Service Dog Refused Entry Into Bradford Restaurant; Incident Leads to Education Around Legislation


‘We tried to explain to him, but he just wouldn’t listen,’ says pastor whose canine helper was turned away; Business owner apologizes By: Jackie Kozak
Posted August 8, 2021

“Any dog is not allowed,” repeated Ganesh Ponniah, owner of the Golden Taste of Asia restaurant in Bradford, while refusing a local pastor and his service dog entrance into his establishment last week.

Lily, the two-year-old purebred golden doodle, is owned by Cory Kostyra, interim pastor at Bradford Community Church.

Lily completed training with the Citadel Canine Society as a medical service dog in June 2020, pursuant to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and in accordance with the standards of the Canadian Association of Service Dog Trainers.

Upon entering the restaurant last Wednesday with Lily and friend Martin Lim, Kostyra was shocked when the owner told him his service dog would not be allowed inside the establishment.

“We tried to explain to him, but he just wouldn’t listen,” said Kostyra, adding that other customers within earshot of the disagreement also stepped in to help explain to the owner why the dog was allowed inside.

Kostyra, Lim and Lily left the premises, as instructed by Ponniah, and ended up dining down the street.

The incident at Golden Taste of Asia was immediately brought to the attention of the town’s accessibility advisory committee. BradfordToday called the restaurant for a statement and briefly spoke to staff before the calls were abruptly terminated. It took three tries before BradfordToday was able to speak with the owner directly.

“This is the first time this happened. I didn’t know about that, but I kindly ask so sorry for that,” said Ponniah. “In my five years here, nobody ever come here with a dog, that’s why I kindly ask, so sorry.”

Lily’s certificate, which Kostyra carries with him at all times, requests that “individuals, business owners, facility managers and others, afford Lily and her handler, Mr. Cory Kostyra, appropriate privileges and a reasonable degree of physical public access.”

“They have to provide training for their employees and allow someone with a service dog into their premises,” said Kostyra. “If the dog is wearing a service vest, that’s more than suitable proof, but we have the paperwork, too.”

The AODA spells it out: “If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the provider (owner) shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.”

Under the “training for staff” section, it states that “every provider shall ensure that the following persons receive training about the provisions of the provider’s goods, services or facilities, as the case may be, to persons with disabilities” (including) every person who is an employee of, or a volunteer with the provider,” making owners responsible for reviewing with their staff the purpose of the Act and the requirements to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

There are penalties for failure to follow the Act. According to the AODA, if the incident is deemed “major” or there is a repeat offence, a daily penalty of up to a maximum of $100,000 in the case of a corporation, and $50,000 in the case of an individual or unincorporated organization can be levied.

“It’s mandatory he trains his staff (and himself) to understand accessibility standards,” Kostyra said of the restaurant owner.

The Ontario government website notes that “one in seven people in Ontario has a disability,” which is approximately two million Ontarians. Over the next 20 years, as province’s population ages, people with disabilities are expected to represent about 40 per cent of total income in Ontario, or $536 billion.

“People with disabilities are a growing market that businesses can’t afford to overlook,” the website states.

“Ontario has laws to ensure all Ontarians can access your organization’s goods, services or facilities. The law requires your organization to identify those barriers, and remove them, in order to provide customer service that is more accessible to people who have disabilities,” the government site notes.

“This is an opportunity to educate businesses in our community in regards to the AODA Act,” said Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc, chair of the local accessibility advisory committee. “As you can see under Section 80, it is something that businesses should be aware of, that service dogs are an important part of people’s needs with disabilities and that they should be allowed into any business to support the owner.”

Leduc added: “I believe this is where we as a municipality can do better in educating business owners of their obligations to residents with disabilities. We are working toward a strategy on how to get business owners educated on the Act and the roles and responsibilities of those owners. We need to be better.”

According to the Act, there are various types of service animals, aside from guide dogs, that support people with different types of disabilities. The four most common disabilities that utilize a service animal are vision impairment or loss, epilepsy, autism, and anxiety disorders.

There are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal, as long as the animal is wearing a certified harness or vest to indicate as such, or the person with a disability provides appropriate documentation from a regulated health professional.

According to Caleigh Clubine, community relations officer with the municipality, “the town was interested to learn that there may be a lack of awareness of the laws surrounding service dogs.”

“While this is a provincial area of jurisdiction, the chair of the town’s accessibility advisory committee has stated that he will be encouraging the committee to look into whether there may be an opportunity to help educate and inform business owners and the public,” she added.

The Citadel Canine Society, where Lily was trained, carries the highest standard in basic obedience and training for service animals. They are a CRA-registered charity organization that specifically trains post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Operational Stress Injury (OSI) medical service dogs for military veterans and first-responders.

“The moment you put the vest on, (Lily) knows she’s working,” said Kostyra.

Lily’s training with Citadel is described as “intense” and includes bringing service-dogs-in-training through rooms filled with toys and treats where the animals are trained not to touch anything.

“It’s really neat. I would drop food right on her head and she won’t touch it,” Kostyra said of the training.

Citadel also trains the service animals in different environments, including hospitals and airplanes, where there are different sounds.

“The hardest part is making them “bomb proof’ to noises and outside distractions,” Kostyra added.

When he experienced a panic attack in a store, he says Lily proved her worth.

“One time, Lily dragged me out of a Walmart,” Kostyra said. “I couldn’t move. I was in the middle of the aisle with my cart.”

Although the owner of Golden Taste of Asia eventually offered Kostyra and his service dog a free meal for the oversight, Kostyra declined the offer, but he will not be pressing charges.

“Service animals have a job to do, they are not pets,” he said, adding there’s a difference between a highly trained service dog and a therapy dog. “If I had went into that restaurant and had an attack, someone would have had to come get me.”

To learn more about the laws and regulations surrounding Accessibility for Ontarians visit https://www.aoda.ca. Business owners who would like to make their services more accessible can visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-make-customer-service-accessible?utm_source=barrietoday.com&utm_campaign=barrietoday.com&utm_medium=referral. Original at https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/service-dog-refused-entry-into-bradford-restaurant-leads-to-education-in-legislation-4201445




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Stiffer penalties now in place with new Ontario stunt driving legislation | Watch News Videos Online



In an effort to crack down on stunt driving and street racing, new rules across Ontario are now in effect. Under the Moving Ontarians More Safely Act, it also calls for stricter licence suspensions and increased vehicle impoundment periods. Frazer Snowdon reports.



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Legislation introduced to provide income support program for Manitobans with severe disabilities


The province is introducing legislation to provide an income support program for Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities.

Current legislation puts Manitobans with severe and prolonged disabilities in the same category as those experiencing temporary losses of employment due to shorter-term or less severe disabilities.

The province says Bill 72 would create a program separate from Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) and include disability support payments and shelter assistance tailored to the specific needs of those who apply.

RELATED: Manitoba advocate releases systemic review of services for children with disabilities

Families minister Rochelle Squires says about 10,000 people will be moved into the new category.

“It will make life easier for them. They will not have to go back and prove on a regular basis that they still are impacted by their disability,” Squires said. “We believe this will be a great reduction in unnecessary regulatory requirements and paperwork and inconvenience for them.”

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“We’re also going to be moving forward with a better income for these individuals.”

NDP critic for persons with disabilities Danielle Adams claims “Bill 72 would propose sweeping changes to Manitoba’s income assistance programs, including how Manitobans are eligible for programs and what level of support they can receive.”

 




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





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More Media on the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on People with Disabilities – and – Remembering the Late Peter Cory, Former Supreme Court Justice and compelling Voice for Accessibility Legislation for Ontarians with Disabilities


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/

More Media on the Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on People with Disabilities – and – Remembering the Late Peter Cory, Former Supreme Court Justice and compelling Voice for Accessibility Legislation for Ontarians with Disabilities

April 9, 2020

          SUMMARY

1. More Media Coverage of the Ontario Government’s Failure to Effectively Meet the Urgent Needs of People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis

QP Briefing, which focuses on stories at Queen’s Park, ran a detailed report, set out below, on April 8, 2020 covering our April 7, 2020 virtual public forum on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on people with disabilities. That article provides an excellent description of a number of the recommendations made at our virtual public forum.

The Government’s few responses, reported in that article, are clearly inadequate. For example, responding to the fact that the Government now has no plans to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities during closure of schools, colleges and universities and the move to online learning, the article reports in part:

“The government noted that the seniors and accessibility ministry had also asked members of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, of which Lepofsky is a member, about their availability to work remotely. This committee, along with others focused on different sectors, recommends actions the provincial government can take to remove barriers.”

We have been urging the Government without success to task its several AODA Standards Development Committees to hold virtual meetings on an urgent basis to brainstorm recommendations for dealing with the hardships people with disabilities are facing during the COVID crisis. The Government has never said it had agreed to do so. Its recent outreach to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, to which that quotation referred,  made no mention of the Committee coming together on an urgent basis to address recommendations for serving students with disabilities during the COVID crisis. , AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of that Standards Development Committee and has been pressing for just such an urgent meeting.

More broadly, none of the Ontario Government’s key offices responsible for dealing with the COVID crisis have reached out to the AODA Alliance in response to our several offers to help, either before or after the April 7, 2020 online virtual public forum. We have not heard from the Premier’s office, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

In another news report, Kitchener Radio 570 published an online report, set out below, about some of the heightened hardships facing people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. This report arose from the station’s interview on April 7, 2020 with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

That report states that the online public forum on this issue was organized by the AODA Alliance. We want to clarify that it was co-organized by our partner, the Ontario Autism Coalition.

Earlier today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on Toronto’s CFRB News Talk Radio 1010. Tomorrow morning, he is booked to be interviewed on CTV’s national morning current affairs program “Your Morning” just after 8 a.m. Eastern time. Of course we never know if the time for such interviews might change at the last minute, or get bumped altogether.

We commend those news outlets that have included coverage of this important issue. The media is devoting wall-to-wall coverage to the COVID-19 crisis. It is important for our media to devote more time to the crisis facing people with disabilities during this pandemic.

Please encourage your local media to cover this issue. Encourage them to watch the online virtual public forum that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held on April 7, 2020. It is permanently available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ23it9ULjc. As of now, it has been viewed over 1,100 times and the number keeps increasing. Check it out yourself. It included captioning and American Sign Language interpretation.

Also please let the media know about the important April 8, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from over 200 community organizations about the need to protect patients with disabilities from any possibility of discrimination against them due to their disability should critical health services have to be rationed in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Please share the word about these issues and about our virtual public forum on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Follow the new hashtag #DisabilityUrgent and include that in your social media posts.

2. Remembering A Strong Voice for Accessibility for People with Disabilities –In Memory of Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death on April 7, 2020 of former supreme Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory. He will be remembered and honoured across Canada as a wonderful man who devoted years to public service both as a World War 2 bomber pilot and years later as a wise judge on all levels of Canada’s courts. This culminated with him serving for a decade of extraordinary service as a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1989 to 1999.

Justice Cory must also be remembered and honoured for generously lending his widely-respected voice in 2000, just one year after he retired from the Supreme Court, to the grassroots call for Ontario to pass a strong Ontario law to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities. We set out below his powerful guest column that appeared in the November 7, 2000 Toronto Star.

This important guest column was published in the darkest days of the decade-long campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the Ontario Legislature to pass a strong Disabilities Act. In the 1995 provincial election, Conservative leader Mike Harris promised a Disabilities Act in his first term, and promised to work with the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition (the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee) to develop it. However, in the ensuing half decade, Premier Harris had not come forward with good legislation and had repeatedly refused to even meet with the ODA Committee. During those difficult days, our grassroots movement was strengthened by strong credible voices such as that of Justice Cory, amplifying our call for the law we had been promised.

Two decades later, Justice Cory’s words, set out below, continue to resonate in the face of the ongoing problems we face with getting the Ontario Government to effectively implement the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the law we won five years after Justice Cory’s guest column was published. During this COVID-19 crisis, the accessibility barriers that still predominate in our health care and education systems have come to hurt people with disabilities even more, as we try to cope with this pandemic crisis.

We urge governments at all levels to now urgently heed the undying, wise advice that Justice Cory offered in his November 7, 2000 Toronto Star guest column.

          MORE DETAILS

            Toronto Star Tuesday, November 7, 2000

Page A29

Disabilities legislation long overdue

by Peter Cory

Like others I would like to see enacted a strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Two years ago, Former Supreme Court chief justice Brian Dickson called for legislation to tear down the barriers that impede Ontario’s 1.5 million people with disabilities. Based on almost 25 years of judicial experience, I, too, believe that this legislation is long overdue.

Our society has far too many barriers that prevent Ontarians with disabilities from participating fully in community life. Two stairs to get into a restaurant, the lack of sign language interpreters for deaf persons who go to vote at a polling station, or posting job ads on a website that is not designed to be accessible to the wonderful new technology enabling blind and dyslexic people to surf the Internet are examples of how we unthinkingly continue to exclude people with disabilities.

A strong, effective Disabilities Act would benefit us all. It would ensure that those with a disability would finally be included in the rich and rewarding life of other residents of Ontario. Those who now have no disability may well incur a disability as they get older, and they too would be spared these barriers.

Business will profit from both the spending power of consumers with disabilities and talented employees with disabilities who have so much to offer. The taxpayer will benefit from the increased economic activity and from the removal of barriers that prevent more persons with disabilities from moving from social assistance to gainful employment.

I believe that Ontarians care about ensuring that people with disabilities are able to live in a barrier-free province and would support strong legislation removing those barriers. Many already know about the great barriers we have permitted to remain and are aware of the human, social and financial toll that these barriers have inflicted.

Others would benefit from learning from people with disabilities what is in store for all of us if we do not act as a society now. The impressive number of municipal councils – more than 20 – that have passed resolutions calling for this legislation, shows that Ontarians would welcome and support an effective Disabilities Act.

From my experience, I can say that this is a matter requiring mandatory legislation. We applaud those who have taken it upon themselves to voluntarily try to remove barriers. However experience in Canada and abroad shows that without clear, mandatory legislation, things will not change in a timely manner.

It is the Legislature’s role to set standards for all of us. We know how important this is in areas like the environment, criminal law, and public health. It is no less important for making our society barrier-free for all who have a disability.

A law cannot be “voluntary.” It must be mandatory.

I am troubled by any thought that our existing laws, like the Charter of Rights and the Human Rights Code, are enough to solve this problem. Those very important laws should never be cut back. However, it is ineffective, inefficient and inhumane to leave it to vulnerable members of our society, who often cannot pay lawyers for protracted litigation, to bring legal proceedings against each barrier they face, one at a time.

One example suffices. I was a member of the Supreme Court when the unanimous decision was rendered in Eldridge v. B.C. It held that the Charter of Rights requires governments to ensure that sign language interpreters are provided for deaf patients in hospitals, where needed to effectively communicate with their doctor.

In Ontario, it took over two years for provincial funds to be appropriated to comply with our ruling. People with disabilities should not have to suffer years of gruelling litigation, only to find that the requisite government funding was long delayed. A strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act would provide a more sensible, less costly way of addressing the existing problems and preventing new ones.

We can learn from other societies that have made more progress than we have in this area. Most importantly, we should learn how to resolve this problem from those who know most about it –people with disabilities. We can learn from their ingenuity in adapting to our society, which has so often failed to recognize and respect their desire to be fully participating and contributing citizens.

Let’s accept their offer of help in designing and enacting the strong Ontarians with Disabilities Act which they so urgently need and deserve.

****

Peter Cory served as a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada from 1989 to 1999, on the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1981 to 1988 and on the Supreme Court of Ontario from 1974 to 1981

Kitchener Today 570 News April 8, 2020

Originally posted at https://www.kitchenertoday.com/coronavirus-covid-19-local-news/concerns-being-raised-about-ontarians-with-disabilities-during-covid-19-2236397

Concerns being raised about Ontarians with disabilities during COVID-19

A forum was held Tuesday to discuss challenges that people with disabilities are facing

By: Cali Doran

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance is calling on the government to address challenges that 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities may face during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group held a forum on Tuesday, looking at different hardships and challenges those with disabilities are dealing with.

Access to healthcare, protection from the virus and online learning are just some of the causes for concern that were addressed.

David Lepofsky, Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance told Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke on 570 NEWS that many people with disabilities have someone taking care of them on a daily basis, but this poses some risk to their health.

“Attendant care workers on whom they rely, aren’t necessarily getting access to the protective gear which we all know to be in short supply. You will hear talk of health care workers needing it, but they need it too, and if they don’t get there is the risk of it being transmitted to the individual with a disability.”

He said they are also concerned that people with disabilities will not have the assistance they need when they have to visit the hospital since there are restrictions on who can come into the hospital. He said there needs to be exemptions, so people with disabilities can get access to the care they need.

Online learning is also something that was addressed during the forum.

“There are hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities, for some of them, online learning will present accessibility barriers. If we don’t create content online that is accessible, then our students who are blind or dyslexic won’t be able to read it.”

Lepofsky said there was no strategy outlined by the Ontario Government to help students with disabilities as they made the move to online learning.

QP Briefing April 8, 2020

ADVOCATES TURN TO ONLINE FORUM TO HIGHLIGHT CHALLENGES PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES FACE DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

Organizations supporting vulnerable individuals and people with disabilities gathered online Tuesday to draw attention to the challenges disabled Ontarians are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and called on the government to do more to support them.

“Government emergency planning must address the urgent needs of all those who will disproportionately bear this disease’s hardships,” said Laura Kirby-McIntosh, who is the president of the Ontario Autism Coalition and moderated the online panel with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. She acknowledged that while governments at all levels are working “long days and nights on this crisis,” there are various community groups they can turn to that are willing to help address the challenges people with disabilities face.

Lepofsky said his organization has tried in recent weeks to point out to the government where there is a need for action and offer solutions, and has also encouraged provincial officials to hold a virtual policy forum with disability advocates to discuss this.

Kirby-McIntosh said different segments of the province’s disabled population are experiencing varying challenges, with the panelists pointing to concerns about accessing health-care services and testing, those who receive home-care and can’t self-isolate, the particularly hard hit seniors in long-term care homes and children whose schools are shut.

“Seniors and people with disabilities are the most vulnerable to the dangers of the COVID-19 crisis,” Kirby-McIntosh said. While self-isolating at home is “vital” to try to contain the virus, it also creates additional challenges for people with disabilities, she added. The necessary cancellation of school and daycare is tough on all kids, she noted, but it is “destroying” the routines many children with disabilities “desperately need.” Then there are homeless people who don’t have a place where they can self-isolate, she added.

Below are some of the concerns and asks from community groups and organizations.

Planning for the worst-case scenario

The provincial government is working on “last resort” plans for dealing with a major surge in hospital demand, but people with disabilities previously shared their concerns with QP Briefing that the “draft” document, as Health Minister Christine Elliott referred to it on Tuesday, doesn’t explicitly say people with disabilities are entitled to equal care as neurotypical and able-bodied people.

Roberto Lattanzio, executive director of ARCH Disability Law Centre, a clinic that focuses on disability rights law, said the province’s framework should centre on “Will the ventilator save your life? That’s it, nothing else.” He said an explicit statement should be made in the document that ensures people with disabilities won’t be “deprioritized” if tough decisions need to be made about who has access to a ventilator if supply gets low.

But Elliott tried to quell such fears on Tuesday. Speaking during a press conference alongside Premier Doug Ford, Elliott said she’s aware of concerns from people with disabilities that “they would be cut out of treatment if we got to that point.”

“That is certainly not what that document is meant to deal with, I would never allow that to happen,” Elliott said. “People with disabilities are treated in the same way as everyone else, as they should be.”

PPE needed for disabled Ontarians receiving home care

 

Wendy Porch, executive director of the Centre for Independent Living Toronto, said physical distancing is “impossible” for many individuals who need assistance from attendants — like personal support workers — in order to be able to live at home. This could include help with bathing, dressing, turning over on a bed to avoid bedsores or preparing meals.

Since many attendants are visiting several people in one day, including those in seniors’ homes, they can be “community vectors” for COVID-19, said Porch, stressing that personal protective equipment (PPE) is important not only for the attendants, but for people with disabilities receiving these services.

“They have been saying, ‘if one of us gets it, all of us are going to get this,’” she said.

Porch called on the government to work with organizations like hers to ensure people using such services can access PPE.

Porch also called on the government to give people with disabilities who might have difficultly getting to a COVID-19 assessment centre the option of “mobile testing,” where they could be tested at their homes.

But before testing can even happen, there are other challenges people with disabilities are facing, said Barbara Collier, executive director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada. For those experiencing symptoms who have disabilities affecting their ability to communicate, Collier suggested the government set up a separate “hotline” that would include a text version, for example.

“What we have now is a system where there’s a hotline, that hotline is a telephone line; how are people who cannot use a phone able to use that system?” Collier asked.

The government’s dedicated COVID-19 website tells people to call their primary care provider or Telehealth Ontario if they have symptoms.

Collier said 165,000 Ontarians have disabilities that affect their communication — either their understanding of what someone is saying or how they speak. She said people like speech pathologists would be helpful at all steps of the process — a “hotline,” at assessment centres or in hospitals.

Thinking about accessibility when preparing surge capacity

As hospitals prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases and work to boost capacity by setting up tents where patients can be treated or moving those waiting for spots in long-term care homes to hotels, accessibility needs to be a priority, said Thea Kurdi.

Kurdi, who is the vice-president of DesignABLE Environments, which works with clients to create accessible buildings and spaces, listed several ways to help those with disabilities access health care or other sites:

  • ensure there’s a covered drop-off area close to an accessible entrance in case a person with a disability needs to go into the facility on their own
  • have an entrance that is at ground level with automatic doors and a wide enough doorway for those using wheelchairs, for example
  • have an “accessible path of travel” in the facility that allows people to practice physical distancing, such as one-way walking paths, and enough space for people to maneuver with assisted devices
  • if using a hotel, ensure the reception area is well lit so people can see clearly; have adequate signage, including in braille
  • washrooms should have power-operated doors, grab bars, accessible soap dispensers and taps, and automatic paper-towel dispensers. “All those things could be automated so people don’t have to touch anything,” said Kurdi.
  • have accessible portable toilets for “tent cities”
  • for individuals being moved to hotels, lower the height of beds if necessary and ensure there is enough space beside a bed for assistive equipment
  • have motion-sensor night lights in rooms in case people become disoriented in a new space
  • place hand sanitizer, soap and and paper towel available at a reachable level

Additional supports for those on social assistance

 

Yola Grant, executive director of the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), called on the government to increase the financial support people can get through the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW).

In a letter to Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Todd Smith that was also signed by other organizations, ISAC noted that a single person can receive up to $733 per month through OW and up to $1,169 through ODSP.

“These rates are far below the poverty line of $1,767 per month, which contributes to food insecurity, poor health, and the current homelessness crisis — a recipe for disaster during COVID-19,” ISAC said.

Palmer Lockridge, a spokesperson for Smith, said the government is allocating $52 million to its COVID-19 Social Services Relief Fund that would provide “additional resources directly to individuals and families in financial crisis.”

He said for those on social assistance, the government is making “discretionary benefits more accessible for those who need additional support for extraordinary costs, while ensuring no disruption to current their current assistance.” For single individuals this could mean up to $100 and for families, up to $200.

“This funding can be used to meet a broad range of needs, for example: cleaning supplies, transportation, food or clothing that individuals and families may require due to COVID-19,” Lockridge said.

But Grant said these funds aren’t enough and requires people on social assistance to ask busy caseworkers for this additional financing.

Accessing education tools

With elementary and secondary schools and post-secondary institutions moving to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest barriers for students with disabilities is that digital content and tools are not accessible, said Karen McCall, an accessible document design consultant and trainer.

“Just because they’re on the screen doesn’t mean that the adaptive technology like a screen reader or text-to-speech tool is going to be able to read it,” she said.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in a statement to QP Briefing that “in partnership with school boards and educators, our aim is to ensure every child — irrespective of ability, geography or socio-economic circumstance — can learn safely while at home.”

Lecce has held discussions with his advisory council on special education on how students and families can be supported; the council will be convening again tomorrow.

The government noted that the seniors and accessibility ministry had also asked members of the K-12 Standards Development Committee, of which Lepofsky is a member, about their availability to work remotely. This committee, along with others focused on different sectors, recommends actions the provincial government can take to remove barriers.



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Come to A Birthday Party On December 3, 2019 (the International Day for People with Disabilities) at Queen’s Park to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Non-Partisan Grassroots Movement for Accessibility Legislation in Ontario!


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Come to A Birthday Party On December 3, 2019 (the International Day for People with Disabilities) at Queen’s Park to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Non-Partisan Grassroots Movement for Accessibility Legislation in Ontario!

November 13, 2019

          SUMMARY

Everyone loves a birthday party! Please come to the Ontario Legislature Building at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 from 4 to 6 pm, for a birthday party! It will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the non-partisan grassroots movement for the enactment and effective implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario.

A quarter of a century ago, on November 29, 1994, a group of about twenty people with disabilities gathered together at a spontaneous meeting at the Ontario Legislature. On the spot, they decided to form an organization to campaign for Ontario to pass a strong accessibility law. What has followed has been an extraordinary twenty-five years of vibrant, creative, tenacious  non-partisan grassroots advocacy across Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities.

What better day could there be to celebrate this important birthday than December 3? It is recognized around the world as the International Day for People with Disabilities! What better way could there be to celebrate it, then to turn our prime attention to the next generation that will carry the torch forward in this cause. For that reason, a key focus at this birthday party will be on the next generation of people with disabilities!

Please come! Get others to come, and especially kids, teens and young adults! Our thanks to the March of Dimes, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Ontario and several other organizations who are helping to throw this party!

To attend, it is essential to RSVP in advance, so we can ensure that Queen’s Park security officials have the names of those who are coming. Also, space is limited, so RSVP fast! You must RSVP by November 26, 2019. To RSVP, go to this link https://sciontario.org/an-accessible-future-our-commitment-to-the-next-generation/

We also encourage individuals and organizations around Ontario to organize their own local celebrations of this historic anniversary. Let us know what you have planned. We would be happy to spread the word.

Over these twenty years, we can be proud that we have put disability accessibility on the political map. We’ve obtained lots of positive media coverage from one end of Ontario to the other. We put forward constructive proposals for action. We hold politicians accountable on this issue. We have waged non-partisan disability accessibility campaigns during every Ontario election since 1995, and have gotten election pledges on disability accessibility from at least two parties, if not more, in every one of those seven provincial elections.

Our strength, from beginning to end, is our many wonderful grassroots supporters, both individuals and organizations, selflessly toiling away, tirelessly, right across Ontario. Each one has helped our cause by writing or meeting their MPP, telling the media about a barrier in their community, educating their local businesses and community organizations on accessibility, serving on a municipal or provincial accessibility advisory committee, council or other body, tweeting about our campaign, posting on the web about accessibility, calling a phone-in radio program, writing a letter to the editor or guest newspaper column, organizing a local accessibility event, submitting briefs to the Government, reading and forwarding our email Updates, or sending us feedback and ideas. This is a chance to celebrate all these collective efforts. We have learned over and over that tenacity and courage in the face of barriers pays off.

So what happened back on November 29, 1994, to kick-start this movement? We set out a description of the key events. It comes from a law journal article that describes the first eight years of this movement, entitled “The Long Arduous Road to a Barrier-free Ontario for People with Disabilities: The History of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act – The First Chapter,” found in volume 15 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. It was written by David Lepofsky, who led the ODA Committee from 1995 to 2005, and who has chaired the AODA Alliance since 2009. Footnotes are omitted from this excerpt. Back then, we were campaigning for a law to be called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act or ODA. In 2005, the Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA. That is why in 2005 the ODA Committee wound up and was succeeded by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Please sign up to attend this birthday party and get others to do so!

          MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:  THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

  1. a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.



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Come to A Birthday Party On December 3, 2019 (the International Day for People with Disabilities) at Queen’s Park to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Birth of the Non-Partisan Grassroots Movement for Accessibility Legislation in Ontario!


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

November 13, 2019

SUMMARY

Everyone loves a birthday party! Please come to the Ontario Legislature Building at Queen’s Park on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 from 4 to 6 pm, for a birthday party! It will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the birth of the non-partisan grassroots movement for the enactment and effective implementation of accessibility legislation in Ontario.

A quarter of a century ago, on November 29, 1994, a group of about twenty people with disabilities gathered together at a spontaneous meeting at the Ontario Legislature. On the spot, they decided to form an organization to campaign for Ontario to pass a strong accessibility law. What has followed has been an extraordinary twenty-five years of vibrant, creative, tenacious non-partisan grassroots advocacy across Ontario for accessibility for people with disabilities.

What better day could there be to celebrate this important birthday than December 3? It is recognized around the world as the International Day for People with Disabilities! What better way could there be to celebrate it, then to turn our prime attention to the next generation that will carry the torch forward in this cause. For that reason, a key focus at this birthday party will be on the next generation of people with disabilities!

Please come! Get others to come, and especially kids, teens and young adults! Our thanks to the March of Dimes, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Ontario and several other organizations who are helping to throw this party!

To attend, it is essential to RSVP in advance, so we can ensure that Queen’s Park security officials have the names of those who are coming. Also, space is limited, so RSVP fast! You must RSVP by November 26, 2019. To RSVP, go to this link https://sciontario.org/an-accessible-future-our-commitment-to-the-next-generation/

We also encourage individuals and organizations around Ontario to organize their own local celebrations of this historic anniversary. Let us know what you have planned. We would be happy to spread the word.

Over these twenty years, we can be proud that we have put disability accessibility on the political map. We’ve obtained lots of positive media coverage from one end of Ontario to the other. We put forward constructive proposals for action. We hold politicians accountable on this issue. We have waged non-partisan disability accessibility campaigns during every Ontario election since 1995, and have gotten election pledges on disability accessibility from at least two parties, if not more, in every one of those seven provincial elections.

Our strength, from beginning to end, is our many wonderful grassroots supporters, both individuals and organizations, selflessly toiling away, tirelessly, right across Ontario. Each one has helped our cause by writing or meeting their MPP, telling the media about a barrier in their community, educating their local businesses and community organizations on accessibility, serving on a municipal or provincial accessibility advisory committee, council or other body, tweeting about our campaign, posting on the web about accessibility, calling a phone-in radio program, writing a letter to the editor or guest newspaper column, organizing a local accessibility event, submitting briefs to the Government, reading and forwarding our email Updates, or sending us feedback and ideas. This is a chance to celebrate all these collective efforts. We have learned over and over that tenacity and courage in the face of barriers pays off.

So what happened back on November 29, 1994, to kick-start this movement? We set out a description of the key events. It comes from a law journal article that describes the first eight years of this movement, entitled “The Long Arduous Road to a Barrier-free Ontario for People with Disabilities: The History of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act – The First Chapter,” found in volume 15 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. It was written by David Lepofsky, who led the ODA Committee from 1995 to 2005, and who has chaired the AODA Alliance since 2009. Footnotes are omitted from this excerpt. Back then, we were campaigning for a law to be called the Ontarians with Disabilities Act or ODA. In 2005, the Legislature passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA. That is why in 2005 the ODA Committee wound up and was succeeded by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Please sign up to attend this birthday party and get others to do so!

MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.




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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act


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

October 1, 2019

SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit our open filing cabinet at http://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.
2. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
3. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
4. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
5. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:
“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including: Service Delivery
Employment
Built Environment
Information and Communication
Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.

b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.

c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.

d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.

e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/ We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.

b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.

c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.

d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.

e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.

f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.

g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.

h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.

i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.




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The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The British Columbia Government Commits to Provincial Accessibility Legislation and Seeks Public Input on A Proposed Framework for a BC Disabilities Act – Read the AODA Alliance’s Submission to the BC Government

October 1, 2019

          SUMMARY

The grassroots movement for enacting comprehensive disability accessibility legislation has spread to British Columbia and is making important progress. The BC Government has committed to bring forward a provincial accessibility law, and is now seeking public input on a proposed Framework for this legislation. Below we set out the input that the AODA Alliance has just submitted to the BC Government based on our experience in Ontario and on the federal scene. The Framework for the BC legislation, which the BC Government has posted for public comment, is permanently available on the AODA Alliance website as well at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BC-Framework-for-Accessibility-Legislation.pdf .

Anyone can send input to the BC Government from September 16 to November 29, 2019, by emailing [email protected] or by using the other avenues for input that the BC Framework specifies.

In summary, we commend the BC Government for committing to bring forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. However, the Framework’s proposal, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our 12 recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

We congratulate Barrier-Free BC’s tireless grassroots efforts over the past four years that have led to this important development. The AODA Alliance is proud to have played a small part in the launch of the grassroots movement that has brought BC to this point. Four years ago this month, on October 28, 2015, a meeting of grassroots activists was held in Vancouver. It led to the birth of Barrier-Free BC. Barrier-Free BC is BC’s counterpart to the AODA Alliance. At that kick-off meeting, the keynote speaker was AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. We congratulate Barrier-Free BC on their excellent work over the past four years, and continue to be available to offer our advice whenever asked.

Today, the topic of BC disability accessibility legislation is expected to be the focus of CBC’s provincial radio call-in program in BC. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has been invited to be one of that program’s guests. If the program goes ahead as scheduled, the broadcast can be streamed live at this link https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-4-bc-today It should then be available as a podcast, at least for a few days. Search for the program “BC Today” on your favourite smart phone podcasting app, or via your computer, on the web.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Submission of the AODA Alliance to the Government of British Columbia on the BC Framework for New Provincial Accessibility Legislation

October 1, 2019

Sent to: [email protected]

Introduction

This is the AODA Alliance’s submission to the BC Government on its proposed Framework for a new BC disability accessibility law. We welcome this opportunity to share our experience in this area. We would be delighted to do whatever we can to assist the BC Government with this endeavour.

The BC Government’s proposed Framework for disability accessibility is available at ##

We heartily commend the BC Government for committing to bringing forward a provincial disability accessibility law, for posting its proposed Framework for this law, and for consulting the public on it. We call for all provincial governments in provinces lacking accessibility legislation to show this kind of commendable leadership.

This submission shows that the BC Framework, while helpful, is missing key ingredients. As written, and unless strengthened in accordance with our recommendations, it risks running into the same serious problems as have been experienced in Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. These same problems are also predicted for the new Accessible Canada Act.

Below we provide 12 practical suggestions on what to add to the BC Framework to make this legislation effective. What is needed is both clear and readily doable. We want to help BC learn from both the accomplishments and the problems experienced with existing legislation. BC has the chance to lead Canada by coming up with the best accessibility law developed to date. The Appendix at the end of this submission lists all our 12 recommendations in one place.

In addition to the specific recommendations below, we ask the BC Government to read the AODA Alliance’s September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. It is among the most extensive analyses of that bill at First Reading. Some of our recommendations were eventually incorporated into the Accessible Canada Act. They were also incorporated into amendments which the federal NDP and Conservatives tried to get the Federal Government to agree to as amendments to the bill. However, the analysis is almost entirely applicable to the provincial context that the BC Government will be addressing. You can download the September 27, 2018 AODA Alliance brief to Parliament on Bill C-81 by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-in-ms-word-format-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-september-27-2018-brief-to-the-parliament-of-canada-requesting-amendments-to-bill-c-81-the-proposed-bill-c-81/

Who Are We?

What does the AODA Alliance have to offer BC? The AODA Alliance has extensive experience with the design, implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation in Canada. Founded in 2005, we are a voluntary, non-partisan, grassroots coalition of individuals and community organizations. Our mission is:

“To contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.”

To learn about us, visit our open filing cabinet at https://www.aodaalliance.org.

Our coalition is the successor to the non-partisan grassroots Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. The ODA Committee advocated for more than ten years, from 1994 to 2005, for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation. Our coalition builds on the ODA Committee’s work. We draw our membership from the ODA Committee’s broad, grassroots base. To learn about the ODA Committee’s history, visit: http://www.odacommittee.net.

Beyond our work at the provincial level in Ontario, over the past four years, the AODA Alliance has been active, advocating for strong and effective national accessibility legislation for Canada. We have been formally and informally consulted by the Federal Government and some federal opposition parties on this issue. In 2016, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made public a Discussion Paper on what federal accessibility legislation should include. That widely-read Discussion Paper is now published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law at (2018) NJCL 169-207. Its contents can provide a great deal of guidance to BC, even though it was written to address the federal legislative sphere. You can download our Discussion Paper on what the promised national accessibility law should include by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/click-here-to-download-the-discussion-paper-on-what-canadas-promised-accessibility-legislation-should-include-as-published-last-year-in-the-national-journal-of-constitutional-law/

We presented on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, to both the House of Commons and the Senate. Our recommendations played a role in improvements to the Accessible Canada Act. Both the Government of Canada and opposition parties referred to the AODA Alliance and its proposals during parliamentary debates over that legislation.

The AODA Alliance has also spoken to or been consulted by disability organizations, individuals, and governments from various parts of Canada on the topic of designing and implementing provincial accessibility legislation. For example, we have been consulted by the Government of Manitoba and by Barrier-Free Manitoba (a leading grassroots accessibility advocacy coalition in Manitoba) in the design and implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013. We twice made deputations to a Committee of the Manitoba Legislature on the design of that legislation. We have been consulted by the previous BC Government on whether to create a BC Disabilities Act, and by Barrier-Free BC in its grassroots advocacy for that legislation. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was the keynote speaker at the October 28, 2015 meeting in Vancouver where Barrier-Free BC was established.

We have also been consulted outside Canada on this topic, most particularly, in Israel and New Zealand. In addition, in June 2016, we presented on this topic at the UN annual international conference of state parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our Recommendations

Purpose of the BC Legislation

The BC Framework proposes that the BC accessibility law should have these purposes, and asks what the public thinks of them:

“1. To support Canada’s ratification of the UNCRPD by promoting, protecting and ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and by promoting respect for their inherent dignity.

  1. To identify, remove, and prevent barriers encountered by people with disabilities in their daily lives through the development, implementation, and enforcement of accessibility standards.
  2. To allow persons with disabilities and other impacted stakeholders in the public and private sectors to work collaboratively towards the timely development of accessibility standards.
  3. To ensure there are adequate mechanisms in place to track progress on accessibility.
  4. To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

The proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law set out in the BC Framework, while helpful, are far too weak. It is very important to substantially strengthen the proposed purposes for the BC disabilities legislation. We have learned that the goal must be the achievement of an accessible or barrier-free society, or both, pure and simple. Nothing short of that will do.

We have also learned that an end date must be set in the legislation. Ontario’s AODA has both the goal of accessibility, and nothing less, and an end date. These are real strengths in that legislation. The Accessible Canada Act has both the goal of a barrier-free Canada and an end date. We and others fought long and hard to get this goal enshrined in the Accessible Canada Act. The Senate added the end date of 2040 to Bill C-81 last May. At the last minute, when Bill C-81 came back to the House of Commons this past June, on the eve of its rising for the federal election, the Federal Government finally withdrew its objection to enshrining an end date for accessibility in the bill.

We therefore recommend that:

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

Do Not Let the Accessible Canada Act Serve as a Constraint or Limit on BC Accessibility Legislation

The BC Framework includes the following, among other things, in its discussion of the proposed purposes of the BC accessibility law:

” To promote compatibility with the Accessible Canada Act and between federal and provincial accessibility standards.”

At first, that may seem sensible. However, it risks having BC measures on accessibility sink to the lowest common denominator. BC should never feel constrained to follow or imitate anything done at the federal level if it is too weak. BC should not commit in advance to be compatible with a federal accessibility measure that is insufficient.

For example, the Canadian Transportation Agency has recently adopted new federal transportation regulations on accessibility. They are helpful in part, but have serious problems. BC should not tie its hands in such circumstances.

We therefore recommend that:

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

 Nothing Should Ever Reduce the Rights of People with Disabilities

It is important that nothing be done under the new BC accessibility law that reduces the rights or opportunities of people with disabilities.

We therefore recommend that:

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law, or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

Several provincial laws address aspects of accessibility for people with disabilities. A new BC accessibility law and regulations enacted under it will hopefully add more accessibility requirements.

There is no assurance that these laws will all set the same level of accessibility. The new BC accessibility law should ensure that the law which provides the greatest amount of accessibility should always prevail. Section 38 of the AODA is instructive. It commendably provides:

” 38. If a provision of this Act, of an accessibility standard or of any other regulation conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.”

We therefore recommend that:

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

Setting Mandatory Timelines for Enacting Accessibility Regulations

A central and fundamentally important part of the BC accessibility legislation would be the Government enacting new accessibility regulations. These would specify in detail what obligated organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities. The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards would provide guidance about best practices for accessibility including desired accessibility outcomes.”

The BC Framework suggests at one point that it would be permissible for the Government to enact accessibility regulations that are enforceable. However, it does not there make it clear that the Government would have a duty to do so. The Framework states:

“Government envisions accessibility legislation that allows for the creation of both voluntary accessibility standards as well as mandatory accessibility regulations. Accessibility legislation would allow the Government of British Columbia to adopt standards as binding regulations in part or in whole.”

Yet elsewhere the BC Framework states:

“To ensure progress, accessibility legislation could require timelines to achieve the timely development, implementation and revision of accessibility standards.”

It is essential that the law impose a clear and strong duty on the Government to create these standards, and for it to set enforceable timelines for creating these standards. Otherwise, they may never be created, or they may take excessive amounts of time to be created.

We know from experience under Ontario’s AODA’s predecessor law, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, that it is insufficient to merely give a Government the power to enact accessibility standards or regulations, without requiring that Government to ever do so. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 permitted the Ontario Government to enact accessibility standards, but that Government never enacted any under that legislation. That in part is why Ontario later enacted the stronger AODA.

One of the major criticisms of the Accessible Canada Act is that it gives the Federal Government a number of helpful powers, such as the power to enact accessibility regulations, but for the most part does not require that these powers be used. it also does not for the most part set timelines for their deployment. That is why we and so many others said that the Accessible Canada Act is strong on good intentions but weak on implementation.

We therefore recommend that:

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

Areas for Accessibility Standards to Cover

The BC Framework states:

“Accessibility standards could cover a variety of areas including:

Service Delivery

Employment

Built Environment

Information and Communication

Transportation”

These are all helpful areas. However, we know from extensive Ontario experience that this list is insufficient. It is helpful if the bill lists some of the areas that enforceable accessibility regulations can cover, so long as it is clear that they are not the only areas that these regulations can cover.

Moreover, the list that the law spells out should be expanded. It should include enforceable accessibility regulations to address disability accessibility barriers in education, health care, housing, and ensuring public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers. This last area is addressed further below.

In Ontario, after years of campaigning, accessibility regulations are now under development in the areas of education and health care. The AODA Alliance led the fight for these to be included. We have been asking for almost a decade for an accessibility regulation to be created to address accessibility in residential housing. British Columbians with disabilities should not have to endure the hardship of having to wage similar multi-year battles just to get these topics on the regulatory agenda.

We therefore recommend that:

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

Adopting Other Pre-existing Accessibility Standards

The BC Government is contemplating the possibility of adopting some pre-existing accessibility standards that are in place elsewhere, as part of its efforts under this legislation. The BC Framework states:

“The Government of British Columbia could seek to expedite the development of accessibility standards by adopting or building on existing standards, policies and practices developed elsewhere in Canada or around the world.”

It is desirable to avoid re-inventing the wheel. However, we caution that pre-existing accessibility standards can be seriously deficient. For example, those enacted to date in Ontario are fraught with problems, as earlier Independent Reviews of the AODA have documented on our urging. We can provide ample details on this.

We therefore recommend that:

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

Governance, Compliance and Enforcement

We strongly commend to BC our recommendations for governance, compliance and enforcement that are set out in our published Discussion Paper on what a national accessibility law should include, and our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81, both referred to above.

The BC Framework considers as a possible feature of its implementation/enforcement regime the following:

“Reduced reporting requirements for individuals and organizations that show accessibility leadership.”

We disagree. It is of course commendable for an obligated organization to show leadership on accessibility. However, that should not lead to any reduction in that organization’s reporting obligations. Just because an organization has done well on accessibility in the past does not mean that it will continue to do so in the future and need only have reduced accountability. Reporting requirements are always needed to help monitor and motivate compliance.

We therefore recommend that:

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

How Often Should There Be an Independent Review of the BC Accessibility Law’s Implementation?

It is good that the BC Framework contemplates including in the law a requirement for the Government to periodically appoint an Independent Review of the new accessibility law’s implementation. These have been very important in Ontario.

The BC Framework asks how often these should take place. Ontario’s legislation got it right.

The AODA required the first Independent Review to begin three years after the AODA was passed. It requires each successive Independent Review to be appointed four years after the previous one was completed. Each Independent Review takes one year to conduct, once appointed. Therefore, the interval between the first and second AODA Independent Review, and between the second and third AODA Independent Review, have in each case been in the range of 5 years, not four. Nothing shorter would be appropriate.

The recommendations from each of the three AODA Independent Reviews came at important times. It would have been harmful to Ontarians with disabilities had they been delayed any longer. We only regret that the Ontario Government has not acted promptly on any of those reports’ helpful findings and recommendations.

In contrast, the Federal Government set too long a period in the Accessible Canada Act. The first Independent Review won’t begin under federal legislation til almost twice as long a period as was the case in Ontario. That will work to the substantial disadvantage of people with disabilities across Canada. This is especially troubling since under the Accessible Canada Act, the Federal Government need not create any enforceable accessibility standard regulations in that period.

We therefore recommend that:

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

Key Features Needed in the BC Accessibility Law that the BC Framework Does Not Identify

While the BC Framework includes several helpful key ingredients for a new BC accessibility law, there are additional features that are very important, and that were not identified in that Framework. We summarize these here. They are discussed in greater length in our Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

We therefore recommend that:

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) Specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) Impose specific duties and implementation time lines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) Require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) Enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) Require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) Require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) Require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) Include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) Require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

We especially focus on one of these needed additions. The BC Government can bring about significant progress towards accessibility by making sure that no one uses public money to create, perpetuate or exacerbate disability barriers. Many in society want to receive provincial public money, as venders, infrastructure builders, businesses, colleges, universities, hospitals, and governmental transfer partners. The law should attach clear monitored, enforced mandatory accessibility strings to that money. Anyone accepting those funds should be bound by the strings attached.

Provincial spending that should be subject to this requirement should include, for example:

  1. a) spending on procuring goods, services and facilities, for use by the BC Public Service and the public.
  1. b) BC spending on capital and infrastructure projects, including projects built by the BC Government, municipalities or others.
  1. c) BC spending on business development grants and loans, and on research grants for universities and other organizations.
  1. d) BC transfer payments to transfer agencies for programs, like health care.
  1. e) Any other BC Government contract.

This spending would give the BC Government substantial leverage to promote accessibility. Widely-viewed AODA Alliance online videos have demonstrated that new construction, including construction on infrastructure using public money, have included serious accessibility problems. These videos secured significant media coverage. See:

The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently renovated Toronto area public transit stations.

The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre.

The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video, showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary arts Centre.

Ontario experience shows that this must be specifically legislated, monitored and enforced. There has been limited success in getting some new Ontario laws enacted and policies adopted. They lack needed visibility, strength and enforcement. They have not had the impact needed. The Ontario Government has thereby missed out on huge opportunities to generate greater accessibility.

The Federal Government has similarly missed out on a huge opportunity here. It declined to include the needed measures to address this in the Accessible Canada Act. The Accessible Canada Act allows the Government to make accessibility standards in the area of procurement, but does not require these to be made.

Canada’s Senate made a formal “observation” on Bill C-81 when it passed other amendments to strengthen the bill. It called for federal action to ensure that federal public money is not used to create disability barriers.

Don’t Make the Same Mistakes in the Accessible Canada Act

We commended the Federal Government for committing to national accessibility legislation, and have identified several helpful features in the Accessible Canada Act. However despite the efforts and recommendations of many from the disability including the AODA Alliance, there are several shortcomings in that law. BC should avoid these. These are extensively identified on the Canada page of the AODA Alliance website and in our September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament.

Apart from deficiencies already discussed above are the following major problems, identified in our March 29, 2019 brief to the Senate on Bill C-81:

* “The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.”

* “The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.”

* “The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.”

Concerns with Public Funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Private Accessibility Certification Program

The BC Framework notes that the BC Government has given the Rick Hansen Foundation 10 million dollars in connection with its private accessibility certification program. When the Ontario Government recently announced its intention to give public money to the Rick Hansen Foundation for this purpose, we raised serious concerns. Our investigation of this process resulted in our making public two reports. These amply document our serious concerns.

Among other things, we are concerned that there is no assurance that those who conduct the RHF’s private accessibility certification assessments are qualified to do so. The RHF 8-day training course is woefully inadequate. As well, the RHF process for assessing a building’s accessibility itself has serious problems. It also lacks proper safeguards against conflicts of interest on the part of its assessors or the RHF itself.

As a result, there can be no assurance that a building that the RHF certifies as “accessible” is in fact accessible. Moreover, a government should not delegate to an unaccountable private organization any responsibility to decide what standard for accessibility should be used.

Any BC accessibility legislation should not involve any such private accessibility certification process. Any accessibility standards should be publicly set, publicly monitored and publicly enforced.

Feedback from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns in this area. Our concerns have garnered media attention and coverage.

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/category/whats-new/

The AODA Alliance’s August 15, 2019 supplement report on the RHF private accessibility certification program is available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/the-doug-ford-governments-controversial-plan-to-divert-1-3-million-into-the-rick-hansen-foundations-private-accessibility-certification-program-is-plagued-with-even-more-problems-than-earlier-rev/

We therefore recommend that:

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.

Appendix – List of Recommendations

#1. The BC accessibility law should have the purpose of achieving a barrier-free and accessible BC by an end date to be set in the legislation, using the definitions of “disability” and “barrier” proposed in the AODA Alliance’s Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation.

#2. BC legislation should not commit to ensure that it or measures under it will be compatible with the Accessible Canada Act if this will lead to insufficient protections for people with disabilities.

#3. Nothing in the BC disability accessibility law , or in its regulations or in any actions taken under it should be able to reduce in any way any rights which people with disabilities enjoy under law.

#4. If a provision of the BC accessibility law or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with or sets a different accessibility standard than a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises should prevail.

#5. The BC accessibility law should require the Government to create all the accessibility standards as enforceable regulations that are needed to achieve the law’s goal, and should set timelines for enacting these regulations.

#6. The BC accessibility law should include requirements to enact accessibility standards in the areas of education, health care, housing and ensuring that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. It should make it clear that its list of accessibility regulations is not exhaustive.

#7. The BC accessibility law should only allow BC to adopt an accessibility standard created in another jurisdiction “as is” if it is satisfied that that standard is sufficient as is.

#8. The BC accessibility law should include the compliance, monitoring and enforcement features recommended in the AODA Alliance Discussion Paper on national accessibility legislation, and in its September 27, 2018 brief to Parliament on Bill C-81.

#9. The BC accessibility law should not provide for reduced reporting requirements for an obligated organization that has shown leadership on accessibility.

#10. The BC accessibility law should require the first Independent Review of that legislation to be appointed within three years after that law goes into effect, and thereafter, every four years after the previous Independent Review delivered its report.

#11. The BC accessibility law should

  1. a) specify that the BC Government as a whole is responsible for leading Canada to the goal of accessibility, in so far as the BC Government has constitutional authority to do so.
  1. b) impose specific duties and implementation timelines on the BC Government, and on specified public officials and agencies, regarding their roles to implement and enforce the law.
  1. c) require the BC Government to review all its statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers.
  1. d) enforceably require that no public money can be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, e.g. money spent on procurement, infrastructure, grants, loans or transfer payments.
  1. e) require the BC Government to use all other readily-available levers of power to advance the goal of accessibility.
  1. f) require that whenever a BC statute or regulation confers a discretionary power on any federal public official, department or agency, that decision-maker shall take into account, in its exercise, its impact on accessibility for people with disabilities.
  1. g) require the BC Government to ensure that provincial and municipal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities.
  1. h) include effective measures to ensure that the BC Government becomes a model accessible workplace and service-provider.
  1. i) require the BC Government to develop and implement a plan to ensure that all provincially-operated courts and federally operated regulatory tribunals become accessible.

#12. The BC accessibility law should ensure that the making and enforcing of accessibility standards are exclusively done by public officials. It should not provide for any public funding of any private accessibility certification programs.



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