Lack of Progress on Human Rights Order Frustrates Accessibility Activist


Gus Reed says government taking too long to update and enforce accessibility rules Michael Gorman · CBC News
Posted: Aug 09, 2019

Gus Reed says the government isn’t doing enough to follow its own accessibility rules.

Gus Reed got tired of waiting.

Reed was part of a group successful in a human rights challenge against the Nova Scotia government, arguing he and other wheelchair users could not wash their hands in many restaurants where accessible washrooms are not available. A board of inquiry found the government was not enforcing its own accessibility regulations.

That was in September 2018. Almost a year later, Reed said things haven’t played out the way he’d hoped and aren’t going nearly fast enough.

“Essentially, I thought that it was sort of over, that we won and now it’s time for [the government] to do their thing,” he said.

In January, Reed and the others received a proposal to go through a restorative justice approach to the matter. He was sceptical of the idea, unsure if it was appropriate, but went along because others wanted to give it a chance.

‘It requires action’

In June he left the process after several meetings, deciding he’d heard enough.

“I got a sense from that that everybody was deeply concerned and perfectly nice, but they weren’t the people who were going to be able to do stuff. It requires a minister or deputy minister or policy leader to say, ‘Just go off and do this,’” he said.

“It doesn’t require, for me anyway, somebody to be concerned and apologetic and understanding. It requires action.”

A Justice Department spokesperson said a working group would be established this fall to develop a standard for accessible washrooms. Regulations would follow.

There are about 6,000 eating establishments in the province, although officials don’t know how many of those have accessible washrooms. In late 2017, the government launched a grant program businesses could access to make their locations accessible.

Waiting for regulations

Initially, 16 projects were funded to a total of $900,000. In 2018-19, more than $1 million was granted to 41 businesses and there again is $1 million available for 2019-20. But Reed still sees plenty of establishments where he can’t wash his hands and is frustrated the government isn’t compelled to ensure businesses follow accessibility rules.

“I don’t think I’m so much of a literalist that I would believe that the government always does the right thing, but I think in this case they should be doing the right thing,” he said. “It’s a health issue, not a money issue.”

A spokesperson for the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia said that although some businesses have accessed the government program to make changes to existing sites, many more are waiting for the regulations to be finalized to ensure they know all the steps that will be required.

While Reed has left the restorative justice process, other participants remain.

Paul Vienneau says he wishes the restorative justice process was faster, but he’s sticking with it in hopes of being able to influence how the government approaches accessibility regulations.

Paul Vienneau, who said there is an agreement as part of the process that participants won’t discuss it until it’s complete, said he decided it is important to see it through.

“What we’re doing is restoring the relationship between the injured group, which is us, and the government and the departments involved,” he said.

Vienneau said the process wasn’t designed to happen quickly, and so he’ll see it through in hopes of having input in how regulations will be enforced, establishing a relationship with the restaurant industry and perhaps even changing the way the government deals with groups looking to have their rights acknowledged.

“At this point I don’t know if this is going to work yet, but what I do know is this won’t have a chance to work if I don’t just submit to the process,” he said.

‘Keep up the pressure’

Vienneau’s view is that while part of this process is indeed about the group getting what the human rights commission said they are entitled to, “which is actually a [United Nations] health human right,” it’s also about changing the way things like this work in the future.

“Systems are the ones that are rigged against people, but there are people working inside there and those are the people we can influence,” he said.

Reed worries the government is simply trying to wait them out, but he doesn’t plan to go away.

“I’m persistent. Others are at least as persistent. So I’m confident that we can keep up the pressure. I don’t quite know when to expect anything, but, you know, the more nothing happens, the more shame on them,” he said.

About the Author

Michael Gorman
Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at [email protected]

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/human-rights-accessibility-government-1.5240482



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How Ontario’s 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 Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to 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

July 5, 2019

SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



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How Ontario’s 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 Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to 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

How Ontario’s 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 Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School

July 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



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NWT Human Rights Commission backs call for accessibility legislation


Says accessibility is about a persons dignity and is good for business Emily Blake · CBC News · Posted: May 03, 2019

The N.W.T. Human Rights Commission says accessibility legislation would help people understand how to make communities barrier-free and help businesses and organizations avoid human rights complaints. (Guy Quenneville/CBC )

The NWT Human Rights Commission is supporting the development of accessibility legislation in the territory after a woman has called for the move to make the North barrier-free.

In an opinion piece published by CBC on April 23, 2019, Therese Estacion, who was born able-bodied but became a below-the-knee amputee in 2016 and a partial hands amputee in 2018, highlights the daily obstacles people with disabilities can face in Yellowknife and argues for the need for legislation.

“I’ve gotten a lot of really positive reaction,” Estacion said of the piece, noting that local advocates and organizations like the Yellowknife chapter of the MS Society of Canada have long raised issues about accessibility in the North.

In a media release issued on May 1, 2019, the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission said it also supports the development of accessibility legislation. The press release states “accessibility is good for business” and that “at its core, accessibility is about a person’s dignity.”

“Accessibility is more than a legal standard. It involves fostering a sense of inclusion so people with disabilities can flourish,” it adds.

Estacion said the press release is “the beginning of something” and that awareness and education is key to promoting change. She added that it takes all levels of government, organizations, businesses and community members to push for that change.

“It takes the whole community really coming together to kind of bring this about.”

Currently in Canada, only Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have accessibility legislation in place. Estacion says that if the N.W.T. were to develop legislation, it could be a be a model for other jurisdictions.

“I think what it would mean is that the N.W.T. is actually listening to the people that reside in the Northwest Territories and they’re listening in particular to people that have often been marginalized or perhaps have been forgotten.”

Charles Dent, chair of the N.W.T. Human Rights Commission, has previously told CBC News he hears a lot of concerns about physical barriers people with disabilities face in communities across the territory.

“Across the North, it’s something that we need to try and do better at,” he said.

According to the human rights commissions’ last annual report, 72 per cent of the 39 human rights complaints filed in the 2017-2018 fiscal year alleged discrimination based on disability.

One issue the commission highlighted is that the national building code, which governs buildings in the Northwest Territories, doesn’t require people to build an accessible standard.

“So when somebody uses the building code and builds a building, right off the bat they’re not really providing something that is totally accessible to people who have mobility issues,” Dent said.

The territorial government has recognized there is room to grow when it comes to addressing accessibility in the North. In November 2018, it released its disabilities action plan which includes a number of goals the territory plans to carry out by 2022 to support people with disabilities and their caregivers.

The Department of Infrastructure is currently updating the Good Building Practices for Northern Facilities which has guidelines on accessible design. And last year, the department developed an accessibility toolkit to help with accessible design in government offices. It said this will affect renovations to the third floor of the Stuart M. Hodgson building and construction of a new air terminal building in Inuvik.

For people that want to improve accessibility, the human rights commission also has an accessibility checklist for organizing public events on its website.

And federal funding is available for non-profits, businesses and governments, up to $100,000 per project, through the Enabling Accessibility for renovations, retrofits or other projects that address accessibility barriers.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nwt-human-rights-commission-accessibility-legislation-1.5120961



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities


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

April 24, 2019

SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.
There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]
To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail
You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81 April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package
Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities


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

AODA Alliance’s Short Supplementary Brief to the Senate Focuses on the High Priority of Surgically Removing from Bill C-81 A Troubling Provision that Lets the Canadian Transportation Agency Pass Regulations that Cut Back on the Human Rights of Passengers with Disabilities

April 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

On April 23, 2019, the AODA Alliance sent the Senate of Canada a short 2-page supplementary brief. It emphasizes as a priority the pressing need for the Senate to remove a harmful and outdated provision that is perpetuated in Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. That provision, section 172, lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations on accessibility in transportation that can cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. There is no reason for Parliament to leave that harmful provision in place. It flies in the face of the federal Disabilities Minister’s statement to the Senate that she doesn’t want anything in the bill to reduce the human rights of people with disabilities. We set this supplementary brief out below.

There is still a week left for you to help our campaign before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Social Affairs decides what amendments to make to Bill C-81. Before May 2, 2019, please send the Senate Standing Committee a short email to express your support for the amendments to Bill C-81 that the AODA Alliance has requested. Email the Senate at: [email protected]

To watch the captioned video of AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s opening statement at the Senate Standing Committee on April 11, 2019 (10 minutes), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FERCAljHbrw&feature=em-uploademail

To watch a captioned video of the portion of the Senate Standing Committee’s question-and-answer after that opening statement, where the AODA Alliance answers questions directed to us (26 minutes), visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr0fCtB_cyw&feature=em-uploademail

You can read the specific amendments we asked the Senate to make to Bill C-81, and the short brief we submitted in support of those amendments. You can also visit the AODA Alliance website, Canada page to see in one place all our efforts over the past four years to campaign for the enactment of a strong and effective national accessibility law.

 

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Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

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

Supplemental Brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs Regarding Bill C-81

April 23, 2019

This supplements our March 29, 2019 brief, our April 8, 2019 short list of amendments, and our April 11, 2019 oral presentation to the Standing Committee. We elaborate on one of the 11 amendments we requested. Our proposed Amendment #7 (set out below) asks this Committee to remove s. 172 from the bill. That would remove the identically-numbered 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Section 172 lets the CTA cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. The CTA should have no power to dilute our human rights. This is a top priority for us that would benefit all passengers with any kind of disability.

What’s the problem? On April 3, 2019, Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee:

“I have to emphasize that as a former human rights law practitioner, it is very important to me, and it has been, to preserve the duty to accommodate.”

Contradicting this, s. 172 lets the Canadian Transportation Agency pass regulations that cut back on the human rights of passengers with disabilities. Section 172 provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

For example, if the CTA passes a regulation to set accessibility requirements in air travel, that regulation is the final word on what airlines must do to accommodate passengers with disabilities, in the specific areas it regulates. The regulation sets the maximum of the airline’s human rights obligations. Passengers with disabilities cannot bring an accessibility complaint to the CTA to demand anything more of the airline in that area, even if the passenger can show that they needed more to accommodate them, and even if it poses no undue hardship to the airline.

Assume the CTA regulation said the airline can take up to 5 hours to guide a blind passenger from the check-in desk to their airplane. That means the airline could tell passengers with disabilities that they must show up to the airport 5 hours before their flight. A passenger is not permitted to show the airline could easily accommodate this need in 2 hours and doesn’t need 5 hours. All the passenger can thereafter complain about is a delay that is longer than 5 hours.

This is not a far-fetched hypothetical risk. Last month, the CTA posted proposed transportation accessibility regulations that threaten to reduce the existing human rights of passengers with disabilities. After our Senate presentation we filed a brief with CTA objecting to this.

The proposed CTA regulations would impose a new duty on passengers with disabilities to give an airline 48 hours advance notice of a request for certain listed accommodations that they now can get without any advance notice. An airline can unilaterally expand this to a 96 hour advance notice requirement in some situations. An airline does not have to let passengers know they will demand 96 hours’ notice.

If a passenger does not give this new required advance notice, the airline only has to make “reasonable efforts” to provide the listed accommodations. This reduces the airline’s existing human rights duty to provide such needed accommodations except where the airline can show that it is impossible to do more to accommodate without undue hardship to the airline. “Undue hardship” is a much tougher test for the airline to meet than mere “reasonable efforts”.

This new legislated barrier applies to important accommodations, such as assisting passengers with disabilities to go through airport security, to get to the departure lounge and onto the airplane, telling a blind passenger on the plane where the bathroom is, letting passengers with disabilities use a larger business class bathroom on the plane if it is larger than the economy class bathroom, or telling a passenger what food options are offered on the plane.

48 hours’ advance notice is not justified for these accommodations. For them, an airline uses existing staff. If any advance notice were justified, which we dispute, two days is not.

This discriminatory new barrier especially hurts last-minute travelers, for business, for an emergency or funeral. Passengers without disabilities are not similarly burdened.

Minister Qualtrough told the Standing Committee that the CTA aims for transportation in Canada to be the most accessible in the world. These draft regulations, which the minister trumpeted, fall far short. Especially because of s. 172, we oppose the enactment of these regulations, even if they elsewhere have some helpful measures for passengers with disabilities.

The outdated s. 172 only serves the interests of transportation providers who want the CTA to dilute their human rights duties. Neither the Minister nor the CTA presented any need for s. 172. The CRTC has no corresponding provision when it enacts regulations.

We therefore ask this Committee to amend Bill C-81 to remove s. 172 of the bill, which in turn would surgically excise the identically numbered s. 172 from the Canada Transportation Act.

Amendment 7 of the AODA Alliance Amendments Package

Subsection 172(2) of the bill should be removed from the bill. As well, the bill should repeal its counterpart, s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act, which provides:

“in relation to a matter have been complied with or have not been contravened, the Agency shall determine that there is no undue obstacle to the mobility of persons with disabilities.”

Note: s. 172(2) of the bill uses the word “barrier “instead of the word “obstacle”, but is otherwise the same as s. 172(2) of the Canada Transportation Act.



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Sarnia Facing Human Rights Complaint


Tyler Kula
Updated: October 10, 2018

The City of Sarnia is embroiled in a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario case after a resident filed a complaint over an alleged lack of accessibility at city hall.

“I wrote a letter to the mayor and council last February complaining about the washroom on the main floor of city hall. It wasn’t accessible,” said Sandi Compagnion, who uses a wheelchair.

She was questioning one of the local candidates for mayor at a municipal election debate Tuesday.

“I couldn’t get in and I couldn’t open the door,” she said. “I had to have someone come and open the door for me, hold the door so I could get in. Then they had to wait outside while I went to the bathroom to let me out.

“That was pretty demeaning and humiliating.”

Compagnion said she was told by city CAO Marg Misek-Evans and Brian White, council representative on the accessibility committee, they’d look into whether funding was available for accessibility upgrades,

“Well, eight months later, after I filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, guess what? They’re having power doors in that washroom as of Oct. 11,” Compagnion said.

A report this month from accessibility co-ordinator Dale Mosley said $20,000 to upgrade the washroom door and several entrances to the building was made available after plans for accessibility improvements at the Sarnia Library were postponed, amid no bids from contractors.

Compagnion declined to specify when she filed her complaint, as the case is still before the tribunal, but Jim Crawford, Sarnia’s manager of human resources, said the complaint was registered in May.

The door upgrades should be done this week or next, he said, and a summary hearing at the tribunal is scheduled for February.

“I’d love to resolve it beforehand, but that unfortunately is not in our purview,” he said. “It has to do with whatever the complainant wants to do.”

Compagnion’s accessibility complaint extends to other aspects of city hall, he said, but wouldn’t specify because of the ongoing case.

But the human rights complaint didn’t influence the city’s decision to add power doors at city hall, he said.

“There was no direct relation.”

Money had already been slotted for improvements at the library and the accessibility committee’s original decision was to stick with that approach, he said.

The lack of bids for the library work changed things, he said, adding city hall is “fully compliant with the Ontario Building Code and any other legislation dealing with accessibility issues,” including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

White said he presented Compagnion’s concerns to the committee immediately and invited her to speak to the committee twice. She declined, he said.

Original at https://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/sarnia-facing-human-rights-complaint/wcm/2fd29f7b-be76-45fa-873a-9d0f2ae65996



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Laws Changing too Slowly: Disability Rights Advocate


David Lepofsky calls out ‘lack of leadership’ from provincial government By Shauna Matthews
October 9, 2018

Disability rights advocate David Lepofsky spoke at a talk hosted by Barrier-Free Manitoba at the Millennium Library Oct. 4 where he criticized the provincial government for lagging behind when bringing accessibility standards into law.

Lepofsky, who also spoke to law students at Robson Hall earlier in the day, is a lawyer who has worked to ensure the inclusion of equal rights for persons with disabilities through the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

He campaigned for the passing of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2005 and is currently advocating for the Accessible Canada Act, or Bill C-81, which is making its way through parliament.

In his talk, Lepofsky covered the lack of enforcement of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA) as well as provided his recommendations for the country-wide Bill C-81.

The AMA was passed in 2013, but the province has yet to make significant progress with the law. Of the five accessibility standards, only one has been passed into law, and two are currently under development.

The customer service accessibility standard, which has been passed into law, requires all Manitoba businesses and non-profit organizations to meet the customer service standard by Nov. 1, 2018.

The requirements state businesses must provide certain standards to customers, including training staff on accessible customer service and allowing assistive devices.

The two accessibility standards under development address barriers involved in employee recruitment and hiring, and barriers surrounding the giving and receiving of information.

Lepofsky said the Manitoban law, along with the work done by other provinces, served as a model for the federal Bill C-81.

“Like we’ve said to the federal government, you know, what we’re recommending be in this bill comes from learning what the provinces have done well and what they haven’t done well,” he said.

Lepofsky called out Manitoba specifically for its lacklustre response to accessibility legislation.

“A lot of what we’re recommending to the feds is because of weaknesses we’ve seen in Ontario and in Manitoba,” he said.

“So the Manitoba legislation lets them make standards, but doesn’t set timelines, so we’re running into the same problems.

“Certainly, enforcement is independent of the government, and that’s a problem.”

Lepofsky added that the slow implementation and lack of enforcement of the AMA are major problems of the act.

He also questioned if premier Brian Pallister had set the implementation of the AMA as a priority for the province.

“We think it’s systemically been a lack of leadership from the top in other words, in a big government, the premier gives priorities to their ministers,” he said.

“They issue mandate letters. And if they say, do more of ‘X’, they’ll do more of ‘X.’ And if they know that that will make a difference, that their premiers set a priority for them, that will help. One of the questions in Manitoba is ‘Has the premier set this as a priority for the minister responsible for this?’ And that’s one of the problems.”

Bill C-81 just passed its second reading Sept. 26, but Lepofsky said he believes the law is still weak in its current state.

Some of the weaknesses Leopofsky identified are the lack of deadlines, enforcement remaining independent of the government and too many loopholes, issues also present in the Manitoban law.

Lepofsky, along with the AODA Alliance, published a brief with recommendations for amendments to Bill C-81 last month.

The listed recommendations include putting forth measures to ensure federal elections are accessible to voters with disabilities and for the federal government to address “special responsibilities” with regard to Indigenous people with disabilities.

Social media has been an important tool for Lepofsky in raising awareness and campaigning for disability rights.

“It’s also been really effective for people to spread the word and it’s also been really effective to reach the media,” Lepofsky said.

“What we’ve found is increasingly that stories about barriers percolate up from social media to conventional media.”

The AODA Alliance began using the #aodafail hashtag to bring public attention to the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in Ontario. Lepofsky suggested starting an #amafail thread in Manitoba to bring attention to the barriers many Manitobans with disabilities still face.

“Somebody will be using the Toronto Transit Commission in Toronto, and they’ll find the subway station they use has an elevator that’s out of service, and it’s going to be four months until the darn elevator is fixed,” he said.

“So they start broadcasting it as an AODA fail tweet on Twitter, and then we retweet it, and the next thing you know a reporter follows us or checks the stuff out [and] covers the story.

Original at http://www.themanitoban.com/2018/10/laws-changing-too-slowly-disability-rights-advocate/35364/



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Disability Rights Advocate Wants Cancelled Thunder Bay Accessibility Hearing Rescheduled


Hearing was cancelled due to low registration, event is part of regular review of Ontario’s accessibility act Cathy Alex · CBC News · Posted: Sep 20, 2018

Disability rights advocate David Lepofsky wants the public hearings in Thunder Bay, about Ontario’s accessibility act, to be rescheduled after they were cancelled due to low registration. He says the event was poorly publicized.

A disability rights advocate is expressing concern about the cancellation of a public hearing in Thunder Bay, saying people have lost an important chance to share their experiences during a provincial review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, led by the Honourable David C. Onley.

The act mandates that by 2025 the province be fully accessible, said David Lepofsky, the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

The act pertains to people with physical disabilities such as being blind, deaf or needing to use a wheelchair. It also covers people with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as autism.

Approximately every four years the Ontario government must review how it’s doing in terms of achieving that accessibility goal.

‘Important to see how things are going’

“It’s important to see how things are going,” said Lepofsky, noting the review usually includes inviting people with disabilities, in communities all over the province, to share their experiences.

“Are kids with disabilities able to fully participate in their schools? Are people with disabilities able to shop in stores and eat in restaurants? Are people with disabilities able to use our public parks without facing barriers?”

A public consultation was scheduled for September 13 in Thunder Bay, but a posting on the act review website says it was cancelled due to low registration.

“There’s been precious little done to publicize it,” Lepofsky said, who is visually impaired. He added that he believes people didn’t register for the event because they didn’t know about the hearing.

‘Reschedule Thunder Bay hearings’

He said as far as he’s been able to determine the only advertising for the public consultation was on the review website.

“So unless you know about the website, most don’t, and unless you check that website daily, most don’t, you won’t know first about the hearing, and then about it being cancelled.”

Lepofsky wants the government “to step up and make sure this problem gets solved. The David Onley review should reschedule the Thunder Bay hearings. It should give the public proper and ample notice, well enough in advance, to enable people with disabilities, and the rest of the public, to be able to have their say.”

The review committee posted online that people can email their comments or questions to [email protected] It also tells people to stay tuned for a northern virtual consultation, but does not specify a date.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/thunder-bay-disabilities-review-cancelling-1.4830504



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