Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 7, 2021 Toronto: Today, blind lawyer, law professor and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government in the Ontario Divisional Court for violating a mandatory provision in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He asks the Court to order Ontarios Minister for Seniors and Accessibility to immediately post on line and otherwise make public the initial recommendations for measures needed to tear down barriers in Ontario’s education system plaguing students with disabilities and in Ontarios health care system, impeding patients with disabilities, that the Minister received from three advisory committees appointed under the AODA. Text of the notice of application and Lepofskys supporting affidavit are set out below.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. It must enact and effectively enforcing a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial or draft recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Governments website. Yet the ford Government sat on three sets of such initial or draft recommendations for months. The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of December 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government around the same time.

Just as this application was being served on the Government, the Government belatedly announced that it made public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Lepofsky does not claim that this was triggered by the court application. However, the Government has still not made public the other two Standards Development Committees recommendations. Therefore this court application remains important and urgent.

The Ford Governments inexcusable contravention of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act hurts people with disabilities, by delaying overdue progress on accessibility. It is leadership by a poor example, from a Government that pledged to lead on this issue by a good example, said Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with any kind of disability. The fact that for over five months in the middle of a pandemic, the Government sat on important recommendations on how to tear down disability barriers in Ontarios health care system impeding patients with disabilities is especially hurtful.

Lepofsky will argue that schools, colleges,, universities and health care providers deserved and were entitled to see all these initial recommendations immediately, so that they can try to put them into action where possible long before the Government enacts new regulations in this area.

People with disabilities should not have to resort to going to court to get the Ford Government to obey the law, said Lepofsky. Fortunately, Im blessed to have excellent pro bono representation by Martha McCarthy of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP, and I have my own legal training, but no one should have to go through this.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance More background at www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the May 7, 2021 Notice of Application

APPLICATION
1. The applicant makes application for:
a. Judicial review of the respondents failure to act in accordance with s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the AODA), more specifically:
i. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable;
ii. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable; and,
iii. The respondents failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
b. An order for mandamus, directing the respondent to make the documents listed in paragraph 1. a., above, immediately available to the public by posting them on a government website and by such other means the Minister considers advisable;
c. If necessary, leave for this application to be heard urgently pursuant to s. 6(2) of the Judicial Review Procedures Act and Part I of the Consolidated Practice Direction for Divisional Court Hearings; d. The applicants costs in this proceeding on a full indemnity basis; and,
e. Such further and other relief as counsel may request and as to this court seems just. 2. The grounds for the application are:
a. In or about 2017, the Government of Ontario appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. A Health Care Accessibility Standard would outline disability barriers that should be removed and prevented in Ontarios health care system that impede people with disabilities.
b. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Kindergarten to Grade 12 Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in Ontario schools that impede students with disabilities.
c. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in post-secondary educational organizations such as colleges and universities in Ontario that impede students with disabilities.
d. In or about December 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
e. In or about March 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
f. In March 2021, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
g. Pursuant to s. 10 of the AODA, the respondent has a mandatory duty to post those initial or draft recommendations upon receiving them. Section 10(1) of the AODA provides:
10. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
h. The respondent has not posted any of the initial or draft recommendations from any of the Committees on the Government of Ontario website or otherwise made them public.
i. The respondents failure to fulfil his mandatory statutory duty post those initial or draft recommendations of the Committees on the internet and otherwise make them public is contrary to and flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of the AODA, which is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This failure delays Ontario from reaching the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the important contexts of health care and education fields in which a lack of accessibility has dire consequences.
j. The AODA aims to effectively implement the right to equality in areas like health care and education for people with disabilities that is guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
k. The applicant has a strong public interest in this applications issues, both as a blind person and having acted as a volunteer disability accessibility community organizer and advocate for decades. The applicant led the volunteer campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA enacted. The applicant is currently the chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan coalition that leads the campaign to get the AODA implemented in a meaningful and timely manner.
l. The Government of Ontario appointed the applicant as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which he has served since the Committee was established.
m. The applicant is a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, established under O. Reg. 464/97.

3. The following documentary evidence will be used at the hearing of the application: a. The Affidavit of the Applicant, David Lepofsky; and,
b. Such further and other material as counsel may request and this Honourable Court will permit.

Text of the May 7, 2021 Affidavit of David Lepofsky

I, David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., LLB (Osgoode Hall), LLM (Harvard University), LLD (Hon. Queens University, University of Western Ontario, Law Society of Ontario), of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario, AFFIRM:
1. I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (the AODA Alliance) and am blind. As such, I have knowledge of the matters to herein deposed.
2. I affirm this affidavit in support of my application for judicial review, in which I am seeking mandamus directing the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility to fulfil his statutory duties under s. 10(1) the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and for no other or improper purpose. The AODA Alliance
3. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer-run, non-partisan community coalition of individuals and organizations.
4. The AODA Alliance was established in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Ontario legislature enacted the AODA. Its mission is to contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free society for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the AODA. Its activities are documented in detail on its website at http://www.aodaalliance.org.
5. The AODA Alliance is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the ODA Committee). From 1994 to mid-2005, the ODA Committee led a non-partisan province-wide campaign, advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation in Ontario, culminating in the enactment of the AODA in 2005.
6. The AODA Alliance builds on the ODA Committees work, and draws its membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. The work of the ODA Committee from 1994 up to the time when it finished its work in mid-2005 is documented in detail at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
7. The AODA Alliance has received broad recognition as a credible non-partisan voice on disability accessibility issues. For example:
a. The Government of Ontario and members of the provincial legislature have repeatedly and publicly recognized and commended the efforts of the AODA Alliance, and before it, the ODA Committee, for its volunteer advocacy on the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities.
b. In every provincial election starting in 1995, at least two of the major Ontario political parties have made election commitments concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. In every case where such commitments were made, they were set out in letters from the party leader to the ODA Committee up to 2005, and after that, to the AODA Alliance. For example, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his 2011 election promises on disability accessibility in his August 19, 2011 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne made her partys disability accessibility election pledges in her May 14, 2014 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford made his partys commitments on disability accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to me as chair of the AODA Alliance. All these letters are posted on one or other of the websites referred to above.
c. Our input on accessibility issues has been provided to community groups and government officials in several Canadian provinces, by the Government of Canada, and in other countries, such as Israel and New Zealand. My Involvement with the AODA Alliance
8. I am intimately familiar with the work of the AODA Alliance, and of its predecessor, the ODA Committee because:
a. I served as Co-Chair, and later as Chair, of the ODA Committee from early 1995 up to its dissolution in August 2005.
b. I was present during the establishment of the AODA Alliance and was a driving force behind its establishment as the successor to the ODA Committee. Its initial Chair was Catherine Dunphy Tardik. I initially took no leadership role with the AODA Alliance although I remained available to assist as requested.
c. In early 2006, the AODA Alliance appointed me as its Human Rights Reform Representative. I served as lead spokesperson for the AODA Alliance during controversial public and legislative debates over Bill 107, a reform to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over that period, I worked very closely with the AODA Alliance Chair.
d. In February 2009, I became the Chair of the AODA Alliance, a position I have held to the present time.
9. My extensive work for the AODA Alliance and the ODA Committee is documented on the two websites identified above. All my work for these coalitions has been conducted as a volunteer. I have never been an employee of the AODA Alliance or the ODA Committee and have never received any salary from either organization.
10. Over more than two decades, I have had very extensive dealings with the Government of Ontario at all levels, both in my capacity with the AODA Alliance, and prior to that, as co-chair and then chair of the ODA Committee. In these capacities, I have met with Ontario Premiers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Cabinet, Assistant Deputy Ministers, and a myriad of other public officials in the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service. I have similarly had extensive dealings with opposition parties and their staffs throughout my time doing volunteer work in this area.
11. I have received several awards for my volunteer activities on disability accessibility issues, including my volunteer work for the ODA Committee and later for the AODA Alliance. Among these, I was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995, as a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008 and in the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. I have received honorary doctorates from Queens University, the University of Western Ontario, and the Law Society of Ontario arising from this activity.
The Non-Partisan Campaign to get the Government of Ontario to Enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard
12. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, an Ontario cabinet minister is to be designated to be responsible to lead the Acts implementation and enforcement.
13. Since June 2018, that designated lead Minister has been the respondent, Ontarios Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Hon. Raymond Cho (the Minister).
14. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for leading the development, enactment, and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards, in accordance with the powers, duties, and procedures set out in the AODA.
15. From 2003 to 2005, I was extensively involved in the negotiations with the Government of Ontario concerning the development of the provisions of the AODA, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
16. In my capacity as AODA Alliance Chair, I have been extensively involved for years in grassroots non-partisan disability advocacy to ensure that strong and effective accessibility standards are enacted and enforced under the AODA. This has included an ongoing push since 2009 to remove and prevent the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontarios education and health care systems.
17. If enacted, the enforceable regulations we seek would respectively be called the Education Accessibility Standard and the Health Care Accessibility Standard. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard are documented at www.aodaalliance.org/education. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard are set out at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare.
18. As a result of our years of advocacy, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, the Hon. Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Over one year later, on December 5, 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature that the Government of Ontario would develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
19. Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a Standards Development Committee) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.
20. In or about 2017, the government appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee (or the Health Care Committee) to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard.
21. In early 2018, the government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
a. One committee was appointed to deal with barriers impeding students with disabilities from kindergarten to grade twelve. That committee is called the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (or the K-12 Committee).
b. The other committee was appointed to deal with barriers facing students with disabilities in post-secondary education. It is called the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee (or the Post-Secondary Committee).
22. I was appointed to serve on the K-12 Committee and have spent a great many volunteer hours working on that Committee since it was established. The Standards Development Procedure Established by the AODA
23. Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations.
24. That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. The public feedback can serve as an important aid for the Standards Development Committee to refine, improve, and finalize the Committees recommendations, drawing on input from people with disabilities, the obligated sector of the economy, and the public. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.
25. Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.
These Three Standards Development Committees Have Provided their Draft Recommendations to the Government
26. By December 31, 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Those initial or draft recommendations have not been made public, despite the statutory requirement for the Minister to do so.
27. On or about March 12, 2021, the K-12 Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Just like the draft recommendations submitted by the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Committees recommendations have still not been released to the public.
28. I understand that the Post-Secondary Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister around the same time as did the K-12 Committee. The Post-Secondary Committees recommendations have also not been released to the public.
29. I asked the Ministry of Senior Accessibility to provide the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Committee to me, in my capacity as a member of the K-12 Committee. To date, the Ministry has not provided the Post-Secondary Committees recommendations to me.
30. I requested a copy of the Post-Secondary Committees recommendations because there is an obvious and substantial connection between its work and the work of the K-12 Education Committee. Both committees are making recommendations concerning barriers in education for students with disabilities.
31. As members of the K-12 Committee, we know about some of what the Post-Secondary Committee is recommending, because a joint subcommittee exists with representatives of the two Standards Development Committees to address technical overlap issues. There is thus no reason why we should not now have seen all of what the Post-Secondary Committee has recommended, and vice versa.
32. I have been urging the Government to quickly make public all these Standards Development Committee recommendations, on Twitter and otherwise. On April 29, 2021, I along with the rest of the K-12 Committee received the following email from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility: Dear K-12 Standards Development Committee members:

We hope this message finds you doing well.

We would like to provide an update on the progress of the committees initial recommendations report.
As you know, your committee Chair, Lynn Ziraldo, submitted the report and the accompanying report of the Technical Sub-Committee on Transitions to MSAA Minister Raymond Cho on March 12.
We have been busy preparing the reports for online posting, as well as translating them into French and preparing the survey that will accompany the postings. All of this work goes towards ensuring that the reports receive the most comprehensive feedback possible from the public.
As well, we understand the importance of posting this document as soon as possible, so that respondents will have a chance to consider providing input before the end of the school year. As I am sure you understand, our government is facing unprecedented challenges in delivering services to the public, and must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.
We look forward to notifying you when these postings are going to occur and appreciate your patience and understanding as we move closer to the posting date.
As always, you can reach out to the Chair, Lynn Ziraldo or the Ministry anytime with questions.

Thank you.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division
Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility
A copy of the email dated April 29, 2021 is attached as Exhibit A.
33. Since receiving this email, the initial or draft recommendations of these three Standards Development Committees have not been publicly posted.
No Justification for Delaying Public Posting of the Initial or Draft Recommendations of the Three Standards Development Committees
34. The Government has not provided a compelling reason why it could not have earlier posted these initial or draft recommendations.
35. The government was throughout well-aware of the work and the progress of each Standards Development Committee. The Ministry had staff organize and take part in committee meetings. Ministry staff had regular communications with each committee Chair and its members.
36. As of the date of this affidavit, the Ministry has had the final text of each set of initial or draft recommendations for ample time over five months in the case of the ones regarding health care, and almost two months in the case of those regarding education. The Ministry knew these were coming, well in advance, and what they would contain.
37. It would take little or no time to make these documents available in an accessible format. That cannot justify this delay.
38. Referring to the April 29, 2021 email quoted above, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic do not justify this delay. The staff of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility are not responsible for leading the governments pandemic response.
39. Moreover, that email states that the during the pandemic, the Government must prioritize all public-facing initiatives. From my 33 years working in the Ontario Government before my retirement at the end of 2015, and from my extensive interaction with the Government as a disability rights community organizer and advocate, I understand this to mean that the Government wants to set priorities in the timing of messages it transmits to the public. Yet the Government can and does regularly transmit many different messages to the public at any one time. It can post multiple messages or documents on the internet on the same day. Its preferences or priorities over political messaging are not identified in s. 10 of the AODA with regard to the duty to make public a Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations upon the minister receiving them.
Harmful Consequences of the Delay in Making these Initial or Draft Recommendations Public
40. Ontario only has 1,335 days left before January 1, 2025, the date by which the AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, among other things, a requirement that Ontario’s education system and health care system must have become accessible to people with disabilities by that date.
41. I, and many other people with disabilities, are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. According to the Final Report of the Third Independent Review of the AODAs Implementation and Enforcement, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, prepared pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, Ontario was not on schedule for reaching that goal on time, as of that reports date (January 31, 2019). While I have linked to the Final Report, I have not attached it as an exhibit as I am conscious of the need to keep my materials brief.
42. The delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations hurts students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. Until Ontario enacts and effectively enforces strong and effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, patients with disabilities and students with disabilities respectively will continue to suffer from the many barriers that they must face in Ontario’s health care and education systems.
43. The unfortunate reality is that this is just one of many delays that has already plagued the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard, at the hands of the government.
44. The previous government contributed to delay by taking some two years to just appoint the Health Care Committee. It also took that government over one year to appoint the K-12 Committee and the Post-Secondary Committee. In contrast, it took the government one year to develop the entire AODA and to introduce it into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004.
45. The committees work was paused during the provincial 2018 election. However, upon the current government taking office, it left the committees frozen for months. The AODA Alliance had to campaign to get the government to permit the committees to continue their work. The committees eventually returned to work in the fall of 2019. This delay, at the hands of this government, further unnecessarily delayed the eventual enactment of a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard.
46. I am particularly concerned about the governments inaction because it delays progress on accessibility in health care and education that could begin immediately. For example, in a speech I gave last month, I encouraged senior officials of Ontarios school boards to immediately study the K-12 recommendations and implement as many of them as possible, once the draft is public. I have been told by some officials at the Toronto District School Board (Canadas largest school board) that they want to see the initial or draft recommendations so that they can start to use the recommendations. The governments inaction is delaying this.
47. Compounding my concern about delays is the impending summer break for school boards. Boards are seldom fully operational during the summer, and further delay risks the boards not providing feedback until the fall.
48. I am also a member and past Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board. Ontario regulations require each school board to have a SEAC to give advice on how to meet the needs of students with special education needs. I am eager for our SEAC and for each of the SEACs at every Ontario school board to see the K-12 Committees initial or draft recommendations as soon as possible, so they can recommend actions that their school boards should take now, drawing on the Standards Development Committees thorough and detailed work product.
49. In the same way, it is my aim that the Health Care Standards Development Committee draft recommendations spawn action on disability barriers in Ontario hospitals.
50. I similarly aim for the release of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations to lead colleges and universities to act now to tackle the many barriers that students with disabilities face in those institutions. The governments delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations further delays those much-needed actions.
51. Publicly, the government has claimed to lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities, and to take an all of government approach to disability accessibility. For example, these commitments were made at a media event staged on February 28, 2020. It is difficult to reconcile the governments promises with its unnecessary and inexplicable delay in the release of these initial or draft recommendations.
52. The irony of the government attempting to explain its delay using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be lost on anyone. The harm caused to people with disabilities by the governments delay in fulfilling its duty to make public the committees draft recommendations is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two key examples come to mind:
a. First, people with disabilities are disproportionately adversely affected by COVID-19, including having higher rates of severe infection and death. For five months of the pandemic, the government has sat on the Health Care Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations, that could make health care more accessible to people with disabilities.

b. Second, during the pandemic, students with disabilities have faced even more barriers in Ontario’s education system. I have been involved in advocating against these, on behalf of the AODA Alliance. The government is stalling efforts to help improve the plight of students with disabilities during the pandemic by keeping secret the draft or initial recommendations of the K-12 Committee and Post-Secondary Committee. While the government waits, these students fall further behind their peers.

RG




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Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Disability Rights Advocate Launches Court Application Against the Ford Government for Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

May 7, 2021 Toronto: Today, blind lawyer, law professor and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government in the Ontario Divisional Court for violating a mandatory provision in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). He asks the Court to order Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility to immediately post on line and otherwise make public the initial recommendations for measures needed to tear down barriers in Ontario’s education system plaguing students with disabilities and in Ontario’s health care system, impeding patients with disabilities, that the Minister received from three advisory committees appointed under the AODA. Text of the notice of application and Lepofsky’s supporting affidavit are set out below.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to over 2.6 million people with disabilities by 2025. It must enact and effectively enforcing a series of regulations, called accessibility standards, that spell out what organizations must do to become accessible to people with disabilities, and by when. The Government must appoint a series of committees, called Standards Development Committees, to advise on what those regulations should include.

According to section 10 of the AODA, when an advisory Standards Development Committee submits initial or draft recommendations to the Minister, the Minister is required to make those recommendations public upon receiving them, e.g. by posting them on the Government’s website. Yet the ford Government sat on three sets of such initial or draft recommendations for months. The Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of December 2020. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government on March 12, 2021. The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee submitted its initial recommendations to the Government around the same time.

Just as this application was being served on the Government, the Government belatedly announced that it made public the initial recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Lepofsky does not claim that this was triggered by the court application. However, the Government has still not made public the other two Standards Development Committees’ recommendations. Therefore this court application remains important and urgent.

“The Ford Government’s inexcusable contravention of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act hurts people with disabilities, by delaying overdue progress on accessibility. It is leadership by a poor example, from a Government that pledged to lead on this issue by a good example,” said Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for people with any kind of disability. “The fact that for over five months in the middle of a pandemic, the Government sat on important recommendations on how to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system impeding patients with disabilities is especially hurtful.”

Lepofsky will argue that schools, colleges,, universities and health care providers deserved and were entitled to see all these initial recommendations immediately, so that they can try to put them into action where possible long before the Government enacts new regulations in this area.

“People with disabilities should not have to resort to going to court to get the Ford Government to obey the law,” said Lepofsky. “Fortunately, I’m blessed to have excellent pro bono representation by Martha McCarthy of McCarthy Hansen & Company LLP, and I have my own legal training, but no one should have to go through this.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @davidlepofsky and @aodaalliance

More background at www.aodaalliance.org

Text of the May 7, 2021 Notice of Application

APPLICATION

  1. The applicant makes application for:
  1. Judicial review of the respondent’s failure to act in accordance with s. 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (the “AODA”), more specifically:
  1. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Health Care Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable;
  2. The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable; and,
  • The respondent’s failure to make available the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee for public viewing on a government website or through such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
  1. An order for mandamus, directing the respondent to make the documents listed in paragraph 1. a., above, immediately available to the public by posting them on a government website and by such other means the Minister considers advisable;
  2. If necessary, leave for this application to be heard urgently pursuant to s. 6(2) of the Judicial Review Procedures Act and Part I of the Consolidated Practice Direction for Divisional Court Hearings;
  3. The applicant’s costs in this proceeding on a full indemnity basis; and,
  4. Such further and other relief as counsel may request and as to this court seems just.
  5. The grounds for the application are:
  1. In or about 2017, the Government of Ontario appointed the Health Care Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Health Care Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. A Health Care Accessibility Standard would outline disability barriers that should be removed and prevented in Ontario’s health care system that impede people with disabilities.
  2. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Kindergarten to Grade 12 Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in Ontario schools that impede students with disabilities.
  3. In or about 2018, the Government of Ontario appointed the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee to prepare recommendations on what should be included in a Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA. A Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard could require the removal and prevention of disability barriers in post-secondary educational organizations such as colleges and universities in Ontario that impede students with disabilities.
  4. In or about December 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  5. In or about March 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  6. In March 2021, the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee delivered its initial or draft recommendations to the respondent, pursuant to s. 9 of the AODA.
  7. Pursuant to s. 10 of the AODA, the respondent has a mandatory duty to post those initial or draft recommendations upon receiving them. Section 10(1) of the AODA provides:
  8. (1) Upon receiving a proposed accessibility standard from a standards development committee under subsection 9 (5) or clause 9 (9) (c), the Minister shall make it available to the public by posting it on a government internet site and by such other means as the Minister considers advisable.
  9. The respondent has not posted any of the initial or draft recommendations from any of the Committees on the Government of Ontario website or otherwise made them public.
  10. The respondent’s failure to fulfil his mandatory statutory duty post those initial or draft recommendations of the Committees on the internet and otherwise make them public is contrary to and flies in the face of the spirit and purpose of the AODA, which is to make Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. This failure delays Ontario from reaching the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities in the important contexts of health care and education – fields in which a lack of accessibility has dire consequences.
  11. The AODA aims to effectively implement the right to equality in areas like health care and education for people with disabilities that is guaranteed by s. 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  12. The applicant has a strong public interest in this application’s issues, both as a blind person and having acted as a volunteer disability accessibility community organizer and advocate for decades. The applicant led the volunteer campaign from 1994 to 2005 to get the AODA The applicant is currently the chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan coalition that leads the campaign to get the AODA implemented in a meaningful and timely manner.
  13. The Government of Ontario appointed the applicant as a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, on which he has served since the Committee was established.
  14. The applicant is a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board, established under O. Reg. 464/97.
  1. The following documentary evidence will be used at the hearing of the application:
  2. The Affidavit of the Applicant, David Lepofsky; and,
  3. Such further and other material as counsel may request and this Honourable Court will permit.

Text of the May 7, 2021 Affidavit of David Lepofsky

I, David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., LLB (Osgoode Hall), LLM (Harvard University), LLD (Hon. Queen’s University, University of Western Ontario, Law Society of Ontario), of the City of Toronto, in the Province of Ontario,

AFFIRM:

  1. I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (the “AODA Alliance”) and am blind. As such, I have knowledge of the matters to herein deposed.
  2. I affirm this affidavit in support of my application for judicial review, in which I am seeking mandamus directing the Minister of Seniors and Accessibility to fulfil his statutory duties under s. 10(1) the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“AODA”), and for no other or improper purpose.
  1. The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer-run, non-partisan community coalition of individuals and organizations.
  2. The AODA Alliance was established in the fall of 2005, shortly after the Ontario legislature enacted the AODA. Its mission is to contribute to the achievement of a barrier-free society for all persons with disabilities, by promoting and supporting the timely, effective, and comprehensive implementation of the AODA. Its activities are documented in detail on its website at https://www.aodaalliance.org.
  3. The AODA Alliance is the successor to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the “ODA Committee”). From 1994 to mid-2005, the ODA Committee led a non-partisan province-wide campaign, advocating for the enactment of strong, effective disability accessibility legislation in Ontario, culminating in the enactment of the AODA in 2005.
  4. The AODA Alliance builds on the ODA Committee’s work, and draws its membership from the ODA Committee’s broad grassroots base. The work of the ODA Committee from 1994 up to the time when it finished its work in mid-2005 is documented in detail at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
  5. The AODA Alliance has received broad recognition as a credible non-partisan voice on disability accessibility issues. For example:
    1. The Government of Ontario and members of the provincial legislature have repeatedly and publicly recognized and commended the efforts of the AODA Alliance, and before it, the ODA Committee, for its volunteer advocacy on the cause of accessibility for people with disabilities.
    2. In every provincial election starting in 1995, at least two of the major Ontario political parties have made election commitments concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. In every case where such commitments were made, they were set out in letters from the party leader to the ODA Committee up to 2005, and after that, to the AODA Alliance. For example, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his 2011 election promises on disability accessibility in his August 19, 2011 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2014 election, Premier Kathleen Wynne made her party’s disability accessibility election pledges in her May 14, 2014 letter to me, as chair of the AODA Alliance. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford made his party’s commitments on disability accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to me as chair of the AODA Alliance. All these letters are posted on one or other of the websites referred to above.
    3. Our input on accessibility issues has been provided to community groups and government officials in several Canadian provinces, by the Government of Canada, and in other countries, such as Israel and New Zealand.
  1. I am intimately familiar with the work of the AODA Alliance, and of its predecessor, the ODA Committee because:
    1. I served as Co-Chair, and later as Chair, of the ODA Committee from early 1995 up to its dissolution in August 2005.
    2. I was present during the establishment of the AODA Alliance and was a driving force behind its establishment as the successor to the ODA Committee. Its initial Chair was Catherine Dunphy Tardik. I initially took no leadership role with the AODA Alliance although I remained available to assist as requested.
    3. In early 2006, the AODA Alliance appointed me as its Human Rights Reform Representative. I served as lead spokesperson for the AODA Alliance during controversial public and legislative debates over Bill 107, a reform to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Over that period, I worked very closely with the AODA Alliance Chair.
    4. In February 2009, I became the Chair of the AODA Alliance, a position I have held to the present time.
  2. My extensive work for the AODA Alliance and the ODA Committee is documented on the two websites identified above. All my work for these coalitions has been conducted as a volunteer. I have never been an employee of the AODA Alliance or the ODA Committee and have never received any salary from either organization.
  3. Over more than two decades, I have had very extensive dealings with the Government of Ontario at all levels, both in my capacity with the AODA Alliance, and prior to that, as co-chair and then chair of the ODA Committee. In these capacities, I have met with Ontario Premiers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Secretaries of Cabinet, Assistant Deputy Ministers, and a myriad of other public officials in the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service. I have similarly had extensive dealings with opposition parties and their staffs throughout my time doing volunteer work in this area.
  4. I have received several awards for my volunteer activities on disability accessibility issues, including my volunteer work for the ODA Committee and later for the AODA Alliance. Among these, I was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995, as a member of the Order of Ontario in 2008 and in the Terry Fox Hall of Fame in 2003. I have received honorary doctorates from Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, and the Law Society of Ontario arising from this activity.
  1. The AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Under the AODA, an Ontario cabinet minister is to be designated to be responsible to lead the Act’s implementation and enforcement.
  2. Since June 2018, that designated lead Minister has been the respondent, Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Hon. Raymond Cho (the “Minister”).
  3. Among other things, the Minister is responsible for leading the development, enactment, and enforcement of AODA accessibility standards, in accordance with the powers, duties, and procedures set out in the AODA.
  4. From 2003 to 2005, I was extensively involved in the negotiations with the Government of Ontario concerning the development of the provisions of the AODA, in my capacity as Chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
  5. In my capacity as AODA Alliance Chair, I have been extensively involved for years in grassroots non-partisan disability advocacy to ensure that strong and effective accessibility standards are enacted and enforced under the AODA. This has included an ongoing push since 2009 to remove and prevent the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s education and health care systems.
  6. If enacted, the enforceable regulations we seek would respectively be called the “Education Accessibility Standard” and the “Health Care Accessibility Standard”. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard are documented at aodaalliance.org/education. Our efforts to secure the enactment of a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard are set out at www.aodaalliance.org/healthcare.
  7. As a result of our years of advocacy, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, the Hon. Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. Over one year later, on December 5, 2016, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature that the Government of Ontario would develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.
  8. Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a “Standards Development Committee”) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.
  9. In or about 2017, the government appointed the “Health Care Standards Development Committee” (or the “Health Care Committee”) to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard.
  10. In early 2018, the government appointed two Standards Development Committees to make recommendations on what should be included in the promised Education Accessibility Standard.
    1. One committee was appointed to deal with barriers impeding students with disabilities from kindergarten to grade twelve. That committee is called the “K-12 Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “K-12 Committee”).
    2. The other committee was appointed to deal with barriers facing students with disabilities in post-secondary education. It is called the “Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee” (or the “Post-Secondary Committee”).
  11. I was appointed to serve on the K-12 Committee and have spent a great many volunteer hours working on that Committee since it was established.
  1. Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations.
  2. That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. The public feedback can serve as an important aid for the Standards Development Committee to refine, improve, and finalize the Committee’s recommendations, drawing on input from people with disabilities, the obligated sector of the economy, and the public. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.
  3. Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.
  1. By December 31, 2020, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Those initial or draft recommendations have not been made public, despite the statutory requirement for the Minister to do so.
  2. On or about March 12, 2021, the K-12 Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister. Just like the draft recommendations submitted by the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Committee’s recommendations have still not been released to the public.
  3. I understand that the Post-Secondary Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Minister around the same time as did the K-12 Committee. The Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations have also not been released to the public.
  4. I asked the Ministry of Senior Accessibility to provide the initial or draft recommendations of the Post-Secondary Committee to me, in my capacity as a member of the K-12 Committee. To date, the Ministry has not provided the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations to me.
  5. I requested a copy of the Post-Secondary Committee’s recommendations because there is an obvious and substantial connection between its work and the work of the K-12 Education Committee. Both committees are making recommendations concerning barriers in education for students with disabilities.
  6. As members of the K-12 Committee, we know about some of what the Post-Secondary Committee is recommending, because a joint subcommittee exists with representatives of the two Standards Development Committees to address technical overlap issues. There is thus no reason why we should not now have seen all of what the Post-Secondary Committee has recommended, and vice versa.
  7. I have been urging the Government to quickly make public all these Standards Development Committee recommendations, on Twitter and otherwise. On April 29, 2021, I along with the rest of the K-12 Committee received the following email from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility:

Dear K-12 Standards Development Committee members:

We hope this message finds you doing well.

We would like to provide an update on the progress of the committee’s initial recommendations report.

As you know, your committee Chair, Lynn Ziraldo, submitted the report – and the accompanying report of the Technical Sub-Committee on Transitions – to MSAA Minister Raymond Cho on March 12.

We have been busy preparing the reports for online posting, as well as translating them into French and preparing the survey that will accompany the postings. All of this work goes towards ensuring that the reports receive the most comprehensive feedback possible from the public.

As well, we understand the importance of posting this document as soon as possible, so that respondents will have a chance to consider providing input before the end of the school year. As I am sure you understand, our government is facing unprecedented challenges in delivering services to the public, and must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.

We look forward to notifying you when these postings are going to occur and appreciate your patience and understanding as we move closer to the posting date.

As always, you can reach out to the Chair, Lynn Ziraldo or the Ministry anytime with questions.

Thank you.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division

Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility

A copy of the email dated April 29, 2021 is attached as Exhibit A.

  1. Since receiving this email, the initial or draft recommendations of these three Standards Development Committees have not been publicly posted.
  1. The Government has not provided a compelling reason why it could not have earlier posted these initial or draft recommendations.
  2. The government was throughout well-aware of the work and the progress of each Standards Development Committee. The Ministry had staff organize and take part in committee meetings. Ministry staff had regular communications with each committee Chair and its members.
  3. As of the date of this affidavit, the Ministry has had the final text of each set of initial or draft recommendations for ample time – over five months in the case of the ones regarding health care, and almost two months in the case of those regarding education. The Ministry knew these were coming, well in advance, and what they would contain.
  4. It would take little or no time to make these documents available in an accessible format. That cannot justify this delay.
  5. Referring to the April 29, 2021 email quoted above, the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic do not justify this delay. The staff of the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility are not responsible for leading the government’s pandemic response.
  6. Moreover, that email states that the during the pandemic, the Government “…must prioritize all public-facing initiatives.” From my 33 years working in the Ontario Government before my retirement at the end of 2015, and from my extensive interaction with the Government as a disability rights community organizer and advocate, I understand this to mean that the Government wants to set priorities in the timing of messages it transmits to the public. Yet the Government can and does regularly transmit many different messages to the public at any one time. It can post multiple messages or documents on the internet on the same day. Its preferences or priorities over political messaging are not identified in s. 10 of the AODA with regard to the duty to make public a Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations upon the minister receiving them.
  1. Ontario only has 1,335 days left before January 1, 2025, the date by which the AODA requires Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, among other things, a requirement that Ontario’s education system and health care system must have become accessible to people with disabilities by that date.
  2. I, and many other people with disabilities, are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. Ontarians with disabilities are concerned about the delay that is facing accessibility initiatives in Ontario. According to the Final Report of the Third Independent Review of the AODA’s Implementation and Enforcement, by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley, prepared pursuant to s. 41 of the AODA, Ontario was not on schedule for reaching that goal on time, as of that report’s date (January 31, 2019). While I have linked to the Final Report, I have not attached it as an exhibit as I am conscious of the need to keep my materials brief.
  3. The delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations hurts students with disabilities and patients with disabilities. Until Ontario enacts and effectively enforces strong and effective accessibility standards in the areas of health care and education, patients with disabilities and students with disabilities respectively will continue to suffer from the many barriers that they must face in Ontario’s health care and education systems.
  4. The unfortunate reality is that this is just one of many delays that has already plagued the development of the Health Care Accessibility Standard and Education Accessibility Standard, at the hands of the government.
  5. The previous government contributed to delay by taking some two years to just appoint the Health Care Committee. It also took that government over one year to appoint the K-12 Committee and the Post-Secondary Committee. In contrast, it took the government one year to develop the entire AODA and to introduce it into the Legislature for first reading in October 2004.
  6. The committees’ work was paused during the provincial 2018 election. However, upon the current government taking office, it left the committees frozen for months. The AODA Alliance had to campaign to get the government to permit the committees to continue their work. The committees eventually returned to work in the fall of 2019. This delay, at the hands of this government, further unnecessarily delayed the eventual enactment of a Health Care Accessibility Standard and an Education Accessibility Standard.
  7. I am particularly concerned about the government’s inaction because it delays progress on accessibility in health care and education that could begin immediately. For example, in a speech I gave last month, I encouraged senior officials of Ontario’s school boards to immediately study the K-12 recommendations and implement as many of them as possible, once the draft is public. I have been told by some officials at the Toronto District School Board (Canada’s largest school board) that they want to see the initial or draft recommendations so that they can start to use the recommendations. The government’s inaction is delaying this.
  8. Compounding my concern about delays is the impending summer break for school boards. Boards are seldom fully operational during the summer, and further delay risks the boards not providing feedback until the fall.
  9. I am also a member and past Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (“SEAC”) of the Toronto District School Board. Ontario regulations require each school board to have a SEAC to give advice on how to meet the needs of students with special education needs. I am eager for our SEAC and for each of the SEACs at every Ontario school board to see the K-12 Committee’s initial or draft recommendations as soon as possible, so they can recommend actions that their school boards should take now, drawing on the Standards Development Committee’s thorough and detailed work product.
  10. In the same way, it is my aim that the Health Care Standards Development Committee draft recommendations spawn action on disability barriers in Ontario hospitals.
  11. I similarly aim for the release of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committees initial or draft recommendations to lead colleges and universities to act now to tackle the many barriers that students with disabilities face in those institutions. The government’s delay in releasing these initial or draft recommendations further delays those much-needed actions.
  12. Publicly, the government has claimed to lead by example on accessibility for people with disabilities, and to take an “all of government approach” to disability accessibility. For example, these commitments were made at a media event staged on February 28, 2020. It is difficult to reconcile the government’s promises with its unnecessary and inexplicable delay in the release of these initial or draft recommendations.
  13. The irony of the government attempting to explain its delay using the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be lost on anyone. The harm caused to people with disabilities by the government’s delay in fulfilling its duty to make public the committees’ draft recommendations is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two key examples come to mind:
    1. First, people with disabilities are disproportionately adversely affected by COVID-19, including having higher rates of severe infection and death. For five months of the pandemic, the government has sat on the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations, that could make health care more accessible to people with disabilities.
  1. Second, during the pandemic, students with disabilities have faced even more barriers in Ontario’s education system. I have been involved in advocating against these, on behalf of the AODA Alliance. The government is stalling efforts to help improve the plight of students with disabilities during the pandemic by keeping secret the draft or initial recommendations of the K-12 Committee and Post-Secondary Committee. While the government waits, these students fall further behind their peers.



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Mental health report: Vast majority of Ontarians experiencing negative emotions amid pandemic


The Canadian Mental Health Association has launched a report that shows most Ontarians are continuing to deal with negative emotions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report was released in time for Mental Health Week, which launched Monday.

The report, which surveyed roughly 3,000 people across Ontario in January, says 84 per cent of adults said they were feeling worried, anxious, bored, stressed, lonely, isolated or sad.

Data also suggests 76 per cent of Ontarians reported coping at least fairly well with the stress of the pandemic. Sixty per cent of participants also said their screen time increased and 31 per cent reported consuming more food.

“The pandemic is one of those situations where it causes so many different things,” Alec King with CMHA Durham said.

Read more:
Whitby, Ont., therapist says more mental health resources needed for people of colour in Durham

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“It’s not just (the pandemic), it’s also the isolation, the uncertainty, the worry and the concern that people are feeling.”

King says while the data is discouraging, difficult emotions may be an appropriate response to Ontarian’s current circumstances.

“For Mental Health Week we want to talk about how it’s good to give emotions voice,” he said.

“Positive mental health isn’t about always being happy. It’s about being able to express your emotions in a way that’s healthy and good.”

Jamie Andrews was diagnosed with depression in his early 20s. He, along with many others who have struggled with their mental health, are sharing their experiences through a new mental health podcast called ‘Over Thinking.’

Read more:
‘There’s no help’: Older, rural Canadian men dying by suicide, new study reveals

“We have feelings and those feelings are telling us something, but it’s up to us to look inside and see what it is,” he said.

“We need to normalize this conversation, and that’s one of the things that I hope our goal is for the overthinking podcast.”

Other mental health advocates, like Olabiyi Dipeolu, have been working tirelessly to ensure people of all income levels can access mental health services. Dipeolu’s online retail store, Maqoba, donates its net profits to mental health services like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). It also navigates users towards free, accessible resources for those who are currently struggling.

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Read more:
Canadians’ mental health further declining during COVID-19 2nd wave: study

“Even though we live in a wonderful country and we have access to mental health, not everyone knows how to find those resources,” he said.

“100 per cent of the net proceeds go to those who can’t afford mental health treatment. This is in the form of get well packages, therapy sessions, and housing opportunities.”

The CMHA encourages those currently facing mental health challenges to contact the organization. Mental health advocates encourage people to turn to friends and loved ones for additional support.





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





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Group urges province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians


A Toronto city councillor and a group of health-care professionals are calling on the province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians in a bid to improve the rollout of shots.

Coun. Josh Matlow and health-care professionals from the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, posted an open letter to Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and the co-chairs of the COVID-19 science advisory table on Wednesday.

Read more:
Scarborough hospital forced to cancel 10,000 appointments from lack of COVID-19 vaccine supply

“While the vaccine rollout offers an end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Ontarians who have yet to be eligible for the current phase of the vaccination plan are left feeling anxious about when, and how they’ll learn that their turn will finally come,” the letter said.

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“That is why we recommend the province offer a specific category on their call-in and online booking systems that gives Ontarians an opportunity to pre-register for the vaccine.”

The letter said residents should be able to enter their date of birth, postal code, and contact information and get onto a registration list.

“Once eligible, Ontarians could receive an email and/or text message outlining the next steps on how to officially book their vaccine appointment and applicable location(s),” the letter said.

They said this could improve the management of vaccine supply, offer insight into vaccine hesitancy, and give residents the feeling of being closer to overcoming the pandemic.





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





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Ontarians push back against companies denying them access to ‘non-essential’ goods


Ontario residents are pushing back against big box and discount stores cutting off access to in-store items the province has deemed ‘non-essential’ as part of the the new COVID-19 stay-at-home measures.

They argue that many of those items are essential, especially for low-income households who can’t afford to buy supplies online or at pricier retailers.

“There are a lot of things people think are everyday essentials that are roped off and I think that’s a mistake that the government overlooked,” said Sarah Colero, a person whose income relies on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

Read more:
Here’s what Ontario’s big-box stores look like as new COVID-19 state of emergency takes effect

She claims the ODSP only provides her with just under $1,200 a month and she depends on stores like Dollarama to get her supplies.

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Colero claims Dollarama has closed off access to aisles with many supplies she needs and can’t afford to purchase elsewhere.

“Cleaning supplies, menstrual products, paper towels, tissues, tin foil,” she said. “I love Dollarama because everything there is a good price and that’s really what we need, because on ODSP, we have to budget so carefully.”

Read more:
Ontario sends provincewide stay-at-home emergency alert to cell phones, devices

Dollaramas across Toronto have signs outside stores listing items that the province had deemed ‘non-essential’ and it could no longer sell in-store, including supplies related to school, office, kitchen, hair accessories and closet and bathroom.

Dollarama also doesn’t allow for curbside pickup.

Ulisse Aiello is a caregiver to his brother with autism and said he desperately needs art supplies to keep his sibling occupied.

“He has the mentality of a five-year-old so you have to do a lot of things with him to keep him busy,” Aiello said.

Read more:
Ontario issuing stay-at-home order, declares 3rd state of emergency amid COVID-19 pandemic

Aiello adds that, with their budget, he can only afford art supplies at places like Dollarama and Walmart.

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“It’s not fair that you’re closing down sections of a store that are absolutely essential to many people,” he said. 

Meanwhile, many others took to Twitter to criticize Walmart for closing off areas of their stores, including some who claimed they were denied access to child supplies and diapers.

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Dr. Andrew Boozary suggests the government should be more flexible when it comes to what is deemed ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential,’ especially to those in marginalized and low-incomes communities.

“It’s a really tough line to draw between what is essential and non-essential,” said Boozary.

“We just have to listen to the community in things that they need, things that are essential through this stretch — because we really need to know that there’s that solidarity as to which kind of neighbourhoods are at risk and which neighbourhoods are going to have the least access to support and help.”

Read more:
COVID-19: Highlights of Ontario’s new measures as stay-at-home order set to take effect Thursday

In response to Global News’ request for a statement, Ontario’s ministry of health said the rules only allow big box and discount stores to sell certain items.

“These categories are limited to: grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items and personal care items,” said ministry of health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene.

“Given the vast number of types of items that big box/discount retailers sell, the prescribed categories ensure that retailers have the flexibility needed to categorize all items sold,” she added.

“Should a big box/discount store wish to sell other items, they must comply with any applicable conditions that other retailers that sell those items comply with.”

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries'







COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries


COVID-19: Ontario hospitals suspending non-emergency surgeries

Meanwhile, a Dollarama spokesperson told Global News in a statement: “We are committed to maintaining this essential role while also adhering to evolving government orders in the face of a persistent virus.

“We moved quickly (Wednesday) following the announcement of new emergency measures effective (Thursday), and we sincerely thank all our customers for their patience and understanding in what continue to be extremely difficult circumstances for Canadians from all walks of life.”

“We thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we implement the new guidelines,” said Walmart Canada media relations representative, Adam Grachnik.

“In this case, diapers are permitted for sale in our stores.”





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





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‘Still far away’ from Ontarians being able to choose what COVID-19 vaccine they receive, Elliott says



Ontario Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott said Thursday that the province is “still far away” from when Ontarians will be able to choose what vaccine they receive, because of limitations with with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and the number of accessible doses.



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For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility


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

January 29, 2021

SUMMARY

Ontario is on the verge of a deeply troubling anniversary of Ontario Government inaction. This Sunday, January 31, 2021 marks the two year anniversary since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This report was written by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

In the two years since it received this report, the Ford Government has announced no strong, comprehensive plan to implement its recommendations. Most of its recommendations have not been implemented at all. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a marvelous job and that Ontario is only 30 percent along the way towards the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

It is a wrenching irony that this anniversary of inaction comes right after we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Canada’s Parliament deciding to include equality for people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That momentous breakthrough took place on January 28, 1981, 40 years ago yesterday. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in no small part to implement that constitutional right to equality for people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, the AODA Alliance has spearheaded grassroots efforts to get the Ford Government to come forward with a strong and comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. We have offered many constructive recommendations. We have also offered the Government our help. On Twitter and in our AODA Alliance Updates, we have maintained an ongoing count of the number of days that had passed since the Government received the Onley Report, keeping the spotlight on this issue. As of today, it has been 729 days.

The Government has taken a few new actions on accessibility since it took office in June 2018, the most important of which are summarized below. But these have been slow, halting and inadequate.

MORE DETAILS

1. What the Onley Report Found About the Plight of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed David Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He was mandated to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, the goal which the AODA requires. Based on public feedback he received, the Onley report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years then left before 2025 (now less than four years), the Onley report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Onley concluded that progress on accessibility for people with disabilities under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley also found “this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley Report accurately concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley Report said damning things about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley Report made concrete, practical recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out below is the Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, David Onley called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

2. What New Has the Ford Government Done on Accessibility Since the Onley Report?

It was good, but long overdue, that when releasing the Onley report back in March 2019, the Ford Government at last lifted its inexcusable 258 day-long freeze on the important work of three Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the previous nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. Because of those delays, the Government delayed progress on accessibility for people with disabilities in health care and education. We are feeling the harmful effects of those delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ford Government’s main focus of its efforts on accessibility for people with disabilities has been on educating the public on the benefits of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. That is work that the previous Government had been doing for over a decade. That alone will not bring about significant progress.

Since releasing the Onley Report, the Ford Government has held a couple of staged ministerial events, on January 28, 2019 and on October 29, 2019 (for which an inaccessible email invitation was sent), supposedly to announce a framework to implement the Onley Report. However they announced little, if anything, new. To the contrary, they focused on re-announcing things the Government had been doing for years, including at least one measure dating back to the Bob Rae NDP Government that was in power over a quarter century ago.

The Government has announced no plans to implement any of the recommendations for reform of accessibility standards from the Transportation Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report to the Ontario Government in the spring of 2018, almost three years ago) or the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report some ten or eleven months ago).

The Government has had in hand for at least a month, if not more, the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It must be posted for public comment. The Government has not posted it, or announced when it will do so. In the midst of this pandemic, swift action in the area of health care accessibility is desperately needed for people with disabilities and all Ontarians.

In the meantime, the one major new strategy on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its over two and a half years in office has been an action that David Onley never recommended and has, to our knowledge, never publicly endorsed. The Government diverted 1.3 million public dollars to the seriously problematic Rick Hansen Foundation’s private building accessibility certification program. We have made public serious concerns about that plan. The Government never acted on those concerns. Almost two years later, there is no proof that that misuse of public money led to the removal of any barriers in an Ontario building.

Despite announcing that the Government will take an all of Government approach to accessibility in response to the Onley Report, we have seen the opposite take place. TVO has not fixed the serious accessibility problems with its online learning resources, much needed during distance learning in this pandemic. The Government is building a new courthouse in downtown Toronto with serious accessibility problems about which disability advocates forewarned. During the pandemic, the Government has had circulated two successive critical care triage protocols which direct hospitals to use an approach to triage that would discriminate against some patients with disabilities and has refused to directly speak to us about these concerns. Over our objection, the Government has unleashed electric scooters on Ontarians, exposing people with disabilities to dangers to their safety and accessibility. This is all amply documented on the AODA Alliance’s website.

Over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities deserve better.

3. The Onley Report’s Summary of Its Recommendations

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

11. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.




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For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility


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/

For over 2.6 Million Ontarians with Disabilities, Sunday January 31, 2021 Will Be The Ford Government’s Sad Two Year Anniversary of Inaction On Disability Accessibility

January 29, 2021

            SUMMARY

Ontario is on the verge of a deeply troubling anniversary of Ontario Government inaction. This Sunday, January 31, 2021 marks the two year anniversary since the Ford Government received the blistering  final report of the Independent Review of the Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This report was written by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley.

In the two years since it received this report, the Ford Government has announced no strong, comprehensive plan to implement its recommendations. Most of its recommendations have not been implemented at all. This is so even though Ontario’s Accessibility Minister, Raymond Cho said in the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that David Onley did a “marvelous job” and that Ontario is only 30 percent along the way towards the goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities.

It is a wrenching irony that this anniversary of inaction comes right after we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Canada’s Parliament deciding to include equality for people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That momentous breakthrough took place on January 28, 1981, 40 years ago yesterday. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in no small part to implement that constitutional right to equality for people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, the AODA Alliance has spearheaded grassroots efforts to get the Ford Government to come forward with a strong and comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report. We have offered many constructive recommendations. We have also offered the Government our help. On Twitter and in our AODA Alliance Updates, we have maintained an ongoing count of the number of days that had passed since the Government received the Onley Report, keeping the spotlight on this issue. As of today, it has been 729 days.

The Government has taken a few new actions on accessibility since it took office in June 2018, the most important of which are summarized below. But these have been slow, halting and inadequate.

            MORE DETAILS

 1. What the Onley Report Found About the Plight of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed David Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He was mandated to recommend reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025, the goal which the AODA requires. Based on public feedback he received, the Onley report found that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years then left before 2025 (now less than four years), the Onley report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Onley concluded that progress on accessibility for people with disabilities under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

David Onley also found “…this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley Report accurately concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley Report said damning things about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley Report made concrete, practical recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out below is the Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, David Onley called for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

 2. What New Has the Ford Government Done on Accessibility Since the Onley Report?

It was good, but long overdue, that when releasing the Onley report back in March 2019, the Ford Government at last lifted its inexcusable 258 day-long freeze on the important work of three Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the previous nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze. Because of those delays, the Government delayed progress on accessibility for people with disabilities in health care and education. We are feeling the harmful effects of those delays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ford Government’s main focus of its efforts on accessibility for people with disabilities has been on educating the public on the benefits of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities. That is work that the previous Government had been doing for over a decade. That alone will not bring about significant progress.

Since releasing the Onley Report, the Ford Government has held a couple of staged ministerial events, on January 28, 2019 and on October 29, 2019 (for which an inaccessible email invitation was sent), supposedly to announce a framework to implement the Onley Report. However they announced little, if anything, new. To the contrary, they focused on re-announcing things the Government had been doing for years, including at least one measure dating back to the Bob Rae NDP Government that was in power over a quarter century ago.

The Government has announced no plans to implement any of the recommendations for reform of accessibility standards from the Transportation Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report to the Ontario Government in the spring of 2018, almost three years ago) or the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee (which submitted its final report some ten or eleven months ago).

The Government has had in hand for at least a month, if not more, the initial report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It must be posted for public comment. The Government has not posted it, or announced when it will do so. In the midst of this pandemic, swift action in the area of health care accessibility is desperately needed for people with disabilities and all Ontarians.

In the meantime, the one major new strategy on disability accessibility that the Ford Government has announced in its over two and a half years in office has been an action that David Onley never recommended and has, to our knowledge, never publicly endorsed. The Government diverted 1.3 million public dollars to the seriously problematic Rick Hansen Foundation’s private building accessibility “certification” program. We have made public serious concerns about that plan. The Government never acted on those concerns. Almost two years later, there is no proof that that misuse of public money led to the removal of any barriers in an Ontario building.

Despite announcing that the Government will take an “all of Government” approach to accessibility in response to the Onley Report, we have seen the opposite take place. TVO has not fixed the serious accessibility problems with its online learning resources, much needed during distance learning in this pandemic. The Government is building a new courthouse in downtown Toronto with serious accessibility problems about which disability advocates forewarned. During the pandemic, the Government has had circulated two successive critical care triage protocols which direct hospitals to use an approach to triage that would discriminate against some patients with disabilities and has refused to directly speak to us about these concerns. Over our objection, the Government has unleashed electric scooters on Ontarians, exposing people with disabilities to dangers to their safety and accessibility. This is all amply documented on the AODA Alliance’s website.

Over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities deserve better.

 3. The Onley Report’s Summary of Its Recommendations

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.

Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers.

Lead by example.

Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

  1. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA.

Define “accessibility”.

Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.

Update the definition of “disability”.

  1. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.

Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.

Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.

Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

  1. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.
  1. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
  1. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.
  1. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.
  1. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:

Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

  1. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.
  1. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.

Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units.

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

  1. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.
  1. Enforce the AODA.

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

  1. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation.

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.

Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

  1. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.
  1. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.



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More Media Coverage of Danger that the Ford Government’s Critical Medical Care Triage Poses for Ontarians with disabilities


But the Government Claims Protocol Does Not Come From the Government So Does The Government Believe It Comes From Some Rogue Group Issuing Directions to Ontario’s Hospitals?

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

January 20, 2021

SUMMARY

Finally, the Ford Government’s deeply worrisome plans for rationing or triage of life-saving critical medical care are starting to get more media attention, including some focus on concerns from the disability community that those plans create the real danger of disability discrimination against some patients with disabilities. We here give you some examples, and our feedback. In most of these articles, the AODA Alliance was quoted.

As the following shows, the Government repeatedly claims the January 13, 2021 triage protocol is not a critical care triage protocol, and that it does not come from the Government. Yet a look at reveals that it certainly is a critical care triage protocol, authorized by the Government’s own Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. If it doesn’t come from the Government, does it come from some rogue individual or group appointing themselves to dictate who lives and who dies if critical care must be triaged? What happened to the Ford Government’s promised openness and transparency when it comes to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

1. On Thursday, January 14, 2021, CBC TV’s flagship national news program The National included, as its second news item, a report on plans for triage of critical care in Quebec and Ontario. The story included two quotations from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, identifying some of our major concerns on this front. You can watch it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tySXRTHIGQ&feature=youtu.be We have also posted it with captioning at https://youtu.be/-LRyewJOKNQ

2. On Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Toronto’s Zoomer Radio 740 Fight Back program hosted by Libby Znaimer included a half hour radio interview on the critical care triage protocol issue with AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and Bioethicist Kerry Bowman. The audio of this is available as a podcast at https://zoomerradio.ca/podcasts/fight-back-on-zoomer-radio-podcast/the-provinces-directive-for-life-saving-care-january-19-2021/ 3. QP Briefing, a very influential publication of the Toronto star based at Queen’s Park, included an article dated January 18, 2021 on disability concerns with the January 13, 2021 triage protocol. That article reports, among other things:
But the government said it’s only a draft, and hasn’t been approved or endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
To the contrary, the January 13, 2021 triage protocol states that it is approved by the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. This appears to be the Government-designated body which is making the key decisions in this area. The Government has not told us who is on it, or what it’s mandate is. We’ve asked weeks ago!

The Government has not let us meet with the Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre. This body is, as far as we can tell, doing its life-and-death decision-making behind closed doors, with no public accountability. There is no showing that it has legal authority to make life-and-death policy for Ontario.
This news report gives a rare response on this issue from the Ford Government one that is deeply disturbing. The article states:

A source in Elliott’s office said the document “was not issued by the province and is guidance for the sector by the sector.”
The Ministry of Health said the province’s Bioethics Table has created separate guidelines that were “developed through rigorous review of existing and emerging academic literature and published policy statements on critical care triage in the COVID-19 pandemic, consultation with clinical, legal, and other experts, as well as community stakeholders, including disability rights organizations. Recent revisions include a more robust human rights and equity framing of the central issues,” ministry spoksperson David Jensen said in an email.
The document in question “has not been activated and has been released only for planning purposes to prepare for the possibility of a major surge in care, as an option of last resort, to be invoked only when all existing local and regional critical care resources have been used, all reasonable attempts have been made to move patients to or resources from areas with greater critical care resource availability, and only for as long as the major surge lasts,” Jensen said.
He said the ministry expects the Bioethics Table to keep consulting with stakeholders on the triage guidance.
Elliott’s office directed further questions to Dr. Andrew Baker, the critical care chief at St. Michael’s Hospital and incident commander of the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre. Baker did not respond to a request for comment.
As for the Government’s misleading claims of ongoing consultations, the Government-appointed external Bioethics Table has had no contact with us or, to our knowledge, with others in the disability community advocating on this issue, since its rushed December 17, 220 roundtable. Since then, the following all took place in secret, with no consultation of us, and no disclosure to us:
a) On January 6, 2021, the Government’s internal Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre secretly approved the all-important checklist for doctors doing triage, replete with deployment of the disability-discriminatory Clinical Frailty Scale.

b) On January 12, 2021, the external advisory Bioethics Table sent the Government a new revised secret report on critical care triage. We have not seen it. Neither the Government nor the Government’s advisory Bioethics Table told us about it.

c) On January 13, 2021, just as the Bioethics Table’s Dr. James Downar was telling The Agenda with Steve Paikin and all Ontarians that they are now consulting on this issue, the Government’s internal Ontario Critical Care COVID Command Centre secretly approved the January 13, 2021 triage protocol which was that day sent to all Ontario hospitals.

If the January 13, 2021 triage protocol was not sent to Ontario hospitals by the Government or on its behalf, who was the rogue person or group that has been sending it around the province? Why hasn’t the Government rescinded it, just as it belatedly rescinded the earlier March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol?

Moreover, if this was not circulated by or on behalf of the Ford Government, that means there is no authoritative protocol for critical care triage in place. With the need for triage now close according to the Bioethics Table’s Dr. James Downar, it means doctors are left with no directions at all. This further risks each triage doctor being a law unto themselves, further endangering people with disabilities.

3. A January 18, 2021 article by the Canadian Press’s Liam Casey was posted by various news outlets. The post of it in the January 18, 2021 St. Catherins Standard is set out below. That article includes this:

Dr. Andrew Baker, the head of the critical care COVID-19 command centre and director of critical care at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the triage protocol contains information and tools that are a standard way for physicians to conduct an assessment for a patient upon arrival at an emergency department.

They were shared with the critical care community as background only and to ensure a common approach across the sector, so physicians and other health professional staff can learn how to quickly operationalize an emergency standard of care for admission to critical care, if ever needed, he said.

Baker said an emergency standard of care is not in place, but will be enacted if needed.

This furthers the confusing double-talk emanating from the Government on this issue. The January 13, 2021 triage protocol embodies serious dangers of disability discrimination, as the AODA Alliance’s unanswered January 18, 2021 letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott. By circulating this document, the Government or its representatives are embedding improper discriminatory triage practices in the front lines of our health care system, to be ready for deployment should the COVID-19 pandemic require critical care triage. This must be rectified now!

4. In a detailed January 18, 2021 report on CBC News online, the Government again tried to distance itself from the January 13, 2021 triage protocol without withdrawing it or offering to speak to any of us in the public about it. This article includes no feedback on concerns from the disability community, such as those from the AODA Alliance. That article included this:

This morning, the Ontario NDP released a document they say is the province’s triage protocol. However, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health later said in an email to CBC News Monday that it is not a triage protocol but rather “guidance that originated from experts in the sector, for use by the sector.”

Dated Jan. 13, the 32-page document outlines the details and critical elements of the triage process should there be a major surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care.

The documents say this should be considered only “as an option of last resort,” prioritizes care for those “with the greatest likelihood of survival.” It emphasizes the need for protection of individual human rights, non-discriminatory decision making and accountability.

The spokesperson said as of Monday, nothing has been issued or approved by the Ministry of Health.

“The expectation of the Ministry of Health is for the Bioethics Table to continue its engagement in consultations and discussions with various stakeholder groups,” the statement from the ministry reads.

In a news release, the NDP said the document “shows that the crisis in hospitals is out of control” while accusing Premier Doug Ford and his government of trying to keep it out of public view.

“Had physicians not reached out to the Official Opposition and others, the directive that was written in secret, without consultation, would remain a secret,” the NDP said.

5. In an earlier January 15, 2021 article on TVO. org Journalist Sarah Trick gave a good background to this issue pre-dating our chance to receive and review the leaked January 13, 2021 triage protocol. This otherwise excellent article inaccurately states that the Ford Government’s earlier March 28, 2020 triage protocol was circulated to hospitals and community organizations for their feedback. the Government had it circulated to hospitals for feedback but most certainly did not circulate it to community groups for their feedback. It only reached the disability community last spring due to it being leaked to them.

In addition to the preceding news coverage, we have witnessed the following important step forward this week on this issue. On Monday, January 18, 2021, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and NDP Disabilities critic Joel Harden released a helpful strong public statement about the January 13, 2021 triage protocol. It condemned that protocol, and explicitly endorsed the AODA Alliance’s concerns about it.

If you want more background on this issue, check out the following:

1. The new January 13, 2021 triage protocol which the AODA Alliance received, is now making public, and has asked the Ford Government to verify. We have only acquired this in PDF format, which lacks proper accessibility. We gather some others in the community now have this document as well.

2. The AODA Alliance’s January 18, 2021 news release on the January 13, 2021 triage protocol.

3. The panel on critical care triage, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, on the January 13, 2021 edition of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

4. The Government’s earlier external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed last month.

5. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. MORE DETAILS

QP Briefing January 18, 2021
Disability advocates sound alarm over draft triage guidelines Jack Hauen
As COVID-19 patients pack Ontario hospitals, disability advocates say they have serious concerns over guidance for who should be prioritized for lifesaving care.
Adocumentleaked by physicians, dated Jan. 13, 2021, outlines a triage strategy for hospitals if there aren’t enough ventilators for everyone who needs one. The AODA Alliance, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, said parts of the guidance will prioritize lifesaving equipment for able-bodied people. But the government said it’s only a draft, and hasn’t been approved or endorsed by the Ministry of Health.
Doctors have spoken to the media about the overwhelmingstressof planning to ration acute care a situation that was practically unthinkable over the summer, but as cases have skyrocketed in the second wave, has become increasingly plausible.
The AODA Alliance said it’s concerned about the inclusion of the “clinical frailty scale,” which outlines how dependent people are on others to live their lives; and a patient’s 12-month likely survival as triage criteria.
AODA Alliance ChairDavid Lepofskysaid the protocol also isn’t clear on whether doctors should withdraw critical care to make room for someone else. The Ministry of Health said the guidance does not involve withdrawal of care, but didn’t say whether care could be withdrawn based on other guidelines.
“Under the protocol, each triage doctor can end up being a law unto themselves. The protocol’s references to respecting human rights do not eliminate serious concerns about its authorizing disability discrimination,” Lepofsky said.
People with disabilities have been raising similar concernssince the beginning of the pandemic.
The Alliance also called for triage protocols to be enshrined in law, not a memo to hospitals, and slammed the Tories for keeping it from the public.
The Ford government’s handling of the critical care triage issue from the start has been plagued with harmful secrecy, evasiveness and a lack of candor, Lepofsky said. The Ford government must now rescind and fix this discriminatory new triage protocol, and directly consult the public on this issue.”
Lepofsky wrote to Health MinisterChristine Elliotton Monday asking her to fix the issues raised by the AODA Alliance.
“The Ontario government needs to announce and implement a clear and effective strategy to prevent the need for life-saving critical care services to ever have to be rationed or triaged,” he wrote.
Joel Harden, the NDP critic for seniors, accessibility and persons with disabilities, said he agrees with the AODA’s concerns.
This shows that Ford knows how dire the situation is. And it leaves us all to ask why time and again, he keeps choosing half-measures, said Harden. There are people now forced to live in fear, believing that they may not get the care they deserve if they end up in the ICU.”
A source in Elliott’s office said the document “was not issued by the province and is guidance for the sector by the sector.”
The Ministry of Health said the province’s Bioethics Table has created separate guidelines that were “developed through rigorous review of existing and emerging academic literature and published policy statements on critical care triage in the COVID-19 pandemic, consultation with clinical, legal, and other experts, as well as community stakeholders, including disability rights organizations. Recent revisions include a more robust human rights and equity framing of the central issues,” ministry spokspersonDavid Jensensaid in an email.
The document in question “has not been activated and has been released only for planning purposes to prepare for the possibility of a major surge in care, as an option of last resort, to be invoked only when all existing local and regional critical care resources have been used, all reasonable attempts have been made to move patients to or resources from areas with greater critical care resource availability, and only for as long as the major surge lasts,” Jensen said.
He said the ministry expects the Bioethics Table to keep consulting with stakeholders on the triage guidance.
Elliott’s office directed further questions to Dr.Andrew Baker, the critical care chief at St. Michael’s Hospital and incident commander of the Ontario Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre. Baker did not respond to a request for comment.
NDP LeaderAndrea Horwathsaid the guidance illustrates the “heart-wrenching choices” on the horizon if the government doesn’t add stronger lockdown measures like paid sick days, more aid for long-term care and more testing in workplaces and schools.
People that are loved dearly people that need medical help the most could be left to die if we do not make the choice to throw everything we’ve got at this virus, she said in a statement.
Horwath agreed with Lepofsky that the document should have been made public by the government.
This article has corrected a Ministry of Health error that stated the document dated Jan. 13 was created by the province’s Bioethics Table. It is in fact based on guidance from the Critical Care Command Centre.

St. Catharines Standard January 18, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ts/news/canada/2021/01/18/ontario-patients-to-be-ranked-for-life-saving-care-should-icus-become-full.html Ontario patients to be ranked for life-saving care should ICUs become full

By Liam Casey The Canadian Press
Mon., Jan. 18, 2021

Hospitals in Ontario have received a much-anticipated document that lays out the criteria to be used if intensive care units fill up and medical resources are scarce.

According to the document, titled Adult Critical Care Clinical Emergency Standard of Care for Major Surge and prepared by the province’s critical care COVID-19 command centre – patients will be scored by doctors on a short-term mortality risk assessment.

Aim to prioritize those patients who are most likely to survive their critical illness, the document notes.

Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources, the document reads.

It lists three levels of critical care triage:

Level 1 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality greater than 80 per cent, the document notes.

Level 2 triage deprioritizes critical care resources for patients with a predicted mortality (greater than) 50 per cent.

At Level 3 triage, patients with predicted mortality of 30 per cent – or a 70 per cent chance of surviving beyond a year – will not receive critical care. At this stage, patients who have suffered a cardiac arrest will be deprioritized for critical care, as their predicted mortality is greater than 30 per cent.

At this level, clinicians may abandon the short-term mortality predictions in favour of randomization, which the document notes is to be used as a last resort and should be conducted by an administrator, not by bedside clinicians.

The protocol, dated Jan. 13, says there are three steps on the road to critical care triage:

Step 1 says hospitals should build surge capacity.

In Step 2, if demand still exceeds capacity, the hospital will adjust the type of care being provided to focus on key critical care interventions, which include basic modes of ventilation.

Step 3 is the initiation of critical care triage. Once that process kicks in, all requests for ICU admission are managed by an administrator on call who supports the bedside clinicians.

At the moment, there are 416 patients with COVID-19 in ICUs in Ontario, which has a total of 1,800 total ICU beds.

Modelling released by the province last week show that about 700 ICU beds will be used by COVID-19 patients by the first week February.

Dr. Andrew Baker, the head of the critical care COVID-19 command centre and director of critical care at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the triage protocol contains information and tools that are a standard way for physicians to conduct an assessment for a patient upon arrival at an emergency department.

They were shared with the critical care community as background only and to ensure a common approach across the sector, so physicians and other health professional staff can learn how to quickly operationalize an emergency standard of care for admission to critical care, if ever needed, he said.

Baker said an emergency standard of care is not in place, but will be enacted if needed.

He said there is an extensive, sophisticated, provincewide effort to transfer patients out of hospitals that are at capacity.

Dr. Michael Warner, the medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, said the hospital is running at 105 per cent capacity, but has cancelled surgeries in order to keep some spots open in the ICU.

I sincerely hope we never need to use this because it is terrible for patients, terrible for their families, causes moral distress for health-care workers, and it’s something that we should do everything possible to avoid having to implement, Warner said. David Lepofsky, the chairman of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the triage guidelines are discriminatory.

He pointed to the clinical frailty scale, a prognostic tool doctors use in cases of progressive illnesses to assess a patient’s general deterioration over time.

This is disability-based discrimination and that’s against the law in the Constitution, Lepofsky said.

January 18, 2021 CBC News Online

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-january-18-2021-vaughan-1.5877320Province to open new hospital to ease pressure as Ontario reports 2,578 new COVID-19 cases

The provincial government is opening a new hospital in Vaughan to help relieve pressure on other facilities in the Greater Toronto Area.

The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital was originally scheduled to open in early February as the first brand new hospital not a replacement of an older facility or a merger with an existing facility in Ontario in almost three decades. Premier Doug Ford made the announcement at a Monday afternoon news conference, saying it would open in “a few short weeks.”

“It’s like reinforcements coming over the hill,” Ford said, adding that the province is also adding 500 additional surge capacity hospital beds in Toronto, Durham, Kingston and Ottawa.

Health Minister Christine Elliott also said Monday that once the situation with COVID-19 has stabilized in the province, the hospital will open as originally planned.

“The idea is this hospital is going to be used … in order to take the load off of some other hospitals that are experiencing capacity challenges.” Elliott said.

The hospital will accept both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients “based on the system needs during this surge,” a spokesperson for Mackenzie Health said in a statement to CBC Toronto.

The news comes as Ontario reported 2,578 additional cases of COVID-19 on Monday, as the number of patients with the illness who required a ventilator to breathe climbed above 300 for the first time since the pandemic began.

The new cases in today’s update are the fewest logged on a single day in about two and a half weeks. They include 815 in Toronto, 507 in Peel Region, 151 in both York and Niagara regions, and 121 in Hamilton.

New COVID-19 variant cases expected, Yaffe says
“Our health-care system continues to be strained with elevated numbers of people in hospital,” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said on Monday.

Thirty-one new outbreaks were reported as of Monday, Yaffe said, which was slightly lower than Monday of the previous week.

Yaffe said Ontario is reporting 15 new cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, with the most recent case detected in London, Ont. in a patient with no known travel history.

“We do expect more cases to be identified in the weeks to follow as there is evidence of community transmission,” Yaffe added.

She said the data indicated that the new strain is 56 per cent more easily transmissible in comparison to other variants.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

Windsor-Essex: 97
Ottawa: 92
Waterloo region: 85
Halton Region: 79
Durham Region: 76
Middlesex-London: 67
Simcoe Muskoka: 65
Lambton: 52
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 51
Eastern Ontario: 36
Southwestern: 31
Chatham-Kent: 29
Huron Perth: 15
Haldimand-Norfolk: 13
Brant County: 12
(Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.)

The additional infections come as the province’s labs processed just 40,301 test samples for the novel coronavirus tens of thousands fewer than there is capacity for in the system and reported a test positivity rate of 6.6 per cent.

The seven-day average of new daily cases fell to 3,035. It reached a high of 3,555 on January 11.

Yaffe said Monday’s figures may have been low due to the number of tests processed Sunday, which was the lowest since Jan. 5.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said the current test positivity rate shows improvement from previous weeks when it would spike following weekends.

“The numbers are dropping, I take that as a sign that Ontarians are doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Williams said on Monday.

But Williams said the province must cut its daily COVID-19 case counts to below 1,000 before lockdown measures can be lifted.

He called the goal “achievable” and said the last time the province saw similar daily case counts was late October.

Williams said he would also like to see the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units drop to 150 before lifting any restrictions.

Another 2,826 cases were marked resolved in today’s report. There are now 28,621 confirmed, active infections provincewide. The number of resolved cases have outpaced new cases on six of the last seven days in Ontario.

There were 1,571 total patients with COVID-19 in Ontario’s hospitals. Of those, 394 were being treated in intensive care units and 303 were on ventilators.

Revised projections released last week by the province suggested that hospitals, especially those throughout southern Ontario, risk being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks. The influx could result in doctors having to triage emergency patients, running the risk that some will not get a hospital bed when needed.

Ontario seniors ‘living in fear’ of COVID-19 feel forgotten in vaccine rollout plan
This morning, the Ontario NDP released a document they say is the province’s triage protocol. However, a spokesperson for the Minister of Health later said in an email to CBC News Monday that it is not a triage protocol but rather “guidance that originated from experts in the sector, for use by the sector.”

Dated Jan. 13, the 32-page document outlines the details and critical elements of the triage process should there be a major surge in COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care.

The documents say this should be considered only “as an option of last resort,” prioritizes care for those “with the greatest likelihood of survival.” It emphasizes the need for protection of individual human rights, non-discriminatory decision making and accountability.

The spokesperson said as of Monday, nothing has been issued or approved by the Ministry of Health.

“The expectation of the Ministry of Health is for the Bioethics Table to continue its engagement in consultations and discussions with various stakeholder groups,” the statement from the ministry reads.

In a news release, the NDP said the document “shows that the crisis in hospitals is out of control” while accusing Premier Doug Ford and his government of trying to keep it out of public view.

“Had physicians not reached out to the Official Opposition and others, the directive that was written in secret, without consultation, would remain a secret,” the NDP said.

Public health units also reported another 24 deaths of people with the illness, pushing the official toll to 5,433.

Vaccine clinic opens at Metro Toronto Convention Centre
A clinic dedicated to administering COVID-19 vaccines opened in a Toronto convention centre on Monday.

The same day, city officials announced the clinic will have to be paused as of Friday, due to a lack of access to vaccines.

The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that is entirely dependent upon vaccine supply.

City officials said the “proof-of-concept” clinic will help Ontario’s Ministry of Health test and adjust the setup of immunization clinics in non-hospital settings.

The clinic at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which is in the downtown core, aims to vaccinate 250 people per day, but the city noted that it will have to pause the clinic on Friday due to a lack of vaccines. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)
The Ministry of Health said this morning that another 9,691 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in Ontario yesterday. A total of 209,788 shots of vaccine have been given out so far, while 21,752 people have received both doses and are considered fully immunized to the illness.

Pfizer-BioNTech, which manufactures one of the two Health Canada-approved vaccines, announced last week that it’s temporarily delaying international shipments of the shots while it upgrades production facilities in Europe.

Ontario wants everyone vaccinated by early August, general says
The Ontario government has said that will affect the province’s vaccine distribution plan, and some people will see their booster shots delayed by several weeks.

Officials in Hamilton, meanwhile, said the province has directed it to temporarily cease administering the first dose of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone except residents, staff and essential caregivers at long-term care homes and retirement facilities.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott did not say how many regions of the province had received that directive.

With files from Lucas Powers, Adam Carter and The Canadian Press

TVO Online January 15, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.tvo.org/article/what-happens-to-disabled-ontarians-if-we-run-out-of-icu-beds What happens to disabled Ontarians if we run out of ICU beds?
The government has not publicly shared a triage protocol but what we know about its thinking has experts and advocates worried that Ontarians with disabilities will be denied care By Sarah Trick – Published on Jan 15, 2021
medical workers gather around a hospital bed
Health-care workers with a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital on December 9, 2020. (Nathan Denette/CP)

OTTAWA With Ontario’s ICUs closer to being overwhelmed than they’ve ever been and COVID-19 case counts still worrisomely high, one question is becoming ever more urgent: What happens when the province runs out of capacity for critical care?

It is becoming more and more likely that doctors will have to make decisions about who does and does not get critical care in the event of a surge Anthony Dale, the president of the Ontario Hospital Association, recently told TVO.org that, based on Ontario Health projections, by February 24, we will absolutely have exceeded our health system’s capability of caring for COVID patients and all the other people needing other forms of life-saving care.

But there are serious concerns with both the content and the transparency of Ontario’s draft triage protocol, and advocates for people with disabilities say that even with changes incorporated at the behest of the disability community, they are at risk of human-rights violations and being denied care unjustly.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health-care systems around the world have been concerned about what might happen if the number of patients needing critical care resources, such as ventilators, exceeded the capacity of those resources. In some jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, this has already happened: first responders have been told to reserve oxygen and not to transport patients to the hospital whom they see as having little chance of survival. Making decisions about how to ration care sometimes referred to as triage is an option of last resort.

We already experience a form of triage whenever we go to the emergency room. In normal times, you’ll see a doctor sooner for chest pain than you would for a sprained ankle. In a mass-casualty event, such as a natural disaster, where there are limited resources in the field, triage is a way to make sure those resources get used effectively. The people most in need get them first.

A pandemic is similar to a mass-casualty event in that there are many people who need treatment and limited treatment resources. But triage in this context, where there are limits on equipment and available staff, involves excluding people from care. You can buy ventilators, James Downar, critical-care physician at the Ottawa Hospital and a member of the province’s bioethics table, told The Agenda this week. You can buy beds, and you can find space in a hospital. It’s a lot harder to get trained and expert staff to manage critically ill patients in a short period of time, and I think that’s more than likely going to be the limitation we hit.

The bioethics table completed a draft version of a triage protocol in March. Although the first version of it was never made public or formally adopted, it was circulated to hospitals and community organizations for their feedback. Immediately, advocates began to sound the alarm, due to clauses in the protocol they saw as discriminatory toward people with disabilities.

One of those advocates was Brian Dunne, executive director at Participation House Support Services in London, whose clients he describes as the people that long-term care won’t take. The clients living there are often medically fragile, and many use ventilators in their daily lives already. Under the original triage protocol, Dunne says, his clients would have been triaged to palliative care despite the fact that their disabilities are stable and they live in the community.

In order to treat its patients, PHSS set up a hospital space right in the building, where it can provide everything a hospital would, short of actual critical care, Dunne says, adding that the space is also used as the facility’s isolation ward for COVID-19 patients, which helps with infection control. We would do everything we can to save them, he says. While he notes that he has not been told his patients can’t come to the hospital, he says there’s generally a reluctance to treat them and an understanding that the hospital is a last resort: There’s kind of a general rule: do not send people here unless they absolutely need to go.

Dunne isn’t the only one concerned. David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, a disability consumer advocacy group, says that the first version of the protocol is grounded in a discriminatory approach to people with disabilities. The fact that experts that the government hand-picked in medicine and bioethics could write a protocol ridden with disability discrimination and bias is horribly disturbing, he says. The draft relies on a tool called the Clinical Frailty Scale, which assesses whether a patient can perform certain activities of daily living, such as getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and managing finances. Higher scores indicate greater frailty.

Because people with disabilities often have difficulty performing these tasks without assistance, he says, the use of this scale can result in discrimination against them or in a presumption of frailty when, in fact, the patient is stable. The CFS has not been validated as a triaging tool for younger people, and its was originally used to figure out which kinds of care should be provided to frail elderly patients, not which kinds of care they should be excluded from.

A statement from ARCH Disability Law Centre, an organization that provides legal assistance to people with disabilities, said that this constitutes discrimination against disabled people because it means that a disabled person will always be at a relative disadvantage to those without disabilities.

In effect, the Triage Protocol adopts the absence of a pre-existing disability as a qualification for prioritization in accessing critical care, the briefing note reads. The way in which the Triage Protocol currently operates, a person with a disability is much less likely, if ever, to be prioritized above a person without a disability. This concern is further exacerbated by the fact that a broad categorization of disabilities progressive disabilities is a criteria upon which a patient will be denied access to critical care. (ARCH did not respond to interview requests from TVO.org.)

The Bioethics Table did respond to feedback about this issue Lepofsky describes it as having been very responsive. In later versions of the draft protocol, the most recent of which was completed in December, the application of the CFS is more limited. Downar told The Agenda that it should be applied only to frail patients but did not provide additional explanation. The new version of the protocol, he said, triages based on expected survival time. Although this is an improvement in the eyes of disability advocates since progressive disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, or Parkinson’s disease, are not singled out Lepofsky noted on The Agenda that there is a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to expected survival time.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact that the government has not made the triage protocol public, advocates say. The latest version of the protocol does incorporate feedback from advocates, but, contrary to the table’s recommendations, it has not been widely distributed. (As with many COVID-19 policies, it’s the provincial government that decides whether it will be adopted the bioethics table does not have final say.) But Lepofsky says that the very fact that the first draft protocol circulated for so long could lead to medical professionals inadvertently applying old, discriminatory rules, possibly without even realizing: You can’t hit the clear button on their brains.

When the protocol was being revised, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told TVO.org via email that the Ministry of Health has asked the Bioethics Table to ensure that concerns and perspectives of those representing Indigenous people, black and racialized communities, persons with disabilities, and others who may be disproportionately affected by critical care triage due to systemic discrimination, are meaningfully considered and reflected in a revised protocol. (TVO.org has asked for an updated comment but did not hear back by publication time.)

In a series of letters written during the fall of 2020, Ena Chadha, the chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, called on the government to release the protocol not only to stakeholders but also to the wider public. The government, she wrote, should ensure that human rights is the primary guiding principle of any protocol and that any protocol should ensure that there is a legislative basis for whatever decisions are being made and have built-in accountability measures.

Chadha says that she recognizes that any protocol will necessarily result in decisions that exclude some people from treatment. I don’t know if we can create a protocol that completely eliminates all differential treatment, but what we could do is develop one that has differential treatment that doesn’t discriminate, so it isn’t based on stereotypes about people with disabilities and the quality of their lives, she says. The discrimination comes in when you’re relying on biases that just assume someone with a disability will not have a good quality of life.
Lepofsky says that is a major concern for those in the disability community, because of the stigma they already face: If a patient is nearing the end of their life, imagine the family being told, Well, what’s their quality of life?’ Studies have shown that disabled people tend to rate their own quality of life higher than medical professionals do.

Lepofsky says he doesn’t blame doctors for the situation. I’m totally sympathetic with them they go into medicine to save lives, not to decide you should not live.’

According to the CBC, hospitals in Ontario began sending out memos Wednesday about training critical-care physicians on triage. As of Friday morning, the protocol had not yet been officially released to the general public.

Time is of the essence, Lepofsky says: If you want to train [health-care staff], you need to train them now. In the States, they’re already doing some rationing. It’s not a hypothetical.

Ontario New Democratic Party January 18, 2021 Media Statement PRESS RELEASE
January 18, 2021
Ford’s secret triage protocols troubling: NDP

HAMILTON AND OTTAWA As hospitals continue to fill beyond capacity, the Ford government has issued a triage protocol to decide who will get life saving ventilator support, and who will not. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the protocol shows that the crisis in hospitals is out of control, and that Ford’s attempt to keep it secret is wrong.

This document shows us all that we are on the path to heart-wrenching choices and devastating loss if we don’t make this lockdown count with stronger measures paid sick days, more help in long-term care, and in-workplace and in-school testing, said Horwath. People that are loved dearly people that need medical help the most could be left to die if we do not make the choice to throw everything we’ve got at this virus.

The protocol, obtained by the NDP, is dated Jan. 13. It was wrong to keep it under wraps, said Horwath. Had physicians not reached out to the Official Opposition and others, the directive that was written in secret, without consultation, would remain a secret.

Joel Harden, NDP critic for Seniors as well as Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, said he agrees with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA), which has also read the protocols, and is raising concerns that some people, including those living with disabilities, could be denied care.

This shows that Ford knows how dire the situation is. And it leaves us all to ask why time and again, he keeps choosing half-measures, said Harden. There are people now forced to live in fear, believing that they may not get the care they deserve if they end up in the ICU.




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