Tiny Seeks Funding for Touchless Sinks and Toilets for Public Washrooms


A number of touchless sinks and toilets to go in at various public washrooms located at community centres, beaches, and municipal offices By: Mehreen Shahid
July 6, 2020

Tiny Township’s public washrooms may soon be getting an upgrade in hygiene measures.

This came Monday after council approved staff’s request to apply for an Enabling Accessibility Fund worth $100,000.

The grant was taken to the township’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, said Sue Walton, clerk and director of legislative services.

She added the committee agreed on the installation of touchless sinks and toilets in municipal public washrooms, community centres, staff facilities, including the public works complex and town office.

The grant, said Walton, is typically used for increasing the accessibility at public and township offices and washrooms.

“We felt the touchless sinks and toilets played in quite nicely to what the priorities are for this funding,” she said.

An inventory included in the staff report lists the various locations chosen to receive the upgrades. The total amount Tiny would be spending is $95,200 for 80 toilets and 49 sinks.

Coun. Tony Mintoff, like his peers, was in support of staff’s efforts to procure grant money.

“I don’t notice any reference to the township’s fire station, given that they’re public buildings as well,” he asked.

Tim Leitch, director of public works, said the same question was raised at the Accessibility Advisory Committee meetings.

“It was felt that the firehalls weren’t considered public access points and did not include those,” he said.

Fire chief Ray Millar elaborated.

“Three of the four firehalls don’t have any public space at all,” he said. “The other two did at some point, but in light of recent developments, those spaces should have controlled access only. We have touchless fixtures. We also have a number of other facilities and features within fire stations that need to be considered in terms of sanitation.

“It was my view it didn’t fall within the protocol set for this accessibility fund.”

Coun. Gibb Wishart was concerned about the effects winter would have on these new installations.

“Some of the spaces that we’re putting these expensive devices in go well below freezing,” he said. “Have we ensured these devices can be properly winterized, especially the toilets?”

Leitch explained that the public washrooms contain units typical for summer use.

“They are then flushed out and shut down in winter,” he said.

Original at https://www.orilliamatters.com/midland-news/tiny-seeks-funding-for-touchless-sinks-and-toilets-for-public-washrooms-2542975




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Accessible Public Transportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic


As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we cheer ourselves by thinking of future socializing in-person. We also think about returning to work or activities we love. These hopes help us through the challenges of physical distancing. Moreover, these challenges show us that we can be more flexible or more creative than we thought we could. For instance, transportation providers have adapted to new ways of serving the public during the pandemic. In the post-COVID-19 future, more transportation providers may recognize the value of adapting their vehicles and services to meet citizens’ diverse needs. Consequently, more service providers may offer accessible public transportation after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessible PublicTransportation After the COVID-19 Pandemic

As physical distancing continues, transportation providers have made changes to the services they offer. For instance, busses have changed their schedules and seating arrangements. Similarly, many bus companies have waived fees in order to allow riders to board through back doors. All these changes make vehicles safer for essential workers and other people who need to travel on public transit, such as buses and trains. In the same way, transportation companies can adapt just as proactively to better serve travellers with disabilities.

Current AODA Requirements for Conventional Transportation Providers

Currently, the Transportation Standards of the AODA only mandate accessibility in public transit vehicles if:

  • The vehicles were made on or after January 1st, 2013
  • The vehicles were purchased on or after July 1st, 2011

In addition, if companies update one feature of their vehicles, such as signage, the updated feature must be accessible. However, remaining features continue to be inaccessible. This limitation to the standards means that older vehicles may not be welcoming to passengers with disabilities.

Some individuals responsible for vehicle oversight at public transit companies may feel that they do not need to worry about making older vehicles accessible because the AODA does not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, companies with accessible vehicles better serve both drivers and passengers.

Vehicle Accessibility

For example, different vehicle set-ups offer passengers different levels of independence. The wheelchair-accessible seats on some vehicles allow many people to secure their own assistive devices. In contrast, other vehicles require drivers to secure passengers’ wheelchairs, scooters, and other devices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these differences in vehicle accessibility impact drivers and passengers in new ways.

The Transportation Standards require drivers to provide assistance securing passengers, upon request. However, some drivers feel that providing this assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic is not safe. Like workers in all essential services, bus drivers deserve to be safe and supported as they do their important work. Nonetheless, serving passengers with disabilities, including securing passengers, is part of that essential work. People of all abilities need to travel to their jobs and essential services, like stores or doctors.

When public transit companies invest in vehicles with more accessibility features, their drivers and passengers will be less likely to face this dilemma. In other words, the more accessible vehicles are, the safer they are for drivers and passengers. When transportation companies choose to improve their vehicle accessibility, the changes they make may later bring benefits they do not expect.




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The ARCH Disability Law Centre Sends the Ford Government An Excellent Analysis of the Government’s Seriously Flawed March 28, 2020 Medical Triage Protocol – Why Hasn’t The Government Already Held Its Promised and Overdue Public Consultation on Replacing That Problem-Ridden Protocol?


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

The ARCH Disability Law Centre Sends the Ford Government An Excellent Analysis of the Government’s Seriously Flawed March 28, 2020 Medical Triage Protocol – Why Hasn’t The Government Already Held Its Promised and Overdue Public Consultation on Replacing That Problem-Ridden Protocol?

May 14, 2020

          SUMMARY

Yesterday, the ARCH Disability Law Centre sent the Ford Government a letter that provides an excellent analysis of the serious disability rights violations in the Government’s widely-condemned March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol. We set it out below and applaud it. It can also be downloaded with all its footnotes from ARCH’s website. ARCH has also posted online a plain language guide to its May 13, 2020 letter to the Government on this topic.

With all the many disability concerns during the COVID-19 crisis that we have been rushing to address, what is this one all about, you ask? When the COVID-19 crisis was first exploding, the Ford Government was understandably worried that there was a risk that more people might get COVID-19 than our hospitals could handle. From the experience in some other countries, there was and is a risk that critical care medical services, like ventilators, might have to be rationed, if there were not enough ventilators for all the patients that need them.

As a result, the March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol was written and circulated within the medical and health care community. It was not made public. The disability community was not consulted in its preparation. It is our understanding that those preparing it only consulted physicians and bio-ethics experts. We have seen no indication that either the doctors or bioethicists they consulted had any knowledge or expertise in disability rights or basic human rights.

It is fortunate that within days, a copy of that secret protocol was leaked to some in the disability community. As a result, over 200 community organizations, including many disability organizations (such as the AODA Alliance) rapidly organized to sign the April 8, 2020 open letter to the Ontario Government, spearheaded by ARCH. That open letter identified grave concerns that this secret medical triage protocol would discriminate against some patients because of their disability.

The day before the public release of that open letter, this issue was first publicly revealed by Robert Lattanzio, ARCH’s executive director, when he spoke at the widely-viewed April 7, 2020 virtual town hall on COVID-19 and people with disabilities, that was organized by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

One week later, fully one month ago today, one of the Ford Government’s lead authors of the secret March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol, Dr. James Downar, said it was a top priority for the Government to consult the public on this medical protocol. He spoke on the April 14, 2020 edition of TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin”.

The Government later reiterated a commitment to public consultation on this topic in an April 21, 2020 announcement. That Government announcement walked back the March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol, but without explicitly rescinding it and directing that it not be followed or used. The Government claimed the protocol was only a draft. That claim has no credibility, since the document was not marked draft when it was circulated to the medical community and health care system.

Despite those Government commitments, no public consultation has been held. We are waiting for it to start. It is commendable that since then, the Ontario Human Rights Commission took it on itself to reach out for input from some experts from within the disability community last week (including the AODA Alliance). It did so to assist the Commission in preparing for its input to that public consultation, whenever the Government might get it going.

We emphasize the following, building on the ARCH letter’s excellent points:

  1. ARCH’s May 13, 2020 letter to the Ford Government reaches this deeply-troubling conclusion about the Government’s secret March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol:

“In its current version, the Triage Protocol is in conflict with the rights of persons with disabilities pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter), and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

It is inexcusable that the Ontario Government could so seriously run afoul of such basic rights for vulnerable people with disabilities in the midst of a crisis. For it to do so when the Premier of Ontario has pledged to protect the vulnerable during this crisis is even more the case. This amply deserves front page headline coverage.

  1. How did this happen? We are eager to know if the Government got legal advice before that protocol was allowed to go in circulation within the medical community and the health care system. Had it not been leaked to the disability community, triggering the shared advocacy efforts from the grassroots, serious human rights violations could have gone undetected and unchecked.

The Government should commit that before it is adopted, any new medical triage protocol will be thoroughly vetted and approved by lawyers with expertise in human and constitutional rights, such as the Constitutional Law Branch at Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General. If they were not consulted in advance of the March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol being placed in circulation in the medical community, there has been a serious and deeply-troubling break-down in longstanding Government legal safeguards. This is all the more troubling when it relates to discrimination because of disability in relation to life-saving medical care.

The Government should also reiterate the commitment of Health Minister Christine Elliott that no medical triage protocol will be adopted without Cabinet approval.

  1. The Government must publicly, immediately, clearly and unequivocally rescind and retract the March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky and CILT executive director Wendy Porch addressed this during their May 8, 2020 interview on TVO’s “The Agenda with Steve Paikin”. The longer the Government fails to clearly rescind this the March 28, 2020 medical triage protocol and direct that it must not be followed, the more confusion it creates for doctors, nurses and others working in the health care system. Moreover, the longer the Government fails to clearly rescind this document and announce that it must not be followed, the longer some people with disabilities will understandably fear going to a hospital, if they are sick and need hospital care.
  1. By now, the Government or those it has engaged to help with the medical triage protocol no doubt have developed some sort of a revised draft medical triage protocol. As we have urged in the past, the Government should immediately make that draft public, in whatever state it is now, for input by the public including the grassroots disability community.
  1. The Government should now commit that the revised medical triage protocol will include all the key ingredients that the AODA Alliance outlined in its April 14, 2020 Discussion Paper on Ensuring that Medical Triage or Rationing of Health Care Services During the COVID-19 Crisis Does Not Discriminate Against Patients with Disabilities. Since we made it public one month ago, and widely publicized it on social media, we have received no feedback claiming that our proposals are incorrect or inappropriate.
  1. The long-overdue public consultation in this area must be entirely open, public and transparent. We have had far too much secrecy from the Government and those it engaged to develop this protocol. More secrecy will engender more public suspicion and distrust. Openness is a vital key to much-needed public confidence.
  1. The Government must act quickly to get this overdue public consultation going and to finalize a new medical triage protocol. It is good that Ontario has not yet reached the point of needing to resort to that protocol, because our hospitals have thankfully not been overrun with COVID-19 cases. However, we are certainly not out of the woods. With the Ontario Government moving to re-open the economy and gradually loosen restrictions on the public, the risk of a second or third wave of COVID-19 is a realistic possibility.

We fear that the Government’s political strategy in this area had been to wait for the “curve to flatten”, as it did, and then to offer a protracted public consultation in the hopes that this medical triage protocol issue and the Government’s initial serious mishandling of it would fade away and be forgotten. It has not faded away. It required and still requires prompt action. The continued governmental foot-dragging must end now.

For more background on this, we invite you to watch David Lepofsky’s and Wendy Porch’s May 8, 2020 interview on “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” and encourage others to watch it. In under a week, it has already gotten over 1,600 views on Youtube, in addition to the people who watched it on old-fashion TV or on podcasts. The link to this interview that we invite you to circulate is https://youtu.be/KmMlTrNbud8

Check out the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page for all the news on our efforts to ensure that the urgent needs of people with disabilities are addressed during the COVID-19crisis.

There have been 469 days since the Ford Government got the ground-breaking final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes worse the problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

There have been 50 days since we wrote Ontario Premier Doug Ford on March 25, 2020 to urge specific action to address the urgent needs of Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. He has not answered. The Premier’s office has not contacted us. The ordeal facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis is worsened by that delay.

Send us your feedback! Write us at [email protected]. Please stay safe!

          MORE DETAILS

 The May 13, 2020 Letter from the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Ford Government on the Medical Triage Protocol

ARCH Disability Law Centre

Sent via email to [email protected] and [email protected]

May 13, 2020

Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health

College Park, 5th Floor

777 Bay Street

Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Mr. Matthew Anderson

Chief Executive Officer

Ontario Health

Dear Hon. Minister Elliott and Mr. Anderson:

Re:       Ontario’s Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic

 

We write further to the Open Letter dated April 8, 2020 and which was delivered to Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, and Minister of Accessibility, Raymond Cho. As you will recall, the Open Letter raised grave concerns regarding the Ontario Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic[1] (the “Triage Protocol”), authored by Ontario Health, dated March 28, 2020 but never publicly released.

On April 21, 2020, ARCH Disability Law Centre, amongst other recipients, received a response from the Ontario Government. The Government’s letter, undated, stated that the Ministry of Health directed Ontario Health to consult with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as well as key human rights and community experts. In response, ARCH delivered a letter to Ontario Health on April 22, 2020 requesting additional information regarding any consultations, and requesting that a clear statement be made rescinding the March 28, 2020 draft Triage Protocol. ARCH continues to await a response from Ontario Health.

While ARCH welcomes the Government’s direction to Ontario Health to consult, little has been made public about the consultations, including the format of consultations, the timeline surrounding consultations, the groups – aside from the OHRC – that will be consulted, and when a finalized version of the Triage Protocol can be expected.

A further concern is that, despite stating that the current version of the Triage Protocol is a draft, the Government has taken no action to clearly withdraw the draft to ensure that it is not implemented should the medical system become overburdened whilst Ontario Health conducts consultations.

Notwithstanding the Government’s assertion that the Triage Protocol is undergoing consultation, ARCH is not aware of any such consultation nor has ARCH received any revised draft. ARCH strongly encourages input from communities of persons with disabilities through a formal and inclusive consultation process, and that any revised version of the Triage Protocol be made widely available to allow for a more fulsome and effective consultation. In the meantime, because time is of the utmost essence in the present circumstances, ARCH is taking this opportunity to provide its own submissions on the issues that must be addressed and resolved in any (newly) drafted Triage Protocol.

To note, ARCH recognizes that health care workers need a pragmatic and practical approach to assist them in making extremely difficult decisions in allocating critical care resources during this pandemic. However, as a collection of United Nations experts have made clear, “The scarcity of resources … should never be a justification to discriminate against certain groups of patients[2]. It is imperative that any critical care protocol developed by the Ontario Government, or any of its agencies, be founded upon human rights laws and principles, including the recognition that every person has an equal right to life-saving intervention and the right to be free of discriminatory denial of health care, including persons with disabilities.[3]

In its current version, the Triage Protocol is in conflict with the rights of persons with disabilities pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code,[4] the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter),[5] and the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[6] For the purposes of this brief, the discussion that follows focuses primarily on the Charter violations. The analysis then turns to the administrative and implementation considerations the Government must put in place to ensure that any critical care protocol does not infringe upon the rights of persons with disabilities. To conclude this brief, ARCH makes several recommendations that we urge the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health and any other organization that may be involved in drafting, to consider when re-drafting the Triage Protocol.

The Triage Protocol Violates the Charter

Any critical care protocol or health care scheme the Government chooses to put into place must comply with the Charter.[7] The Triage Protocol, and the tools it relies on to determine a patient’s prioritization in receiving critical care, must be considered through this lens.

In particular, the Triage Protocol states that allocation of critical care resources is dependent, in part, on the basis of the 9-point Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS).[8] The points range from Very Fit (score of 1) to Terminally Ill (score of 9), by taking into account disability-related factors such as activity levels[9] and the requirement for assistance in completing activities, as well as the use of mobility devices by some persons with disabilities, the ability to walk with assistance, and/or the use of a support person for personal care or finances. As will be demonstrated below, the inclusion of the CFS in the Triage Protocol violates the rights of persons with disabilities, pursuant to sections 15, 7, and 12 of the Charter.

Further, the Triage Protocol specifically identifies at least four different categories of disabilities, including cognitive disabilities and “advanced or moderate” neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and Metastatic Malignant Disease. Persons with these disabilities may in some stages of their disability be deprioritized from receiving critical care.

These tools, on their face and/or in application, do not comply with the Charter.

Section 15 of the Charter: Right to the Equal Protection and Equal Benefit of the Law without Discrimination

 

The Triage Protocol violates the right of persons with disabilities to be equal before and under the law, and to have equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, contrary to section 15 of the Charter. The “animating norm” of section 15 is substantive equality,[10] which responds to the reality that “persistent systemic disadvantages have operated to limit the opportunities available to members of certain groups in society and seeks to prevent conduct that perpetuates those disadvantages.”[11]

In addition to identifying specific disabilities for the deprioritization for critical care, the Triage Protocol draws a clear distinction for critical care on the basis of a CFS score. Persons who score higher on the CFS will be deprioritized from receiving critical care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to score higher on the CFS score, because of their general disability-related care needs and reduced activity levels. Meanwhile, a person without a disability is less likely to receive a high CFS score – it is only persons with disabilities who will fall within this scope. In this way, the CFS draws a clear distinction between persons with disabilities and abled-bodied persons.

It is widely recognized that healthcare systems tend to be structurally and systemically ableist.[12] Historically, and due to this, persons with disabilities have been denied equal access to health care[13] on the basis of stereotypes and the erroneous notion that disability is a flaw inherent in the individual.[14] The crux of the issue is in the often subconscious devaluing of the lives of persons with disabilities by medical practitioners.[15] This subconscious devaluing stems from the tendency of ableist quality of life presumptions to seep into medical practitioners’ decision-making process. These inequities persist today, and the pandemic has significantly exacerbated these disparities and erected further barriers; this includes the Triage Protocol which creates a decision-making framework built upon an ableist approach to disability. This is despite the fact that persons with disabilities may be particularly vulnerable[16] to COVID-19.

Interestingly, the Triage Protocol purports to be guided by the principal of fairness.[17] However, without contemplating substantive equality, the principle of fairness in the Triage Protocol is illusory at best. In this circumstance, fairness is understood as the treatment of all patients on an equal and fair basis by using clinically-relevant criteria to allocate resources. The Triage Protocol, however, fails to understand the difference between formal and substantive equality, and fails to appreciate the lived experience of persons with disabilities in their interactions with the medical system.

The inclusion of the guiding principles in the Triage Protocol leads to the very errors warned against by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As the Special Rapporteur stated, the health care sector has a tendency to reduce ethical debates “to an application of rules to situations in an oversimplified and legalistic manner, without a critical reflection of the role of human rights in bioethics and the power dynamics under which decisions are made.”[18] The inclusion of the guiding principles in the Triage Protocol, including the principle of fairness, is formalistic and fails to consider all the ways in which fairness is eroded by the treatment of persons with disabilities within the healthcare system.

Many persons with disabilities will be deprioritized and at risk of being denied access to critical care simply because the CFS deems them “severely frail” on the basis of their use of a mobility device, having a support person assisting them with activities of daily living, or having one of the disabilities identified by the Triage Protocol. These characteristics are not, as a rule, relevant to the person’s health status nor their overall mortality in the face of COVID-19. These same persons may very well be viable candidates for critical care despite the fact that they need assistance for daily living and personal care and/or use a wheelchair.

Persons with disabilities are not one homogenous group and the grouping of persons with disabilities into pre-determined categories of disability pre-empts and denies individual assessment to determine their need for critical care. For example, the Triage Protocol groups persons with cognitive disabilities[19] into one group, ignoring the fact that persons with cognitive disabilities can include persons labelled with intellectual disabilities, persons with developmental disabilities, persons with dementia, persons with acquired brain injuries, persons with fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. This kind of decision-making lends itself to the reliance upon labels, which can be laden with stereotypes and value judgments as to the quality of the patient’s life. This has the detrimental impact of denying a patient of individual assessment, which is necessary to ascertain their individual needs.[20]

In this respect, the Triage Protocol clearly has the effect of reinforcing, perpetuating, or exacerbating the disadvantage experienced by persons with disabilities. By deprioritizing persons from receiving care, the Triage Protocol, relying on the CFS, disconcertingly mimics the historical treatment of persons with disabilities in the medical system of isolation and exclusion, and being subject to ableist norms and value judgments about their quality of life. These criteria rely on damaging assumptions about persons who require assistance with aspects of daily living as having a lesser quality of life. This devalues the lives of persons with disabilities.

It is imperative that decisions about who receives critical care should be made using objective, individualized clinical criteria directly associated with mortality risks of COVID-19. Decisions must not be based on stereotypes or assumptions about a person’s disability, the value of quality of their life due to their disability, or longer term mortality rates that are not directly related to COVID-19.

Section 7 of the Charter: Right to Life and Security of the Person

 

The inclusion of the CFS in the Triage Protocol and the identification of specific categories of disabilities violates the rights of persons with disabilities to life and security of the person in a manner not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice, contrary to section 7 of the Charter.

The effect of the Triage Protocol violates the rights of persons with disabilities to life. Persons who use mobility devices,[21] those who use support persons for daily living tasks and personal care,[22] those who walk with assistance,[23] or those who have a disability that is expressly identified, are more likely to be deprioritized from receiving critical care and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes, up to and including death.

Persons with disabilities who use mobility devices or walk with assistance include those who were born with disabilities or acquired them at a young age, such as persons with cerebral palsy, congenital amputations or who have survived childhood cancers. Persons who need assistance for daily living tasks can include persons labelled with intellectual disabilities who are able to live in the community with assistance from support workers. The use of the CFS inappropriately labels persons with these characteristics as “frail” which then deems them less likely to receive critical care when they most need it.

In identifying specific disabilities, the Triage Protocol invites the application of labels and value judgments to the quality of life of persons with disabilities. Instead of objective and individualized assessment, these labels and value judgements then become the starting point for assessing a patient’s likely morbidity.

The inclusion of the CFS and the identification of specific disabilities also violates persons with disabilities’ right to security of the person, contrary to section 7. In particular, knowing that they may be deprioritized or denied access to critical care has caused persons with disabilities psychological distress, and creates a disincentive to seek medical care, putting their security and their community at risk. Persons with disabilities are already experiencing the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 virus,[24] and are more susceptible to the virus depending on the nature of their disability. The Triage Protocol means they must now endure the very real scenario that they may be denied critical care resources, at least in part, because they use a mobility device, require assistance with daily living tasks or require the assistance of a mobility device to walk.

This use of the CFS is overbroad, arbitrary and not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This is especially true considering the purposes for which the CFS was designed and developed: for physicians to use in treating elderly patients.[25] It is accepted that the CFS has not been widely validated in populations younger than 65 years of age or for persons with disabilities.[26] Moreover, the CFS does not distinguish between frailty and disability, making it wholly inappropriate to apply to a subset of the population that has long-term disabilities, some of which may be progressive in nature.

In fact, several jurisdictions have already recognized the error in including the CFS in their Triage Protocols and have remedied their error by removing the CFS from any COVID-19 protocols and committed to an individualized assessment of each patient. We direct the Government’s attention, for example, to the United Kingdom,[27] where the use of the CFS has been challenged and the government has conceded the problematic nature of the CFS for the purposes of allocating critical care resources.[28] The Government and Ontario Health are encouraged to heed these lessons learned in other jurisdictions.

Section 12 of the Charter: Right Not to be Subjected to any Cruel and Unusual Treatment

The Triage Protocol violates persons with disabilities’ right to be free from cruel and unusual treatment, contrary to section 12 of the Charter. The CFS and the identification of specific disabilities intentionally targets an already vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized group in society that is more than likely to have been, or will be, impacted by the very virus to which this Protocol responds. This is demonstrative of treatment that is cruel and unusual.

The Triage Protocol draws a distinction between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities for the purposes of allocating critical care resources in a manner that outrages the standards of decency. Again, we point to the disability-related need for assistance to walk as a marker of “frailty” according to the CFS. This is problematic and neglects the human-rights approach and understanding of disability. The effect of the inclusion of the CFS and identifying specific disabilities is to create a two-tiered access to critical care: one for persons with disabilities and one for persons without disabilities.

It is well established that persons with disabilities are entitled to access health care on an equal basis; this violation of the right to equal access, and by extension to ensure that the human dignity of persons with disabilities is not degraded, cannot be justified in light of the fact that society is currently battling a pandemic.

There is little doubt that the treatment of persons with disabilities, in accordance with this Triage Protocol, would be unacceptable to a large segment of the population, violates public standards of decency and propriety and, overall, shocks the general conscience. In short, the approach adopted by the Triage Protocol deprioritizes persons with disabilities and prioritizes persons without. In effect, this leads to cruel and unusual treatment of persons with disabilities because they have a disability.

The current version of the Triage Protocol is drafted in a manner as to call for a clinical assessment of the chance of survival that is comparative rather than individualized. The removal of critical care from a person with a disability who has a reasonable chance of survival in order to provide it to another patient who, by virtue of not having a disability, is deemed to have a better chance of survival[29] also amounts to cruel and unusual treatment. It is clear that the Triage Protocol does not explicitly state that persons with disabilities will be deprioritized or removed from receiving critical care in order for a person without a disability to receive it. However, the cumulative effect of including the CFS, the identification of specific disabilities in the exclusion chart, and the subconscious value-judgments inherent in the health care system that permeate the decisions made pursuant to the Triage Protocol, lead to a eugenic-adjacent approach to the pandemic. This is a clear violation of section 12 of the Charter.

Administrative and Implementation Precautions

The Government must take a number of active measures to ensure that persons with disabilities are not deprioritized in receiving critical care and to ensure that ableism is not perpetuated in emergency and critical care response measures. Without these active steps, the issues that stem from the current Triage Protocol will continue to have devastating consequential effects on persons with disabilities.

It is imperative that the Government is accountable and transparent throughout the development and implementation of the Triage Protocol. The Triage Protocol must include oversight and accountability mechanisms that are effective and timely to ensure that systemic safeguards are in place and operational throughout any period of implementation.

The current Triage Protocol was drafted without any known and public consultation undertaken by the Ministry of Health or by Ontario Health with communities and/or organizations of persons with disabilities who will be disproportionately impacted by the Triage Protocol.

It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and it is equally certain that the current Triage Protocol disproportionately impacts persons from various disability communities. As such, any direction by the Ontario Ministry of Health to Ontario Health to consult with key groups must include consultations with persons with disabilities specifically identified in the Triage Protocol. Any consultation conducted without affected persons with disabilities is ineffective and is more than likely to result in another Triage Protocol that infringes upon the rights of persons with disabilities, rights that are protected provincially, federally and internationally.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has recognized the ways in which greater consultation with persons with disabilities may prevent similar discriminatory practices from occurring again in the future.[30] The Ministry of Health and Ontario Health are encouraged to heed this finding and embark on as broad as a consultation as possible by inviting persons with disabilities identified in the Triage Protocol to a seat at the consultation table.

Furthermore, under the CRPD, engagement with persons with disabilities is required in the development of law and policy, unless there is no disproportionate effect on them.[31] The preamble explains that “persons with disabilities should have the opportunity to be actively involved in decision-making processes about policies and programmes, including those directly concerning them”.[32]

In addition, article 4(3) elaborates that in the development of legislation and polices that affect persons with disabilities, State parties “shall closely consult with and actively involve” them through “representative organizations”.[33] This participation is also informed by the concept of intersectionality, to capture the lived experience of persons with disabilities who may experience particular impacts because of a combination of identities.

Recommendations

In light of the concerns raised above, ARCH makes the following recommendations to the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health and any affiliated authors of the Triage Protocol:

  • Remove any reliance on the Clinical Frailty Scale to make decisions about critical care allocation from the Triage Protocol as it is in violation of the Charter;
  • Remove any reference to specific disabilities as exclusion criteria from the Triage Protocol for the purposes of critical care allocation as it is in violation of the Charter;
  • In order to address the inherent inequities and ableism in the health care system, and the discriminatory effects of the Triage Protocol, it is imperative that the Triage Protocol include a clear statement of non-discrimination on the basis of disability;
  • In order to address the inherent inequities and ableism in the health care system, and the discriminatory effects of the Triage Protocol, it is imperative that the Triage Protocol include a clear statement of the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities in the delivery of critical healthcare services;
  • Develop oversight and accountability mechanisms through consultation with persons with disabilities. These may include any and all of the following or additional measures as appropriately adapted: systemic measures such as a timely and ongoing process to review and re-evaluate the implementation of the Triage Protocol to address any disproportionate impacts on persons with disabilities, the creation of an oversight committee that includes persons with disabilities, the collection of disability-specific and socio-demographic data and the public release of that data; and individual accountability measures such as a timely and effective process for immediate review of decisions with due process protections (such as reasons for decisions), the provision of advocacy support, and the provision of rights advice to individuals and their families of all available recourses; and
  • Any consultation undertaken by the Government, by Ontario Health, or any other Government ministry or agency for the purposes of drafting a critical care protocol in response to a health crisis must ensure that persons, or representative groups of persons, who will be disproportionately impacted by said protocol are consulted.

Sincerely,

ARCH DISABILITY LAW CENTRE

 

 

Robert Lattanzio

Executive Director

 

Cc:       Raymond Cho, Minister of Accessibility

Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

Renu Mandhane, Ontario Human Rights Commissioner

[1] Ontario Clinical Triage Protocol for Major Surge in COVID Pandemic, March 28, 2020 [Triage Protocol].

[2] No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” – UN experts say, Press Release, March 26, 2020. Available: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/NewsSearch.aspx?MID=SR_Disabilities

[3] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 30 March 2007, 2515 UNTS 3 at 70, Can TS 2010 No 8 (entered into force 3 May 2008, ratified by Canada 11 March 2010), at Article 25 [CRPD].

[4] RSO 1990, c H.19 [Code]

[5] The Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Charter].

[6] CRPD, supra note 3.

[7] Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care v Canada (Attorney General), 2014 FC 651 para 506; see also generally, Eldridge v British Columbia (Attorney General), 1997 CanLII 327 (SCC) [Eldridge].

[8] Triage Protocol, supra note 1 at 6.

[9] Score 4 on the Clinical Frailty Scale, for example, deems someone who feels tired during the day as being vulnerable; persons with disabilities such as lupus and muscular dystrophy fall within this CFS category since one of the manifestations of their disability is fatigue.

[10] See Withler v Canada, 2011 SCC 12 and Andrews v Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 SCR 143.

[11] Kahkewistahaw First Nation v Taypotat, 2015 SCC 30 at para 17.

[12] Katie Savin & Laura Guidry-Grimes, Confronting Disability Discrimination During the Pandemic, April 2, 2020 available: https://www.thehastingscenter.org/confronting-disability-discrimination-during-the-pandemic/.

[13] Eldridge, supra note 7.

[14] Eldridge, ibid at para 56.

[15] United Nations General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with

Disabilities, A/HRC/43/41, 17 December 2019, available: https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/43/41 [“Report of the Special Rapporteur”].

[16] Savin & Guidry-Grimes, supra note 12.

[17] Triage Protocol, supra note 1 at 3.

[18] Report of the Special Rapporteur, supra note 15, at 6.

[19] The Triage Protocol uses “cognitive impairments,” which is not human rights language. For the purposes of this document, however, and to ensure clarity, the term “cognitive disabilities” is used throughout.

[20] See, for example: British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) v British Columbia (Council of Human Rights), 1999 CanLII 646 (SCC) and British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v BCGSEU, 1999 CanLII 652 (SCC).

[21] Scoring a 7 on the CFS, see Triage Protocol, supra note 1, at 10.

[22] Scoring a 5, 6, or 7 on the CFS, see Triage Protocol, ibid.

[23] Scoring a 6 on the CFS, see Triage Protocol, ibid.

[24] CBC News, COVID-19 death toll at Ontario long-term care homes nears 1,000, hospitalizations on the rise, May 3, 2020 available: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-sunday-covid-19-police-memorial-death-total-1.5553859

[25] Rockwood K, Song X, MacKnight C, Bergman H, Hogan DB, McDowell I, Mitnitski A. A global clinical measure of fitness and frailty in elderly people. CMAJ. 2005 Aug 30;173(5):489-95; also see: https://www.dal.ca/sites/gmr/our-tools/clinical-frailty-scale.html

[26] National Health Service, Specialised Clinical Frailty Network, Frailty and Covid-19, available: https://www.scfn.org.uk/clinical-frailty-scale

[27] Hodge, Jones & Allen, News Release, NICE Amends COVID-19 Critical Care Guideline After Judicial Review Challenge, March 31, 2020 available: https://www.hja.net/press-releases/nice-amends-covid-19-critical-care-guideline-after-judicial-review-challenge/

[28] The Government’s attention is also directed to the states of Alabama, Tennessee and Washington in the United States for similar legal challenges to the identification of specific disabilities to be excluded or deprioritized from receiving critical care. Available: https://adap.ua.edu/uploads/5/7/8/9/57892141/al-ocr-complaint_3.24.20.pdf and http://thearc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/2020-03-27-TN-OCR-Complaint-re-Healthcare-Rationing-Guidelines.pdf

[29] See for example, Triage Protocol, supra note 1, a 6, Exclusion Criteria Chart section (J), Triage Levels 1, 2 and 3.

[30] Hughes v Elections Canada, 2010 CHRT 4 at para 79.

[31] United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, General comment No 7 (2018) on the participation of persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities, through their representative organizations, in the implementation and monitoring of the Convention, 9 November 2018, CRPD/C/GC/7, available: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRPD/C/GC/7&Lang=en at para 19 [General Comment No 7].

[32] CRPD, supra note 3, Preamble.

[33] CRPD, ibid, Art 4(3).



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Virtual Public Forum Reveals Serious Hardships Facing People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Crisis and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Government Action


But Will Governments Listen and Act?

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 7,2020 Toronto: A ground-breaking 2-hour virtual public forum held online this morning, and now permanently archived on Youtube, organized by Ontario grassroots disability advocates, revealed that people with disabilities are disproportionately exposed to the risks of COVID and the hardships this pandemic is causing. Ten experts, listed below, gave the government practical priority measures needed now to alleviate these hardships. Anchored by Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky (an Osgoode Hall Law School visiting professor), today’s virtual public forum shone a spotlight on critical needs facing 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities and over 6 million Canadians with disabilities, such as:

* If critical medical care must be rationed during shortages in this crisis, a patient’s disability should not be used as a criterion for refusing treatment, nor should a health care provider’s stereotypes or personal views about the quality of life of living with that disability;

* Government should provide personal protective equipment to attendant care workers who come to the homes of people with disabilities to help them get out of bed, dress and handle other basic tasks of daily living;

* Governments should ensure that long-term care homes like nursing homes can’t unilaterally decide not to send a resident with COVID to hospital, without getting a decision from the resident or their family members authorized to decide for them;

* An exemption should be made to the rules that bar people from entering a hospital (if not a patient) for family members, attendant care workers or others who provide needed supports to a patient with disabilities;

* COVID testing should be made available in the home for patients with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to COVID testing sites;

* When selecting and setting up new emergency sites for treating overflows of patients coming to hospital, the most physically accessible sites should be selected. Readily-achievable priority steps should be taken to make those temporary sites disability-accessible;

* Remote and distance supports, and if possible, on-site respite supports should be centrally created to assist the families of persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide some sort of respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home;

* Emergency increases to social assistance should be made to alleviate the hardships facing those living in poverty, including impoverished people with disabilities;

* Government should coordinate community mental health services, using such things as readily-achievable walk-in sites for homeless individuals needing crisis help, who don’t have the technology and data plans to do this remotely;

* Schools, colleges and universities that are rapidly moving to online learning must ensure that their virtual meeting platforms, websites and digital documents are formatted to be accessible to students and staff with disabilities using adaptive technology to read that content. Poorly-enforced Ontario accessibility regulations have required this for almost a decade, but the reality on the ground is sadly inconsistent;

* The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities must urgently create action plans and resources to help school boards, colleges, and universities provide accessible online education programs so that hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities are not again relegated to second-class status. Government should not leave it to each school board, college and university to have to try to figure this out on their own, in the middle of this crisis;

* Governments must immediately and actively consult with the grassroots of the disability community to learn what they are now facing and to help plan to address their urgent needs in this crisis.

We regret that the Ontario Government declined to send anyone to speak at this virtual public forum about what it is doing. The Government’s line ministries that are working on crisis planning have not answered the AODA Alliance’s offers to work with them.

The Media is free to use excerpts from the virtual public forum in their coverage.

For further information, please contact:
David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected] 416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism

30

3

Background

Link to the April 7, 2020 online virtual public forum on COVID and people with disabilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ23it9ULjc

Link to background resources offered in connection with the virtual public forum: www.ontarioautismcoalition.com/covid

Speakers at the April 7, 2020 Virtual Public Forum:
1. Co-anchor: Laura Kirby-McIntosh, President, Ontario Autism Coalition and teacher
2. Co-anchor: David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance chair and Osgoode Hall Law visiting professor 3. Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director ARCH Disability Law Centre 4. Jane Meadus, counsel, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly ACE
5. Wendy Porch, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
6. Barbara Collier, Executive Director ofCommunication DisabilitiesAccess Canada CDAC
7. James Janeiro, Director of Community Engagement and Policy at Community Living Toronto 8. Thea Kurdi, Vice President of DesignABLE Environments Inc. 9. Yona Grant, Executive Director of the Income Security Advocacy Centre ISAC 10. Lana Frado, Executive Director of Sound Times Support Services
11. Karen McCall, Adjunct Faculty at Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production Program and owner of Karlen Communications
12. Irwin Elman, special advisor for the Laidlaw Foundation and formerly Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth




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Virtual Public Forum Reveals Serious Hardships Facing People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Crisis and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Government Action – But Will Governments Listen and Act?


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 7, 2020

Virtual Public Forum Reveals Serious Hardships Facing People with Disabilities During COVID-19 Crisis and Makes Practical Recommendations for Urgent Government Action – But Will Governments Listen and Act?

April 7,2020 Toronto: A ground-breaking 2-hour virtual public forum held online this morning, and now permanently archived on Youtube, organized by Ontario grassroots disability advocates, revealed that people with disabilities are disproportionately exposed to the risks of COVID and the hardships this pandemic is causing. Ten experts, listed below, gave the government practical priority measures needed now to alleviate these hardships. Anchored by Ontario Autism Coalition president Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky (an Osgoode Hall Law School visiting professor), today’s virtual public forum shone a spotlight on critical needs facing 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities and over 6 million Canadians with disabilities, such as:

* If critical medical care must be rationed during shortages in this crisis, a patient’s disability should not be used as a criterion for refusing treatment, nor should a health care provider’s stereotypes or personal views about the quality of life of living with that disability;

* Government should provide personal protective equipment to attendant care workers who come to the homes of people with disabilities to help them get out of bed, dress and handle other basic tasks of daily living;

* Governments should ensure that long-term care homes like nursing homes can’t unilaterally decide not to send a resident with COVID to hospital, without getting a decision from the resident or their family members authorized to decide for them;

* An exemption should be made to the rules that bar people from entering a hospital (if not a patient) for family members, attendant care workers or others who provide needed supports to a patient with disabilities;

* COVID testing should be made available in the home for patients with disabilities who face barriers trying to travel to COVID testing sites;

* When selecting and setting up new emergency sites for treating overflows of patients coming to hospital, the most physically accessible sites should be selected. Readily-achievable priority steps should be taken to make those temporary sites disability-accessible;

* Remote and distance supports, and if possible, on-site respite supports should be centrally created to assist the families of persons with developmental or intellectual disabilities living with them, to provide some sort of respite for family members during mandatory periods of isolation at home;

* Emergency increases to social assistance should be made to alleviate the hardships facing those living in poverty, including impoverished people with disabilities;

* Government should coordinate community mental health services, using such things as readily-achievable walk-in sites for homeless individuals needing crisis help, who don’t have the technology and data plans to do this remotely;

* Schools, colleges and universities that are rapidly moving to online learning must ensure that their virtual meeting platforms, websites and digital documents are formatted to be accessible to students and staff with disabilities using adaptive technology to read that content. Poorly-enforced Ontario accessibility regulations have required this for almost a decade, but the reality on the ground is sadly inconsistent;

* The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities must urgently create action plans and resources to help school boards, colleges, and universities provide accessible online education programs so that hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities are not again relegated to second-class status. Government should not leave it to each school board, college and university to have to try to figure this out on their own, in the middle of this crisis;

* Governments must immediately and actively consult with the grassroots of the disability community to learn what they are now facing and to help plan to address their urgent needs in this crisis.

We regret that the Ontario Government declined to send anyone to speak at this virtual public forum about what it is doing. The Government’s line ministries that are working on crisis planning have not answered the AODA Alliance’s offers to work with them.

The Media is free to use excerpts from the virtual public forum in their coverage.

For further information, please contact:

David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected]

416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism

—30—

—3—

Background

Link to the April 7, 2020 online virtual public forum on COVID and people with disabilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ23it9ULjc

Link to background resources offered in connection with the virtual public forum: www.ontarioautismcoalition.com/covid

Speakers at the April 7, 2020 Virtual Public Forum:

  1. Co-anchor: Laura Kirby-McIntosh, President, Ontario Autism Coalition and teacher
  2. Co-anchor: David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance chair and Osgoode Hall Law visiting professor
  3. Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director ARCH Disability Law Centre
  4. Jane Meadus, counsel, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly ACE
  5. Wendy Porch, Executive Director, Centre for Independent Living in Toronto CILT
  6. Barbara Collier, Executive Director of Communication Disabilities Access Canada CDAC
  7. James Janeiro, Director of Community Engagement and Policy at Community Living Toronto
  8. Thea Kurdi, Vice President of DesignABLE Environments Inc.
  9. Yona Grant, Executive Director of the Income Security Advocacy Centre ISAC
  10. Lana Frado, Executive Director of Sound Times Support Services
  11. Karen McCall, Adjunct Faculty at Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production Program and owner of Karlen Communications
  12. Irwin Elman, special advisor for the Laidlaw Foundation and formerly Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth



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Governments Must Now Meet the Urgent Needs of Millions of People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis – A Captioned Online Virtual Public Forum Lets Experts Give the Top Priorities from the Frontlines Tomorrow 10 am. EDT


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Governments Must Now Meet the Urgent Needs of Millions of People with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Crisis – A Captioned Online Virtual Public Forum Lets Experts Give the Top Priorities from the Frontlines Tomorrow 10 am. EDT

April 6, 2020

The harms and hardships of COVID-19 are falling disproportionately on people with disabilities. What must Government do to make sure patients with disabilities can access critical health care services during the COVID-19 crisis, and to make sure that no one is denied medical services due to their disability? What should be done to ensure that hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities are able to continue their studies as schools, colleges and universities move to potentially inaccessible online learning? What must be done to enable people with disabilities to self-isolate at home like all are being urged to do? What should Governments do to protect the homeless who have no home for self-isolating?

These are just some of the urgent questions that will be tackled tomorrow from starting at 10 am EDT during a Virtual Public Forum on the urgent needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Log in to https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition

Organized by the grassroots AODA Alliance together with the Ontario Autism Coalition, this public forum brings together a diverse spectrum of experts to explain what extra hardships are imposed on people with disabilities and what Governments must do now to address this. Co-anchors for this event are AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, a visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, and Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC. Both have long track records in tenacious grassroots disability advocacy. They know how to get governments to take action.

Their discussion will be fueled by feedback accumulating over the past days via email and social media. The new hashtag #DisabilityUrgent Has been created, starting with this event and going forward. Feedback can also be sent to [email protected]

The media is invited to broadcast any clips from this public forum that it wishes. We commend QP Briefing for running an article on this issue on March 31, 2020, set out below. We also commend City News for airing a story on this topic on Friday, April 3, 2020.

On March 20, 2020, the AODA Alliance released an AODA Alliance Update on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities. It identified a number of important areas where governments need to act now, as part of its emergency planning, to address these issues. On March 25, 2020, the AODA Alliance wrote Premier Ford directly with this message. No line ministry such as the Health or Education Ministries have responded. There have only been a few chats with the Accessibility Ministry, which does not run the key Government operations that need to act now. In the absence of a sufficient response, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition teamed up to organize this urgent virtual public forum.

QP Briefing March 31, 2020

Fixing disability barriers critical during COVID-19 crisis, advocates say

Jack Hauen

Advocates say the COVID-19 crisis is laying bare some of the barriers people with disabilities have faced for decades, which are now crucial to solve as the pandemic disappears everyday disability supports — with a lack of communication compounding the issue.

The government has postponed all meetings of the Standards Development Committees, which recommends actions the provincial government can take to remove barriers, said Ontario disability advocate David Lepofsky, a member of the committee focused on K-12 education and the chair of the AODA Alliance.

Lepofsky said the postponement is understandable in the short-term while the government deals with an unprecedented crisis, but the government should be actively working on setting up virtual meetings, or at least reaching out to members informally. But he said he hasn’t received an email or phone call from any ministry.

He said he has many issues he wants to address, including making sure e-learning plans are disability-friendly and that any hotels that could potentially take patients are accessible.

Those committees are “critical,” said Sherry Caldwell, co-founder of the Ontario Disability Coalition. “Right now this community needs support.”

The offices of Premier Doug Ford and Seniors and Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho did not respond to requests for comment.

The crisis has resulted in “significantly reduced supports” for people with disabilities due to shortages in personal support workers and the closure of schools and universities, Caldwell said. The loss of many jobs aggravates those issues.

“I think until things affect the general population, people aren’t quite aware what it would be like to [for instance] have to stay home, and that’s what’s happened to many people with disabilities. They just can’t access employment,” she said. Special education equipment needed for many kids’ learning — like computers and adapted bikes — is sitting at now-empty schools, Caldwell said. She suggested the Ford government find a way to get that equipment to families. In updates to the province’s distance learning program announced on Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said laptops and other devices could be distributed “as needed” — though details are still to come. Lecce’s office said school boards will be handling the program.

“That’s really good,” Caldwell said in a follow-up interview after the press conference. She had just gotten off the phone with the school attended by her daughter, Ashley, who is non-verbal and uses a wheelchair and a feeding tube for liquids.

The switch to home life has come with challenges, Caldwell said, as Ashley is missing the social interactions that come with her usual community classroom, nurses and educational assistants.

“You can’t replicate the rich environment of the school here at home,” she said.

But teachers have been very compassionate — Caldwell said Ashley’s teacher told her, “‘Sherry, if it’s in my classroom I’m going to make sure you get it,’” referring to equipment her daughter normally uses. And Ashley is healthy, which is the main thing, Caldwell said.

Other “rudimentary” disability-friendly changes, like automatic faucets and paper towel dispensers in public washrooms, are needed now more than ever, Lepofsky said.

“Those are measures that would be helping avoid the spread of this virus,” he said. “I bet when you reached for a bathroom faucet you wished it was an automated one that you didn’t have to touch.”

“The measures that we need help everybody,” Lepofsky said, adding that the failure of successive governments to ensure accessible environments “is coming home to roost in a very serious way.” Action is needed soon since people with disabilities will “disproportionately bear the hardships of this crisis,” Lepofsky said.

Those most vulnerable to the disease are seniors and those with compromised immune systems — groups of people who disproportionately have disabilities. That includes people experiencing homelessness, he added. “We need concrete, specific strategies for them.”

He stressed that he doesn’t want to accuse the government of not doing anything, but “if they are doing things, we don’t know about it.”

The AODA Alliance isn’t the only disability advocacy group in Ontario, but it is a major one, and it’s concerning that it hasn’t heard anything from the government, Lepofsky said

“The fact that none of those ministries — ministers, deputy ministers, major policy people — have even picked up the phone or flipped an email saying, ‘Hey, is there stuff we should be doing, or are there people we should be talking to?’ or whatever — to me, is just one illustration of the deficiency that we’re facing,” he said.



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Log In Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 10 to 11:30 AM Eastern Time for an Important Virtual Public Forum on What Government Must Do During the COVID-19 Crisis to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities Convened by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition


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

SUMMARY

On Tuesday morning, April 7, 2020, from 10 to 11:30 am, please use your computer, smart phone or tablet to virtually attend the virtual public forum that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are jointly organizing and hosting. We will talk to leading experts on the additional barriers and hardships that over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities are now facing during the COVID-19 crisis. We will offer the Government constructive ideas on what should be done in the face of these additional hardships. Hosting and moderating the discussion will be OAC President Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

The link to watch our public forum is https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition

We appreciate very much that the Ontario Autism Coalition will provide captioning for this event. We will announce more when we can. This event is being organized by volunteers in an incredible rush, given the rapidly changing events that are swirling around us all.

Please spread the word about our April 7, 2020 virtual public forum, by social media, email and any other way you can. Email us with ideas on what we should discuss. Tell us in advance about the barriers you are facing. Please understand that we cannot answer all those emails. However, we will do our best to cover as many of them as we can in our discussion with the panelists during this virtual public forum. Send your ideas to [email protected]

We invite the Ontario Government to assign a senior representative to take part in our public forum and to speak for a few minutes. We would welcome a chance to hear what they are doing, and to have a discussion with them. We invite all levels of government to watch our public forum and to draw on the ideas that will be shared there for emergency COVID-19 planning.

The new Twitter hashtag to use in the lead-up to this virtual public forum, during it, and afterwards is: #DisabilityUrgent

MORE DETAILS

Two weeks ago, on March 20, 2020, we released an especially-important AODA Alliance Update on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities. We showed how this crisis is having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. We identified a number of important areas where governments need to act now, as part of its emergency planning, to address these issues. We called on governments to consult openly with people with disabilities for ideas on what to do. We offered our help.

Five days later, on March 25, 2020 we wrote Premier Ford directly with this message. We offered more specific ideas for action.

Since then, we have not heard back from the Ontario Premier, the Premier’s office, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, or indeed, from any of the line Ontario ministries that are working on key parts of the Ontario Government’s crisis planning. We have similarly not heard back from the Federal Government.

We have had a few exchanges with the Ministry of Accessibility, where we have pressed the need for the actions we seek. We appreciate any help that that ministry can give. However, that small ministry is not responsible for direct planning and implementation in the key areas where action is needed. We have no idea to what extent, if any, they are influencing the Government’s actual plans on the front lines.

We deeply appreciate that governments at all levels are scrambling to deal with this crisis, and are working around the clock. They are dealing with some things with which they’ve never before dealt. We most certainly cut them a huge amount of slack. However, we also know that unless their emergency planning includes effective measures for the urgent needs of people with disabilities, those needs will once again too often be left behind. We also know that the maxim that government often endorse in this area is no more important than now: “Nothing about us without us!” Voices of the grassroots disability community are indispensable at this crucial time.

It is great that the Government now has American Sign Language at its recent news briefings, and that yesterday it announced emergency funding for mental health services. The Government has not told us what more it is doing or planning in this context.




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Log In Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 10 to 11:30 AM Eastern Time for an Important Virtual Public Forum on What Government Must Do During the COVID-19 Crisis to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities Convened by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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

Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

Log In Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from 10 to 11:30 AM Eastern Time for an Important  Virtual Public Forum on What Government Must Do During the COVID-19 Crisis to Protect the Urgent Needs of Ontarians with Disabilities Convened by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition

          SUMMARY

On Tuesday morning, April 7, 2020, from 10 to 11:30 am, please use your computer, smart phone or tablet to virtually attend the virtual public forum that the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition are jointly organizing and hosting. We will talk to leading experts on the additional barriers and hardships that over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities are now facing during the COVID-19 crisis. We will offer the Government constructive ideas on what should be done in the face of these additional hardships. Hosting and moderating the discussion will be OAC President Laura Kirby-McIntosh and AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky.

The link to watch our public forum is https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition

We appreciate very much that the Ontario Autism Coalition will provide captioning for this event. We will announce more when we can. This event is being organized by volunteers in an incredible rush, given the rapidly changing events that are swirling around us all.

Please spread the word about our April 7, 2020 virtual public forum, by social media, email and any other way you can. Email us with ideas on what we should discuss. Tell us in advance about the barriers you are facing. Please understand that we cannot answer all those emails. However, we will do our best to cover as many of them as we can in our discussion with the panelists during this virtual public forum. Send your ideas to [email protected]

We invite the Ontario Government to assign a senior representative to take part in our public forum and to speak for a few minutes. We would welcome a chance to hear what they are doing, and to have a discussion with them. We invite all levels of government to watch our public forum and to draw on the ideas that will be shared there for emergency COVID-19 planning.

The new Twitter hashtag to use in the lead-up to this virtual public forum, during it, and afterwards is: #DisabilityUrgent

          MORE DETAILS

Two weeks ago, on March 20, 2020, we released an especially-important AODA Alliance Update on the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on people with disabilities. We showed how this crisis is having a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities. We identified a number of important areas where governments need to act now, as part of its emergency planning, to address these issues. We called on governments to consult openly with people with disabilities for ideas on what to do. We offered our help.

Five days later, on March 25, 2020 we wrote Premier Ford directly with this message. We offered more specific ideas for action.

Since then, we have not heard back from the Ontario Premier, the Premier’s office, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, or indeed, from any of the line Ontario ministries that are working on key parts of the Ontario Government’s crisis planning. We have similarly not heard back from the Federal Government.

We have had a few exchanges with the Ministry of Accessibility, where we have pressed the need for the actions we seek. We appreciate any help that that ministry can give. However, that small ministry is not responsible for direct planning and implementation in the key areas where action is needed. We have no idea to what extent, if any, they are influencing the Government’s actual plans on the front lines.

We deeply appreciate that governments at all levels are scrambling to deal with this crisis, and are working around the clock. They are dealing with some things with which they’ve never before dealt. We most certainly cut them a huge amount of slack. However, we also know that unless their emergency planning includes effective measures for the urgent needs of people with disabilities, those needs will once again too often be left behind. We also know that the maxim that government often endorse in this area is no more important than now: “Nothing about us without us!” Voices of the grassroots disability community are indispensable at this crucial time.

It is great that the Government now has American Sign Language at its recent news briefings, and that yesterday it announced emergency funding for mental health services. The Government has not told us what more it is doing or planning in this context.



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Stratford Residents to Benefit From New Public Transit Infrastructure and Accessible Buses


STRATFORD, ON: Strategic investments in public transit infrastructure support efficient, affordable, and sustainable transportation services that help Stratford residents get to work, school and essential services on time and safely back home at the end of the day.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; Randy Pettapiece, MPP, PerthâWellington on behalf of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure; and his Worship Dan Mathieson, Mayor of the City of Stratford, today announced funding for ten public transit infrastructure projects in the City.

All of the projects will improve Stratford’s public transit fleet and supporting infrastructure. Five new conventional buses and two mobility buses will replace the aging fleet, improving the accessibility, reliability, and safety of the system for users. An additional bus will be purchased to meet the City’s growing demand for public transit. The bus routes will also see improvements with the installation of 8 new accessible shelters.

Stratford’s transit fleet will be equipped with an automated voice and signage system on buses that will notify passengers when each stop is approaching. Transit users will also be able to track their bus locations using a real time arrival smartphone application.

To encourage an increase in ridership on Sundays and improve access to public transit, the City of Stratford will pilot the design of new bus routes using an application-based, on-demand software. On Sundays, transit users will be able to request pick-up and drop-off locations at selected stops by using a smart phone app or by accessing the internet from their phone or a computer.

Together, these investments will provide residents with a more accessible and reliable bus service.

The Government of Canada is investing over $1.6 million in these projects through the Public Transit Infrastructure Stream (PTIS) of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan. The Government of Ontario is providing approximately $1.4 million to the projects, while the City of Stratford is contributing more than $1 million.

Quotes

Investing in modern and accessible public transit systems is essential to building healthy, communities. Many Stratford residents rely on public transit to access local services and get around the region each day and these investments will improve the accessibility and reliability of bus services. We are working with our partners to build better public transit that contributes to cleaner, healthier and more liveable communities for our children and grandchildren.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Stratford is getting eight new buses, new bus shelters and is piloting a new online, on-demand transit service for riders. Ontario’s investment of approximately $1.4 million, along with our Stratford and Federal government partners will help transit riders get around town a lot faster. This new transit will help people get to where they want to go – to work, to school, shopping, the doctors or other appointments, traveling around Stratford or home to their families.

Randy Pettapiece, MPP, PerthâWellington on behalf of the Honourable Laurie Scott, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure

This is a meaningful investment in our community that will not only help to modernize our transit fleet, but also improve the overall transit service for all riders in Stratford. New buses, additional shelters and an innovative on-demand pilot project will make it more accessible, more comfortable and more convenient to use public transportation in our city.

His Worship Dan Mathieson, Mayor of the City of Stratford

Quick facts

Through the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, the Government of Canada is investing more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes, and Canada’s rural and northern communities.
$28.7 billion of this funding is supporting public transit projects, including $5 billion available for investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
More than $10.1 billion of this funding is supporting trade and transportation projects, including $5 billion available for investment through the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
The Government of Ontario is providing approximately $1.4 million to ten public transit projects in Stratford.
To date, the Province has nominated more than 350 projects and continues to work closely with the federal government to secure approvals under this program. Ontario has committed to investing $144 billion in infrastructure across the province over the ten years. Use the Ontario Builds map to find projects in your community.

(PRN)

Original at https://www.newkerala.com/news/2020/42728.htm




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