People with learning disabilities call for greater protections | Watch News Videos Online



There’s a renewed call today for greater protections for the many British Columbians with a hidden disability. As Kylie Stanton reports, those with learning disabilities say they’re being left out simply because their condition is not as obvious.



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How accessible is Lethbridge for people with disabilities?


May 30 to June 5 marks National AccessAbility Week, which acknowledges and celebrates contributions made by Canadians with disabilities, the removal of barriers to accessibly and inclusion, and the work to oppose discrimination against those with a disability.

Diane Kotkas, director of DaCapo Disability Services with Lethbridge Family Services, said it’s important to see people for who they are and what abilities they have, and not just for their disability.

“Every one of us has challenges in some form or another,” she said.

“Individuals with disabilities are members of our community and should be treated with the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen.”

Kotkas added it’s important to acknowledge the barriers some face, and the ease at which many people are able to navigate the community.

Read more:
Lethbridge Transit introduces new cityLINK network

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“As ambulatory individuals, we more often than not take accessibility for granted,” she said. “But for many folks with a disability, accessibility is a daily challenge.”

According to Chris Witkowski, the parks planning manager with the City of Lethbridge, there have been recent improvements in the mobility accessibility around the city.

“(The) last couple years we’ve really put a high-priority on making the city more accessible,” Witkowski said.  “Probably the biggest accomplishment was completing our mobility accessibility master plan, which was completed in summer of 2020.”

Also a member of the Mobility Accessibility working group, Witkowski said the city is always welcoming input from residents and organizations about what improvements can be made.

“I know facilities is always making improvements to the public buildings,” he said. “If you’re walking on intersections, you’ll see new sidewalk ramps, trying to improve accessibility for wheelchair use, strollers, walkers, those with visual impairments.

“For playgrounds, we’ve started to add some playground surfacing, some hard-rubber surfacing to increase wheelchair access in there. Putting a lot more inclusive play pieces into our playgrounds.”


Click to play video: 'Canada’s Week of AccessAbility'







Canada’s Week of AccessAbility


Canada’s Week of AccessAbility

For Bill Brown, who is blind and runs the Lethbridge Association for the Blind, many additions to the city have been positive.

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“City’s done a lot of work in putting ramps at all the corners, and that’s very beneficial to people in wheelchairs, but it certainly helps people who are visually impaired as well.”

However, he does believe some improvements could be made within the city’s transit operations, and hopes the general public is able to become more educated on disabilities.

“It’s amazing how people have difficulty in dealing with someone with a disability, and I think that’s not only blindness but practically every disability,” he admitted.
“People sometimes, when they meet someone who’s blind, they think they have to talk loud, because they’re thinking of deafness.”

According to Witkowski, the recently-approved Capitol Improvement Program includes funding for improvements to accessibility at city facilities and funding for a benchmark study.




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





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Changes at Parlee Beach means improved access for people with disabilities


New Brunswick’s largest beach will once again be open to the public starting Friday and visitors to Parlee Beach Provincial Park will notice some changes that include improved access for those with disabilities.

“We have been lobbying for years now to make the entire province accessible,” said Mathieu Stever, the manager of the ParaNB program with Ability New Brunswick

The provincial park is getting a $2-million facelift in advance of its second season in operation amid the pandemic. According to the province, funding for the upgrades is being applied from the capital improvement budgets from 2020 to 2022.

Read more:
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The work includes upgrades to roads, entrances, the canteen, restaurant bar and patio area as well as improved access to the beach, according to the park’s manager, Michel Mallet, who said they partnered with Ability NB on the project starting in 2019.

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“We call it a comfort station, which is basically an accessible washroom and accessible charging room and shower outside,” said Mallet.

Improved sidewalks and beach-friendly wheelchairs will also be available for visitors, said Mallet.

He said an accessible playground is also being installed in the coming weeks. The hope is to have the upgrades ready by the end of the school year, he said.


Click to play video: 'Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work'







Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work


Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work – Mar 18, 2021

“I think it is great having Parlee Beach set the example of how you can renovate the beach and make it accessible for everyone because our motto is that everyone plays,” said Stever.

Stever said he hopes the initiative will encourage other provincial parks in the province to do similar upgrades.

“It is everyone’s right to be able to access all recreation activities in the province”, he said.

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Parlee Beach opens on Friday with COVID-19 protocols similar to last year, said Mallet.

All washrooms and changing rooms, even the accessible ones, will remain closed for now, he said.

Access to the provincial beach for vacationers from outside of the province will also depend on the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.





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





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Health and Safety Concerns about Accommodating People with Disabilities


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Health and Safety Concerns about Accommodating People with Disabilities

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause undue hardship. However, it is the responsibility of the accommodation provider to prove that making an accommodation would cause them undue hardship.

To prove undue hardship, an employer, a landlord, or a service provider must show that an accommodation would negatively impact the health and safety of the accommodated person, or of other people. However, they cannot prove undue hardship simply by stating that they believe an accommodation would negatively impact health and safety. In other words, an accommodation provider cannot use stereotypes about people with disabilities in statements about health and safety.

For example, a landlord may try to prove that they cannot rent to a family if one of the parents is blind. The landlord might believe that people who are blind cannot move around safely. As a result, the landlord might feel that a blind tenant would be a health and safety risk. However, people who are blind can move around safely, maintain homes, and care for families. As a result, the landlord cannot claim undue hardship due to health and safety concerns. Instead, the landlord should learn more about how people who are blind, or have other disabilities, perform every-day tasks. In addition, the landlord could start a discussion with the prospective tenant and implement any accommodations they may need. For instance, the tenant could place Braille labels on the buttons of appliances, such as the oven or washing machine.

Minimizing Health and Safety Risks

On the other hand, some situations may pose real health or safety risks for people with disabilities. In these cases, accommodation providers should discuss these risks with the person needing accommodation. Some activities pose risks for everyone, and each person accepts the possibility of risk. In these situations, someone with a disability has the same right that non-disabled people have to accept the possibility of health and safety risks.

For example, sports may pose a risk to all players. However, a sports program coordinator may feel that someone with a disability should not be part of their program, because a player with a disability could be taking a larger risk. Nonetheless, a player with a disability may be willing to take the risks involved in the sport. For instance, they may sign a waiver stating that they take responsibility for any risk to their health and safety. In this way, someone with a disability can be part of many integrated sports, such as:

Alternatively, there may be ways for accommodation providers to minimize real risks that an accommodation poses, either to the person needing it, or to others. Before claiming undue hardship, accommodation providers must assess how likely or severe these risks will be. Then, they must create plans or rules to prevent risk or reduce its impact.

Finally, if the organization finds evidence that a health and safety risk is severe and will impact many people on a regular basis, even after all possible accommodations are in place, the organization may be able to claim undue hardship.




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Cost of Accommodation for People with Disabilities


Under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), employers, landlords, and service providers must accommodate people with disabilities. In other words, organizations have a duty to make changes in order to meet the needs of workers, tenants, customers, or clients with disabilities. Accommodation providers must implement accommodations unless they would cause the provider undue hardship. There are only two reasons a provider can have to claim undue hardship. One is the cost of accommodation for people with disabilities. The other is health and safety concerns about accommodating people with disabilities.

Cost of Accommodation for People with Disabilities

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) writes policies to help people understand what types of discrimination are. In addition, these policies outline how to prevent and respond to different forms of discrimination. According to the OHRC’s Policy on Ableism and Discrimination based on disability, accommodation providers do not have to make accommodations if doing so will cause undue hardship. However, it is the responsibility of the accommodation provider to prove that making an accommodation would cause them undue hardship.

To prove undue hardship, an employer, a landlord, or a service provider must show that they cannot afford the accommodation. For instance, they can show that an accommodation is too costly by comparing the cost of the accommodation to their annual financial statements and budgets. However, they cannot prove undue hardship simply by stating that they believe they cannot afford to implement an accommodation.

Furthermore, grants, tax incentives or deductions, and other funding sources may be available to help a business or a landlord improve the accessibility of structures and services. For example, a business or landlord could apply for funding from:

These sources of financial support can assist employers, landlords, or service providers to fund costly accommodations, such as:

As a result, an accommodation provider must attempt to find funding from all possible sources before they can claim undue hardship.

In our next article, we will explore how health and safety considerations may cause undue hardship.




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Malhotra and Dojeiji: Vaccine Policy is Ignoring People With Disabilities


At this stage, what is desperately needed is a dedicated venue that would allow people with disabilities to access vaccines safely, in a stress-free environment. Author of the article:
Ravi Malhotra, Sue Dojeiji

Publishing date:
May 06, 2021

As Canadians from all walks of life line up for COVID-19 vaccines, it is becoming clear that people with disabilities are once again being ignored.

The recent passage of the Accessible Canada Act in 2019 marked a commitment by the federal government to include people with disabilities as full citizens through barrier removal and accommodation. This followed the 2005 enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). These statutes were meant to signal a turning point away from the deep poverty and unemployment that is experienced by far too many people with disabilities every day. They suggested that Canadian society was now committed to systematically identifying and removing the barriers in all spheres of society so that the talents of people with disabilities could be fostered for the betterment of all.

Yet the vaccine rollout shines a bright light on the disparities that continue to plague people with disabilities. Amidst confusing and sometimes contradictory information, ambiguous prioritization criteria and multiple registration systems which do not always work and entail long delays, many people with disabilities risk once again being left behind.

A significant proportion of people with disabilities do not have access to cars, making it more difficult to access pharmacies often distant from home or to be able to arrive at an appointment on short notice. Many others may not have access to reliable internet connections, rendering navigation of multiple web sites a nightmare. People with visual impairments often face additional challenges when websites are not designed with their needs in mind. And people with speech impairments often face ignorance and stigma when trying to communicate with government authorities due to a lack of awareness of appropriate communication technology.

In a world where even able bodied people are forced to rely on vaccine-hunting services on Twitter to find them vaccines, the challenges facing people with disabilities are daunting.

This is unfortunate because many people with disabilities clearly have medical conditions that place them at significantly greater risk for bad outcomes should they get COVID-19. And as renowned disability rights advocate David Lepofsky has noted, there are real worries that people with disabilities will be disadvantaged should triage become necessary due to a shortage of ICU beds. Yet the current prioritization system has failed to clearly allow people with disabilities to be vaccinated.

At this juncture, what is desperately needed is a dedicated venue that would allow people with disabilities to access vaccines safely and expeditiously in a stress-free environment. Instead of a confusing mishmash of options, people with disabilities should be vaccinated at one site.

Fortunately there is no need to reinvent the wheel: such one-stop shopping venues already exist. Rehabilitation centres across Canada already serve the needs of people with disabilities, both those who require acute rehabilitation care after becoming injured, and those who require lifelong rehabilitation follow-up care.

Making rehabilitation centres into dedicated vaccination sites for people with disabilities would solve multiple problems at once. It would remove the chaos that the current fragmented registration system creates, conducting the vaccinations at a venue which is fully accessible to the needs of people with disabilities. People with disabilities could be assured that they can be fully vaccinated in a timely manner by health-care providers who have cared for them for years.

Ontario must honour the full promise of the AODA by creating vaccination sites at rehabilitation centres across the province today.

Ravi Malhotra is a Full Professor at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section and the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa. Twitter: @RaviMalh. Sue Dojeiji is Neuromuscular Physiatrist and Clinician Educator at the Rehabilitation Centre.

Original at https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/malhotra-and-dojeiji




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After a Major Outpouring from People with Disabilities, Toronto City Council Unanimously Votes to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters


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

May 5, 2021 Toronto: As a major victory for people with disabilities, Toronto’s City Council Today unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters in public and not to conduct a pilot project. Terrified of the danger to them that e-scooters pose, people with disabilities have been working hard to oppose the efforts of corporate lobbyists on this issue.

City staff, Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee made strong recommendations to City Council against allowing e-scooters in Toronto, and against conducting a pilot project. In the same direction, an impressive spectrum of disability advocates told the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on April 28, 2021 that Toronto City Council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto (now banned, unless Council legalizes them).

A City Staff Report, which the Toronto City Council unanimously supported, amply shows e-scooters endanger public safety in places allowing them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people can’t tell when silent e-scooters rocket at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for blind people and accessibility nightmares for wheelchair users.

The Infrastructure Committee was told last week that Toronto has been getting less accessible to people with disabilities. Allowing e-scooters would make that worse.

Last week, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee was also told over and over that it accomplishes nothing to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The City Staff Report documents the silent menace of e-scooters continue to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. We would need cops on every block. Toronto law enforcement told City Councilors last July 9 that they have no resources to enforce such new e-scooter rules.

E-scooters would impose significant costs on taxpayers for new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, lawsuits by the injured, etc. Toronto has more pressing budget priorities.

The AODA Alliance has exposed the stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure that corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies have inundated City Hall with for months.

“We applaud the Toronto City Council for its unanimous vote and we congratulate all the disability organizations and individual disability advocates who devoted their volunteer efforts to help protect our safety and accessibility,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The small number of Ontario cities that started an e-scooter pilot project should now suspend those pilot projects, and learn from the wise Toronto decision, in the interest of protecting their vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and others that e-scooters endanger. We need Ontario cities to become more accessible to people with disabilities, and not allow any new disability barriers to be created.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.




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After a Major Outpouring from People with Disabilities, Toronto City Council Unanimously Votes to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

After a Major Outpouring from People with Disabilities, Toronto City Council Unanimously Votes to Leave in Place the Ban on Electric Scooters

May 5, 2021 Toronto: As a major victory for people with disabilities, Toronto’s City Council Today unanimously voted not to allow e-scooters in public and not to conduct a pilot project. Terrified of the danger to them that e-scooters pose, people with disabilities have been working hard to oppose the efforts of corporate lobbyists on this issue.

City staff, Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee made strong recommendations to City Council against allowing e-scooters in Toronto, and against conducting a pilot project. In the same direction, an impressive spectrum of disability advocates told the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on April 28, 2021 that Toronto City Council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto (now banned, unless Council legalizes them).

A City Staff Report, which the Toronto City Council unanimously supported, amply shows e-scooters endanger public safety in places allowing them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people can’t tell when silent e-scooters rocket at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for blind people and accessibility nightmares for wheelchair users.

The Infrastructure Committee was told last week that Toronto has been getting less accessible to people with disabilities. Allowing e-scooters would make that worse.

Last week, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee was also told over and over that it accomplishes nothing to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The City Staff Report documents the silent menace of e-scooters continue to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. We would need cops on every block. Toronto law enforcement told City Councilors last July 9 that they have no resources to enforce such new e-scooter rules.

E-scooters would impose significant costs on taxpayers for new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, lawsuits by the injured, etc. Toronto has more pressing budget priorities.

The AODA Alliance has exposed the stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure that corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies have inundated City Hall with for months.

“We applaud the Toronto City Council for its unanimous vote and we congratulate all the disability organizations and individual disability advocates who devoted their volunteer efforts to help protect our safety and accessibility,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The small number of Ontario cities that started an e-scooter pilot project should now suspend those pilot projects, and learn from the wise Toronto decision, in the interest of protecting their vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and others that e-scooters endanger. We need Ontario cities to become more accessible to people with disabilities, and not allow any new disability barriers to be created.”

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

Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.



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