University Launches New Six-Year Disability Inclusion Action Plan


24 September 2019
Supporting people with disability to succeed

The University of Sydney has reached an important milestone in inclusion and access for people with disability, with today’s launch of its Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2019-24 during Disability Inclusion Week.

The Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2019-24 strengthens our commitment to protect staff, students and visitors with disability from discrimination and support all members of our community to succeed at the University.

The new six-year plan aligns with our core values of inclusion and diversity, and community expectations that people with disability are included in all areas of public life.

The University of Sydney is recognised as one of Australia’s higher education leaders in disability inclusion, with our previous Disability Action Plan (2013-18) being recognised as an example of best practice and used as a model for the development of the NSW Government’s own plan.

At today’s launch the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, welcomed the new plan the fourth of its kind. Several esteemed speakers joined him for the launch, including Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Ben Gauntlett, and Ms Carly Findlay, an award-winning writer, speaker and appearance activist who regularly writes about disability issues.

Dr Spence called for a united effort to implement the plan’s objectives.

“If we are to be a university in which the brightest researchers and the most promising students can thrive and realise their full potential, we must ensure that we provide a learning and working environment which is inclusive and accessible to all our students, staff and visitors,” Dr Spence said.

“I welcome the University’s Disability Inclusion Action Plan 201924 and urge the whole University community to commit to working towards the achievement of its objectives.”

” My disability services officer provided me with empathy and incredible support. Because of my new academic plan, I feel that I can get the most out of my studies while not being completely overwhelmed. ” International student

The plan builds on the University’s proud track record of progress and achievements in disability inclusion across almost two decades, and supports our aspirations to become an employer and higher education provider of choice.

Thousands of students and staff with disability are actively using the University’s support services. One international student, who asked to remain anonymous, said his “disability services officer provided me with empathy and incredible support. Because of my new academic plan, I feel that I can get the most out of my studies while not being completely overwhelmed.”

Zoe Stawyskyj, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) (Honours in Physics) and is now a casual teacher at the University, said she would have had to study part time without the assistance she received from Disability Services.

Zoe, who has a chronic illness, said the new plan’s promotion of the legal requirements that support people with disability were critical for her, because she can “draw on that information to be empowered and know my rights”.

The new plan reflects the experience of staff and students with disability. They contributed substantially to the plan’s creation during an extensive consultation and development process. There are a number of initiatives that will be implemented during the life of the plan, including the following.
Implement accessible wayfinding and navigation on our campuses, including technology-driven solutions.
Ensure our curriculum demonstrates application of the principles of Universal Design for Learning.
Enhance strategic employment of people with disability, including the creation of an employment fund to support hiring managers in recruiting people with a disability.

Find out more about the University’s 2019-24 Disability Inclusion Action Plan at https://sydney.edu.au/about-us/vision-and-values/diversity/disability-action-plan.html.

Original at https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/09/24/university-of-sydney-launches-disability-action-plan.html




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The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today

August 15, 2019

          SUMMARY

There have now been 197 days since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley that called for strong new action to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Instead of announcing a plan to take the key new actions that the Onley Report recommended, the Ford Government has just doubled down on its troubled plan to divert $1.3 million to the voluntary private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF). A new supplemental report by the AODA Alliance, made public today, shows that the Government’s plan has even more problems than earlier discovered.

Over three and a half years ago, the AODA Alliance showed that there are serious problems with the entire idea of a private building accessibility certification process, no matter who conducts it. Last month, in an AODA Alliance report that we made public on July 25, 2019, we unearthed serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million of public funds to the specific program that the RHF offers, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Today’s supplemental report digs deeper into the RHF program. It is based on an AODA Alliance review of some of the documents from the RHF that the Government has recently disclosed to the AODA Alliance. Today’s supplemental report also analyzes the Ford Government’s first detailed response to concerns which the AODA Alliance has raised about this plan.

Below, we show you the AODA Alliance’s supplemental report on the RHFAC. It includes a summary near the start that lists its key findings. At the end of this report is the text of the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance in which the Government answers a number of the questions we have asked about that program. We appreciate the Government providing a detailed response, although we are deeply troubled by much of its contents, as the supplemental report explains in detail.

Our serious concerns with the Ford Government’s plans have gotten good media coverage and were in significant part echoed in a strong editorial that the Toronto Star ran on August 6, 2019. We repeat our call for the Government to put on hold its plan to fund the RHFAC, and to immediately convene a steakholders’ roundtable or summit to explore strategies for effectively addressing the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment. We also call on the Government to now make public a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

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

Supplemental Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC)

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government.

On July 25, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public its detailed July 3, 2019 report which shows serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan. That report garnered good print, broadcast and online media coverage. On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial echoing a number of the AODA Alliance’s concerns with the Ford Government’s plan.

On July 3, 2019 the AODA Alliance sent the Ford Government a copy of its report on the proposed public funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). The AODA Alliance also wrote the Ford Government, asking a series of important questions about the Government’s plans.

On July 29, 2019, the Ford Government wrote back to the AODA Alliance. It provided a number of answers and disclosed several documents regarding the RHFAC.

In this supplemental report, the AODA Alliance makes public a series of its supplemental and additional concerns with the Government’s plan to provide public funding to the RHFAC. These are based on the new information that the Government has disclosed to us. We thank the Government for providing this information. At the end of this supplemental report, we make public the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to us and its answers to our earlier questions, as an appendix to this supplemental report.

This supplemental report is based on our review of the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter, and two of the documents from the RHF. Those documents are the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide and the RHFAC Student’s Guide. These are used in the course which the RHF has provided for people who want to train to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings as part of the RHFAC.

The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

  1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.
  1. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.
  1. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.
  1. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.
  1. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.
  1. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.
  1. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.
  1. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.
  1. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.
  1. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.
  1. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.
  1. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.
  1. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.
  1. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.
  1. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.
  1. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.
  1. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.

1. The Ford Government Held No Open Competitive Bidding Process Before Deciding to Give $1.3 Million to the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Program

It is clear from the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the Government did not hold an open competitive bidding process before it decided to award $1.3 million to the RHF. The Ford Government was elected in 2018 on a core pledge to be responsible in the use of public money. It is fundamental that a competitive bidding process be held before such a large sum of money is awarded to any private organization for a public project.

The Ford Government gave poor reasons for refusing its not doing so. For example, in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance it said:

“For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.”

To the extent that that sentence could create the impression that the RHF has been operating its accessibility rating service for 30 years, this would be a substantial exaggeration. The RHF only started its private accessibility certification program within the past three or four years. It has not been operating it for 30 years, as the Ford Government claimed.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter suggested that the RHF private accessibility certification program is somehow unique. It states:

“The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.”

This does not justify the failure to hold an open competitive bidding process. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and this supplemental report show that there are serious problems with each of the Government’s core claims about the RHF program. Beyond them, the RHF program at bottom gives an organization its advice on the accessibility of a building. The RHF is not unique in this regard. Ontario has several private organizations which have been providing accessibility advice on the built environment to organizations for a fee. There are such organizations that have been doing so for much longer than has the RHF. There are examples of such organizations that use far more experienced and qualified people than an RHF-trained free-lance assessor who has only taken a two-week course.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter emphasized the RHF’s reputation and years of work in the area of accessibility. Yet that is no excuse for not providing others who do accessibility consulting with the same chance to compete for public funding for their accessibility advisory services, if the Ford Government wishes to provide public funding for such services. Just because one bidder is believed to have a good reputation is no reason to prevent others from bidding on the same project.

To generally support its decision to fund the RHFAC program, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance relied on the fact that the RHF accessibility program has been deployed in BC and Nova Scotia. That does not disprove any of our documented concerns or displace the need for a proper and open competition. The Ford Government has not presented any proof from the BC or Nova Scotia experience that shows that our concerns are unfounded. Much to the contrary, we have shown that the RHF gave a gold certification to the Vancouver International Airport, even though it has hangout steps – an identified accessibility problem.

2. There are No Measures in Place to Address Serious Conflict of Interest Concerns with the RHFAC

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHFAC program raised serious concerns about the risk that the RHF itself and its free-lance accessibility assessors could encounter conflict of interest situations. We asked the Ford Government what the Government was doing to address this.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government identified no measures that it has put in place or that it plans to put in place to address these serious conflict of interest concerns that we have raised both regarding the RHF itself, and its free-lance assessors. Even more troubling, the Government did not even acknowledge that there is any conflict of interest concerns.

To answer the possibility of RHF conflicts of interest, the Government points to the RHF’s background and reputation. However, that is no answer. The most accomplished and esteemed lawyer or law firm can nevertheless find itself in a conflict of interest position. That lawyer or law firm must then take action to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. It is no answer that the lawyer or law firm has a great reputation and track record. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, no matter how reputable is the person or organization that has that conflict of interest.

To answer the conflict of interest concern regarding the free-lance assessors, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter in substance emphasized that they are professionals and have no gain to falsify assessments. Yet the Government’s calling them “professionals” is no answer. A professional can in some situations experience a conflict of interest. Being a professional does not mean one is immune from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, this specific professional designation is an invention of the RHF itself. It does not have the same safeguards as apply to other self-governing professionals, like doctors, lawyers or social workers.

As well, the issue of conflict of interest goes beyond the risk of deliberate falsification of an accessibility assessment. As shown later in this supplemental report, these RHF accessibility assessments have a clear and significant discretionary element to them. The risk of conflicts of interest can especially arise when exercising that discretion.

As the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter acknowledges, this is the livelihood for some of these assessors. As such, they have a clear financial interest in getting more organizations to hire them to do more assessments. That is the very genesis of this conflict of interest problem. They risk leaning in favour of finding more accessibility in order to get more organizations to hire them to do their accessibility assessments.

3. Key and Basic Aspects of this Public Funding Program Have Still Not Yet Been Worked out Months After it was Announced

From the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, it is clear that key aspects of this Government program have still not yet been worked out, even though it was first announced back on April 11, 2019, over four months ago. For example, it is not yet known which buildings will be assessed, or who will choose them, or what role if any the RHF will have in this, or by which criteria they will be chosen, or whether the Government will subsidize all or only part of the cost of this assessment. We only know that the Government says it is working on these important and rather basic details with the RHF.

This illustrates how Ontarians with disabilities are being effectively excluded from the very table where key decisions are to be made and where they deserve a central role. We only know that the RHF is at that table.

4. It is Troubling that the RHF Accessibility Certification Program Tries to Shift Responsibility and Risk onto Others

The public, including organizations that seek to have the RHF assess their buildings, would reasonably believe that it is the RHF that is doing the assessing and certifying. This is an obvious conclusion to draw from the program’s name, the “Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification” or RHFAC program. The RHF has gone to the effort of trademarking this name.

Passers-by who see a sign on a building that it is certified as accessible by the RHFAC would very likely conclude that it was the RHF that did the accessibility certifying. It is also an obvious conclusion to draw from the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 media announcement of this public funding program. It states:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

We would expect that the RHF would have seen that wording before the Ford Government made it public. We have seen no statement by the RHF asking the Ford Government to correct that statement.

Yet on our closer inspection, the reality seems very different. The RHF has taken clear and troubling steps to distance itself from responsibility for key aspects of any accessibility certification that is done in its trademarked name.

As a first illustration of this, the RHF makes it clear that it is not responsible in any way for the activity of those free-lance assessors who conduct an RHFAC accessibility assessment. The RHF strongly encourages those free-lance assessors to carry their own liability insurance, presumably at their own expense. This is a clear shifting of responsibility for these assessments to these individuals, and away from the RHF. The RHF Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Professional Liability: A designated RHFAC Professional shall assume any and all personal liability associated with their work or conduct. RHF shall not assume any responsibility or liability, of any kind, whatsoever, for a designated RHFAC Professional’s work or conduct. RHFAC Professionals are strongly encouraged to obtain professional liability insurance.”

As a second illustration of this, the RHFAC Student’s Guide includes a very strong disclaimer. It says it absolves the RHF from any responsibility for its contents. Therefore, a student in the RHF course is supposed to assume all the risk. RHF takes no responsibility for the contents of its curriculum that it requires an assessor to complete.

The RHFAC Student’s Guide sets out the course curriculum. It is what a student is required to read and learn. The RHFAC Student’s Guide disclaims right near the start:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, site alterations, repairs and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

It would be very troubling if a law professor or an architecture professor began their class or course by disclaiming responsibility for what they teach when it comes to the law, or to design principles.

As a third illustration of this, the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide includes a similar disclaimer. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide sets out the RHF’s instructions to the instructors that teach the RHF course. This disclaimer also says it absolves the RHF for responsibility for the course’s contents, in so far as the course instructors are concerned. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide states:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, building alterations, repairs, and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, by laws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

Taken together, it appears as if the RHF is trying to shift as much responsibility as possible onto the free-lance assessors and course instructors, and away from the RHF itself. This is so even though the so-called accessibility certification and the training course are heavily and repeatedly branded with the RHF name and related RHFAC trademark. This is also so despite the fact that the RHF appears to have set the course contents and requirements.

5. The RHFAC Accessibility Ratings are Clearly Left in Significant Part to Each Free-Lance Assessor’s Subjective Discretion, Despite the Government’s Claims that These Accessibility Assessments are Consistently Applied

The Ford Government indicated in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that:

“The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.”

Yet documents that we obtained from the Ontario Government have demonstrated our concern that the RHFAC program leaves a great deal of discretion to each free-lance assessor. Assessors can readily differ on what they consider to be accessible. As such, an RHF “accessibility certification” may not demonstrate that the building is in fact accessible.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

” The instructor should emphasize the following:

  • The importance of using the Professional Handbook.
  • In conducting an assessment, there is much ambiguity. It is not a black and white science, and there will often be differing opinions. Thus, it is essential that students understand the importance of providing clear rationale to defend their positions.”

The Instructor’s Guide also shows that an assessment of a building’s accessibility under the RHFAC program is subject to the highly discretionary and open-ended criterion of “appropriate access.” No doubt, what is “appropriate access” can easily vary from one free-lance assessor to another, or from one adjudicator to another. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a building’s rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a “show-stopper”, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

The Student Guide similarly shows that the assessment process is ultimately left to the personal or subjective discretion of each assessor. Each assessor can form their own personal view of what ratings are “reasonable.” The Student Guide states:

“• Preview the results to see if they look reasonable.”

The Government and the RHF suggest that consistency in the accessibility assessments of buildings is assured by the fact that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reviews each RHFAC assessment’s documents. However, there is no plausible way that the CSA can rectify this risk of inconsistency from one assessor to the next, when the standard each assessor ultimately uses to evaluate a building’s accessibility ends up being so subjective and discretionary. This is made worse since there is no suggestion that the CSA visits any of the buildings being assessed, to monitor and ensure that each assessor’s assessments are consistent.

6. It is Problematic for the RHFAC to Take Averages of the Accessibility of a Building’s Features Like Bathrooms

According to the Student Guide, a rating of the accessibility of a feature, such as a building’s bathrooms, is an average of the accessibility rating point scores of each of the building’s bathrooms. The Student Guide states:

“Important: If an element, such as a parking area, is provided in multiple locations for the facility, then rate each area individually and take an average of the assessment values for each feature.”

This is problematic. A person with a disability does not use an average of the building’s bathrooms. He or she uses a specific bathroom. An average figure may leave a person with the wrong impression that there is good accessibility across the board among bathrooms. In fact, some of those bathrooms may have real accessibility problems.

We offer a stark example to illustrate this point. Assume that a building has two bathrooms. One is fully accessible and gets a 5 point score. The other is completely inaccessible and gets a 1 point score. The resulting average would be a 2.5 points out of 5 overall score for the building’s bathrooms. This would lead an observer to think that the building’s bathrooms are at least partially accessible. Yet in fact, one of the two bathrooms is entirely inaccessible. There is only one place in the building where people with disabilities who need such accessibility can go to the bathroom.

7. The RHFAC Program Repeatedly Emphasizes the Problematic Idea of Getting Organizations to Go “Beyond Code”, As If Building Code Compliance Is All That Is Required

At some points in the RHFAC program’s documents that we have reviewed, the RHF makes the repeated error of talking about the goal of getting organizations to go “beyond Code.” By this, the RHF clearly means going beyond the accessibility requirements of the applicable Building Code. The RHF speaks of this as a virtue to be rewarded, as if it means that an organization is doing more than they are required to do.

This fundamentally misconceives and understates an organization’s accessibility obligations. An organization’s accessibility obligations also include those under the applicable human rights code, and in the case of the public sector, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These can well exceed what the applicable Building Code requires. Moreover, local municipal bylaws can set accessibility requirements that are higher than the applicable Building Code. Elsewhere in the RHFAC Student’s Guide and Instructor’s guide, these points are at times made. However, the repeated reversion to “going beyond Code” risks confusing students, and/or leaving them with the wrong impression.

It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations and designers to mistakenly think that all they need to do on accessibility is to comply with the applicable Building Code. The RHFAC materials at times appear to reinforce that mistaken view.

For example, the Student Guide makes this mistake where it states:

“The main triggers that stimulate demand for an RHFAC rating are as follows:

  1. Any site that involves design and construction.

For buildings, this includes both new construction and major retrofits or conversions. In terms of design, the minimum requirement regarding accessibility is compliance with building code. The site owner, and hence designers and builders, are legally bound only to meet requirements set out in the building code. As those in the construction industry develop an increased awareness of Universal Design concepts and its long-term benefits, they may seek the advice and assistance of a trained assessor to help them go beyond building code compliance.”

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

The RHFAC program depends heavily on an RHF adjudicator assessing the quality and sufficiency of the free-lance assessor’s evaluation of a building’s accessibility. Yet the RHF adjudicator appears not to go to the building themselves, in so far as we can discern from the documents we have reviewed. We found no requirement that the adjudicator themselves visit the building in issue. They instead depend on the free-lance assessor to take enough photos and videos of the building, which the adjudicator can then review.

The Student Guide places a burden on the assessor to record everything an adjudicator might need to know about the building. The Student Guide states:

“Make sure you provide any information you think the adjudicator may need in order for them to understand your rating for each line entry.”

Accordingly, the adjudicator’s review can only be as good as the photos and videos they are given to review. If the assessor does not take sufficient photos, the adjudicator may not know it. The adjudicator may agree with the free-lance assessor’s evaluations depicted in the photos and videos received, even though the building could have serious accessibility problems that the assessor did not photograph.

If, for example, a free-lance assessor does not take a picture of “hangout steps” at a building, the adjudicator won’t know that the building has hangout steps. The AODA Alliance’s widely-viewed online video on the serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre demonstrated how hangout steps can present serious accessibility problems.

The RHF has pointed to oversight by the CSA as reinforcing the validity of this accessibility certification process. Yet from our review, it appears that the CSA, like the RHF adjudicator, is entirely dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the photos and videos that the free-lance assessor takes. This is not a reliable system.

As well, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance makes it clear that to qualify to be an RHFAC adjudicator, a person needs only to have completed the RHFAC course. We have detailed earlier, and further show here, that this training is insufficient to be an effective assessor. The same goes for an adjudicator.

9. There Are Insufficient Safeguards to Ensure that an RHF-Certified Building Remains Accessible After It Is So-Certified

Based on information the Ford Government provided, it is possible for a building to get an RHFAC accessible or gold rating, and then make changes that impede accessibility, without this necessarily changing the organization’s rating for months, if at all. There are several concerns:

  1. a) According to the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, an organization must declare “substantial changes to the site” to the RHF. This appears to be entirely self-policing.
  1. b) “Substantial changes” is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.
  1. c) The Government indicated that if such changes are reported, the RHF “may” investigate such reported changes. That provides no assurance that they will be investigated. The Government did not say the RHF “will” investigate any such changes.
  1. d) The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter also stated:

“In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.”

That too appears entirely self-policing. If an organization does not self-declare a change to accessibility, there is no assurance that such changes will affect their accessibility rating.

  1. e) Beyond an organization self-reporting changes to its building’s accessibility, the Government was palpably silent on there being anything in this process to enable members of the public to report accessibility problems at a building that the RHF has rated as accessible. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter repeated our earlier question to the Government, as follows, without answering it. We asked:

“what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?”

10. The Mandatory RHFAC Course Is Even Shorter Than the Two Weeks We Earlier Announced

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report expressed the serious concern that to be qualified as an RHF accessibility assessor, a person with no prior knowledge or experience with accessibility must only complete a two-week RHF course. A review of RHF documents shows that it is even less than two weeks in length.

According to RHF documentation, the course is only 8 days long. The 8th day is an on-site day, not a classroom training day. A person in the course is only required to attend 80% of the seven days of classroom instruction, which is only 5.6 days. The Student Guide states:

“A minimum of 80% classroom attendance and 100% field experience attendance is required to pass the course.”

11. An Instructor in the RHFAC Course Need Not Have Demonstrated Expertise in the Accessibility of the Built Environment

A person does not need to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment to be an instructor in the RHFAC course. The AODA Alliance asked the Government what requirements a person must meet to be qualified to teach in that course. In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government said in material part:

“All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.”

A person can have extensive experience in the built environment and yet have no demonstrated knowledge or expertise about accessibility of the built environment. As amplified by the concerns documented here, completion of the RHFAC course does not qualify someone to be an instructor in that course.

To try to show the sufficiency of the RHFAC course, the Ford Government listed in its July 29, 2019 a series of colleges and universities where this course has been offered. However, it is clear from the documents disclosed to us that it is the RHF that designed this course, and not any of those colleges and universities. It is also clear that the instructors do not need to come from any of the faculties of those colleges or universities.

12. The RHF Training Course Crams Far Too Much Curriculum into Too Short a Time

It is totally unrealistic to expect a student to effectively learn all or even most of the information and analytical skills which the RHF jams into its training course for its accessibility assessors. We reached this conclusion based on our review of the RHF Instructor’s Guide, for those teaching the RHF curriculum, and the Student’s Guide, for students taking the course.

The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide specifies that a student, taking this short course, should end up in the end with these huge results:

“Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities.
  2. Integrate relevant legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
  3. Integrate Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
  4. Interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings.
  5. Communicate and support assessment findings to clients, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive standards.
  6. Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
  7. Display professionalism and promote inclusiveness when working with clients.”

In this course, the RHF expects a person with no required prior background in the law to be able, after the course, to locate, become familiar with, learn and be ready to advise an organization about the different laws governing the built environment at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of Canada’s Constitution), federal and provincial human rights codes, federal and provincial building codes, provincial accessibility laws such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and municipal bylaws that set requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in different municipalities. The RHF also expects its assessors to learn how to figure out which of these laws governs the accessibility in a particular building. That can require assessments of constitutional questions as well as the interpretation of different provincial laws and municipal bylaws. These can be complicated legal questions.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to explain the legal environment related to human rights and disability. Assessors need to be able to interpret the intent and requirements of relevant legislation and to understand the roles of various organizations, agencies and levels of government in promoting accessibility.”

Referring to one of the discussions of law in the course, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:

  • Explain human rights and disability legislation and their impact on accessibility.
  • Explain the relationship and hierarchy among employment & human rights and disability legislation.”

As well, the Student Guide states:

“Locate Applicable Building Code or Standards

For a building assessment, you need to determine building classification, ownership and jurisdiction and to locate/review applicable building code and accessibility standards. Make sure you know and understand the accessibility provisions of CSA B651-12 that are applicable to the site to be reviewed (these are covered in “Unit 5.2 Accessibility Legislation, Regulations and Standards”).”

An RHF free-lance assessor is expected to end this course with sufficient expertise to form judgements on whether a proposed building meets Building Code accessibility requirements. The Student Guide states:

“Recommendations provided for new construction must ensure that sites meet code requirements for basic accessibility.”

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

“Compliance equals only minimal levels of accessibility.

  • Compliance with legislation is essential. It is the law. You must confirm that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that minimum site specifications are adhered to. This includes human rights legislation and disability legislation, which protect people from discrimination, as well as building code regulations, which provide minimal levels of accessibility requirements. This is covered in “Section Five: Legal Framework and Compliance”.”

The Instructor’s Guide also makes it clear that a student is expected to learn to write a report on their assessment of a building that will include showing where the building complies or does not comply with relevant laws on accessibility, including accessibility legislation and human rights laws. The Instructor’s Guide sets as an outcome of one of its units:

“Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive design standards.”

We had asked the Ford Government if an RHF assessor needs to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario, or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter’s long response does not give a clear and unequivocal “yes” to this important question.

Moreover the RHF does not give students in this course a copy of the relevant voluntary accessibility standard from the CSA on which the RHF relies. It does not give students the relevant accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code, the AODA, or municipal bylaws dealing with accessibility of the built environment. it appears to be the responsibility of each student to get these for themselves.

Beyond those substantial legal topics, in this course, a student is also expected to be able to learn at least in a preliminary way how to read technical professional drawings such as blueprints for a proposed new building. This is so even if the student has no prior background on how to read such technical drawings.

The student is expected to learn how to evaluate those drawings, in order to assess whether or how much they meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. A student is also expected to learn how to visit a construction site when the building construction is underway, to advise whether the actual accessibility corresponds to the technical drawings. Here again, a student need not have any background in any of this to enroll in the course.

The Student Guide states:

“With new construction, an assessor will review construction documents or drawings based on the RHFAC Rating Survey to establish the level of access provided in the design. The assessor must identify and review elements related to accessibility solely from sketches, construction drawings and sometimes from only an artist’s rendering.”

The Student Guide also states:

“In addition to drawing reviews, assessors may need to conduct site inspections at various stages of construction to ensure the requirements developed in the design stage are transferred to the construction site.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to provide participants with a high-level introduction to construction documents such that they can identify and interpret the main building elements, and in particular, elements related to accessibility.

NOTE: As construction documents can be highly technical and complex, this will serve only as a basic introduction for those who have limited prior exposure to the construction industry. Participants who intend to develop their practice as RHFAC Professionals and who do not have prior experience would benefit by taking additional training. This unit may not be relevant for experienced contractors, or for professional architects or engineers.”

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

“Goals

  • The main goal of this unit is to help students who have limited or no prior experience with construction documents to understand construction documents at a basic level.

Objectives

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain standard types of construction drawings.
  • Identify standard information displayed on construction drawings.
  • Explain key features and symbols displayed on construction drawings.”

It would be too much to try to fit into such a short course all of the foregoing content regarding the law and regarding the reading of technical drawings. Yet the RHF course aims to also teach much more. The course materials present the student with a veritable blizzard of detailed information about the kinds of accessibility features or needs for which they should be looking, when they assess a building. This appears to be far more of such information than a person could effectively learn in up to 7 days of classroom learning.

There is still more content that this course covers. The course materials also aim to ensure that the student is up to speed on the RHF internal process for conducting an assessment of a building. this includes visiting the building, documenting observations, scoring the results, and providing for an internal review or adjudication.

Taken together, the course contents do not just bear upon a pile of facts or data that a student can memorize and then recall when needed, whether on a test or when assessing a building. The course focuses on key topics that require analytical skills. These include, for example, deciding which accessibility law applies to a building, how to interprete and apply those laws, analyzing technical drawings of a planned building, and, of course, analyzing the design features of a building for accessibility problems. A student cannot effectively develop these analytical skills in such a short course. they cannot be effectively acquired through a teaching format that is largely (though not exclusively) lectures, PowerPoint slides, and reading materials supplemented by some group discussions.

13. The RHFAC Course Appears to Emphasize Barriers Facing People with Physical Disabilities Such as People Using Wheelchairs

The Ford Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the RHFAC uses “all components of the CSA B651 standard” and that the RHFAC thereby measures “holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.” This further demonstrates our concern that this gives primary if not exclusive emphasis to the accessibility needs of only people with some disabilities. Our review of the RHFAC Instructor’s and Student’s Guides reinforces this concern, even though at some points, other disabilities are to some extent addressed.

Even though the course materials at times refer to other disabilities or to all disabilities, there are a number of points in the course materials that clearly suggest that a primary focus is on people with physical disabilities, including those using wheelchairs. If so, there is a real risk that the RHFAC program will continue that emphasis, to the disadvantage of people with other disabilities that can face barriers in the built environment.

14. It is Misleading to Suggest that Building Code Compliance Means that a Building is Accessible

At one point, the Instructor’s Guide makes the incorrect if not misleading suggestion that if a building complies with a Building Code, then it is accessible. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“As a general guideline, code compliance warrants an Accessibility Certified (AC) level rating. However, assessors also need to understand that there are situations in which this does not apply. For example, ramps are often not designed to code, but they are still accessible to most people.”

Yet elsewhere, the Student’s Guide appears to give a contradictory message. The Student’s Guide states:

“The RHF Accessibility Certification Program is intended to encourage meaningful access. Thus, an RHFAC rating goes beyond compliance with building code or adherence to standards or guidelines and provides a snapshot of the real level of accessibility of a site. Site owners or managers can then use this information to make positive changes that will help to ensure all users of their facilities feel welcome.”

Moreover, the Instructor’s Guide seems at at least one point to contradict the view that Building Code compliance is sufficient to amount to accessibility, where the Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a building’s rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a “show-stopper”, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

15. It Is Inappropriate and Potentially Harmful to Use Certain Disability Simulations as Part of the Course

It is wrong, potentially harmful and deeply troubling for the RHF course to include subjecting students to simulations of trying to walk with vision loss, e.g. by blindfolding them or putting vision-obstructing goggles on them and having them try to navigate using a white cane. We do not here comment on the RHF course’s use of simulations for hearing loss or mobility loss.

The RHF Instructor’s Guide and Student’s Guide each seek to train a student on the accessibility needs of people with certain disabilities. To enroll in the course, a student does not have to have any prior knowledge or experience with any disability. The course materials are written as if the students have no such background whatsoever. Of course, it is possible that some students who take the course have some background or experience with at least some disabilities.

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“This lesson aims to shift students’ attitudes and motivate them to become agents of change. Through simulation experiences, participants will gain a first-hand experience, albeit limited, of how people with disabilities experience the environment and the barriers they face at both a physical and emotional level.”

It also states:

“By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Describe how people with different disabilities navigate and adapt to the physical and social environment”

Such simulation exercises that seek to have a student experience blindness or vision loss through vision-obstructing goggles and through attempting to navigate with a white cane are extremely problematic. Except perhaps in very rare and extremely controlled circumstances that do not apply here, this should never be done. The RHF course is not one of those rare and controlled exceptions.

It is wrong to lead students to think that undergoing such a “simulation” has them experience anything like the experience of living with blindness or some degree of vision loss. Placing a blindfold or vision-obstructing goggles on a sighted person for a short period of time does not simulate the experience of a person living with blindness or vision loss.

A person who has lived with blindness or vision loss for years has had a chance to acquire a series of vital skills, such as the effective use of a white cane while walking. To acquire those skills, a person needs extensive time and practice, and a qualified and highly trained orientation and mobility specialist as their instructor.

In sharp contrast, when a sighted person dons a blindfold or vision-reducing goggles, they experience something extraordinarily different. They suddenly face the sudden loss of their full vision, for which they have had absolutely no prior training or time to adjust. They typically experience disorientation, confusion and palpable fear.

These so-called “simulations” are properly frowned upon because they produce such harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about living with vision loss. It is not unusual for some sighted people undergoing such “simulations” to project their feelings of fear and disorientation on people with vision loss, believing that such is what people with vision loss daily experience. It is hard to counter-act such strong emotional reactions. Indeed, it is reasonable to fear that pervasive pity and stereotypes about vision loss have their genesis in no small part to people trying to “experience blindness” by closing their eyes and trying to find their way around.

It is manifestly insufficient to simply caution students, going under blindfold, not to project those strong feelings on people with vision loss. The risk is that the memory of the stress and disorientation will far outlast any memory of that verbal caution.

The Student’s Guide treats as accurate the very harmful and incorrect stereotype about vision loss that gives rise to our objection to this simulation exercise. The Student’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience

Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. Spending some time wearing a simulator and attempting to do various everyday tasks can quickly give a fully sighted person a sense of some of the issues involved and how frustrating even the simplest of tasks can be. Often, participants become impressed with the capabilities of a person with limited sight.”

Making this worse, there is no assurance that the RHFAC instructor will have sufficient experience and expertise with the disabilities to be “simulated”. The Instructor’s Guide recommends but does not require that a more expert facilitator be recruited for this exercise. That Guide places very substantial responsibility on the course instructor, as follows:

“• Plan the route. Find a suitable route for the vision and mobility simulation experiences. Participants will be required to navigate these routes using a vision kit and wheelchair respectively.

  • Create a “Disability Simulation Exercise Schedule” and post on a whiteboard. The following is an example of a schedule:

Time    Vision  Mobility (wheelchair)

1:00 – 2:00      Group 1           Group 2

2:00 – 3:00      Group 2           Group 1

Trained Facilitators

It is important that simulation exercises are facilitated by trained industry professionals who preferably are themselves people with disabilities. Having a facilitator with a disability present will help to put a face on disability. It also adds credibility and ensures the most relevant information is available to the course participants.

Note: If trained industry professionals or additional support staff are not available, students may be asked to assist each other in the simulations by rotating roles of participant and facilitator. In this case, the instructor should simplify the simulation activities to ensure they are completely without risk.

Facilitators should accompany participants throughout the simulation exercise to provide guidance and ensure safety. Accordingly, the role of the facilitator is as follows:

  • To provide guidance regarding the use of equipment.
  • To ensure the safety of participants. This includes making any adjustments required to meet the individual abilities or needs of participants.
  • To offer a genuine perspective by sharing personal stories and anecdotes. The more personal anecdotes and stories that the facilitators can share with the class, the more effective the session will be. It is important that these stories are short, light-hearted and on point.
  • To stimulate discussion about disabilities in a safe environment that allows participants to be open, honest and curious.

Prior to conducting simulation exercises, the simulation facilitators will:

  • Explain the mobility aids and technology that will be used in the simulation.
  • Determine if anyone has any physical restrictions that could be aggravated by participating in the simulations (shoulder, back, wrist, etc.) and determine if possible to/how to accommodate.
  • Explain safe use of the equipment and safety procedures.
  • Explain the timing and logistics of the simulation exercise.
  • Explain the route and key features.
  • Give participants a sense of the level of access provided in the environment in which the simulation is being staged – is it a good example of accessibility or not?
  • Provide participants with broad understanding about the scope of disability in the community and the impact that a steadily increasing population of older adults and seniors and an increasingly active community of people with disabilities is having on the built environment.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s guide dives into several different kinds of vision loss. It shows that the instructor should be able to explain how a white cane is used. Yet an instructor (whose only relevant qualification needs to be a background in the built environment and prior completion of the RHFAC course) is not required to have any of the training or knowledge that a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist would have. Those are the professionals who teach white cane use, a complex subject. It shows that a long walking experience is expected. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience

Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators (white cane and goggles) that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. The most common conditions of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Each of these conditions can be simulated for participants. If simulators are not available, the instructor can provide more basic options to block vision for students, such as a blindfold.

Session facilitators should give detailed instructions for using a white cane and for ways of navigating with a vision impairment. The facilitator should also accompany participants to ensure their safety at all times. Some participants become quite frightened when they are unable to see where they are going.

Note: Participants in this simulation should be prepared to walk fairly long distances; therefore, appropriate footwear and casual clothing is advised.”

A very narrow and rare exception when such simulations of vision loss can be appropriate is in the case of the extensive post-secondary programs that provide professional training of orientation and mobility specialists for people with vision loss. In those highly controlled situations, a student only goes under blindfold or other vision obstructions when supervised by a qualified orientation and mobility faculty member at a college or university that offers a post-secondary course for such specialists. They do so in the context of an entire lengthy course (much more than an 8 day course) on orientation and mobility instruction. They may be expected to repeatedly and systematically go under blindfold for an hour or more each day, day after day, for a period of weeks or months of training.

In such training, the white cane is gradually introduced, but not at the very start of this process. White cane skills are slowly and systematically taught. The RHFAC course is far, far different from such a rare exceptional case where such simulations should be considered.

16. It is Unhelpful for The RHFAC Course to Ask Students to Consider Which Disability They’d Rather Have or Not Have

While trying to cram too much into too short a time, the RHFAC course also gives instructors the suggestion of having the students consider which of three disabilities they would like or not like to themselves have. The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“Ideas for Additional Learning Activities

Group Questioning Activity: Provide students with the following list of disabilities:

  • Deaf
  • Blind
  • Mobility impaired

Pose the question, “If you had a disability, which would you choose and why?” Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

Pose another question, this time reversing the question, “Which disability would you not want to have?” Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

For the disability that you have chosen to have, how would it impact your current job or your family?”

This is problematic. This exercise risks reinforcing stereotypes and fears about acquiring these disabilities. Unless the students have a very thorough understanding of each disability, their views will be influenced by stereotypes or insufficient knowledge.

Unless a student is planning on injuring themselves in a way that will cause one of these disabilities, this question is not relevant to assessing a building’s accessibility. Whether or not a student would prefer to have a mobility, vision or hearing disability, the fact is that people in the community have these disabilities.

17. RHFAC Testing of Course Participants Is Not Shown to Be Sufficient

To pass the RHFAC course, a student must pass a multiple choice examination. We cannot fully assess the sufficiency of the test, since we have not seen it. However, we seriously question whether a multiple-choice test is a sufficient way to test rigourous analytical skills, such as those on which the course focuses, and the information that this course tries to cover.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government did not give a specific answer to the question, inquiring what the specifics are of the knowledge assessed in the RHF test at the end of the course. all the Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter is that the test

“… is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course.”

That tells us nothing new.

As well, a student must complete and submit a written accessibility assessment of a building of the instructor’s choosing. Here again, we have concerns. This written report gets a pass-fail grade, which is a minimal marking threshold.

The Student Guide states:

“Students will conduct a review of the site and complete an RHFAC rating.

  • As this is a class exercise only, students will submit their results to the instructor for adjudication. They will not submit results to the RHFAC Registry.”

The Student Guide also states:

“Criteria for successful completion of this assignment

  • Appropriate categories, elements and features are identified and assessed.
  • Clear rationale to support the rating is provided.
  • All required supporting documentation is submitted.
  • Key areas of success and key areas for improvement are aligned with the assessment findings.
  • Writing is clear and relatively free of any grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.”

Appendix Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho’s July 29, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised regarding the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). Please be assured that we take your feedback very seriously, and your comments will be carefully considered as we continue discussions with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

We are proud to partner with RHF, a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a proven track record across the country. The RHFAC program has also been successfully implemented in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In 2016, British Columba piloted the program and conducted 129 assessments. Given the success of the program, in 2018 that government committed to a second expanded partnership with the RHF to roll out the program province-wide.

We know that many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. And when buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the RHFAC program in communities across the province.

Through this partnership, the government is investing in an Ontario focused certification program that will allow organizations to understand their level of accessibility, based on nationally recognized standards, and learn in a concrete way what they can do to make improvements.

Through the government’s investment, RHF will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. This will include accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

We are working with the Foundation on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

Please refer to the background section below for additional information and detailed responses to your questions.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,

Raymond Cho

Minister

Confidentiality Warning: This e-mail contains information intended only for the use of the individual emailed above. If you have received this e-mail in error, we would appreciate it if you could advise us through the ministry’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-seniors-accessibility and destroy all copies of this message. Thank you.

Enclosure

Q and As

Process for Selecting the RHF for Funding

  • Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation is not a private sector business. It is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
    • For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.
  • The Ontario Government provides transfer payments to recipients external to government to fund activities that benefit the public and are designed to achieve public policy objectives.
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation submitted a proposal to help the Government improve accessibility in the built environment through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
  • Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, as part of Budget 2019, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across the province.
  • The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.
  • As is the case with all transfer payments, this partnership will be implemented in line with the accountability framework for oversight set out in Ontario’s Transfer Payment Accountability Directive.

Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility

  • What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ (RHFAC) program is the first and only program in Canada that uses a rating system to identify and rate accessible built environments, creating a national benchmark and aspirational goal for the industry.
  • The program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard. The RHFAC Guide to Certification provides a step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings currently available across the country.
  • Please find enclosed the RHFAC Guide to Certification, outlining the step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0

  • Trained professionals use the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey for the assessments, these can be found in the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
  • These tools are reviewed regularly by the following:
    • RHFAC Advisory Committee – The purpose of the RHFAC Advisory Committee is to advise RHF staff on the design, scope, development, and distribution of RHF Accessibility Certification program, and related topics as required. Committee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
    • RHFAC Experts Taskforce – The purpose of the RHFAC Experts Taskforce is to serve as a platform for detailed review, feedback and discussion in regards to the RHFAC program materials. Committee members are chosen from leaders from a selected list of national disability organizations with experience in built environment accessibility.
    • RHFAC Technical Advisory Subcommittee – The purpose of the RHFAC Technical Subcommittee is to advise the RHFAC Advisory Committee on the technical components of the RHFAC Rating Survey and Handbook. This Subcommittee will serve as a platform for review, feedback, and discussion of the technical components of the RHFAC materials.  Subcommittee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
  • The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?
  • The RHFAC term ‘meaningful access’ is based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.
  • Only trained RHFAC Professionals can submit RHFAC ratings into the RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA. Please find below step-by-step process for how to become an RHF Accessibility Certification Professional. Further, additional information is available in the RHFAC Guide to Professional Designation, enclosed:   https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
    • Pass the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course. Participants in this course will learn about:
      • The impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities;
      • The relevant legislation, regulations, and standards needed when planning and executing an assessment;
      • The Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment;
      • How to interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings; and
      • How to communicate and support assessment findings to clients, and prepare a recommendation report of the assessment findings, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
      • Further, there are prerequisites for taking RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course including the following:
        • Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
        • Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or
        • Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or
        • Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
        • Minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.
      • Pass the examination. The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the above Training Course. This exam is designed to test understanding of concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered separately through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
        • The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring. Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before they can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
      • Uphold the designation. To uphold the designation, RHFAC Professionals must follow: (1) The RHFAC Professional Code of Ethics; and (2) Continuing education requirements; and (3) Policies regarding the use of RHF logos and marks.
    • To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
    • Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

 

  • Please find enclosed the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey, outlining all program detail, including references as provided: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
  • How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

 

  • Early in the development stages of the RHFAC program, it was recognized that it would be essential for each RHFAC Professional to reach the same conclusions on any given site.
  • As part of the development process, numerous single sites were reviewed by a number of RHFAC Professionals to check that the outcomes were consistent. This is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis. The RHFAC Professional is not reliant only on code requirements without any real understanding of how these required elements are used by people with disabilities.
  • The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.
  • During the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course, the instructors also go through each feature with students and complete a mock ratings.
  • Further, as outlined above, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

RHF Accessibility Certification Duration of Buildings

  • Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

 

  • An RHFAC Certification is valid for five years from the date of the adjudication. All substantial changes to the Site must be declared to RHF.
  • An RHFAC Professional and/or RHFAC adjudicator may investigate any declared changes to determine if the Site continues to meet certification levels. RHF reserves the right to withdraw RHFAC Certification at its own discretion.
  • In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.

Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators

  • What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

 

  • Each post-secondary institution is responsible for all RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course administration, including hiring of appropriate instructors.
  • All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
  • The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course is offered across the country at:
    • George Brown College
    • Carleton University
    • Vancouver Community College
    • Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
    • and Nova Scotia Community College
    • In addition, RHF has partnered with Athabasca University to launch an online course in January 2020.
  • What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?

 

 

  • What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?

 

  • The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
  • This exam is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered through a separate process and independently through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
  • The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring.
  • Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before applicants can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
  • Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

 

  • RHFAC Professionals are trained to identify barriers to people with disabilities on a cross- disability basis.
  • RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in. However, they are not Building Code auditors.
  • Their job is to identify barriers based on their training, which uses CSA B-651 as a baseline. Their training and the RHFAC rating system itself takes them well beyond code minimum requirements in the identification of barriers to people with disabilities – for example emergency entrances and wayfinding.
  • Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

 

  • While CSA materials are provided in the classroom during training, it is the responsibility of the individual participant to purchase copies of various CSA materials (B651, B-44, etc.) as well as provincial or municipal code documents as required in the jurisdiction they are operating in.
  • RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in However, they are not Building Code auditors.
  • The RHFAC rating is intended as a snapshot of the current accessibility conditions vis-à-vis the ability for people with disabilities to use that facility.
  • The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course curriculum includes units on legal framework and compliance which focus on integrating legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment. The CSA exam covers all units of the curriculum to ensure proper understanding of the RHFAC program. It is also important to note that not everyone taking the course will take the exam. Further, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course prerequisites include the following:
    • Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
    • Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or
    • Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or
    • Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
    • Minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.

Conflicts of Interest

  • What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?

 

  • The Rick Hansen Foundation is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
  • Over the past 30 years, the RHF has worked consistently to raise awareness around accessibility and improve the built environment, wherever and whenever possible, across Canada. It is known for its transparency and has a reputation of being a forthright organization interested in the public good. The RHF is also known for engaging Canadians from all backgrounds including people with disabilities, engineers, designers, architects, business, developers and builders in its quest to achieve its mission.
  • The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. All RHFAC ratings in Ontario will be conducted by independent RHFAC Professionals.
  • To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.  Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
  • The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.
  • What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

 

  • Like all self-employed professionals, those who are trained to conduct accessibility ratings are armed with only their skills, dedication and their reputations. There is no gain for trained RHFAC professionals to falsify assessments.
  • As this is a livelihood for some trained professionals, it is in their best interest as well as that of the RHF’s that transparency and accuracy are paramount.
  • The trained professionals who will conduct accessibility ratings are contracted by the Foundation as independent professionals, who have received the RHFAC Professional designation after taking the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course (offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario and other post-secondary institutions throughout Canada) and have successfully passed examination by the CSA Group.
  • To complete a rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification trained professional’s evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process

  • What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

 

  • The trained professionals who will conduct the ratings are independent professionals who have gained the RHFAC Professional designation with examinations administered by the CSA Group after taking the RHFAC course.
  • As mentioned above, this is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis.
  • The RHFAC process has been successfully applied on a national level and ratings have been conducted across Canada.
  • Furthermore, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.

Choice of Buildings to Assess for Accessibility

  • Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

 

  • As announced in the 2019 Budget, the RHFAC program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.
  • Through this investment, the RHF’s and Government of Ontario’s joint objective is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of the people of this province.
  • Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

 

  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.
  • What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

 

  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.
  • Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?
  • As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and associated processes, more details to come at a later date.

Amount of Government Funding for RHF Accessibility Assessment

  • Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

 

  • As noted earlier, the objective of this investment on the part of the Government of Ontario is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.
  • The Ministry and RHF are working on the detailed design of the program and will release more details at a later time.



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The Doug Ford Government’s Controversial Plan to Divert $1.3 Million into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program Is Plagued with Even More Problems Than Earlier Revealed, according to the AODA Alliance’s New Supplemental Report Made Public Today


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance August 15, 2019

SUMMARY

There have now been 197 days since the Doug Ford Government received the blistering report by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley that called for strong new action to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Instead of announcing a plan to take the key new actions that the Onley Report recommended, the Ford Government has just doubled down on its troubled plan to divert $1.3 million to the voluntary private accessibility certification program offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF). A new supplemental report by the AODA Alliance, made public today, shows that the Government’s plan has even more problems than earlier discovered.

Over three and a half years ago, the AODA Alliance showed that there are serious problems with the entire idea of a private building accessibility certification process, no matter who conducts it. Last month, in an AODA Alliance report that we made public on July 25, 2019, we unearthed serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million of public funds to the specific program that the RHF offers, the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.

Today’s supplemental report digs deeper into the RHF program. It is based on an AODA Alliance review of some of the documents from the RHF that the Government has recently disclosed to the AODA Alliance. Today’s supplemental report also analyzes the Ford Government’s first detailed response to concerns which the AODA Alliance has raised about this plan.

Below, we show you the AODA Alliance’s supplemental report on the RHFAC. It includes a summary near the start that lists its key findings. At the end of this report is the text of the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance in which the Government answers a number of the questions we have asked about that program. We appreciate the Government providing a detailed response, although we are deeply troubled by much of its contents, as the supplemental report explains in detail.

Our serious concerns with the Ford Government’s plans have gotten good media coverage and were in significant part echoed in a strong editorial that the Toronto Star ran on August 6, 2019. We repeat our call for the Government to put on hold its plan to fund the RHFAC, and to immediately convene a steakholders’ roundtable or summit to explore strategies for effectively addressing the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in the built environment. We also call on the Government to now make public a comprehensive plan to implement the Onley Report.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

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

Supplemental Report on the Ontario Government’s Proposal to Spend Public Money on the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Private Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC)

August 15, 2019

Introduction and Summary

In the April 11, 2019 Ontario Budget, the Ford Government announced that it plans to spend 1.3 million dollars on having the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) conduct a private accessibility certification process on some 250 buildings in the public and/or private sector in Ontario over the next two years. The Ford Government has said that the RHF will be conducting these accessibility assessments for “us” i.e. the Ontario Government.

On July 25, 2019, the AODA Alliance made public its detailed July 3, 2019 report which shows serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan. That report garnered good print, broadcast and online media coverage. On August 6, 2019, the Toronto Star ran a strong editorial echoing a number of the AODA Alliance’s concerns with the Ford Government’s plan.

On July 3, 2019 the AODA Alliance sent the Ford Government a copy of its report on the proposed public funding of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). The AODA Alliance also wrote the Ford Government, asking a series of important questions about the Government’s plans.

On July 29, 2019, the Ford Government wrote back to the AODA Alliance. It provided a number of answers and disclosed several documents regarding the RHFAC.

In this supplemental report, the AODA Alliance makes public a series of its supplemental and additional concerns with the Government’s plan to provide public funding to the RHFAC. These are based on the new information that the Government has disclosed to us. We thank the Government for providing this information. At the end of this supplemental report, we make public the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to us and its answers to our earlier questions, as an appendix to this supplemental report.

This supplemental report is based on our review of the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter, and two of the documents from the RHF. Those documents are the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide and the RHFAC Student’s Guide. These are used in the course which the RHF has provided for people who want to train to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings as part of the RHFAC.

The AODA Alliances a non-partisan grassroots disability coalition which advocates for the effective implementation and enforcement of Ontario’s landmark 2005 disability accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Learn more about the AODA Alliance by visiting www.aodaalliance.org

In summary, this supplemental report concludes that:

1. It was wrong for the Ford Government not to hold an open competitive bidding process before deciding to give $1.3 million to the RHF.

2. There are no measures in place to address serious conflict of interest concerns with the RHFAC.

3. Key and basic aspects of this public funding program have still not yet been worked out months after it was announced.

4. It is troubling that the RHFAC tries to shift responsibility and risk for accessibility ratings and advice onto others.

5. The RHFAC accessibility ratings are clearly left in significant part to each free-lance assessor’s subjective discretion, despite the Government’s claims that these accessibility assessments are consistently applied.

6. It is problematic for the RHFAC to take averages of the accessibility of a building’s features like bathrooms.

7. The RHFAC program emphasizes the problematic idea of getting organizations to go “beyond code”, as if building code compliance is all that is required.

8. The RHFAC adjudication process has serious flaws.

9. There are insufficient safeguards to ensure that an RHF-certified building remains accessible after it is so-certified.

10. The mandatory RHFAC course is even shorter than the two weeks we earlier announced.

11. An instructor in the RHFAC course need not have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment.

12. The RHF training course crams far too much curriculum into too short a time.

13. The RHFAC course appears to emphasize barriers facing people with physical disabilities such as people using wheelchairs.

14. It is misleading to suggest at points that building code compliance means that a building is accessible.

15. It Is inappropriate and potentially harmful for the RHF to use blindness or vision loss simulations as part of the RHFAC course.

16. It is unhelpful for The RHFAC course to ask students to consider which disability they’d rather have or not have.

17. RHFAC testing of course participants is not shown to be sufficient.

1. The Ford Government Held No Open Competitive Bidding Process Before Deciding to Give $1.3 Million to the RHF Private Accessibility Certification Program

It is clear from the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the Government did not hold an open competitive bidding process before it decided to award $1.3 million to the RHF. The Ford Government was elected in 2018 on a core pledge to be responsible in the use of public money. It is fundamental that a competitive bidding process be held before such a large sum of money is awarded to any private organization for a public project.

The Ford Government gave poor reasons for refusing its not doing so. For example, in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance it said:

“For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.”

To the extent that that sentence could create the impression that the RHF has been operating its accessibility rating service for 30 years, this would be a substantial exaggeration. The RHF only started its private accessibility certification program within the past three or four years. It has not been operating it for 30 years, as the Ford Government claimed.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter suggested that the RHF private accessibility certification program is somehow unique. It states:

“The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.”

This does not justify the failure to hold an open competitive bidding process. The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report and this supplemental report show that there are serious problems with each of the Government’s core claims about the RHF program. Beyond them, the RHF program at bottom gives an organization its advice on the accessibility of a building. The RHF is not unique in this regard. Ontario has several private organizations which have been providing accessibility advice on the built environment to organizations for a fee. There are such organizations that have been doing so for much longer than has the RHF. There are examples of such organizations that use far more experienced and qualified people than an RHF-trained free-lance assessor who has only taken a two-week course.

The Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter emphasized the RHF’s reputation and years of work in the area of accessibility. Yet that is no excuse for not providing others who do accessibility consulting with the same chance to compete for public funding for their accessibility advisory services, if the Ford Government wishes to provide public funding for such services. Just because one bidder is believed to have a good reputation is no reason to prevent others from bidding on the same project.

To generally support its decision to fund the RHFAC program, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance relied on the fact that the RHF accessibility program has been deployed in BC and Nova Scotia. That does not disprove any of our documented concerns or displace the need for a proper and open competition. The Ford Government has not presented any proof from the BC or Nova Scotia experience that shows that our concerns are unfounded. Much to the contrary, we have shown that the RHF gave a gold certification to the Vancouver International Airport, even though it has hangout steps an identified accessibility problem.

2. There are No Measures in Place to Address Serious Conflict of Interest Concerns with the RHFAC

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the RHFAC program raised serious concerns about the risk that the RHF itself and its free-lance accessibility assessors could encounter conflict of interest situations. We asked the Ford Government what the Government was doing to address this.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government identified no measures that it has put in place or that it plans to put in place to address these serious conflict of interest concerns that we have raised both regarding the RHF itself, and its free-lance assessors. Even more troubling, the Government did not even acknowledge that there is any conflict of interest concerns.

To answer the possibility of RHF conflicts of interest, the Government points to the RHF’s background and reputation. However, that is no answer. The most accomplished and esteemed lawyer or law firm can nevertheless find itself in a conflict of interest position. That lawyer or law firm must then take action to avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interest. It is no answer that the lawyer or law firm has a great reputation and track record. A conflict of interest is a conflict of interest, no matter how reputable is the person or organization that has that conflict of interest.

To answer the conflict of interest concern regarding the free-lance assessors, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter in substance emphasized that they are professionals and have no gain to falsify assessments. Yet the Government’s calling them “professionals” is no answer. A professional can in some situations experience a conflict of interest. Being a professional does not mean one is immune from conflicts of interest.

Moreover, this specific professional designation is an invention of the RHF itself. It does not have the same safeguards as apply to other self-governing professionals, like doctors, lawyers or social workers.

As well, the issue of conflict of interest goes beyond the risk of deliberate falsification of an accessibility assessment. As shown later in this supplemental report, these RHF accessibility assessments have a clear and significant discretionary element to them. The risk of conflicts of interest can especially arise when exercising that discretion.

As the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter acknowledges, this is the livelihood for some of these assessors. As such, they have a clear financial interest in getting more organizations to hire them to do more assessments. That is the very genesis of this conflict of interest problem. They risk leaning in favour of finding more accessibility in order to get more organizations to hire them to do their accessibility assessments.

3. Key and Basic Aspects of this Public Funding Program Have Still Not Yet Been Worked out Months After it was Announced

From the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, it is clear that key aspects of this Government program have still not yet been worked out, even though it was first announced back on April 11, 2019, over four months ago. For example, it is not yet known which buildings will be assessed, or who will choose them, or what role if any the RHF will have in this, or by which criteria they will be chosen, or whether the Government will subsidize all or only part of the cost of this assessment. We only know that the Government says it is working on these important and rather basic details with the RHF.

This illustrates how Ontarians with disabilities are being effectively excluded from the very table where key decisions are to be made and where they deserve a central role. We only know that the RHF is at that table.

4. It is Troubling that the RHF Accessibility Certification Program Tries to Shift Responsibility and Risk onto Others

The public, including organizations that seek to have the RHF assess their buildings, would reasonably believe that it is the RHF that is doing the assessing and certifying. This is an obvious conclusion to draw from the program’s name, the “Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification” or RHFAC program. The RHF has gone to the effort of trademarking this name.

Passers-by who see a sign on a building that it is certified as accessible by the RHFAC would very likely conclude that it was the RHF that did the accessibility certifying. It is also an obvious conclusion to draw from the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 media announcement of this public funding program. It states:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

We would expect that the RHF would have seen that wording before the Ford Government made it public. We have seen no statement by the RHF asking the Ford Government to correct that statement.

Yet on our closer inspection, the reality seems very different. The RHF has taken clear and troubling steps to distance itself from responsibility for key aspects of any accessibility certification that is done in its trademarked name.

As a first illustration of this, the RHF makes it clear that it is not responsible in any way for the activity of those free-lance assessors who conduct an RHFAC accessibility assessment. The RHF strongly encourages those free-lance assessors to carry their own liability insurance, presumably at their own expense. This is a clear shifting of responsibility for these assessments to these individuals, and away from the RHF. The RHF Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation states:

“Professional Liability: A designated RHFAC Professional shall assume any and all personal liability associated with their work or conduct. RHF shall not assume any responsibility or liability, of any kind, whatsoever, for a designated RHFAC Professionals work or conduct. RHFAC Professionals are strongly encouraged to obtain professional liability insurance.”

As a second illustration of this, the RHFAC Student’s Guide includes a very strong disclaimer. It says it absolves the RHF from any responsibility for its contents. Therefore, a student in the RHF course is supposed to assume all the risk. RHF takes no responsibility for the contents of its curriculum that it requires an assessor to complete.

The RHFAC Student’s Guide sets out the course curriculum. It is what a student is required to read and learn. The RHFAC Student’s Guide disclaims right near the start:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (“RHFAC”) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, site alterations, repairs and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, bylaws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (“Building Laws”). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the user’s right of any and all claims, demands and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees or contractors (the “RHF Personnel”), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

It would be very troubling if a law professor or an architecture professor began their class or course by disclaiming responsibility for what they teach when it comes to the law, or to design principles.

As a third illustration of this, the RHFAC Instructor’s Guide includes a similar disclaimer. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide sets out the RHF’s instructions to the instructors that teach the RHF course. This disclaimer also says it absolves the RHF for responsibility for the course’s contents, in so far as the course instructors are concerned. The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide states:

“None of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) Program, including the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user of this handbook or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the RHFAC Program, or for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) arising from the use of any materials for the RHFAC Program.

New construction, building alterations, repairs, and demolitions in all jurisdictions are or may be subject to federal, provincial, municipal and local statutes, codes, ordinances, decrees, rules, regulations, by laws, policies, requirements, standards and guidelines in their governing jurisdiction (Building Laws). These Building Laws may even include building codes, standards or requirements that are specific to accessibility by persons with disabilities. These Building Laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and may change over time. The user is advised that the ratings, certification levels, recommendations and build specifications used or included in the RHFAC Program are functional recommendations, not represented or guaranteed to meet, comply with or be consistent with the requirements of any Building Laws at any time in force or effect in any jurisdiction. It is the sole responsibility of the party undertaking any construction to consult with knowledgeable consultants (including code consultants) and applicable authorities having jurisdiction in the governing jurisdictions, to confirm that the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program intended to be used comply with Building Laws so that any build, renovation and demolition undertaken is in compliance with the Building Laws. The user acknowledges that it is aware that it may be required to amend or adapt the recommendations and specifications of the RHFAC Program to ensure compliance with Building Laws.

As a condition of use, the user hereby waives the users right of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action against the Rick Hansen Foundation, its affiliates, members, employees, or contractors (the RHF Personnel), and further releases the RHF Personnel of any and all claims, demands, and causes of action, for any costs, expenses, injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief) that the user may now or hereafter have against the RHF Personnel by reason of or arising out of the use of, or reliance on, any materials for the RHFAC Program.”

Taken together, it appears as if the RHF is trying to shift as much responsibility as possible onto the free-lance assessors and course instructors, and away from the RHF itself. This is so even though the so-called accessibility certification and the training course are heavily and repeatedly branded with the RHF name and related RHFAC trademark. This is also so despite the fact that the RHF appears to have set the course contents and requirements.

5. The RHFAC Accessibility Ratings are Clearly Left in Significant Part to Each Free-Lance Assessor’s Subjective Discretion, Despite the Government’s Claims that These Accessibility Assessments are Consistently Applied

The Ford Government indicated in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that:

“The RHFAC program’s approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.”

Yet documents that we obtained from the Ontario Government have demonstrated our concern that the RHFAC program leaves a great deal of discretion to each free-lance assessor. Assessors can readily differ on what they consider to be accessible. As such, an RHF “accessibility certification” may not demonstrate that the building is in fact accessible.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

” The instructor should emphasize the following:
The importance of using the Professional Handbook.
In conducting an assessment, there is much ambiguity. It is not a black and white science, and there will often be differing opinions. Thus, it is essential that students understand the importance of providing clear rationale to defend their positions.”

The Instructor’s Guide also shows that an assessment of a building’s accessibility under the RHFAC program is subject to the highly discretionary and open-ended criterion of “appropriate access.” No doubt, what is “appropriate access” can easily vary from one free-lance assessor to another, or from one adjudicator to another. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

The Student Guide similarly shows that the assessment process is ultimately left to the personal or subjective discretion of each assessor. Each assessor can form their own personal view of what ratings are “reasonable.” The Student Guide states:

” Preview the results to see if they look reasonable.”

The Government and the RHF suggest that consistency in the accessibility assessments of buildings is assured by the fact that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) reviews each RHFAC assessment’s documents. However, there is no plausible way that the CSA can rectify this risk of inconsistency from one assessor to the next, when the standard each assessor ultimately uses to evaluate a building’s accessibility ends up being so subjective and discretionary. This is made worse since there is no suggestion that the CSA visits any of the buildings being assessed, to monitor and ensure that each assessor’s assessments are consistent.

6. It is Problematic for the RHFAC to Take Averages of the Accessibility of a Building’s Features Like Bathrooms

According to the Student Guide, a rating of the accessibility of a feature, such as a building’s bathrooms, is an average of the accessibility rating point scores of each of the building’s bathrooms. The Student Guide states:

“Important: If an element, such as a parking area, is provided in multiple locations for the facility, then rate each area individually and take an average of the assessment values for each feature.”

This is problematic. A person with a disability does not use an average of the building’s bathrooms. He or she uses a specific bathroom. An average figure may leave a person with the wrong impression that there is good accessibility across the board among bathrooms. In fact, some of those bathrooms may have real accessibility problems.

We offer a stark example to illustrate this point. Assume that a building has two bathrooms. One is fully accessible and gets a 5 point score. The other is completely inaccessible and gets a 1 point score. The resulting average would be a 2.5 points out of 5 overall score for the buildings bathrooms. This would lead an observer to think that the building’s bathrooms are at least partially accessible. Yet in fact, one of the two bathrooms is entirely inaccessible. There is only one place in the building where people with disabilities who need such accessibility can go to the bathroom.

7. The RHFAC Program Repeatedly Emphasizes the Problematic Idea of Getting Organizations to Go “Beyond Code”, As If Building Code Compliance Is All That Is Required

At some points in the RHFAC program’s documents that we have reviewed, the RHF makes the repeated error of talking about the goal of getting organizations to go “beyond Code.” By this, the RHF clearly means going beyond the accessibility requirements of the applicable Building Code. The RHF speaks of this as a virtue to be rewarded, as if it means that an organization is doing more than they are required to do.

This fundamentally misconceives and understates an organization’s accessibility obligations. An organization’s accessibility obligations also include those under the applicable human rights code, and in the case of the public sector, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These can well exceed what the applicable Building Code requires. Moreover, local municipal bylaws can set accessibility requirements that are higher than the applicable Building Code. Elsewhere in the RHFAC Student’s Guide and Instructor’s guide, these points are at times made. However, the repeated reversion to “going beyond Code” risks confusing students, and/or leaving them with the wrong impression.

It is not unusual for public and private sector organizations and designers to mistakenly think that all they need to do on accessibility is to comply with the applicable Building Code. The RHFAC materials at times appear to reinforce that mistaken view.

For example, the Student Guide makes this mistake where it states:

“The main triggers that stimulate demand for an RHFAC rating are as follows:

1. Any site that involves design and construction.
For buildings, this includes both new construction and major retrofits or conversions. In terms of design, the minimum requirement regarding accessibility is compliance with building code. The site owner, and hence designers and builders, are legally bound only to meet requirements set out in the building code. As those in the construction industry develop an increased awareness of Universal Design concepts and its long-term benefits, they may seek the advice and assistance of a trained assessor to help them go beyond building code compliance.”

8. The RHFAC Adjudication Process Has Serious Flaws

The RHFAC program depends heavily on an RHF adjudicator assessing the quality and sufficiency of the free-lance assessor’s evaluation of a building’s accessibility. Yet the RHF adjudicator appears not to go to the building themselves, in so far as we can discern from the documents we have reviewed. We found no requirement that the adjudicator themselves visit the building in issue. They instead depend on the free-lance assessor to take enough photos and videos of the building, which the adjudicator can then review.

The Student Guide places a burden on the assessor to record everything an adjudicator might need to know about the building. The Student Guide states:

“Make sure you provide any information you think the adjudicator may need in order for them to understand your rating for each line entry.”

Accordingly, the adjudicator’s review can only be as good as the photos and videos they are given to review. If the assessor does not take sufficient photos, the adjudicator may not know it. The adjudicator may agree with the free-lance assessor’s evaluations depicted in the photos and videos received, even though the building could have serious accessibility problems that the assessor did not photograph.

If, for example, a free-lance assessor does not take a picture of “hangout steps” at a building, the adjudicator won’t know that the building has hangout steps. The AODA Alliance’s widely-viewed online video on the serious accessibility problems at the Ryerson University Student Learning Centre demonstrated how hangout steps can present serious accessibility problems.

The RHF has pointed to oversight by the CSA as reinforcing the validity of this accessibility certification process. Yet from our review, it appears that the CSA, like the RHF adjudicator, is entirely dependent on the quality and sufficiency of the photos and videos that the free-lance assessor takes. This is not a reliable system.

As well, the Ford Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance makes it clear that to qualify to be an RHFAC adjudicator, a person needs only to have completed the RHFAC course. We have detailed earlier, and further show here, that this training is insufficient to be an effective assessor. The same goes for an adjudicator.

9. There Are Insufficient Safeguards to Ensure that an RHF-Certified Building Remains Accessible After It Is So-Certified

Based on information the Ford Government provided, it is possible for a building to get an RHFAC accessible or gold rating, and then make changes that impede accessibility, without this necessarily changing the organization’s rating for months, if at all. There are several concerns:

a) According to the Government’s July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, an organization must declare “substantial changes to the site” to the RHF. This appears to be entirely self-policing.

b) Substantial changes is a highly discretionary, flexible and subjective standard.

c) The Government indicated that if such changes are reported, the RHF “may” investigate such reported changes. That provides no assurance that they will be investigated. The Government did not say the RHF “will” investigate any such changes.

d) The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter also stated:

“In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility.”

That too appears entirely self-policing. If an organization does not self-declare a change to accessibility, there is no assurance that such changes will affect their accessibility rating.

e) Beyond an organization self-reporting changes to its building’s accessibility, the Government was palpably silent on there being anything in this process to enable members of the public to report accessibility problems at a building that the RHF has rated as accessible. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter repeated our earlier question to the Government, as follows, without answering it. We asked:

“what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?”

10. The Mandatory RHFAC Course Is Even Shorter Than the Two Weeks We Earlier Announced

The AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report expressed the serious concern that to be qualified as an RHF accessibility assessor, a person with no prior knowledge or experience with accessibility must only complete a two-week RHF course. A review of RHF documents shows that it is even less than two weeks in length.

According to RHF documentation, the course is only 8 days long. The 8th day is an on-site day, not a classroom training day. A person in the course is only required to attend 80% of the seven days of classroom instruction, which is only 5.6 days. The Student Guide states:

“A minimum of 80% classroom attendance and 100% field experience attendance is required to pass the course.”

11. An Instructor in the RHFAC Course Need Not Have Demonstrated Expertise in the Accessibility of the Built Environment

A person does not need to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment to be an instructor in the RHFAC course. The AODA Alliance asked the Government what requirements a person must meet to be qualified to teach in that course. In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government said in material part:

“All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.”

A person can have extensive experience in the built environment and yet have no demonstrated knowledge or expertise about accessibility of the built environment. As amplified by the concerns documented here, completion of the RHFAC course does not qualify someone to be an instructor in that course.

To try to show the sufficiency of the RHFAC course, the Ford Government listed in its July 29, 2019 a series of colleges and universities where this course has been offered. However, it is clear from the documents disclosed to us that it is the RHF that designed this course, and not any of those colleges and universities. It is also clear that the instructors do not need to come from any of the faculties of those colleges or universities.

12. The RHF Training Course Crams Far Too Much Curriculum into Too Short a Time

It is totally unrealistic to expect a student to effectively learn all or even most of the information and analytical skills which the RHF jams into its training course for its accessibility assessors. We reached this conclusion based on our review of the RHF Instructor’s Guide, for those teaching the RHF curriculum, and the Student’s Guide, for students taking the course.

The RHFAC Instructor’s Guide specifies that a student, taking this short course, should end up in the end with these huge results:

“Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
1. Explain the impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities.
2. Integrate relevant legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment.
3. Integrate Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment. 4. Interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings.
5. Communicate and support assessment findings to clients, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive standards.
6. Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards. 7. Display professionalism and promote inclusiveness when working with clients.”

In this course, the RHF expects a person with no required prior background in the law to be able, after the course, to locate, become familiar with, learn and be ready to advise an organization about the different laws governing the built environment at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. This includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of Canada’s Constitution), federal and provincial human rights codes, federal and provincial building codes, provincial accessibility laws such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and municipal bylaws that set requirements for the accessibility of the built environment in different municipalities. The RHF also expects its assessors to learn how to figure out which of these laws governs the accessibility in a particular building. That can require assessments of constitutional questions as well as the interpretation of different provincial laws and municipal bylaws. These can be complicated legal questions.

For example, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to explain the legal environment related to human rights and disability. Assessors need to be able to interpret the intent and requirements of relevant legislation and to understand the roles of various organizations, agencies and levels of government in promoting accessibility.”

Referring to one of the discussions of law in the course, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“By the end of this unit, participants will be able to:
Explain human rights and disability legislation and their impact on accessibility.
Explain the relationship and hierarchy among employment & human rights and disability legislation.”

As well, the Student Guide states:

“Locate Applicable Building Code or Standards
For a building assessment, you need to determine building classification, ownership and jurisdiction and to locate/review applicable building code and accessibility standards. Make sure you know and understand the accessibility provisions of CSA B651-12 that are applicable to the site to be reviewed (these are covered in Unit 5.2 Accessibility Legislation, Regulations and Standards).”

An RHF free-lance assessor is expected to end this course with sufficient expertise to form judgements on whether a proposed building meets Building Code accessibility requirements. The Student Guide states:

“Recommendations provided for new construction must ensure that sites meet code requirements for basic accessibility.”

Elsewhere the Student guide states:

“Compliance equals only minimal levels of accessibility.
Compliance with legislation is essential. It is the law. You must confirm that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that minimum site specifications are adhered to. This includes human rights legislation and disability legislation, which protect people from discrimination, as well as building code regulations, which provide minimal levels of accessibility requirements. This is covered in Section Five: Legal Framework and Compliance.”

The Instructor’s Guide also makes it clear that a student is expected to learn to write a report on their assessment of a building that will include showing where the building complies or does not comply with relevant laws on accessibility, including accessibility legislation and human rights laws. The Instructor’s Guide sets as an outcome of one of its units:

“Prepare a formal recommendation report of the assessment findings reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and inclusive design standards.”

We had asked the Ford Government if an RHF assessor needs to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario, or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Government’s July 29, 2019 letter’s long response does not give a clear and unequivocal “yes” to this important question.

Moreover the RHF does not give students in this course a copy of the relevant voluntary accessibility standard from the CSA on which the RHF relies. It does not give students the relevant accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code, the AODA, or municipal bylaws dealing with accessibility of the built environment. it appears to be the responsibility of each student to get these for themselves.

Beyond those substantial legal topics, in this course, a student is also expected to be able to learn at least in a preliminary way how to read technical professional drawings such as blueprints for a proposed new building. This is so even if the student has no prior background on how to read such technical drawings.

The student is expected to learn how to evaluate those drawings, in order to assess whether or how much they meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities. A student is also expected to learn how to visit a construction site when the building construction is underway, to advise whether the actual accessibility corresponds to the technical drawings. Here again, a student need not have any background in any of this to enroll in the course.

The Student Guide states:

“With new construction, an assessor will review construction documents or drawings based on the RHFAC Rating Survey to establish the level of access provided in the design. The assessor must identify and review elements related to accessibility solely from sketches, construction drawings and sometimes from only an artists rendering.”

The Student Guide also states:

“In addition to drawing reviews, assessors may need to conduct site inspections at various stages of construction to ensure the requirements developed in the design stage are transferred to the construction site.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s Guide states:

“The intent of this unit is to provide participants with a high-level introduction to construction documents such that they can identify and interpret the main building elements, and in particular, elements related to accessibility.

NOTE: As construction documents can be highly technical and complex, this will serve only as a basic introduction for those who have limited prior exposure to the construction industry. Participants who intend to develop their practice as RHFAC Professionals and who do not have prior experience would benefit by taking additional training. This unit may not be relevant for experienced contractors, or for professional architects or engineers.”

The Instructor’s Guide also states:

“Goals
The main goal of this unit is to help students who have limited or no prior experience with construction documents to understand construction documents at a basic level.

Objectives
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Explain standard types of construction drawings.
Identify standard information displayed on construction drawings. Explain key features and symbols displayed on construction drawings.”

It would be too much to try to fit into such a short course all of the foregoing content regarding the law and regarding the reading of technical drawings. Yet the RHF course aims to also teach much more. The course materials present the student with a veritable blizzard of detailed information about the kinds of accessibility features or needs for which they should be looking, when they assess a building. This appears to be far more of such information than a person could effectively learn in up to 7 days of classroom learning.

There is still more content that this course covers. The course materials also aim to ensure that the student is up to speed on the RHF internal process for conducting an assessment of a building. this includes visiting the building, documenting observations, scoring the results, and providing for an internal review or adjudication.

Taken together, the course contents do not just bear upon a pile of facts or data that a student can memorize and then recall when needed, whether on a test or when assessing a building. The course focuses on key topics that require analytical skills. These include, for example, deciding which accessibility law applies to a building, how to interprete and apply those laws, analyzing technical drawings of a planned building, and, of course, analyzing the design features of a building for accessibility problems. A student cannot effectively develop these analytical skills in such a short course. they cannot be effectively acquired through a teaching format that is largely (though not exclusively) lectures, PowerPoint slides, and reading materials supplemented by some group discussions.

13. The RHFAC Course Appears to Emphasize Barriers Facing People with Physical Disabilities Such as People Using Wheelchairs

The Ford Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance that the RHFAC uses “all components of the CSA B651 standard” and that the RHFAC thereby measures “holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.” This further demonstrates our concern that this gives primary if not exclusive emphasis to the accessibility needs of only people with some disabilities. Our review of the RHFAC Instructor’s and Student’s Guides reinforces this concern, even though at some points, other disabilities are to some extent addressed.

Even though the course materials at times refer to other disabilities or to all disabilities, there are a number of points in the course materials that clearly suggest that a primary focus is on people with physical disabilities, including those using wheelchairs. If so, there is a real risk that the RHFAC program will continue that emphasis, to the disadvantage of people with other disabilities that can face barriers in the built environment.

14. It is Misleading to Suggest that Building Code Compliance Means that a Building is Accessible

At one point, the Instructor’s Guide makes the incorrect if not misleading suggestion that if a building complies with a Building Code, then it is accessible. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“As a general guideline, code compliance warrants an Accessibility Certified (AC) level rating. However, assessors also need to understand that there are situations in which this does not apply. For example, ramps are often not designed to code, but they are still accessible to most people.”

Yet elsewhere, the Student’s Guide appears to give a contradictory message. The Student’s Guide states:

“The RHF Accessibility Certification Program is intended to encourage meaningful access. Thus, an RHFAC rating goes beyond compliance with building code or adherence to standards or guidelines and provides a snapshot of the real level of accessibility of a site. Site owners or managers can then use this information to make positive changes that will help to ensure all users of their facilities feel welcome.”

Moreover, the Instructor’s Guide seems at at least one point to contradict the view that Building Code compliance is sufficient to amount to accessibility, where the Instructor’s Guide states:

“Assessors also need to consider the impact of human rights issues on a buildings rating. For example, if a facility does not provide appropriate access for people with disabilities, this could be considered a show-stopper, meaning the building may not meet minimum requirements for even a base-level rating.”

15. It Is Inappropriate and Potentially Harmful to Use Certain Disability Simulations as Part of the Course

It is wrong, potentially harmful and deeply troubling for the RHF course to include subjecting students to simulations of trying to walk with vision loss, e.g. by blindfolding them or putting vision-obstructing goggles on them and having them try to navigate using a white cane. We do not here comment on the RHF course’s use of simulations for hearing loss or mobility loss.

The RHF Instructor’s Guide and Student’s Guide each seek to train a student on the accessibility needs of people with certain disabilities. To enroll in the course, a student does not have to have any prior knowledge or experience with any disability. The course materials are written as if the students have no such background whatsoever. Of course, it is possible that some students who take the course have some background or experience with at least some disabilities.

The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“This lesson aims to shift students attitudes and motivate them to become agents of change. Through simulation experiences, participants will gain a first-hand experience, albeit limited, of how people with disabilities experience the environment and the barriers they face at both a physical and emotional level.”

It also states:

“By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
Describe how people with different disabilities navigate and adapt to the physical and social environment”

Such simulation exercises that seek to have a student experience blindness or vision loss through vision-obstructing goggles and through attempting to navigate with a white cane are extremely problematic. Except perhaps in very rare and extremely controlled circumstances that do not apply here, this should never be done. The RHF course is not one of those rare and controlled exceptions.

It is wrong to lead students to think that undergoing such a “simulation” has them experience anything like the experience of living with blindness or some degree of vision loss. Placing a blindfold or vision-obstructing goggles on a sighted person for a short period of time does not simulate the experience of a person living with blindness or vision loss.

A person who has lived with blindness or vision loss for years has had a chance to acquire a series of vital skills, such as the effective use of a white cane while walking. To acquire those skills, a person needs extensive time and practice, and a qualified and highly trained orientation and mobility specialist as their instructor.

In sharp contrast, when a sighted person dons a blindfold or vision-reducing goggles, they experience something extraordinarily different. They suddenly face the sudden loss of their full vision, for which they have had absolutely no prior training or time to adjust. They typically experience disorientation, confusion and palpable fear.

These so-called “simulations” are properly frowned upon because they produce such harmful and inaccurate stereotypes about living with vision loss. It is not unusual for some sighted people undergoing such “simulations” to project their feelings of fear and disorientation on people with vision loss, believing that such is what people with vision loss daily experience. It is hard to counter-act such strong emotional reactions. Indeed, it is reasonable to fear that pervasive pity and stereotypes about vision loss have their genesis in no small part to people trying to “experience blindness” by closing their eyes and trying to find their way around.

It is manifestly insufficient to simply caution students, going under blindfold, not to project those strong feelings on people with vision loss. The risk is that the memory of the stress and disorientation will far outlast any memory of that verbal caution.

The Student’s Guide treats as accurate the very harmful and incorrect stereotype about vision loss that gives rise to our objection to this simulation exercise. The Student’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. Spending some time wearing a simulator and attempting to do various everyday tasks can quickly give a fully sighted person a sense of some of the issues involved and how frustrating even the simplest of tasks can be. Often, participants become impressed with the capabilities of a person with limited sight.”

Making this worse, there is no assurance that the RHFAC instructor will have sufficient experience and expertise with the disabilities to be “simulated”. The Instructor’s Guide recommends but does not require that a more expert facilitator be recruited for this exercise. That Guide places very substantial responsibility on the course instructor, as follows:

” Plan the route. Find a suitable route for the vision and mobility simulation experiences. Participants will be required to navigate these routes using a vision kit and wheelchair respectively.
Create a Disability Simulation Exercise Schedule and post on a whiteboard. The following is an example of a schedule:

Time Vision Mobility (wheelchair)
1:00 2:00 Group 1 Group 2
2:00 3:00 Group 2 Group 1

Trained Facilitators
It is important that simulation exercises are facilitated by trained industry professionals who preferably are themselves people with disabilities. Having a facilitator with a disability present will help to put a face on disability. It also adds credibility and ensures the most relevant information is available to the course participants.

Note: If trained industry professionals or additional support staff are not available, students may be asked to assist each other in the simulations by rotating roles of participant and facilitator. In this case, the instructor should simplify the simulation activities to ensure they are completely without risk.

Facilitators should accompany participants throughout the simulation exercise to provide guidance and ensure safety. Accordingly, the role of the facilitator is as follows: To provide guidance regarding the use of equipment.
To ensure the safety of participants. This includes making any adjustments required to meet the individual abilities or needs of participants.
To offer a genuine perspective by sharing personal stories and anecdotes. The more personal anecdotes and stories that the facilitators can share with the class, the more effective the session will be. It is important that these stories are short, light-hearted and on point.
To stimulate discussion about disabilities in a safe environment that allows participants to be open, honest and curious.

Prior to conducting simulation exercises, the simulation facilitators will: Explain the mobility aids and technology that will be used in the simulation.
Determine if anyone has any physical restrictions that could be aggravated by participating in the simulations (shoulder, back, wrist, etc.) and determine if possible to/how to accommodate. Explain safe use of the equipment and safety procedures.
Explain the timing and logistics of the simulation exercise. Explain the route and key features.
Give participants a sense of the level of access provided in the environment in which the simulation is being staged is it a good example of accessibility or not?
Provide participants with broad understanding about the scope of disability in the community and the impact that a steadily increasing population of older adults and seniors and an increasingly active community of people with disabilities is having on the built environment.”

In this connection, the Instructor’s guide dives into several different kinds of vision loss. It shows that the instructor should be able to explain how a white cane is used. Yet an instructor (whose only relevant qualification needs to be a background in the built environment and prior completion of the RHFAC course) is not required to have any of the training or knowledge that a qualified Orientation and Mobility Specialist would have. Those are the professionals who teach white cane use, a complex subject. It shows that a long walking experience is expected. The Instructor’s Guide states:

“Vision Experience
Participants will be provided with vision loss simulators (white cane and goggles) that mimic some of the functional limitations and abilities that may be experienced with different types of visual impairments. The most common conditions of low vision are macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. Each of these conditions can be simulated for participants. If simulators are not available, the instructor can provide more basic options to block vision for students, such as a blindfold.

Session facilitators should give detailed instructions for using a white cane and for ways of navigating with a vision impairment. The facilitator should also accompany participants to ensure their safety at all times. Some participants become quite frightened when they are unable to see where they are going.

Note: Participants in this simulation should be prepared to walk fairly long distances; therefore, appropriate footwear and casual clothing is advised.”

A very narrow and rare exception when such simulations of vision loss can be appropriate is in the case of the extensive post-secondary programs that provide professional training of orientation and mobility specialists for people with vision loss. In those highly controlled situations, a student only goes under blindfold or other vision obstructions when supervised by a qualified orientation and mobility faculty member at a college or university that offers a post-secondary course for such specialists. They do so in the context of an entire lengthy course (much more than an 8 day course) on orientation and mobility instruction. They may be expected to repeatedly and systematically go under blindfold for an hour or more each day, day after day, for a period of weeks or months of training.

In such training, the white cane is gradually introduced, but not at the very start of this process. White cane skills are slowly and systematically taught. The RHFAC course is far, far different from such a rare exceptional case where such simulations should be considered.

16. It is Unhelpful for The RHFAC Course to Ask Students to Consider Which Disability They’d Rather Have or Not Have

While trying to cram too much into too short a time, the RHFAC course also gives instructors the suggestion of having the students consider which of three disabilities they would like or not like to themselves have. The Instructor’s Guide includes:

“Ideas for Additional Learning Activities
Group Questioning Activity: Provide students with the following list of disabilities: Deaf
Blind
Mobility impaired
Pose the question, If you had a disability, which would you choose and why? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

Pose another question, this time reversing the question, Which disability would you not want to have? Facilitate a group discussion asking individuals to articulate their choice/answer.

For the disability that you have chosen to have, how would it impact your current job or your family?”

This is problematic. This exercise risks reinforcing stereotypes and fears about acquiring these disabilities. Unless the students have a very thorough understanding of each disability, their views will be influenced by stereotypes or insufficient knowledge.

Unless a student is planning on injuring themselves in a way that will cause one of these disabilities, this question is not relevant to assessing a building’s accessibility. Whether or not a student would prefer to have a mobility, vision or hearing disability, the fact is that people in the community have these disabilities.

17. RHFAC Testing of Course Participants Is Not Shown to Be Sufficient

To pass the RHFAC course, a student must pass a multiple choice examination. We cannot fully assess the sufficiency of the test, since we have not seen it. However, we seriously question whether a multiple-choice test is a sufficient way to test rigourous analytical skills, such as those on which the course focuses, and the information that this course tries to cover.

In its July 29, 2019 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Ford Government did not give a specific answer to the question, inquiring what the specifics are of the knowledge assessed in the RHF test at the end of the course. all the Government said in its July 29, 2019 letter is that the test

” is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course.”

That tells us nothing new.

As well, a student must complete and submit a written accessibility assessment of a building of the instructor’s choosing. Here again, we have concerns. This written report gets a pass-fail grade, which is a minimal marking threshold.

The Student Guide states:

“Students will conduct a review of the site and complete an RHFAC rating.
As this is a class exercise only, students will submit their results to the instructor for adjudication. They will not submit results to the RHFAC Registry.”

The Student Guide also states:

“Criteria for successful completion of this assignment
Appropriate categories, elements and features are identified and assessed. Clear rationale to support the rating is provided.
All required supporting documentation is submitted.
Key areas of success and key areas for improvement are aligned with the assessment findings.
Writing is clear and relatively free of any grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors.”

Appendix Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho’s July 29, 2019 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised regarding the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification Program (RHFAC). Please be assured that we take your feedback very seriously, and your comments will be carefully considered as we continue discussions with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

We are proud to partner with RHF, a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity with a proven track record across the country. The RHFAC program has also been successfully implemented in British Columbia and Nova Scotia. In 2016, British Columba piloted the program and conducted 129 assessments. Given the success of the program, in 2018 that government committed to a second expanded partnership with the RHF to roll out the program province-wide.

We know that many buildings in Ontario continue to be a challenge for people with disabilities and seniors. And when buildings are not accessible, people are shut out from fully participating in everyday life, businesses fail to reach their full potential, and communities are not as welcoming as they should be.

Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the RHFAC program in communities across the province.

Through this partnership, the government is investing in an Ontario focused certification program that will allow organizations to understand their level of accessibility, based on nationally recognized standards, and learn in a concrete way what they can do to make improvements.

Through the governments investment, RHF will undertake ratings of 250 facilities. This will include accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

We are working with the Foundation on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

Please refer to the background section below for additional information and detailed responses to your questions.

Thank you again for writing and please accept my best wishes.

Sincerely,
Raymond Cho
Minister

Confidentiality Warning: This e-mail contains information intended only for the use of the individual emailed above. If you have received this e-mail in error, we would appreciate it if you could advise us through the ministry’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-seniors-accessibility and destroy all copies of this message. Thank you.

Enclosure

Q and As
Process for Selecting the RHF for Funding
Q1. Did the Ontario Government issue a “request for proposal” or otherwise conduct an open competitive bid process before deciding to award this funding to the RHF? If not, why not?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is not a private sector business. It is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
* For over three decades the Foundation has worked to improve the built environment through rating, certification and awareness programs, and professional training.
* The Ontario Government provides transfer payments to recipients external to government to fund activities that benefit the public and are designed to achieve public policy objectives.
* The Rick Hansen Foundation submitted a proposal to help the Government improve accessibility in the built environment through the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program.
* Given the alignment with government commitments to improve accessibility for people with disabilities and seniors, as part of Budget 2019, the government was pleased to announce its intent to partner with the Foundation through a $1.3M investment and to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across the province.
* The RHFAC program is unique. Ratings are conducted by trained professionals and measures the level of meaningful access based on the nationally and internationally recognized Accessible Design for the Built Environment Standard developed by the CSA Group.
* As is the case with all transfer payments, this partnership will be implemented in line with the accountability framework for oversight set out in Ontarios Transfer Payment Accountability Directive. Standard for Assessing a Building’s Accessibility
Q2. What specific accessibility standard will the RHF use when it assesses the accessibility of a building? The RHF website and its “Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation” states that its accessibility assessments are “based upon CSA B651 standards”, produced by the Canadian Standards Association. How much of that CSA Standard does the RHF use? All or only part of it? If only part, then which parts are included and which are excluded? If any are excluded, why were they excluded?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program is the first and only program in Canada that uses a rating system to identify and rate accessible built environments, creating a national benchmark and aspirational goal for the industry.
* The program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard. The RHFAC Guide to Certification provides a step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings currently available across the country.
* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Guide to Certification, outlining the step-by-step process for RHFAC ratings: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Trained professionals use the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey for the assessments, these can be found in the following link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0 * These tools are reviewed regularly by the following:
* RHFAC Advisory Committee – The purpose of the RHFAC Advisory Committee is to advise RHF staff on the design, scope, development, and distribution of RHF Accessibility Certification program, and related topics as required. Committee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
* RHFAC Experts Taskforce The purpose of the RHFAC Experts Taskforce is to serve as a platform for detailed review, feedback and discussion in regards to the RHFAC program materials. Committee members are chosen from leaders from a selected list of national disability organizations with experience in built environment accessibility.
* RHFAC Technical Advisory Subcommittee – The purpose of the RHFAC Technical Subcommittee is to advise the RHFAC Advisory Committee on the technical components of the RHFAC Rating Survey and Handbook. This Subcommittee will serve as a platform for review, feedback, and discussion of the technical components of the RHFAC materials. Subcommittee members are chosen from leaders in the built environment (e.g. architects, engineers, developers, municipal planners, code consultants, etc.) with representation nationally.
Q3. The RHF says it assesses the “meaningful access” of a building. What specific criteria, measures and rating scales are used to assess if a building has “meaningful access”? Who decides if the access is meaningful? Is it the individual assessor? What safeguards are there to prevent this from arbitrarily varying from RHF assessor to assessor or from RHF adjudicator to adjudicator?

* The RHFAC term meaningful access is based on CSA Group’s B651 standard, which considers the holistic user experience of people of all abilities, including those with mobility, vision, and hearing disabilities.
* Only trained RHFAC Professionals can submit RHFAC ratings into the RHFAC Registry, hosted by CSA. Please find below step-by-step process for how to become an RHF Accessibility Certification Professional. Further, additional information is available in the RHFAC Guide to Professional Designation, enclosed: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
* Pass the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor Training Course. Participants in this course will learn about: * The impact of the social and physical environment on people with disabilities;
* The relevant legislation, regulations, and standards needed when planning and executing an assessment;
* The Universal Design principles and standards when planning and executing an assessment; * How to interpret and navigate a set of construction drawings; and
* How to communicate and support assessment findings to clients, and prepare a recommendation report of the assessment findings, reflecting compliance and gaps related to relevant human rights and accessibility legislation, regulations, and Universal Design standards.
* Further, there are prerequisites for taking RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course including the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.
* Pass the examination. The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the above Training Course. This exam is designed to test understanding of concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered separately through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring. Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before they can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
* Uphold the designation. To uphold the designation, RHFAC Professionals must follow: (1) The RHFAC Professional Code of Ethics; and (2) Continuing education requirements; and (3) Policies regarding the use of RHF logos and marks.
* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.
Q4. Can we please have a copy of the RHF assessor’s and adjudicator’s checklist score criteria. How does the RHF score meaningful access on a barrier-by-barrier basis? What are the scoring instructions and scales that the RHF gives to its assessors, not only for each kind of barrier, but also for determining what overall level of accessibility RHF will award? We seek detailed specifics on this. For example, is each bathroom assessed and rated separately, with a distinct score attached to it, or are the scores for all bathrooms averaged into one figure?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Professional Handbook and RHFAC Rating Survey, outlining all program detail, including references as provided: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0
Q5. How has the RHF tested out its assessment training and forms to see if different assessors or adjudicators reach different conclusions on the same building or features within that building?

* Early in the development stages of the RHFAC program, it was recognized that it would be essential for each RHFAC Professional to reach the same conclusions on any given site.
* As part of the development process, numerous single sites were reviewed by a number of RHFAC Professionals to check that the outcomes were consistent. This is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis. The RHFAC Professional is not reliant only on code requirements without any real understanding of how these required elements are used by people with disabilities.
* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology, provides consistent results.
* During the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course, the instructors also go through each feature with students and complete a mock ratings.
* Further, as outlined above, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

RHF Accessibility Certification Duration of Buildings
Q6. Will the Ontario Government require that there be a time limitation affixed to an RHF accessibility certification of a building? Otherwise, what protections will Ontarians with disabilities and the public have against an organization making any changes to the building or its interior or environs that create new disability barriers, sometime after it receives an RHF certification?

* An RHFAC Certification is valid for five years from the date of the adjudication. All substantial changes to the Site must be declared to RHF.
* An RHFAC Professional and/or RHFAC adjudicator may investigate any declared changes to determine if the Site continues to meet certification levels. RHF reserves the right to withdraw RHFAC Certification at its own discretion.
* In order to maintain certification during this period, Sites must complete a short mid-term questionnaire after two-and-a-half years to confirm there are no changes affecting the Site’s accessibility. Training for RHF Assessors and Adjudicators
Q7. What are the required qualifications or credentials for a person to be able to teach the RHFAC course? Are the course instructors required to have anything more than their own credentials as an RFHAC assessor? Are they required to be a member of the faculty of the college or university where the course is offered, and to have demonstrated expertise in the accessibility of the built environment?

* Each post-secondary institution is responsible for all RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course administration, including hiring of appropriate instructors.
* All RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course instructors have extensive experience in the built environment and have completed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course. * The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course is offered across the country at: * George Brown College
* Carleton University
* Vancouver Community College
* Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
* and Nova Scotia Community College
* In addition, RHF has partnered with Athabasca University to launch an online course in January 2020.

Q8. What are the detailed specific contents of the curriculum taught in the two-week RHFAC course for RHF assessors? What specific techniques are used in the course to educate the participants in the experience of people with disabilities?

* Please find enclosed the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course Instructor Manual and Student Manual, including details in regards to the disability simulation: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sv75syi6x3pjep/RHFAC%20Documents.zip?dl=0

Q9. What are the specifics of the knowledge assessed in the RHFAC test at the end of the two-week course?

* The RHFAC Professional Exam must be taken within 12 months of completing the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course.
* This exam is designed to test understanding of the concepts and principles taught in the Training Course and is administered through a separate process and independently through the CSA Group and its third party test provider, Kryterion.
* The exam is accessible, computer-based and can be taken at one of 45 test centres across Canada, or online with remote monitoring.
* Applicants must register for the exam, pay a fee, and take the exam before applicants can qualify for the RHFAC Professional designation.
Q10. Does an RHF assessor need to have demonstrated expert knowledge in the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions and relevant AODA accessibility standards, and in related municipal accessibility bylaws in Ontario? Or of the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

* RHFAC Professionals are trained to identify barriers to people with disabilities on a cross- disability basis.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in. However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* Their job is to identify barriers based on their training, which uses CSA B-651 as a baseline. Their training and the RHFAC rating system itself takes them well beyond code minimum requirements in the identification of barriers to people with disabilities for example emergency entrances and wayfinding.
Q11. Do course participants get a copy of the specifics of the CSA B621 voluntary built environment accessibility standard? Do they get copies of all the built environment accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in applicable municipal bylaws in Ontario? Does the course teach detailed knowledge of these? Does testing at the end of the course assess a person’s detailed knowledge of these?

* While CSA materials are provided in the classroom during training, it is the responsibility of the individual participant to purchase copies of various CSA materials (B651, B-44, etc.) as well as provincial or municipal code documents as required in the jurisdiction they are operating in.
* RHFAC Professionals are expected to have knowledge of local code requirements in whichever province or region they may be operating in However, they are not Building Code auditors.
* The RHFAC rating is intended as a snapshot of the current accessibility conditions vis-à-vis the ability for people with disabilities to use that facility.
* The RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course curriculum includes units on legal framework and compliance which focus on integrating legislation, regulations and standards when planning and executing an assessment. The CSA exam covers all units of the curriculum to ensure proper understanding of the RHFAC program. It is also important to note that not everyone taking the course will take the exam. Further, the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course prerequisites include the following:
* Diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program; or
* Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in a designated trade related to building construction; or * Engineer or are eligible for registration as an engineer; or * Architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; or
* Minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in the built environment and/or building construction.

Conflicts of Interest
Q12. What measures have been put in place to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest with any organizations seeking its accessibility certification? To that end, will organizations be precluded from taking part in Government-funded RHF accessibility assessments if the organization does not have an arms-length relationship with the RHF, or has made a donation to the RHF, or may do so in the future?

* The Rick Hansen Foundation is a nationally recognized, reputable, non-profit registered Canadian charity that leads a global movement to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

* Over the past 30 years, the RHF has worked consistently to raise awareness around accessibility and improve the built environment, wherever and whenever possible, across Canada. It is known for its transparency and has a reputation of being a forthright organization interested in the public good. The RHF is also known for engaging Canadians from all backgrounds including people with disabilities, engineers, designers, architects, business, developers and builders in its quest to achieve its mission.

* The Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification (RHFAC) program was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility in the built environment, including all components of the CSA B651 standard.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected. All RHFAC ratings in Ontario will be conducted by independent RHFAC Professionals.

* To complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by CSA Group. The RHFAC Professional will submit the final RHFAC Rating Survey and supporting evidence (e.g., photographs) to the Registry so an adjudicator may review the completed RHFAC Rating Survey.

* The RHFAC programs approach of consistent training and consistent methodology provides consistent results.

Q13. What measures are to be put in place to avoid the risk that an assessor will lean in favour of a more favourable accessibility rating in order to be better-positioned to get more organizations to hire them to do an RHF accessibility assessment?

* Like all self-employed professionals, those who are trained to conduct accessibility ratings are armed with only their skills, dedication and their reputations. There is no gain for trained RHFAC professionals to falsify assessments.

* As this is a livelihood for some trained professionals, it is in their best interest as well as that of the RHFs that transparency and accuracy are paramount.

* The trained professionals who will conduct accessibility ratings are contracted by the Foundation as independent professionals, who have received the RHFAC Professional designation after taking the RHFAC Accessibility Assessor course (offered at George Brown College and Carleton University in Ontario and other post-secondary institutions throughout Canada) and have successfully passed examination by the CSA Group.

* To complete a rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification trained professionals evaluation to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate. Adjudication is facilitated by the CSA Group.

Sufficiency of RHF Off-Site Accessibility Adjudication Process
Q14. What measures will be put in place to ensure that an RHF adjudicator’s off-site review of a building’s accessibility assessment is fair, accurate, open and transparent?

* The trained professionals who will conduct the ratings are independent professionals who have gained the RHFAC Professional designation with examinations administered by the CSA Group after taking the RHFAC course.

* As mentioned above, this is where the RHFAC program strengths lay, because instead of a self-assessment / checklist approach, the RHFAC puts a trained professional on each site that understand access on a cross-disability basis.

* The RHFAC process has been successfully applied on a national level and ratings have been conducted across Canada.

* Furthermore, to complete an RHFAC rating, an independent adjudicator must approve the RHFAC Professional’s rating to ensure ratings are consistent and accurate.

Choice of Buildings to Assess for Accessibility
Q15. Which organizations’ buildings will be checked for accessibility by the RHF certification process? What proportion of them will be private businesses and what proportion will be public sector organizations?

* As announced in the 2019 Budget, the RHFAC program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings as well as not-for-profit organizations.

* Through this investment, the RHFs and Government of Ontarios joint objective is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of the people of this province.

Q16. Will organizations be able to apply to be chosen for an RHF assessment? Who will choose which organizations and which buildings will be subject to these accessibility assessments, the Ontario Government, the RHF or some combination of the two? If the RHF has any role to play in decisions over which organizations’ buildings will be assessed, what measures will be implemented to ensure that the RHF has no conflict of interest?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

* The goal is to maximize the impact the program will have and best meet the needs of Ontarians.

Q17. What public accountability and openness safeguards will be in place regarding the decisions over which organizations will have their building assessed? What criteria will be used to choose which organizations and which buildings will be assessed?

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program. This includes developing a criteria for how buildings will be selected.

Q18. Will the Ford Government invite the public, including Ontario’s disability community, to indicate which organizations and which buildings should be assessed by the RHF?

* As always, we welcome and will consider continued feedback from the disability community.

* The Ministry and RHF are working together on the detailed design of the program and associated processes, more details to come at a later date.

Amount of Government Funding for RHF Accessibility Assessment
Q19. Will an organization that is chosen for a Government-financed RHF accessibility assessment have the entire cost of the assessment paid for by the taxpayer? If a business is highly-profitable, for example, will it be required to contribute to any part of the cost of the assessment?

* As noted earlier, the objective of this investment on the part of the Government of Ontario is to facilitate the creation of a better built environment in a cross section of Ontario communities and help as many Ontarians as possible within the rating of 250 facilities.

* The Ministry and RHF are working on the detailed design of the program and will release more details at a later time.




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Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program


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

July 29, 2019

SUMMARY

In both conventional media and social media, there has already been good coverage of the serious problems that we have publicly raised with the Ford Government plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the controversial Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility certification program. This helps reinforce our call for the Government to set this plan aside. Instead of this inappropriate use of public money, the Doug Ford Government should act now to implement the helpful recommendations in the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public its important July 3, 2019 report. It documents serious problems with the Government plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. Our July 3, 2019 report shows that it is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call an RHF assessment of a building an “accessibility certification”. It is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call someone who took a two-week course from the RHF on accessibility and who passed a multiple-choice test an “accessibility professional”. It is an exaggeration if not inaccurate for the Ford Government to claim that public funding for this will remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Our efforts have triggered quite a good early response. In this Update we highlight early attention that our concerns have gotten in conventional media and social media. We also let you know about a recent article in a BC news publication that reinforces our concerns. We also take a closer look at the first public statement to the media that the Doug Ford Government has made in response to our concerns. We show that the Ford Government’s responses do not eliminate our concerns at all.

In this Update we also identify the specific actions we want the Ford Government to now take. What we seek is rooted in the recommendations of the David Onley report, and in election commitments that Doug Ford made to the AODA Alliance and Ontarians with disabilities during last year’s election campaign.

Just before this Update was sent out, we received a letter from Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho. It responds to the questions about the plan to publicly fund the problematic RHF private accessibility certification program in our July 3, 2019 letter to the Accessibility Minister. We are hard at work analyzing this letter and will address it in an upcoming AODA Alliance Update.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

1. Great Conventional and Social Media Coverage

On July 24, 2019, the Toronto Star online ran a great article entitled “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.” This article is included below. It reported on several of the serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million to the RHF for this. Below we address the Government’s first public responses to our July 3, 2019 report.

As well, on Thursday, July 25, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Kitchener 570 News Radio station, as part of the “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” show. CFRB News Talk 1010 Radio in Toronto did a news interview with him on July 26, 2019. We have not heard if it was used on the air. At 4:45 pm today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa.

There has also been quite a positive and vocal reaction to our report on social media. We set out a sampling from Twitter, below, as well as a Facebook post by Optimal Consulting, an accessibility firm that operates in Ontario.

All the feedback we have seen or received from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns about the Ford Government’s plan to publicly fund the troubling RHF private accessibility certification program for 250 as-yet unspecified buildings in Ontario. They have also broadened the discussion with new information. Beyond what they say that is set out in our July 3, 2019 report, we have not investigated or verified facts set out in those posts. We present them to show that there is real controversy swirling around the Government’s plan.

Here are two tweets as examples. They were both replies to the Toronto Star tweeting about its July 24, 2019 article on this topic, which we provide for you later in this Update:

“Liz Hay. @Kurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail”

“Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06”

One of the tweets set out later in this Update , and that arises from our July 3, 2019 report, brought to our attention an important article in the July 9, 2019 edition of the Delta Observer news publication from British Columbia. We also set that article out below. It reports on a human rights complaint that has been filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against a BC restaurant. A customer with a disability alleges that the restaurant has accessibility problems that amount to a violation of their human rights. The article says the RHF had certified that venue as accessible.

This shows, as we have said, that just because the RHF “certifies” that a place is accessible does not mean that people with disabilities will experience that place as accessible. Moreover, the fact that the RHF “certified” a restaurant as accessible is no defence to a human rights complaint, if the complainant shows that they faced accessibility barriers. Calling this “accessibility certification” is therefore inaccurate.

2. A Closer Look Shows that the Ford Government’s First Official Response to the AODA Alliance Report Doesn’t Refute Our Serious Concerns

What has the Ford Government told the media in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the Government’s plan to fund the RHF private accessibility certification program to assess 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years? Twenty-two days before we made our report public, we sent it to the office of the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. We asked his office to let us know if there are any factual inaccuracies in our report. We explained that we have done our best to ensure that it is accurate, and don’t want to make any inaccurate statements in that report. We said we’d like to know before we make the report public, in case there is anything we need to correct. Knowing of our request, Minister Cho’s office and ministry has not suggested to us that there was anything inaccurate in the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report.

The Government’s first public response to the media was in the same Toronto Star July 24, 2019 article that was mentioned in the tweets above. We here take a closer look at that response, which is full of holes. The article’s key passage is:

“In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

The Government’s response to the Toronto Star does not disprove any of our serious concerns. We address seven points.

First, we have seen no indication that the Ford Government held any open competitive process before it decided whom it would engage to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. There are a number of accessibility experts in Ontario that have been doing this kind of accessibility advisory work for years. There is no indication whether any of them were considered, or even had a chance to bid on this project. We do not know why a Government, acting responsibly with public money, would choose the RHF assessors whose only required accessibility background comes from passing a multiple choice test after a two-week course. A public bidding process would be a more appropriate approach to the responsible use of public money.

On that issue, the Star article includes this Government response:

“The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

Yet that track record in BC is called into question by the problems with the RHF Gold rating for the Vancouver International Airport (addressed in our July 3, 2019 report), and the RHF’s rating a BC restaurant as “accessible” which is now being sued under BC’s human rights legislation for alleged accessibility problems. (as addressed in the news article set out later in this Update).

Second, according to the Toronto Star, an RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is geared towards industry, not consumers. That will hardly be encouraging for Ontarians with disabilities. We need an increased focus on consumers with disabilities. Even if it is geared for industry, there is no way the public can know if the RHF assessments are useful since they are being kept secret, unless an organization wants its RHF report made public.

Third, the RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is “an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities.” However, as our July 3, 2019 report highlighted, and as a tweet from Ontario-based accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi notes, it is not even clear that the RHF assessments will cover all accessibility requirements in Ontario provincial and municipal laws. Moreover, the “Code” that organizations must meet or exceed is the Ontario Human Rights Code, and not the inferior accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Fourth, according to the Toronto Star, Accessibility Minister Cho said that “CSA Group (i.e. the Canadian Standards Association) will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate.” However, the CSA is itself not a government agency. It is a private organization. To our knowledge, the CSA is not authorized under any law of which we are aware to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings in Ontario or to evaluate the correctness or consistency of assessments done by others. We have seen no proof that the CSA has any expertise in that field. It is certainly not an organization that we would advise a government to engage for that purpose.

Fifth, it is peculiar that the RHF told the Star that: When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation. This flies in the face of the fact that both the Ford Government and the RHF’s website emphasize the Rick Hansen Foundation’s name all over this process. In the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release (included in the appendix to our July 3, 2019 report), the Government states position that is quite contrary to what it here told the Star, where it says:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

It would likely come as a troubling surprise to an organization that had paid for the RHF certification and for permission to post an RHF certification sign on their building, as well as to members of the public who see a “Rick Hansen Foundation” accessibility certification sign in front of a building, that the RHF did not actually certify the building’s accessibility. This is especially so since it appears that a bedrock foundation of the RHF private accessibility certification program, and the Government’s promotion of this plan, is its prominent focus on Rick Hansen’s name and notoriety.

Sixth, assuming that the Star quoted it accurately, the RHF statement to the Toronto Star contradicts its own website where the RHF spokesperson said:

“The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”

The admission requirements to be able to take the RHF two-week course and to pass a multiple choice test to qualify to conduct these building accessibility assessments for the RHF do not require a person to have ” a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments”, as our July 3, 2019 report documents. According to the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation, posted on the RHF website, the qualifications to take the RHF 2-week course are:

“Prerequisites include the following:
You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering, urban planning, interior design or a related program;
You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in
a designated trade related to building construction;
You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as
an engineer;
You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building construction.”

If we are right, then the RHF statement to the Star is inaccurate on a very important issue, namely whether a person needs to have any accessibility experience before taking the RHF course. As noted earlier, the Ford Government did not tell us that we got any of our facts wrong in our July 3, 2019 report.

Seventh and finally, the Government’s response does not disprove our serious concerns with the twin risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent in this plan. Our report explains that there are two conflict of interest risks:

1. The RHF can be asked to assess the building of a public or private organization that has given a donation to the RHF, or that offers to do so in the future, or that otherwise signals a willingness to do so. This creates a conflict of interest for the RHF.

2. The RHF’s accessibility assessors are freelancers. They get hired on an ad hoc basis by an organization to do an RHF accessibility assessment and to submit it to the RHF for its adjudication and approval. These assessors are paid by the job. No doubt, they want to get more jobs. As such, they have an incentive to give more favourable accessibility ratings, so that other organizations will also want to choose them for future certification jobs.

To answer these concerns, the Ford Government told the Star:

“”In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.”

These Government statements do not eliminate any of our conflict of interest concerns. The fact that the assessors work as freelancers does not take away the fact that the RHF, which grants the ultimate award or certification in its own name, has a potential conflict of interest, in the case of organizations that may be past or potential future donors to the RHF.

As well, the fact that these assessors are paid by the job as freelancers is the very basis for the second conflict of interest concern listed above. By emphasizing that they are freelancers, the Minister’s statement simply reaffirms this problem.

3. What Should the Ford Government Do Now?

The Ford Government should take a long second look at this plan in light of our concerns, and should cancel it.

It’s time for the Ford Government instead to come up with a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government received the Onley report six months ago (or 179 days ago(. the Government has announced no plans to implement that report, even though over four months ago, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”.

To create disability accessibility in the built environment, we call on the Ford Government to act on Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. That is where Premier Ford set out his 2018 election pledges on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We need Ontario to enact new and modernized accessibility requirements to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The current Ontario Building Code is woefully inadequate. The Onley Report recommended this action. The AODA Alliance has called for this action. On May 15, 2018, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Codes accessibility provisions.”

We need Ontario to require that design professionals like architects be properly trained to design a built environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has recommended this. So did the Onley Report. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We also need the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The AODA Alliance has called for this. the Onley Report did the same. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford promised that there would be an end to mismanagement of public money.

Rather than taking these important actions, the Ford Government took the official position in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that this is all just undesirable “red tape”. The Doug Ford Government proudly pointed to its alternative plan of providing public funding to the RHF private accessibility certification program.

In the face of this, last week, the AODA Alliance launched its new grassroots “Dial Doug” campaign. It is inviting the public to call or email the Premier at his office (416 325-1941 or [email protected]) to ask for his plan to make Ontario accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Members of the public are already taking up this challenge.

4. Toronto Star Online July 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/17/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says its wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a certified gold rating to a building with such steps.

Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings

By Gilbert Ngabo Staff Reporter

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the provinces new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

In this springs budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the provinces disability accessibility laws said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

You cant say, Hey, youre about to inspect my house, heres some cash. You shouldnt be allowed to do that, said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. Thats a clear conflict of interest. Its actually quite troubling.

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as theyd be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said theres risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, theyll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHFs vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundations certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation, he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: certified gold if they score over 80 per cent, certified if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundations program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather its an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities, he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport a RHF certified gold rated building in 2018 as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows hangout steps for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson Universitys Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective, he said. It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing soul-crushing barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is nowhere in sight, Onleys report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing, Lepofsky said.

We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

5. The Delta Optimist July 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.delta-optimist.com/news/human-rights-tribunal-to-hear-disabled-customer-s-complaint-about-pat-quinn-s-1.23877536?fbclid=IwAR2YQfRum15xPmepCS7c10T4gO7lDhS-bJUfBimDOggHjSK5zzRiUBoB7mg BC Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customers complaint about Pat Quinns

An accessibility complaint against Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar will go before the Human Rights Tribunal later this year.

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassens Vince Miele who uses a wheelchair and has long been an advocate for people with disabilities.

According to his application, in February 2016 he made a reservation for four and informed the Tsawwassen Springs restaurant that one in the party uses a wheelchair.

When he arrived, he found his friends had been seated at a table in the lower area of the restaurant, but he was unable to independently join them because of three stairs. A server offered to help him down the stairs, but that was not feasible.

As a result, his friends were moved to the upper level of the restaurant. He said the experience attracted undue attention from other diners and that it was an incredibly embarrassing experience.

After the incident, Miele contacted the restaurant to complain about the lack of access to the lower floor.

I received less than a satisfactory response and in correspondence with others looked originally at a class-action lawsuit, Miele told the Optimist. The commissioner of the tribunal determined that a class-action complaint was a lot more complicated. They felt they would not accept it as a class-action, but continue it at the Human Rights Tribunal.

In January, an application was made to dismiss the complaint, but that was denied, so it will now be heard before the tribunal in November.

Miele said since he started the complaint process three years ago, the restaurant has made some improvements, including installing an automatic door opener from the parkade to the elevator and a door to enable access to the patio. As well, it now has a portable ramp, but Miele contends that does not meet the building code and a permanent ramp should be installed to meet all accessibility standards.

Were very surprised by all of this. Its a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there, he said. Im not in this to harm the reputation of the restaurant. I thought it was an oversight when I first wrote to them in good faith and thought it would be corrected.

Three years later we are still waiting. What are we to think? Im adamant about what I want and so are they and thats why we are heading to a hearing. To design something like this so poorly is quite surprising. It should be inclusive and accessible for all and its not.

Dave Symington also wrote to the Optimist about a similar experience he had at the restaurant in May.

Its surprising that a building this new still did not take into account that people with mobility-related disabilities might want to use the lower and main portion of the restaurant, he said. The building code specifically states that where there is a change in floor levels it must be made accessible, which means a permanent ramp or other means where an individual can independently access the area. If we have to make a fuss about sitting in an area that anyone else can, we are not being accommodated fairly.

Through its legal counsel, Tsawwassen Springs provided a written response to the Optimist.

We engaged the services of professional engineers and architects who created the building plans for the construction of Pat Quinns Restaurant & Bar along with the entire building in which the restaurant is situate, which plans were in full compliance with the then current B.C. Building Code including the accessibility requirements provided therein, said the response.

Those building plans were approved by the City of Delta, whose representatives issued all necessary permits. The building, including the restaurant, is Accessibility Certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program.

We will not be providing any further comment while this matter is being considered by the tribunal.

6. Sampling of Recent Tweets

Liz Hay. @tkurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail

J E Sleeth. @DavidLepofsky @fordnation @HonDavidOnley Excellent article @TorontoStar re. #aoda #ford giving $ 2 @RickHansenFdn which is not bona fide #accessibility nor a means 2 have private sector be #openforbusiness to #peopleofallabilities it’s not just the #wheelchair

Joel Harden. $1.3 million for accessibility audits will not rid Ontario of the “soul-crushing” barriers that exist. We need immediate action to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, not meager investments. #onpoli #AODA https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter Web App

Allen Mankewich. This thread highlights concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Certification Program and reveals a lot of what I’m hearing in private conversations. Thanks @mssinenomine for compiling the thread, and thanks @DavidLepofsky for releasing a report exposing issues with this program. https://twitter.com/mssinenomine/status/1154420373187751936 twitter.com/mssinenomine/s

Michelle Sanders. #Ontario to allocate $1.3 million to #accessibility audits in partnership with @RickHansenFdn . Accessibility Certification requirements not available to the public + not based on public consult. What are we doing?? @fordnation @aodaalliance @AODAontario https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/ Twitter for iPhone

Micaela Evans A case is heading to the BC Human Rights Tribunal soon that touches on these important issues of the certification https://twitter.com/micievans13/status/1154622550682456064?s=20

Gabrielle Peters The building is accessibility certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Check out the @aodaalliance report at the top of this thread detailing this wasteful use of public money and their “Dial Doug” campaign

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Trust the Doug Ford government to come up with a way to look like it’s doing something about accessibility when all its doing is spending money on a private foundation to ensure it makes the government look like it’s doing something. Ontario taxpayers deserve better. #onpoli
Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. Unlike the government this private foundation has no obligation to make anything public. Ontarians won’t know which buildings are rated, or how they’re rated. The Ford gov will release results as it sees fit. There is no enforcement for buildings that fail. This fails us all.
While slashing education and health care the Doug Ford government is paying a private foundation 1.3 million to rate 250 buildings. That’s $5,200 per building. Government inspectors already employed could do this. Is this an attempt to ensure that these buildings pass?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ?. To work as a building accessibility certfier for RHF all you have to do is take a two week course and pass a multiple choice test. Then you’re fully trained to certify every single building you see as accessible or accessible enough for Doug Ford’s purposes. Right. #Accessibilty
Further to the detailed work of BC’s @mssinenomine Ontario disability activists also reject this ridiculously expensive private accessibility certification company that essentially does nothing but make itself money. twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/

Thea Kurdi. To move the needle on #accessibility , enforce existing laws but face reality we need to radically rewrite building codes. Older buildings need audits using detailed requ’ts from several standards to get even close to Human Rights. After renos *maybe then ready for celebration.

Thea Kurdi. My career has been focused on trying to remove barriers people with disabilities unjustly face in built environments. I wish we were ready for whole building certification by now, but current standard practice & building codes don’t create accessible places. Love encouraging…

…and celebrating progress but at best we are only ready to celebrate features. Areas of most progress? Bathrooms, service desks, parking, signage, but rarely more than minimum, & not what we’ve known for decades is needed. #Education is far more valuable than certification.

Thea Kurdi. …this report from @aodaalliance raises many reasonable questions. And for those who don’t know much about #accessibility in buildings I understand wishing one national standard, like the CSA B651, would cover everything. Sadly, it does not. Why? Read: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-insider-secrets-whats-stopping-full-inclusion-design-thea-kurdi/ linkedin.com/pulse/top-insi

People have been asking what I think of new RHF certification program. I can see why business & government are attracted to what looks like an easy solution to a complex problem that they want to solve. I can see why people like the idea of celebrating through recognition. But… twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/
Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06

7. Facebook Post by Optimal Consultants, an Ontario-Based Accessibility Consulting Firm

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/93712137122/posts/10156628031122123/

(Note: The AODA Alliance has not investigated or verified any statements in this post)

Please read my article in Linked In and in Facebook yesterday about the @RickHansen certification system being flawed. This includes “auditors” who have no formal education in the areas of ergonomics, human factors, psychology or design. As mentioned yesterday we are aware of 1 very important building in Meadowvale Ontario that was deemed by RHF to be accessible and received an award (which is clearly displayed in the building owners website – (note the building is owned by and managed by a real estate company. The certification and award were not in any way pursued by the FI business who leases the building). The two formal audits conducted by Optimal Performance Consultants and paid for by the FI in the building found the building to not meet even basic #OntarioBuildingCode #BarrierFreeDesign let alone provide accessibility for people of ALL abilities. Remember, accessible and inclusive design is NOT just about the #Wheelchair We stand by our University educated, experienced and professional Auditors at Optimal Performance Consultants. Optimizing human performance through the built environment for 30 years. [email protected]





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Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

Great Conventional Media and Social Media Coverage Highlight Serious Problems with the Doug Ford Government Plan to Divert 1.3 Million Dollars to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Controversial Private Accessibility Certification Program

July 29, 2019

SUMMARY

In both conventional media and social media, there has already been good coverage of the serious problems that we have publicly raised with the Ford Government plan to divert 1.3 million public dollars to the controversial Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) private accessibility certification program. This helps reinforce our call for the Government to set this plan aside. Instead of this inappropriate use of public money, the Doug Ford Government should act now to implement the helpful recommendations in the final report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Last week, the AODA Alliance made public its important July 3, 2019 report. It documents serious problems with the Government plan to spend public money on the RHF private accessibility certification program. Our July 3, 2019 report shows that it is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call an RHF assessment of a building an “accessibility certification”. It is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate, to call someone who took a two-week course from the RHF on accessibility and who passed a multiple-choice test an “accessibility professional”. It is an exaggeration if not inaccurate for the Ford Government to claim that public funding for this will remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Our efforts have triggered quite a good early response. In this Update we highlight early attention that our concerns have gotten in conventional media and social media. We also let you know about a recent article in a BC news publication that reinforces our concerns. We also take a closer look at the first public statement to the media that the Doug Ford Government has made in response to our concerns. We show that the Ford Government’s responses do not eliminate our concerns at all.

In this Update we also identify the specific actions we want the Ford Government to now take. What we seek is rooted in the recommendations of the David Onley report, and in election commitments that Doug Ford made to the AODA Alliance and Ontarians with disabilities during last year’s election campaign.

Just before this Update was sent out, we received a letter from Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Raymond Cho. It responds to the questions about the plan to publicly fund the problematic RHF private accessibility certification program in our July 3, 2019 letter to the Accessibility Minister. We are hard at work analyzing this letter and will address it in an upcoming AODA Alliance Update.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

1. Great Conventional and Social Media Coverage

On July 24, 2019, the Toronto Star online ran a great article entitled “Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings.” This article is included below. It reported on several of the serious problems with the Ford Government’s plan to give $1.3 million to the RHF for this. Below we address the Government’s first public responses to our July 3, 2019 report.

As well, on Thursday, July 25, 2019, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was interviewed on the Kitchener 570 News Radio station, as part of the “Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke” show. CFRB News Talk 1010 Radio in Toronto did a news interview with him on July 26, 2019. We have not heard if it was used on the air. At 4:45 pm today, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is scheduled to be interviewed on CBC Radio 1 in Ottawa.

There has also been quite a positive and vocal reaction to our report on social media. We set out a sampling from Twitter, below, as well as a Facebook post by Optimal Consulting, an accessibility firm that operates in Ontario.

All the feedback we have seen or received from the disability community has echoed and reinforced our concerns about the Ford Government’s plan to publicly fund the troubling RHF private accessibility certification program for 250 as-yet unspecified buildings in Ontario. They have also broadened the discussion with new information. Beyond what they say that is set out in our July 3, 2019 report, we have not investigated or verified facts set out in those posts. We present them to show that there is real controversy swirling around the Government’s plan.

Here are two tweets as examples. They were both replies to the Toronto Star tweeting about its July 24, 2019 article on this topic, which we provide for you later in this Update:

“Liz Hay. @Kurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail”

“Thea Kurdi. @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners? #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings.

torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06”

One of the tweets set out later in this Update , and that arises from our July 3, 2019 report, brought to our attention an important article in the July 9, 2019 edition of the Delta Observer news publication from British Columbia. We also set that article out below. It reports on a human rights complaint that has been filed with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against a BC restaurant. A customer with a disability alleges that the restaurant has accessibility problems that amount to a violation of their human rights. The article says the RHF had certified that venue as accessible.

This shows, as we have said, that just because the RHF “certifies” that a place is accessible does not mean that people with disabilities will experience that place as accessible. Moreover, the fact that the RHF “certified” a restaurant as accessible is no defence to a human rights complaint, if the complainant shows that they faced accessibility barriers. Calling this “accessibility certification” is therefore inaccurate.

2. A Closer Look Shows that the Ford Government’s First Official Response to the AODA Alliance Report Doesn’t Refute Our Serious Concerns

What has the Ford Government told the media in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report on the Government’s plan to fund the RHF private accessibility certification program to assess 250 buildings in Ontario over the next two years? Twenty-two days before we made our report public, we sent it to the office of the Minister for Accessibility and Seniors, Raymond Cho. We asked his office to let us know if there are any factual inaccuracies in our report. We explained that we have done our best to ensure that it is accurate, and don’t want to make any inaccurate statements in that report. We said we’d like to know before we make the report public, in case there is anything we need to correct. Knowing of our request, Minister Cho’s office and ministry has not suggested to us that there was anything inaccurate in the AODA Alliance’s July 3, 2019 report.

The Government’s first public response to the media was in the same Toronto Star July 24, 2019 article that was mentioned in the tweets above. We here take a closer look at that response, which is full of holes. The article’s key passage is:

“In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

The Government’s response to the Toronto Star does not disprove any of our serious concerns. We address seven points.

First, we have seen no indication that the Ford Government held any open competitive process before it decided whom it would engage to assess the accessibility of 250 buildings in Ontario. There are a number of accessibility experts in Ontario that have been doing this kind of accessibility advisory work for years. There is no indication whether any of them were considered, or even had a chance to bid on this project. We do not know why a Government, acting responsibly with public money, would choose the RHF assessors whose only required accessibility background comes from passing a multiple choice test after a two-week course. A public bidding process would be a more appropriate approach to the responsible use of public money.

On that issue, the Star article includes this Government response:

“The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.”

Yet that track record in BC is called into question by the problems with the RHF Gold rating for the Vancouver International Airport (addressed in our July 3, 2019 report), and the RHF’s rating a BC restaurant as “accessible” which is now being sued under BC’s human rights legislation for alleged accessibility problems. (as addressed in the news article set out later in this Update).

Second, according to the Toronto Star, an RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is geared towards industry, not consumers. That will hardly be encouraging for Ontarians with disabilities. We need an increased focus on consumers with disabilities. Even if it is geared for industry, there is no way the public can know if the RHF assessments are useful since they are being kept secret, unless an organization wants its RHF report made public.

Third, the RHF spokesperson said that the RHF program is “an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities.” However, as our July 3, 2019 report highlighted, and as a tweet from Ontario-based accessibility consultant Thea Kurdi notes, it is not even clear that the RHF assessments will cover all accessibility requirements in Ontario provincial and municipal laws. Moreover, the “Code” that organizations must meet or exceed is the Ontario Human Rights Code, and not the inferior accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Fourth, according to the Toronto Star, Accessibility Minister Cho said that “…CSA Group (i.e. the Canadian Standards Association) will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate.” However, the CSA is itself not a government agency. It is a private organization. To our knowledge, the CSA is not authorized under any law of which we are aware to conduct accessibility assessments of buildings in Ontario or to evaluate the correctness or consistency of assessments done by others. We have seen no proof that the CSA has any expertise in that field. It is certainly not an organization that we would advise a government to engage for that purpose.

Fifth, it is peculiar that the RHF told the Star that: “When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation”. This flies in the face of the fact that both the Ford Government and the RHF’s website emphasize the Rick Hansen Foundation’s name all over this process. In the Ford Government’s May 23, 2019 news release (included in the appendix to our July 3, 2019 report), the Government states position that is quite contrary to what it here told the Star, where it says:

“Through this investment, the Rick Hansen Foundation will undertake ratings of 250 facilities.”

It would likely come as a troubling surprise to an organization that had paid for the RHF certification and for permission to post an RHF certification sign on their building, as well as to members of the public who see a “Rick Hansen Foundation” accessibility certification sign in front of a building, that the RHF did not actually certify the building’s accessibility. This is especially so since it appears that a bedrock foundation of the RHF private accessibility certification program, and the Government’s promotion of this plan, is its prominent focus on Rick Hansen’s name and notoriety.

Sixth, assuming that the Star quoted it accurately, the RHF statement to the Toronto Star contradicts its own website where the RHF spokesperson said:

“The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments…”

The admission requirements to be able to take the RHF two-week course and to pass a multiple choice test to qualify to conduct these building accessibility assessments for the RHF do not require a person to have ” a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments”, as our July 3, 2019 report documents. According to the Guide to RHFAC Professional Designation, posted on the RHF website, the qualifications to take the RHF 2-week course are:

“Prerequisites include the following:

  • You have a diploma of technology in architecture, engineering,

urban planning, interior design or a related program;

  • You have a Journeyman Certificate of Qualification in

a designated trade related to building construction;

  • You are an engineer or are eligible for registration as

an engineer;

  • You are an architect or are eligible for registration as an architect; OR
  • You have a minimum of five years’ experience related to building

construction.”

If we are right, then the RHF statement to the Star is inaccurate on a very important issue, namely whether a person needs to have any accessibility experience before taking the RHF course. As noted earlier, the Ford Government did not tell us that we got any of our facts wrong in our July 3, 2019 report.

Seventh and finally, the Government’s response does not disprove our serious concerns with the twin risk of conflicts of interest that are inherent in this plan. Our report explains that there are two conflict of interest risks:

  1. The RHF can be asked to assess the building of a public or private organization that has given a donation to the RHF, or that offers to do so in the future, or that otherwise signals a willingness to do so. This creates a conflict of interest for the RHF.
  1. The RHF’s accessibility assessors are freelancers. They get hired on an ad hoc basis by an organization to do an RHF accessibility assessment and to submit it to the RHF for its adjudication and approval. These assessors are paid by the job. No doubt, they want to get more jobs. As such, they have an incentive to give more favourable accessibility ratings, so that other organizations will also want to choose them for future certification jobs.

To answer these concerns, the Ford Government told the Star:

“”In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.”

These Government statements do not eliminate any of our conflict of interest concerns. The fact that the assessors work as freelancers does not take away the fact that the RHF, which grants the ultimate award or certification in its own name, has a potential conflict of interest, in the case of organizations that may be past or potential future donors to the RHF.

As well, the fact that these assessors are paid by the job as freelancers is the very basis for the second conflict of interest concern listed above. By emphasizing that they are freelancers, the Minister’s statement simply reaffirms this problem.

3. What Should the Ford Government Do Now?

The Ford Government should take a long second look at this plan in light of our concerns, and should cancel it.

It’s time for the Ford Government instead to come up with a plan to implement the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government received the Onley report six months ago (or 179 days ago(. the Government has announced no plans to implement that report, even though over four months ago, Minister for Accessibility and Seniors said that David Onley did a “marvelous job”.

To create disability accessibility in the built environment, we call on the Ford Government to act on Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. That is where Premier Ford set out his 2018 election pledges on accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities.

We need Ontario to enact new and modernized accessibility requirements to ensure that the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The current Ontario Building Code is woefully inadequate. The Onley Report recommended this action. The AODA Alliance has called for this action. On May 15, 2018, Doug Ford pledged:

“Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions.”

We need Ontario to require that design professionals like architects be properly trained to design a built environment that is accessible to people with disabilities. The AODA Alliance has recommended this. So did the Onley Report. In his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, Doug Ford wrote:

“We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

We also need the Ford Government to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability barriers. The AODA Alliance has called for this. the Onley Report did the same. In the 2018 election, Doug Ford promised that there would be an end to mismanagement of public money.

Rather than taking these important actions, the Ford Government took the official position in the Legislature on May 30, 2019 that this is all just undesirable “red tape”. The Doug Ford Government proudly pointed to its alternative plan of providing public funding to the RHF private accessibility certification program.

In the face of this, last week, the AODA Alliance launched its new grassroots “Dial Doug” campaign. It is inviting the public to call or email the Premier at his office (416 325-1941 or [email protected]) to ask for his plan to make Ontario accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025. Members of the public are already taking up this challenge.

4. Toronto Star Online July 24, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/17/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says it’s wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a “certified gold” rating to a building with such steps.

Advocates slam Ontario plan to rate accessibility of buildings

By Gilbert Ngabo Staff Reporter

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the province’s new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

In this spring’s budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance — a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the province’s disability accessibility laws — said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

“You can’t say, ‘Hey, you’re about to inspect my house, here’s some cash.’ You shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. “That’s a clear conflict of interest. It’s actually quite troubling.”

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as they’d be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said there’s risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport — a RHF “certified gold” rated building in 2018 — as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows “hangout steps” for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

“It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective,” he said. “It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.”

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing “soul-crushing” barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is “nowhere in sight,” Onley’s report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

“The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing,” Lepofsky said.

“We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.”

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

5. The Delta Optimist July 8, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.delta-optimist.com/news/human-rights-tribunal-to-hear-disabled-customer-s-complaint-about-pat-quinn-s-1.23877536?fbclid=IwAR2YQfRum15xPmepCS7c10T4gO7lDhS-bJUfBimDOggHjSK5zzRiUBoB7mg

BC Human Rights Tribunal to hear disabled customer’s complaint about Pat Quinn’s

An accessibility complaint against Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar will go before the Human Rights Tribunal later this year.

The complaint has been filed by Tsawwassen’s Vince Miele who uses a wheelchair and has long been an advocate for people with disabilities.

According to his application, in February 2016 he made a reservation for four and informed the Tsawwassen Springs restaurant that one in the party uses a wheelchair.

When he arrived, he found his friends had been seated at a table in the lower area of the restaurant, but he was unable to independently join them because of three stairs. A server offered to help him down the stairs, but that was not feasible.

As a result, his friends were moved to the upper level of the restaurant. He said the experience attracted undue attention from other diners and that it was an “incredibly embarrassing experience.”

After the incident, Miele contacted the restaurant to complain about the lack of access to the lower floor.

“I received less than a satisfactory response and in correspondence with others looked originally at a class-action lawsuit,” Miele told the Optimist. “The commissioner of the tribunal determined that a class-action complaint was a lot more complicated. They felt they would not accept it as a class-action, but continue it at the Human Rights Tribunal.”

In January, an application was made to dismiss the complaint, but that was denied, so it will now be heard before the tribunal in November.

Miele said since he started the complaint process three years ago, the restaurant has made some improvements, including installing an automatic door opener from the parkade to the elevator and a door to enable access to the patio. As well, it now has a portable ramp, but Miele contends that does not meet the building code and a permanent ramp should be installed to meet all accessibility standards.

“We’re very surprised by all of this. It’s a shame because it is a great restaurant and we love going there,” he said. “I’m not in this to harm the reputation of the restaurant. I thought it was an oversight when I first wrote to them in good faith and thought it would be corrected.

“Three years later we are still waiting. What are we to think? I’m adamant about what I want and so are they and that’s why we are heading to a hearing. To design something like this so poorly is quite surprising. It should be inclusive and accessible for all and it’s not.”

Dave Symington also wrote to the Optimist about a similar experience he had at the restaurant in May.

“It’s surprising that a building this new still did not take into account that people with mobility-related disabilities might want to use the lower and main portion of the restaurant,” he said. “The building code specifically states that where there is a change in floor levels it must be made accessible, which means a permanent ramp or other means where an individual can independently access the area. If we have to make a fuss about sitting in an area that anyone else can, we are not being accommodated fairly.”

Through its legal counsel, Tsawwassen Springs provided a written response to the Optimist.

“We engaged the services of professional engineers and architects who created the building plans for the construction of Pat Quinn’s Restaurant & Bar along with the entire building in which the restaurant is situate, which plans were in full compliance with the then current B.C. Building Code including the accessibility requirements provided therein,” said the response.

“Those building plans were approved by the City of Delta, whose representatives issued all necessary permits. The building, including the restaurant, is Accessibility Certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program.

“We will not be providing any further comment while this matter is being considered by the tribunal.”

6. Sampling of Recent Tweets

Liz Hay. @tkurdi @TorontoStar If a building with “hangout steps” can be certified gold under the RHF system, its understanding of #accessibility is hardly gold standard. #AODAfail

J E Sleeth. @DavidLepofsky @fordnation @HonDavidOnley Excellent article @TorontoStar re. #aoda #ford giving $ 2 @RickHansenFdn which is not bona fide #accessibility nor a means 2 have private sector be #openforbusiness to #peopleofallabilities it’s not just the #wheelchair

Joel Harden. $1.3 million for accessibility audits will not rid Ontario of the “soul-crushing” barriers that exist. We need immediate action to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025, not meager investments.  #onpoli #AODA https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html

thestar.com/news/gta/2019/… Twitter Web App

Allen Mankewich.  This thread highlights concerns with the RHF’s Accessibility Certification Program and reveals a lot of what I’m hearing in private conversations. Thanks  @mssinenomine for compiling the thread, and thanks  @DavidLepofsky for releasing a report exposing issues with this program.  https://twitter.com/mssinenomine/status/1154420373187751936 twitter.com/mssinenomine/s…

Michelle Sanders.  #Ontario to allocate $1.3 million to  #accessibility audits in partnership with  @RickHansenFdn . Accessibility Certification requirements not available to the public + not based on public consult. What are we doing?? @fordnation @aodaalliance @AODAontario https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html thestar.com/news/gta/2019/… Twitter for iPhone

Micaela Evans A case is heading to the BC Human Rights Tribunal soon that touches on these important issues of the certification https://twitter.com/micievans13/status/1154622550682456064?s=20

Gabrielle Peters The building is accessibility certified by the Rick Hansen Foundation.

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Check out the  @aodaalliance report at the top of this thread detailing this wasteful use of public money and their “Dial Doug” campaign

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Trust the Doug Ford government to come up with a way to look like it’s doing something about accessibility when all its doing is spending money on a private foundation to ensure it makes the government look like it’s doing something. Ontario taxpayers deserve better.     #onpoli

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  Unlike the government this private foundation has no obligation to make anything public. Ontarians won’t know which buildings are rated, or how they’re rated. The Ford gov will release results as it sees fit. There is no enforcement for buildings that fail. This fails us all.

While slashing education and health care the Doug Ford government is paying a private foundation 1.3 million to rate 250 buildings. That’s $5,200 per building. Government inspectors already employed could do this. Is this an attempt to ensure that these buildings pass?

Dorothy Ellen Palmer ♿.  To work as a building accessibility certfier for RHF all you have to do is take a two week course and pass a multiple choice test. Then you’re fully trained to certify every single building you see as accessible or accessible enough for Doug Ford’s purposes. Right.  #Accessibilty

Further to the detailed work of BC’s @mssinenomine Ontario disability activists also reject this ridiculously expensive private accessibility certification company that essentially does nothing but make itself money. twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/…

Thea Kurdi.  To move the needle on  #accessibility , enforce existing laws but face reality we need to radically rewrite building codes. Older buildings need audits using detailed requ’ts from several standards to get even close to Human Rights. After renos *maybe then ready for celebration.

Thea Kurdi.  My career has been focused on trying to remove barriers people with disabilities unjustly face in built environments. I wish we were ready for whole building certification by now, but current standard practice & building codes don’t create accessible places. Love encouraging…

…and celebrating progress but at best we are only ready to celebrate features. Areas of most progress? Bathrooms, service desks, parking, signage, but rarely more than minimum, & not what we’ve known for decades is needed. #Education is far more valuable than certification.

Thea Kurdi.  …this report from  @aodaalliance raises many reasonable questions. And for those who don’t know much about  #accessibility in buildings I understand wishing one national standard, like the CSA B651, would cover everything. Sadly, it does not. Why? Read:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-insider-secrets-whats-stopping-full-inclusion-design-thea-kurdi/ linkedin.com/pulse/top-insi…

People have been asking what I think of new RHF certification program. I can see why business & government are attracted to what looks like an easy solution to a complex problem that they want to solve. I can see why people like the idea of celebrating through recognition. But… twitter.com/DavidLepofsky/…

Thea Kurdi.  @TorontoStar Hmmm… as someone who’s been doing  #accessibility audits for 18 years we never only use CSA B651 standard, especially in provinces like ON with Ontario Building Code and  #AODA . How does a certification that’s not looking at legislation help government & building owners?  #a11y

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the Rick Hansen Foundation to certify its buildings. torstar.co/b6aY50vaL06

7. Facebook Post by Optimal Consultants, an Ontario-Based Accessibility Consulting Firm

Originally posted at https://www.facebook.com/93712137122/posts/10156628031122123/

(Note: The AODA Alliance has not investigated or verified any statements in this post)

Please read my article in Linked In and in Facebook yesterday about the @RickHansen certification system being flawed. This includes “auditors” who have no formal education in the areas of ergonomics, human factors, psychology or design. As mentioned yesterday we are aware of 1 very important building in Meadowvale Ontario that was deemed by RHF to be accessible and received an award (which is clearly displayed in the building owners website – (note the building is owned by and managed by a real estate company. The certification and award were not in any way pursued by the FI business who leases the building). The two formal audits conducted by Optimal Performance Consultants and paid for by the FI in the building found the building to not meet even basic #OntarioBuildingCode #BarrierFreeDesign let alone provide accessibility for people of ALL abilities. Remember, accessible and inclusive design is NOT just about the #Wheelchair  We stand by our University educated, experienced and professional Auditors at Optimal Performance Consultants.  Optimizing human performance through the built environment for 30 years.  [email protected]





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Advocates Slam Ontario Plan to Rate Accessibility of Buildings


By Gilbert NgaboStaff Reporter
Wed., July 24, 2019

A group that advocates for better accessibility standards in Ontario is voicing concerns about the province’s new assessment plan.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance says the plan to conduct accessibility assessments of public and private buildings will remove few barriers and is bound to be marred by conflicts of interest.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky, seen on hangout steps he says are inaccessible and difficult for people with vision loss, says it’s wrong for the provincial government to fund a private entity to assess its buildings for accessibility, noting the chosen entity recently gave a “certified gold” rating to a building with such steps.

In this spring’s budget, the province earmarked $1.3 million to conduct accessibility audits of some 250 public and private facilities over two years. The program will be conducted in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF).

In a report released this week, the AODA Alliance a non-partisan coalition advocating for the implementation of the province’s disability accessibility laws said the government should reconsider its decision.

AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky said it is wrong for the government to fund a private entity like the RHF to certify its buildings.

“You can’t say, ‘Hey, you’re about to inspect my house, here’s some cash.’ You shouldn’t be allowed to do that,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer and longtime advocate for people with disabilities. “That’s a clear conflict of interest. It’s actually quite troubling.”

Using properly trained government inspectors would be a better choice, he said, as they’d be bound by the established laws of accessibility.

The alliance is also critical of the government for not consulting members of the disability community before unveiling the certification process. Lepofsky said there’s risk of leaving out people whose disabilities are not related to mobility, vision or hearing.

In a statement to the Star, Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho said the process will be devoid of conflict of interest because those who will conduct the accessibility ratings will not be employed by the government or the RHF.

Instead, Cho said, they’ll be contracted by the foundation as independent professionals who have completed accreditation courses offered by the RHF through George Brown and Carleton University and passed exams conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group).

CSA Group will also be responsible for ensuring the ratings are consistent and accurate, he said.

Brad McCannell, RHF’s vice-president of access and inclusion, said the foundation’s certification program is impartial and was developed using extensive research on best practices in accessibility.

“When you request (an RHF accessibility certification) rating, you are not hiring the Rick Hansen Foundation,” he said in an email. The qualifications for assessors include a diploma in architecture, engineering or urban planning, as well as a minimum of five years’ experience related to accessibility in building environments, he said.

After the assessment, buildings receive a rating score corresponding to their level of accessibility: “certified gold” if they score over 80 per cent, “certified” if they score between 60 and 80 per cent, and noncertified if they score under 60 per cent. The scorecard includes key elements of success and suggestions for improvement for each assessed facility.

McCannell also noted that the foundation’s program is geared toward industry, not consumers.

“The RHFAC is not designed to assist people with disabilities to find the nearest accessible washroom, but rather it’s an industry program designed to influence professionals in the design and construction industry to recognize the gap between code requirement and the real needs of people with disabilities,” he said.

The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility says it chose the RHF based partly on its track record of conducting such certifications in B.C. and Nova Scotia.

But Lepofsky pointed to the Vancouver airport a RHF “certified gold” rated building in 2018 as a reason for caution.

In a RHG tweet announcing the rating, a photo shows “hangout steps” for socializing at the airport, which are inaccessible to people using wheelchairs or other mobility devices and are difficult for people with vision loss or balance issues, he said.

Lepofsky, who raised the problem of hangout steps in Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre in an online video in 2017, questioned how a public building with hangout steps can deserve a gold rating for accessibility.

“It is troubling that this gold rating signals to the Vancouver International Airport and to the public that having hangout steps is fine from an accessibility perspective,” he said. “It is also troubling that it signals to design professionals that they should feel free to include them in other buildings without worrying that it raises any accessibility concern.”

The provincial government continues to draw criticism from accessibility advocacy communities and experts over AODA.

Earlier this year, former lieutenant-governor David Onley issued a report on the implementation of the 14-year-old act, in which he observed that people with disabilities are still facing “soul-crushing” barriers in Ontario. The goal of achieving the fully accessible Ontario by 2025 is “nowhere in sight,” Onley’s report concluded.

This month, 21 disability organizations across Ontario sent a letter to the premier decrying a long-standing lack of leadership on the accessibility file and calling for a concrete plan of action on the recommendations from the Onley report.

“The Doug Ford government in the past year has done absolutely nothing new to speed up and strengthen the implementation of the AODA. Absolutely nothing,” Lepofsky said.

“We think (the building certification plan) is just a big distraction rather than doing their job.”

With files from Laurie Monsebraatan

Gilbert Ngabo is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @dugilbo

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/07/24/advocates-slam-ontario-plan-to-rate-accessibility-of-buildings.html



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The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act


The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

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

June 11, 2019

SUMMARY

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at [email protected]

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

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

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

2. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

3. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.

4. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

5. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.

6. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.

7. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcementa record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.

8. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.

9. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.

10. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontarios design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.”

Our comment:
It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:
This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

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

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

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

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

3. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:
Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

4. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:
By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

5. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

Our Comment:
This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

6. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:
The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

7. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:
There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

8. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Our Comment:
This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 2. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/

3. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/ 9. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Our Comment:
Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

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

10. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:
This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

11. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“We partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:
Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019
Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“Im deeply disappointed that Doug Fords MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onleys third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not red tape as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, its about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: Id like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onleys review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Im going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. Were delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldnt be doing my job as a critic if our office didnt take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If Ive missed anybodyEmily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, Id like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, Disability justice is love. Id like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And well change the world. I think thats a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about whats before us, given David Onleys reportaccording to Mr. Onley, were about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and Ill mention it again too. I think its a powerful one from Mr. Onleys report. Mr. Onley wrote, Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residentsits able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons, however, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers. That captures succinctly what Ive heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and thats to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isnt just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, its a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports. We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what Ive heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back homehi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooterlives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blainebecause he is easily, and Im sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back homeis that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. Were missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom weve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesnt get to come here very often to Queens Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She findsas Ive talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallerythe narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. Thats work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didnt feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what weve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution whichmy experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when Ive been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks Ive met in the time that Ive had hereand its thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from BarrieInnisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what Ive been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes theyre treated with suspicion upon admission.

Im not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. Im married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, weve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they havent been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think its an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, were ready. Were ready to act on Mr. Onleys report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and Im here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, lets set some timelines. Lets set some goals. Lets require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesnt matter to us. Yes, Im looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and youve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. Thats the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. Ive got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canadas team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Heres what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities? That is a revenue source we could tap, and Im here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speakers lounge. Welcome to Queens Park.

Im looking forward to discussing this motion because theres lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onleys report talked about these barriers. He called them soul-crushing barriers, and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onleys words, Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have. He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isnt it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, its my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: Its an honour to rise today. Id like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from SpadinaFort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. Ill introduce the people who are here. Weve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmittwho is also known as Unstoppable TracyKati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

Id like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people whove joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetingsand many of them are here in this roombecause they taught me about what its like, or gave some glimpse of what its like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when youre using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed outand I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates Id been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. Shes the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, universal design. Universal design means that when youre designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had womens washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So youve got to think. If youre building a building, youve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether youre using a walker or wheelchair, or whether youre walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, youve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and its shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reasonand we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transitis that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. Thats why its so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when were building our subway infrastructure, our buses, weve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life thats not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that weve been working with over the years, the big issue that weve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that its only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So thats something we really need to focus on, because thats an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and its lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Lets see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildingsthese are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that were looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. Ive learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

Im so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. Im absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: Im proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work were doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. Theyre now working on developing sector-specific business casesto hire people with disabilitiesthat will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of LondonFanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleagues bill, the member from Ottawa Centres motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontarios 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005and that was before I was hereall parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, This is not a partisan issue. Its a non-partisan issue, and were all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

Thats what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review thats going to happen is in 2020, and as far as Im concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and its going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. Im sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you cant get to work because there are stairs and theres no elevator, you cant say, You dont want to work. There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we dont support this bill in the House today, I think were sending a message to people that its not a priority. Were saying, Youve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job. Thats what theyre saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? Thats what they forget. Usually what they say doesnt sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they dont have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. Youve done that in a few places when youve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

Weve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onleys report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesnt make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontarios accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontarios Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onleys recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the Worlds Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontarios 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: Its hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what its like to live in a province that is not accessible to themnot accessible to them.

When I hear words like red tape, the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who cant get into hospitals, cant get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. Were fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this governments Premiers private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. Im not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say aye.

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Im actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private members notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes
Armstrong, Teresa J.
Begum, Doly
Bell, Jessica
Berns-McGown, Rima
Des Rosiers, Nathalie
Fife, Catherine
Fraser, John
Glover, Chris
Harden, Joel
Hassan, Faisal
Hatfield, Percy
Karpoche, Bhutila
Lindo, Laura Mae
Mamakwa, Sol
Mantha, Michael
Morrison, Suze
Natyshak, Taras
Rakocevic, Tom
Sattler, Peggy
Schreiner, Mike
Shaw, Sandy
Singh, Gurratan
Singh, Sara
Stiles, Marit
Tabuns, Peter
West, Jamie
Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays
Anand, Deepak
Baber, Roman
Babikian, Aris
Bailey, Robert
Bethlenfalvy, Peter
Bouma, Will
Calandra, Paul
Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
Cho, Stan
Coe, Lorne
Crawford, Stephen
Cuzzetto, Rudy
Downey, Doug
Dunlop, Jill
Fedeli, Victor
Fee, Amy
Ghamari, Goldie
Gill, Parm
Harris, Mike
Hogarth, Christine
Jones, Sylvia
Kanapathi, Logan
Karahalios, Belinda C.
Ke, Vincent
Khanjin, Andrea
Kramp, Daryl
Kusendova, Natalia
Lecce, Stephen
Martin, Robin
Martow, Gila
McDonell, Jim
McKenna, Jane
Miller, Norman
Mulroney, Caroline
Oosterhoff, Sam
Pang, Billy
Parsa, Michael
Pettapiece, Randy
Phillips, Rod
Piccini, David
Rasheed, Kaleed
Roberts, Jeremy
Sabawy, Sheref
Sandhu, Amarjot
Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
Skelly, Donna
Smith, Dave
Thanigasalam, Vijay
Thompson, Lisa M.
Tibollo, Michael A.
Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

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

The Ford Government Defeated a Proposed Resolution in the Legislature that Called for a Plan to Implement David Onley’s Report on Strengthening the Implementation of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – The Government Invoked False and Hurtful Stereotypes About the Disabilities Act, Unfairly Disparaging Its Implementation and Enforcement as “Red Tape”

June 11, 2019

          SUMMARY

On May 30, 2019, the Ford Government used its majority to defeat a resolution in the Ontario Legislature about Ontario’s Disabilities Act, that was proposed by NDP MPP Joel Harden. Worded in measured terms that tracked Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility, that resolution called on the Government to create a plan to implement the report of David Onley’s Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The Ford Government’s defeat of this resolution is a troubling setback for Ontarians with disabilities, as we explain in this Update. There have now been 132 days since former Lieutenant Governor David Onley submitted his final report on the need to substantially improve the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. to the Ford Government. Yet the Government has not announced a plan of action to implement that report. As a result, Ontario keeps slipping further and further behind schedule for becoming accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025, the AODA’s deadline.

We will have more to say about this over the next days and weeks. We welcome your feedback and your suggestions of non-partisan actions we might take in response to it. Write us at [email protected]

The Harden Resolution and the Onley Report’s Findings and Recommendations

Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution read as follows:

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

The June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update showed that there were ample strong reasons for the Ford Government to support the resolution. Yet instead, the Ford Government voted against it. The opposition NDP, Liberals and Green Party all voted for the resolution. It is especially troubling that this resolution was defeated right in the middle of National Access Abilities Week.

Conservative Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho told the Legislature on April 10, 2019 that former Lieutenant Governor David Onley did a “marvelous job” in his report. The Onley report found that Ontario is “mostly inaccessible” to people with disabilities and that the pace of change in Ontario on accessibility since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” The report found that “…the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” It concluded that progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue.

The Onley report recommended major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s AODA implementation and enforcement. Among other things, he called for new accessibility standards to be enacted, and for existing ones to be strengthened. He urged strengthened AODA enforcement, and stronger Government leadership on accessibility. Among the measures he recommended are the four specific measures listed in Joel Harden’s proposed resolution.

Why Did the Ford Government Oppose the Harden Resolution?

The Ford Government opposed MPP Harden’s resolution in its entirety. The Government did not publicly propose any wording changes that would make the resolution acceptable to the Government.

The reasons which the Government gave in the Legislature for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution are deeply troubling. They reflect a serious misunderstanding of the needs of 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities, of the AODA’s mandatory legal requirements and of the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

The Tories’ speeches repeatedly invoked harmful and false stereotypes about the actions we need to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities and about accessibility legislation that thankfully have not been voiced at Queen’s Park for some sixteen years. As explained further below, the PC MPPs’ speeches give rise to a serious concern that the Government does not plan to fulfil its election commitments on accessibility, or its duties under the AODA. Doug Ford did not voice this disparaging attitude towards the AODA during the 2018 election campaign.

The PC MPPs’ speeches read as if they were meant to make business owners, and especially small business owners, fear that the AODA is a terrible, unfair and massive burden on them, and that the PCs will defend them from this ogre. For example:

  1. The Ford Government repeatedly claimed that the measures proposed in this resolution are merely wasteful, duplicative red tape that threaten to seriously harm businesses and impose high costs on them, with a particular emphasis on small business. This false claim revives old harmful stereotypes, akin to those which the former Conservative Government of Mike Harris propagated two decades ago. Ontario’s PC Party had moved well past this in 2005, when it unanimously voted in support of passing the AODA, and brought motions to try to further strengthen it.

Achieving accessibility for 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities by effectively implementing the AODA is not red tape!

  1. The Ford Government’s response to this proposed resolution looks like an All-out attack on the AODA itself, and its core requirement to create and enforce accessibility standards to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. the Government in effect took the position that no AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard should ever be enacted under the AODA, because it might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code and confusing. Yet a new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while at the same time the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.
  1. The Ford Government wrongly claimed that implementing the David Onley Report, through such measures as creating a Built Environment Accessibility Standard and more effectively enforcing the AODA, would not help people with disabilities and would just create barriers for new economic opportunities. The Onley Report and our lived experience prove the Government wrong on this score.
  1. The Government wrongly claimed that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution advocates for the Government to fine small businesses so as to drive them out of business. No one, not the Onley report, nor Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, is talking about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.
  1. The Ford Government appeared to reject outright any improvement in the AODA’s enforcement, which the Onley report found to be deficient and in need of strengthening, because there already is enforcement of the Ontario Building Code. Yet Building Code enforcement does not address barriers in customer service, employment, transportation, information and communication, or in existing buildings that are undergoing no major renovations. Moreover the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility requirements are substantially deficient. Enforcing them does not ensure the accessibility of buildings.
  1. The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its diverting 1.3 million public dollars into the Rick Hansen Foundation’s private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into such a private accessibility certification process.
  1. To justify its opposition to this proposed resolution, the Government pointed to a number of non-legislated strategies on accessibility which were in whole or in large part launched by the previous Liberal Government under Premier Kathleen Wynne. Simply relying on the insufficient strategies of the previous Liberal Government will not yield any better and faster progress on accessibility than the previous Government’s poor record on AODA implementation and enforcement—a record which the Onley Report thoroughly documented and which the Ford Government itself has blasted.
  1. At least some of the Ford Government’s reasons for opposing MPP Harden’s resolution fly in the face of Doug Ford’s 2018 election pledges to Ontarians with disabilities on accessibility in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance. Those pledges are spelled out below and in the June 10, 2019 AODA Alliance Update.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the proposed resolution’s call for a plan to stop public money from again being used to create new disability barriers. To allow public money to be used to create new accessibility barriers is to mismanage public money. The Ford Government’s “brand” has been to claim that it is far superior at managing public money than previous governments.
  1. The Ford Government gave no reasons for opposing the creation of a plan to ensure that design professionals (like architects) receive better accessibility training. Yet, Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance recognized

” We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

Below we set out:

* Our comments on key statements which Progressive Conservative MPPs made in the Legislature in opposition to Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution.

* MPP Harden’s May 30, 2019 news release, issued after the Government defeated his proposed resolution.

* The full text of the debate in the Legislature over MPP Harden’s proposed resolution on May, 30, 2019, as well as the list of how each MPP voted on this resolution.

* The Onley Report’s summary of its recommendations.

          MORE DETAILS

Our Detailed Comments on the Reasons Why the Ford Government Voted to Defeat NDP MPP Joel Harden’s May 30, 2019 Resolution

Here are a series of the key statements in the Ontario Legislature on May 30, 2019 by PC MPPs in opposition to Joel Harden’s AODA resolution. they are each followed by our comment on that statement.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.””

Our comment:

It is helpful that the minister and Government recognize that much more needs to be done. Thus the attention must focus on whether what the Government is doing about the AODA’s implementation and enforcement.

2 Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

” We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.”

Our comment:

This deeply troubling statement appears to summarize the Ford Government’s overall strategy for the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. It is replete with seriously incorrect claims. It is not the position on accessibility that the PC’s communicated to us and the public during the 2018 Ontario election.

It is incorrect for the Ford Government to claim that to create a plan to implement the Onley report would ” lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that public money is never again used to create new disability barriers does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Ensuring that design professionals like architects get proper training on accessibility does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business.” Creating effective accessibility standards to ensure the accessibility standards of the built environment does not “lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business”.

For the Government to effectively implement the AODA would help businesses make more money. Accessibility gets them access to a larger customer base and a larger pool of prospective competitive employees.

The Government’s claim, particularly in the context of the built environment, flies in the face of Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance , where he set out the PC Party’s 2018 election pledges on disability accessibility. In that letter, he said, among other things:

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

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

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

Ontario’s Accessibility Minister is responsible to lead the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. He or she is supposed to be a strong advocate for people with disabilities at the Cabinet table. For Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Cho to condemn these core recommendations in the Onley Report as “red tape and high costs for business” is to venture into some of the most harmful and false stereotypes about the implementation and enforcement of accessibility legislation such as the AODA that we have faced in many years.

The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party voted unanimously to pass the AODA in 2005. That law requires the Ontario Government to enact and enforce all the accessibility standards needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. The AODA explicitly includes “buildings” among the things that must become accessible. The minister’s statement here and during the rest of this debate, as well as those of other PC MPPs, read like a virtual repudiation of the AODA as “red tape”.

  1. Minister for Accessibility and Seniors Raymond Cho stated:

“Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?”

Our Comment:

Again, the minister voiced inaccurate and harmful stereotypes about the AODA and accessibility for people with disabilities. No one, not the Onley report, not Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution nor the AODA Alliance, ever talks about fining small businesses so as to drive them out of business.

From disclosures we have extracted from the Ontario Government over the past several years, we know that a very small number of the obligated organizations have been subject to any AODA audits. The vast majority of obligated organizations are not audited at all.

Any audits have been quite minimal. The AODA “audits” have only been paper audits, with only one exception that we know of. In a paper audit, the Government only inspects the records or files that the obligated organization has kept on its AODA compliance. In those cases, the Government did not go to the organization’s premises to inspect it or find out if the claims about AODA compliance in the organization’s paper records are factual.

In the 14 years that the AODA has been on the books, a miniscule number of monetary penalties have been imposed. The previous Government knew of rampant AODA violations for over five years. Yet, the AODA Alliance revealed last year that in 2015, 2016 and 2017 combined, for the thousands of private sector organizations known to have violated this legislation, the Government only imposed a total of five monetary penalties. That’s an average of less than two monetary penalties in each of those years.

Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that any of those penalties were imposed on small businesses. There is no evidence that any of those penalties were so large that they threatened to drive any small business out of business. Indeed, under the AODA regulations that the former Wynne and McGuinty Governments passed on AODA enforcement, the formula for calculating the monetary penalty of a first violator tends to be small e.g. in the hundreds of dollars. There is no public evidence from any of the many Government records that we have unearthed, typically relying on Freedom of Information applications, that the Ontario Government ever imposed any monetary penalties that were larger than that.

  1. Accessibility Minister Cho stated:

“Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.”

Our comment:

By the time of this debate in the Legislature, the Government had four months to consult on the Onley report. Moreover, the Onley report was itself the product of a province-wide consultation process. As such, there can be no excuse for the further Government delay that the minister here signalled, based on yet more consultations.

The minister said that the Government acted “quickly” on the Onley report’s recommendation to resume the work of the AODA Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees. These had been frozen for nine months after the Ford Government was elected. We had been pressing the Government throughout those nine months to end that unjustified freeze on the work of those Standards Development Committees.

Making matters worse, some four months after the Government received Mr. Onley’s report (recommending that that freeze be lifted) and well over two months after the Government said it would lift that freeze, the Government has still not scheduled meetings of those AODA Standards Development Committees to resume their work. That is not moving “quickly.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.””

Our Comment:

This is a second PC MPP who levelled the false and unfair accusation that any effort to improve Ontario’s accessibility standards should be rejected as “more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

This MPP did not give a fair and accurate account of what the David Onley report said about the need for more and better accessibility standards to be enacted under the AODA. He made it sound like the Onley report somehow supported the PCs’ claim that improving accessibility standards would amount to ” more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities.”

The Onley Report said or implied no such thing. To the contrary, Mr. Onley explicitly recognized the need for more accessibility standards. For example, he echoed our call for the Government to resume the development of new accessibility standards in the areas of education and health care. He called for new and stronger regulatory measures to address disability barriers in the built environment. Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution explicitly referred to the latter.

The Onley Report fully recognized the need for improved and sufficient AODA accessibility standards, and for having them effectively enforced. He added that they alone are not sufficient and that more is needed. With that, we also agree.

In the sentence from the Onley report which the MPP quoted out of context, Mr. Onley stated in effect that some accessibility standards may be inadequately written. He stated:

“Another fact of life is that the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right. Examples were cited in the consultations, as noted earlier – from even the best building codes that leave much to interpretation, to power door buttons that some people using wheelchairs cannot push.”

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.”

Our Comment:

The only new action on accessibility that the Ford Government pointed to in opposing Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution was its spending 1.3 million public dollars over the next two years in the Rick Hansen private accessibility certification process. We explained in The May 17, 2019 AODA Alliance Update that there are serious problems with the Government diverting public money into a private accessibility certification process, such as the one operated by the Rick Hansen Foundation. The Toronto Star’s May 27, 2019 editorial echoes some of the concerns we’ve raised.

The Ford Government knew that we are deeply opposed to investing public funds in a private accessibility certification process before it chose to divert public money into that process. It is no substitute for modernizing and effectively enforcing Ontario’s deficient and outdated laws governing the accessibility of buildings. Leaving it to an unaccountable and unelected private accessibility certification process to decide what our standard should be for the accessibility of buildings is no solution.

  1. PC MPP Rudy Cuzzetto stated:

“To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.”

Our Comment:

There appears to be nothing new here. The Ford Government’s stated solution to the serious problem of chronic unemployment facing people with disabilities in Ontario is the same strategy that the previous Wynne Liberal Government had been proclaiming for years. This included claiming to bring to employers the positive business case for hiring people with disabilities, and operating a Partnership Council of employers. The previous Wynne Government had been operating two successive Partnership Councils of employers since 2014. Indeed, The Ford Government’s statement here sounds very similar to what the Liberal minister responsible for the AODA, Brad Duguid, was saying four years ago on this topic.

Chronic high unemployment facing people with disabilities continues to persist. The previous Government’s approach has proven itself to be entirely insufficient. The Onley report documented the serious barriers that still face people with disabilities in Ontario, including in employment.

Minister Cho has elsewhere rightly blasted the former Liberal Government for doing a poor job on accessibility. Yet the Ford Government is just carrying on in the employment context with the previous Government ‘s same approach.

The Ford Government here and elsewhere during this debate seemed to focus much of its talk and intended effort on “raising awareness on accessibility. We and others, and the Onley Report itself, have shown time and again that this alone is no solution for the problem of recurring disability barriers in our society, which the Onley Report described as “soul-crushing”.

Indeed, during Mr. Onley’s May 1, 2019 presentation to the Senate’s Standing Committee that held hearings on Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, he convincingly explained how he used to feel that this kind of strategy was sufficient. However, after hearing from people with disabilities during his public hearings in preparation for his report to the Ontario Government, he came to realize that it is not sufficient.

Moreover, the strategy of “raising awareness” was one which the Previous Conservative Ontario Government of Premier Mike Harris proclaimed as its core strategy on accessibility for people with disabilities from 1995 to 2003. That strategy was a failure. That is why Ontario needed the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005. In 2005, the Conservative caucus, then in opposition, unanimously supported that legislation.

We therefore need the AODA to be effectively implemented and enforced. That requires much more than “raising awareness.”

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.”

Our Comment:

This is the third PC speaker who opposed Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution by repeating the false claim that it calls for “more duplication” and “more red tape”. This is made worse by this MPP’s further false claim that the resolution is calling for creating “confusion around the built environment.”

Right now, there is serious confusion around the built environment. Too many architects, other design professionals, businesses and government officials wrongly think that if they comply with the current highly-deficient accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code, they have therefore created a building that is accessible to people with disabilities. Yet we have shown the public, including the Ford Government, that complying with the Ontario Building Code and weak AODA standards does not assure accessibility at all.

For example, our three widely-viewed online videos on accessibility problems in new buildings prove that we need to enact new, stronger laws on the accessibility of the built environment and to improve the training of design professionals. These are two core actions that the Onley report recommended and that Mr. Harden’s proposed resolution addressed. Check out:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s May 2018 online video showing serious accessibility problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area public transit stations, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s October 2017 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. The AODA Alliance’s November 2016 video showing serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/news-release-grassroots-disability-coalitions-powerful-new-video-shows-serious-accessibility-problems-at-new-and-recently-renovated-public-transit-stations-in-toronto-as-the-future-of-accessibilit/
  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.”

Our Comment:

Speaking for the Government, this PC MPP in effect took the position that no Built Environment Accessibility Standard can ever be enacted under the AODA, no matter what it might contain. This is because a Built Environment Accessibility Standard might be duplicative of the Ontario Building Code.

This is wrong. A Built Environment Accessibility Standard can be designed that is complementary to the Ontario Building Code and that creates no such problems for those who are building or renovating buildings.

Moreover, this flies in the face of the position of the Ontario Conservative Party itself. As we noted earlier, in 2005, the Ontario PC Party unanimously voted for the AODA. Its stated purpose is to achieve accessibility in Ontario by 2025, including accessibility in “buildings”. It does so through the enactment and enforcement of accessibility standards. Yet this MPP seems to entirely repudiate that role for the AODA in the context of buildings.

A properly-designed Built Environment Accessibility Standard would not create “red tape and confusion.” A new Built Environment Accessibility Standard could be created while the Ontario Building Code can be modernized, so that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

This MPP has never spoken to the AODA Alliance about this, before deciding to publicly reject and disparage the entire idea of an AODA Built Environment Accessibility Standard. That flies in the face of Doug Ford’s written election pledge in his May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance as follows:

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

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.”

Our Comment:

This PC MPP seems in effect to claim that there is no need for improved AODA enforcement. Yet the Onley Report called for strengthened AODA enforcement, as has the AODA Alliance.

This PC MPP spoke as if the only accessibility enforcement needed is for the built environment. This disregards three important facts:

First, as we mentioned earlier, the Ontario Building Code accessibility provisions are woefully inadequate. To enforce those is to permit new buildings to be built that are replete with accessibility problems.

Second, the enforcement process for the Ontario Building Code, which the MPP points to as our total solution, does not enforce any of the built environment accessibility requirements that any AODA accessibility standards impose.

Third, AODA accessibility standards that require better enforcement relate to many other kinds of accessibility barriers, and not just requirements for the accessibility of the built environment. The Ontario Building Code enforcement does not enforce any requirements for accessibility in customer service, employment, transportation and information and communication. With great respect, it appears that this MPP knows very little about the AODA, or how it is now working, or about the Onley report.

  1. PC MPP Natalia Kusendova said:

“We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.”

Our Comment:

Once again, the Ford Government seems to be relying on, if not claiming credit for initiatives that were largely if not entirely started under the previous Liberal Government. For example, the “enabling Change” program to which this MPP refers has been around for many years. This is not the new action for which the Onley report called.

May 30, 2019 News Release by NDP Accessibility Critic Joel Harden

May 30th, 2019

Defeating accessibility motion is an insult to people with disabilities: NDP Accessibility Critic

 

QUEEN’S Park – NDP MPP Joel Harden, the Official Opposition critic for Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities, released the following statement in response to the Ford government defeating his motion to take action on accessibility:

“I’m deeply disappointed that Doug Ford’s MPPs voted down our motion calling on the government to release an accessibility action plan, and implement key recommendations from David C. Onley’s third review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The message this sends to 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities is that their human rights are not a priority for this government. Eliminating barriers is not ‘red tape’ as the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility and other PC MPPs shamefully said, it’s about ensuring that people with disabilities enjoy the same opportunities as able bodied citizens. People with disabilities deserve so much better than this. Ontario’s New Democrats will keep fighting for a fully accessible Ontario where no one is excluded.”

Ontario Hansard May 30, 2019

Private Members’ Public Business

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

Mr. Joel Harden: I’d like to move the following motion before the House, motion 68, that, in the opinion of this House, the government of Ontario should release a plan of action on accessibility in response to David Onley’s review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that includes, but is not limited to, a commitment to implement new standards for the built environment, stronger enforcement of the act, accessibility training for design professionals, and an assurance that public money is never again used to create new accessibility barriers.

Interruption.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): I’m going to ask our visitors to refrain from clapping or making any comment or any noise. We’re delighted to have you here, but we need to allow the members to debate.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation.

Once again, I recognize the member for Ottawa Centre.

Mr. Joel Harden: I want to thank my friends in the accessibility gallery and I want to thank my friends in the members’ gallery and the folks in the public gallery who have come here today.

There are a few people I want to acknowledge, Speaker, off the top, because I wouldn’t be doing my job as a critic if our office didn’t take the time over the last number of months to meet with people with lived experience, and people helping folks in the field. I want to acknowledge Anne Mason, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Carol-Ann Schafer, Richard Aubrey, Peter Vambe, Gerry Boily, Michele Gardner, Farrah Sattaur, Ryan Hooey, Rahima Mulla, Sinead Zalitach, Kirsten Doyle, Lark Barker, David Zivot and their son Sandino Campos. If I’ve missed anybody—Emily, we acknowledged you and your power earlier. Thank you for coming again. Thank you all for being here; thank you indeed.

Interjections.

Mr. Joel Harden: We get to clap for you this time.

Speaker, with your indulgence, I’d like to begin with a gesture of unanimous consent. One of the first things that happened to me was that the great David Lepofsky and Thea Kurdi gave me a t-shirt. I know the rules of the House are such that for a t-shirt with lettering on it, we need to ask for unanimous consent to wear it. It reads, “Disability justice is love.” I’d like to wear this as I make my remarks.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The member for Ottawa Centre is seeking unanimous consent of the House to wear a t-shirt while he makes his presentation. Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Joel Harden: I wore an extra t-shirt just in case. Thank you, Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Thank you, David, and thank you, Thea, for the t-shirt.

I begin wanting to wear this shirt because one of the people who got me started in politics was Jack Layton. Some of his closing words to Canadians before Jack died were: “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” I think that’s a fitting note on which to begin, Speaker, captured, I think, by the shirt David and Thea gave to me, because, as I think about what’s before us, given David Onley’s report—according to Mr. Onley, we’re about 30% of the way there to having a truly accessible province with a lot of row to hoe and a lot of barriers that remain.

Minister Cho has mentioned this quotation in the House, and I’ll mention it again too. I think it’s a powerful one from Mr. Onley’s report. Mr. Onley wrote, “Every day, in every community in Ontario, people with disabilities encounter formidable barriers to participation in the vast opportunities this province affords its residents—its able-bodied residents…. For most disabled persons,” however, “Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.” That captures succinctly what I’ve heard from friends who have lived experience and what, quite frankly, people with disabilities are looking to this Legislature to do, and that’s to act with some urgency.

The Onley report is a call to action like recent climate change reports, quite frankly, are a call to action. What we know is that right now, 1.9 million people in the province of Ontario have a disability of one kind or another, and attached to them are families, loved ones and friends. So I would like to say, as the critic for people with disabilities in this building, that this isn’t just an issue for anyone; this is an issue for all of us. So far as we maintain services, building infrastructure, anything in this province which discriminates against anyone, it’s a human rights matter.

As one person who deputed to a town hall we hosted earlier in April said, “Each and every one of us is one incident away from disability or trauma that requires physical or mental health supports.” We also, Speaker, live in an aging society. In an aging society, we need now to be foreseeing the challenges that we have to have met in order to accommodate that aging society.

I want to talk, for the remainder of my time, about what I’ve heard directly from folks with disabilities who have been so gracious as to inform me, our office and our party about what they believe needs to be done. I want to talk about Blaine Cameron, from back home—hi, Blaine. Blaine is in the chapter of Ottawa ACORN. ACORN is an organization that fights for poor people in this province, in this country and indeed around the world. One of my favourite experiences with Blaine was street canvassing and farmers’ market canvassing. Blaine lives in a scooter—lives in a powered wheelchair. What I found increasingly evident to me, every time I went out with Blaine—because he is easily, and I’m sorry for picking favourites, friends in Ottawa, the most charismatic canvasser we have back home—is that he is unable to go door to door because of the built infrastructure of our city in Ottawa. But he kills at farmers’ markets, Mr. Speaker. The man cannot keep leaflets in his hands. The man gets donations in person constantly because of how powerfully he describes the need for social and economic justice. And what the people of Ottawa are missing, Speaker, given our built infrastructure, is the chance to see Blaine at the door doing what he does best: talking justice and talking fairness. We’re missing out on that because of the way in which Ottawa is designed and the way in which our province is designed.

I want to talk about Rahima Mulla, whom I met in the hall yesterday and whom we’ve interacted with before. I know that members in the government caucus have met with Rahima. She doesn’t get to come here very often to Queen’s Park, Speaker, because there are not always appropriate accessible parking spaces for her. She finds—as I’ve talked to some of my friends up in the accessibility gallery—the narrow runway up there to be very tricky to negotiate. That’s work we have to do, quite frankly, in this building.

I want to talk about Neil, whom I met a number of days ago, earlier this week, a lovely gentleman who came in with a walker. Neil asked me to walk him into the members’ gallery over there and confided to me as we were walking up the aisle that he really didn’t feel it was appropriate that there were stairs in front of the members’ gallery on the floor. He looked forward to a day when people with accessibility needs could be seated on the floor, like when the great Steven Fletcher, a member of the federal Conservative caucus, took his place in the House of Commons, as a person who lives in a wheelchair, on the floor. I look forward to the way in which we can make this building more open so that can happen.

I also want to talk about what we’ve learned in the last number of months from people who have episodic disabilities, Speaker, or what some might call hidden disabilities. I want to talk about Shanthiya Baheerathan, who shared a podium with me earlier this week as she talked about, as a student, what it was like for her to seek accommodation at Ryerson University for her learning disabilities and how difficult it was to self-advocate in an institution which—my experience with Ryerson as an able-bodied person has been quite good, when I’ve been faculty and visiting and running programs there. But the daily struggle to prove her disability because of the nature in which it fluctuates was extremely difficult for her.

Odelia Bay, who is a scholar at Osgoode Hall Law School who has also been here and has testified before the town hall we held earlier in April, has said the same thing: that we need to have an expanded concept of what disabilities are.

Other folks I’ve met in the time that I’ve had here—and it’s thanks to MPP Andrea Khanjin from Barrie–Innisfil, who hosted a reception for people from sickle cell Ontario. Sickle cell disease is something that not enough of us are aware of, Speaker. It is, to sight, an invisible disease. But what I’ve been very saddened to learn, particularly for members of Black and Brown racialized communities, is that when they admit themselves to emergency rooms in great trauma, suffering incredible pain, which is hard for most people to understand, as it has been explained to me, sometimes they’re treated with suspicion upon admission.

I’m not impugning the motives of any of our health care professionals. I love them. I’m married to one. I love the work they do. But the reality of people living with sickle cell disease is such that the University Health researchers in this great city of Toronto have begun to do epidemiological studies to figure out why it is that people are treated differently when they contact their primary health care system when they have black or brown skin. In the most sad of cases, we’ve had people suffer fatalities or serious injuries because they haven’t been able to get the health care they need.

Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this motion. I think it’s an opportunity for us as a Legislature to say, yes, we’re ready. We’re ready to act on Mr. Onley’s report. I salute the fact that the minister has spoken with urgency on the need of work to be done in this place, and I’m here to support you in that work, but what I like about the motion that I proposed for our consideration today is that it tells us: Actually, let’s set some timelines. Let’s set some goals. Let’s require of people who are being trained to design our public infrastructure in our buildings that they should never again do that in a way that discriminates against people with disabilities.

Thank you, Thea, and thank you, David Lepofsky, and thank you, folks who are here with us today, for all of your advice in that regard. And never let any child feel in this province ever again that their learning doesn’t matter to us. Yes, I’m looking at Lark Barker over there, who advocates for dyslexia, people who have stood by children who have felt humiliated as they tried to advance in the public education system, and you’ve been there for them.

As a province, we need to generalize that right across the board. We need to be there for brain-injured people. We need to be there for everybody who deserves what, quite frankly, socialism means for me: an equal-opportunity society where everybody has the chance to develop themselves to their utmost ability and contribute to this wonderful society in which we live. That’s the just society that I first saw embodied in heroes of mine like Jack Layton, Libby Davies, Olivia Chow and others.

When it comes to advocating for people with disabilities, that is something we are perfectly poised to do.

Interjection.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): The member from York Centre will come to order.

Mr. Joel Harden: On a closing note, because I know the member who was just heckling is a Raptors fan just like myself, on a note of levity, I would invite the government to consider a potential revenue source for you to fund a serious accessibility reserve. We know tonight is game one of the NBA finals. We know, unfortunately, that at the moment, businesses can deduct 50% of the cost of tickets against their business income. I’ve got a PhD in political economy, so I ran some numbers, given what people are assessing the cost of tickets to be. What that leads me to believe, Speaker, is that tonight, as we celebrate Canada’s team, about $45 million is being taken out of provincial coffers in write-offs.

Here’s what I would propose to the minister or to the government. I will happily put on a tie, look respectable and go with you to any employer in this province and ask them, “Do you need that business write-off, or do we need that money to make sure that we can make every building in this province accessible, for our health care, our education, our transportation services, and so that this place is open and accessible for people with disabilities?” That is a revenue source we could tap, and I’m here to help you make it happen.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to the debate.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho: Madam Speaker, I would also like to warmly welcome all the visitors in the Speaker’s lounge. Welcome to Queen’s Park.

I’m looking forward to discussing this motion because there’s lots of work that needs to be done to tear down barriers in Ontario. We all agree on this.

David Onley’s report talked about these barriers. He called them “soul-crushing barriers,” and Mr. Onley was not the only one who pointed this out. Previous AODA reviews done by Charles Beer and Mayo Moran pointed out many of the same barriers. After 15 years of Liberal government and three reports, not enough progress has been made. In Mr. Onley’s words, “Previous governments have promised much but delivered less than they should have.” He also points out that while rules and regulations are crucial, what is also required to eliminate barriers is a change of heart.

We understand the good intention of this motion, but these solutions lead to more duplication, red tape and high costs for business. One of the barriers that Mr. Onley talks about is a lack of economic opportunities for Ontarians with disabilities. So while we are making Ontario more accessible, we have to proceed carefully. We do not want to put unnecessary red tape and regulations on business. This will actually harm people with disabilities who are seeking employment by limiting their economic opportunities. To put this in perspective, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario is only 58%, compared to 81% for those without disabilities.

Another issue is that of AODA enforcement. In Ontario, there are about 400,000 organizations that are required to comply with the AODA, including small businesses, large businesses, non-profits and governments. When we audit those that are not meeting the AODA requirements, we have found that an extraordinarily high number, about 96%, voluntarily comply once they learn what their obligations are. Isn’t it better that we achieve compliance by reaching out and working with businesses and organizations rather than fining small businesses and driving them out of business?

Madam Speaker, Mr. Onley delivered a thorough and thoughtful report about the barriers many Ontarians face. Since I received the report, my ministry staff have been working across government and with stakeholders to address many of his concerns. Some of his recommendations, like restarting the SDCs, were an opportunity to take action quickly, but other concerns needed greater consideration and consultation to properly address. As the minister, it’s my duty to ensure that we take the appropriate time to carefully consider his recommendations.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Chris Glover: It’s an honour to rise today. I’d like to begin my remarks by introducing almost 20 people from Spadina–Fort York and from the city of Toronto who have joined us to be part of this debate. I want to especially thank the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Joel Harden, for bringing forward this motion. I’ll introduce the people who are here. We’ve got Paula Boutis, Heather Vickers-Wong, Madora Rana, Robert Boileau, Alicia Boileau, Mitchell Feinman, Erica Howard, Deborah Fletcher, Dante Wellington, Sherry Caldwell, Ashley Caldwell, Ipek Kabatas, Varla Anne Abrams, Tracy Schmitt—who is also known as “Unstoppable Tracy”—Kati Israel, Michau van Speyk.

I’d like to thank them all for joining us today. Could we give a round of applause to the people who’ve joined us for this debate?

Applause.

Mr. Chris Glover: When I became a school board trustee in 2010, I organized a group that was called the Special Education Forum, and for eight years we advocated for changes to the school system to make it more accessible. I want to thank the people who came to those meetings—and many of them are here in this room—because they taught me about what it’s like, or gave some glimpse of what it’s like, to be a person with disabilities. Some of the most important lessons I learned from some students. There were two students in particular, Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama from Martingrove Collegiate, which is the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. They came one day and they talked about their day in that school.

Terrence pointed out something. He said that the nice thing about that school is that the corners in the corridors are cut at 45 degrees, which, when you’re using an electric wheelchair, makes it much easier to see people coming from another direction so you avoid collisions. The other thing that he pointed out—and I had been a trustee for a few years at this time and I had never noticed it: The front door to that school was not accessible. There was a hot dog stand, and that hot dog vendor is legendary at Martingrove Collegiate. He said that sometimes he had to take his wheelchair down the grassy slope to get to the hot dog vendor, and it was hazardous. I went to the school the next day and I met him. He was sitting in his chair at the top of the steps, and there were snowbanks on either side, so he actually could not get down to the hot dog vendor, and so he had to get one of his friends to go down. This was the front entrance to the most accessible high school in Etobicoke. So we started advocating.

The other thing that I learned through that group and from the disability advocates I’d been working with is the amount of persistence it takes to make change. It took us four years to finally get an accessible ramp on the front entrance of that school, but finally it was done.

The other person who taught me a lot was Sarah Jama. She’s the founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. She taught me about something called universal design. Every Ontario should know this term, “universal design.” Universal design means that when you’re designing a building, you design it so that everybody can use it.

Just imagine, for example, if you built a building that only had women’s washrooms and what that would mean for men who wanted to be employed, potentially, in that building. Where would they go? How would they possibly get employment in that building? So you’ve got to think. If you’re building a building, you’ve got to make it for everybody, for anybody. Whether you’re using a walker or wheelchair, or whether you’re walking in, or whether you have a visual impairment or an auditory impairment, you’ve got to build a building that makes it possible for everybody to be there.

A big part of the problem that comes from not making our buildings with universal design is the unemployment rate. The employment rate among people with disabilities is only 55%, and it’s shameful in this province that we have allowed this to go on. Part of the reason for that, a big part of the reason—and we had a discussion in the committee last week where we were talking about transit—is that our buildings are not accessible and our transit systems are not fully accessible. That’s why it’s so hard for people to get to work if you have disability.

So when we talk about constructing things, when we’re building our subway infrastructure, our buses, we’ve got to make sure that people with disabilities are going to be able to get to work so that they can have employment and get all the benefits that come with employment, including a life that’s not lived in poverty, the social network, all the things you need work for.

The other group that we’ve been working with over the years, the big issue that we’ve been focusing on at this disability advocacy group is employment. I mentioned that it’s only 55% of people with disabilities; that drops to 26% of people with intellectual disabilities. And that is a real shame.

In Washington state, 87% of people with intellectual disabilities have paid employment versus 26% here in Ontario, which means that 60% of people with intellectual disabilities have the potential to work but we have not designed our society in order to invite them and to make our workplaces welcoming to them. So that’s something we really need to focus on, because that’s an incredible amount of potential that is being lost, and it’s lives that are being disrupted and not being lived to their fullest extent, because of the way that we have designed our society.

Let’s see. When the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility was talking about soul-crushing barriers, making inaccessible spaces, making inaccessible transit systems, making inaccessible buildings—these are some of those soul-crushing barriers. We may not think of it because we may not be affected by the design of the buildings that we’re looking at, but I would invite all of the members in this House to please listen to people with disabilities. I’ve learned so much from listening to people like Terrence Bishundayal and Sarah Jama to understand what it means to have a universally designed society where everybody can reach their full potential.

I’m so thankful to the member from Ottawa Centre for bringing forward this motion. I’m absolutely going to support it and I hope the members opposite will support it as well.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Mr. Rudy Cuzzetto: I’m proud to rise here today to speak to the motion of accessibility. As the minister has already noted, this is not the time to introduce more regulations and more red tape that will just create barriers for new economic opportunities. As David Onley himself said in his report, “the most well-intended rules and regulations sometimes do not get it entirely right.”

I know that the minister is doing a great job working with stakeholders to chart the best path forward to improve accessibility in Ontario. As recognized by Mr. Onley, the built environment continues to be challenging for people with disabilities and for seniors. Our government is taking action on building the environment.

Just last week on May 23, the minister announced that we are partnering with the Rick Hansen Foundation to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification program in communities across Ontario. Speaker, the Rick Hansen Foundation is a trusted partner with expertise in this field. With $1.3 million invested over two years, this program will prepare accessibility ratings of businesses and public buildings, and determine the best way to remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Our investment will see ratings done in approximately 250 buildings across Ontario. This program will complement the work we’re doing to reach out and work with businesses and organizations across Ontario, to ensure that they are understanding how they can make their businesses more accessible, and how to comply with the AODA.

To remove barriers on employment, our Employers’ Partnership Table is working to support and create new job opportunities for people with disabilities. The table includes 17 members, representing a range of small, medium and large businesses across Ontario. They’re now working on developing sector-specific business cases—to hire people with disabilities—that will be shared with businesses across Ontario, to help them see the benefits of employing people with disabilities.

About 50% of people with disabilities have a post-secondary education, yet unemployment remains very high in this community. Even though employers are finding that hiring people with disabilities improves the bottom line and increases productivity, much more work needs to be done to raise awareness. A single step can be a barrier for people with certain disabilities, but so is not having a job when you are ready and willing to work.

Our government will also continue to outreach with people with disabilities, and consult with non-profits and industry groups on how to improve accessibility in Ontario. We will continue to consult with businesses and business associations through the Employers’ Partnership Table.

Our goal is to make Ontario open for business for everyone. This is meaningful work that is already under way to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To help businesses better understand the benefits of accessibility, the ministry has taken steps to begin to redesign their website, to make it a more comprehensive one-stop shop on accessibility for the public and businesses, as recommended by Mr. Onley in his report.

In addition to providing resources on accessibility requirements and regulations, we have posted accessibility resources for businesses, to help them understand the benefits of accessibility and break down barriers for people with disabilities.

A business that commits to accessibility sends a strong message that people with disabilities are welcome. For this reason, it is much more likely to attract people with disabilities and their families. This goes for any and all businesses in Ontario that are providing goods and services to the public.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Teresa J. Armstrong: It is truly always an honour to rise in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents of London–Fanshawe. It brings me great pleasure today to speak in support of my colleague’s bill, the member from Ottawa Centre’s motion taking action on accessibility with regard to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act review by the Honourable David Onley, Ontario’s 28th Lieutenant Governor. I had the honour of being in the Legislature when the Honourable David Onley was serving as Lieutenant Governor.

Back in 2005—and that was before I was here—all parties at the time in the Legislature unanimously supported the AODA Act. They actually said, “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a non-partisan issue, and we’re all on board. We all agree unanimously that this needs to happen, and it needs to happen by 2025.”

Every three years, they appoint an independent reviewer of the progress of what has been going on, on this act. In 2017, Lieutenant Governor David Onley was appointed to review the act and report back on what was happening.

He did his homework. He went out and toured the province, and he spoke to people. Then he obviously came up with a conclusion on what was reported.

That’s what we need to do. As many people said, we need to listen to the people who have lived experience with disabilities that are physical but also episodic or non-visual, and not only listen but actually take action. Really, 2025 is coming very quickly.

The next review that’s going to happen is in 2020, and as far as I’m concerned, we are behind. I hear the member from the Conservative Party talking about how this is going to be more red tape and it’s going to have barriers for more economic opportunities. In order to get to work, there has to be a pathway to get there, so therefore places have to be accessible. I’m sure that people who are capable of working want to go out and do their part; they want to feel valuable and contribute to society. But if you can’t get to work because there are stairs and there’s no elevator, you can’t say, “You don’t want to work.” There has to be a logical process of how to get people to work, and first we need to make sure that places of work are all accessible. That makes sense.

I think that the member who spoke earlier has it reversed. This is not a red-tape bill. This is not making it harder for economic opportunities for Ontario. This is actually moving the bar forward to getting Ontario into a really positive economic opportunity for everyone. If we don’t support this bill in the House today, I think we’re sending a message to people that it’s not a priority. We’re saying, “You’ve got to get to work, and the government side has said that the best social program is a job.” That’s what they’re saying, but then if you need that to happen, what do you logically believe you need to put in place, what metrics do you need in place, to bring out those outcomes? That’s what they forget. Usually what they say doesn’t sound good to me. They think it sounds good, but they don’t have real steps on how to get there.

Put your money where your mouth is and start making things accessible so then you can have those opportunities for people who have disabilities to explore those jobs that they are so capable of doing and they so want. I hope this government is going to stop thinking so narrow-mindedly when it comes to what they think is best and actually listen to what people are telling them, and then act on that. You’ve done that in a few places when you’ve pulled back legislation. We know that you did that recently with land ambulance, public health and child care. This is your opportunity to do the right thing from the beginning, rather than backtracking. I hope they support this bill, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Further debate?

Ms. Natalia Kusendova: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this motion. The challenge with this motion is that it is looking to create more duplication, more red tape and confusion around the built environment. Mr. Onley spoke about the need to take action on the built environment to improve accessibility, and we recognize this.

We’ve taken real action through our $1.3-million partnership with the Rick Hansen building certification program, which will see us provide accessibility ratings of an estimated 250 buildings across Ontario. These ratings will not only certify buildings as being accessible, but it will provide a report with directions to buildings about how they can improve their accessibility. This is real action that we are taking now.

David Onley’s report calls for action on the built environment. He notes that reviewing the building code is required. When it comes to this motion, calling for a built environment standard just simply doesn’t make sense. It will create duplication with the Ontario Building Code and cause red tape and confusion.

Ironically, this motion also calls for greater enforcement of the AODA. When it comes to the issue of enforcement, the Ontario Building Code is as highly enforceable as it gets. Municipal inspectors across the province are already doing this important work, so on the issue of accessibility in the built environment, the building code is the most effective tool that we can use.

The Onley report highlights the importance of coordinating Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government. As announced in More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan, the government will harmonize our building code with national codes to open new markets for manufacturers and to bring building costs down.

What we are really here to debate is creating a barrier-free Ontario, and a government cannot do this alone. This is why work on Mr. Onley’s recommendations, along with other important initiatives, is ongoing. Our government is working closely with many partners to spread the word about the importance of accessibility.

We partnered with OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Research Centre to develop Our Doors Are Open: Guide for Accessible Congregations, which was shared and highlighted at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions conference. This guide offers simple, creative ideas for different faith communities in our province to increase accessibility during worship services and community events.

We also support some of these partners through a program called EnAbling Change. Some recent examples of EnAbling Change projects include a resource guide produced by the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association called The Business of Accessibility: How to Make Your Main Street Business Accessibility Smart. The guide gives helpful tips for businesses on how to become more inclusive and accessible.

We also partnered with the Conference Board of Canada to develop Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities, which is a guide that helps small businesses employ and serve people with disabilities.

As Mr. Onley recommended, we are working across ministries to inform a whole-of-government approach advancing accessibility. As part of this work, we are working with ministries to look at their policies, programs and services, and identify areas where we can work together to remove the barriers faced by Ontario’s 2.6 million people with disabilities. Speaker, this government is committed to accessibility and improving employment prospects for people with disabilities—

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Thank you. I return to the member for Ottawa Centre, who has two minutes to reply.

Mr. Joel Harden: It’s hard to know what to say. I had hoped that there would be some goodwill here and I leave out hope that we may have some support for this motion, a declaration of intent, Speaker, written not by me but written by David Onley in this report, written by experts with lived experience and who know what it’s like to live in a province that is not accessible to them—not accessible to them.

When I hear words like “red tape,” the hair on the back of my neck stands up because I think about people who can’t get into hospitals, can’t get into schools. I think about children who are being forbidden the opportunity to learn because our services and systems are not accessible to them. And what makes me even angrier, to be honest, although I am trying to be hopeful and optimistic today, is that we are presiding over a province where people tonight will write off $45 million in Raptors game expenses, and we as a province are fine with that. We’re fine with that. Last week we announced $1.3 million in a partnership for people with disabilities, which is less, Speaker, than we pay this government’s Premier’s private lawyer, Gavin Tighe, in salary.

So what people with disabilities are being told is that they matter less than the corporate folks going to the Raptors game tonight, they matter less than the salary we give the lawyer serving the Premier of this province, and that when they ask for better, they are told they are ruining the economy and that it amounts to red tape. That is a really shameful moment for me in this place.

This motion commits us to action. I’m not allowed to ask for money from this government, but I am asking you, on behalf of my friends who are here today and all over this province, to get off the pot and act.

(Later that day in the Legislature after debate on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): We will deal first with ballot item number 73, standing in the name of Mr. Harden.

Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I heard a no.

All those in favour of the motion will please say “aye.”

All those opposed to the motion will please say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it. We will deal with this vote after we have finished the other business.

(After votes on other matters.)

Accessibility for persons with disabilities

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I’m actually going to seek direction from the table. Is it a five-minute bell right now? Okay.

Call in all the members. This will be a five-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1531 to 1536.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): Mr. Harden has moved private member’s notice of motion number 68. All those in favour, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Ayes

  • Armstrong, Teresa J.
  • Begum, Doly
  • Bell, Jessica
  • Berns-McGown, Rima
  • Des Rosiers, Nathalie
  • Fife, Catherine
  • Fraser, John
  • Glover, Chris
  • Harden, Joel
  • Hassan, Faisal
  • Hatfield, Percy
  • Karpoche, Bhutila
  • Lindo, Laura Mae
  • Mamakwa, Sol
  • Mantha, Michael
  • Morrison, Suze
  • Natyshak, Taras
  • Rakocevic, Tom
  • Sattler, Peggy
  • Schreiner, Mike
  • Shaw, Sandy
  • Singh, Gurratan
  • Singh, Sara
  • Stiles, Marit
  • Tabuns, Peter
  • West, Jamie
  • Yarde, Kevin

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): All those opposed, please rise and remain standing until recognized by the Clerk.

Nays

  • Anand, Deepak
  • Baber, Roman
  • Babikian, Aris
  • Bailey, Robert
  • Bethlenfalvy, Peter
  • Bouma, Will
  • Calandra, Paul
  • Cho, Raymond Sung Joon
  • Cho, Stan
  • Coe, Lorne
  • Crawford, Stephen
  • Cuzzetto, Rudy
  • Downey, Doug
  • Dunlop, Jill
  • Fedeli, Victor
  • Fee, Amy
  • Ghamari, Goldie
  • Gill, Parm
  • Harris, Mike
  • Hogarth, Christine
  • Jones, Sylvia
  • Kanapathi, Logan
  • Karahalios, Belinda C.
  • Ke, Vincent
  • Khanjin, Andrea
  • Kramp, Daryl
  • Kusendova, Natalia
  • Lecce, Stephen
  • Martin, Robin
  • Martow, Gila
  • McDonell, Jim
  • McKenna, Jane
  • Miller, Norman
  • Mulroney, Caroline
  • Oosterhoff, Sam
  • Pang, Billy
  • Parsa, Michael
  • Pettapiece, Randy
  • Phillips, Rod
  • Piccini, David
  • Rasheed, Kaleed
  • Roberts, Jeremy
  • Sabawy, Sheref
  • Sandhu, Amarjot
  • Sarkaria, Prabmeet Singh
  • Skelly, Donna
  • Smith, Dave
  • Thanigasalam, Vijay
  • Thompson, Lisa M.
  • Tibollo, Michael A.
  • Triantafilopoulos, Effie J.
  • Wai, Daisy

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 27; the nays are 52.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Jennifer K. French): I declare the motion lost.

Motion negatived.

Summary of the Recommendations of the David Onley AODA Independent Review

  1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.

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

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

Lead by example.

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

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

Define “accessibility”.

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

Update the definition of “disability”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards

Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

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

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

Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

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

Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations.

Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

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

Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.

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

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

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



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