgent needs of people with disabilities are met during the COVID-19 crisis, including patients with disabilities.

In the widely-watched April 7, 2020 first Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and disability organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition, Ms. Barbara Collier of Communication Disabilities Access Canada, a widely-respected expert on communication disabilities, emphasized the vital importance of ensuring that people with communication disabilities can effectively communicate, especially while they are in hospital. This builds on what the Supreme Court of Canada said in 1997 when it addressed the fundamental importance of hospitals accommodating the communication needs of deaf patients to effectively communicate while in hospital in Eldridge v. BC.

The Ontario Government has committed to develop a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to tear down barriers in our health care system facing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2020 Framework detailed what that Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. Among other things, it emphasized the importance of ensuring effective communication supports for people with communication disabilities including when they are in hospitals.

According to the Toronto Sun report, the hospital said that it was disallowing the use of the tablet “…because it was being used to conduct “surveillance” of his care.” Yet hospital patients and visitors routinely are free to use tablets, smart phones and laptop computers while in a hospital, without having to get anyone’s permission or approval. None are banned from using them for the reason that they could be used to conduct “surveillance” of a patient’s care.

The Toronto Sun reported that the hospital said the hospital staff have a reasonable expectation of privacy and should have a safe and secure working environment. It is hard to see what threat a patient with a severe and immobilizing disability would pose to the safety or security of hospital staff, with or without a tablet in hand.

We need the long-overdue strong Health Care Accessibility Standard more than ever, so that all patients can be free from discrimination because of disability. Hospitals have a duty to accommodate patients with disabilities. They can only refuse to do so if they can prove that accommodation of that patient would cause the hospital undue hardship.

During the COVID-19 crisis, when hospital visitors are restricted, this imposes special hardships on various patients with disabilities, including those with communication disabilities. At our April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall event, Barbara Collier gave strategies that the Ontario Government should implement across Ontario to address such needs. Since then, no one from the Ministry of Health has tried to contact the AODA Alliance to follow up on those strategies or any other health-related COVID-19 issues.

For more background, check out the following:

* The May 4, 2020 virtual Town Hall on meeting the urgent learning needs of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

* The April 7, 2020 virtual Town Hall organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition on more generally meeting the urgent needs of all people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

* The April 30, 2020 letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce, which sets out a list of concrete and constructive requests for action that the AODA Alliance presented to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.

* The AODA Alliance’s education web page, that documents its efforts over the past decade to advocate for Ontario’s education system to become fully accessible to students with disabilities

* The AODA Alliance’s health care web page, which documents our years of effort to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective AODA Health Care Accessibility Standard.

* The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, setting out our efforts to advocate for governments to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 460 days since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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 announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 41 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 worsened by that delay.

MORE DETAILS

CBC News May 3, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/accessibility-curbto-program-disability-rights-david-lepofsky-1.5554034

City urged to think about people with disabilities in CurbTO plan to create space on sidewalks

With files from Kelda Yuen

An advocate is urging the City of Toronto to make sure its plan to ease sidewalk crowding takes into consideration the needs of people with disabilities amid COVID-19.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the new CurbTO program, in which the city will make room for pedestrians and delivery drivers through the creation of “curb lane pedestrian zones” and “temporary parking pickup zones,” is a good one. The alliance is a consumer advocacy group.

Through the program, the city is aiming to enable people on city sidewalks and drivers picking up and dropping goods off to engage in physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

But the program will actually make things worse for people with disabilities if city planners fail to think about accessibility for all people, Lepofsky told CBC Toronto on Sunday.

“The real question that I would ask is: What are they doing to ensure that, in altering this part of the built environment, that the alteration will increase and not decrease accessibility?

“In other words, the idea of creating more space for social distancing is obviously important and good. And the fact that they are looking at that is, regardless of disability, good.”

“If they don’t plan for its accessibility, they will likely screw up its accessibility. That’s what we find over and over. Accessibility doesn’t happen by accident. Inaccessibility happens by accident.”

Under the program, the city will make room at “hot spots” or “pinch points” where it is challenging for people to practise physical distancing because of lineups or congestion outside essential businesses.

These areas include sidewalks outside grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants and community agencies that offer pickup, takeout and delivery services, the city has said.

The city said it will initially target hotspots along 10 busy retail main streets for curb lane installations before the program is expanded to more than 100 locations across Toronto.

Lepofsky said the program raises several issues around accessibility.

For example, if people in a lineup outside a drug store are rerouted onto a curb lane, then it would be difficult for a person using a mobility device, such as wheelchair, scooter or walker, to enter that fenced-off lineup because it would involve stepping down onto the road.

“If they build accessibility in by making sure that the route has level access to get down into the street and so on, that could be an improvement,” he said.

And if, as an additional example, the city sets up a sign outside a drug store indicating where pedestrians should line up, that sign itself could become an obstacle for people who are blind or who have vision loss.

“What kind of prompting will there be to let me know where to go to line up? If they stick a sign on the road or on the sidewalk, which they might want to do, they have now created a new obstacle I could whack into,” he said.

“What are they are going to do to plan for safe navigation?”

Mayor John Tory told reporters at a recent daily news briefing that staff will use signs and barriers to create additional space. ‘Each location will have unique conditions that will be assessed carefully by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services staff to develop the most appropriate solution.’ (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

In its April 27 news release in which it unveiled the program, the city did not address these concerns. The city has yet to respond to questions posed by CBC Toronto.

“Each location will have unique conditions that will be assessed carefully by Toronto Public Health and Transportation Services staff to develop the most appropriate solution,” Tory said.

“In some cases, city staff may be able to suggest line-up configurations to the business operator that alleviates crowding concerns. In other cases, a temporary curb lane closure may be the most effective response.”

“Curb lane pedestrian zones” are defined as areas in which pedestrians trying to move past lineups outside essential businesses will have more space.

“Temporary parking pick-up zones” are defined as areas in which drivers delivering food and medicine will be allowed to park for up to 10 minutes near an essential business where they are picking up or dropping off goods.

These zones could be created in areas that are now restricted parking zones.

A downtown councillor, meanwhile, has enlisted the support of residents to propose locations that the city could fix when it expands the program.

Count. Joe Cressy, who represents Ward 10 Spading-Fort York, said he is recommending 18 new additional spaces in his ward for “immediate improvements” under the CurbTO program where room could be created to allow people to distance physically during the outbreak.

“Notwithstanding the overarching advice to, where possible, stay at home, we know that in many neighbourhoods, especially in downtown Toronto, there are immediate spaces where it’s not possible to walk on the sidewalk without coming into contact with lots of people,” Cressy said.

His office has worked with local residents, community organizations, businesses and institutions to identify where there are issues around crowding, he said.

“We know that in this dense, crowded city of ours, the overarching message to stay at home works for some, but depending on how busy and crowded the sidewalks are, it doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s why we’re proposing these changes.”

Cressy said to make streets safe and accessible for all requires a “fundamental” redesign of city streets.

He said of CurbTO: “We need to include an accessibility focus around that.”

CBC Radio 1 Metro Morning May 5, 2020

Note: the host conducting the interview was David Common.

Radio Host: So, learning from home as we’ve been discussing for weeks now can be really tough for any student, and certainly for many families. For students with disabilities, whether that’s physical, mental, or sensory, the disruptions to the school year have been especially hard, there hasn’t been much direction from school boards or for school boards, about working with special needs students during the pandemic. Well that’s why a group of concerned parents and Disability Advocates held a virtual Town Hall yesterday. The goal was to share ideas of what parents, teachers and school boards can do to help students with disabilities. David Lepofsky co hosted that session, he is chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. Lolly Herman teaches children with autism. She is a certified teacher and a behavior analyst who founded Under the Umbrella Tree educational services, she’s got three kids of her own. Both Lolly and David join us now. Good morning to both of you.

Guests: Good morning, David

Radio Host: I like to start with you, David, and just ask you about this virtual Town Hall you hosted yesterday. What was your goal?

David Lepofsky: Well we’ve got upwards of a third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools, and their teachers, their parents, and the kids are facing enormous additional barriers of hardships because of the move to online learning. And we wanted to get ideas, action tips, practical action tips to the frontline teachers and parents. There are teachers and parents who can innovate and come up with creative ideas, but the province, the provincial government has dropped the ball by not reaching out to those frontline folks, finding out what they’ve innovated and sharing them to all school boards around the province so everybody can benefit from them. We came up with the idea of our virtual Town Hall, to try to fill the gap and frankly to embarrass the province, into doing its job by picking up where we left off, and continuing that process.

Radio Host: Do you feel like in the rush to get some sort of distance learning program out that students with disabilities were simply left behind?

David Lepofsky: Well, unfortunately our Ministry of Education or provincial government tend to operate our education system first and foremost on the idea that it’s for kids without disabilities, then kids with disabilities become kind of an afterthought. Oh, what do we do for them? kind of thing. We recognize that the province had an enormous challenge, as did the school boards, moving to onsite online learning and we got to cut them some slack but we’ve now been into this for weeks. And yesterday we revealed, very serious issues. There are grassroots strategies for fixing it but the province has to step up to the plate. Let me give you one example, the provinces announced that TVO Ontario is its major partner in helping deliver online education. Well, one of our speakers yesterday, an expert in digital accessibility, found out within minutes of checking out the online resources that TV Ontario has posted, that they have significant accessibility problems for students or teachers or parents with various disabilities who have to use adaptive technology to interact with those kind of websites.

Radio host: I just want to bring Lolly into the conversation because she teaches children with autism and I wonder Lolly, what are some specific examples of how kids with autism and their parents are struggling right now?

Lolly Herman: Yeah. So, when we made the decision to close our clinic and move to online services I really worried about what our families would do without the therapies and intensive intervention that they had been receiving prior to this outbreak. And so, sort of not offering services not an option, going online and transferring our therapy and all our services online was certainly scary but it needed to be done. And I’m proud to say that we are in our eighth week of telehealth services, and it is going very well. Families help children with disabilities as specifically, the ones I work with, many of them have a diagnosis of autism, are struggling with not only changes in sleep patterns, an increase in, well, some of my kids when they can’t express themselves, when they can’t for what they need, sometimes they act out, and the ways that they act can be to hurt themselves or to hurt their parents, or to refuse eating the few foods that they were eating prior to this pandemic. A change in routine can be devastating and is often devastating to these children and their families going you know not having the child go to bed till 3 or 4 am every night is quite difficult. And so knowing that our kiddos thrive on routine, we did everything we could to get online and continue to support our families. I can say that, like, all of us I’m a mom of three. And, you know, getting online was not so fun for me and my three kids, three kids in the TDSB and all three of their, their online learning looks different. So it took a little bit of time to set that up. But for our families, you know, a lot of them just sort of wanted to wait this out hoping it wasn’t going to take so long saying you know we’re just goanna wait to get back to the clinic. And my response to that was okay, but I really want to make sure that your kids know that we’re still here, you know, give me a few minutes. Let me see them. Let’s just FaceTime, you know, let’s use our chosen method or virtual platform. Let’s get online and I think that parents, when they saw how their child connected to their therapists to their teacher, to myself I immediately felt comfort. I know myself as director, when I made the decision to close down, I felt like I, you know, had put all the weight on my shoulders and it was a massive decision. The moment I got online and saw my colleagues I immediately felt a sense of relief. There’s something special in these times where we are all social distancing and self isolating, to get online and to see the people that you see every day the people that care for you, the people that love you, the people that teach you, and you feel part of something positive. And so I think that one of the greatest strides we’ve made aside from moving our curriculum and online is by making the massive push to make sure that everything we do for our kids for our families for our staff are face to face. I mean we’ve started doing Wednesday PJ and story night for my kids and myself we get into our pajamas and our families log on and I read our clients stories, right before bed, you know we have morning coffee with me with just our parents in the morning. So we have time to connect. I think that anything that we can do to bring our community and keep our community together and engaged makes us all feel like this isn’t the new norm, we will get back to where we need to be and the more that we can keep our children, engaged and retained and being, you know, engaged with their teaching team, the better off we will be when we get back out into society and continue working with our kids.

Radio Host: Certainly I understand what you say, particularly around the importance of routine and the consequences without it. David, I know you have written to the Education Minister Stephen Lecce. What do you need the province to do now to better support students with disabilities?

David Lepofsky: Well the province has basically left it to over 70 school boards, to principals and teachers, to each have to figure these things out on their own. What we did yesterday was we brought together five experts like Lolly to give practical tips, addressing certain disabilities. We couldn’t address them all.

Radio Host: We’ve only got about a minute, David, so if you could give me some of those tips that would be helpful.

David Lepofsky: So for example if you’re going to use an online platform, you need an accessible platform for students and parents and teachers with disabilities. Zoom is by far the most accessible platform yet some school boards are either not promoting it, or in fact are refusing to allow it. That’s ridiculous. We are getting tips on. Sorry, just one other tip, Lolly gave a pile of them in the millions, you folks will have a link on your website. We invite your listeners to go and watch the different action tips we gave in the areas of educating kids with blindness or kids who are deaf or kids with autism or kids with behavior issues. One of the great ideas was setting up an area in your house that’s going to be the learning area it’s kind of a school at home, so kids who have behavior issues need to learn to focus, have one area that they could orient themselves to. That’s the learning area, very practical things that people find are working but we need the province to reach out directly to grassroots teachers on the frontlines and parents, collect their ideas. Don’t create a website that’s just a blizzard of a million links leaving it to everyone to have to click on a million links to find a good idea. Come up with really nicely packaged lists of action tips and share them with families, share them with teachers. That’s what we started doing yesterday and we invited the province to pick up, take it over and do it themselves, we will help them.

David and Lolly unfortunately we’re goanna have to leave it there but thanks very much for raising what is very clearly an important issue for a great many. Thanks a lot.

Guests: Thanks so much

Radio Host: That’s Lolly Herman who works with children with autism, she’s a behavior analyst and founder of Under the Umbrella Tree Educational Services, a parent herself. And David Lepofsky is Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance.

Toronto Sun May 1, 2020

Originally posted at https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/levy-hospital-bans-disabled-patient-from-using-ipad-calling-it-surveillance-tool

LEVY: Hospital bans disabled patient from using iPad calling it ‘surveillance tool’

Sue-Ann Levy

Tommy Jutcovich, 69, is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital but staff are no longer allowing him to use his iPad — his lifeline to the outside world during the COVID-19 pandemic — because it considered a “surveillance tool.” Supplied photo

Tommy Jutcovich is bedridden in Toronto Grace hospital — unable to walk, talk, eat or use his hands — and his only lifeline to the outside world was taken away from him.

The 69-year-old much beloved retired Toronto District School board principal was diagnosed with multiple systems atrophy eight years ago — a rare disease that presents similar to ALS — and is only able to communicate by either blinking one eye or through his computer tablet.

But his daughter, Adalia Schweitzer, said Friday that his tablet has literally been shut off by hospital staff over allegations it is being used to conduct “surveillance” of his care and is not providing a “safe and secure environment” for the nurses and other employees who service his needs.

After spending four months in the ICU at North York General Hospital, she said her dad was transferred to Toronto Grace a week ago — against the wishes of the family — to make room at NYGH for COVID-19 patients.

When her mom was no longer able to be by his side at NYGH due to the escalating pandemic, they came up with the idea of the tablet.

Through an app, her mom was able to program the tablet from home to assist with his daily readings from the Torah, allow him to watch the news and listen to podcasts.

They’d also do daily video conferencing with all members of the family, who live in different countries and time zones.

NYGH had no problem with his use of the tablet, Schweitzer said.

She said her father was admitted with his tablet on Thursday and he was using it until the patient care manager informed the family three days later that it was an “issue of privacy” and he would only be permitted to access his tablet one hour a day — at a time acceptable to hospital staff and subject to their availability.

Schweitzer feels because he was in a new hospital situation, the nurses didn’t “appreciate” that her mom was trying to advocate for his care needs and advise them of his “very strict” medication schedule.

She said the other day, while he was doing his Torah prayers, a hospital staff member actually came in to his private room and “just shut it off.”

When the family tried to work out a compromise, lawyers got into the mix and Thursday night the family received a letter indicating the hospital does not permit monitors that “allow the continuous surveillance and recording of what is occurring within the hospital.”

The lawyer’s letter also stated that hospital employees have a “reasonable expectation of privacy in the workplace” and the hospital must provide employees and professional staff with a “safe and secure work environment.”

Schweitzer said all staff have to do is put the tablet on “mute” or “turn it off” when they come in to his private room to take care of her father.

“No one’s stopping them from turning off his tablet or turning it around when they are doing his care,” she said. “They’re calling it a monitor … we’re calling it his lifeline.”

Lt.-Col. John Murray, board chair of Toronto Grace health centre, said in an e-mailed statement they are committed to “providing exceptional and compassionate care” but the Personal Health Information Protection Act prohibits the use of a monitor that can be “controlled remotely” from outside a public hospital.

When I suggested what they were doing is tantamount to elder abuse, Murray said “nothing could be further from the truth” and that they are doing “everything possible” to ensure loved ones remain connected to their families.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott’s spokesman Hayley Chazan said she’s not able to comment on the specifics because hospitals operate autonomously. However, she did say she expects Ontario hospitals to “act reasonably” to support patients during this unprecedented crisis.

Schweitzer said the entire family is “heartbroken.”

“My dad was always a passionate advocate for causes he believed in … and now he can’t speak up for himself,” she said. “(What the hospital is doing) is not acceptable.”



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