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


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

September 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Voting Barriers Must Go

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

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

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

That CBC report incorrectly states:

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

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

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

3. What’s Next on the Federal Front

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

CBC News September 20, 2021

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

Many ridings had significantly fewer polling stations than last election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some ridings have fewer polling stations this year

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

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

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

Elections Canada website errors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elderly, people with disabilities face obstacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC News September 19, 2021

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

What the parties have promised for people with disabilities

CBC News Loaded
Politics
ASK CBC NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the parties are promising

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

Liberals

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives

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

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

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

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

NDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloc Québécois

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

People’s Party of Canada

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

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

Green Party

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

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

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

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

The Globe and Mail September 14, 2021
News

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”

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

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

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

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

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

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”




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


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

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

September 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Voting Barriers Must Go

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

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

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

That CBC report incorrectly states:

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

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

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

 3. What’s Next on the Federal Front

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

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

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

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

MORE DETAILS

CBC News September 20, 2021

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

 

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

Many ridings had significantly fewer polling stations than last election

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some ridings have fewer polling stations this year

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

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

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

Elections Canada website errors

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elderly, people with disabilities face obstacles

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CBC News September 19, 2021

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

What the parties have promised for people with disabilities

CBC News Loaded

Politics

ASK CBC NEWS

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

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What the parties are promising

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

Liberals

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatives

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

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

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

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

NDP

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloc Québécois

 

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

People’s Party of Canada

 

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

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

Green Party

 

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

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

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

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

The Globe and Mail September 14, 2021

News

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chat News Today September 13, 2021

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

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

Maan Alhmidi

The Canadian Press

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 01:31 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”

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

McKenna said introducing other voting options requires a law change.

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

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

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

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

“We’re in the dark ages.”



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How Accessible is Voting for People With Disabilities?


Also: How to check if your polling station meets your accessibility requirements Tyler Bloomfield , CBC News
Posted: Sep 15, 2021

For some people, voting isn’t as simple as showing up to the polls on election day and casting a ballot.

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities.

CBC News readers have been asking us about them and the accessibility of the federal election in general.

Before someone with a disability even gets to the polls there are hurdles to clear. One, for example, is getting the voter information you need in a format that works for you.

Elections Canada offers voter information – like its guide to the federal election and list of accepted forms of ID to register and vote – as an American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) video with open captioning.

You can also order physical resources in braille, large print or as an audio CD.

For people who are deaf or partly deaf, Elections Canada also has an ASL version of a video explaining how it is making federal elections accessible and an ASL version of its video that covers voting assistance tools and services.

If a family member or friend has asked you for help voting, Elections Canada has a section on its website clarifying what is and is not allowed when offering support.

Accessibility at the polls

If you’re voting in person on election day, you’ll want to make sure your assigned polling station has everything you require to vote safely and accurately.

Returning officers use an accessibility checklist, which contains 37 criteria – 15 of which are mandatory.

A polling station, for example, is required to provide a level access instead of stairs to the entrance and the voting room must be on the same level as the entryway.

But Elections Canada does not mandate parking spaces for people with disabilities.

You can check to see exactly how accessible your nearest polling station is by searching your postal code on Elections Canada’s voter information service. If you are deaf or partly deaf you can Teletype (TTY) 1-800-361-8935 for more information.

If your assigned polling place does not meet your needs, the agency says to contact your local Elections Canada office and you may be issued a Transfer Certificate. This would allow you to vote at a more accessible polling place in your riding.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic also introduces barriers at the polls for electors with disabilities.

For instance, if a voter who is blind or partly blind shows up on their own, he says they might require another person to guide them, but “you can’t take someone’s arm and be guided if you’re trying to socially distance.”

Lepofsky adds that minimizing the distance between the doors of the polling station and where you go to cast your ballot could be one way to help address that issue, as well as including properly colour-contrasted tape and stanchions to assist people so they can know by touch.

Elections Canada says high-visibility physical distancing markers will be in place at polling places, so that electors who are partly blind can more easily see them and maintain physical distance.

Each polling station will also carry tools to make reading and marking your ballot more accessible. If you ask a poll worker they should be able to provide you with a large-print or braille list of candidates, tactile and braille voting templates, magnifiers, large-grip pencils and voting screens that let in more light.

The right to a private ballot

An issue Lepofsky says is harder to address is maintaining the right to a private ballot for people who are blind or partly blind.

“We have never had that right. We have had to either have somebody else mark our ballot for us, which means you have to tell someone else – a trusted friend or a public official – who you’re voting for,” he said.

“People without disabilities take this right for granted because they don’t even have to think about it.”

Elections Canada told CBC News in an email that the secrecy of those votes are maintained by the oaths taken by those who assist them.

“In the case of a poll worker, oaths are taken as part of the job when they provide assistance to an elector. It’s always done in the presence of a witness. If the elector requests assistance from someone they know, that person is required to sign an oath before they provide assistance,” said Matthew McKenna, a spokesperson for Elections Canada.

But Lepofsky says he believes the process still amounts to a systemic denial for people with disabilities to mark and verify a ballot on their own.

There are ways to ensure they can vote in private and to verify their choice, he says, but the federal government and Elections Canada have not applied those in this election.

More accessible voting methods

One of Lepofsky’s suggestions is to introduce more accessible ways of voting, like telephone voting. This method would allow electors to call in to vote and has been used in provincial elections across Canada.

In B.C., assisted telephone voting is available to voters who are blind, or who have a disability or underlying health condition that prevents them from voting on their own. It was also made available during the 2020 provincial election for people who had to self-isolate during the last week of the campaign period because of a positive COVID-19 test or exposure.

Introducing new technology and voting methods into federal elections raises security and accuracy concerns.

Aleksander Essex, an associate professor of software engineering at Western University in London, Ont., specializes in voting technology. He doesn’t recommend phone voting, he says, because of what he has seen in Ontario municipal elections that use the method.

He says there were instances where the call would drop, leading to more problems.

“The voter would call back and they would say, ‘Well, sorry, you can’t vote because you’ve already voted.’ So they had to go back and sort of work with the city to literally pull the vote out of the telephone system to have it reset.”

He acknowledges that methods like online voting could also reduce barriers, but he says the security risks outweigh the benefits.

“We can’t make this a zero-sum game between accessibility and cybersecurity. We have to have both.”

Lepofsky also mentioned that accessible voting machines are used in some places, but that they have had problems with reliability in the past.

Elections Canada says the voting methods used by Canadians are prescribed in the Canada Elections Act. Changes to the way votes are cast would require authorization from Parliament, typically in the form of legislative change.

“I don’t believe that we need to just accept the status quo, replete with disability barriers or do nothing,” said Lepofsky.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ask-accessible-voting-election-disabilities-1.6175148




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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040?


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

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance
1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

2. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

3. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.

4. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

Yes, an NDP government will ensure that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

5. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

6. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

7. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

“barrier means anything??including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice??that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of governmentevery budget, every policy and regulationshould be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

8. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

9. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

10. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

11. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

12. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.




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Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh Is First and Only National Leader to Pledge to Strengthen the Accessible Canada Act. What Will the Other Parties Pledge in This Election to Make Canada Accessible for Over 6 Million People with Disabilities by 2040? – AODA Alliance


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 4, 2021 Toronto: In the current federal election, the NDP is the first federal party to write the AODA Alliance to commit to strengthen the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA), and to ensure that public money is never used to create barriers against over six million people with disabilities. The NDP’s September 4, 2021 letter to the AODA Alliance is set out below.

In its August 3, 2021 letter to the party leaders, the non-partisan AODA Alliance requested 12 specific commitments to strengthen the ACA and to ensure its swift and effective implementation and enforcement. (12 requests set out and answered below in Mr. Singh’s letter). The NDP’s letter, set out below, Mr. Singh makes many of the commitments the AODA Alliance sought.

“We’ve now gotten commitments from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, so now we aim to get the other federal party leaders to meet or beat those commitments,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We and other disability advocates together got the Accessible Canada Act introduced into Parliament, and then got it strengthened somewhat between 2018 and 2019 before it was passed. It has helpful ingredients, but is too weak. We are seeking commitments to ensure that this law gets strengthened, and that it is swiftly and effectively implemented and enforced.”

In Parliament during debates over that bill in 2018-2019, the Liberals made promising statements about what the new law would achieve for people with disabilities. Commitments are sought in this election to turn those statements into assured action.

In the 2019 federal election, the Liberals promised the timely and ambitious implementation of this legislation. It repeated that pledge in its 2021 platform released days ago. Two years after first making this pledge, the Government has taken some steps, but has been dragging its feet. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

Even though Parliament unanimously passed the ACA, the federal parties were substantially divided on whether it went far enough to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The Tories, NDP and Greens argued in Parliament for the bill to be made stronger, speaking on behalf of diverse voices from the disability community. In 2018, the Liberals voted down most of the proposed opposition amendments that were advanced on behalf of people with disabilities.

In 2019, the Senate called for new measures to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against people with disabilities. The ACA does not ensure this.

Among the disability organizations that are raising disability issues in this election, the AODA Alliance is spearheading a blitz to help the grassroots press these issues on the actual and virtual hustings and in social media. The AODA Alliance is tweeting candidates across Canada to solicit their commitments and will make public any commitments that the other party leaders make. Follow @aodaalliance. As a non-partisan effort, the AODA Alliance does not support or oppose any party or candidate.

The AODA Alliance is also calling on the Federal Government and Elections Canada to ensure for the first time that millions of voters with disabilities can vote in this election without fearing that they may encounter accessibility barriers in the voting process.

Contact: David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

For background on the AODA Alliance ‘s participation in the grassroots non-partisan campaign since 2015 for the Accessible Canada Act, and its efforts to get it effectively implemented since then, visit www.aodaalliance.org/canada

Text of the New Democratic Party of Canada’s September 4, 2021 Email to the AODA Alliance

  1. Will you enact or amend legislation to require the Federal Government, the CTA and the CRTC to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in all the areas that the ACA covers within four years of the ACA’s enactment? If not, will you commit that those regulations will be enacted under the ACA within four years of the ACA’s enactment?

We can do much more to make Canada an inclusive and barrier-free place. As a start, New Democrats will uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and strengthen the Accessibility Act to cover all federal agencies equally with the power to make accessibility standards in a timely manner.

The NDP fought repeatedly to include implementation timelines in Bill C-81. During committee study of the bill, the Government there was overwhelming unanimity on the part of the leading experts and stakeholder groups in the country as to how the bill needed to be amended. The NDP listened and introduced amendments based on the feedback of the disability community but nearly all our amendments were defeated by the Liberals. A New Democrat government will work hard to enact regulations to set accessibility standards in a timely fashion.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the ACA is effectively and vigourously enforced?

 

Yes, it’s critical to ensure that the ACA is effectively enforced. The NDP fought hard to amend Bill C-81 to ensure that the accessibility standards would be enforced, introducing amendments that were called for by Canadians living with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Liberals defeated nearly all of our amendments. An NDP government will strengthen the ACA to ensure accessibility standards are enforced.

  1. Will your party ensure by legislation, and if not, then by strong monitored public policy, that no one will use public money distributed by the Government of Canada in a manner that creates or perpetuates barriers, including e.g. payments by the Government of Canada to any person or entity to purchase or rent any goods, services or facilities, or to contribute to the construction, expansion or renovation of any infrastructure or other capital project, or to provide a business development loan or grant to any person or entity?

 

The Liberal government missed a sizable opportunity when they introduced the ACA. Federal money should never used by any recipient to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The NDP fought to include this provision in the bill, putting forward an amendment at committee. Unfortunately, the Liberals voted against.

New Democrats want to build a society in which all of our citizens are able to participate fully and equally. We believe that this cannot happen until all of our institutions are open and completely accessible to everyone. The NDP would require that federal public money never be used to create or perpetuate disability barriers, including federal money received for procurement; infrastructure; transfer payments; research grants; business development loans or grants, or for any other kind of payment, including purpose under a contract.

 

  1. Will your party amend the ACA to provide that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility shall prevail, and that nothing in the ACA or in any regulations enacted under it or in any actions taken under it shall reduce any rights which people with disabilities otherwise enjoy under law?

Yes, an NDP government will ensure that if a provision of the ACA or of a regulation enacted under it conflicts with a provision of any other Act or regulation, the provision that provides the highest level of accessibility for persons with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, employment, accommodation, buildings, structures or premises shall prevail.

  1. Will your party repeal the offending portion of section 172(3) of the ACA that reads “but if it does so, it may only require the taking of appropriate corrective measures.” and replace them with words such as: “and grant a remedy in accordance with subsection 2.”?

We will review section 172(3) of the ACA and take the appropriate corrective measures to make sure airlines and railways pay monetary compensation in situations where they should have to pay up.

  1. Will your party assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet? If not, then at a minimum, would your party require by legislation or policy that the CRTC, CTA and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board must, within six months, establish policies, practices and procedures for expeditiously receiving, investigating, considering and deciding upon complaints under this Act which are the same as or as reasonably close as possible to, those set out for the Accessibility Commissioner?

Yes. The ACA tabled by the Liberal government gave several public agencies and officials far too much sweeping power to grant partial or blanket exemptions to specific organizations from important parts of the Act. The ACA separates enforcement and implementation in a confusing way over four different public agencies. New Democrats believe it should be providing people with disabilities with what they need: a single service location or one-stop-shop.. We will assign all responsibility for the ACA’s enforcement to the Accessibility Commissioner and all responsibility for enacting regulations under the ACA to the Federal Cabinet.

  1. Will your Party review all federal laws to identify any which require or permit any barriers against people with disabilities, and will your party amend Section 2 of the ACA (definition of “barrier”) to add the words “a law”, so that it will read:

 

“barrier means anything — including anything physical, architectural, technological or attitudinal, anything that is based on information or communications or anything that is the result of a law, a policy or a practice — that hinders the full and equal participation in society of persons with an impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment or a functional limitation.”

The NDP has long been committed to the rights of persons with disabilities. It has been our longstanding position that all of government—every budget, every policy and regulation—should be viewed through a disability lens. The NDP has supported the establishment of a Canadians with Disabilities Act for many years.

  1. Will your party pass legislation or regulations and adopt policies needed to ensure that federal elections become barrier-free for voters and candidates with disabilities?

New Democrats recognize that our public institutions and our public policies are stronger when they are representative and allow for full participation. Within our own party, we have sought to address barriers for candidates with disabilities guided by the advice of our Persons Living With Disabilities Committee, and have established a fund specifically to support candidates living with disabilities.

We have also fought to create change for candidates in all parties, bringing forward amendments to C-81 that would have required the Accessibility Commissioner to appoint, within 12 months of the bill being enacted, an independent person (with no current or prior involvement in administering elections) to conduct an Independent Review of disability barriers in the election process, with a requirement to consult the public, including persons with disabilities, and to report within 12 months to the Federal Government. An NDP government will make sure that review happens, and bring forth legislation within 12 months of the completion of that review to address the barriers that were identified.

  1. Will your Party eliminate or reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes? Such as eliminating the power to exempt the Government of Canada, or a federal department or agency? If not, will your party commit not to grant any exemptions from the ACA?

Eleven years ago, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Though the Liberal government has introduced an Accessibility Act, its exemptions mean Canada’s accessibility legislation falls short of meeting Canada’s goal of creating an inclusive and barrier-free country. An NDP government will reduce the power to exempt organizations from some of the requirements that the ACA imposes.

  1. Will your party develop and implement a plan to ensure that all federally-operated courts (e.g., the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts), and federally operated regulatory tribunals (like the CRTC and CTA) become accessible to participants with hearing disabilities?

Our country cannot be barrier-free if our public institutions are not accessible to all Canadians, including Canadians with hearing disabilities. The NDP brought forward an amendment during hearings on the ACA that would have required the Minister of Justice, on behalf of the Federal Government, to develop and implement a multi- year plan to ensure that all federally controlled courts (e.g. the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Courts) as well as federally-created administrative tribunals become fully accessible to court participants with disabilities, by the bill’s accessibility deadline. An NDP government will implement this requirement and ensure that we remove barriers to justice for Canadians living with disabilities.

  1. Would your party pass the amendments to the ACA which the opposition proposed in the fall of 2018 in the House of Commons, which the Government had defeated, and which would strengthen the ACA?

Absolutely! The NDP fought to improve this bill and brought forward numerous amendments that were proposed by stakeholders in the disability community. We do not see this fight as over just because the Liberals have given up; an NDP government will work to fix the ACA, including the many issues that were flagged during hearings on Bill C-81.

  1. Will your party commit to ensure that the National Building Code meets the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, the Canada Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? Will your party commit that any efforts to harmonize federal and provincial building codes will never reduce or dilute accessibility protections for people with disabilities?

Yes, an NDP government will apply a disability lens to all government legislation, regulations, codes, and procedures to ensure that we are removing barriers to full inclusion and respecting the rights of Canadians living with disabilities. Where there are gaps or shortcomings in existing policies, we will work with the disability community to fix the legislation or policies, including with the National Building Code. We will apply this same lens to any conversations with the provinces and territories about harmonization of laws and regulations.

 



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Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities


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

September 3, 2021

SUMMARY
The Ford Government’s plan to require vaccination passports starting September 22, 2021 to access certain places is an important step to get as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated. However, it is very important that this new vaccination passport requirement and system not create any new barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario. This can be achieved if the Ford Government shows strong leadership, and takes the steps outlined here as a swift and clear priority.

As it is, people with disabilities face far too many disability barriers when seeking goods, services facilities and jobs. It is good that the Government’s introductory announcement plans for an exemption for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. The Ford Government’s September 1, 2021 news release included:

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.

This general statement, while helpful, does not protect people with disabilities from the creation of new barriers. Before this vaccination passport requirement goes into effect, the Ontario Government must immediately put in place several important measures to ensure that the Government creates no new disability barriers. While this requires further exploration, we know that the following is absolutely necessary:

1. Any mobile app for vaccine passports must be designed and tested to ensure it is fully accessible to adaptive technology for smart phone users with disabilities, such as screen readers. The Federal Government did not do so for its COVID-19-related smart phone ArriveCan app for entering Canada.

2. The Ontario Government must make available an easily-accessed alternative hard copy document to a smart phone app for vaccine passports. Too many people cannot afford smart phones, including many people with disabilities (who disproportionately live in poverty).

3. It is not sufficient for the Government to impose the burden on those individuals with disabilities, who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, to get a letter from their physician. This is especially a hardship if it needs to be accomplished in under three weeks.

As it is, well before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, people with disabilities have faced far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system. The initial report of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee documents this in detail. The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to that Standards Development Committee amplifies its concerns. Disability barriers in the health care system got considerably worse during the pandemic. See generally, the AODA Alliance website’s health care page and COVID-19 page.

Some people with disabilities have no doctor to give them an exemption letter. For those who do have a doctor, getting to a doctor can involve disability barriers. The Government has not announced that it is going to pay doctors to provide those letters. We fear that doctors will be even harder to reach if flooded with requests for vaccine exemption letters.

As a result, the Ford Government should immediately provide a vaccine exemption passport for people with disabilities who are medically unable to get the vaccine. The process for obtaining these passports should be ensured to be free of disability barriers. The Ford Government’s related record is not good. To apply for a replacement for one’s expired health care card, one can use a Government website and avoid going to a Service Ontario office, but only if one has a driver’s license. This is an obvious barrier for people with disabilities who cannot qualify for a driver’s license, such as blind people.

4. The Ontario Government’s problematic roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine over the past months included real problems facing some people with disabilities who wanted to get vaccinated. The Government did not include in its roll-out plans for the start a comprehensive plan to ensure that there was a barrier-free way for people with disabilities to get vaccinated.

While more vaccination opportunities now exist, the Government needs to now put in place a swift, pro-active, accessible and comprehensive strategy for people with disabilities needing and wanting the vaccine, to get swift, barrier-free and ready access to vaccination

5. Public protections need to be put in place for any vulnerable people with disabilities for whom a substitute decision-maker is in place, to address situations where the substitute decision-maker has refused to let a person with a disability for whom they are responsible get vaccinated, in circumstances where there is no medical justification for that refusal.

People with disabilities have disproportionally suffered the worst hardships of the pandemic. It is essential that this understandable new passport requirement not make things worse for any people with disabilities.

As our AODA Alliance Updates have documented, time and again the Ford Government has failed to effectively accommodate the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. Time and again, we and others from the disability community have come forward with constructive proposals to fix this.

Overall, the Ford Government has a poor track record, when it comes to achieving accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. We commend CTV news for focusing on this vaccine passport disability this issue, and for including it in a news report on August 31, 2021, set out below.

MORE DETAILS

CTV News August 31, 2021
Originally posted at: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/how-will-vaccine-passport-system-work-in-ontario-for-people-without-cellphones-1.5568573

How will vaccine passport system work in Ontario for people without cellphones? Jon Woodward
CTV News Toronto Video Journalist
@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates are cautioning a headlong rush into implementing a vaccine passport using only smartphone apps warning it could leave the elderly, the poor or the homeless out in the cold.

Angie Peters of the Yonge St. Mission said designing a vaccine passport to work for disadvantaged people has to be as creative and motivated as the push to get those people vaccines was.

“They may have a cellphone but need to print it because technology is fleeting for them. They have a cellphone this month, but not next month,” she said.

And the solution of a printed out code may also not solve all the problems, Peters said.

“If they have a printer, they may not be able to afford the ink. There are people that we work with that lose their ID, they get rolled on the street regularly. If they’re keeping a printed card, it’s going to get lost and it’s going to have to get replaced, just like other ID on a regular basis,” she said.

It all could add up to a barrier that could result in properly vaccinated people denied entry for factors other than just vaccination, she said.

The Ontario government is expected to introduce some form of vaccine passport this week after calls from the medical community that checking vaccine status at the door could prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside any non-essential venues.

The business community has pushed for a vaccine passport, reasoning that it would lead to more business to be done if capacity limits could be raised safely.

But for those without cellphones, with older cellphones, or those who would have a more difficult time navigating the steps to prove that they are vaccinated, this could be a major headache, said David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance.
If there’s any reason why someone with a disability couldn’t get the passport, they would need an alternative passport, he said, pointing to people for whom there could be medical exemptions from vaccination.

“We don’t want this to become a long-term thing that could be used against people when the health situation has changed so it should be very time-limited and circumstance-dependent,” he said.

In Manitoba, an immunization card alternative has proved so popular that the government ran out of plastic to print it on.

In Quebec and in B.C.’s planned card, printing the code onto paper is an option as the readers can read the QR codes just as well from paper as from a screen.




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Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities – AODA Alliance


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Ford Government Must Ensure the New Vaccine Passport System Does Not Create New Barriers for People with Disabilities

September 3, 2021

        SUMMARY

The Ford Government’s plan to require vaccination passports starting September 22, 2021 to access certain places is an important step to get as many people as possible to get fully vaccinated. However, it is very important that this new vaccination passport requirement and system not create any new barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario. This can be achieved if the Ford Government shows strong leadership, and takes the steps outlined here as a swift and clear priority.

As it is, people with disabilities face far too many disability barriers when seeking goods, services facilities and jobs. It is good that the Government’s introductory announcement plans for an exemption for people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. The Ford Government’s September 1, 2021 news release included:

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years of age and younger and unable to be vaccinated will also be exempted from these requirements.

This general statement, while helpful, does not protect people with disabilities from the creation of new barriers. Before this vaccination passport requirement goes into effect, the Ontario Government must immediately put in place several important measures to ensure that the Government creates no new disability barriers. While this requires further exploration, we know that the following is absolutely necessary:

  1. Any mobile app for vaccine passports must be designed and tested to ensure it is fully accessible to adaptive technology for smart phone users with disabilities, such as screen readers. The Federal Government did not do so for its COVID-19-related smart phone ArriveCan app for entering Canada.
  1. The Ontario Government must make available an easily-accessed alternative hard copy document to a smart phone app for vaccine passports. Too many people cannot afford smart phones, including many people with disabilities (who disproportionately live in poverty).
  1. It is not sufficient for the Government to impose the burden on those individuals with disabilities, who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons, to get a letter from their physician. This is especially a hardship if it needs to be accomplished in under three weeks.

As it is, well before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, people with disabilities have faced far too many disability barriers in Ontario’s health care system. The initial report of the Government-appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee documents this in detail. The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 brief to that Standards Development Committee amplifies its concerns. Disability barriers in the health care system got considerably worse during the pandemic. See generally, the AODA Alliance website’s health care page and COVID-19 page.

Some people with disabilities have no doctor to give them an exemption letter. For those who do have a doctor, getting to a doctor can involve disability barriers. The Government has not announced that it is going to pay doctors to provide those letters. We fear that doctors will be even harder to reach if flooded with requests for vaccine exemption letters.

As a result, the Ford Government should immediately provide a vaccine exemption passport for people with disabilities who are medically unable to get the vaccine. The process for obtaining these passports should be ensured to be free of disability barriers. The Ford Government’s related record is not good. To apply for a replacement for one’s expired health care card, one can use a Government website and avoid going to a Service Ontario office, but only if one has a driver’s license. This is an obvious barrier for people with disabilities who cannot qualify for a driver’s license, such as blind people.

  1. The Ontario Government’s problematic roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine over the past months included real problems facing some people with disabilities who wanted to get vaccinated. The Government did not include in its roll-out plans for the start a comprehensive plan to ensure that there was a barrier-free way for people with disabilities to get vaccinated.

While more vaccination opportunities now exist, the Government needs to now put in place a swift, pro-active, accessible and comprehensive strategy for people with disabilities needing and wanting the vaccine, to get swift, barrier-free and ready access to vaccination

  1. Public protections need to be put in place for any vulnerable people with disabilities for whom a substitute decision-maker is in place, to address situations where the substitute decision-maker has refused to let a person with a disability for whom they are responsible get vaccinated, in circumstances where there is no medical justification for that refusal.

People with disabilities have disproportionally suffered the worst hardships of the pandemic. It is essential that this understandable new passport requirement not make things worse for any people with disabilities.

As our AODA Alliance Updates have documented, time and again the Ford Government has failed to effectively accommodate the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the pandemic. Time and again, we and others from the disability community have come forward with constructive proposals to fix this.

Overall, the Ford Government has a poor track record, when it comes to achieving accessibility for people with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. We commend CTV news for focusing on this vaccine passport disability this issue, and for including it in a news report on August 31, 2021, set out below.

        MORE DETAILS

CTV News August 31, 2021

Originally posted at: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/how-will-vaccine-passport-system-work-in-ontario-for-people-without-cellphones-1.5568573

How will vaccine passport system work in Ontario for people without cellphones?

Jon Woodward

CTV News Toronto Video Journalist

@CTV_Jon

TORONTO — Advocates are cautioning a headlong rush into implementing a vaccine passport using only smartphone apps — warning it could leave the elderly, the poor or the homeless out in the cold.

Angie Peters of the Yonge St. Mission said designing a vaccine passport to work for disadvantaged people has to be as creative and motivated as the push to get those people vaccines was.

“They may have a cellphone but need to print it because technology is fleeting for them. They have a cellphone this month, but not next month,” she said.

And the solution of a printed out code may also not solve all the problems, Peters said.

“If they have a printer, they may not be able to afford the ink. There are people that we work with that lose their ID, they get rolled on the street regularly. If they’re keeping a printed card, it’s going to get lost and it’s going to have to get replaced, just like other ID on a regular basis,” she said.

It all could add up to a barrier that could result in properly vaccinated people denied entry for factors other than just vaccination, she said.

The Ontario government is expected to introduce some form of vaccine passport this week after calls from the medical community that checking vaccine status at the door could prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside any non-essential venues.

The business community has pushed for a vaccine passport, reasoning that it would lead to more business to be done if capacity limits could be raised safely.

But for those without cellphones, with older cellphones, or those who would have a more difficult time navigating the steps to prove that they are vaccinated, this could be a major headache, said David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance.

If there’s any reason why someone with a disability couldn’t get the passport, they would need an alternative passport, he said, pointing to people for whom there could be medical exemptions from vaccination.

“We don’t want this to become a long-term thing that could be used against people when the health situation has changed so it should be very time-limited and circumstance-dependent,” he said.

In Manitoba, an immunization card alternative has proved so popular that the government ran out of plastic to print it on.

In Quebec and in B.C.’s planned card, printing the code onto paper is an option as the readers can read the QR codes just as well from paper as from a screen.



Source link

Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @aodaalliance

Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers

September 1, 2021

        SUMMARY

Canada’s federal election campaign has entered its final three weeks. Yet absolutely none of the major federal party leaders have provided a substantive response to the August 3, 2021 letter to them from the AODA Alliance. In that letter, the AODA asked for 12 specific election pledges to tear down disability barriers facing six million people with disabilities in Canada.

A guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers on this issue by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below, explores this election’s disability accessibility issues. We emphasize that achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is but one of the major disability issues in this federal election. We support and encourage efforts from the disability community to secure commitments on all the major disability issues.

Among other things, the guest column, set out below, identifies serious concerns with the Federal Government giving up to 7.5 million dollars to a non-profit for its private accessibility certification training program. This is the one provided by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

We urge you to share this guest column with all candidates in this federal election. It is not too late for any and all of the federal party leaders to make the 12 election pledges we seek on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities.

We also urge you to send this guest column to your local media. Urge them to cover all this election’s disability issues, including the specific disability accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance is focusing.

For more background, check out:

The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties so far on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.

Metroland August 31, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10463855-federal-party-platforms-mostly-offer-thin-gruel-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities/

Opinion

Federal party platforms mostly offer ‘thin gruel’ for millions of Canadians with disabilities

‘Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties,’ writes David Lepofsky

CITY CENTRE MIRROR

If this federal election is like past ones, media coverage and pundit gabfests will leave out key issues vital to six million people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, things got worse for us. We disproportionately suffered COVID’s worst hardships. Yet all levels of government emergency planning often left out our urgent needs.

The federal government harmfully liberalized medical assistance in dying, making it easier to die because of your disability, with state assistance. Ontario let hospitals ready themselves to blatantly discriminate against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving critical care if COVID overloads hospital emergency rooms. Cities let restaurants open outdoor patios without ensuring an accessible way to get around them. As a blind person, I’ve been forced to walk into dangerous oncoming road traffic.

Something is wrong with this picture. Our governments should make it easier to live with a disability, not make it easier or more likely to die because of a disability.

What will national parties pledge in this election to make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, the deadline unanimously enshrined in the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA)?

We asked the parties for detailed commitments, to ensure that the ACA’s implementation is swift, strong and effective, including: making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the ACA, establishing a single unified process for cases, ensuring that nothing done under the ACA cuts back on disability rights, and ensuring that public money is never used to create disability barriers.

We await answers. As for their published platforms, the NDP makes some helpful commitments on point, though not enough. The others offer thin gruel.

In the 2019 election, the Liberals promised the ACA’s “timely and ambitious implementation.” It pledged to use a disability lens for all government decisions.

Since then, Trudeau’s actions weren’t timely or ambitious. There’s been no appreciable improvement in disability accessibility.

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility. It enacted no comprehensive, mandatory up-to-date national standards under the ACA for the accessibility of such projects or of the built environment generally.

Instead, the Liberals doled out up to $7.5 million to a private accessibility certification program, run by a third-party non-profit that doesn’t work. Due diligence would show that the foundation’s training program for its inspectors is not sufficiently comprehensive. It green-lights some buildings that aren’t really accessible. Premier Ford similarly announced $1.3 million on the same private process two years ago, with no resulting increase in accessibility to show for it. It’s an easy way for governments to try to claim they’ve accomplished something on accessibility.

Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties.

David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.



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Under 3 Weeks Before the Federal Election, None of the Party Leaders Answered the AODA Alliance’s Letter Seeking 12 Commitments to Tear Down Barriers Facing 6 Million People with Disabilities in Canada, According to New Guest Column in Toronto Area Local Newspapers


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

September 1, 2021

SUMMARY

Canada’s federal election campaign has entered its final three weeks. Yet absolutely none of the major federal party leaders have provided a substantive response to the August 3, 2021 letter to them from the AODA Alliance. In that letter, the AODA asked for 12 specific election pledges to tear down disability barriers facing six million people with disabilities in Canada.

A guest column in the Toronto Star’s Metroland local newspapers on this issue by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, set out below, explores this election’s disability accessibility issues. We emphasize that achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is but one of the major disability issues in this federal election. We support and encourage efforts from the disability community to secure commitments on all the major disability issues.

Among other things, the guest column, set out below, identifies serious concerns with the Federal Government giving up to 7.5 million dollars to a non-profit for its private accessibility certification training program. This is the one provided by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

We urge you to share this guest column with all candidates in this federal election. It is not too late for any and all of the federal party leaders to make the 12 election pledges we seek on achieving accessibility for people with disabilities.

We also urge you to send this guest column to your local media. Urge them to cover all this election’s disability issues, including the specific disability accessibility issue on which the AODA Alliance is focusing.

For more background, check out:

* The AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter to the major federal party leaders, seeking election commitments on tearing down barriers impeding people with disabilities.
* The AODA Alliance’s August 24, 2021 news release, explaining why it was wrong for the Federal Government to give up to 7.5 million dollars to the Rick Hanssen Foundation for its problem-ridden private accessibility certification and training program.
* The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and its August 15, 2019 supplemental report that each details serious problems with the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification and training program.

The August 27, 2021 AODA Alliance Update that sets out the commitments of the major federal parties so far on accessibility for people with disabilities, in their publicly-posted platform documents.

Metroland August 31, 2021
Originally posted at https://www.toronto.com/opinion-story/10463855-federal-party-platforms-mostly-offer-thin-gruel-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities/ Opinion
Federal party platforms mostly offer ‘thin gruel’ for millions of Canadians with disabilities
‘Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties,’ writes David Lepofsky CITY CENTRE MIRROR

If this federal election is like past ones, media coverage and pundit gabfests will leave out key issues vital to six million people with disabilities.

Over the past two years, things got worse for us. We disproportionately suffered COVID’s worst hardships. Yet all levels of government emergency planning often left out our urgent needs.

The federal government harmfully liberalized medical assistance in dying, making it easier to die because of your disability, with state assistance. Ontario let hospitals ready themselves to blatantly discriminate against some patients with disabilities in access to life-saving critical care if COVID overloads hospital emergency rooms. Cities let restaurants open outdoor patios without ensuring an accessible way to get around them. As a blind person, I’ve been forced to walk into dangerous oncoming road traffic.

Something is wrong with this picture. Our governments should make it easier to live with a disability, not make it easier or more likely to die because of a disability.

What will national parties pledge in this election to make Canada become accessible to people with disabilities by 2040, the deadline unanimously enshrined in the 2019 Accessible Canada Act (ACA)?

We asked the parties for detailed commitments, to ensure that the ACA’s implementation is swift, strong and effective, including: making needed accessibility standard regulations within four years, effectively enforcing the ACA, establishing a single unified process for cases, ensuring that nothing done under the ACA cuts back on disability rights, and ensuring that public money is never used to create disability barriers.

We await answers. As for their published platforms, the NDP makes some helpful commitments on point, though not enough. The others offer thin gruel.

In the 2019 election, the Liberals promised the ACA’s “timely and ambitious implementation.” It pledged to use a disability lens for all government decisions.

Since then, Trudeau’s actions weren’t timely or ambitious. There’s been no appreciable improvement in disability accessibility.

No national accessibility standards have been enacted to require specific actions to remove and prevent disability barriers. The federal government has not even hired the national accessibility commissioner or the chief accessibility officer, pivotal to lead the ACA’s implementation.

There was no disability lens when the federal government released the ArriveCan app for people entering Canada, replete with accessibility barriers for blind users. The federal government pours billions into infrastructure projects without requiring their disability accessibility. It enacted no comprehensive, mandatory up-to-date national standards under the ACA for the accessibility of such projects or of the built environment generally.

Instead, the Liberals doled out up to $7.5 million to a private accessibility certification program, run by a third-party non-profit that doesn’t work. Due diligence would show that the foundation’s training program for its inspectors is not sufficiently comprehensive. It green-lights some buildings that aren’t really accessible. Premier Ford similarly announced $1.3 million on the same private process two years ago, with no resulting increase in accessibility to show for it. It’s an easy way for governments to try to claim they’ve accomplished something on accessibility.

Voters, demand strong accessibility commitments from all parties.
David Lepofsky is chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and visiting professor, Osgoode Hall Law School.




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After Winning the Battle in Toronto Last Spring, AODA Alliance and Other Disability Advocates Now Call on London City Council Not to Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others by Allowing Electric Scooters


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

August 30, 2021

SUMMARY

Will it ever end? Now It’s London Ontario that is considering the possibility of legalizing electric scooters (e-scooters). Due to the Ford Government, we must fight this battle in one city after the next. It was the Ford Government that gave municipalities the power to allow e-scooters. Premier Ford ignored all disability concerns and acted instead at the behest of the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

With this issue now rearing its ugly head in London Ontario, the AODA Alliance and other disability advocates are now hitting the ground running, in an effort to avert this danger to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others who live in or visit London. On Tuesday, August 31, 2021 at noon, this issue is an agenda item on the City of London’s Civic Works Committee. The AODA Alliance is one of the disability organizations that have sent in written submissions to that Committee, asking London to say no to e-scooters. The AODA Alliance’s August 27, 2021 brief to the London Civic Works Committee is set out below.

We understand that London’s Accessibility Advisory Committee has commendably recommended that London say no to e-scooters. Earlier this year, the AODA Alliance and several other disability organizations and advocates convinced the Toronto City Council to unanimously say no to e-scooters. We are now trying to convince London to do the same thing, without burdening people with disabilities with the hardship of having to mount another hard-fought campaign to protect our safety and accessibility. We need London City Council to stand up for people with disabilities, seniors and others, and to stand up to the e-scooter rental companies’ corporate lobbyists.

We have asked London’s Civic Works Committee to allow for a deputation by the AODA Alliance at its August 31, 2021 meeting. We understand that no final votes on the e-scooters issue are expected at that meeting.

You can watch the August 31, 2021 London Civic Works Committee meeting live-streamed on Youtube on the City of London’s Youtube stream at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmRugRQ2sUo

For more details on the battle that people with disabilities have fought in Ontario over the past two years to avert the danger that e-scooters pose for them, visit the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

Riding Electric Scooters in London is Dangerous and Must Remain Banned — AODA Alliance brief to the City of London Civic Works Committee August 27, 2021
Via email: [email protected]

On its agenda for its August 31, 2021 meeting, the Civic Works Committee of London City Council has an agenda item regarding the possibility of allowing electric scooters (e-scooters) in the City of London. The AODA Alliance submits this brief to London’s Civic Works Committee on that agenda item, and requests an opportunity to make a presentation or deputation at that meeting via whatever virtual platform is being used.

In summary, London City Council must not unleash dangerous e-scooters in London. Riding e-scooters in public places in London is now banned and remains banned unless City Council legalizes them.

The non-partisan AODA Alliance has played a leading role in raising serious disability safety and accessibility concerns with e-scooters. To learn more about the AODA Alliance’s advocacy efforts to protect people with disabilities and others from the dangers that e-scooters pose, visit its e-scooters web page.

The AODA Alliance strongly commends the London Accessibility Advisory Committee for recommending that e-scooters should not be allowed in London. The AODA Alliance asks the City of London Civic Works Committee to follow that advice, and to recommend the following:

1. London should not permit the use of e-scooters, and should not conduct a pilot project with e-scooters.

2. If the City of London is going to explore the possibility of allowing e-scooters, e-scooters should not be permitted if they present any risk to the health or safety of people with disabilities, seniors, children or others, or if they are prone to create new accessibility barriers that would impede people with disabilities within London.

3. At the very least, if this issue is not simply taken right off the table, before proceeding any further, City staff should investigate the dangers that e-scooters pose for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others. A public consultation on that issue should be held, beyond a purely online digital survey form.

London should benefit from the extensive and commendable work done on this issue in Toronto. This past spring, Toronto City Council voted unanimously not to allow e-scooters, after very extensive consideration of the issue. Toronto City Staff undertook the most thorough investigation of this issue of any Ontario municipality, as far as we have been able to discover.

An initial July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report, supplemented by a second February 2021 Toronto City Staff report, together amply show that e-scooters endanger public safety in communities that have permitted them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people cannot detect silent e-scooters that can accelerate at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmeted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for people with vision loss and an accessibility nightmare for wheelchair users.

It is no solution to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The Toronto City Staff reports, referred to above, document the silent menace of e-scooters continuing to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. London would need police officers on every block. Toronto City Staff reported to Toronto City Council last summer that no city that allows e-scooters has gotten enforcement right.

E-scooters would cost taxpayers a great deal. This would include new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, and lawsuits by the injured. London has far more pressing budget priorities.

Especially with COVID still raging, London City Council should not be considering the legalization of dangerous e-scooters. In Toronto, a stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies had inundated City Hall with for months. The corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank, while injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital emergency rooms. That the Toronto City Council unanimously said no to e-scooters despite this massive corporate lobbying should signal to London how important it is to stand up for people with disabilities and others endangered by e-scooters.

London City Council should not conduct an e-scooter pilot. A pilot to study what? How many of people living in or visiting London will be injured? We already know they will, from cities that have allowed them. It would be immoral to subject people in London to a City-wide human experiment, especially without their consent, where they can get injured. The call for a “pilot project with e-scooters is just the corporate lobbyists’ ploy to try to get their foot firmly planted in the door, so it will be harder to later get rid of e-scooters.

London, like the rest of Ontario, already has too many disability barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires London and the rest of Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. To allow e-scooters would be to make things worse, not better, by creating new barriers impeding people with disabilities.

E-scooters create problems for businesses, as well as for people with disabilities. That is why Toronto’s Broadview Danforth BIA made an April 26, 2021 submission to the City of Toronto, set out below, that urged that e-scooters not be allowed. That BIA includes a part of Toronto that has similarities to downtown London.

Since we allow bikes, why not e-scooters? An e-scooter, unlike a bike, is a motor vehicle. As such, they should not be exempt from public safety regulations that apply to motor vehicles. A person who has never ridden an e-scooter can hop on one and instantly throttle up to race over 20 KPH. A person cannot instantly pedal a bike that fast, especially if they have never ridden a bike. In any event, London already has bikes. It does not need the dangers of e-scooters.

The July 2020 Toronto City Staff Report shows that e-scooters do not bring the great benefits for reduced car traffic and pollution that the corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies claim.

London should now call a stop to its exploration of e-scooters. Its residents with disabilities, its seniors and others should not have to mount an advocacy effort like the one that was necessary in Toronto to prevent the City from exposing its residents and visitors to the proven dangers that e-scooters pose. This is so especially while they along with all others must continue trying to cope with the pandemic.

Please make London easier and not harder for people with disabilities, seniors and others to get around. Protect those who need safe, accessible streets and sidewalks, not the interests of corporate lobbyists.

These references to banning e-scooters do not refer to the very different scooters that some people with disabilities use for mobility devices. Those mobility devices are now permitted and of course, should remain permitted.

Learn more about the dangers that e-scooters pose to people with disabilities, seniors, children and others, by visiting the AODA Alliance e-scooter web page and by watching the AODA Alliance’s short, captioned video on this issue. Read the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 detailed brief to Toronto City Council on e-scooters. Read the January 22, 2020 open letter to all municipalities and to Premier Doug Ford co-signed by 11 disability organization, that oppose e-scooters in Ontario.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org, by following @aodaalliance on Twitter, by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com or by emailing us at [email protected]

April 26, 2021 Written Submission to the City of Toronto by the Broadview Danforth Business Improvement Area

April 26, 2021

TO: Infrastructure and Environment Committee Clerk

FROM: The Broadview Danforth BIA

RE: Item: 1E21.7 Pilot Project: Electric Kick-Scooters

I’m writing on behalf of the 355 business members in the Broadview Danforth BIA to support the recommendation being made by the General Manager, Transportation Services to decline the option to participate in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project for Electric Kick-Scooters. Our comments below can be shared with the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting on April 28, 2021.

We have reviewed the components related to this proposed pilot project and have serious concerns that it would be very difficult to implement in a manner consistent with public safety and order.

Following a presentation made by Janet Lo from Transportation Services to BIAs, our key concerns are as follows:
Safety issues related to people with disabilities who use our sidewalks and wouldn’t be able to safely continue doing so if e-scooters were allowed on sidewalks.

Safety issues related to all people using sidewalks the potential of e-scooters being left on the sidewalks or tied to benches, tree guards etc. and falling over will lead to potential tripping hazards.

Lack of clarity on insurance coverage for riders, e-scooter rental companies and the general public who may be injured by e-scooter riders. Lack of City/police resources to enforce any kind of e-scooter laws. At the moment we have cyclists improperly using the roads and bike lanes and enforcement is almost non-existent. It’s impossible to believe that enforcement will be available for e-scooters. Our businesses are fighting for their survival during this pandemic and the last thing we need is for customers to feel unsafe using our sidewalks.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our feedback on this issue.

Albert Stortchak
Board Chair
Broadview Danforth BIA




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