Malhotra and Dojeiji: Vaccine Policy is Ignoring People With Disabilities


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

Publishing date:
May 06, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Ontario is Prioritizing Dining Over the Disabled with Its Vaccination Policy


By Bella PickContributor
Mon., April 5, 2021

If the pandemic has proved anything to disabled folks, it’s that able-bodied people value being able to drink on a patio over their lives. The Ontario government’s decision to vaccinate restaurant workers in Phase 2 only perpetuates this ableist system.

As a young, disabled person at high-risk for both contracting and dying from COVID-19, I am furious that, time and time again, the government has prioritized the economy over my life.

The Doug Ford government has consistently proven how little they care about people with disabilities throughout the pandemic. Disability advocates have spoken up about a variety of accessibility disparities the pandemic exacerbated: from CERB being almost double the value of government disability benefits, to the recently leaked documents detailing ableist policies that encouraged doctors not to prioritize disabled individuals in COVID treatment.

This new vaccine rollout ultimately comes back to our government consistently valuing economic contribution over disabled lives.

The age-based rollout model already fails to account for the higher risks disabled people face, but the latest update to include restaurant workers in Phase 2 is the icing on the cake for an already marginalizing experience.

A recent study found that approximately 60 per cent of people who died of COVID-19 in the U.K. in 2020 were disabled, even though only 22 per cent of their population is disabled disabled people are over three times more likely to die from the virus than the general population.

Prioritizing getting vaccines into the arms of restaurant workers over disabled people who’ve been advocating for their unique needs since the start of the pandemic will ultimately lead to more COVID deaths.

This isn’t to say that disabled folks should automatically jump to the front of the line; it’s important to vaccinate essential workers. But, there’s nothing essential about in-person dining.

Disabled folks’ inability to receive vaccinations has furthered employment disparities. Most of the scarce employment opportunities that are still available in the pandemic are in person. The Ontario government’s repeated choice to delay vaccine access for disabled people will continue to delay our access to employment which means that the economic recovery the government is striving for will continue to exclude those most heavily impacted by the pandemic.

The government has a limited number of vaccination appointments; flooding the system isn’t a good idea. Vaccinating Ontarians at the highest risk of contracting or dying from COVID-19 should come before vaccinating non-essential service workers that benefit the economy to say otherwise is discriminatory.

Placing restaurant workers in Phase 2 will make vaccines less accessible for the disabled people who need them most. The decision to prioritize these workers will further marginalize disabled people and, ultimately, end in more COVID deaths.

Bella Pick is a copy editor at the Western Gazette, Western University’s student newspaper.

Original at https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/04/05/ontario-is-prioritizing-dining-over-the-disabled-with-its-vaccination-policy.html?rf




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Accessibility advocates raise serious concerns with new policy allowing dogs on Nova Scotia patios – Halifax


One day after the Nova Scotia government announced a new policy allowing dogs on outdoor patios, some accessibility advocates and guide dog users are raising concerns that the presence of pets could compromise their safety.

While service animals are well-trained, any barking or play from dogs at other tables may still distract them, interfering with their ability to keep their owner safe, said guide dog user Shelley Adams.

“I’m just worried about the extra distraction it’s going to bring,” said Adams, sitting next to her own guide dog, Rookie.

“I don’t want to have to be sitting there worrying that another dog is going to try and engage with him, or I don’t know, hurt him in any way … He is my mobility aid.”

Read more:
Bone appetit! Dogs now allowed on Nova Scotia restaurant and cafe patios

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Adams said she is not opposed to the policy, and would still attend an outdoor patio but ask to be seated away from other dogs.

In the event someone else’s dog were to start misbehaving, however, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) said the desire of the service dog user to sit on the patio must be prioritized.

“If there are going to be other animals on a patio, there’s potential for the other animals to negatively interfere with the work of a guide dog. I think the behaviour of the animals needs to be held to the same high standards that we as guide dog users have our dogs following,” said CNIB guide dog program president Diane Bergeron.

It’s important to distinguish between the rights and needs of a service dog user and the preference of a pet owner, she added.


Click to play video: 'Dogs now allowed on N.S. Restaurant and café patios'







Dogs now allowed on N.S. Restaurant and café patios


Dogs now allowed on N.S. Restaurant and café patios – Mar 30, 2021

Read more:
Halifax woman who is blind says sidewalk barricade putting ‘lives at risk’

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The provincial change came into effect on Tuesday, answering a longstanding request from the restaurant industry to remove barriers for dog owners, who may be more likely to stop for a meal or a drink if their dogs can accompany them.

In a Wednesday statement, Environment Department spokesperson Barbara MacLean it’s important for Nova Scotians to do their part not to distract service dogs or interfere with their ability to do their job, but ultimately, establishments are responsible for enforcing the policy properly.

“It’s up to restaurant owners to ensure that dogs on patios are not impeding their customers, including those from the accessibility community and service dogs,” she wrote.

Read more:
Halifax restaurants calling on province to change food safety rules following warnings about dogs

Businesses that choose to allow pets must also follow certain rules, she added, including keeping their dogs leashed, on the ground and away from the aisles. Pet dogs are still prohibited from entering bars and restaurants, while service dogs are not.

Luc Erjavec, vice-president of the Restaurants Canada Atlantic chapter, emphasized that the new patio provision is voluntary and not every restaurant will choose to adopt it.

Restaurant owners who do choose to allow pets, he added, will do their utmost to accommodate all customers.

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“I don’t think any operator wants 10 dogs on a small patio. I think they’re going to look at each individual situation, the time of day, what’s going on and respond accordingly,” he said. “Our goal is to keep our customers happy.”


Click to play video: 'Letting the dogs out through Canicross'







Letting the dogs out through Canicross


Letting the dogs out through Canicross – Mar 25, 2021

Read more:
Accessibility advocates say Peggy’s Cove viewing deck will ensure safe access for all

Accessibility advocate Paul Vienneau, who helped win the case for accessible washrooms in Nova Scotia restaurants, said he shares the concerns of guide dog users.

He loves dogs and sympathizes with the restaurant industry, he told Global News, but he fears the policy decision was taken without consultation from the disability community, casting a shadow over years of accessibility progress.

“There are other ways to make money than doing this,” said Vienneau. “For the government to just wave their hand and basically wipe away decades of hard work by disabled and blind folks that they’ve done is pretty disrespectful to these people.”

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David Fraser, a privacy lawyer who represented wheelchair users in the 2018 challenge for accessible restaurant washrooms, also wondered whether the new policy was “thought through.”

“My concern is by allowing dogs access to patios, you might be reducing the access to those patios that are otherwise accessible to individuals who use service animals, and I think that’s a real concern,” he said.




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





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City Updates Its Service Animal Policy


By Media Release
February 6, 2020

The City of Sault Ste. Marie in its continuing commitment to promote inclusiveness and acknowledge the requirement to be able to service people with differing abilities, has reviewed and expanded its Service Animal Policy.

In general, animals are not allowed in most City facilities and on Transit. However, under the Customer Service Standard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), service providers’ policies must state that service animals are welcome.

Furthermore, the Ontario Human Rights Code provides that everyone has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities without discrimination on the basis of one’s disability.

Service animals have training to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. Emotional support animals do not qualify as Service Animals under the AODA. Although emotional support animals do not require or have training as Service animals they may be included and supported under the Human Rights Code.

“As we acknowledge that people may have differing levels of ability, the City has revised its policy to provide guidance when rendering services to the public”, says Brent Lamming, Director of Community Services. “All facilities that are open to and that serve the public must welcome persons with service animals. They must also allow customers with disabilities to keep their service animals with them anywhere they need to go, except in places where the law excludes the animals.”

With respect to support animals, the customer may be asked to provide an identification card, or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that the customer requires the animal for reasons relating to a disability.

Under the new policy, if it is not visibly apparent that the service animal is required for reasons relating to a person with a disability, the customer should be prepared to provide an identification card or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that the animal is required for reasons relating to a person’s disability.

By welcoming service and support animals, the City of Sault Ste. Marie is continuing its commitment to inclusion and to serving all customers.

Original at https://saultonline.com/2020/02/city-updates-its-service-animal-policy/




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City Updates Its Service Animal Policy


By Media Release
February 6, 2020

The City of Sault Ste. Marie in its continuing commitment to promote inclusiveness and acknowledge the requirement to be able to service people with differing abilities, has reviewed and expanded its Service Animal Policy.

In general, animals are not allowed in most City facilities and on Transit. However, under the Customer Service Standard of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), service providers’ policies must state that service animals are welcome.

Furthermore, the Ontario Human Rights Code provides that everyone has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities without discrimination on the basis of one’s disability.

Service animals have training to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. Emotional support animals do not qualify as Service Animals under the AODA. Although emotional support animals do not require or have training as Service animals they may be included and supported under the Human Rights Code.

“As we acknowledge that people may have differing levels of ability, the City has revised its policy to provide guidance when rendering services to the public”, says Brent Lamming, Director of Community Services. “All facilities that are open to and that serve the public must welcome persons with service animals. They must also allow customers with disabilities to keep their service animals with them anywhere they need to go, except in places where the law excludes the animals.”

With respect to support animals, the customer may be asked to provide an identification card, or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that the customer requires the animal for reasons relating to a disability.

Under the new policy, if it is not visibly apparent that the service animal is required for reasons relating to a person with a disability, the customer should be prepared to provide an identification card or a letter from a healthcare practitioner, confirming that the animal is required for reasons relating to a person’s disability.

By welcoming service and support animals, the City of Sault Ste. Marie is continuing its commitment to inclusion and to serving all customers.

Original at https://saultonline.com/2020/02/city-updates-its-service-animal-policy/




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The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School


There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

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

September 10, 2019

SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work. MORE DETAILS
New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163
Date of Issue: September 9, 2019
Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified
Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals
Directors of Education
Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools Principals of Elementary Schools
Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose
All school boards1 in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.2 The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:
* allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
* make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
* put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.
In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”3

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals
When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents4 can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:
* a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including: o a primary point of contact;
o supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
* information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
o a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal; o a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
o a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
* information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
o any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals; o the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student; o other accommodations available;
o the rights of other students and the needs of the school community; o any training or certification of the service animal;
o any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
* consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
* information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
o the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records); o the type of support the service animal will provide to the student; o who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
o a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal); o how the animal will be readily identifiable;
o transportation of the animal to and from school;
o time line for implementation;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
* if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

* total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals; * whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students; * the number of requests approved and denied;
* if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education; * species of service animals requested and approved;
* types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting
School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific data collected.
1 In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.
2 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.
3 Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018), pp. 5960.
4 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).




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The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School


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 Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

September 10, 2019

          SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive  refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work.

MORE DETAILS

New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf

Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163

Date of Issue: September 9, 2019

Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified

Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals

Directors of Education

Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools

Principals of Elementary Schools

Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose

All school boards[1] in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.[2] The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:

  • allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
  • make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
  • put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

 

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.

In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”[3]

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

 

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals

When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents[4] can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:

  • a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including:
    • a primary point of contact;
    • supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
  • information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
    • a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal;
    • a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
    • a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
  • information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
    • any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals;
    • the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student;
    • other accommodations available;
    • the rights of other students and the needs of the school community;
    • any training or certification of the service animal;
    • any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
  • consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
  • information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
    • the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records);
    • the type of support the service animal will provide to the student;
    • who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
    • a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal);
    • how the animal will be readily identifiable;
    • transportation of the animal to and from school;
    • time line for implementation;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
  • if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

  • total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals;
  • whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students;
  • the number of requests approved and denied;
  • if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education;
  • species of service animals requested and approved;
  • types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting

School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific

data collected.

[1] In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.

[2] 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.

[3] Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights

Commission, 2018), pp. 59–60.

[4] 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).



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Including Accessibility in Your Retail Policy


Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined accessible features in retail stores. In this article, we cover how a store should include accessibility in its retail policy. In particular, we look at how a store can ensure that its policy shows its welcome for all customers.

Including Accessibility in Retail Policy

Below we outline how a store can include accessibility in its retail policy.

Welcome Customers

Stores must welcome all customers who enter with assistive devices or service animals. Service animals are legally permitted in stores, including malls with food courts and stores that sell food.

Prevent Barriers

Stores can also enhance their accessibility by ensuring that their policies do not create barriers for customers with certain disabilities. For example, a store may have a no-refund policy for clothing. This policy assumes that customers can use fitting rooms to try on clothing before buying it. However, if a store’s fitting rooms are not accessible for customers using assistive devices, this policy discriminates against them. Therefore, stores should modify this type of policy so that customers using mobility devices can have refunds for clothing they need to return after they try it on at home.

In another example, a store might offer a discount if customers purchase in person. On the other hand, a different store might offer an online-only discount. Both of these discounts could exclude certain customers. For instance, a customer might not be able to enter the store but want to purchase discount items remotely. Staff should apply the in-person discount to products that this customer buys online or over the phone. In contrast, a customer might want to take advantage of an online discount but find the store’s check-out page inaccessible. The store should work on making its website fully compliant with web content accessibility guidelines. In the meantime, staff should apply the online discount to products the customer purchases by phone or in person.

Furthermore, store staff need to know what their policies are, and in what situations they apply differently for customers with disabilities. This awareness helps them let customers know about available service options promptly and accurately. In addition, stores should notify customers through:

Our next article will cover how staff can build on accessible retail policies to offer all customers an accessible service experience.

 



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Ontario Human Rights Commission Releases Policy on Accessible Education


September 20, 2018 Alexandra Elves

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recently released a new policy on accessible education for students with disabilities, which says students with disabilities continue to face barriers in all levels of education.

“All students have the right to an education that allows them to meet their full potential and contribute to society, and yet students with disabilities continue to face obstacles accessing education services in Ontario,” Renu Mandhane, OHRC chief commissioner, said in a press release. “Our policy and recommendations call on key players in the sector to take proactive steps to remove barriers and put an end to discrimination in education, so that all students can gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.”

Statistics Canada reports that Ontarians with disabilities continue to have lower educational achievement levels, a higher unemployment rate, and are more likely to have a lower income than people without disabilities.

Addressed in the policy is the evolving legal definition of disability and what it implies for education providers, along with the impact of ableism on students’ experiences. The policy says that “ableism refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of people with disabilities.”

This evolving definition includes a focus on non-evident disabilities, such as mental health issues.

The new policy release comes after the OHRC wrote a letter raising human rights concerns to the University of Toronto’s (U of T) around the U of T’s University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy.

Contested by many students, the U of T policy allows students with severe mental health problems to be placed on a non-punitive, mandatory leave by the university.

“Human rights law is constantly developing, and certain conditions, characteristics or experiences that have not historically been recognized as disabilities, may come to be commonly accepted as such, due to changes in the law reflecting medical, social or ideological advancements,” the policy said.

The OHRC also released recommendations on how education providers can best meet legal obligations under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The first recommendation for post-secondary institutions is the need to communicate the right to disability-related accommodations for students through multiple means.

At Carleton University, students can receive accommodations and support through the Paul Menton Centre for students with disabilities (PMC).

Carleton is “arguably the most accessible post-secondary institution in Canada for students with disabilities,” the university said in a press release after they were granted $800,000 to help kickstart careers for students with disabilities in July.

Taneeta Taljit, a second-year psychology student at Carleton, said in an email that these accommodations are effectively communicated to students.

“While it isn’t usually the forefront of most discussions, I have found that the majority of the faculty have been consistent in informing students of the accommodations available to them, should they be in need of any extra assistance,” she said.

Maddy Deveau, a second-year global and international studies student at Carleton, agreed with this sentiment.

In an email, she said she thinks for the most part, accommodations are explained pretty well but, during her first appointment at the PMC, she had some trouble following along.

“I had to keep asking follow-up questions because things were going fast and some of the accommodations I hadn’t been used to before,” Deveau said. “I found it hard to find out what I was eligible for in terms of accommodations, because it’s not advertised anywhere, so I felt like I was going in blind.”

This is the first time the OHRC has updated its policy for accessible education in 14 years.

Original at https://charlatan.ca/2018/09/ontario-human-rights-commission-releases-policy-on-accessible-education/



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