Ontario Track 3 Ski Association


People with disabilities that love the outdoors, especially in the winter can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people with disabilities across Ontario the chance to learn and participate in skiing and snowboarding.

Ontario Track 3 Ski Association

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association teaches people with disabilities how to ski or snowboard. It began as a small organization in Collingwood where youth amputees learned to ski. These skiers use one ski and two outriggers, so that they make three tracks in the snow as they travel down a hill.

The organization has expanded and now serves people with a wide variety of disabilities across Ontario. For instance, the cities of London and Waterloo have their own regional affiliate organizations. In addition to amputees, programs also serve skiers and snowboarders with:

  • Physical disabilities, including wheelchair users
  • Visual disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities

Training and Equipment

The organization trains volunteer instructors who work with each skier or snowboarder individually. Instructors receive training on how best to teach skiers or snowboarders with particular disabilities. When athletes are first learning to ski or snowboard, they are tethered to their instructors for additional support. As the students gain skill, they no longer need the tethers.

Athletes who are wheelchair users ski using sit-skis, which they steer with their upper bodies. Athletes who are blind ski ahead of their instructors, who tell them when they need to turn or slow down. They often use two-way radio headsets to communicate over the noise of wind and snow.

Some skiers and snowboarders have their own equipment, but if athletes do not have their own equipment, the organization provides:

  • Skis
  • Sit-skis
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Snowboards
  • Two-way radio headsets

However, all athletes must bring their own helmets.

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people the chance to learn new sports in a safe but challenging environment. Every athlete learns to use their abilities, has fun, and stays active within their communities.



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Change In Ontario Law Creates Uncertainty For Service Dogs In Schools


“Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified?” By Bailey Martens

Fifteen-year-old Cameron Cadarette was a C student, struggling to stay in school in Windsor, Ont. until Vincent came along. The specifically trained golden Labrador helps the teen manage his post-traumatic stress disorder, and gain better focus in classes.

Cameron scratches his arms and legs until they bleed; Vincent is able to interrupt his self-harming behaviour by nudging the teen’s hand. The service animal also keeps the teen safe at night, waking him from night terrors and bringing him water bottles to help him catch his breath during an anxiety attack.

Two years later, Cameron holds an average of 95 per cent in Grade 9 and is able to have relationships with his peers. “He can meld into the school system and not be an outcast,” said his mother, Nicole McMillan.

But a recent change in Ontario’s Safe and Supportive Classroom Act is making McMillan and other families with students who use service animals nervous.

Vague nature of new section concerns dog handlers

A new section on service dogs, which was approved in April, notes that the education minister may create policies and guidelines, and require school boards to comply with them or create their own based on the minister’s parameters.

A draft policy is underway, the Ministry of Education told HuffPost Canada, that will “set out the framework and required components of board policies across the province resulting in greater consistency, transparency and clarity of process when requesting that a student be accompanied by a service animal in school.”

“We are committed to ensuring every student in Ontario has access to safe and supportive learning environments,” said a ministry statement, which noted that it’s aware of 39 of 72 school boards with active policies on service animals.

Still, the vague nature of the new section has left service dog handlers with more questions than answers.

“Nothing is actually changing because they’re just passing a bill that says the minister could do something,” said Deanna Allain, an Ontario-based service dog trainer and lobbyist. But the concern comes in the unknown: “The minister could ban all service dogs, that’s that’s how specific this legislation is.”

Emily Write has been working with her diabetic alert service dog Kailey for six years. Kailey is scent-trained to alert her handler to dangerous changes in blood sugar levels.

Write is nearing completion of her masters degree from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute For Studies In Education, and has been doing a required teaching placement at a Catholic school.

“I realize that we can’t just have anyone bring a dog in a school and that the dog does need to have appropriate training levels,” Write told HuffPost Canada. But the new addition in the law is not the way to go about it, she said.

With a lack of clear expectations, it provides no information on the process to bring a service dog to school. “Are all these school boards going to start saying that the dogs need to be certified, and who is going to monitor that? Because we don’t have a certification process,” said Write.

Uneven requirements across Canada

Currently, Ontario only requires a note from a medical professional outlining the need for a service dog. This is contrary to provinces like British Columbia, which mandates a certification test, or Alberta, where certification is voluntary. There’s no national standard or consistency across provincial laws, which becomes problematic when more public places are requesting proof of certifications. An increase in fraudulent registries and copycat harnesses and ID cards doesn’t help either.

Then there’s the issue of reporting complaints. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) that governs service animals does not have a formal complaint process. Write wonders why new service dog legislation would be implemented if it has no clear path to enforcement.

McMillan has fought complex policies before. Cameron’s service dog was initially denied by both the Greater Essex Public School Board and the Windsor-Essex County Catholic School Boards because they couldn’t recognize Vincent’s international training credentials from Florida.

The public school board has its own service dog policies and was considered complaint with the AODA. McMillan took their case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which said the issue was settled through mediation in 2017.

Cameron now attends a private school with Vincent by his side.

“All I want for him is an education that he has the right to,” said McMillan.

She feels the new section in provincial legislation can open doors, “but it’s also left room for interpretation, which in the long run, I think you’ll see some battles from families trying to … get their service dogs in schools that are adequately trained for their children.”

“It encourages empathy.
Emily Write

McMillan fears that families will go “school-district shopping” as they try to place students in schools with better service dog policies, as it appears the act’s new section would allow districts to have varying policies.

As a teacher in training, Write points out that service dogs benefit the whole classroom. “It encourages empathy,” she said. She noted how students she worked with, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 12, recognized when the classroom was getting too loud through Kailey’s changing body language and would respond accordingly.

“As an educator, that’s not something I ever knew: that by bringing a service dog into a classroom that it would not just benefit me but also benefit my students,” said Write.

Original at https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/ontario-service-dog-school-policy_ca_5d014863e4b0985c419705b8?utm_hp_ref=ca-living&guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS91cmw_cmN0PWomc2E9dCZ1cmw9aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaHVmZmluZ3RvbnBvc3QuY2EvZW50cnkvb250YXJpby1zZXJ2aWNlLWRvZy1zY2hvb2wtcG9saWN5X2NhXzVkMDE0ODYzZTRiMDk4NWM0MTk3MDViOCUzRnV0bV9ocF9yZWYlM0RjYS1saXZpbmcmY3Q9Z2EmY2Q9Q0FFWUFDb1VNVEEwTURnNE5qWXlNamN4TmpRek9Ea3dOemt5R2pGa1l6QTJOVFF5TjJaa00yRmhORFE2WTI5dE9tVnVPbFZUJnVzZz1BRlFqQ05FYXZiTTdqeDFZUTE3OXVRcElabkxsekNFYWl3&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACquXyzeRYfHimJ7dPggreypPKVGbaamqEGxlH9Uk4ADtqTX1oq4Z9iLbgCR6CbQJnTKndTqxxv46eR0LjoXnjQiw4Hrghk0WMoSBP29oaXjuJRmjiQDiK4FwzCtSCFbPeFxMBtOqn8QQudOe6E704VNYOn41BsqlM1OwhPgwcGA



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During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

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

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”
  1. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

  1. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

  1. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

  1. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

  1. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

So—What Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during

debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

          MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

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

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK — The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden

Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 — a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do — making Ontario more accessible — plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents – its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as

the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford

Leader, Ontario PC Party



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During National Access Abilities Week, Ontario NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden Presented a Proposed Resolution for Debate in the Legislature that Called On the Ford Government to Create a Plan to Implement the Report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


There are Many Good Reasons Why the Ford Government Should Support this Proposed Resolution

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

June 10, 2019

SUMMARY

A Commendable Effort to Advance the Goal of Accessibility for 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

Marking Canada’s National Accessibility Abilities Week, Ontario NDP MPP and Accessibility Critic Joel Harden proposed a resolution in the Ontario Legislature for debate on Thursday May 30, 2019. The resolution called on the Government to come up with a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Government-appointed Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The proposed resolution stated:

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

We appreciate MPP Harden’s bringing forward this proposed resolution for debate in the Legislature. This is an important issue for over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities.

The Onley report found that Ontario remains full of soul-crushing accessibility barriers. It concluded that Ontario is still mostly inaccessible to people with disabilities, and is not a place where people with disabilities can fully participate as equals. It recommended strong new action to substantially speed up progress in Ontario on accessibility, so that Ontario can reach the goal of full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

Why the Ford Government Should Support MPP Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution

For several reasons, the Ford Government has every reason to find this proposed resolution agreeable, and to support it:

* Last December, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated that the Government was awaiting the Onley Report before it decided how it would proceed in the area of disability accessibility. the Ford Government has now had the Onley Report in its hands since January 31, 2019, a total of 131 days. The Government has shown itself ready and willing to act decisively and very quickly on issues that it considers important.

* The Ford Government has been eager to show voters that it takes a different and better approach to governing Ontario than did the previous Government. The Onley Report shows that the former Government did a poor job of implementing and enforcing the AODA. The new Ford Government has an incentive to do a much better job at this.

* On April 10, 2019, Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho said that David Onley did a “marvelous job” in this report. Speaking for the Ford Government in the Legislature, the minister acknowledged that Ontario is not yet even 30% along the way to becoming accessible.

* MPP Harden’s proposed resolution in key ways tracks commitments that Doug Ford and the Ontario Conservatives made to Ontarians with disabilities during the 2018 Ontario general election. It is in line with the Ford Government’s core messages:

1. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance (set out below), spelling out the PC Party’s election pledges on accessibility, Doug Ford committed that our issues regarding accessibility “are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates.”

2. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford recognized:

“Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.”

The Onley Report reached the same conclusion.

3. The Onley Report found that Ontario is clearly not on schedule to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

4. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a new plan of action for improved enforcement of the AODA, as the Onley Report recommended. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford committed:

“An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.”

5. MPP Harden’s proposed resolution calls for new accessibility standards in the area of the built environment and new accessibility training for design professionals (such as architects). The Onley Report showed the need for such actions. In his May 15, 2018 letter, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

6. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution calls for a plan to ensure that public money is never used to create new disability barriers. The Ford Government has emphasized that it wants to ensure that public money is always used responsibly. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford promised a change from the ” government mismanagement” of the previous Government. No one disputes that using public money to create new accessibility barriers is a form of “government mismanagement.”

* Such resolutions in the Legislature are not legally binding. However, they can be viewed as a strong political statement. The Ford Government should not want to be seen as voting against so straightforward a resolution that is important to so many Ontarians, especially since it has repeatedly called itself the “Government for the People.”

* The proposed resolution was worded in a neutral and tempered way. It gives the Government a great deal of flexibility on what it could include in a plan to implement the Onley Report, on what to include in an accessibility standard to address the built environment, on how to strengthen AODA enforcement, and on how to ensure that public money is no longer used to create new accessibility barriers. The resolution’s wording neither states nor implies any criticism of the Government, nor any partisan arguments or claims against the Ford Government.

* When the Ontario Conservatives last formed a government in Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris, they voted for each of the three resolutions on proposed accessibility legislation that the opposition presented in the Legislature on behalf of the AODA Alliance’s predecessor coalition, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee. For a trip down memory lane, check out the text of the different resolutions which the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed on May 16, 1996, October 29, 1998 and November 23, 1999 regarding the need for accessibility legislation in Ontario.

What Happened in the Legislature on the Day Before It Was to Debate Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?

How would the Ford Government respond to this proposed resolution? On May 29, 2019, the day before Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was scheduled to be debated in the Legislature, Mr. Harden raised this in Question Period. He Pressed the Government to commit to action to make disability accessibility a priority, given that it was then National Access Ability Week. Below we set out the transcript of the exchange that day during Question Period. We offer these observations about that exchange:

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.”

The Government has elsewhere said this would lead to certification or audit of 250 buildings over two years.

We have serious and substantial concerns with this. First, as reiterated in our May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, we have for years made it clear that we do not agree with investing public money in a private accessibility certification process, no matter who is operating it. It is an inappropriate use of public money. The Government should instead spend that money on AODA implementation and enforcement.

Second, the minister said that the Rick Hansen Foundation is conducting those building audits as “us” i.e. the Ontario Government. Yet there is no public accountability for this private accessibility certification process, for the measures of accessibility it chooses to use, and for how it goes about its business. If the Ontario Government is to do a building audit, it should be conducted by public auditors with a public mandate and public accountability, based on accessibility standards that the public sets through the Government.

2. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho understandably blamed the previous Liberal Government for insufficient action on accessibility. However, the minister then cast some of the blame on the New Democratic Party for the former Liberal Government’s poor record on accessibility. The minister said:

“The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.”

While we don’t wade into partisan political bickering in the Legislature, we are not aware of any support by the NDP of the former Government’s slow action on accessibility. To the contrary, the NDP helped us press the previous Liberal Government to take swifter action on accessibility.

3. The Minister for Accessibility and Seniors also stated:

“Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report.”

It is true that the Ford Government made public the Onley Report quicker than the previous Government made public the 2010 AODA Independent Review by Charles Beer or the 2014 AODA Independent Review report by Mayo Moran.

However, by May 29, 2019, the date of this exchange in Question Period in the Legislature, the Ford Government had had ample time to study the Onley Report and arrive at a plan of action.

SoWhat Happened with Joel Harden’s Proposed Resolution?
So, what happened to Joel Harden’s proposed resolution? Was it passed or defeated during
debates in the Legislature on May 30, 2019? For the answer to this suspenseful question, watch for the next AODA Alliance Update. Same AODA Alliance time. Same AODA Alliance channel!

Below we set out:

* The text of NDP MPP Joel Harden’s resolution that he presented to the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019.

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 27, 2019 news release, announcing that his proposed resolution would be debated in the Legislature on May 30, 2019

* NDP MPP Joel Harden’s guest column in the May 30, 2019 Ottawa Citizen. It explained the resolution that Mr. Harden was seeking to get the Legislature to pass that day. It refers, among other things, to the AODA Alliances efforts on accessibility, and to the online video about public transit accessibility barriers that we made public in May, 2018, and

* A transcript of the May 29, 2019 question that MPP Joel Harden asked the Ford Government during Question Period regarding his proposed resolution on the AODA.

* Text of the May 15, 2018 letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s 2018 election promises on disability accessibility.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Private Member’s Motion by Joel Harden, NDP Accessibility Critic, Debated in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019

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

May 27, 2019 Ontario NDP News Release

May 27th, 2019

NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre calls on Ford to implement recommendations from AODA third review

QUEEN’S PARK The Ontario NDP critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, Joel Harden (Ottawa Centre), held a press conference today to introduce his private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from David Onley’s third legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

“The over 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities face constant barriers to their participation in areas including employment, education, health care and recreation,” Harden said. “As the population ages, the number of people living with a disability will grow.”

The AODA seeks to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025; every three years, an independent reviewer is appointed to assess the Act’s effectiveness.

“Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley’s third legislative review of the AODA, which was informed by consultations with the disability community and tabled in the Legislature on March 8, makes the disconcerting assertion that, ‘For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity, but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers,’” said Harden.

“The Liberals dragged their feet on meeting the AODA’s target, and now the Ford Conservatives are dragging Ontario further backwards, neglecting to lay out a plan of action to implement Onley’s recommendations. The recommendations include a commitment to implementing new standards for Ontario’s built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals such as architects and an assurance that public funds won’t be used to create new accessibility barriers.”

At the conference, Harden was joined by Shanthiya Baheerathan of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario and Kate Chung of the Older Women’s Network, who both spoke about the need for a more accessible Ontario.

“I, myself, had to fight for years to have my disability recognized and accommodated by my university, and in that process I lost years of my life,” Baheerathan relayed. “Enforcing AODA would work towards ensuring that no other 18-year-old need to waste time overcoming barriers and advocating for an accessible space to learn. Instead, they could use that time and energy to actually learn.”

Chung said it won’t cost the government anything to change building code standards to ensure housing is built accessibly for the many Ontario seniors and people with disabilities who need it. “Yet, it will save millions in health care dollars for vast numbers of people, it will reduce the demand for long-term care beds, and end ‘bed-blocking’ in hospitals.”

“Ontarians with disabilities deserve to have a government that listens to their needs and takes concrete action to reduce the barriers that prevent them from enjoying a full life. The Ford government must act now and implement the Onley report’s key recommendations,” Harden said.

Harden’s motion will be debated in the Legislature on May 30.

Ottawa Citizen May 30, 2019

Originally posted at: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/harden-ontarios-accessibility-standards-are-falling-woefully-short

Harden: Ontario’s accessibility standards are falling woefully short

Joel Harden
?
Outgoing Ontario Lieutenant-Governor David Onley is saluted while arriving for his last full day in office at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Monday, September 22, 2014. A former Ontario lieutenant-governor tasked with reviewing the disability legislation says the province is nowhere near meeting its stated goal of full accessibility by 2025. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

For an able-bodied person, whether the pillars on the platform of a train station or bus stop are straight or angled is easily taken for granted. For someone who is sight impaired, an angled pillar can mean the difference between constantly bumping one’s head or shoulder on a part of the pillar that can’t be anticipated by a cane, or being able to commute without threat of pain or injury.

This distinction, which David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, demonstrates in a video he posted online last spring, is just one of countless examples of Ontario’s standards of accessibility falling short of the disability community’s needs.

For the more than 1.9 million Ontarians who live with disabilities, lack of accessibility is an ongoing barrier to participation in things like education, employment, transit and recreation. From public space design to health care to public information, Ontario’s accessibility standards are nowhere near where they need to be to meet peoples’ needs, nor where the province pledged they would be in the 2005 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

On Thursday, the legislative assembly at Queen’s Park will debate my private member’s motion, which calls on the Ford government to implement key recommendations from the third legislative review of the AODA. The AODA mandates the standards that public, private and non-profit sector entities must adhere to in the areas of customer service, public space design, communications, transportation and employment. It has set a firm deadline to make Ontario fully accessible for people with disabilities by the year 2025 a target that, in 2019, no longer feels far off.

To ensure the AODA stays on track, every three years, an independent, non-partisan reviewer is appointed to consult with the disability community and assess whether the AODA and its standards are doing what they’re supposed to do making Ontario more accessible plus recommending additional steps as needed, to meet the 2025 obligation.

Conducted by David Onley, the former lieutenant governor of Ontario and a disability rights advocate, the AODA’s third review should be a major call to action for Ontarians, and certainly, for the Ford government. Onley’s report paints a grim picture of the status quo for people with disabilities in this province, and portrays the sluggish pace at which Ontario is moving when it comes to setting or enforcing accessibility standards.

In his report, submitted to the Ford government on Jan. 31, 2019, Onley writes that the AODA’s vision has turned out to be “a mirage.”

“Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents its able-bodied residents,” he writes. “For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

Onley’s words echo the frustrations I heard from the dozens of Ontarians living with disabilities who traveled from across the province to attend an April 10 town hall on accessibility that our office held at Queen’s Park. Several of my fellow NDP MPPs joined Lepofsky, Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, and myself, to listen to account after account of people fed up with Ontario’s agonizingly slow progress towards accessibility. Many spoke of the daily barriers they face that stop them living full lives.

Onley’s key recommendations to the government include committing to implementing new standards for our built environment, stronger enforcement of the AODA, accessibility training for design professionals and an assurance that public money never again be used to create new accessibility barriers.

The Ford Conservatives should establish a clear plan of action for getting Ontario on track to meet its AODA obligations. I invite the government to vote with the NDP on Thursday, and implement Onley’s key recommendations right away, so that Ontarians with disabilities no longer have to wait to live the full lives they deserve.

Joel Harden is the Ontario NDP critic for accessibility and persons with disabilities, as well as the MPP for Ottawa Centre.

Ontario Hansard May 29, 2019

Question Period

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: My question is for the Premier. This week is National AccessAbility Week. While we’ve made strides and progress in this province, it’s thanks to disability rights activists around our towns and cities. Unfortunately, the previous government paid lip service to the goal of accessibility, and this government is on track to do the same.

During the election campaign, the Premier promised stronger enforcement of accessibility laws, a clear strategy to meet accessibility standards, examining our building code requirements for accessibility provisions and requiring design professionals to have accessibility training. But we didn’t hear any announcement in the budget on this, and I’m wondering why there’s no prioritization of accessibility during National AccessAbility Week for this government.

Hon. Victor Fedeli: To the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I thank the member of the opposition for raising the important question. I want to assure this House that this government takes our responsibilities for Ontarians living with disabilities very seriously.

Last week, we announced further details of our plan to partner with the Rick Hansen Foundation on their building certification program. This $1.3 million that we’re investing will allow us to perform accessibility audits on over 200 buildings over the next two years.

We know there’s more to do, but it’s also time for real action and we are taking it right now.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question.

Mr. Joel Harden: To put that in perspective, to what the minister said, $1.3 million is less than what the Premier of this government is spending on his own personal lawyer in his office, Mr. Gavin Tighe.

People with disabilities deserve more from this government. We know that the last government talked a great talk but delivered very little. We know that Queen’s Park, the very building in which you and I are working, is not fully accessible. That is true across this province: Health care, education, transportation and our spaces of recreation remain inaccessible, Speaker, and we are obliged by law to make this province fully accessible by 2025.

Tomorrow, we are going to be introducing a private member’s motion that will require us, as a Legislature, to set clear targets on accessibility. I have a very clear question for the Premier or for the minister: Will you be supporting this motion tomorrow?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: I will repeat what the opposition member said. The previous government for the last 15 years did very little, like the Honourable David Onley said. The last 15 years, the NDP supported the last government, so you are on the same team.

The soul-crushing barriers Mr. Onley outlined were also highlighted in the first two AODA reviews by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran. This report is an indictment of the previous government, which your party supported for 15 years.

Our government is carefully reviewing Mr. Onley’s report, which we made public faster than either previous report. I will respond to your motion tomorrow.

May 15, 2018 Letter from PC Leader Doug Ford to the AODA Alliance

May 15, 2018

David Lepofsky, Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance)

Dear David,

The Ontario PC Party is pleased to respond to the AODA Alliance’s survey for the 2018 Ontario election. Our team is focused on providing a clear alternative to voters. After 15 years of high taxes and government mismanagement under the Wynne Liberals, the people of Ontario are ready for change.

Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.

Too many Ontarians with disabilities still face barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, get an education, use our healthcare system, buy goods or services, or eat in restaurants.

Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.

For the Ontario PCs, this remains our goal. Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.

Christine Elliott, our former Health Critic and Deputy Leader, has been a tireless advocate for Ontarians with disabilities. Ms. Elliott called to establish the Select Committee on Developmental Services, with a mandate to develop a comprehensive developmental services strategy for children, youth and adults in Ontario with an intellectual disability or who are dually diagnosed with an intellectual disability and a mental illness.

When it comes to people with disabilities, we have a moral and an economic responsibility to focus on their abilities and not just on what holds them back. Our family members, friends and neighbours who have a disability of some kind are a wellspring of talent and determination.

There’s no good reason why a person with a disability should not be able to cast a vote in an election. It’s also completely unacceptable that someone should be passed over for a job because of the myth that people with disabilities can’t do the work. We have a moral and social responsibility to change this.

This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.

The Ontario PC Party believes our education system must minimize barriers for students with disabilities, providing the skills, opportunities and connections with the business community that are necessary to enter the workforce.

Building a strong, open dialogue with your organization is most certainly a priority for our party. We encourage you to continue this dialogue and share your ideas and solutions for Ontarians with disabilities.

When I am elected Premier on June 7th, I promise I will focus on investing in the priorities that matter most to the people of Ontario. Jobs and economic development will be a key focus, and Ontario will be open for business again.

In the coming weeks, our team will be releasing our platform of policies and priorities and a clear vision for a prosperous Ontario.

If you have any further questions please feel free to reach out at any time.

Sincerely,

Doug Ford
Leader, Ontario PC Party



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Man Challenges Ontario Pot Rules, Argues Discrimination Against People With Disabilities


By Paola Loriggio The Canadian Press

TORONTO A Toronto man who uses a wheelchair has filed a human rights complaint challenging Ontario’s cannabis sales regulations, arguing the province’s system discriminates against those with disabilities and limited financial means.

Ken Harrower, who uses cannabis to relieve symptoms from a condition affecting his joints and other medical issues, says the city has too few private retail stores, which he alleges are not wheelchair-accessible.

He also alleges the province’s government-run online cannabis store is too slow to deliver the product and too expensive for those on government assistance or without credit.

“I often need (cannabis) urgently for pain relief and to help me to sleep. I need cannabis on an on-demand basis,” he said Wednesday in a news conference.

“I am on (the Ontario Disability Support Program) and have very limited funds that barely cover my day-to-day expenses, I do not have enough money or the ability to purchase through the (Ontario Cannabis Store) system because I do not have available credit.”

Harrower, 57, said he faces the same financial barriers and delays trying to purchase medicinal cannabis, which is also sold online.

His lawyer, Selwyn Pieters, said he hopes the case brings change to Ontario’s “flawed and undignified” cannabis sales system.

“The poorly planned, phased approach for the roll-out of retail cannabis outlets as outlined by the Ontario government has neglected to take into account the needs of all Canadians,” he said.

Pieters said they will be asking the tribunal for an expedited hearing to deal with the case, and are seeking a stay on enforcement of the cannabis regulations until the issues highlighted in the complaint are resolved.

That would allow illegal dispensaries where Harrower said he was previously able to obtain cannabis once or twice a day to operate. Harrower said several dispensaries he used to buy from have been shut down by police.

The Ontario government did not immediately respond to a request for comment but has previously said it had to cap the number of retail cannabis stores at 25 indefinitely due to a national supply shortage.

The province’s first private brick-and-mortar cannabis stores opened their doors on April 1, though not all those approved are ready for business even a month later. Licences for stores are granted through a lottery system followed by an approval process.

The provincial corporation tasked with the online sale and distribution of recreational cannabis also recently cancelled its tender for couriers to make same-day deliveries on pot orders.

The website faced criticism in the weeks after it launched last fall as consumers reported lengthy delivery delays and product shortages.

An organization that advocates for safe and responsible cannabis retailing practices, the Canadian Cannabis Retailers’ Union, is seeking to intervene in the human rights challenge.

The group’s lawyer, Jack Lloyd, said the case raises serious questions about the province’s obligations to consumers both as a pot seller and distributor, and as the body regulating private sales of cannabis.

Lloyd said while cannabis supply is a national issue, the sales structure is provincial purview and the Ontario government has “regulated itself into this position.”

“It’s fairly urgent that the government act here,” he said.

Original at https://globalnews.ca/news/5226042/ontario-pot-challenge-discriminate-people-with-disabilities/



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Accessibility For Ontario Government Offices


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. This article will outline accessible customer service for municipal and provincial government offices. Accessible government offices ensure that residents of all abilities can participate in their local governments and access needed services.

Accessibility For Ontario Government Offices

Structural Features

Government offices can welcome residents with assistive devices, like wheelchairs and scooters, when they have accessible structural features. For instance, some accessible features are:

  • Accessible Parking
  • Ramped or level entrances
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways
  • Lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Wide aisles and paths of travel
  • Service counters that accommodate residents using mobility devices

Other features can also help government offices become more accessible. For instance, good lighting will help residents who are Deaf communicate visually. Lighting is also important for residents who are visually impaired. Furthermore, accessible seating in meeting areas will ensure that residents with assistive devices can observe or participate in government. Likewise, residents with invisible physical disabilities who cannot stand while being served or waiting in line may need seating near counters or near line areas. Staff may need to direct residents to this seating and alert them when it is their turn to be served.

Signage

Moreover, signage is also important. Signs should:

  • Include detailed information for residents with hearing disabilities
  • Use clear language or pictures for residents with intellectual disabilities
  • Be at eye level for residents at wheelchair and standing heights
  • Have large print and good colour contrast for residents with visual impairments
  • Include Braille for residents who are blind

In addition, room names or numbers in Braille and large print will allow more residents to navigate buildings independently.

Contact Information

Finally, government offices should provide multiple contact methods for customers to get in touch with them, including:

  • Phone and teletypewriter (TTY) numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Accessible websites, including contact forms and ways to book appointments online

Our next article will cover how accessible government offices can provide information in ways that are inclusive for all residents.



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Funding for Customer Service Accessibility in Ontario


The Customer Service Standards of the AODA give service providers guidelines on making their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Some of the standards’ regulations involve accessible building features or equipment. For instance, providers must train workers to use any devices or equipment the provider may have that help customers with disabilities access goods and services.  Likewise, providers must notify the public when services that customers with disabilities rely on are temporarily unavailable. Therefore, this article will look at different types of funding for customer service accessibility.

Some providers may feel that installing accessible features or equipment would be too costly. However, this assumption is not true. Moreover, the standards do not mandate that providers must retrofit their buildings to be accessible unless parts of those buildings are being redeveloped. Similarly, the Standards do not require providers to have equipment or features on-site that would increase their accessibility. However, providers can serve more customers and receive more positive feedback if they install accessible building features or equipment.

Funding for Customer Service Accessibility

Features to Fund

Providers can offer many different features, equipment, or services to make their locations more welcoming to customers with disabilities. For instance, some features, equipment, or services that providers can offer are:

Accessible building features, such as:

  • Ramps
  • Automatic doors
  • Widened doorways or pathways
  • Elevators
  • Accessible washrooms
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Accessible counters

Computer equipment, such as:

  • Large monitors
  • Different kinds of accessible keyboards
  • Track balls or joysticks
  • Braille displays or embossers
  • Screen reading software or magnification software
  • Speech recognition software

Communication services or equipment, such as:

  • Sign language interpretation and captioning for events
  • Video description
  • Assistive listening systems
  • Teletypewriters
  • Communication boards
  • Augmentative or alternative communication devices

Providers can improve their accessibility by applying for funding from several agencies. Different agencies have specific criteria. For instance:

  • What kinds of equipment or projects are funded
  • Who is or is not eligible
  • When or how often applications are accepted
  • What percentage of cost is covered
  • The process of applying and receiving the grant or equipment

For more information about a specific funding source, visit its website.

Federal Funding

The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) offers frequent opportunities for organizations to apply for grants. These grants fund capital projects that make a workplace or community more accessible for workers or citizens with disabilities. Furthermore, the small projects component of the program offers grants of up to $100,000 per project. Based on criteria of individual grants offered, organizations may apply for funding to construct, renovate or retrofit buildings, or to install technology.

Provincial Funding

Likewise, the Ontario Trillium Foundation also provides capital grants to help citizens be fully involved in their communities. Grants are between $5,000 and $150,000, for the term of one year. In addition to larger community projects like buying land and renovating community spaces, funding can support smaller, organization-specific projects, such as:

  • Buying equipment
  • Construction, renovation, or repair, including developing plans, legal fees, or survey costs

Organizations must apply for funding and later report on how they use it. The Foundation gives applicants the final ten percent of their grants when they submit their reports.

Local Funding

Finally, individual cities may also provide funding.

The above sources of funding for customer service accessibility allow providers to improve their premises or the equipment they offer. As the number of Ontarians with disabilities rises, providers with more accessible features will attract more and more customers.



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A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition


Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day

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

March 14, 2019

SUMMARY

Here is some potentially good news for students with disabilities in Ontario.

On Monday, March 11, 2019, the Ford Government made an announcement about measures it plans to take to address the expected influx of children and youth with autism into Ontario schools as a result of provincial cuts to pre-existing autism services that those children previously received. Amidst the details of that announcement by Ontario’s Ministry of Education were these two sentences on the Ministry’s website which got little attention.

“The ministry will also host a series of virtual sessions about exclusions and modified days to engage parents, educators, administrators and others in a dialogue about these complex issues. The details will be communicated at a later date.”

Here is a joint statement by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

“This is a small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.

As the Globe and Mail exposed in articles earlier this year, students with a range of different disabilities, who have a right to an education in Ontario schools, too often can be directed by their school or principal either that they may not come to school at all or that they can only come to school for part of the school day. On January 30, 2019, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park and issued a joint news release. We called on the Ford Government to take action to redress this recurring and systemic unfairness, including two immediate steps:

1. To now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this problem.

2. In the interim, to immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school for all or part of a school day.

It is helpful that the Ford Government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue of schools refusing to admit a student to school or reducing the length of their school day. This is the Government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the Government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.

However, this should be done by face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders, not through “virtual” or online input-gathering. The Government must allow for the direct in-person engagement of all stakeholders together, which is necessary to find effective solutions. As part of this,

We repeat our call that the Government now bring together at a summit meeting leaders of key organizations of stakeholders such as parents and families of students with disabilities, students themselves, teachers, principals and school boards. Get us around one table.

As well, we need the Government to rein in the obvious excesses that can and do now occur at Ontario schools. The Government can issue a policy direction to school boards on this in no time.

For example, the Government should now direct all school boards that when a principal refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, the student and family should be given the reason for this. A time limit for this should be specified.

They should be told about their right to appeal. The Ontario Government should require each school board to record a student’s absence from school for all or part of a school day by a unique attendance code.

At present, it is harmful that the Ontario Government directs school boards to use a more general attendance code which makes it impossible to know how many students or how many school days are affected by these exclusions from school.

None of these new policy directions would cost any money. Who could oppose such obvious and simple measures?

The March 11, 2019 Government announcement was made in the context of ongoing problems with the Ford Government’s treatment of children with autism. This issue pertains to all students with any kind of disabilities, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is important for this issue to be seen as part of the broader need to tear down the many disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. It is also important for the tremendous outpouring and advocacy efforts in opposition to the Ford Government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program to be seen in this broader context. Even though children and youth with autism have gotten a great deal of recent public and media attention, all students with disabilities need to have their learning needs effectively met in Ontario’s education system. It is our shared aim that this recent outpouring can be effectively harnessed to ensure that all students with disabilities can benefit from improved Government action.”

The Globe and Mail today reported on this news. We set out that article below. This is the third time our issues have been in the media this week.

This Globe article bears an inaccurate headline. The headline makes it sound like the Ford Government is only looking into the issue of refusing to admit students to school who have autism. In fact, as the text of the article accurately reports (but not the headline), the announcement relates to students with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with autism. This headline error was understandable since the Government’s announcement of this consultation is included in a larger Government announcement about students with autism.

The AODA Alliance is conducting a survey of all Ontario school boards to learn about their policies and practices regarding refusals to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day. So far, a clear majority of school boards have not answered our survey, even though it was sent to them some six weeks ago.

As we set out in the January 24, AODA Alliance Update, last year, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board made a detailed recommendation on what the policy should be regarding the power to exclude a student from school for all or part of the school day.

More Details

The Globe and Mail March 14, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-to-look-into-school-exclusions-of-children-with-autism/ Ontario to look into school exclusions of children with autism

CAROLINE ALPHONSO EDUCATION REPORTER

The Ontario government will examine the issue of students with complex needs being excluded from school after demands from disability advocates that the practice be halted.

The government said earlier this week, as part of an announcement on supports for schools related to the province’s autism program, that it would hold “virtual sessions” on exclusions and modified days with parents, educators and others.

The details will be shared at a later date, Kayla Iafelice, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said on Wednesday.

The issue of indefinite exclusions from school has been top-of-mind for many parents as Doug Ford’s government implements changes to the province’s autism program. Families who currently receive full funding for intensive therapy will receive only a fraction of it after April 1, when funding will be distributed based on a child’s age and household income.

School districts have said they are expecting a number of children with complex needs who were on modified schedules to attend full-time if their parents cannot make up for the lost funding.

The Ministry of Education said in its release on Monday that it would also survey school boards regularly “to assess the impact of increased school enrolment and attendance by children and youth with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] as they transition into the school system.”

Earlier this year, a Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children in many parts of the country who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their school day later or keep them home for an indefinite period because of behavioural issues.

Aside from school districts in North Vancouver and Greater Victoria that passed motions in the fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, most school boards do not formally track these exclusions.

But parent and advocacy groups surveys have documented a rise in frequency.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government’s plan to have virtual discussions is a “small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.”

Mr. Lepofsky’s group and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which advocates for families, have been calling on the government to hold public discussions on possible legislation and policy changes surrounding exclusions of special-needs students with behavioural issues. The groups have also asked the government to issue a policy directive to school boards in the interim that would require principals to tell families why a child is being excluded and specify a time limit.

The Globe’s story in January highlighted the plight of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old with autism and behavioural issues who was expelled from his school in Guelph, Ont. The expulsion followed an incident in which Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare – they involve a principal’s report and a hearing by a school board committee. Disability advocates say exclusions are far more common and are typically informal; parents will be given oral notice of a decision made at a principal’s discretion.

Mr. Lepofsky said it is “helpful that the Ford government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue” of exclusions.

He added: “This is the government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.”



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A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

A Modest Interim Victory for Joint Efforts by the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition — Ford Government Agrees to Consult on Practices of Schools Refusing to Admit some Students with Disabilities to School for All or Part of The School Day

March 14, 2019

          SUMMARY

Here is some potentially good news for students with disabilities in Ontario.

On Monday, March 11, 2019, the Ford Government made an announcement about measures it plans to take to address the expected influx of children and youth with autism into Ontario schools as a result of provincial cuts to pre-existing autism services that those children previously received. Amidst the details of that announcement by Ontario’s Ministry of Education were these two sentences on the Ministry’s website which got little attention.

“The ministry will also host a series of virtual sessions about exclusions and modified days to engage parents, educators, administrators and others in a dialogue about these complex issues. The details will be communicated at a later date.”

Here is a joint statement by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition:

“This is a small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.

As the Globe and Mail exposed in articles earlier this year, students with a range of different disabilities, who have a right to an education in Ontario schools, too often can be directed by their school or principal either that they may not come to school at all or that they can only come to school for part of the school day. On January 30, 2019, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park and issued a joint news release. We called on the Ford Government to take action to redress this recurring and systemic unfairness, including two immediate steps:

  1. To now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this problem.
  1. In the interim, to immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school for all or part of a school day.

It is helpful that the Ford Government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue of schools refusing to admit a student to school or reducing the length of their school day. This is the Government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the Government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.

However, this should be done by face-to-face meetings with all stakeholders, not through “virtual” or online input-gathering. The Government must allow for the direct in-person engagement of all stakeholders together, which is necessary to find effective solutions. As part of this,

We repeat our call that the Government now bring together at a summit meeting leaders of key organizations of stakeholders such as parents and families of students with disabilities, students themselves, teachers, principals and school boards. Get us around one table.

As well, we need the Government to rein in the obvious excesses that can and do now occur at Ontario schools. The Government can issue a policy direction to school boards on this in no time.

For example, the Government should now direct all school boards that when a principal refuses to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, the student and family should be given the reason for this. A time limit for this should be specified.

They should be told about their right to appeal. The Ontario Government should require each school board to record a student’s absence from school for all or part of a school day by a unique attendance code.

At present, it is harmful that the Ontario Government directs school boards to use a more general attendance code which makes it impossible to know how many students or how many school days are affected by these exclusions from school.

None of these new policy directions would cost any money. Who could oppose such obvious and simple measures?

The March 11, 2019 Government announcement was made in the context of ongoing problems with the Ford Government’s treatment of children with autism. This issue pertains to all students with any kind of disabilities, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It is important for this issue to be seen as part of the broader need to tear down the many disability barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. It is also important for the tremendous outpouring and advocacy efforts in opposition to the Ford Government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program to be seen in this broader context. Even though children and youth with autism have gotten a great deal of recent public and media attention, all students with disabilities  need to have their learning needs effectively met in Ontario’s education system. It is our shared aim that this recent outpouring can be effectively harnessed to ensure that all students with disabilities can benefit from improved Government action.”

The Globe and Mail today reported on this news. We set out that article below. This is the third time our issues have been in the media this week.

This Globe article bears an inaccurate headline. The headline makes it sound like the Ford Government is only looking into the issue of refusing to admit students to school who have autism. In fact, as the text of the article accurately reports (but not the headline), the announcement relates to students with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with autism. This headline error was understandable since the Government’s announcement of this consultation is included in a larger Government announcement about students with autism.

The AODA Alliance is conducting a survey of all Ontario school boards to learn about their policies and practices regarding refusals to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day. So far, a clear majority of school boards have not answered our survey, even though it was sent to them some six weeks ago.

As we set out in the January 24, AODA Alliance Update, last year, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board made a detailed recommendation on what the policy should be regarding the power to exclude a student from school for all or part of the school day.

More Details

The Globe and Mail March 14, 2019

Originally posted at: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-to-look-into-school-exclusions-of-children-with-autism/

Ontario to look into school exclusions of children with autism

CAROLINE ALPHONSO EDUCATION REPORTER

The Ontario government will examine the issue of students with complex needs being excluded from school after demands from disability advocates that the practice be halted.

The government said earlier this week, as part of an announcement on supports for schools related to the province’s autism program, that it would hold “virtual sessions” on exclusions and modified days with parents, educators and others.

The details will be shared at a later date, Kayla Iafelice, a spokeswoman for Education Minister Lisa Thompson, said on Wednesday.

The issue of indefinite exclusions from school has been top-of-mind for many parents as Doug Ford’s government implements changes to the province’s autism program. Families who currently receive full funding for intensive therapy will receive only a fraction of it after April 1, when funding will be distributed based on a child’s age and household income.

School districts have said they are expecting a number of children with complex needs who were on modified schedules to attend full-time if their parents cannot make up for the lost funding.

The Ministry of Education said in its release on Monday that it would also survey school boards regularly “to assess the impact of increased school enrolment and attendance by children and youth with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] as they transition into the school system.”

Earlier this year, a Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children in many parts of the country who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up children early, start their school day later or keep them home for an indefinite period because of behavioural issues.

Aside from school districts in North Vancouver and Greater Victoria that passed motions in the fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, most school boards do not formally track these exclusions.

But parent and advocacy groups surveys have documented a rise in frequency.

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the government’s plan to have virtual discussions is a “small preliminary step in the right direction, for which we can claim a modest interim victory.”

Mr. Lepofsky’s group and the Ontario Autism Coalition, which advocates for families, have been calling on the government to hold public discussions on possible legislation and policy changes surrounding exclusions of special-needs students with behavioural issues. The groups have also asked the government to issue a policy directive to school boards in the interim that would require principals to tell families why a child is being excluded and specify a time limit.

The Globe’s story in January highlighted the plight of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old with autism and behavioural issues who was expelled from his school in Guelph, Ont. The expulsion followed an incident in which Grayson struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare – they involve a principal’s report and a hearing by a school board committee. Disability advocates say exclusions are far more common and are typically informal; parents will be given oral notice of a decision made at a principal’s discretion.

Mr. Lepofsky said it is “helpful that the Ford government has now announced that it is prepared to look into the issue” of exclusions.

He added: “This is the government’s first implicit recognition that there is an issue here that the provincial government should address. It is also helpful that the government will seek input from families, educators and others on this.”



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How a Little Wooden Ramp Reshaped An Ontario City


Kenora’s downtown wasn’t accessible for people with physical disabilities. But thanks to municipal effort and some help from a Toronto-based non-profit, its streets are changing Published on Mar 12, 2019
by Glyn Bowerman

The Toronto-based StopGap Foundation, founded in 2011, distributes custom-made ramps that make businesses more accessible.

The small city of Kenora has a picturesque harbourfront and a shopping district lined with turn-of-the-last-century frontier buildings. It’s pretty as a postcard but it had a problem. As is the case in many of Ontario’s smaller communities, the downtown was not accessible for people with physical disabilities.

“The buildings are older; the infrastructure is older,” says Sharon Smith, a city councillor who serves on the city’s accessibility advisory committee. “So it’s hard to address all of those issues.”

About 30 years ago, Smith’s brother was in an accident and had to start using a wheelchair. He was forced to leave Kenora for Thunder Bay because he simply couldn’t get around.

“He had to change his entire life because he had limited mobility,” says Smith.

The city formed an accessibility committee to advise city departments about how to meet legislated standards. In 2014, Denise Miault, a coordinator with Community Services for Independence North West and then a member of the committee, reached out to Luke Anderson and the StopGap Foundation.

After having been partially paralyzed in an accident in 2002, Anderson decided to use his engineering background to develop simple solutions for the challenges he and others faced. In 2011, he founded the non-profit foundation, which distributes colourful custom-made ramps that make businesses more accessible.

To date, Anderson has worked with more than 50 communities, including Bancroft, Belleville, Port Hope, and Stratford.

“Smaller towns are more nimble,” says Anderson. “The awareness-raising journey is much shorter than it is in a larger centre.”

A local StopGap chapter was established in Kenora to install a ramp in front of now-councillor Mort Goss’s Second Street South shop, Sure Thing, in the summer of 2014.

Goss says that, before the ramp was installed, there had been a five-inch gap between the sidewalk and the door. One of his friends, who uses a mobility device, would have to wait outside while Goss did his shopping for him.

“It was frustrating,” says Goss. “And for him, it was pretty dehumanizing.”

The ramp had such an impact that, when it came time to spruce up Second Street the next year as part of an ongoing downtown-revitalization process, the city decided to make the accessibility it provided part of its built infrastructure by raising the sidewalks. Anderson says that he’s seen StopGap lead to policy changes in various municipalities but that Kenora is the first to have made this kind of structural change.

“It’s a big win,” says Anderson. “That’s the ultimate dream to inspire that type of change.”

But many worry that such changes aren’t being implemented fast enough across the province. The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act, which became law in 2005, requires that municipalities meet certain accessibility standards, relating to everything from sidewalk widths to hiring practices, by the year 2025.

“It doesn’t seem to be a priority,” says Miault.

Anderson is more pointed: “It’s not going to happen.”

He points to the fact that the five Standards Development Committees tasked with outlining AODA requirements were put on hold before the last election. Three of these committees have yet to reconvene since the Doug Ford government came to power in June. There have been no policy announcements from Raymond Cho, the minister for seniors and accessibility, or from the ministry itself.

On March 8, an accessibility review of the provincial legislation and its effectiveness conducted by former Lieutenant-Governor David Onley and submitted to the government on January 31 was made public.

“The glacial pace of change over the past 14 years has left the disability community deeply disappointed and filled with anger,” the report reads. Among its recommendations are reactivating the standards-development committees, making accessibility the shared responsibility of all ministries, and introducing tax incentives for accessible retrofits, a complaint system to report AODA violations, and new built-environment standards.

A spokesperson for the ministry told TVO.org in an email that, as a first step, the SDCs dedicated to healthcare and education will resume and that the business community will be consulted: “This report has broad implications and I will be having conversations with my colleagues about the recommendations over the coming months.”

In the meantime, the province announced $1 million last month for phase four of Kenora’s revitalization, which will include beautification, water and sewer-line upgrades, and the creation of pedestrian-friendly spaces. All new city projects, Smith says, are now developed with accessibility in mind.

Both Smith and Miault look forward to an accessible splash-pad park scheduled to open this summer.

“It’s going to be tough,” Smith says of the 2025 deadline. “But we’re committed to doing it.”

Glyn Bowerman is a journalist and a senior editor at Spacing.

Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.

Original at https://www.tvo.org/article/current-affairs/how-a-little-wooden-ramp-reshaped-an-ontario-city



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