On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage


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/

On the Eve of the Federal Election, Tories Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance Request for Federal Election Commitments – Liberals Say They’ll Enact At Least Some Accessibility Standard Within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Passage

September 17, 2021

        SUMMARY

The federal election is just three days away. We have more breaking news on our efforts to get the federal parties to all make strong commitments on making Canada accessible to over 6 million people with disabilities in Canada.

As of now, only the New Democratic Party has answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 written request for 12 election commitments on the topic of accessibility for people with disabilities. The NDP made many if not most of the 12 election pledges we requested.

We thank and congratulate the NDP for doing so. We urge all other parties to do the same, in our spirit of non-partisanship.

1. Federal Conservatives Say They Will Try to Answer the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 Letter

On September 16, 2021, the AODA Alliance received an email from the Conservative Party. It asks for a copy of the AODA Alliance’s request for election commitments, and says they will try to respond before voting day. The email indicates that they had not received our request for commitments before this.

We again quickly provided the Tories our August 3, 2021 letter to the federal parties in response to that email. We originally emailed it to Erin O’Toole on August 3, 2021. We posted it on the AODA Alliance website the next day. Over the past days, we have tweeted at Mr. O’Toole and many Conservative Candidates, trying to get them to answer this letter. Moreover, the September 6, 2021 report in the Hill Times, set out below, states that that newspaper reached out by email to the Tories about this issue but got no answer.

From the email we received from the Conservatives, it appears that they reached out to us because they had received a media inquiry on why they had not answered our request for commitments. This further shows how people with disabilities lose out when the media either do not cover this story at all, or delay coverage till late in the campaign.

2. Liberal Cabinet Minister Carla Qualtrough Says the Liberals Would Enact Accessibility Standards within Four Years of the Accessible Canada Act’s Enactment

The Liberal Party has also not answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, requesting 12 pledges on disability accessibility. However, in an interview published in the influential Hill Times newspaper dated September 6, 2021, set out below, federal Disabilities Minister Carla Qualtrough commits that the Federal Government would enact accessibility standards within four years of the Accessible Canada Act’s enactment. However, she did not say which accessibility standards would be enacted within that time frame. She also said that “hundreds” of accessibility standards would be needed.

Finally, she recognized that the Accessible Canada Act has room for improvement. However, she did not commit to making any specific improvements.

The September 6, 2021 Hill Times article, set out below, states that none of the federal parties had answered the AODA Alliance’s August 3, 2021 letter, that seeks election commitments. Since that article was written, the NDP answered our request, as noted above.

3. More Media Coverage of the Federal Election’s Disabilities Issues Days Before the Election

In an earlier AODA Alliance Update, we noted that CBC was one of the media organizations that had not been covering the election’s disability issues. The CBC has now started to do so, but only in the past two days. Two articles are set out below. One could say “better late than never.” However, we qualify this by noting that for the millions of voters who already have voted, late is the same as never!

We have also benefitted from coverage on Sauga Radio with Karlene Nation, CHML Radio Hamilton with Bill Kelly, and Sirius XM Radio with Dahlia Kurtz. We thank them all for shining the spotlight on this election issue.

        MORE DETAILS

The Hill Times September 6, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/09/06/disability-groups-still-waiting-for-most-parties-to-address-accessibility/315130

Disability groups still waiting for parties to address accessibility

Advocates say they are the largest minority in Canada. Some groups say that in the long run they are ‘the minority of everybody,’ as the policies they are fighting for will impact everyone at some point in their life.

By Ian Campbell

Disability advocacy group says that it has yet to receive a reply from any of the federal parties after it sent them an open letter at the beginning of the campaign seeking specific commitments about making Canada more accessible.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODA Alliance), which is chaired by Osgoode Hall law professor David Lepofsky, said they released their open letter on Aug. 3 because they knew an election was imminent and wanted their concerns to be on the radar of parties and voters throughout the campaign.

The letter listed twelve commitments the group is seeking from the parties related to the implementation and amendment of the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), a law that was passed by the Liberal government in June 2019.

Some of the items the group is calling for include a commitment that federal government grants will not go to projects that do not meet accessibility standards, and the removal of loopholes in the ACA that allow some organizations to be exempt from its requirements. The AODA Alliance also wants a four-year timeline for enforcement of the accessibility standards required by the Act.

“We are concerned that the law itself is too weak and the government’s actions to implement it fall short,” said Mr. Lepofsky in an interview with The Hill Times. “Not that they’re doing nothing. They’re just not doing enough, and they’re not moving fast enough.”

 

The Hill Times reached out to each of the four main federal parties that are running candidates across Canada, asking for an interview with one of their candidates who identified as having a disability and who could speak to the party’s policies related to disability and accessibility. The Conservative Party did not reply to multiple emails. The Green Party replied with a policy statement but was not able to make a candidate available for an interview.

The AODA Alliance released a statement on Sept. 2, the day following the release of the Liberal party platform, criticizing the platform document as well as the continued lack of response from the other federal parties to their letter.

“[The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP] mention needs of people with disabilities several times in their platforms,” said the statement. “This is a step forward from some past elections. However, they fall well short of what people with disabilities need.”

“The only party that says anything about strengthening the weak Accessible Canada Act is the NDP. [The Liberals and the Conservatives] don’t really say very much at all on this. But none of them make the 12 commitments that we seek,” Mr. Lepofsky said.

Mr. Lepofsky said his group always writes to parties in each election campaign, because platforms tend to offer a more general, high-level discussion of issues, and that seeking specific policy commitments is important to his organization.

“We know that a platform may only have a couple of sentences, which is why we write to the parties. So the first thing that’s worrisome is they’re not answering,” said Mr. Lepofsky.

“In so far as the issue of achieving accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, the Liberal platform mainly repeats what it promised two years ago: namely, promising a disability lens on all government decisions, and pledging the timely and ambitious implementation of the Accessible Canada Act. The government’s record over the past two years on both commitments is unimpressive.”

As an example, Mr. Lepofsky pointed to the ArriveCan application, which can be used to facilitate the process of crossing the border into Canada. Mr. Lepofsky said the application has significant accessibility barriers for people who are visually impaired.

In an interview with The Hill Times, Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.), who has served as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion in the Liberal government, said now that the Liberal platform has been released, she is able to make more specific commitments in response to the items raised by Mr. Lepofsky in the AODA Alliance’s Aug. 3 letter.

“I can tell him that there will be enforceable standards within four years,” said Ms. Qualtrough. “The goal in the act is a barrier-free Canada by 2040, and all the work that I think David and other advocates, and perhaps rightfully so, kind of worry will be at the back end of the next nineteen years is being done now.”

Ms. Qualtrough added that while she is committed to having enforceable standards within four years, she cannot yet say which ones. She said that implementing the act involves developing highly detailed standards across every federally regulated sector.

“We’re talking standards in every aspect of federal government jurisdiction. So if you think of banks alone, there will be a standard for ATMs, for entrances, for money, for customer service. There are hundreds of standards that need to be developed over the course of the years. And there’s big ones, like an employment standard, but then there will be super technical ones, like counter height at a bank. So all of this will take time.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she understands the urgency that advocacy groups feel.

“I think that 2040 feels like a long way away, and it is for people who’ve been discriminated against their entire life, of course it is. But that doesn’t mean that work hasn’t already started and won’t be done.”

Ms. Qualtrough said that the vast majority of time since the ACA has been in place was during the pandemic, but that progress was still made in that time.

“I think that what we’ve done under the ACA, in the midst of all that, is phenomenal,” she said. “We’ve set up Accessible Standards Canada. We’ve set up the board, on which half of the members are persons with disabilities. We’ve put in place technical groups that are headed by people with disabilities to work on the first four standards.”

Mr. Lepofsky and other advocates have expressed concern that two key positions related to the enforcement of the ACA, the Accessibility Commissioner and the Chief Accessibility Officer, have not yet been filled.

NDP candidate Sidney Coles, who is running in Toronto-St. Paul’s, said that part of her party’s commitment to improve the ACA relates to looking at issues of jurisdiction.

“[NDP leader Jagmeet Singh] has committed to work to improve the Accessibility Act. Where we’re not quite clear, jurisdictionally, is who is going to enforce standards,” said Ms. Coles, who has limited mobility due to a leg injury.

“We need to work with the provinces to figure out how we do that from the municipality, to the province, to the federal level, and specifically with jurisdictional overlays, transport being one. When you’re improving a train, that may be a federal issue if it’s a national train. The municipality also has to respond and make sure that once passengers are coming off that train that the stations are set up to also accommodate passengers.”

Ms. Qualtrough said she sees the ACA as a major accomplishment, but there remains room for improvement.

“We will always look at making this law better. In my mind—and I’m saying this as a human rights lawyer—this is probably the most significant advancement in human rights for people with disabilities since the Charter. Like, this is an entirely… new system of accountability and prospective barrier removal that’s going to prevent discrimination. We’re trying to make our disability conversations across the country about human rights. It’s not this medical or charity model. It’s a human rights and poverty reduction lens.”

Ms. Qualtrough, who is legally blind, said she is thrilled to see these issues getting discussed during a federal election campaign.

Poverty relief essential: Adair

Mr. Lepofsky’s organization is not the only one calling for attention to disability issues during this election.

Bill Adair, the executive director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, said that poverty is one of the key issues his organizations would like to see addressed on the campaign trail.

“The reality is that almost four million people in Canada live in poverty. One third of those people are people with disabilities,” said Mr. Adair.

“So our call is for a basic income to be provided to people living with disabilities to ensure that they no longer live in poverty.”

Mr. Adair said that the Canada Disability Benefit, introduced by the Liberal government in June in the final days of the last Parliament, indicated the “intent to do something specific about this,” but there needs to be much more detail than was included in that announcement.

“It needs to be much more robust,” said Mr. Adair. “We’d like to know, how soon is it going to be created? How much will be provided? How will this be coordinated with provinces and territories to ensure that they do not claw back benefits that people with disabilities are already receiving?”

“We understand this is not a simple equation that can just be solved quickly, but we are looking for something with details. We are looking for something which lifts people out of the poverty that is preventing them from participating in our great democracy.”

Jewelles Smith, communications and government relations coordinator at the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), said that democratic participation is one of the most important topics of all, and that means making election campaigns accessible so that voters who have a disability can fully participate in the process of shaping the government.

“For people with disabilities to make an informed choice when casting their ballot they need full access to candidates’ campaigns,” said Ms. Smith.

She said that she has not consistently seen sign language interpreters appearing next to the party leaders, such as was seen next to the public health officers during the pandemic, and that many of the parties’ websites are lacking in accessibility features.

“I thought that with the pandemic it’s kind of a lesson learned,” she said. “I thought we would be seeing it from the primary candidates who are trying to get our votes.”

Ms. Smith said that Elections Canada now allows candidates to spend money on accessibility-related costs that will not go towards their campaign spending limits. A portion of these costs also qualify for reimbursement from Elections Canada.

Mr. Lepofsky said that, with his group’s focus on seeking public policy commitments related to accessibility, it is vital that all voters experience an accessible election process.

“We say that we’re the minority of everybody,” said Mr. Lepofsky. “Because everybody either has a disability now or gets one later. If you can see perfectly right now, as you get older, you might not be able to. So the barriers we’re fighting, if it’s not relevant to you now, it could be relevant to you later.”

[email protected]

The Hill Times

 CBC News September 17, 2021

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/priorities-for-millions-of-canadians-with-disabilities-left-out-of-election-campaign-say-advocates-1.6178053

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

Kate McGillivray

CBC News

Toronto

An accessibility access point for a building through a parking garage in downtown Vancouver. It is behind a locked gate and has a grate that is difficult to cross with a wheelchair. (David Horemans/CBC)

One of Canada’s leading advocates for Canadians with disabilities says they are heading into election day on Monday with little confidence that their needs are a priority — and few firm promises from federal parties.

David Lepofsky, who is blind, is the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, or AODA Alliance.

His group, which is non-partisan, sent each party a letter in early August requesting they make 12 specific commitments related to accessibility.

The requests range from making sure voting is fully accessible to promising not to spend public money on projects that perpetuate or create new barriers.

As of Friday, with the election now three days away, only one major party has come on board.

“The NDP made many, if not most, of our commitments. As for the other parties, we got a response from the Trudeau campaign merely acknowledging receipt of our letter,” said Lepofsky.

The Conservatives, he said, did not respond to the group at all.

“It’s enormously frustrating, unfair and troubling that disability issues in this election have yet again been given short shrift,” said Lepofsky.

“Six million people with disabilities and their families and loved ones get left out.”

Concern about lack of follow-through

The AODA Alliance is far from the only voice expressing disappointment with how little focus has gone to accessibility issues since campaigning began.

A recent Angus Reid study found that 67 per cent of Canadians with disabilities thought that their needs had not received enough attention during the election.

Other groups, such as the Accessible Housing Network, have also tried to put the issue on the agenda, calling on all parties to require that “all new and refurbished housing be 100 per cent accessible” to increase the dignity, freedom, wellbeing and social inclusion of people with disabilities.

Luke Anderson, who serves as executive director of the Stopgap Foundation, told CBC Toronto he’s had to “go digging pretty deep” to find any mention of disability in the party platforms.

Luke Anderson says people with disabilities are once again being left out of the pre-election conversation. His StopGap Foundation builds ramps for single-step storefronts and raises awareness about barriers in our built environment. (Luke Anderson)

Even after reading what the parties have to say, he has little faith that what’s being promised will actually happen.

“I’m scared that their platforms on accessibility and disability aren’t going to be enforced and followed through on.”

Legislative failures

 

One area that both Lepofsky and Anderson say badly needs work is the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), passed back in 2019.

The act’s stated purpose was to “identify, remove and prevent” accessibility barriers in areas that fall under federal jurisdiction — but Lepofsky says that in practice, implementation has been weak, and the rules are unclear.

“For example, this law does not require that when the federal government gives out billions for infrastructure projects that it ensures that those projects will be accessible to people with disabilities,” he said.

His group would like to see the act significantly strengthened, with loopholes closed, clear timelines for organizations to fall in line, and consequences for failing to do so.

David Lepofsky says: if the Liberal and Conservative leaders are ‘not prepared to respond to our inquiries now, in the middle of election, it doesn’t give you any confidence that they’re going to be any more responsive once the election is over.’

The AODA Alliance would also like to see improvements to the National Building Code, which it says “falls short of the accessibility requirements in the Charter of Rights, applicable human rights codes and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

Of the three major parties, only the Conservatives responded to a request from CBC News for details on their platform and an explanation for why they did not respond to the AODA Alliance.

The party says it plans to “boost the Enabling Accessibility Fund by $80 million per year, double the Disability Supplement in the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500, [and] overhaul the complex array of disability supports and benefits,” among other steps.

The Conservatives did not address their lack of response to Lepofsky’s group.

 CBC News September 15, 2021

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

How accessible is voting for people with disabilities?

Tyler Bloomfield

CBC News

A lawn sign from a Disability Matters Vote (DMVote) campaign is seen in Manitoba in 2019. DMVote is a non-partisan public awareness campaign that supports Manitobans with disabilities so they can participate fully in election activities. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

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

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

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

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

From getting voter information to upholding the privacy of a ballot, advocates say there are barriers that exist in the voting process for people with disabilities. Listen to a text-to-speech version of this full story. 6:30

Getting the resources you need

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

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

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

Have an election question for CBC News? Email [email protected] Your input helps inform our coverage.

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

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

Accessibility at the polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The right to a private ballot

 

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

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

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

David Lepofsky, the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says people who are blind or partly blind have never had the right to mark and independently verify their own ballot in federal elections.

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

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

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

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

More accessible voting methods

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Source link

Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief


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

August 5, 2021

SUMMARY

On August 3, 2021, the AODA Alliance submitted its final brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It gives our feedback on its initial or draft recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is needed to tear down the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We want the Health Care Standards Development Committee to incorporate our recommendations into its final report to the Ontario Government. Our finalized brief includes all the recommendations and other content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on July 23, 2021. There has only been very minor editing and fine-tuning.

Below we set out the 67 recommendations that our brief makes. To download and read the entire brief that explains these recommendations, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-3-2021-finalized-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-Health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee.docx

Help us build support for our cause. Please email the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Tell the Committee if you support our recommendations. You can write them at: [email protected]

If you or an organization with which you are connected is writing a submission to the Health Care Standards Development Committee it would be great if your submission could state that you endorse the AODA Alliance ‘s recommendations in its August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. As well, any individual or organization can simply write that Standards Development Committee at the email address listed above, and just say something like:

“I support the recommendations that the AODA Alliance sent the Health Care Standards Development Committee in its August 3, 2021 Brief.”

The deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee is August 11, 2021. Even if you miss that deadline, it can always help to send in an email any time that supports our recommendations.

Do you want more background on this issue? Explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

Now 917 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS

List of the AODA Alliance August 3, 2021 Brief’s Recommendations

Where the following recommendations by the AODA Alliance refer to the “Initial Report”, that is the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report in which that Committee sets out draft proposals for what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

#1 Throughout the Initial Report, action recommendations should be revised to go beyond providing disability accommodations to patients with disabilities, and making plans for barrier-removal and prevention, so as to also spell out specific measures that must be undertaken to remove and prevent recurring disability barriers to health care services.

#2 The Health Care Accessibility Standard’s primary focus should be on specifying detailed actions to remove and prevent barriers, not by overloading people with disabilities with redundant separate consultations with one hospital after the next across Ontario.

#3 The Standards Development Committee should explicitly and comprehensively make recommendations for the entire health care system, and not merely for the small fraction of the health care system that hospitals comprise. At a minimum, the Standards Development Committee should make a strong recommendation that the Health Care Accessibility Standard must address disability barriers in the entire health care system, and not merely in the hospital sector. It should specify that all health care providers should be required to remove and prevent the same barriers, in terms at least as strong as the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

#4 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should cover and apply to all public and private health care programs, services and products available in Ontario, whether or not OHIP covers them. It should cover all health care providers and professions, whether or not Ontario recognizes, regulates or licenses them. It should cover ambulances and other vehicles which can transport patients in connection with health care services. It should cover all parts of Ontario. It should address accessibility barriers that are distinctive to the north, to remote communities, as well as the distinctive barriers facing different racialized, ethnic or other communities within Ontario.

#5 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should address the accessibility needs of patients with any kind of disability, and the accessibility needs of any patients’ support people with any kind of disability. The term “disability” should be defined broadly to include any permanent or episodic disability within the meaning of the AODA or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

#6 The Committee’s final report should clearly state that to make hospitals accessible to people with disabilities, much more is needed than addressing training, accountability and sensitivity within hospitals.

#7 The Initial Report should not recommend that smaller obligated organizations always or presumptively get more time to comply with the Health Care Accessibility Standard than do larger obligated organizations. This especially should not take place in circumstances where smaller organizations can comply more quickly than larger organizations.

#8 The Initial Report should be revised to describe the Standards Development Committee’s mandate as achieving the removal and prevention of disability barriers, the accessibility of health care services, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the health care system. It should not describe the goal as merely making the health care system more accessible or more inclusive, or merely reducing barriers.

#9 The long term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s health care system and the services, facilities and products offered in it, become fully accessible to all patients with any kind of permanent or episodic disabilities and to any support people with disabilities for any patient, by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede people with disabilities, and by providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek disability-related accommodations tailored to a person’s individual disability-related needs. It should aim to ensure that patients with disabilities can fully benefit from and be fully included in the health care services and products offered in Ontario’s health care system on a footing of equality. It should aim to eliminate the need for patients with disabilities and any support people with disabilities to have to contend with and fight against health care accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for health care providers to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one health care facility or one health care provider at a time. It should aim for health care services, facilities and products in Ontario to be designed and operated based on accessibility principles of universal design.

#10 The Initial Report’s vision of an accessible health care system should be expanded to include the following:

a) The health care system will be designed and operated from top to bottom for all its patients, including patients with all kinds of permanent or episodic disabilities, as disability is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The health care system will no longer be designed and operated from an implicit starting point of aiming predominantly to serve the fictional “average” patient, who is too often assumed to have no disabilities.

b) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities, will be able to effectively communicate with health care providers and health care staff in connection with requesting or receiving health care services and products throughout each stage of the healthcare process. This will include face-to-face interactions, telephone or alternates to telephone use, accessible information and forms as well as alternate arrangements for providing one’s signature. For example, health care facilities and ambulances will be equipped with needed equipment to ensure effective communication with people with communication-related disabilities.

c) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities will be able to get and receive information relevant to their health care needs in private, e.g., when giving information at a health care provider’s office or when seeking or receiving information about their medication at a pharmacy, rather than in a public place where others can overhear. Effective procedures will protect the confidentiality of private information relating to patients with disabilities who rely on others to assist them with communication.

d) Information technology and applications which patients can use at home, or at a health care facility in connection with seeking and receiving health care services, will be designed based on principals of universal design and will be accessible to and usable by patients with disabilities, and where needed, to patients’ support people with disabilities. Where needed for effective communication, health care facilities will also provide alternatives to telephone use including email, text, video and authorized human assistance.

e) Health care products, and any instructions for their use, will be designed and available based on principles of universal design so that people with disabilities and not just people with no disability can use and benefit from them.

f) Support services such as sighted guides for visually impaired patients and attendant care will be available to patients with disabilities who need them while going to or at a facility to receive health care services.

g) Publicly funded appointments for receiving health care services will be sufficiently long to enable those patients with a disability, who need more time, to be able to receive the health care services they need. If a patient with disabilities cannot attend a health care provider’s premises due to their disability, there will be in place measures whenever therapeutically possible for remote appointments or home visits.

h) Patients will be free to use their own accommodation supports, such as service animals, when seeking or obtaining health care services and products.

i) New Government strategies, services and facilities in Ontario’s health care system will be proactively designed from the start and operated to fully include the needs of patients with disabilities. Those responsible at the provincial and local levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s health care system will have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and will be accountable for their work on this issue. Ontario’s disability community will have effective input into public decisions on the design and operation of Ontario’s health care system to ensure that existing disability accessibility barriers are removed and no new ones are created.

j) An accessible health care system is one where people with disabilities can work in a barrier-free workplace.

#11 The Initial Report should not merely recommend that an obligated organization “consider accessibility.” It should instead require specific actions that will achieve accessibility.

#12 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require each health care facility and health care provider to create a welcoming environment for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities to seek accommodations for their disabilities when receiving health care services.

#13 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish a permanent committee of its board to be called the “Accessibility Committee.” This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the facility’s compliance with the AODA, and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of people with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the health care services that the facility provides. It should endeavour to reflect the spectrum of disability needs.

#14 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Accommodation Officer, reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. Their mandate, responsibility and authority should be to ensure proper leadership on the facility’s accessibility and accommodation obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the AODA, including the requirements of this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#15 Beyond the specific measures to remove and prevent barriers set out in the Health Care Accessibility Standard and in other accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, each health care facility and health care provider should be required to periodically and systematically review its health care services, facilities, equipment and products to identify recurring accessibility barriers that can impede the provision of health care services to patients with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear timelines, with clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the facility’s accessibility committee. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede patients with disabilities from fully benefiting from the facility’s health care services, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Health Care Accessibility Standard or in any other AODA accessibility standards.

#16 The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend specific, detailed accessibility requirements in the built environment of hospitals and other health care facilities such as those recommended in Appendix 1 to this brief. The goal of these should be that the built environment in the health care system, such as hospitals and any other places where health care services are provided, including the furniture there, will all be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and will be designed based on the principle of universal design. For example:

a) The front area or drop-off areas for a hospital or other health care facility should be accessible, with automatic power doors that do not require a button to be found and pressed, and with tactile walking surface indicators both to warn when a person is walking into a driving area and to guide a person to the facility’s entrance. All other entrances and exits should be fully accessible, with automatic power door operators and an accessible path of travel to the door. This includes entrances from indoor or underground parking to the health care facility.

b) Inside the health care facility, major public areas such as emergency room doors should always be fully accessible and have automatic power door openers.

c) For the benefit of patients and others with learning and cognitive disabilities, vision loss or other disabilities that can affect mobility or way-finding, hospitals and other health care facilities should have way-finding markings in important areas such as the main lobby from the front door to the help desk and other major routes such as to main elevators, including colour contrasted markings such as a carpeted path or tactile walking surface indicators.

d) Hospitals and other health care facilities with elevators should have accessible elevators that can accommodate people using mobility devices. They should also have accessible elevator buttons (with braille and large print on or beside each button), braille and large print floor numbers just outside elevator doors, and audible floor announcements on elevators. Elevator button panels should be consistent in layout from one elevator to the next.

e) Health care facilities, including hospitals, should never install “destination elevators” which require a person to pre-select the floor to which they are going before entering the elevators. These present unfixable accessibility problems.

f) Hospitals and other health care facilities should have accessible signage throughout, including braille and large print, for key locations. For example, public bathrooms should have accessible braille and large print signs on them. These signs should be placed in consistent and predictable locations.

g) Where a health care facility has power doors that require a button to be pushed (i.e., they don’t open automatically), the button should always be located throughout the health care facility in a consistent place to make it easier to find. The button should be located near the door, so that a slow-moving individual can make it through the open door after pressing the button before the door closes. The button should always be located on the wall, and not on a free-standing post or bollard.

h) Despite weaker requirements in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set out specific and strong requirements for the accessibility of any electronic kiosks in hospitals and other health care facilities, such as:

i) specifying their required end-user functionality that effectively address recurring known needs arising from specific disabilities, and,

ii) ensuring that they are at an accessible height e.g., for those using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

As a starting point, see the US Access Board’s standard for accessible electronic kiosks.

i) Patient consultation or treatment rooms should have enough space to enable people using mobility devices to navigate in them and reach any treatment or consultation area. They should have enough space to enable a Sign Language interpreter to be positioned in the room to interpret for a deaf patient or support person.

j) Movable furniture such as desks, tables or chairs should not obstruct accessible paths of travel around a facility where health care services are delivered, such as a doctor’s office, e.g., in their hallways or treatment rooms.

k) Major health care facilities should provide accessible waiting areas for accessible transit pickup and drop-off, close to the pickup/drop-off point, with clear sight lines.

l) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should be designed to avoid major sensory overstimulation or acoustic overloads, such as bright lights, loud music, large atrium areas, or frequent loud announcements. This is especially important in treatment areas or hospital rooms.

m) Throughout a health care facility, proper colour contrasting should be required to assist people with low vision and cognitive disabilities, such as around elevator opening, doorways, and on the edge of stairs and handrails.

n) Health care facilities should be required to have accessible bathrooms so that all patients can use the facilities, including adult change tables, sufficient transfer space and maneuvering room for mobility devices.

o) Major health care facilities should include sensory rooms for people with sensory overload issues, such as in hospital emergency rooms.

p) In a health care facility, all stairs and staircases, including “feature staircases” (included as aesthetic design enhancements) should be accessible, e.g., with tactile warnings at the top and bottom of each set of stairs, no open risers and with proper colour contrast on railings and step edges. There should never be curving staircases.

q) Health care facilities should provide charging areas for electric mobility devices.

r) Hospital rooms should be able to accommodate a patient’s mobility device so they can keep theirs with them and readily available when admitted to hospital.

s) In a health care facility, waiting areas, isolation areas, breastfeeding rooms, staff areas and volunteer areas should be designed to be accessible.

t) Accessible and bariatric paths of travel should be provided in health care facilities.

u) Despite the more limited provisions regarding the provision of accessible parking spaces in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set higher and more specific requirements for accessible parking spaces for health care facilities, such as:

i) requiring a greater number of accessible parking spots for the facility, where possible.

ii) requiring that the accessible parking spots be located as close as possible to the doors of the health care facility.

iii) requiring that at least some of the accessible parking spots have larger dimensions to accommodate larger accessible vans, so that a passenger with a disability can park in that spot and have sufficient room to exit the vehicle, and

iv) requiring that there be accessible curb cuts and an accessible path of travel from the accessible parking spots to the health care facilities’ entrances.

v) Health Care facilities should have designated snow-piling areas outside, to prevent snow from being shoveled onto accessible paths of travel.

w) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should provide service animal relief areas close to the facility’s door, covered wherever possible, with an accessible path of travel to them.

x) When a major new health care facility like a hospital is being designed, or a major new wing or renovation is being planned, especially if public money is helping fund it, a properly trained and qualified accessibility consultant should be required to be engaged on the project from the very beginning. Their accessible design advice should be transmitted unedited to the Government or other organization for whom the project is being built and should be made public. Direct consultation with end-users with disabilities should be part of the design process from the beginning.

#17 The standard should require that:

a) Each hospital patient’s bed should have an accessible means for a patient with disabilities to notify the nursing station of a health care need, not just a button or pull-string that they may not be able to reach and operate.

b) Furniture such as seating in health care facilities should be designed with accessibility features and positioned in a manner that does not block accessible paths of travel.

c) A Help Desk should be positioned immediately inside the main entrance of any major health care facility, including hospitals, to assist patients, including patients with disabilities, to get directions or help to their destination within the facility, or to request other accommodation supports.

d) In any discrete department or area where health care services are provided, (such as an area for day surgery), the check-in desk should be located immediately adjacent to the entrance to that area, so that patients and support people with disabilities can easily reach it after entering the room or area.

e) Accessible public service counters should be installed, even in existing health care facilities, with a specified height requirement, no glass barrier creating barriers for people with hearing loss and knee space for people using a mobility device.

f) A large health care facility like a hospital should have rest areas along routes through the building so that people with fatiguing conditions can stop and rest along their route to get health care services.

g) Health care facilities such as hospitals should have emergency areas of refuge with separate ventilation in case of fire, so that people with disabilities who cannot escape the building have safe areas to wait, while being protected from life-threatening smoke.

h) The Ontario Government should make available to health care facilities and providers: guides on accessible procurement including procurement of accessible furniture, lists of vendors of accessible furniture. The Ontario Government should provide a hub for procuring accessible furniture to help health care facilities and providers reduce the cost of their acquisition.

#18 the Ministry of Health should within one year survey all offices of physicians, chiropractors, occupational and physiotherapists and other like health care providers where they provide direct health care services to patients, on the extent to which their premises are accessible for patients with disabilities. The Ministry should make public a report on the results of this survey (anonymized).

#19 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set specific technical requirements for the accessibility of diagnostic and treatment equipment. As a starting point, the Health Care Standards Development Committee should consider the accessible medical diagnostic equipment standards that the US Access Board has formulated. The needs of patients with all kinds of disabilities, and not only those with mobility disabilities, should be met by the technical requirements that the Health Care Accessibility Standard sets.

#20 The Ontario Government should impose a strict funding condition on the purchase or rental of any new health care diagnostic or treatment equipment anywhere in the health care system requiring that it must be accessible to patients with disabilities and designed based on principles of universal design, in compliance with the technical standards to be included in the Health Care Accessibility Standard.

#21 The Ontario Government should be required to make readily available to health care providers and facilities, and to the public, an up-to-date list of accessible health care diagnostic and treatment equipment and venders, so that each health care provider and facility does not have to re-invent the wheel by re-investigating these same issues.

#22 To save money, the Ontario Government should be required to attempt to negotiate bulk purchasing of accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment so that health care facilities and providers can obtain them at lower prices.

#23 When health care facilities and providers purchase, rent or otherwise acquire new or replacement diagnostic or treatment equipment, these should be required to be accessible to patients with disabilities and to be designed based on principles of universal design.

#24 Health care facilities and providers should survey their existing diagnostic or treatment equipment, and take the following steps to address any accessibility problems they have, if that equipment is not now being replaced:

a) Identify where the nearest place is where a patient can get diagnosis or treatment services where there is accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment, and to help facilitate the access of the patient with disabilities to health care services from that provider or facility.

b) Adopt and implement an interim plan to make any readily achievable accessibility improvements to the health care facility’s or provider’s existing diagnostic or treatment equipment.

c) Develop plans to purchase, rent or otherwise acquire accessible diagnostic or treatment equipment over a period of up to five years.

#25 These accessibility/universal design requirements should also apply to consumer health care products, such as for example, pill bottles.

#26 Because Ontario’s system for electronic health care records has been centrally created, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government and any provincial agency that is responsible for overseeing the design, procurement or operation of the system for electronic health care records to ensure that these records will be kept and available in accessible formats for patients and support people with disabilities, and, as a related benefit, to health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible. PDF format should not be treated as being an accessible format.

#27 Individual health care organizations or facilities, including laboratories, that create their own health care records in electronic form should also be required to ensure that they are readily available in accessible formats for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities, and, as a side benefit, for health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible.

#28 All the Initial Report’s recommendations on training on accessibility laws should be revised to explicitly include training on the accessibility requirements regarding people with disabilities in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#29 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require training on disability accessibility, disability human rights and disability Charter obligations for existing health care professionals as a condition of continuing in practice.

#30 The Ontario Government should be required to impose a condition of its funding for post-secondary education programs to train anyone in a health care discipline, profession or field, that the college or university that offers that degree or course must include a sufficient designated and mandatory curriculum on meeting the needs of patients with disabilities.

#31 Wherever possible, any new health care facility or provider receiving public funds that is setting up a new location should be required to locate at or near an accessible public transit stop on an accessible public transit route, with an accessible path of travel from the public transit stop to the health care facility or provider. Similarly, where an existing health care facility or provider is going to move to another location, it should be required to attempt to relocate to a location that is on an accessible public transit route.

#32 Where it is medically possible for a patient to take part in a health care service without physically attending at the health care facility or provider, an option should be provided for taking part remotely, e.g., via Facetime or other remote video conferencing. The Health Care Accessibility Standard should also require the removal of the OHIP barrier to funded physicians house calls.

#33 Where OHIP or a health care facility or provider has a policy or practice of permitting only one health issue per visit, an exception should be created for patients with disabilities for whom transportation to the health care facility is impeded by accessibility barriers.

#34 A health care facility or provider should not be permitted to charge a late fee or a missed appointment fee where a patient with a disability has in good faith attempted to attend on time but was made late or precluded from attending by transportation barriers (such as being made late for the appointment by the community’s para-transit service).

#35 When the Ontario Government is undertaking planning for new health care services, or for improvements to health care services, it should be required to include in those plans, and to make public, requirements to ensure that wherever possible, health care services and facilities are provided in locations on accessible public transit routes, with an accessible path of travel from the accessible public transit stop to the facility or provider.

#36 The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard should be amended to set accessibility requirements for public transit stations and stops, as the joint July 31, 2017 AODA Alliance/ARCH brief to the Transportation Standards Development Committee recommended.

#37 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set technical specifications to ensure the full accessibility of ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients, including patients with disabilities, to or from health care services. See also below re: the need to include equipment in those vehicles for communication with patients with communication-related disabilities.

#38 Any health care facility or provider, including such places as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, should be required to designate an accessible private area where patients with disabilities can give and receive private information in connection with their health care services or products without others being able to overhear this.

#39 Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify all patients, including patients with disabilities, of their right to have their health care needs and issues discussed and information exchanged in a private location, and should instruct their staff, including any who deal with patients or the public, of their duty to fully respect this right.

#40 Without limiting the information and communications to which this part of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should apply, it should address:

a) Information or communications needed to provide a health care provider with the patient’s history, needs, symptoms or other health problems.

b) Information and communications regarding the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis or treatment, including any risks, follow-up or other health care services to secure.

c) A health care facility’s discharge instructions.

#41 Health Care facilities should be equipped with assistive listening devices to enable patients with hearing loss and support people with hearing loss to be able to effectively communicate e.g., at nursing stations, help desks, and when dealing directly with health care providers.

#42 Health care-related products such as prescription and non-prescription medications should be provided when needed with accessible labels, instructions or users’ manuals, available in accessible formats. Those who sell or rent these to the public should be required to regularly notify the public, including their customers, that accessible labels, instructions, and users’ manuals are available on request. See e.g. work on developing standards and practices for accessible prescription drug container labels by the US Access Board. See also the February 6, 2020 news release announcing that the Empire chain of stores, including all Sobeys Stores, will provide accessible prescription labels to customers with disabilities free of charge on request. If they can, so can all other drug stores.

#43 Where a health care facility or health care provider provides information about their services or facilities in print or via the internet, they should be required to ensure that their website meets current international accessibility requirements along prompt time lines, even if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not now require this. Currently, the Information and Communication Accessibility Information and Communication Accessibility Standard has too many exemptions, leaves out too many providers of goods and services, and has timelines that are too long. Whether or not those exemptions, exclusions and long timelines are justified for other sectors, they are unjustified for a sector as important as the health care sector.

#44 Ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients should include equipment to facilitate communication with patients with communication disabilities, such as remotely-accessed sign language interpretation and other communication supports.

#45 The Ontario Government should be required to set up hubs or centralized services to enable health care facilities and providers, including small providers, to quickly and easily access communication supports needed for patients with communication-related disabilities (for example Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning). The Ontario Government should fund these services as part of its funding of the health care system, in furtherance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Eldridge decision.

#46 Any prepared information on health care conditions, treatment instructions, prognoses, risks, laboratory or other test results and the like which a health care facility or provider makes available to patients, whether in print or electronic form, should be made available at the same time on request in an accessible format. The standard should direct that PDF format is not sufficient to be accessible, and that if information is available in a PDF document, it should also be posted in an accessible format such as HTML or MS Word. Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify patients, including patients and their support people with disabilities, that any hard copy or electronic documents provided to them can be requested and obtained in an accessible format on request.

#47 Where a health care facility or provider asks patients or their support people to use information technology hardware or software in connection with the delivery of health care services (such as asking them to fill out their medical history on a portable computer or tablet device), the facility or provider shall:

a) In the case of new or updated information technology or equipment to be acquired, ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities and is designed based on principles of universal design;

b) In the case of existing information technology now being used, retrofit to be accessible except where this would pose an undue hardship and,

c) For those people who prefer this option, ensure that patients with disabilities or their support people with disabilities are assisted to use that technology, in private, at the same time as others would use it, where this would not reduce their access to the health care services to which it pertains.

#48 The Ontario Government should be required to develop and make public a strategy for ensuring that health care promotion initiatives in Ontario are accessible to people with disabilities. For example, it should require that:

a) All advertisements for health care promotion should have captioning and audio description.

b) All mail-out, printed and online materials focusing on health promotion should be required to be in accessible formats, regardless of any exemptions in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

#49 Hospitals and other major health care facilities should be required to provide support services for patients with disabilities when needed to ensure that those patients can fully access and benefit from the health care services that the facility offers, to let patients know about the availability of these services, and to annually publicly report on the number of staff available to provide this support, such as:

a) Attendant care.

b) Assistance with meals.

c) Assistance with being guided to and getting around the health care facility e.g., for patients with vision loss or cognitive disabilities.

#50 In a hospital or other major health care facility, there should be one nurse at each nursing station designated to receive training and to be responsible for addressing the needs of patients with complex needs due to their disability.

#51 Each health care provider and facility should be required to put in place a system and designate a person to solicit and receive requests from patients or their support people for disability accommodations in connection with health care services or products.

#52 Each health care provider or facility should be required to make readily-available to the public, including to their patients, in an accessible format, information about how to identify themselves in advance to the health care provider as having disability-related accessibility or accommodation needs, and to ask to arrange for these needs to be met.

#53 Each hospital and larger health care facility should be required to collect anonymized information on disability-related accessibility and accommodation requests received from or on behalf of patients with disabilities, to assist that health care provider or facility in planning for future disability accessibility and accommodation. This anonymized information should be available for study by the Government or other health policy planners.

#54 The Chief Executive Officer of any hospital or large health care facility should be required to annually review the information that the facility has collected on the requests for disability accessibility and accommodation that the facility has received and report to the board of directors on measures that could improve the facility’s capacity to meet these needs.

#55 Each health care profession’s self-governing college should be required to:

a) Review its public complaints process to identify any barriers at any stage in that process that could adversely affect people with disabilities filing a complaint, or about whom a complaint is filed.

b) Develop a plan for removing and preventing any accessibility barriers identified, whether or not those barriers are specified in any current AODA accessibility standards.

c) Publicly report to its governing board of directors and the public on these barriers and the college’s plans to remove and prevent such barriers, in order to achieve a barrier-free complaints process.

d) Establish and maintain a standing committee of its governing board of directors responsible for the accessibility of the services that the college offers the public, including, but not limited to its public complaints process.

e) Consult with the public, including people with disabilities, on barriers that people with disabilities experience when seeking the services of the health care professionals that that profession regulates, to be shared with the board’s Accessibility Committee. To avoid duplication of efforts and burdens on the disability community, several regulatory colleges can jointly undertake this consultation.

#56 The Ministry of Health should be required to designate a senior official at the “Assistant Deputy Minister” level as the leading public official who is responsible for ensuring accessibility, accommodation and inclusion for patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. They should be responsible for ensuring that any policies, plans or proposals regarding the health care system are screened to ensure that they will not create any new barriers for patients with disabilities, and will instead remove barriers.

#57 The Ministry of Health should be required to conduct a system-wide review of the health care system for any systemic barriers, in consultation with the public including people with disabilities. It should identify and make public a plan to remove and prevent systemic or system-wide barriers that impede patients with disabilities from receiving accessible health care, along time lines that the Health Care Accessibility Standard will set.

#58 Each hospital and other major health care facility should be required to establish and regularly publicize a dedicated disability accessibility/accommodation complaints hotline, to trigger prompt action when problems are raised.

#59 The Ministry of Health should be required to establish and regularly publicize a hotline to receive complaints about accessibility problems facing patients and support people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. The Ministry should be required to annually publish a report with an anonymized summary of the substance of complaints received and action taken to prevent their recurrence.

#60 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the creation of authoritative, well-trained system navigators to assist patients with disabilities and their support people to navigate Ontario’s health care system.

#61 The OHIP fee schedule should be revised to provide for added time to serve the needs of patients with disabilities who need more time for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, to eliminate the harmful financial incentive that the Ontario Government now creates for physicians to avoid treating taking on those patients.

#62 Each hospital and major health care facility should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to voluntarily join it, to give the facility’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the health care facility that could impede patients with disabilities or any patients’ support people with disabilities, and/or employees/volunteers with disabilities.

#63 The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the recommendations regarding health care services in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

#64 The Initial Report’s Recommendation 15 regarding the conduct of an after-the fact review of the problems facing people with disabilities in accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic should be revised so that this review is an Independent Review conducted by trusted and respected persons who are independent of the Government and of the health care system.

#65 The Initial Report should recommend that the Health Care Accessibility Standard

a) Require the Government to immediately rescind the January 13, 2021 critical care triage protocol and all directions and training materials relating to it, and should direct that these are not to be followed or considered appropriate under any situation.

b) Require the Ontario Government to immediately make public all versions of the critical care triage protocol that have been in force in Ontario, or distributed to hospitals, as well as any critical care triage protocol or directions to ambulances or other emergency services, and any reports that the government received from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.

c) Require that if critical care triage is directed to occur during this or other emergencies, the Government shall make public on a daily basis the number of patients who are refused or denied critical care that they need and want, due to critical care triage.

e) Require that the Clinical Frailty Scale shall not be used as a tool to decide who is to ever be refused critical care they need and want.

f) Forbid the use or distribution of the “Short Term Mortality Risk Calculator” that was made available under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario to all Ontario hospitals.

#66 the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Government to ensure the availability of remote or distance delivery of health care services where medically feasible, and where patients with disabilities face barriers attending at a health care office or facility to receive such services.

#67 The Initial Report should be expanded to list a full range of disability barriers reported to the Standards Development Committee in access to health care during the pandemic.




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Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief


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]

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Tell the Health Care Standards Development Committee If You Support the AODA Alliance’s Recommendations on What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include, Spelled Out in the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief

August 5, 2021

         SUMMARY

On August 3, 2021, the AODA Alliance submitted its final brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. It gives our feedback on its initial or draft recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. The Health Care Accessibility Standard is needed to tear down the many barriers that impede people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system.

We want the Health Care Standards Development Committee to incorporate our recommendations into its final report to the Ontario Government. Our finalized brief includes all the recommendations and other content that was in our draft brief that we circulated for public comment on July 23, 2021. There has only been very minor editing and fine-tuning.

Below we set out the 67 recommendations that our brief makes. To download and read the entire brief that explains these recommendations, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/August-3-2021-finalized-AODA-Alliance-Brief-to-Health-Care-Standards-Development-Committee.docx

Help us build support for our cause. Please email the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Tell the Committee if you support our recommendations. You can write them at: [email protected]

If you or an organization with which you are connected is writing a submission to the Health Care Standards Development Committee it would be great if your submission could state that you endorse the AODA Alliance ‘s recommendations in its August 3, 2021 brief to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. As well, any individual or organization can simply write that Standards Development Committee at the email address listed above, and just say something like:

“I support the recommendations that the AODA Alliance sent the Health Care Standards Development Committee in its August 3, 2021 Brief.”

The deadline for submitting feedback to the Committee is August 11, 2021. Even if you miss that deadline, it can always help to send in an email any time that supports our recommendations.

Do you want more background on this issue? Explore the time line of our efforts to get a strong Health Care Accessibility Standard by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s health care page.

Now 917 days have passed since the Ford Government received the blistering final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, conducted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Ford Government has announced no plan to implement that report.

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at [email protected].

         MORE DETAILS

List of the AODA Alliance August 3, 2021 Brief’s Recommendations

Where the following recommendations by the AODA Alliance refer to the “Initial Report”, that is the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial Report in which that Committee sets out draft proposals for what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include.

#1 Throughout the Initial Report, action recommendations should be revised to go beyond providing disability accommodations to patients with disabilities, and making plans for barrier-removal and prevention, so as to also spell out specific measures that must be undertaken to remove and prevent recurring disability barriers to health care services.

#2 The Health Care Accessibility Standard’s primary focus should be on specifying detailed actions to remove and prevent barriers, not by overloading people with disabilities with redundant separate consultations with one hospital after the next across Ontario.

#3 The Standards Development Committee should explicitly and comprehensively make recommendations for the entire health care system, and not merely for the small fraction of the health care system that hospitals comprise. At a minimum, the Standards Development Committee should make a strong recommendation that the Health Care Accessibility Standard must address disability barriers in the entire health care system, and not merely in the hospital sector. It should specify that all health care providers should be required to remove and prevent the same barriers, in terms at least as strong as the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

#4 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should cover and apply to all public and private health care programs, services and products available in Ontario, whether or not OHIP covers them. It should cover all health care providers and professions, whether or not Ontario recognizes, regulates or licenses them. It should cover ambulances and other vehicles which can transport patients in connection with health care services. It should cover all parts of Ontario. It should address accessibility barriers that are distinctive to the north, to remote communities, as well as the distinctive barriers facing different racialized, ethnic or other communities within Ontario.

#5 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should address the accessibility needs of patients with any kind of disability, and the accessibility needs of any patients’ support people with any kind of disability. The term “disability” should be defined broadly to include any permanent or episodic disability within the meaning of the AODA or the Ontario Human Rights Code.

#6 The Committee’s final report should clearly state that to make hospitals accessible to people with disabilities, much more is needed than addressing training, accountability and sensitivity within hospitals.

#7 The Initial Report should not recommend that smaller obligated organizations always or presumptively get more time to comply with the Health Care Accessibility Standard than do larger obligated organizations. This especially should not take place in circumstances where smaller organizations can comply more quickly than larger organizations.

#8 The Initial Report should be revised to describe the Standards Development Committee’s mandate as achieving the removal and prevention of disability barriers, the accessibility of health care services, and inclusion of people with disabilities in the health care system. It should not describe the goal as merely making the health care system more accessible or more inclusive, or merely reducing barriers.

#9 The long term objective of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should be to ensure that Ontario’s health care system and the services, facilities and products offered in it, become fully accessible to all patients with any kind of permanent or episodic disabilities and to any support people with disabilities for any patient, by 2025, the AODA’s deadline, by requiring the removal and prevention of the accessibility barriers that impede people with disabilities, and by providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek disability-related accommodations tailored to a person’s individual disability-related needs. It should aim to ensure that patients with disabilities can fully benefit from and be fully included in the health care services and products offered in Ontario’s health care system on a footing of equality. It should aim to eliminate the need for patients with disabilities and any support people with disabilities to have to contend with and fight against health care accessibility barriers, one at a time, and the need for health care providers to have to re-invent the accessibility wheel one health care facility or one health care provider at a time. It should aim for health care services, facilities and products in Ontario to be designed and operated based on accessibility principles of universal design.

#10 The Initial Report’s vision of an accessible health care system should be expanded to include the following:

  1. a) The health care system will be designed and operated from top to bottom for all its patients, including patients with all kinds of permanent or episodic disabilities, as disability is defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The health care system will no longer be designed and operated from an implicit starting point of aiming predominantly to serve the fictional “average” patient, who is too often assumed to have no disabilities.
  1. b) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities, will be able to effectively communicate with health care providers and health care staff in connection with requesting or receiving health care services and products throughout each stage of the healthcare process. This will include face-to-face interactions, telephone or alternates to telephone use, accessible information and forms as well as alternate arrangements for providing one’s signature. For example, health care facilities and ambulances will be equipped with needed equipment to ensure effective communication with people with communication-related disabilities.
  1. c) Patients with disabilities, and where needed, any patients’ support people with disabilities will be able to get and receive information relevant to their health care needs in private, e.g., when giving information at a health care provider’s office or when seeking or receiving information about their medication at a pharmacy, rather than in a public place where others can overhear. Effective procedures will protect the confidentiality of private information relating to patients with disabilities who rely on others to assist them with communication.
  1. d) Information technology and applications which patients can use at home, or at a health care facility in connection with seeking and receiving health care services, will be designed based on principals of universal design and will be accessible to and usable by patients with disabilities, and where needed, to patients’ support people with disabilities. Where needed for effective communication, health care facilities will also provide alternatives to telephone use including email, text, video and authorized human assistance.
  1. e) Health care products, and any instructions for their use, will be designed and available based on principles of universal design so that people with disabilities and not just people with no disability can use and benefit from them.
  1. f) Support services such as sighted guides for visually impaired patients and attendant care will be available to patients with disabilities who need them while going to or at a facility to receive health care services.
  1. g) Publicly funded appointments for receiving health care services will be sufficiently long to enable those patients with a disability, who need more time, to be able to receive the health care services they need. If a patient with disabilities cannot attend a health care provider’s premises due to their disability, there will be in place measures whenever therapeutically possible for remote appointments or home visits.
  1. h) Patients will be free to use their own accommodation supports, such as service animals, when seeking or obtaining health care services and products.
  1. i) New Government strategies, services and facilities in Ontario’s health care system will be proactively designed from the start and operated to fully include the needs of patients with disabilities. Those responsible at the provincial and local levels for leading, overseeing and operating Ontario’s health care system will have strong and specific requirements to address disability accessibility and inclusion in their mandates and will be accountable for their work on this issue. Ontario’s disability community will have effective input into public decisions on the design and operation of Ontario’s health care system to ensure that existing disability accessibility barriers are removed and no new ones are created.
  1. j) An accessible health care system is one where people with disabilities can work in a barrier-free workplace.

#11 The Initial Report should not merely recommend that an obligated organization “consider accessibility.” It should instead require specific actions that will achieve accessibility.

#12 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require each health care facility and health care provider to create a welcoming environment for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities to seek accommodations for their disabilities when receiving health care services.

#13 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish a permanent committee of its board to be called the “Accessibility Committee.” This Accessibility Committee should have responsibility for overseeing the facility’s compliance with the AODA, and with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in so far as they guarantee the right of people with disabilities to fully participate in and fully benefit from the health care services that the facility provides. It should endeavour to reflect the spectrum of disability needs.

#14 Each major health care facility such as each hospital should be required to establish or designate the position of Chief Accessibility/Accommodation Officer, reporting to the Chief Executive Officer. Their mandate, responsibility and authority should be to ensure proper leadership on the facility’s accessibility and accommodation obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the AODA, including the requirements of this accessibility standard. This responsibility may be assigned to an existing senior management official.

#15 Beyond the specific measures to remove and prevent barriers set out in the Health Care Accessibility Standard and in other accessibility standards enacted under the AODA, each health care facility and health care provider should be required to periodically and systematically review its health care services, facilities, equipment and products to identify recurring accessibility barriers that can impede the provision of health care services to patients with disabilities. A comprehensive plan for removing and preventing these accessibility barriers should be developed, implemented and made public with clear timelines, with clear assignment of responsibilities for action, monitoring for progress, and reporting to the facility’s accessibility committee. This plan should aim at all accessibility barriers that can impede patients with disabilities from fully benefiting from the facility’s health care services, whether or not they are specifically identified in the Health Care Accessibility Standard or in any other AODA accessibility standards.

#16 The Initial Report should be expanded to recommend specific, detailed accessibility requirements in the built environment of hospitals and other health care facilities such as those recommended in Appendix 1 to this brief. The goal of these should be that the built environment in the health care system, such as hospitals and any other places where health care services are provided, including the furniture there, will all be fully accessible to people with disabilities, and will be designed based on the principle of universal design. For example:

  1. a) The front area or drop-off areas for a hospital or other health care facility should be accessible, with automatic power doors that do not require a button to be found and pressed, and with tactile walking surface indicators both to warn when a person is walking into a driving area and to guide a person to the facility’s entrance. All other entrances and exits should be fully accessible, with automatic power door operators and an accessible path of travel to the door. This includes entrances from indoor or underground parking to the health care facility.
  1. b) Inside the health care facility, major public areas such as emergency room doors should always be fully accessible and have automatic power door openers.
  1. c) For the benefit of patients and others with learning and cognitive disabilities, vision loss or other disabilities that can affect mobility or way-finding, hospitals and other health care facilities should have way-finding markings in important areas such as the main lobby from the front door to the help desk and other major routes such as to main elevators, including colour contrasted markings such as a carpeted path or tactile walking surface indicators.
  1. d) Hospitals and other health care facilities with elevators should have accessible elevators that can accommodate people using mobility devices. They should also have accessible elevator buttons (with braille and large print on or beside each button), braille and large print floor numbers just outside elevator doors, and audible floor announcements on elevators. Elevator button panels should be consistent in layout from one elevator to the next.
  1. e) Health care facilities, including hospitals, should never install “destination elevators” which require a person to pre-select the floor to which they are going before entering the elevators. These present unfixable accessibility problems.
  1. f) Hospitals and other health care facilities should have accessible signage throughout, including braille and large print, for key locations. For example, public bathrooms should have accessible braille and large print signs on them. These signs should be placed in consistent and predictable locations.
  1. g) Where a health care facility has power doors that require a button to be pushed (i.e., they don’t open automatically), the button should always be located throughout the health care facility in a consistent place to make it easier to find. The button should be located near the door, so that a slow-moving individual can make it through the open door after pressing the button before the door closes. The button should always be located on the wall, and not on a free-standing post or bollard.
  1. h) Despite weaker requirements in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set out specific and strong requirements for the accessibility of any electronic kiosks in hospitals and other health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) specifying their required end-user functionality that effectively address recurring known needs arising from specific disabilities, and,
  1. ii) ensuring that they are at an accessible height e.g., for those using a wheelchair or other mobility device.

As a starting point, see the US Access Board’s standard for accessible electronic kiosks.

  1. i) Patient consultation or treatment rooms should have enough space to enable people using mobility devices to navigate in them and reach any treatment or consultation area. They should have enough space to enable a Sign Language interpreter to be positioned in the room to interpret for a deaf patient or support person.
  1. j) Movable furniture such as desks, tables or chairs should not obstruct accessible paths of travel around a facility where health care services are delivered, such as a doctor’s office, e.g., in their hallways or treatment rooms.
  1. k) Major health care facilities should provide accessible waiting areas for accessible transit pickup and drop-off, close to the pickup/drop-off point, with clear sight lines.
  1. l) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should be designed to avoid major sensory overstimulation or acoustic overloads, such as bright lights, loud music, large atrium areas, or frequent loud announcements. This is especially important in treatment areas or hospital rooms.
  1. m) Throughout a health care facility, proper colour contrasting should be required to assist people with low vision and cognitive disabilities, such as around elevator opening, doorways, and on the edge of stairs and handrails.
  1. n) Health care facilities should be required to have accessible bathrooms so that all patients can use the facilities, including adult change tables, sufficient transfer space and maneuvering room for mobility devices.
  1. o) Major health care facilities should include sensory rooms for people with sensory overload issues, such as in hospital emergency rooms.
  1. p) In a health care facility, all stairs and staircases, including “feature staircases” (included as aesthetic design enhancements) should be accessible, e.g., with tactile warnings at the top and bottom of each set of stairs, no open risers and with proper colour contrast on railings and step edges. There should never be curving staircases.
  1. q) Health care facilities should provide charging areas for electric mobility devices.
  1. r) Hospital rooms should be able to accommodate a patient’s mobility device so they can keep theirs with them and readily available when admitted to hospital.
  1. s) In a health care facility, waiting areas, isolation areas, breastfeeding rooms, staff areas and volunteer areas should be designed to be accessible.
  1. t) Accessible and bariatric paths of travel should be provided in health care facilities.
  1. u) Despite the more limited provisions regarding the provision of accessible parking spaces in other AODA accessibility standards, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should set higher and more specific requirements for accessible parking spaces for health care facilities, such as:
  1. i) requiring a greater number of accessible parking spots for the facility, where possible.
  1. ii) requiring that the accessible parking spots be located as close as possible to the doors of the health care facility.

iii) requiring that at least some of the accessible parking spots have larger dimensions to accommodate larger accessible vans, so that a passenger with a disability can park in that spot and have sufficient room to exit the vehicle, and

  1. iv) requiring that there be accessible curb cuts and an accessible path of travel from the accessible parking spots to the health care facilities’ entrances.
  1. v) Health Care facilities should have designated snow-piling areas outside, to prevent snow from being shoveled onto accessible paths of travel.
  1. w) Major health care facilities such as hospitals should provide service animal relief areas close to the facility’s door, covered wherever possible, with an accessible path of travel to them.
  1. x) When a major new health care facility like a hospital is being designed, or a major new wing or renovation is being planned, especially if public money is helping fund it, a properly trained and qualified accessibility consultant should be required to be engaged on the project from the very beginning. Their accessible design advice should be transmitted unedited to the Government or other organization for whom the project is being built and should be made public. Direct consultation with end-users with disabilities should be part of the design process from the beginning.

#17 The standard should require that:

  1. a) Each hospital patient’s bed should have an accessible means for a patient with disabilities to notify the nursing station of a health care need, not just a button or pull-string that they may not be able to reach and operate.
  1. b) Furniture such as seating in health care facilities should be designed with accessibility features and positioned in a manner that does not block accessible paths of travel.
  1. c) A Help Desk should be positioned immediately inside the main entrance of any major health care facility, including hospitals, to assist patients, including patients with disabilities, to get directions or help to their destination within the facility, or to request other accommodation supports.
  1. d) In any discrete department or area where health care services are provided, (such as an area for day surgery), the check-in desk should be located immediately adjacent to the entrance to that area, so that patients and support people with disabilities can easily reach it after entering the room or area.
  1. e) Accessible public service counters should be installed, even in existing health care facilities, with a specified height requirement, no glass barrier creating barriers for people with hearing loss and knee space for people using a mobility device.
  1. f) A large health care facility like a hospital should have rest areas along routes through the building so that people with fatiguing conditions can stop and rest along their route to get health care services.
  1. g) Health care facilities such as hospitals should have emergency areas of refuge with separate ventilation in case of fire, so that people with disabilities who cannot escape the building have safe areas to wait, while being protected from life-threatening smoke.
  1. h) The Ontario Government should make available to health care facilities and providers: guides on accessible procurement including procurement of accessible furniture, lists of vendors of accessible furniture. The Ontario Government should provide a hub for procuring accessible furniture to help health care facilities and providers reduce the cost of their acquisition.

#18 the Ministry of Health should within one year survey all offices of physicians, chiropractors, occupational and physiotherapists and other like health care providers where they provide direct health care services to patients, on the extent to which their premises are accessible for patients with disabilities. The Ministry should make public a report on the results of this survey (anonymized).

#19 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set specific technical requirements for the accessibility of diagnostic and treatment equipment. As a starting point, the Health Care Standards Development Committee should consider the accessible medical diagnostic equipment standards that the US Access Board has formulated. The needs of patients with all kinds of disabilities, and not only those with mobility disabilities, should be met by the technical requirements that the Health Care Accessibility Standard sets.

#20 The Ontario Government should impose a strict funding condition on the purchase or rental of any new health care diagnostic or treatment equipment anywhere in the health care system requiring that it must be accessible to patients with disabilities and designed based on principles of universal design, in compliance with the technical standards to be included in the Health Care Accessibility Standard.

#21 The Ontario Government should be required to make readily available to health care providers and facilities, and to the public, an up-to-date list of accessible health care diagnostic and treatment equipment and venders, so that each health care provider and facility does not have to re-invent the wheel by re-investigating these same issues.

#22 To save money, the Ontario Government should be required to attempt to negotiate bulk purchasing of accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment so that health care facilities and providers can obtain them at lower prices.

#23 When health care facilities and providers purchase, rent or otherwise acquire new or replacement diagnostic or treatment equipment, these should be required to be accessible to patients with disabilities and to be designed based on principles of universal design.

#24 Health care facilities and providers should survey their existing diagnostic or treatment equipment, and take the following steps to address any accessibility problems they have, if that equipment is not now being replaced:

  1. a) Identify where the nearest place is where a patient can get diagnosis or treatment services where there is accessible diagnostic and treatment equipment, and to help facilitate the access of the patient with disabilities to health care services from that provider or facility.
  1. b) Adopt and implement an interim plan to make any readily achievable accessibility improvements to the health care facility’s or provider’s existing diagnostic or treatment equipment.
  1. c) Develop plans to purchase, rent or otherwise acquire accessible diagnostic or treatment equipment over a period of up to five years.

#25 These accessibility/universal design requirements should also apply to consumer health care products, such as for example, pill bottles.

#26 Because Ontario’s system for electronic health care records has been centrally created, the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Ontario Government and any provincial agency that is responsible for overseeing the design, procurement or operation of the system for electronic health care records to ensure that these records will be kept and available in accessible formats for patients and support people with disabilities, and, as a related benefit, to health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible. PDF format should not be treated as being an accessible format.

#27 Individual health care organizations or facilities, including laboratories, that create their own health care records in electronic form should also be required to ensure that they are readily available in accessible formats for patients with disabilities and any patients’ support people with disabilities, and, as a side benefit, for health care providers and their staff with disabilities, except where technically impossible.

#28 All the Initial Report’s recommendations on training on accessibility laws should be revised to explicitly include training on the accessibility requirements regarding people with disabilities in the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

#29 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require training on disability accessibility, disability human rights and disability Charter obligations for existing health care professionals as a condition of continuing in practice.

#30 The Ontario Government should be required to impose a condition of its funding for post-secondary education programs to train anyone in a health care discipline, profession or field, that the college or university that offers that degree or course must include a sufficient designated and mandatory curriculum on meeting the needs of patients with disabilities.

#31 Wherever possible, any new health care facility or provider receiving public funds that is setting up a new location should be required to locate at or near an accessible public transit stop on an accessible public transit route, with an accessible path of travel from the public transit stop to the health care facility or provider. Similarly, where an existing health care facility or provider is going to move to another location, it should be required to attempt to relocate to a location that is on an accessible public transit route.

#32 Where it is medically possible for a patient to take part in a health care service without physically attending at the health care facility or provider, an option should be provided for taking part remotely, e.g., via Facetime or other remote video conferencing. The Health Care Accessibility Standard should also require the removal of the OHIP barrier to funded physicians house calls.

#33 Where OHIP or a health care facility or provider has a policy or practice of permitting only one health issue per visit, an exception should be created for patients with disabilities for whom transportation to the health care facility is impeded by accessibility barriers.

#34 A health care facility or provider should not be permitted to charge a late fee or a missed appointment fee where a patient with a disability has in good faith attempted to attend on time but was made late or precluded from attending by transportation barriers (such as being made late for the appointment by the community’s para-transit service).

#35 When the Ontario Government is undertaking planning for new health care services, or for improvements to health care services, it should be required to include in those plans, and to make public, requirements to ensure that wherever possible, health care services and facilities are provided in locations on accessible public transit routes, with an accessible path of travel from the accessible public transit stop to the facility or provider.

#36 The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard should be amended to set accessibility requirements for public transit stations and stops, as the joint July 31, 2017 AODA Alliance/ARCH brief to the Transportation Standards Development Committee recommended.

#37 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should set technical specifications to ensure the full accessibility of ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients, including patients with disabilities, to or from health care services. See also below re: the need to include equipment in those vehicles for communication with patients with communication-related disabilities.

#38 Any health care facility or provider, including such places as doctors’ offices and pharmacies, should be required to designate an accessible private area where patients with disabilities can give and receive private information in connection with their health care services or products without others being able to overhear this.

#39 Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify all patients, including patients with disabilities, of their right to have their health care needs and issues discussed and information exchanged in a private location, and should instruct their staff, including any who deal with patients or the public, of their duty to fully respect this right.

#40 Without limiting the information and communications to which this part of the Health Care Accessibility Standard should apply, it should address:

  1. a) Information or communications needed to provide a health care provider with the patient’s history, needs, symptoms or other health problems.
  1. b) Information and communications regarding the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis or treatment, including any risks, follow-up or other health care services to secure.
  1. c) A health care facility’s discharge instructions.

#41 Health Care facilities should be equipped with assistive listening devices to enable patients with hearing loss and support people with hearing loss to be able to effectively communicate e.g., at nursing stations, help desks, and when dealing directly with health care providers.

#42 Health care-related products such as prescription and non-prescription medications should be provided when needed with accessible labels, instructions or users’ manuals, available in accessible formats. Those who sell or rent these to the public should be required to regularly notify the public, including their customers, that accessible labels, instructions, and users’ manuals are available on request. See e.g. work on developing standards and practices for accessible prescription drug container labels by the US Access Board. See also the February 6, 2020 news release announcing that the Empire chain of stores, including all Sobeys Stores, will provide accessible prescription labels to customers with disabilities free of charge on request. If they can, so can all other drug stores.

#43 Where a health care facility or health care provider provides information about their services or facilities in print or via the internet, they should be required to ensure that their website meets current international accessibility requirements along prompt time lines, even if the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard does not now require this. Currently, the Information and Communication Accessibility Information and Communication Accessibility Standard has too many exemptions, leaves out too many providers of goods and services, and has timelines that are too long. Whether or not those exemptions, exclusions and long timelines are justified for other sectors, they are unjustified for a sector as important as the health care sector.

#44 Ambulances and other vehicles that transport patients should include equipment to facilitate communication with patients with communication disabilities, such as remotely-accessed sign language interpretation and other communication supports.

#45 The Ontario Government should be required to set up hubs or centralized services to enable health care facilities and providers, including small providers, to quickly and easily access communication supports needed for patients with communication-related disabilities (for example Sign Language interpreters and real time captioning). The Ontario Government should fund these services as part of its funding of the health care system, in furtherance of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Eldridge decision.

#46 Any prepared information on health care conditions, treatment instructions, prognoses, risks, laboratory or other test results and the like which a health care facility or provider makes available to patients, whether in print or electronic form, should be made available at the same time on request in an accessible format. The standard should direct that PDF format is not sufficient to be accessible, and that if information is available in a PDF document, it should also be posted in an accessible format such as HTML or MS Word. Health care facilities and providers should be required to notify patients, including patients and their support people with disabilities, that any hard copy or electronic documents provided to them can be requested and obtained in an accessible format on request.

#47 Where a health care facility or provider asks patients or their support people to use information technology hardware or software in connection with the delivery of health care services (such as asking them to fill out their medical history on a portable computer or tablet device), the facility or provider shall:

  1. a) In the case of new or updated information technology or equipment to be acquired, ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities and is designed based on principles of universal design;
  1. b) In the case of existing information technology now being used, retrofit to be accessible except where this would pose an undue hardship and,
  1. c) For those people who prefer this option, ensure that patients with disabilities or their support people with disabilities are assisted to use that technology, in private, at the same time as others would use it, where this would not reduce their access to the health care services to which it pertains.

#48 The Ontario Government should be required to develop and make public a strategy for ensuring that health care promotion initiatives in Ontario are accessible to people with disabilities. For example, it should require that:

  1. a) All advertisements for health care promotion should have captioning and audio description.
  1. b) All mail-out, printed and online materials focusing on health promotion should be required to be in accessible formats, regardless of any exemptions in the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard.

#49 Hospitals and other major health care facilities should be required to provide support services for patients with disabilities when needed to ensure that those patients can fully access and benefit from the health care services that the facility offers, to let patients know about the availability of these services, and to annually publicly report on the number of staff available to provide this support, such as:

  1. a) Attendant care.
  1. b) Assistance with meals.
  1. c) Assistance with being guided to and getting around the health care facility e.g., for patients with vision loss or cognitive disabilities.

#50 In a hospital or other major health care facility, there should be one nurse at each nursing station designated to receive training and to be responsible for addressing the needs of patients with complex needs due to their disability.

#51 Each health care provider and facility should be required to put in place a system and designate a person to solicit and receive requests from patients or their support people for disability accommodations in connection with health care services or products.

#52 Each health care provider or facility should be required to make readily-available to the public, including to their patients, in an accessible format, information about how to identify themselves in advance to the health care provider as having disability-related accessibility or accommodation needs, and to ask to arrange for these needs to be met.

#53 Each hospital and larger health care facility should be required to collect anonymized information on disability-related accessibility and accommodation requests received from or on behalf of patients with disabilities, to assist that health care provider or facility in planning for future disability accessibility and accommodation. This anonymized information should be available for study by the Government or other health policy planners.

#54 The Chief Executive Officer of any hospital or large health care facility should be required to annually review the information that the facility has collected on the requests for disability accessibility and accommodation that the facility has received and report to the board of directors on measures that could improve the facility’s capacity to meet these needs.

#55 Each health care profession’s self-governing college should be required to:

  1. a) Review its public complaints process to identify any barriers at any stage in that process that could adversely affect people with disabilities filing a complaint, or about whom a complaint is filed.
  1. b) Develop a plan for removing and preventing any accessibility barriers identified, whether or not those barriers are specified in any current AODA accessibility standards.
  1. c) Publicly report to its governing board of directors and the public on these barriers and the college’s plans to remove and prevent such barriers, in order to achieve a barrier-free complaints process.
  1. d) Establish and maintain a standing committee of its governing board of directors responsible for the accessibility of the services that the college offers the public, including, but not limited to its public complaints process.
  1. e) Consult with the public, including people with disabilities, on barriers that people with disabilities experience when seeking the services of the health care professionals that that profession regulates, to be shared with the board’s Accessibility Committee. To avoid duplication of efforts and burdens on the disability community, several regulatory colleges can jointly undertake this consultation.

#56 The Ministry of Health should be required to designate a senior official at the “Assistant Deputy Minister” level as the leading public official who is responsible for ensuring accessibility, accommodation and inclusion for patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. They should be responsible for ensuring that any policies, plans or proposals regarding the health care system are screened to ensure that they will not create any new barriers for patients with disabilities, and will instead remove barriers.

#57 The Ministry of Health should be required to conduct a system-wide review of the health care system for any systemic barriers, in consultation with the public including people with disabilities. It should identify and make public a plan to remove and prevent systemic or system-wide barriers that impede patients with disabilities from receiving accessible health care, along time lines that the Health Care Accessibility Standard will set.

#58 Each hospital and other major health care facility should be required to establish and regularly publicize a dedicated disability accessibility/accommodation complaints hotline, to trigger prompt action when problems are raised.

#59 The Ministry of Health should be required to establish and regularly publicize a hotline to receive complaints about accessibility problems facing patients and support people with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. The Ministry should be required to annually publish a report with an anonymized summary of the substance of complaints received and action taken to prevent their recurrence.

#60 The Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the creation of authoritative, well-trained system navigators to assist patients with disabilities and their support people to navigate Ontario’s health care system.

#61 The OHIP fee schedule should be revised to provide for added time to serve the needs of patients with disabilities who need more time for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, to eliminate the harmful financial incentive that the Ontario Government now creates for physicians to avoid treating taking on those patients.

#62 Each hospital and major health care facility should be required to establish a committee of those employees and volunteers with disabilities who wish to voluntarily join it, to give the facility’s senior management feedback on the barriers in the health care facility that could impede patients with disabilities or any patients’ support people with disabilities, and/or employees/volunteers with disabilities.

#63 The Health Care Standards Development Committee should endorse the recommendations regarding health care services in the Initial Report of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario schools.

#64 The Initial Report’s Recommendation 15 regarding the conduct of an after-the fact review of the problems facing people with disabilities in accessing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic should be revised so that this review is an Independent Review conducted by trusted and respected persons who are independent of the Government and of the health care system.

#65 The Initial Report should recommend that the Health Care Accessibility Standard

  1. a) Require the Government to immediately rescind the January 13, 2021 critical care triage protocol and all directions and training materials relating to it, and should direct that these are not to be followed or considered appropriate under any situation.
  1. b) Require the Ontario Government to immediately make public all versions of the critical care triage protocol that have been in force in Ontario, or distributed to hospitals, as well as any critical care triage protocol or directions to ambulances or other emergency services, and any reports that the government received from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  1. c) Require that if critical care triage is directed to occur during this or other emergencies, the Government shall make public on a daily basis the number of patients who are refused or denied critical care that they need and want, due to critical care triage.
  1. e) Require that the Clinical Frailty Scale shall not be used as a tool to decide who is to ever be refused critical care they need and want.
  1. f) Forbid the use or distribution of the “Short Term Mortality Risk Calculator” that was made available under the auspices of Critical Care Services Ontario to all Ontario hospitals.

#66 the Health Care Accessibility Standard should require the Government to ensure the availability of remote or distance delivery of health care services where medically feasible, and where patients with disabilities face barriers attending at a health care office or facility to receive such services.

#67 The Initial Report should be expanded to list a full range of disability barriers reported to the Standards Development Committee in access to health care during the pandemic.



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55-Page Condensed and Annotated Version of the March 12, 2021 Initial Report/Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on What An Education Accessibility Standard should Include, condensed and Annotated by the AODA Alliance


Condensed and Annotated Version of the March 12, 2021 Initial Report/Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on What An Education Accessibility Standard should Include

Prepared by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

June 23, 2021

Explanatory Note from the AODA Alliance

The Ontario Government has committed to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It appointed an advisory committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, to develop recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include.

On March 12, 2021, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee (the Standards Development Committee) sent The Government its initial report that sets out its initial recommendations. The Government made that report and its recommendations public on June 1, 2021. The Government gave the public up to September 2, 2021 to send the Standards Development Committee feedback on its initial recommendations. The Standards Development Committee can use that feedback to refine and finalize its report and recommendations to The Government.

The Standards Development Committee’s initial report and recommendations is 185 pages long. To assist the public, the AODA Alliance prepared this 55-page condensed and annotated version of that 185-page document. The initial report and recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the Ontario Government should include in an Education Accessibility Standard, to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

This condensed version only presents a selection of the initial recommendations. The AODA Alliance supports all the recommendations. By including some of them here, we are not meaning to diminish the importance of all the Committee’s initial recommendations, which we support in their entirety.

The editing and annotations of this version are solely the responsibility of the AODA Alliance, and not the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. In This condensed version, some of the recommendations are presented in a different order than that in which they appear in the Standards Development Committee’s full report. In some cases, we have added our own headings. We also have tried to group together key recommendations under major themes. This is all done to help anyone wishing to understand them, put them into action now, and offer feedback to the Standards Development Committee about these important recommendations. Where any text is an addition after the fact by the AODA Alliance, it is clearly marked as a note from the AODA Alliance.

Introduction

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Students with disabilities continue to confront numerous barriers in Ontario’s publicly funded school system. Such barriers impede students with disabilities from fully participating in and benefitting from an accessible, equitable, and inclusive education system in Ontario. As such, the Ontario Government is enacting an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, (the Act). Under the Act, an accessibility standard is a regulation that spells out the barriers that are to be removed or prevented, what must be done to remove or prevent them, and the timelines required for these actions. The call for an Education Accessibility Standard to be developed and enacted under the Act initially came from the disability community. This call eventually achieved bi-partisan support by all three Ontario political parties, and support from key labour unions representing many of those working on the front lines of Ontario’s education system….

…In this report, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee brings forward for public comment and feedback a comprehensive series of initial recommendations on what the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should include. It is the result of the extensive joint efforts of Government-appointed representatives from the disability community and the education sector to identify the barriers that students with disabilities face and the measures needed to remove and prevent them…

…These initial recommendations are intended to help educators ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in and be on a footing of equality from all that Ontario’s education system has to offer. They aim to help school boards save the cost of having to re-invent the wheel when it comes to accessibility, and the cost of leaving barriers in place that disadvantage students with disabilities. They seek to ensure that in Ontario’s education system, public money is never used to create new barriers that negatively impact students with disabilities or to perpetuate existing barriers.

These initial recommendations also aim to implement the rights of students with disabilities to equity and equality in education, guaranteed to them since 1982 by the Ontario Human Rights Code and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In addition to students with disabilities, there are others who will substantially benefit from these initial recommendations. For example, they will help parents, siblings, grandparents and other family members who have disabilities, teachers and other school staff and volunteers who have disabilities, and any members of the public with disabilities who might wish to interact with and benefit from Ontario’s education system.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee hopes that the promised Education Accessibility Standard will achieve a real change in the practices and culture regarding accessibility within the school system. This will unleash both the potential of all students with disabilities and of the professionals employed to educate them.

Initial Proposed Long-Term Objective for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

That by 2025, the publicly funded K-12 education system will be fully accessible, equitable, inclusive and learner-centered:

  1. A) By removing and preventing accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities from fully participating in, and fully benefitting from all aspects of the education system, and
  2. B) By providing a prompt, accessible, fair, effective and user-friendly process to learn about and seek programs, services, supports, accommodations and placements tailored to the individual strengths and needs of each student with disabilities

…We envision an Ontario public education system K-12 where learning environments are barrier free and fully inclusive of learners with disabilities. All learners with disabilities will have full access to meaningful education and relevant learning experiences that include appropriate instructional supports.

Major Theme 1: Ensure that Ontario’s Schools Effectively Serve All Students with Any Kind of Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

At present, Ontario’s special education system is only designed to serve students with a condition that falls within the Ministry of Education‘s out-dated definition of “exceptionality. That definition leaves out some disabilities. It includes some students who have no disability at all.

As a theme, when they are read as a whole, the Standards Development Committee ‘s entire package of initial recommendations would replace the out-dated term “exceptionality” used throughout Ontario’s special education system. Instead, the focus of all disability-related education efforts should extend to all students with any kind of disabilities, as disability is defined in the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. For example, the ‘Standards Development Committee s initial recommendations include the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

The Ministry of Education shall:

40.1 Ensure that no student with a disability is excluded from eligibility for programs and services, including special education programs and services, that they require due to definitions or criteria that are inconsistent with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

40.3 Ensure that school boards fulfil their duty to accommodate the disability-related needs of students with disabilities, in relation to all school-related activities, and that the policies are in place to ensure that they do so.

Major Theme 2: Training on Disability Accessibility for Everyone Involved in Ontario’s Education System

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee makes several recommendations that school boards provide training on disability accessibility and inclusion for teachers, school staff, parents and all students. As well, it recommends that the Ministry of Education should develop models for this training, which school boards can use. This would avoid the need for each school board to have to re-invent the same training.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

2.1. The Ontario College of Teachers and the Ministry of Education require that, to graduate with a degree in education and to qualify to teach in an Ontario school, teachers receive specific curriculum and training, as part of their university program in education, on the need for our education system to be inclusive and accessible for students with disabilities, and on how to teach curriculum to all students on this topic; and…

3.1. Each school board provide specific training to all school board staff who deal with parents or students, on the importance of the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities, and on effective strategies for teaching and designing lesson plans in this area….

4.2 Each school board develop, implement and periodically evaluate a multi-year age-appropriate program/curriculum to teach all students, school board staff and families of school board students, about the inclusion of and full participation of students with disabilities. This program shall include the following:

  1. a) Communication posted in all schools and sent to all families of the school board’s students, on the school board’s commitment to the inclusion of students with disabilities, and the benefits this brings to all students.
  2. b) Where possible:

(i)            Exercises having students, staff and, where interested, parents/guardians conduct a barrier assessment such as a “barrier scavenger hunt” in the school or nearby community, to catalogue disability barriers and invent suggestions on how these can be removed or prevented

(ii)           Hearing from, meeting and interacting with persons with disabilities [e.g. at assemblies and/or via guest presentations].

  1. c) Online posting of resources on these activities to enable sharing with other school boards…

Scool Board Human resources Practices

5.1 Each school board develop and implement human resources policies targeted at full accessibility and the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities, including:

  1. a) Making knowledge and experience on implementing the inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities an important hiring and promotions criterion especially for principals, vice-principals and teaching staff.
  2. b) Emphasizing accessibility and inclusion of and full participation by students with disabilities knowledge and performance in any performance management and performance reviews…
  1. school boards develop and deliver adaptive/assistive technology and services training programs …
  2. The Ministry of Education, Boards, schools and Faculties of Education responsible for teacher education and ongoing professional learning and leadership development ensure the principles and practices of Universal Design For Learning and Differentiated Instruction are applied in curriculum, assessment, and instruction including procurement requirements and use of instructional resources, optimizing teaching and learning for all.
  1. Require boards to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate comprehensive training programs for its staff on procuring and using accessible digital technology…

Ontario College of Teachers shall:

53.5 Ensure that the mandatory qualifications to teach students who are blind/low vision be enhanced to provide the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of these students.

53.6 Work with the Ministry of Education and select faculties of education to initiate a Master’s level program in both French and English for teaching students who are blind/low vision such that exists in other jurisdictions.

53.7 Revise the Guideline for Accreditation of Faculties of education:

  1. a) To add more credits on teaching students with disabilities in the pre-service program
  2. b) To add training on the duty to accommodate all students with disabilities

53.8 Create and distribute a professional advisory to all certified teachers on the duty to accommodate students with disabilities and understand how to assist in their support.

  1. As a part of efforts to educate the entire school community about inclusion of students and school community members with disabilities, all school boards will develop and implement workshops to educate on and address bullying and cyberbullying in schools and the impacts that they can have on students’ physical and mental health. These workshops need to be informed and facilitated by young persons with disabilities. The workshops are to be presented to all members of the school community…

 Major Theme 3: Removing and Preventing Digital Disability Barriers in Ontario Schools

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Require school boards to designate an accessible “digital accessibility lead” (a board level staff appointment) that will support educators in the procurement and use of digital technologies and will be responsible for all digital information at the school and system level.
  2. Require all school boards to develop and make public in an accessible format a “Digital and Technology Action Plan” with specific policies, procedures, timelines and outcome evaluation metrics that identify, remove and prevent digital, technology and bureaucratic barriers that impede learning for students with disabilities. This plan shall be updated every two years in light of new and emerging technology. For example, the plan should include:

35.1 Establishing, publicizing and enforcing information technology procurement accessibility requirements, to ensure that no technology is purchased either by a school board unless it ensures full digital accessibility. Digital and information technology accessibility should be included as a requirement in all Requests for Proposal or other tenders for sale of products and services to a school board or the Ministry. If a vender provides a product that turns out to have accessibility problems, it should be a term of the procurement that the vender will remediate the product at its expense.

35.2 Ensuring that digital and other technology that is used by or with students is designed based on universal design principles and is accessible to students with disabilities, except where to procure such is impossible without undue hardship.

35.3 A process for researching, evaluating and acquiring new evidence informed accessible technologies;

35.4 Websites, intranet content and e-learning software and hardware use a variety of accessible formats;

35.5 Each board’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) is to be fully accessible to staff and students with disabilities, including those who use adaptive technology. The plan should ensure that no teacher or other, school board staff is able to turn off any feature of the Learning Management System that is accessible in favour of one that is not.

35.6 All accessibility features on digital equipment are turned on and available to ensure that information posted through them will be accessible to students with disabilities, including those using adaptive technology such as screen readers or voice recognition tools;

35.7 Board documents affecting students (report cards, assessments, Individual Education Plans etc.) are fully accessible. Software used to produce a school board’s documents such as report cards, Individual Education Plans, or other key documents should be designed to ensure that they produce these documents in accessible formats.

35.8 All technology procurement policies and procedures meet accessibility requirements. Any procurement of technology including information technology should include specific accessibility end-user functionality requirements. A condition of procurement should be a requirement that the supplier or vender must remediate any inaccessible product or service at its own expense.

35.9 Any textbook used in any learning environment must be accessible to teachers and students with disabilities at the time of procurement.

35.10 Electronic documents created at the school board for use in education and other programming and activities should be created in accessible formats unless there is a compelling and unavoidable reason requiring otherwise.

35.11 A school board shall not use PDF format for documents to be used by or in connection with students or their parents unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously available, including, for example, for any textbook or other instructional material, school or Ministry policy, or student-related document such as report card or Individual Education Plan. For example, if a textbook is available in EPUB format, the textbooks must meet the international standard for that file format. For EPUB it is the W3C Digital Publishing Guidelines currently under review. If a textbook is available in print, the publisher should be required to provide the digital version of the textbook in an accessible format at the same time the print version is delivered to the school/Board.

35.12 Ensure that students who are provided assistive technology for use at school can also take them home for home use as well;

35.13 School boards remove any barriers that prevent students with disabilities from fully accessing adaptive technologies such as restrictions on being able to install apps on laptop computers or mobile devices, or firewalls that restrict access to websites needed to facilitate the use of adaptive technology.

  1. Ensure the Ministry of Education provides sufficient long-term funding through the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) to support boards in acquiring and supporting assistive technologies and related hardware and software via enhancements to the Special Education Grant. This should also include funding for any student with any kind of disability defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act….

38.1 The ministry shall not use PDF formats for documents to be made available for students or parents/guardians, or for Special Education Advisory Committees, unless an accessible alternative format such as MS Word is also simultaneously made available.

38.2 The Ministry of Education should establish, implement, publicize and enforce information technology procurement accessibility requirements for any technology to be made available in schools, to ensure that no technology is purchased by the Ministry for use by school boards, unless it ensures full digital accessibility, along the same lines as is required above for procurement by school boards.

38.3 The Ministry’s program for funding adaptive technology for students with disabilities shall not bar the use of any category of technology, such as smart phones, which are needed by and effective for those students.

38.4 The Ministry of Education should immediately direct TVO to make its online learning content accessible to persons with disabilities, and to promptly make public a plan of action to achieve this goal, with specific milestones and timelines.

38.5 The Ministry of Education should make public a plan of action to swiftly make its own online learning content accessible for persons with disabilities, setting out milestones and timelines, and should report to the public on its progress.

39.1 For any real time classes (sometimes called synchronous learning), or any meetings with school board staff and students or families held virtually rather than in person (such as an Individual Education Plan or Identification, Placement, and Review Committee meeting), only accessible virtual platforms shall be used by a school board.

39.2 Each school board shall make public the name of the virtual platform or platforms it uses and publicly certify that it has confirmed that it is an accessible virtual meeting platform.

39.3 The Ministry of Education should regularly monitor and have tested the accessibility of major virtual meeting platforms, shall make public the results of its comparisons, and shall provide a list of approved accessible options for virtual platforms to school boards on a quarterly basis.

39.4 The Ministry of Education and each school board shall make public a phone number and email address for the public to contact to report accessibility problems experienced with virtual meeting platforms used in the education system. The aggregated feedback received shall be shared with the public and, school boards on a quarterly basis.

Major Theme 4: Ensuring Accessible Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee made many recommendations aimed at the design of curriculum taught in school, at how students are taught in school, and at how student learning is assessed in school. “Curriculum” refers to the content to be taught. “Instruction” refers to how a teacher teaches that curriculum, such as the teacher’s lesson plans. “Assessment” refers to how the student is tested or assessed to see what they have learned.

Several recommendations taken together would require that curriculum, student instruction and student assessment should be reformed to ensure that they are all barrier-free and fully accessible for students with disabilities. This includes ensuring that the principles of universal design in learning and differential instruction are built into curriculum, student instruction and student assessment. Beyond the specific requirements below, the Ministry of Education would be required to develop models and tools to help school boards implement these requirements.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

9.1 The Ministry of Education and Boards incorporate Universal Design for Learning in the requirements for curriculum design.

9.3 The Ministry identify a ministry designated office or person with lead responsibility for the ongoing review of all provincially mandated curriculum (and secondary resources guidelines offered to school boards) for removal of accessibility barriers.

9.4 The Ministry mandate a strategy and action plan for continuous review of all curriculum. requiring that all reviewed and new curriculum address accessibility barriers and is barrier free.

9.5 Curriculum review and renewal in curriculum areas, include specific focus areas, such as:

  1. b) science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics
  2. c) alternative, expanded curriculum for students with disabilities that is barrier free and addresses relevant life skills
  3. g) new and developing curriculum areas and competencies such as multi-literacies, e.g., digital literacy, financial literacy that is designed and integrated within specific courses (e.g., career studies, mathematics) and across curriculum
  4. h) curriculum that addresses experiential learning, employability skills development, specialty pathways such as Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) and school to work transitions
  5. i) curriculum that focuses on the development of learning skills that specifically address executive functioning skills (e.g., emotional and physical self-regulation, working memory, self-monitoring, organizational planning and prioritizing, and task initiation). The development of these skills is critical to accessing learning for all, and student achievement and well-being.

These recommendations would among other things require that the timely access, use, and the benefits of curriculum materials, goods and services. Instructional learning materials need to be fully accessible through Universal Design for Learning that uses many differing, alternative methods of engaging, representing, expressing, and communicating learning. This requires:

  1. The Ministry and Boards require current and newly developed special programs, for example, French Immersion and Extended French, be open, fully accessible and barrier free for students with disabilities and that the programs be reviewed, monitored and developed utilizing open, transparent processes that provide for timely communication, accessibility and participation by students with disabilities.

This requires that:

24.1 The Ministry set direction and Board required practices that ensure specialized programs are accessible to and effectively accommodate students with disabilities. This requires provision for effective accommodations, accessible locations, instructional materials and program design that is accessible, and barrier free for the needs of students with disabilities.

  1. Boards ensure students with disabilities who participate in specialized and expanded programs receive the required adaptations to instructional design and assessment practices so that they have every opportunity afforded them to earn a diploma albeit 16 credits for an Ontario Secondary School Certificate (OSSC) or 30 credits for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD). It is in the design process where many students for example, with intellectual disabilities can achieve credits and pursue diploma pathways (e.g., through apprenticeship programs and others).

25.4 The Ministry and Boards provide Adapted Physical Education (APE) by developing, implementing and monitoring carefully designed physical education programs for students across all disabilities, based on comprehensive assessments, so that students with disabilities develop skills and competencies to enable healthy personal living.

11.1 Ministry and Boards will ensure the design of instructional materials that are fully accessible on a timely basis for students with disabilities, including for example, materials that are accessible to those with vision and hearing loss, full captioned digital, visual accommodations, and non-verbal formats.

11.2 Ministry and Boards will establish procurement procedures requiring any new instructional materials be fully accessible, in timely, quality alternative formats and/or conversion ready.

11.3 Ministry and Boards will require that procurement procedures for approved educational resources meet accessibility, barrier free standards, be transparent, with quality design requiring ongoing timely review, monitoring and communication.

11.6 The Ministry and Boards establish dedicated shared resources within and among school boards, to assist efficient and effective, timely conversion ready materials that are in accessible format, where needed. This includes ensuring a board lead for oversight, coordination and response.

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Under these recommendations, the Ministry of Education should ensure that school boards use barrier-free assessments for student performance. The Ministry should provide guides and resources to school boards on how to do this. The Ministry should ensure that all provincial standardized tests are barrier-free for students with disabilities. The Ministry and school boards should monitor student assessments to ensure that they are barrier-free for students with disabilities.

Major Theme 5: Substantially Strengthen Requirements Regarding Individual Education Plans

Note from the AODA Alliance:

A centerpiece of how Ontario’s education system tries to serve students with disabilities is by having school boards develop and implement an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student with special education needs. However, the Standards Development Committee found that there are important shortcomings with the existing regime for these. For example, Ontario’s requirements only apply for students whose disability falls within the out-dated and too narrow term “exceptionality. They should be available for all students with disabilities, whether or not their disability falls within that term “exceptionality. Among the Committee’s recommendations are the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Each school board should notify the parents/guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, the students themselves, of their right to have an Individual Education Plan. All students with disabilities who want or need an Individual Education Plan shall have one provided.
  1. The Ministry of Education shall revise the format and content of the Individual Education Plan to include accommodations, as defined by the Ontario Human Rights Code, as well as supports or services that a student with disabilities needs to enable them to fully participate in and fully benefit from all opportunities available at school. It should include accommodations, supports or services in relation to all aspects of school life, including those needed for education and learning, for emergencies, for health and safety, behavior or social engagement. The aim should be to consolidate to the extent possible all such planning for the student in one place. The portions of the Individual Education Plan that are needed to be shared with specific school staff members to implement them shall be shared with those staff members. Otherwise, the student’s confidentiality in connection with the Individual Education Plan shall be maintained.
  1. The Ministry of Education shall publicly report on what changes have been made to the standards for Individual Education Plans, and regularly audit school board Individual Education Plans for compliance with the new standard.
  1. School boards shall conduct annual audits of Individual Education Plan compliance and publicly report on the results of the audit.

Major Theme 6: Expanding and Strengthening Parent and Student Participation In the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: Parents /guardians of students with disabilities, and students with disabilities themselves, need direct, easy access to important information about the menu of programs, services, supports and accommodations available for students including students with disabilities, and how to request or advocate for them. They have a right to know all the important information they need including, for example what is available, what persons and what office to approach to get this information and to or to request or change the student’s placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s disability-related education needs.

This information should be easy to find, and should be readily available in accessible formats, in plain language and in multiple languages. Parents report that too often, it is very difficult to find out this important and basic information. It is inefficient and unreliable to leave this responsibility to individual principals, spread across Ontario, to each deal with this as they choose. When it is left to each principal, without clear requirements and pre-prepared materials for parents, guardians and students, school boards won’t be able to ensure that this important need is met.

As well, parents/guardians of students with disabilities report that too often, they find it very difficult, frustrating, and demoralizing to advocate for their child’s needs in the school system. Depending on the board, the school and the people involved, it can be a welcoming, positive and cooperative process, or an alienating, bureaucratic and rigid process.

When there is a dispute about the Individual Education Plan contents or implementation, parent/guardians/students do not have a dispute mechanism and some parents, guardians or students resort to filing a human rights complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Filing a human rights complaint involves great legal expenses, delays, and hardships to a family. A dispute mechanism that is easy to use and that can resolve issues quickly is needed.

  1. We recommend: All of the students with disabilities and the parents/guardians of those students have the right to fully participate in the planning and implementation of the student’s educational plan/program.

The Ministry of Education shall:

49.1 Ensure effective processes and resources used for planning for all students with disabilities to ensure that students and parents/guardians are able to participate effectively in the process.

49.2 Develop a timely formal process/dispute resolution mechanism for parents/guardians and students to appeal the contents or implementation of Individual Education Plans, to make necessary changes if required, and to ensure that district school boards follow it.

49.3 In cases where disputes cannot be resolved at the school board level, appoint an arm’s length third party mediator when parents and/or students can show that the school is not effectively meeting their needs.

The District School Boards shall:

49.4 Provide parents/guardians of students with disabilities, and where applicable, students with disabilities themselves, with timely and effective information, in accessible formats, on the available services, programs and supports for students with disabilities (whether or not they are classified as students with special education needs under the Education Act and Regulations).

49.5 Ensure that parents, guardians, and students are informed, as early as possible, in a readily accessible and understandable way, about important information such as:

  1. a) What “special education” is and who is entitled to receive it.
  2. b) What the rights are to full participation in and full inclusion in all the school board’s education and other programming, and to be accommodated in connection with those programs under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not the student is classified as a student with special education needs under Ontario’s Education Act and regulations.
  3. c) The menu of options, placements, programs, services, supports and accommodations available at the school board for students with disabilities.
  4. d) Who to approach at the school board to get this information, and how to request placements, programs, supports, services or accommodations for students with disabilities, including the development of Individual Education Plans, or to raise concerns about whether the school board is effectively meeting the student’s education needs.

49.6 Ensure parents and guardians of students with disabilities can easily find out and, where necessary visit, different placement, program, service and support options for a student with a disability, to ensure that the parent, guardian or the student, is knowledgeable about the options for placement, program or services that are available to be provided to that student.

49.7 Develop, implement, and make public an action plan to ensure parent/guardian/students have access to the information they need and meet the requirements of this section. The action plan should incorporate the following:

  1. a) The goal of the plan
  2. b) What information will be made available to parent/guardian/students with disabilities
  3. c) How information will be formatted to make it easy to understand and jargon free
  4. d) The types of formats that will be used to make the information available and accessible
  5. e) Where information will be available to parents/guardians/students (in schools and on-line including school and school board websites)
  6. f) The timelines for distributing information to all parent/guardians/students and the key transition points when information will be provided (such as at start of school, at least once annually, and as part of student planning, including Individual Education Plan development and review)
  7. g) Who will be responsible for ensuring information is provided to parent/guardian/students with disabilities
  8. h) How the distribution of information will be tracked or measured
  9. i) What measures will be used to evaluate the value and impact of providing the information
  10. j) How the action plan will be evaluated
  11. k) How the action plan will be shared publicly with regular progress updates

49.8 Ensure that each school shall send home an introductory pamphlet, or equivalent, to all parent/guardians at the start of each school year, or when first registering a student in the board, and not only to families of those students who are already being identified as having a disability.

49.9 Ensure provision of in-person and virtual events to help families learn how to navigate disability-related school board processes. Where possible these should be streamed online and archived online as a resource for families to watch at a convenient time.

49.10 Ensure an effective process for parents and guardians of students with disabilities, and, the students themselves, to effectively take part in the development and implementation of a student’s plans for meeting and accommodating their disability-related needs, including (but not limited to) their Individual Education Plan.

49.11 Consistent with the Ministry of Education policy recommendations, parents and guardians and students with disabilities must be invited to take part in a all school planning meetings, including meetings where accommodation plans will be made and where the Individual Education Plan will be developed or reviewed. Such meetings should include the following:

  1. a) The school board should bring to the table all key professionals who can contribute to the discussions,
  2. b) The family should be invited to bring to the table any supports and professionals that can assist the family and the planning process.
  3. c) Parents should have the right to bring with them anyone who can assist them in advocating for their child.
  4. d) Parents/families should be given a wide range of options for participating e.g. in person or by phone. They should be told in advance who will attend from the school board.
  5. e) Any proposal for accommodations including a draft Individualized education plan should include a summary of key points to assist families in understanding them.
  6. f) If a school board refuses to provide an accommodation, service, or support for a child’s disability that a parent, guardian, the student requests, or if the school board does not provide an accommodation or support that it has agreed to provide, the school board shall be required to promptly provide written reasons for that refusal. It should let the family and student know that they can request written reasons.

49.12 Consistent with the recommendations for a Ministry of Education policy on student and parent engagement, a school board level dispute resolution mechanism is available to parents of students with disabilities, and to those students, for concerns related to accommodations, including Individual Education Plan’s.

The dispute resolution process shall be:

  1. a) Fair, independent and impartial
  2. b) Respectful
  3. c) Non-adversarial
  4. d) Timely
  5. e) Accessible
  6. f) One where the decision is provided in writing.

49.13 After the dispute resolution process is completed, if the family is not satisfied, they have the right to bring their concerns regarding the proposed accommodations, including the Individual Education Plan, to a designated senior official at the school board with authority to approve the requested accommodations, for a further review.

49.14 In cases of dispute, the Ministry shall appoint a mediator.

49.15 No proposed services, supports or accommodations that the school board is prepared to offer shall be withheld from a student pending a review.

49.16 Notify parents and guardians, who themselves have a disability, that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated in these processes, so that they can fully participate in them. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

49.17 Ensure that students with a disability who move from school board to school board, or school to school, have the right to an Individual Education Plan with same or comparable programs, services and accommodations. If the school board, or the school to which the student transfers proposes to deny or to reduce those accommodations or supports, the parent/guardian/student should be able to take their concern to the dispute resolution process. All accommodations shall be maintained until and unless, through the dispute resolution procedures set out in this accessibility standard, the school board has justified a reduction of those accommodations.

49.18 Ensure the training and development of a roster of helpers (sometimes known as system navigators) for parents of students with disabilities to help them navigate the often-complex world of supports for students with disabilities both within the system and with partner community agencies.

Major Theme 7: Access for Students with Disabilities to Timely Professional Assessments Needed for Disability Accommodation

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Often, students with disabilities need to have some sort of expert or professional assessment of their needs, for a school board to know how best to meet their needs. There are too often great delays in getting these assessments. Accordingly, the Standards Development Committee made several recommendations, such as the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard directed through Ministry of Education and Boards establishes measures and processes to address and eliminate administrative and other access barriers that impede or delay timely and fair/unbiased assessments for the identification of disability related need. These assessments include but are not limited to professional and clinical assessments such as psycho-educational, and other educational assessments in the identification of disability related needs.

17.1 Where there are barriers related to timely access to identification or needs assessments, the board will have a solution-based process to address the assessment needs which may include a plan to access clinical assessments through partnership with external service providers. And where the board provides evidence to the ministry that it is experiencing barriers to timely access of clinical professional services for assessment related to the identification of disability related needs, and the board continues to plan for a clear solutions-based process, the ministry will support the board in securing the necessary assessments.

17.2 District school Boards shall identify on an annual basis their unmet professional assessment needs of students with disabilities as evidenced through the Data Collection Standard (Standards Development Committee) and seek timely access to disability related assessments with the support of the Ministry of Education. The Ministry shall take action to review and address access barriers to disability related assessments.

17.3 Pending a necessary assessment, the school board has a duty to accommodate and cannot refuse to accommodate a student’s need due to delay in getting an assessment performed that has been requested by the board. There are many educational assessments including on-going evidence-based classroom assessments that can inform how a student learns best.

Major Theme 8: Reforming the Process for a School Board Identifying and Making the Placement of Student with Disabilities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: The system for a school board‘s formal identification and placement of students with disabilities, Regulation 181/98 creates barriers for students with disabilities, beyond the fact that the definition of “exceptional pupil” does not include all students with disabilities as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Charter of Rights.

For a formal decision on a student’s identification and placement, one must apply to a school board committee called an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. The review committee can only decide on whether the student falls within the definition of “exceptional pupil” and on the students’ “placement”. It can only make recommendations but not binding decisions on the student’s “program” or services”.

A student or their parents/guardians can appeal to the Special Education Appeal Tribunal about the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee’s decision on identification and placement (but not on recommendations regarding program or services). Courts can review that tribunal’s decision. Such appeals are rare.

Regulations for Identification, Placement, and Review Committees were created before the protections for equality for students with disabilities were enacted in the Charter of Rights and Ontario Human Rights Code, and the following problems have been identified:

  1. More than half of the students receiving special education services and who have an Individual Education Plan, were not identified through an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee. This strongly suggests this process is irrelevant to many.
  2. Many school staff and families complain about the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee’s administrative burden and delays that can create barriers to student success.
  3. Identification, Placement, and Review Committees are hampered by the arbitrary, undefined and confusing distinction between define “placement” on which the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee can decide, and inseparable issues concerning “program” or “services on which the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee cannot decide.”
  4. Families report that they don’t understand the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee process or feel included in it. Frequently the meetings are short, and families feel rushed. In addition, families who don’t understand the process may waive their right to a review.
  5. Some families feel forced into adversarial appeal processes, that may not address the family’s core concerns about the supports that the student needs.
  1. The Identification, Placement and Review Committee process and regulation should be reviewed to determine if it needs to be re-designed, retained or replaced.
  1. If the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee process is to be redesigned, the following principles should be included:
  2. a) A provincially consistent mandatory process, that is expeditious, fair, and user-friendly, for a student and/or parent/guardian to work collaboratively with the school board to develop an agreement as to how the needs of the student with a disability will be met.
  3. b) Decisions about a student’s placement should not be separated from decisions over a student’s program and services. The overlapping terms “placement”, “program” and “services”, if retained, should be defined and clarified.
  4. c) The student and/or parent/guardian should be assured of reasonable timelines to enable the consideration of options and provide input into the decision-making process.
  5. d) Dispute resolution or appeal processes should be available on all issues regarding decisions about how the school board will meet the student’s needs, and not limited to identification and placement only. These mechanisms should be prompt and user friendly.

Major Theme 9: Ministry of Education and Each School Board Needs to Embed Accessibility Oversight in Their Operations

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Several recommendations call for the Ministry of Education and each school board to put in place measures to ensure that school boards are effectively serving students with disabilities. For example:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

41.10 Dispute resolution mechanisms be developed at the student, school board and provincial level regarding access and delivery of student support services from provincial and community partners. The dispute mechanism for students and families should be user friendly and provide timely decisions, building on the approaches provided by the Supporting Success, A Guide to Preventing and Resolving Disputes Regarding Special Education Programs and Services (2007). The process for resolving systemic disputes should be solution focused and include accountability mechanisms to ensure follow up and evaluation of solutions provided.

  1. The Ministry of Education shall:

42.1 Ensure accountability and oversight to ensure that District School Boards are fulfilling their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

42.2 Create an ombudsman/oversight office where students’ and parents’ concerns regarding the provision of education for students with disabilities can be investigated and resolved.

52.6 The Ministry of Education should be required to designate an office or role, such as an Assistant Deputy Minister, responsible for achieving a barrier-free and accessible school system for students with disabilities. This office or person, should have in place a permanent advisory committee representing individuals with disabilities, including students, that are representative of both high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities. As part of the role, the office or lead should publicly report on the progress of the Ministry and school boards to improve accessibility annually.

52.10 The Ministry of Education should be required to annually:

  1. a) Analyze the barriers and accessibility problems identified by each school board ‘s Accessibility Committee, and the actions identified or proposed for corrective action.
  2. b) Post a report to the public that identifies the recurring barriers experienced in Ontario school boards and share actions that are being taken or proposed to correct these. This includes the requirement to identify areas where corrective action has not being taken or where more is needed.

42.4 Mandate that the designated Assistant Deputy Minister shall have in place a permanent advisory committee representing individuals with disabilities, including students with disabilities and their parents, that reflects the needs of high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities.

42.5 Ensure monitoring, auditing, surveying, and feedback of District School Boards’ provision of education to students with disabilities, including Special Education and Accessibility Plans, to ensure compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

42.6 Collaborate with the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility and make public and provide effective practices in terms of Special Education and Accessibility Planning.

School Board Accessibility Committees and Plans Recommendations

1.1 Each school board set up and maintain a network of teachers and other staff with disabilities, and a network of students with disabilities, to get input on accessibility issues at the school board and to get advice on barriers

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the schools operated by the Ministry of Education to:

52.1 Establish an Accessibility Committee and develop multi-year accessibility plans that identify barriers, establish plans to eliminate the barriers and ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

52.2 Designate an accessibility lead staff reporting to the Director of Education.

Ensure that the membership of the school board Accessibility Committee includes senior board officials with responsibility for human resources, teaching and learning, physical facilities, information technology, procurement, transportation, as well as students and individuals with disabilities.

52.3 Assign the respective responsibilities of the lead staff and committee members to oversee the planning and monitoring of accessibility compliance with the accessibility standards.

52.4 Systematically review educational programming, services, facilities, and equipment to identify recurring accessibility barriers within that organization that can impede the full and effective participation and inclusion of students with disabilities, as well as strategies to eliminate those barriers.

52.5 Mandate that the contents of the accessibility plan to include:

  1. a) Processes to identify accessibility barriers, including complaints/reports from schools, students, and community members
  2. b) Plans for removing and preventing accessibility barriers
  3. c) Clear assignment of responsibilities for action
  4. d) Performance measures for monitoring progress
  5. e) Requirements to report to the school board’s trustees regularly
  6. f) Requirements for seeking input from the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee
  7. g) An annual report on progress towards the elimination of accessibility barriers
  8. h) Feedback mechanisms to collect and review input from School Accessibility Committees, staff students and the community.
  9. i) Require school boards to publicly report on the Accessibility Plan and progress to implementation, as well as a summary of feedback on accessibility barriers and strategies.

District School Boards shall:

52.11 Establish at each school an Accessibility Committee that would include the Principal or designate, staff, students, families, and community groups, to identify accessibility barriers and possible solutions to address them. The committee will provide input to the School Board Accessibility Committee and/or lead staff responsible for accessibility. This will ensure that accessibility barriers unique to each school are identified and addressed as quickly as possible.

52.12 Establish a dedicated resource within the school board, or shared among school boards, to convert instructional materials to an accessible format, where needed, on a timely basis.

52.13 Ensure that all schools create an accessible and welcoming environment for students with disabilities and their families, including those family members with disabilities. This includes ensuring schools encourage and make it easy to seek accommodations for their disabilities.

Major Theme 10: Recommendations Regarding Disability-Specific Needs

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Some of the Standards Development Committee‘s recommendations are disability specific, such as the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

41.8 An education advisory committee on autism should be established and include stakeholders from the education sector, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ministry of Health, parents and autistic individuals consistent with the recommendations from the Ontario Advisory Panel Report (2019). The scope of the role of the committee is described in the detailed recommendations for a New Needs-Based Ontario Autism Program, Alignment with Other Ministries – Ministry of Education, Page 33-39.

Specialized Alternative and Expanded Curriculum and Pathways Recommendations

Curriculum development and learning expectations that support the learning needs of students with disabilities need to be accessible and responsive to specific individual needs. This includes extensions to curriculum and alternative curriculum resources and learning expectations.

There are limited provincially regulated resources for some disabilities, for example, low incidence disabilities such as vision loss. For example, references such as Expanded Core Curriculum are supported and resourced by some learning institutes. While individual boards provide a variety of differing supports, in specialized, learning centers and regular class there needs to be enhanced development, shared access, and staff development in these areas of expanded and alternative curriculum across the province. Additionally, students who participate in specialized and expanded programs require fair and impartial assessment practices. Instructional designs need to be inclusive and accommodate the needs of students with disabilities ensuring they have every opportunity to meet diploma and specialize certification requirements (e.g., apprenticeship programs, Specialist High Skills Major).

Curriculum and Instruction Recommendation:

  1. The Ministry of Education review, develop and provide alternative and expanded curriculum and learning expectations that support the specific learning needs of students with disabilities in access and use of learning resources.

27.1 This includes the requirement of specific curriculum, and /or recommended resources for students with disabilities, that address or are tailored to the needs arising from the student’s disability or combination of disabilities.

27.2 For students with vision loss, resources including the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) be adopted for required use across each board.

27.3 The Ministry upon consultation, review and development of any new provincial curriculum and supporting supplementary resource documents include specialized, expanded or additional curriculum that address the needs arising from specific disability or combination of disabilities.

Ontario College of Teachers shall:

53.5 Ensure that the mandatory qualifications to teach students who are blind/low vision be enhanced to provide the skills and knowledge to meet the needs of these students.

53.6 Work with the Ministry of Education and select faculties of education to initiate a Master’s level program in both French and English for teaching students who are blind/low vision such that exists in other jurisdictions.

Major Theme 11: Reducing the Exclusions/Refusals to Admit to School/Reduced School Hours

Note from the AODA Alliance:

These recommendations are consistent with the results of a detailed survey of all school boards that the AODA Alliance conducted in 2019-2020, that reviews in detail the policies of any school boards regarding the refusal to admit a student to school for all or part of the school day, available at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/new-report-reveals-that-at-majority-of-ontarios-school-boards-each-school-principal-is-a-law-unto-themselves-with-arbitrary-power-to-exclude-a-student-from-school-real-risk-of-a-rash-of-exclusio/

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Barrier: Parents have concerns with the use of the principal’s power to exclude students from school. (Also called refusal to admit to school) Section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act requires principals to:

“Subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well being of the pupils.”

Concerns are expressed that a significant proportion of those excluded from school are students with disabilities. The Ministry of Education does not track data on exclusions and does not require school boards to track data on them, in contrast to suspensions and expulsions.

Parents identified a lack of due process, such as:

  • Not being told the reason for the refusal to admit or how to challenge it
  • No limit on how long the refusal to admit can continue
  • The absence of a plan for the student’s return to school
  • No assured provision of alternative education program while the student is excluded
  • No consistent and fair process to appeal the refusal to admit

There are many stories from parents about formal and informal arrangements for a student with disabilities to attend for less than the full school day or school week without the parents’ voluntary consent. The school board places the student on a “modified school day.” There are no consistent practices for when or how this can occur, the documentation to be kept, or plans for return to full time school.

Concerns have been raised that in some situations, a student with disabilities is excluded from school directly or indirectly because the school has not effectively accommodated that student, as is required by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

A survey of Ontario school boards showed that a majority of boards have no policy on how and when a principal may refuse to admit a student. Of the 33 boards for which a policy was obtained, these policies vary substantially. A student, excluded from school, and their parents are treated very differently from one board to the next. Students and parents across Ontario deserve the same safeguards. Principals are placed in a difficult position, not knowing what they can and should do.

These recommendations seek to reduce or eliminate the number and duration of exclusion of students with disabilities. References to “refusal to admit” includes formal and informal exclusions, and exclusions from school for all or part of the school day.

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the Ministry of Education where it operates schools:

50.1 Exclusions/Refusals to admit should only be imposed in rare cases when it is demonstrably necessary to protect the health and safety of students or others at school, and only after all relevant accommodations for the student up to the point of undue hardship have been explored or attempted.

50.2 Refusal to admit of a student shall not last more than five consecutive school days, unless formally extended following the due process requirements required for an initial refusal to admit.

50.3 Refusal to admit a student to school cannot be used, in whole or in part, for purposes of discipline of a student, or as a form of discipline of that student. A student shall not be subjected to a refusal to admit to school for purposes of facilitating a police investigation.

50.4 When considering whether to refuse to admit a student to school, the principal and school board should take into account the fact that excluding a student from school is contrary to the student’s right to an education. The principal and school board should also proceed from the starting point that the rights of students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including their right to accommodation of their disability-related needs up to the point of undue hardship, take primacy over all other Ontario laws and policies.

50.5 The Principal must make a family aware of the possibility of exclusion as early as that option realistically presents itself as being under consideration. The school board shall have a mandatory meeting with the family before a refusal to admit is imposed, or if crisis circumstances arise without any warning, as soon after the refusal to admit as possible (a pre-exclusion meeting). The meeting should advise the student and/or family of the school’s intention to exclude the child, the reasons for the exclusion and underlying events, the process for the family to contest the exclusion, the demonstrated outcomes for which the school board shall be looking, and an explanation that a subsequent meeting day will be set within a reasonable timeframe where the Principal and parent(s) will review progress and discuss a re-entry plan for the student.

50.6 Parents and guardians who themselves have a disability shall be notified that they have a right to have their disability-related needs accommodated where needed to take part in any meetings, appeals or other procedures regarding an actual or contemplated refusal to admit. For example, they should be notified that they have a right to receive any information or documents to be used in any such meeting or process in an accessible format.

50.7 Any student excluded from attending school shall be provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program while away from school. A written plan for the student’s education should be required, prepared immediately, and shared with the family.

50.8 A mandatory fair procedure should be established that the school board must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of the school board and its employees, including:

  1. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when a school board is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  2. b) The prior review and written approval of the superintendent should be required before a refusal to admit is imposed. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  3. c) superintendent should independently assess whether the school board has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit the student and has met all the requirements of the school board’s refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  4. d) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing, co-signed by the superintendent, of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. The letter should be in plain language, translated if necessary, and include:
  5. what a refusal to admit is and the duration
  6. the permissible reasons

iii.           the school board’s process for reviewing that decision, and

  1. the student/family’s right to appeal (including how to use that right of appeal)
  2. steps that the school board has taken or will be taking to provide an alternative education and to expedite a student’s return to school,
  3. the expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  1. e) A refusal to admit a student to school should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30-day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of the, school board or their designate.
  2. f) An extension of refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that entire school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools at that school board.
  3. g) The refusal to admit shall be documented, and the record shall include information on:
  4. h) The reason for the refusal to admit
  5. i) The duration of the refusal to admit and any extensions
  6. j) The plan to provide an educational program to the student for the duration of the refusal to admit
  7. k) The plan for the student to return to full time school attendance
  8. l) While the student is excluded, the school board should undertake ongoing efforts to facilitate the student’s return to school as quickly as possible. The return to school plan shall include meetings with the family and student to plan for the return and review the additional supports that may be needed.

50.9 To ensure that appeals to the school board under section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act from a refusal to admit a student to school are prompt and fair, the following should be required:

  1. a) A student excluded from school or their parent/guardian should be permitted to launch an appeal from a refusal to admit at any time that the refusal to admit continues. No time limit for filing an appeal should be imposed.
  2. b) No school board shall set an arbitrary length of time that an appeal hearing can take. The appeal hearing should take as long as needed for a fair hearing. The excluded student or their family should not have an arbitrary prior time limit imposed on their oral presentation of their appeal. They should be allowed the time they need to present their appeal. They shall be permitted to present relevant evidence to support their appeal if they wish.
  3. c) At an appeal, the school staff should present their reasons first on why the exclusion is justified and should continue. The student or their family shall then be given a chance to present their case on why the student should not have been excluded and why they should be allowed to return to school.
  4. d) An appeal should be held quickly to minimize the time the student is away from school. The Board of trustees shall hear and/or determine the appeal within fifteen business days of receiving the notice of intention to appeal (unless the parties agree to an extension).
  5. e) Once an appeal is launched, the school board shall prepare for the student, their parents, and the trustees, a report on the reasons for the refusal to admit, the factual background, and the efforts to return the student to school since the exclusion began. The board staff shall arrange a meeting (pre- appeal meeting) with the student and their family to try to resolve the case or narrow the issues, explain the process, disclose any information the student and their family need, and canvass and address any other matter that might help ensure a smooth and timely appeal.
  6. f) The appeal should be heard in closed session by the entire Board of trustees, not a subcommittee (unless the Board can show it has legal authority to delegate this decision to a subcommittee). Any trustee that votes on a decision in an appeal must have been present for the entire argument of the appeal.
  7. g) A Board of trustees, hearing an appeal from a refusal to admit, should consider whether the school board has justified the student’s initial exclusion from school and its continuation. The burden should be on the School Board to justify the exclusion from school.
  8. h) If the student is not successful on the appeal, they should have a further avenue to appeal to court, with mediation available, or to an expert tribunal designated to hear such cases.

50.10 The school board shall create an emergency process and fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

50.11 Information and data on refusals to admit shall be collected and aggregated data reported publicly by school boards and by the Ministry of Education.

50.12 The Ministry of Education should develop a central repository/mechanism for sharing effective practices of alternatives to exclusion/refusal to admits and modified days in order to support school board efforts to reduce the number and duration of refusal to admits and modified days.

Major Theme 12: Improving the Collection of Data Concerning Education of Students with Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Ministry of Education regularly requires school boards to collect and report very extensive data and statistics regarding teachers, staff, and other aspects of school board operations. Yet the Ministry collects far too little data on the numbers and needs of students with disabilities, and on what is being done to meet those needs. As such, the Standards Development Committee called for a substantial increase in the collection and public availability of such data regarding students with disabilities.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should require the following of any school board and of the Ministry of Education where it operates schools:

51.1 Collect data on students with all types of disability as defined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, using Individual Education Plans, or the Identification, Placement, and Review Committee, and such other methods that the Ministry and, school boards devise, rather than only collecting data on students with an “exceptionality” as defined under current Ontario special education laws.

  1. a) Data should be collected about students with disabilities that is consistent and comparable across the province according to the parameters below:
  2. b) Data collection should accurately report the numbers of students with each kind of disability. Where a student has more than one disability, each disability would be separately counted.

51.2 Data should also be collected on the accommodations, or programs and services that are to be provided to the student.

51.3 Collect student data on all incidences of exclusion/refusal to admit, consistent with the recommendations related to exclusions and modified days in Section 7. The data collected should include whether the student has a disability, the nature of the incident, the length of the exclusion/refusal to admit, reasons for the exclusion/modification in writing, the educational services provided to the student while excluded from school and the plan for return to full time school attendance.

51.4 Collect student data on the number of students who are on a modified day, including reason for modified day, duration, and appeals, if any, as well as about the alternative education program provided.

51.5 Collect and analyse annual data on the number of students who are accessing professional services and assessments provided by Regulated Health Professionals and other specialists, both from school board services and community partners who delivery services in schools. Further the data collected should be in compliance with a standardized protocol designed by the Ministry of Education (see also data collection recommendation four). Data collected should include the number of days students wait for the assessments and be publicly reported.

51.6 Collect information on the numbers of staff with specialized expertise relating to students with disabilities such as:

  1. a) Teachers of the Deaf and hard of hearing
  2. b) Teachers of the visually impaired
  3. c) Applied Behavioural Analysists
  4. d) Speech-Language Pathologists
  5. e) Audiologists
  6. f) Physiotherapists, occupational therapists
  7. g) Assistive Technology
  8. h) And other key personnel

51.7 Publicly report on an annual basis data related to disability, exclusions, modified day, wait times for professional assessments, and the number and types of staff who instruct students with disabilities.

Ministry of Education shall:

51.8 Collect all of the above data form each school board and:

  1. a) Publicly report on the data referred to above, as an aggregate and on a school board by school board basis
  2. b) Identify changes over previous year(s) and any gaps or deficits or areas for improvement.
  3. c) Develop a provincial action plan to resolve gaps or unmet needs.

51.10 Provide a standardized provincial rubric for documenting the number of professional and specialist assessments provided by each school board annually that includes information on the prioritization criteria used in referring students for assessments and the length of time from identification of the need for the assessment and the assessment completion and results shared.

Ministry of Education/Equity Secretariat shall:

51.11 Ensure the collection of student census data includes information about disability, including the type of disability, or disabilities, the intersectionality of disability with other key factors such as race, indigenous identity, sexual identity and socio-economic factors. Data collection should be based on processes and questions that are consistent for all school boards.

51.12 Analyse data related to disability and report publicly on information related to the number and types of disabilities and the intersectionality of disability with other factors. In addition, the data should be linked to student outcomes and achievements, including graduation rates, credit accumulation, course selection and other measures.

51.13 Use disability information and analysis to identify gaps and develop plans to improve the outcomes and achievement of students with disabilities.

Major Theme 13: Addressing Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Social Realms

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Educational and Online Events Recommendation

  1. Each school board should only hold educational events at venues on school board property or outside school board property whose built environment is accessible to students and staff with disabilities. The buses used to transport students to the off-site events should also be accessible, so that students with disabilities do not have to travel to the event separate from their classmates.

Educational events include, but are not limited to clubs, teams, field trips, dances, graduation, fundraisers, extracurricular groups or any school or school board event that includes students and school personnel.

Note: To assign specific staff at school board to facilitate transportation for students with disabilities.

  1. Each school board shall provide where needed or requested by a student with disabilities or their family, staff assistance for social interaction and play, particularly during unstructured or minimally supervised times, such as recess or lunch. This is to address social isolation that students throughout their educational journey from K-12. The Individual Education Plan shall include a detailed, specific plan for how to implement and achieve social inclusion both in the formal school activities and informal parts of the school day. Creative and flexible plans should include multiple organizations or programs both inside and outside school board designed to foster inclusiveness in the long term across all levels from students to the administration.

This recommendation is inclusive of all students with disabilities even those who require a communication device or use augmentative communication to communicate.

Major Theme 14: Addressing Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in School-Related Transportation

Note from the AODA Alliance:

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Transportation Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It includes some provisions aimed at transportation of students with disabilities in connection with school. However, after a decade, it is clear that these have not ensured that these transportation services are accessible and barrier-free for students with disabilities. Moreover, the 2016-2019 review of the Transportation Accessibility Standard by the Transportation Standards Development Committee did not lead to any recommendations that would ensure that transportation for students with disabilities becomes accessible and barrier-free. Therefore, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee made recommendations in this area, amongst which are the following:

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Rationale: Up to three organizations may be involved in the transportation of students: A School Board, a consortium of school boards that jointly arrange for student transportation, and private bus companies that are contracted to provide bussing in that area. Students with disabilities and their parents should not have to try to figure out who is responsible for their child’s transportation needs. The following should be required of all three organizations.

  1. To ensure that students with disabilities get the transportation services they need to attend school this recommendation will set criteria for creating monitoring and accountability. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation services to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board/bus company’s/transportation consortia shall review and develop policies and procedures that include:

61.1 Individual consultation with each family to identify accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation,

61.2 Ensure the Transportation Consortia/bus companies and drivers have been properly trained to accommodate students with disabilities and their individual needs.

61.3 With any bus driver that is changed, they are given the same information and training prior to driving the student, or, in the case of an emergency replacement, as soon as possible.

61.4 Clearly reflect the responsibilities and duties of the school board/bus companies/transportation consortia and acknowledge that they have the shared responsibility to make sure the duties are fulfilled.

61.5 Retention of training records, including when it was provided and report to their respective boards on training twice per year.

61.6 Designate and provide a reachable official at the school board and the transportation, especially during the working hours when students are being transported, to receive and address phone calls, emails and text messages from a family about problems regarding the student’s transportation.

61.7 Documentation of all complaints reported on student transportation services, and the company to which it applies. A summary report including number of complaints, types of complaints and status, be provided to the school board, transportation consortia, Special Education Advisory Committees (SEAC), and accessibility committee on a quarterly basis. These reports shall be made public on the school board’s and transportation consortium’s website.

61.8 The Education Accessibility Standard should make it clear that the fact that the policies and procedures created does not remove or reduce the school board/bus companies/transportation consortia’s duties under this accessibility standard or otherwise under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to ensure that the student has been provided with barrier-free participation in the school board’s educational programs and opportunities. In any contract for bussing, the school boards/bus company’s/transportation consortia should be required to monitor compliance with all obligations regarding bussing, such as the duty to properly train each bus driver on the specific disability-related needs of each passenger, and to document this training. School Boards/bus company’s/transportation consortia should periodically audit consumer satisfaction and compliance with all applicable education accessibility standards and publicly report on the audit’s results. A bus company’s failure to consistently and reliably meet its obligations should trigger penalties and termination of the contract.

61.9 A valuation process for past performance and provision of transportation services for students with disabilities should be included in the Request for Proposal for bussing. A valuation of any company’s past performance on accessibility for students with disabilities should be given a major consideration in deciding the continued use of service.

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that where a school board provides bussing or other transportation to students with disabilities in order to enable them to attend school, the school board shall ensure, and shall monitor to ensure that:

62.1 The school board has individually consulted with each family to identify the accessibility and accommodation needs of the student with disabilities in relation to transportation, and the bus company and driver have been properly trained to accommodate that need.

  1. The Education Accessibility Standard should require that the school board and, where applicable, a bus company with which it contracts, will ensure that pick-up and drop-off locations for a student’s bussing are accessible when needed to accommodate the parents or guardians of students with disabilities.

Major Theme 15: Addressing Disability Barriers to Experiential / Co-Op Learning Opportunities

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. Persons with disabilities face extraordinarily high unemployment rates. Getting the chance for an experiential learning or coop placement while in school can be the gateway, if not the only gateway, to that first letter of reference. Every student’s first letter of reference is essential to getting their first job and more importantly, if you have a disability. Therefore, these recommendations are essential to combating the high unemployment that youth with disabilities too often happen to face. For the success of these recommendations, it is extremely important that school boards provide informal advice and support to all employers, including small businesses.

To ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in a school board’s experiential learning programs, each school board should:

65.1 Review its experiential learning programs to identify and remove any accessibility barriers.

65.2 Put in place a process to affirmatively reach out to potential placement organizations in order to ensure that there will be a range of accessible placement opportunities in which students with disabilities can participate.

65.3 Ensure that its partner organizations that accept its students for experiential learning placements are effectively informed of their duty to accommodate the learning needs of students with disabilities.

65.4 Create and share supports and advice for placement organizations who need assistance to ensure that students with disabilities can fully participate in their experiential learning placements.

65.5 Monitor placement organizations to ensure they have someone in place to ensure that students with disabilities are effectively accommodated, and to ensure that effective accommodation was provided during each placement of a student with a disability who needed accommodation.

65.6 Survey students with disabilities and experiential learning placement organizations at the end of any experiential learning placements to see if their disability-related needs were effectively accommodated.

  1. The Ministry of Education should provide templates or models for these policies and measures. It should be required to prepare and make available training videos for school boards and employers offering experiential learning programs to guide them on accommodating students with disabilities and the impacts in experiential learning placements.

Major Theme 16: Removing Disability Barriers to a Student Bringing a Trained Service Animal to School

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Some students on the autism spectrum and their families in Ontario have reported having difficulties at some school boards with being allowed to bring a service animal to school and have even had to take action before the Human Rights Tribunal against a school board. Others have been able to succeed without barriers in bringing their service animal to school.

68.1 When a student with disabilities or their parent/guardian request permission for the student to bring a trained service animal to school with them as an accommodation to their disability, the school board shall consider, decide upon that request, and give reasons for its decision, in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, with the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, with the policy of the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities, available at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-ableism-and-discrimination-based-disability and the Commission’s Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities available at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-accessible-education-students-disabilities and with the following requirements set out in this Accessibility Standard. This includes requests regarding a trained service animal from an accredited training organization that provided training to the animal and to the student. Where the service animal was not trained by an accredited training organization, it is open to the student or their family to present to the school board satisfactory evidence that both the service animal and the student have received sufficient training.

68.2 The school board shall put in place a fair and speedy procedure for considering requests for a student to bring a service animal to school. This procedure should include the following:

  1. a) If the school board has any objection to or concerns about the request, the school board will immediately notify the student and family about the specific concerns, and shall work to resolve them, in a manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  2. b) If the school board does not believe that the service animal could assist the student at school, the school board should investigate the request, including how the student’ benefits from the service animal outside the school and in the home.
  3. c) If the school board has any concerns about the feasibility of allowing the student to bring the service animal to school, it shall investigate the experience of other school boards and schools which have successfully enabled a student to bring their service animal to school.
  4. d) If a concern is expressed that the service animal at school would interfere with the human rights of other students or staff, the school board shall take action to effectively accommodate their rights without sacrificing the human rights of the student using the service animal, in accordance with the policy of the Ontario Human Rights Commission on conflicting rights. For example, if an EA, assigned to work with the student, cannot work with the service animal for health or other human rights reasons, the school board shall facilitate the assignment of this responsibility to another staff member.
  5. e) A student shall not be refused the opportunity to bring a qualified service animal to school without the school board first allowing a trial or test period with the service animal at school.
  6. f) Where it is proposed to allow a student with disabilities to bring a service animal to school, the school board shall work out with the student, their family, and the organization providing the service animal, a plan to promote the success of the accommodation, including such things as:
  7. Allowing the service animal’s training organization to provide training in the school to school staff.
  8. Allowing the training organization to provide an orientation to the student population at the school to the presence of the service animal.

iii.           Providing information to other families to reinforce the inclusion of the service animal at school.

  1. g) If the school board does not agree to the service animal being allowed at school, or if there is a problem with implementing the school board’s plans to facilitate its inclusion, the school board shall make available a swift dispute resolution process, including independent mediation if needed, to resolve these issues.

68.3 The Ministry of Education shall obtain information from school boards on where service animals have been allowed in school, to make it easier for a school board to reach out to those schools to gather information, if needed.

68.4 Nothing in this accessibility standard shall reduce or restrict the rights of a person with vision loss who is coming to a school bringing with them their guide dog, trained by an accredited school for training guide dogs.

Major Theme 17: Addressing Physical and Architectural Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education System

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

When it was passed in 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act required Ontario, including its schools, to become fully accessible to persons with disabilities by 2025. The Government did not effectively address the need to achieve this in schools’-built environments up until now. These recommendations are designed to achieve the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s goals. It will be for the Government to implement measures to ensure that school boards can fulfil them.

The intent/rationale of these recommendations is to ensure that as soon as possible, and no later than January 1, 2025, the built environment in the education system, such as schools themselves, their yards, playgrounds etc., and the equipment on those premises (such as gym and playground equipment) would all be fully accessible to persons with disabilities and would be designed based on the principle of universal design. Where school programs or trips take place outside the school, these will be held at locations that are disability accessible. The intent/rationale is also to ensure that no public money is used to create new barriers or perpetuate existing barriers in the school system.

  • Ontario Building Code (OBC) and existing accessibility standards do not set out all the modern and sufficient accessibility requirements for the built environment in Ontario.
  • The building code is largely if not entirely designed to address the needs of adults, not children or the specific types of spaces found in K through 12 schools.
  • The Government of Ontario and the Ministry of Education have no accessibility standard for the built environment in schools, whether old or new schools. The Government should develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard to substantially strengthen the accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code.
  • Neither the Ministry of Education nor the individual school boards have any expertise on staff on how to design a school to be accessible to persons with disabilities. Architects and design and construction teams have no standardized education for accessibility beyond building code minima. Many are not aware of or understand the current minimal requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public spaces enacted in 2013.
  • When the Ministry reviews proposals from a school board for construction of a new school or renovation of an existing school, the Ministry does not require those plans to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but instead, leaves it to each school board to address accessibility as much or as little as it wishes.
  • It is left to each school board to come up with its own designs to address accessibility in the built environment in schools and at other school board locations even though the needs of persons with disabilities to an accessible built environment do not vary from community to community around Ontario. An inaccessible doorway is an inaccessible doorway, whether in Kingston or Chatham.

Summary of Recommendations for Mandatory Beyond Building Code Accessibility Requirements

This section includes 3 different areas of requirements for beyond code additional mandatory requirements for schools and associated facilities including the exterior site elements, the buildings interior elements, and universal design better practices.

The exterior site elements include five topics:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. Access to the site for vehicles
  3. Parking
  4. Exterior doors
  5. Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The interior building elements include 10 topics:

  1. Entrances
  2. Door
  3. Layout
  4. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings
  5. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights
  6. Circulation including Elevators, Ramps and Stairs
  7. Drinking Fountains
  8. General Facilities
  9. Washroom Facilities
  10. Specialty Room and Spaces

Finally, enhanced universal design best practice section includes 17 different elements and considerations have been provided based on feedback from a recognized accessibility and universal design expert for ways to improve building and facilities use for all users of the school and community.

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The Standards Development Committee’s detailed recommendations for the built environment in the education setting are set out in full in the June 16, 2021 AODA Alliance Update.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Ensuring a Fully Accessible Built Environment at Schools Recommendations

Barriers:

Too often, the built environment where K-12 education programming is offered, have physical barriers that can partially or totally impede some students with disabilities from being able to enter or independently move around. These barriers also impede parents, teachers and other school staff and volunteers with disabilities.

The Ontario Ministry of Education does not effectively survey all school buildings to ensure that they are accessible, or to catalogue what accessibility improvements are needed.

The Ministry of Education’s specifications for new school construction do not require all accessibility features or can even preclude needed accessibility features in a new school or other education facility.

Recommendations:

  1. The K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific requirements for accessibility of the built environment in schools and other locations where education programs are to be offered. Accessibility requirements should not only include the needs of people with mobility disabilities. They should include the needs of people with other disabilities such as (but not limited to) people with vision and/or hearing loss, autism, intellectual or developmental disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health disorders. There should be no priorities among disabilities. These requirements should meet the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These should include:
  2. a) Specific requirements to be included in a new school to be built.
  3. b) Requirements to be included in a renovation of or an addition to an existing school, and
  4. c) Retrofit requirements for an existing school not slated for a major renovation or addition.
  1. Each school board should develop a plan to ensure that the built environment of its schools and other educational facilities becomes fully accessible to persons with disabilities as soon as reasonably possible, and in any event, no later than January 1, 2025. As part of this:
  2. a) As a first step, each school board should develop a plan for making as many of its schools’ disability-accessible within its current financial context.
  3. b) Each school board should identify which of its existing schools can be more easily made accessible, and which schools would require substantially more extensive action to be made physically accessible. An interim plan should be developed to show what progress towards full physical accessibility can be made by first addressing schools that would require less money to be made physically more accessible, taking into account the need to also consider geographic equity of access across the school board and a school building’s expected lifespan.
  4. c) When designing a new school or managing an existing school, wherever possible, a quiet room should be assigned in a school facility to assist with learning by those students with disabilities who require such an environment. For example, when a school board is deciding what to do with excess building capacity, it should allocate unused or under-used rooms as quiet rooms whenever possible.
  1. When a school board seeks to retain or hire design professionals, such as architects, interior designers or landscape architects, for the design of a new school or an existing school’s retrofit or renovation, or for any other school board construction or other infrastructure project, the school board should include in any Request for Proposal a mandatory requirement that the design professional must have sufficient demonstrated expertise in accessibility design, and not simply knowledge about compliance with the Ontario Building Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This includes the accessibility needs of people with all kinds of disabilities, and not just those with mobility impairments. It includes the accessibility needs of students and not just of adults.
  1. When a school board is planning to construct a new school, or expanding or renovating an existing school or other infrastructure, a properly qualified and experienced accessibility consultant should be retained by the school board (and not necessarily by a private architecture firm) to advise on the project from the outset, with their advice being transmitted directly to the school board and not only to the private design professionals who are retained to design the project. Completing the 8-day training course on accessibility offered by the Rick Hansen Foundation should not be treated as either necessary or sufficient for this purpose, as that brief course is substantially inadequate and has significant problems.
  1. A committee of the school board’s trustees, and the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee or Accessibility Committee should be required to review design decisions on new construction or renovations to ensure that accessibility of the built environment is effectively addressed. A school’s Accessibility Committee should also be involved in this review. Consultations should include getting input from students, parents, school employees and school volunteers with disabilities. These Committees should not be seen as technical experts, or as a substitute for the earliest engagement of accessible design experts.
  1. Where possible, a school board should not renovate an existing school that lacks disability accessibility, unless the school board has a plan to also make that school accessible. For example, a school board should not spend public money to renovate the second storey of a school which lacks accessibility to the second storey, if the school board does not have a plan to make that second storey disability accessible. Very pressing health and safety concerns should be the only reason for any exception to this.
  1. When a school board decides which schools to close due to reduced enrollment, a priority should be placed on keeping open schools with more physical accessibility, while a priority should be given to closing schools that are the most lacking in accessibility, or for which retrofitting is the most costly.
  1. Each school board should hold off-site educational events at venues whose built environment is accessible.
  1. The Ministry of Education should be required to revise its funding formula or criteria for school construction to ensure that it requires and covers and does not obstruct the inclusion of all needed accessibility features in a school construction project. The following design features should be required by the Education Accessibility Standard and in any new school construction or renovation, and effectively addressed in the Ministry’s funding/approval requirements for school construction projects. Where an existing school is undergoing no renovation, any of the following measures which are readily achievable should be required. The Ministry should enact technical requirements for the following, as binding enforceable rules, not as voluntary guidelines:

Ensuring Accessibility of Gym, Playground and Like Equipment and Activities Recommendations

Barrier:

Schools or school boards that have gym, playground or other equipment not designed based on the principles of universal design, which some students with disabilities cannot use, as well as certain gym, sports and other activities in which students with disabilities cannot fully participate.

Section 80.18 of the Ontario Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, as amended in 2012, requires accessibility features to be considered when new outdoor play spaces are being established or existing ones are redeveloped. However, those provisions do not set the spectrum of detailed requirements that should be included. They do not require any action if an existing play space is not being redeveloped. They ultimately leave it to each school board or each school to re-invent the accessibility wheel each time they build or redevelop an outdoor play space. They do not require anything of indoor play spaces or gyms.

Recommendations:

  1. To ensure that gym equipment, playground equipment and other like equipment and facilities are accessible for students with disabilities, the Education Accessibility Standard should set out specific technical accessibility requirements for new or existing outdoor or indoor play spaces, gym and other like equipment, drawing on accessibility standards and best practices in other jurisdictions, if sufficient, so that each school board does not have to re-invent the accessibility wheel.
  1. Each school board should:
  2. a) Take an inventory of the accessibility of its existing indoor and outdoor play spaces and gym and playground equipment, and make this public, including posting this information online.
  3. b) Adopt a plan to remediate the accessibility of new gym or playground equipment, in consultation with the school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee and Accessibility Committee, and widely with the families of students with disabilities.
  4. c) Ensure that a qualified accessibility expert is engaged to ensure that the purchase of new equipment or remediation of existing playground is properly conducted, with their advice being given directly to the school board.
  1. Where playground or other school equipment or facilities to be deployed on school property for use by students is funded and/or purchased by anyone other than the school board, the school board should remain nonetheless responsible for approving the purchases and ensuring that only accessible equipment and facilities are placed on school property for use by students or the public. Decisions over whether accessibility features will be included, or which will be included, should not be totally left to community groups which may fund-raise for such equipment or facilities.

Major Theme 18: Accessible Transitions for Students with Disabilities

Note from the AODA Alliance:

Some of the Standards Development Committee recommendations on transitions are set out in the main initial report of the Committee. Some are in the joint report of the Technical Subcommittee. The following brings together some key recommendations from both places.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Committee Initial Report/Recommendations

  1. Each school board should develop and create the role of the Transition Facilitator/Navigator to work with students and their families in collaboration with school staff, and community agencies to explore pathways and develop transition plans. The Transition Facilitator/Navigator would assist students accessing special education supports, consult and liaison with community disability service providers and provide transition planning resource development for all school board and school staff.
  2. Ministry of Education should set up a centralized Transitions Hub. The Hub would support the role of the Transitions Facilitator / Navigator as well as provide a conduit of best practice transitions information and regular communication from across all publicly funded school boards and school authorities in Ontario. If needed it would provide smaller boards the ability to partner and develop successful programs.

From the Standards Development Committee‘s Technical Subcommittee Report

  1. Ensure that co-operative education programs include accommodations and supports for all students as needed, including transportation to and from placements and support staff at placement as needed.
  1. Where possible, and to the point of undue hardship, allow siblings of a student with a disability who attends a special education program outside of their home school, to attend that same school if requested by the family. Note: This does not include provincial schools, for example W. Ross MacDonald School.
  1. Offer learning strategies courses in secondary school that are responsive and aligned with the IEPs of participating students.
  1. Facilitate the participation of all students with disabilities in their IEPs and transition plans through teacher student conferences, beginning in elementary school.
  1. Ensure that students with disabilities receive all necessary accommodations and other supports as outlined in their IEPs and transition plans when accessing summer or night school continuing education courses during their secondary school education.
  1. Ensure that students with an Identification, Placement & Review Committee (IPRC), and their parents/guardians, are informed in grades 7 through 10 about the importance of updating their assessment during Grade 11 and 12.
  1. Ensure that students in Grades 11 and 12 are informed during their IEP review/renewal meetings and transition support meetings if/when their formal professional assessment must be updated.
  1. Ensure that students with an IEP only that includes a transition plan, and their parents/guardians, are informed in Grades 7 through 10 that they will need an IPRC if they will be requesting accommodations when they enter post-secondary education. As well as ensuring students and their parents/guardians understand accommodations in K-12 do not automatically translate to the post-secondary environment and an assessment of accommodations needs will be conducted in post-secondary.

Major Theme 19: Planning for Emergencies and Safety

Note from the AODA Alliance:

The following recommendations are inspired by experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. They identify what should be done to plan in advance for any future emergencies, as well as for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic as it continues.

Last summer, a subcommittee of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee submitted a detailed and comprehensive package of excellent recommendations to the Ontario Government on July 24, 2020 on how to address the urgent needs of students with disabilities during the pandemic. The AODA Alliance strongly endorses that report and all its recommendations. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee distilled those recommendations for future use in its March 12, 2021 initial report/recommendations. The following are some of the key recommendations.

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

  1. The Ministry of Education establish an independent review committee as soon as possible to assess the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Education and School Boards by:
  2. a) Documenting the response by the Ministry and school boards to supporting students with disabilities
  3. b) Documenting the coordination and collaboration with other Ministries in responding to the needs of students with disabilities at school and at home during remote learning
  4. c) Identifying key decision points and changes in response activities
  5. d) Surveying key stakeholders, including student voice about the effectiveness of key response activities
  6. e) Assessing the information collected to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges in the response and preparedness to ensure access and delivery of education and health services for students with disabilities
  7. f) Making recommendations for future emergency planning and preparedness
  8. The independent review committee membership should include, but not limited to school boards, students and other individuals with disabilities, and 2 to 3 members of the Education Accessibility K to 12 Standard Development Committee and supported by Ministry of Education staff.
  9. The report of the committee, or interim reports if the COVID-19 pandemic last more than one year, shall be submitted to the Premiere and Cabinet, and made public.
  1. The Ministry of Education should make its own online learning content accessible for persons with disabilities, including TVO and TFO as a provider of centralized support for online learning in the English-language and French-language publicly funded education systems, respectively.
  2. The Ministry of Education should direct its entire staff and all School Boards that whenever making information public in a Portable Document Format (PDF), it must at the same time, make available a textual format such as an accessible Microsoft Word (MSWord) or accessible HTML document. Videos must be audio described (DV) and closed captioned (CC). Templates and technical guides should be developed and provided to school boards.
  3. The Ministry of Education collect and make readily available resources/information on practices, effective strategies in learning environment, and alternate approaches for students struggling with online learning, etc. from School Boards, agencies and disability specific associations to ensure resources are readily available during an emergency.
  4. That Ministry of Education should model leadership to School Boards and provide accessible virtual learning webinars, templates for learning, etc. to be utilized in training administrators and teachers to ensure all educational and training resources are accessible remotely in case of an emergency.
  5. The Ministry of Education should provide guidelines for a coordinated training delivery model to support parents of students with rehabilitation needs, mental health concerns or who have complex or significant medically needs to access and continue education and health services remotely during an emergency.
  6. School Boards should ensure that its hub of learning resources specific to students with disabilities is accessible and available remotely to support teachers and students in their learning during an emergency.
  7. School Boards should plan to provide solely dedicated or designated staff, who are available to support technology including accessibility needs to parents who are supporting the learning needs of students with disabilities.
  8. The Ministry of Education’s Emergency Plan shall include the creation of a Central Education Leadership Command Table with the responsibility of ensuring that students with disabilities have access to all accommodations and supports during an emergency. Structure and membership shall be outlined in the plan, ensuring all students with disabilities and educational partnership groups are represented on the Central Education Leadership Command Table.
  9. School Boards’ Emergency plans shall include the creation of a similar Board Command/Central table as the Ministry of Education’s Central Education Command/Central Table, to develop its own emergency plan following the Ministry of Education’s Guidelines for Emergency Plans for School Boards.
  10. The School Board Emergency Plan should include establishment of a Command/Central Table during an emergency that will be responsible for:
  11. a) Receiving and acting on feedback from teachers, principals and families about problems they are encountering serving students with disabilities during an emergency event. The Table will quickly network with similar offices/Tables at other school boards and can report recurring issues to the Ministry’s command table.
  1. School Boards should utilize the expertise of the Special Education Advisory Committee members by directly involving members in developing the School Board’s Emergency Plan and planning for the delivery of remote learning, other emergency plans, through regular meetings and frequent communications.
  2. School Boards should involve their Accessibility Committee which will review all plans at the school board and school level for mitigating risk of an emergency and to meet the accessibility requirements of all students or persons with disabilities in the case of an emergency.
  3. In the School Board’s Emergency Plan, assign its Senior Staff member responsible for accessibility to ensure that all changes at schools in response to an emergency maintain accessibility for all students with disabilities.
  4. The Ministry of Education develop a rapid response team to receive feedback from school boards on recurring issues facing students with disabilities and to help find solutions to share with school boards.and quickly and resolve issues for students with disabilities as they arise during an emergency.
  5. Ministries should review policies and regulations to allow therapy supports and services that have transitioned successfully to a virtual learning environment be shared to geographic areas that have no access to these services.
  6. The Ministry of Education should develop curriculum for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 to enable students to develop the skills and knowledge they need for learning in a virtual learning environment. In the interim, the Ministry should share existing, accessible resources on this topic to teachers and School Boards

Major Theme 20: Setting Timelines for Action and Measures to ensure Compliance and Accountability

From the Standards Development Committee Report:

Serious concerns have been expressed for several years about deficiencies in the Accessibility Ministry’s compliance/enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. The second Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Independent Review conducted by Mayo Moran in 2014 and the third such review conducted by David Onley in 2018 both called for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enforcement to be substantially strengthened. Their reports demonstrate that the slow progress on accessibility in Ontario has been due in part to shortcomings in the Ministry`s compliance/enforcement actions in the past. Despite the findings of those Independent Reviews, these deficiencies remain.

The compliance/enforcement actions of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act are more likely to succeed where there is clear delegation of responsibility and accountability within obligated organizations for compliance with the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard and where there is a clear, visible and renewed demonstration by the Government of Ontario of its commitment to achieve Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliance through greater education and rigorous regulatory action for willful lawbreakers.

The focus of compliance/enforcement activities should not simply be whether an obligated organization such as the Ontario Ministry of Education or a publicly funded school board has posted a policy on an action required by the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s public education system provides to students.

 

The focus of compliance/enforcement activities should not simply be whether an obligated organization such as the Ontario Ministry of Education or a publicly funded school board has posted a policy on an action required by the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s public education system provides to students.

Accountability and Compliance Recommendations:

Implementation Planning and Outcomes Measurement

  1. We are proposing that each obligated organization develop a detailed implementation plan, with measurable performance metrics and timelines for achieving milestones towards the implementation of the Standard. The identified performance metrics should have process requirements such as establishing committees with impacted stakeholders (such as students with disabilities) to oversee the implementation planning as well as specific timelines for completion.

It is important to assess the end result i.e. whether obligated organizations have in fact removed and prevented disability barriers that impede students with disabilities and to assess whether students with disabilities are being effectively included in and fully participating in the opportunities that Ontario’s education system provides to students (see Appendix 1 for a model implementation planning template).

Public Reporting: School Boards, College of Teachers and Government

  1. In terms of reporting, each obligated organization should be directed by the Accessibility Directorate to have a section on their web site that publicly reports on the implementation of the Standard. This could be in the form of an annual report, or a completion matrix of the organizations progress to date.
  1. In addition, The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should be required to promptly make public a detailed, comprehensive annual and multi-year compliance/enforcement plan for the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard. It should publicly report quarterly on actions taken and actual accessibility improvements achieved.
  1. To help promote accountability and compliance, the Ministry of Education should be required to establish and maintain a public searchable data base where all reports, annual plans and updates posted or prepared by school boards or by the Ministry in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act will be made available in an accessible format to the public.
  1. As part of the Government’s compliance/enforcement plan, it should establish and widely publicize a provincial toll-free number, and dedicated email address to receive complaints and concerns from students with disabilities their families or others regarding accessible education for students with disabilities. Those contacting this number should be advised to take up their concern first with the relevant obligated organization through its process for addressing such concerns, before bringing it to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Ministry should assign a rapid response team to take action where appropriate on input received from this phone number or email address. A summary of input/complaints received (with no identifying information) should be made public quarterly.
  1. Those appointed with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act compliance/enforcement powers who will be addressing the implementation of the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should have knowledge and any building permit process for a new school or major renovation should be required to comply with the built environment provisions of the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard in order to get a building permit. The project should be checked for compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and not just the Ontario Building Code in that process. In addition, the Accessibility Directorate should have staff with experience in the area of education of students with disabilities or should have a resource team whom they can regularly and readily consult who have that expertise. To avoid conflicts of interest, the members of that resource team should be independent of any organizations that have obligations under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard.

Internal: School Boards

  1. In terms of school boards, the implementation plan and its milestones should be tabled with and receive input from their Special Education Advisory Committees and Accessibility Advisory Committees every 6 months. In addition, the implementation plan should also be tabled with the school board or board of trustees every 6 months until 2025 (during public board meetings). Student transportation consortia should also report to their respective school boards on their implementation plan.
  1. In terms of implementation planning, boards should build into their multi-year strategic plans accessibility outcomes as part of the process and required goals.

Reporting to the Government: School Boards, College of Teachers, Transportation consortia

  1. In addition, although the Accessibility Directorate has regulatory authority over its obligated organizations, we believe Boards should be also be required to report to the Ministry of Education (and the Accessibility Directorate) each quarter on the results of their implementation actions and performance. Reports should detail successes and challenges in meeting the requirements of the Education Accessibility Standard recommendation with proposed solutions or remediation efforts. The College of Teachers should have the same reporting requirements.

Ensuring Compliance Obligations: Audits and Reviews

As noted above, recent reports have documented how little oversight and enforcement currently exists with respect to various accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Given the relatively short timelines for the full implementation of these recommendations (by 2025 at the latest), we are recommending:

  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct on-site inspections of a range of obligated organizations each year on the actual accessibility of their facilities and educational programs and services as addressed in the Standard, and not just an audit of their paper records on accessibility documentation.
  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct “implementation reviews” of a select number of school boards and the College of Teachers within 6 months of the government’s enactment of the Education Standards regulation. The purpose of these reviews is to ensure boards and the College have developed an implementation plan with performance metrics and designated responsibility centers and have started to move forward with the implementation of the Standard.
  1. The Accessibility Directorate conduct a compliance review or audit of Government of Ontario on a quarterly basis.
  1. Under s. 26 of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Government should designate a tribunal to hear appeals from monetary penalties and compliance orders under the K-12 Education Accessibility Standard to a tribunal that has expertise in disability, human rights and education, such as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Those appeals should not go to the License Appeal Tribunal, as is now the case under other Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s accessibility standards, because that commercial tribunal lacks the needed knowledge or expertise in the field of education for students with disabilities.



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Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment


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

June 16, 2021

SUMMARY

Ontario desperately needs to modernize its outdated laws to ensure that buildings and the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Ford Government has received a promising blueprint for this. This can help propel Ontario in the right direction towards becoming accessible to people with disabilities. Will the Ford Government act?

Below you can find one important part of the initial recommendations of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These initial recommendations, which the Ford Government made public on June 1, 2021. This excerpt outlines what should be required for a school building to become physically accessible to students, school staff and family members with disabilities. We will have lots more to say in the coming days about the many other important initial recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee offered for public feedback.

Many incorrectly think that the Ontario Building Code and accessibility standards enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act require a new building or major renovations to be accessible for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the physical accessibility requirements in those laws are grossly inadequate. The AODA Alliance gives compelling examples of this in three captioned online videos. These videos have been viewed thousands of times. These show serious accessibility problems in the Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre, in Centennial College’s new Culinary arts Centre, and in several new public transit stations in Toronto.

Two different AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for strong new action under the AODA. That action has not taken place.

Here’s what we set out below that is new and helpful to combat this situation. Written in non-technical language, is a list of important features that should be included in a building’s design. It is in a report that specifically talks about barriers facing students with disabilities in school. However, the recommendations listed below can equally apply to virtually any kind of building, not just schools.

These proposed requirements should be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards for buildings generally. In the meantime, and until they are enacted in laws, they should be followed whenever buildings, and especially public buildings are designed. This includes schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, government or private offices and any other public building.

These initial recommendations are the product of a joint collaboration between disability community and education sector representatives. The membership of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee which approved these initial recommendations was appointed by the Ontario Government. Half of its members are drawn from the disability community, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half of the committee’s members are drawn from the education sector at all levels, including teachers, school board staff, and school board trustees. For an initial recommendation to be approved, the Ontario Government requires that it be supported by at least 75% of the committee’s membership.

Here is how the Ford Government can get an immediate start. Last summer, the Ford Government announced that at least a half a billion dollars were to be spent on new schools, and on major additions to existing schools. However the Government made no commitments that those new construction projects would be accessible to people with disabilities, and announced no new measures to achieve that goal. The Ontario Government should now require that those new school construction projects incorporate the accessibility requirements below. As well, even if the Ford Government does not act, school boards that will be undertaking these or any other construction projects can and should themselves use these recommendations in their building designs.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee confirmed in its initial recommendations report that the Ministry of Education does not now have a standard that sets accessibility requirements for school construction projects that the Government funds. Neither the Ontario Building Code nor AODA accessibility standards impose the requirements set out below.

Up to September 2, 2021, it is open to the public to send feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on all its initial recommendations, including those set out below. We encourage everyone to send the Government that feedback. Send your feedback to the Government at [email protected]

We again urge the Ontario Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to develop a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The recommendations set out below would provide a great starting point for their discussions.

When he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included:

a) “Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”

b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”

c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”

d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

To learn more about the campaign to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s education page.
To learn more about the campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

To download the entire set of initial recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/download-in-ms-word-format-the-ontario-governments-survey-on-the-initial-or-draft-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee/

Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

(Note: Even though these recommendations are written to address the school setting, they can easily apply to a very wide range of other buildings)

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations
Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements The following should be required:
81. Access to the site for pedestrians
a) Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance
b) A tactile raised line map shall be provided at the main entry points adjacent to the accessible path of travel but with enough space to ensure users do not block the path for others
c) Path of travel from each sidewalk connects to an accessible entrance with few to no joints to avoid bumps. The primary paths shall be wide enough to allow two-way traffic with a clear width that allows two people using wheelchairs or guide dogs to pass each other. For secondary paths where a single path is used, passing spaces shall be provided at regular intervals and at all decision points. The height difference from the sidewalk to the entrance will not require a ramp or stairs. The path will provide drainage slopes only and ensure no puddles form on the path. Paths will be heated during winter months using heat from the school or other renewable energy sources.
d) Bike parking shall be adjacent to the entry path. Riders shall be required to dismount and not ride on the pedestrian routes. Bike parking shall provide horizontal storage with enough space to ensure users and parked bikes do not block the path for others. The ground surface below the bikes shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path.
e) Rest areas and benches with clear floor space for at least two assistive mobility devices or strollers or a mix of both shall be provided. Benches shall be colour contrasted, have back and arm rests and provide transfer seating options at both ends of the bench. These shall be provided every 30m along the path placed adjoining. The bench and space for assistive devices are not to block the path. If the path to the main entrance is less than 30m at least one rest area shall be provided along the route. If the drop-off area is in a different location than the pedestrian route from the sidewalk, an interior rest area shall be provided with clear sightlines to the drop-off area. If the drop-off area is more than 20m from the closest accessible entrance an exterior accessible heated shelter shall be provided for those awaiting pick-up. The ground surface below the rest areas shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path it abuts
f) Tactile directional indicators shall be provided where large open paved areas happen along the route g) Accessible pedestrian directional signage at decision points
h) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and ensure it’s easy to see the features and to keep people safe. i) Accessible duress stations (Emergency safety zones in public spaces)
j) Heated walkways shall be used where possible to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice

82. Access to the site for vehicles
a) Clear, intuitive connection to the drop-off and accessible parking
b) Passenger drop-off shall include space for driveway, layby, access aisle (painted with non slip paint), and a drop curb (to provide a smooth transition) for the full length of the drop off. This edge shall be identified and protected with high colour contrasted tactile attention indicators and bollards to stop cars, so people with vision loss or those not paying attention get a warning before walking into the car area. Sidewalk slopes shall provide drainage in all directions for the full length of the dropped curb
c) Overhead protection shall be provided by a canopy that allows for a clearance for raised vans or buses and shall provide as much overhead protection as possible for people who may need more time to load or off-load
d) Heated walkways from the drop-off and parking shall be used to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
e) A tactile walking directional indicator path shall lead from the drop-off area to the closest accessible entrance to the building (typically the main entrance)
f) A parking surface will only be steep enough to provide drainage in all directions. The drainage will be designed to prevent puddles from forming at the parking or along the pedestrian route from the parking
g) Parking design should include potential expansion plans for future growth and/or to address increased need for accessible parking
h) Parking access aisles shall connect to the sidewalk with a curb cut that leads to the closest accessible entrance to the building. (so that no one needs to travel along the driveway behind parked cars or in the path of car traffic)
i) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and to ensure it’s easy to see obstacles and to keep people safe.
j) If there is more than one parking lot, each site shall have a distinctive colour and shape symbol associated with it that will be used on all directional signage especially along pedestrian routes. 83. Parking
a) The provision of parking spaces near the entrance to a facility is important to accommodate persons with a varying range of abilities as well as persons with limited mobility. Medical conditions, such as anemia, arthritis or heart conditions, using crutches or the physical act of pushing a wheelchair, all can make it difficult to travel long distances. Minimizing travel distances is particularly important outdoors, where weather conditions and ground surfaces can make travel difficult and hazardous.
b) The sizes of accessible parking stalls are important. A person using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair requires a wider parking space to accommodate the manoeuvring of the wheelchair beside the car or van. A van may also require additional space to deploy a lift or ramp out the side or back door. An individual would require space for the deployment of the lift itself as well as additional space to manoeuvre on/off the lift.
c) Heights of passage along the driving routes to accessible parking is a factor. Accessible vans may have a raised roof resulting in the need for additional overhead clearance. Alternatively, the floor of the van may be lowered, resulting in lower capacity to travel over for speed bumps and pavement slope transitions.
d) Wherever possible, parking signs shall be located away from pedestrian routes, because they can constitute an overhead and/or protruding hazard. All parking signage shall be placed at the end of the parking space in a bollard barricade to stop cars, trucks or vans from parking over and blocking the sidewalk.

84. A Building’s Exterior doors
a) Level areas on both sides of a building’s exterior door shall allow the clear floor space for a large scooter or mobility device or several strollers to be at the door. Exterior surface slope shall only provide drainage away from the building.
b) 100% of a building’s exterior doors will be accessible with level thresholds, colour contrast, accessible door hardware and in-door windows or side windows (where security allows) so those approaching the door can see if someone is on the other side of the door
c) Main entry doors at the front of the building and the door closest to the parking lot (if not the same) to be obvious, prominent and will have automatic sliders with overhead sensors. Placing power door operator buttons correctly is difficult and often creates barriers especially within the vestibule
d) Accessible security access for after hours or if used all day with 2-way video for those who are deaf and/or scrolling voice to text messaging
e) All exit doors shall be accessible with a level threshold and clear floor space on either side of the door. The exterior shall include a paved accessible path leading away from the building

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements General Requirements Recommendations The following should be required:

85. Entrances:
a) All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.

86. Door:
a) Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
b) Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
c) Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers. d) Room entrances shall have doors.
e) Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
f) Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space. g) Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used. h) h. Revolving doors are not accessible.
i) Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
j) Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
k) Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:
a) Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
b) Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
c) All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights
a) Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
b) Windowsill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.

89. Drinking Fountains
a) Drinking fountain height should accommodate children and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.

90. Layout
a) The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
b) All classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
c) Corridors should meet at 90-degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
d) Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building

91. Facilities
a) The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
b) Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements Circulation Recommendations The following should be required:

92. Elevators
a) Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
b) Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
c) Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
d) Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
e) Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
f) Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
g) Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
h) The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
i) Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
j) The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
k) Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
l) Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
m) In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts, because platform lifts are often requiring a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.

93. Ramps
a) A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
b) A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
c) On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
d) Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
e) Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
f) Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
g) Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
h) Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages

94. Stairs
a) Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, seniors or persons of short stature.
b) The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
c) Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
d) The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.
The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.
e) Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements Washroom Facilities Recommendations The following should be required:

95. General Washroom Requirements
a) Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
b) Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
c) Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
d) The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
e) The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
f) There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom on each floor.
g) All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
h) Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Schools with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should to have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
i) All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
j) At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the school and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
k) Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
l) Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.

96. Washroom Stalls
a) Size: Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person.
b) Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them.
c) Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall.
d) Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children. 97. Toilets
a) Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
b) Children sized toilets and accessible child sized toilets will be required in kindergarten areas either within the classroom or immediately adjacent to the facilities. 98. Sinks
a) Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block.
b) The sink, sink controls, soap dispenser and towel dispenser should all be at an accessible height and location and should all be automatic controls that do not require physical contact.
c) While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles.
d) For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required.
e) The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned.
f) The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.

99. Urinals
a) Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device.
b) Urinal grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves.
c) Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices.
d) Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
e) In stall washrooms with Urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. For primary schools the urinal should be full height from floor to upper rim to accommodate children. Stalled washrooms with urinals will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.

100. Showers
a) Roll-in or curb less shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower.
b) Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual.
c) Colour contrasted hand-held shower head and a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist persons with disabilities. These are also convenient for others.
d) Other equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
e) Shower floor drain locations will be located to avoid room flooding when they may get blocked
f) Colour contrast will be provided between the floor and the walls in the shower to assist with wayfinding
g) Shower curtains will be used for individual showers instead of doors as much as possible as it
h) Where showers are provided in locker rooms each locker room will include at least one accessible shower, but an additional individual shower room will be provided immediately adjacent to allow for those with opposite sex attendants to assist them with the appropriate privacy.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements Specific Room Requirements Recommendations 101. Performance stages
The following should be required:
a) Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all.
b) A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
c) The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
d) Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
e) Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and backstage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe

102. Sensory Rooms
The following should be required:
a) Sensory rooms will be provided in a central location on each floor where there are classrooms or public meeting spaces b) They will be soundproof and identified with accessible signage
c) The interior walls and floor will be darker in colour, but colour contrast will be used to distinctly differentiate the floor from the wall and the furniture
d) Lighting will be provided on a dimmer to allow for the room to be darkened
e) Weighted blankets will be available along with a variety of different seating options including beanbag chairs or bouncy seat balls
f) They will provide a phone or other 2-way communication to call for assistance if needed

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms
The following should be required:
a) Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
b) All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
c) The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
d) Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
e) Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
f) In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities
The following should be required:
a) Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to all members of the school community.
b) Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
c) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
d) Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
e) Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
f) Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
g) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities
The following should be required:
a) Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
b) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
c) Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
d) Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including to; playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
e) Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
f) Spaces will allow persons with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
g) Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
h) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.

106. Swimming Pools
The following should be required:
a) Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
b) Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
c) Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
d) Floors will be slip resistant to help those who are unsteady on their feet and everyone even in wet conditions.

107. Cafeterias
The following should be required:
a) Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
b) If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort. c) Food signage will be accessible.
d) All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
e) Self serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
f) Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible.

108. Libraries
The following should be required:
a) All service counters shall provide accessibility features
b) Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
c) Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as children of different ages and sizes.
d) Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
e) Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms
The following should be required:

a) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
b) All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
c) Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
d) Students teachers and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the school.
e) This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.). Classroom and meeting rooms must be designed with enough room for people with mobility devices to comfortably move around.
f) Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
g) Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
h) Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.

110. Laboratories will provide, in addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas
The following should be required:
a) Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely. b) All lines shall be accessible.
c) Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
d) Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices.
e) Handrails, not flexible guidelines, with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss.
f) Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
g) Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters
The following should be required:
a) All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
b) Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
c) The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
d) Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements Other Features Recommendations 113. Lockers
The following should be required:
a) Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
b) In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
c) Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
d) The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units
The following should be required:
a) The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
b) Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
c) Appropriate lighting and colour contrast are particularly important for persons with vision loss.
d) Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features.

115. Public Address Systems
The following should be required:
a) Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
b) Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
c) Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.

116. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance The following should be required:

116.1 In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as children or persons speaking a different language.

116.2 Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits audio or talking signs could assist.

116.3 Areas of rescue assistance
a) In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs.
b) Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor.
c) Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs.
d) The number of spaces necessary on each floor that does not have a at grade exit should be sized by the number of people on each floor.
e) Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both 2-way video and audio to allow those using these spaces to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security.
f) All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.

117. Other Features
The following should be required:

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements
a) The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces
a) Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
b) Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs. c) Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
d) Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
e) Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements The following should be required:

118.1 Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system. 118.2 No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.
* Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back, but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.
118.3 There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a staircase that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them
118.4 Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast 118.5 Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position 118.6 Finishes
a) No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
b) Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least between: i. Floor to wall
ii. Door or door frame to wall
iii. Door hardware to door
iv. Controls to wall surfaces

118.7 Furniture Arrange seating in square or round arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language
118.8 No sharp corners especially near turn circles or under surfaces where people will be sitting 119. Requirements for Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property The following should be required:

119.1 Accessible path of travel from sidewalk and entry points to and throughout the play space. Tactile directional indicators would help as integrated path through large open spaces 119.2 Accessible controlled access routes into and out of the play space 119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment
119.4 A mix of ground-level equipment integrated with elevated equipment accessible by a ramp or transfer platform 119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area
119.6 No overhead hazards
119.7 Ramp landings, elevated decks and other areas should provide sufficient turning space for mobility devices and include fun plan activities not just a view 119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms
119.9 Space for a caregiver to sit beside a child on a slide or other play element 119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion
119.11 Avoid recurring scraping or sharp clanging sounds such as the sound of dropping stones and gravel 119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare
119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at: a) Different spaces throughout the play area
b) Differentiate the rise and run on steps. Include colour contrasting on the edge of each step
c) Play space boundaries and areas where children should be cautious, such as around high traffic areas e.g. slide exits d) Entry to play areas with shorter doors to help avoid hitting heads
e) Tactile edges where there is a level change like at the top of the stairs or at a drop-off f) Transfer platforms
g) Railings and handrails contrasted to the supports to make them easier to find
h) Tripping hazards should be avoided but if they exist, providing colour contrast, to improve safety for all. This is more likely in an older playground
i) Safe zones around swings, slide exits and other play areas where people are moving, that might not be noticed when people are moving around the playground

119.14 Play Surfacing Materials Under Foot will be pour-in-place rubber surfacing that should be made of either a) Rubber Tile
b) Engineered wood fiber
c) Engineered carpet, artificial turf, and crushed rubber products d) Sand

119.15 Accessible Parking and Curbs, where provided, at least one clearly marked accessible space positioned as close as possible to the playground on a safe, accessible route to the play space

119.16 Accessible Signage
a) Accessible signage and raised line map at each entrance to the park b) Provide large colour contrasted text, pictograms, braille
c) provide signage at each play element with ID text and braille, marked with a Tactile attention paver to make it easier to find d) Identify the types of disability included at each play equipment/area

119.17 For Caregivers
a) Junior and senior play equipment within easy viewing of each other
b) Sitting areas that offer a clear line of sight to play areas and equipment c) Clear lines of sight throughout the play space
d) Access to all play areas in order to provide assistance e) Sitting areas with back support, arm rests and shade
f) Benches and other sitting areas should be placed on a firm stable area for people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs.

119.18 For Service Animals
a) Nearby safe, shady places at rest area benches where service animals can wait with a caregiver with a clear view of their handlers when they are not assisting them
b) Spaces where dogs can relive themselves dog relief area with nearby garbage can

119.19 Tips for Swings
a) Providing a safe boundary area around swings which is identified by surface material colour and texture b) Swings in a variety of sizes
c) Accessible seat swings or basket swings that require transfer. If size and space allow provide two accessible swings for friends with disabilities to swing together Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

119.20 Tips for Slides
a) Double Slides (side by side) allow caregivers to accompany and, if needed, to offer support b) Slide exits should not be directed into busy play areas c) Transfer platforms at the base of slide exits
d) Seating spaces with back support adjacent to the slide exit where children/caregivers can wait for their mobility device to be retrieved
e) Metal versus Plastic Slides (Metal slides avoid static electricity which damaged cochlear implants, while sun exposure can leave metal slide hot, so shade devices are vital)
f) Roller slides are usually gentler in slope and provide both a tactile and sliding experience or an Avalanche Inclusive Slide




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Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment


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/

Tell the Ford Government, School Boards and Others  To Use Recommended New Standard for Ensuring Accessibility of the Built Environment

June 16, 2021

            SUMMARY

Ontario desperately needs to modernize its outdated laws to ensure that buildings and the built environment becomes accessible to people with disabilities. The Ford Government has received a promising blueprint for this. This can help propel Ontario in the right direction towards becoming accessible to people with disabilities. Will the Ford Government act?

Below you can find one important part of the initial recommendations of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. These initial recommendations, which the Ford Government made public on June 1, 2021. This excerpt outlines what should be required for a school building to become physically accessible to students, school staff and family members with disabilities. We will have lots more to say in the coming days about the many other important initial recommendations that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee offered for public feedback.

Many incorrectly think that the Ontario Building Code and accessibility standards enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act require a new building or major renovations to be accessible for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the physical accessibility requirements in those laws are grossly inadequate. The AODA Alliance gives compelling examples of this in three captioned online videos. These videos have been viewed thousands of times. These show serious accessibility problems in the Ryerson University’s new Student Learning Centre, in Centennial College’s new Culinary arts Centre, and in several new public transit stations in Toronto.

Two different AODA Independent Reviews, the 2014 Independent Review by Mayo Moran and the 2019 Independent Review by David Onley, each identified the disability barriers in the built environment as a priority. They both called for strong new action under the AODA. That action has not taken place.

Here’s what we set out below that is new and helpful to combat this situation. Written in non-technical language, is a list of important features that should be included in a building’s design. It is in a report that specifically talks about barriers facing students with disabilities in school. However, the recommendations listed below can equally apply to virtually any kind of building, not just schools.

These proposed requirements should be incorporated into the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards for buildings generally. In the meantime, and until they are enacted in laws, they should be followed whenever buildings, and especially public buildings are designed. This includes schools, hospitals, colleges, universities, government or private offices and any other public building.

These initial recommendations are the product of a joint collaboration between disability community and education sector representatives. The membership of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee which approved these initial recommendations was appointed by the Ontario Government. Half of its members are drawn from the disability community, including AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The other half of the committee’s members are drawn from the education sector at all levels, including teachers, school board staff, and school board trustees. For an initial recommendation to be approved, the Ontario Government requires that it be supported by at least 75% of the committee’s membership.

Here is how the Ford Government can get an immediate start. Last summer, the Ford Government announced that at least a half a billion dollars were to be spent on new schools, and on major additions to existing schools. However the Government made no commitments that those new construction projects would be accessible to people with disabilities, and announced no new measures to achieve that goal. The Ontario Government should now require that those new school construction projects incorporate the accessibility requirements below. As well, even if the Ford Government does not act, school boards that will be undertaking these or any other construction projects can and should themselves use these recommendations in their building designs.

The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee confirmed in its initial recommendations report that the Ministry of Education does not now have a standard that sets accessibility requirements for school construction projects that the Government funds. Neither the Ontario Building Code nor AODA accessibility standards impose the requirements set out below.

Up to September 2, 2021, it is open to the public to send feedback to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on all its initial recommendations, including those set out below. We encourage everyone to send the Government that feedback. Send your feedback to the Government at [email protected]

We again urge the Ontario Government to now appoint a Built Environment Standards Development Committee to develop a comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA. The recommendations set out below would provide a great starting point for their discussions.

When he was seeking the public’s votes in the 2018 Ontario election, Doug Ford made specific commitments regarding the disability barriers in the built environment. Doug Ford’s May 15, 2018 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election commitments on disability accessibility, included:

  1. a) “Your issues are close to the hearts of our Ontario PC Caucus and Candidates, which is why they will play an outstanding role in shaping policy for the Ontario PC Party to assist Ontarians in need.”
  1. b) “Whether addressing standards for public housing, health care, employment or education, our goal when passing the AODA in 2005 was to help remove the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating more fully in their communities.”
  1. c) “Making Ontario fully accessible by 2025 is an important goal under the AODA and it’s one that would be taken seriously by an Ontario PC government.”
  1. d) “This is why we’re disappointed the current government has not kept its promise with respect to accessibility standards. An Ontario PC government is committed to working with the AODA Alliance to address implementation and enforcement issues when it comes to these standards.

Ontario needs a clear strategy to address AODA standards and the Ontario Building Code’s accessibility provisions. We need Ontario’s design professionals, such as architects, to receive substantially improved professional training on disability and accessibility.”

To learn more about the campaign to get Ontario to enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

To learn more about the campaign to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

To download the entire set of initial recommendations by the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include, visit https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/download-in-ms-word-format-the-ontario-governments-survey-on-the-initial-or-draft-recommendations-of-the-k-12-education-standards-development-committee/

Initial Recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee on Ensuring Physical Accessibility of the Built Environment in Education Settings

(Note: Even though these recommendations are written to address the school setting, they can easily apply to a very wide range of other buildings)

Specific Accessibility Requirements Recommendations

Recommendation Part Three: Usable Accessible Design for Exterior Site Elements

The following should be required:

  1. Access to the site for pedestrians
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the accessible entrance
  3. b) A tactile raised line map shall be provided at the main entry points adjacent to the accessible path of travel but with enough space to ensure users do not block the path for others
  4. c) Path of travel from each sidewalk connects to an accessible entrance with few to no joints to avoid bumps. The primary paths shall be wide enough to allow two-way traffic with a clear width that allows two people using wheelchairs or guide dogs to pass each other. For secondary paths where a single path is used, passing spaces shall be provided at regular intervals and at all decision points. The height difference from the sidewalk to the entrance will not require a ramp or stairs. The path will provide drainage slopes only and ensure no puddles form on the path. Paths will be heated during winter months using heat from the school or other renewable energy sources.
  5. d) Bike parking shall be adjacent to the entry path. Riders shall be required to dismount and not ride on the pedestrian routes. Bike parking shall provide horizontal storage with enough space to ensure users and parked bikes do not block the path for others. The ground surface below the bikes shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path.
  6. e) Rest areas and benches with clear floor space for at least two assistive mobility devices or strollers or a mix of both shall be provided. Benches shall be colour contrasted, have back and arm rests and provide transfer seating options at both ends of the bench. These shall be provided every 30m along the path placed adjoining. The bench and space for assistive devices are not to block the path. If the path to the main entrance is less than 30m at least one rest area shall be provided along the route. If the drop-off area is in a different location than the pedestrian route from the sidewalk, an interior rest area shall be provided with clear sightlines to the drop-off area. If the drop-off area is more than 20m from the closest accessible entrance an exterior accessible heated shelter shall be provided for those awaiting pick-up. The ground surface below the rest areas shall be colour contrasted and textured to be distinct from the pedestrian path it abuts
  7. f) Tactile directional indicators shall be provided where large open paved areas happen along the route
  8. g) Accessible pedestrian directional signage at decision points
  9. h) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and ensure it’s easy to see the features and to keep people safe.
  10. i) Accessible duress stations (Emergency safety zones in public spaces)
  11. j) Heated walkways shall be used where possible to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  1. Access to the site for vehicles
  2. a) Clear, intuitive connection to the drop-off and accessible parking
  3. b) Passenger drop-off shall include space for driveway, layby, access aisle (painted with non slip paint), and a drop curb (to provide a smooth transition) for the full length of the drop off. This edge shall be identified and protected with high colour contrasted tactile attention indicators and bollards to stop cars, so people with vision loss or those not paying attention get a warning before walking into the car area. Sidewalk slopes shall provide drainage in all directions for the full length of the dropped curb
  4. c) Overhead protection shall be provided by a canopy that allows for a clearance for raised vans or buses and shall provide as much overhead protection as possible for people who may need more time to load or off-load
  5. d) Heated walkways from the drop-off and parking shall be used to ensure the path is always clear of snow and ice
  6. e) A tactile walking directional indicator path shall lead from the drop-off area to the closest accessible entrance to the building (typically the main entrance)
  7. f) A parking surface will only be steep enough to provide drainage in all directions. The drainage will be designed to prevent puddles from forming at the parking or along the pedestrian route from the parking
  8. g) Parking design should include potential expansion plans for future growth and/or to address increased need for accessible parking
  9. h) Parking access aisles shall connect to the sidewalk with a curb cut that leads to the closest accessible entrance to the building. (so that no one needs to travel along the driveway behind parked cars or in the path of car traffic)
  10. i) Lighting levels shall be bright and even enough to avoid shadows and to ensure it’s easy to see obstacles and to keep people safe.
  11. j) If there is more than one parking lot, each site shall have a distinctive colour and shape symbol associated with it that will be used on all directional signage especially along pedestrian routes.
  12. Parking
  13. a) The provision of parking spaces near the entrance to a facility is important to accommodate persons with a varying range of abilities as well as persons with limited mobility. Medical conditions, such as anemia, arthritis or heart conditions, using crutches or the physical act of pushing a wheelchair, all can make it difficult to travel long distances. Minimizing travel distances is particularly important outdoors, where weather conditions and ground surfaces can make travel difficult and hazardous.
  14. b) The sizes of accessible parking stalls are important. A person using a mobility aid such as a wheelchair requires a wider parking space to accommodate the manoeuvring of the wheelchair beside the car or van. A van may also require additional space to deploy a lift or ramp out the side or back door. An individual would require space for the deployment of the lift itself as well as additional space to manoeuvre on/off the lift.
  15. c) Heights of passage along the driving routes to accessible parking is a factor. Accessible vans may have a raised roof resulting in the need for additional overhead clearance. Alternatively, the floor of the van may be lowered, resulting in lower capacity to travel over for speed bumps and pavement slope transitions.
  16. d) Wherever possible, parking signs shall be located away from pedestrian routes, because they can constitute an overhead and/or protruding hazard. All parking signage shall be placed at the end of the parking space in a bollard barricade to stop cars, trucks or vans from parking over and blocking the sidewalk.
  1. A Building’s Exterior doors
  2. a) Level areas on both sides of a building’s exterior door shall allow the clear floor space for a large scooter or mobility device or several strollers to be at the door. Exterior surface slope shall only provide drainage away from the building.
  3. b) 100% of a building’s exterior doors will be accessible with level thresholds, colour contrast, accessible door hardware and in-door windows or side windows (where security allows) so those approaching the door can see if someone is on the other side of the door
  4. c) Main entry doors at the front of the building and the door closest to the parking lot (if not the same) to be obvious, prominent and will have automatic sliders with overhead sensors. Placing power door operator buttons correctly is difficult and often creates barriers especially within the vestibule
  5. d) Accessible security access for after hours or if used all day with 2-way video for those who are deaf and/or scrolling voice to text messaging
  6. e) All exit doors shall be accessible with a level threshold and clear floor space on either side of the door. The exterior shall include a paved accessible path leading away from the building

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – General Requirements Recommendations

The following should be required:

85. Entrances:

  1. a) All entrances used by staff and/or the public shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all staff and public entrances accessible, at least 50% of all staff and public entrances shall be accessible and comply with this section. In a retrofit situation where it is technically infeasible to make all public entrances accessible, the primary entrances used by staff and the public shall be accessible.

86. Door:

  1. a) Doors shall be sufficiently wide enough to accommodate stretchers, wheelchairs or assistive scooters, pushing strollers, or making a delivery
  2. b) Threshold at the door’s base shall be level to allow a trip free and wheel friendly passage.
  3. c) Heavy doors and those with auto closers shall provide automatic door openers.
  4. d) Room entrances shall have doors.
  5. e) Direction of door swing shall be chosen to enhance the usability and limit the hazard to others of the door opening.
  6. f) Sliding doors can be easier for some individuals to operate and can also require less wheelchair manoeuvring space.
  7. g) Doors that require two hands to operate will not be used.
  8. h) Revolving doors are not accessible.
  9. i) Full glass doors are not to be used as they represent a hazard.
  10. j) Colour-contrasting will be provided on door frames, door handles as well as the door edges.
  11. k) Door handles and locks will be operable by using a closed fist, and not require fine finger control, tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate

87. Gates, Turnstiles and Openings:

  1. a) Gates and turnstiles should be designed to accommodate the full range of users that may pass through them. Single-bar gates designed to be at a convenient waist height for ambulatory persons are at neck and face height for children and chest height for persons who use wheelchairs or scooters.
  2. b) Revolving turnstiles should not be used as they are a physical impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to negotiate. They are also difficult for persons using canes or crutches, or persons with poor balance.
  3. c) All controlled entry points will provide an accessible width to allow passage of wheelchairs, other mobility devices, strollers, walkers or delivery carts.

88. Windows, Glazed Screens and Sidelights

  1. a) Broad expanses of glass should not be used for walls, beside doors and as doors can be difficult to detect. This may be a particular concern to persons with vision loss/no vision. It is also possible for anyone to walk into a clear sheet of glazing especially if they are distracted or in a hurry.
  2. b) Windowsill heights and operating controls for opening windows or closing blinds should be accessible…located on a path of travel, with clear floor space, within reach of a shorter or seated user, colour contrasted and not require punching or twisting to operate.

89. Drinking Fountains

  1. a) Drinking fountain height should accommodate children and that of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Potentially conflicting with this, the height should strive to attempt to accommodate individuals who have difficulty bending and who would require a higher fountain. Where feasible, this may require more than one fountain, at different heights. The operating system shall account for limited hand strength or dexterity. Fountains will be recessed, to avoid protruding into the path of travel. Angled recessed alcove designs allow more flexibility and require less precision by a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Providing accessible signage with a tactile attention indicator tile will help those who with vision loss to find the fountain.

90. Layout

  1. a) The main office where visitors and others need to report to upon entering the building shall always be located on the same level as the entrance, as close to the entrance as possible. If the path of travel to the office crosses a large open area, a tactile directional indicator path shall lead from the main entrance(s) to the office ID signage next to the office door.
  2. b) All classrooms and or public destinations shall be on the ground floor. Where this is not possible, at least 2 elevators should be provided to access all other levels. Where the building is long and spread out, travel distance to elevators should be considered to reduce extra time needed for students and staff or others who use the elevators instead of the stairs. If feature stairs (staircases included in whole or in part for design aesthetics) are included, elevators shall be co-located and just as prominent as the stairs
  3. c) Corridors should meet at 90-degree angles. Floor layouts from floor to floor should be consistent and predictable so the room number line up and are the same with the floors above and below along with the washrooms
  4. d) Multi-stall washrooms shall always place the women’s washroom on the right and the men’s washroom on the left. No labyrinth entrances shall be used. Universal washrooms shall be co-located immediately adjacent to the stall washrooms, in a location that is consistent and predictable throughout the building

91. Facilities

  1. a) The entry doors to each type of facility within a building should be accessible, colour contrasted, obvious and prominent and designed as part of the wayfinding system including accessible signage that is co-located with power door openers controls.
  2. b) Tactile attention indicator tile will be placed on the floor in front of the accessible ID signage at each room or facility type. Where a room or facility entrance is placed off of a large interior open area

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Circulation Recommendations

The following should be required:

92. Elevators

  1. a) Elevator Doors will provide a clear width to allow a stretcher and larger mobility devices to get in and out
  2. b) Doors will have sensors so doors will auto open if the doorway is blocked
  3. c) Elevators will be installed in pairs so that when one is out of service for repair or maintenance, there is an alternative available.
  4. d) Elevators will be sized at allow at least two mobility device users and two non-mobility devices users to be in the elevator at the same time. This should also allow for a wide stretcher in case of emergency.
  5. e) Assistive listening will be available in each elevator to help make the audible announcements heard by those using hearing aids
  6. f) Emergency button on the elevator’s control panel will also provide 2-way communication with video and scrolling text and a keyboard for people who are deaf or who have other communication disabilities
  7. g) Inside the elevators will be additional horizontal buttons on the side wall in case there is not enough room for a person using a mobility aid to push the typical vertical buttons along the wall beside the door. If there are only two floors the elevator will only provide the door open, close and emergency call buttons and the elevator will automatically move to the floor it is not on.
  8. h) The words spoken in the elevator’s voice announcement of the floor will be the same as the braille and print floor markings, so the button shows 1 as a number, 1 in braille and the voice says first floor not G for Ground with M in braille and voice says first floor.)
  9. i) Ensure the star symbol for each elevator matches ground level appropriate to the elevator. The star symbol indicates the floor the elevator will return to in an emergency. This means users in the elevator will open closest to the available accessible exit. If the entrance on the north side is on the second floor, the star symbol in that elevator will be next to the button that says 2. If the entrance on the south side of the building is on the 1st floor, the star symbol will be next to the button that says 1.
  10. j) The voice on the elevator shall be set at a volume that is audible above typical noise levels while the elevator is in use, so that people on the elevator can easily hear the audible floor announcements.
  11. k) Lighting levels inside the elevator will match the lighting at the elevator lobbies. Lighting will be measured at the ground level
  12. l) Elevators will provide colour contrast between the floor and the walls inside the cab and between the frame of the door or the doors with the wall surrounding in the elevator lobbies. Vinyl peel and stick sheets or paint will be used to cover the shiny metal which creates glare. Vinyl sheets will be plain to ensure the door looks like a door, and not like advertising
  13. m) In a retrofit situation where adding 2 elevators is not technically possible without undue hardship, platform lifts may be considered. Elevators that are used by all facility users are preferred to platform lifts which tend to segregate persons with disabilities and which limit space at entrance and stair locations. Furthermore, independent access is often compromised by such platform lifts, because platform lifts are often requiring a key to operate. Whenever possible, integrated elevator access should be incorporated to avoid the use of lifts.

93. Ramps

  1. a) A properly designed ramp can provide wait-free access for those using wheelchairs or scooters, pushing strollers or moving packages on a trolley or those who are using sign language to communicate and don’t want to stop talking as they climb stairs.
  2. b) A ramp’s textured surfaces, edge protection and handrails all provide important safety features.
  3. c) On outdoor ramps, heated surfaces shall be provided to address the safety concerns associated with snow and ice.
  4. d) Ramps shall only be used where the height difference between levels is no more than 1m (4ft). Longer ramps take up too much space and are too tiring for many users. Where a height difference is more than 1m in height, elevators will be provided instead.
  5. e) Landings will be sized to allow a large mobility device or scooter to make a 360 degree turn and/or for two people with mobility assistive devices or guide dogs to pass
  6. f) Slopes inside the building will be no higher than is permitted for exterior ramps in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s Design of Public Spaces Standard, to ensure usability without making the ramp too long.
  7. g) Curved ramps will not be used, because the cross slope at the turn is hard to navigate and a tipping hazard for many people.
  8. h) Colour and texture contrast will be provided to differentiate the full slope from any level landings. Tactile attention domes shall not be used at ramps, because they are meant only for stairs and for drop-off edges like at stages

94. Stairs

  1. a) Stairs that are comfortable for many adults may be challenging for children, seniors or persons of short stature.
  2. b) The leading edge of each step (aka nosing) shall not present tripping hazards, particularly to persons with prosthetic devices or those using canes and will have a bright colour contrast to the rest of the horizontal step surface.
  3. c) Each stair in a staircase will use the same height and depth, to avoid creating tripping hazards
  4. d) The rise between stairs will always be smooth, so that shoes will not catch on an abrupt edge causing a tripping hazard. These spaces will always be closed as open stairs create a tripping hazard.

The top of all stair entry points will have a tactile attention indicator surface, to ensure the drop-off is identified for those who are blind or distracted.

  1. e) Handrails will aid all users navigating stairways safely. Handrails will be provided on both sides of all stairs and will be provided at both the traditional height as well as a second lower rail for children or people who are shorter. These will be in a high colour contrasting colour and round in shape, without sharp edges or interruptions.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Washroom Facilities Recommendations

The following should be required:

95. General Washroom Requirements

  1. a) Washroom facilities will accommodate the range of people that will use the space. Although many persons with disabilities use toilet facilities independently, some may require assistance. Where the individual providing assistance is of the opposite gender then typical gender-specific washrooms are awkward, and so an individual washroom is required.
  2. b) Parents and caregivers with small children and strollers also benefit from a large, individual washroom with toilet and change facilities contained within the same space.
  3. c) Circumstances such as wet surfaces and the act of transferring between toilet and wheelchair or scooter can make toilet facilities accident-prone areas. An individual falling in a washroom with a door that swings inward could prevent his or her own rescuers from opening the door. Due to the risk of accidents, emergency call buttons are vital in all washrooms.
  4. d) The appropriate design of all features will ensure the usability and safety of all toilet facilities.
  5. e) The identification of washrooms will include pictograms for children or people who cannot read. All signage will include braille that translates the text on the print sign, and not only the room number.
  6. f) There are three types of washrooms. Single use accessible washrooms, single use universal washrooms, and multi-use stalled washrooms. The number and types of washrooms used in a facility will be determined by the number of users. There will always at least be one universal washroom on each floor.
  7. g) All washrooms will have doors with power door opening buttons. No door washrooms will be hard to identify for people who have vision loss.
  8. h) Stall washrooms accessible sized stalls – At least 2 accessible stalls shall be provided in each washroom to avoid long wait times. Schools with accessible education programs that include a large percentage of people with mobility disabilities should to have all stalls sized to accommodate a turn circle and the transfer space beside the toilet.
  9. i) All washrooms near rooms that will be used for public events shall include a baby change table that is accessible to all users, not placed inside a stall. It shall be colour contrasted with the surroundings and usable for those in a seated mobility device and or of shorter stature.
  10. j) At least one universal washroom will include an adult sized change table, with the washroom located near appropriate facilities in the school and any public event spaces. These are important for some adults with disabilities and for children with disabilities who are too large for the baby change tables. This helps prevent anyone from needing to be changed lying on a bathroom floor.
  11. k) Where shower stalls are provided, these shall include accessible sized stalls.
  12. l) Portable Toilets at Special Events shall all be accessible. At least one will include an adult sized change table.
  1. Washroom Stalls
  2. a) Size: Manoeuvrability of a wheelchair or scooter is the principal consideration in the design of an accessible stall. The increased size of the stall is required to ensure there is sufficient space to facilitate proper placement of a wheelchair or scooter to accommodate a person transferring transfer onto the toilet from their mobility device. There may also be instances where an individual requires assistance. Thus, the stall will have to accommodate a second person.
  3. b) Stall Door swings are normally outward for safety reasons and space considerations. However, this makes it difficult to close the door once inside. A handle mounted part way along the door makes it easier for someone inside the stall to close the door behind them.
  4. c) Minimum requirements for non-accessible toilet stalls are included to ensure that persons who do not use wheelchairs or scooters can be adequately accommodated within any toilet stall.
  5. d) Universal features include accessible hardware and a minimum stall width to accommodate persons of large stature or parents with small children.
  6. Toilets
  7. a) Automatic flush controls are preferred. If flushing mechanisms are not automated, flushing controls shall be on the transfer side of the toilet, with colour contrasted and lever style handles.
  8. b) Children sized toilets and accessible child sized toilets will be required in kindergarten areas either within the classroom or immediately adjacent to the facilities.
  9. Sinks
  10. a) Each accessible sink shall be on an accessible path of travel that other people, using other sinks or features (like hand-dryers), are not positioned to block.
  11. b) The sink, sink controls, soap dispenser and towel dispenser should all be at an accessible height and location and should all be automatic controls that do not require physical contact.
  12. c) While faucets with remote-eye technology may initially confuse some individuals, their ease of use is notable. Individuals with hand strength or dexterity difficulties can use lever-style handles.
  13. d) For an individual in a wheelchair and younger children, a lower counter height and clearance for knees under the counter are required.
  14. e) The insulating of hot water pipes shall be assured to protect the legs of an individual using a wheelchair. This is particularly important when a disability impairs sensation such that the individual would not sense that their legs were being burned.
  15. f) The combination of shallow sinks and higher water pressures can cause unacceptable splashing at lavatories.
  1. Urinals
  2. a) Each urinal needs to be on an accessible path of travel with clear floor space in front of each accessible urinal to provide the manoeuvring space for a mobility device.
  3. b) Urinal grab bars shall be provided to assist individuals rising from a seated position and others to steady themselves.
  4. c) Floor-mounted urinals accommodate children and persons of short stature as well as enabling easier access to drain personal care devices.
  5. d) Flush controls, where used, will be automatic preferred. Strong colour contrasts shall be provided between the urinal, the wall and the floor to assist persons with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) In stall washrooms with Urinals, all urinals will be accessible with lower rim heights. For primary schools the urinal should be full height from floor to upper rim to accommodate children. Stalled washrooms with urinals will have an upper rim at the same height as typical non-accessible urinals to avoid the mess taller users can make. All urinals will provide vertical grab bars which are colour contrasted to the walls. Where dividers between urinals are used, the dividers will be colour contrasted to the walls as well.
  1. Showers
  2. a) Roll-in or curb less shower stalls shall be provided to eliminate the hazard of stepping over a threshold and are essential for persons with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices in the shower.
  3. b) Grab bars and non-slip materials shall be included as safety measures that will support any individual.
  4. c) Colour contrasted hand-held shower head and a water-resistant folding bench shall be included to assist persons with disabilities. These are also convenient for others.
  5. d) Other equipment that has contrasting colour from the shower stall shall be included to assist individuals with vision loss/no vision.
  6. e) Shower floor drain locations will be located to avoid room flooding when they may get blocked
  7. f) Colour contrast will be provided between the floor and the walls in the shower to assist with wayfinding
  8. g) Shower curtains will be used for individual showers instead of doors as much as possible as it
  9. h) Where showers are provided in locker rooms each locker room will include at least one accessible shower, but an additional individual shower room will be provided immediately adjacent to allow for those with opposite sex attendants to assist them with the appropriate privacy.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Specific Room Requirements Recommendations

101. Performance stages

The following should be required:

  1. a) Elevated platforms, such as stage areas, speaker podiums, etc., shall be accessible to all.
  2. b) A clear accessible route will be provided along the same path of access for those who are not using mobility assistive devices as those who do. Lifts will not be used to access stage or raised platforms, unless the facility is retrofitting an existing stage and it is not technically possible to provide access by other means.
  3. c) The stage shall include safety features to assist persons with vision loss or those momentarily blinded by stage lights from falling off the edge of a raised stage, such as a colour contrasted raised lip along the edge of the stage.
  4. d) Lecterns shall be accessible with an adjustable height surface, knee space and accessible audio visual (AV) and information technology (IT) equipment. Lecterns shall have a microphone that is connected to an assistive listening system, such as a hearing loop. The office and/or presentation area will have assistive listening units available for those who may request them, for example people who are hard of hearing but not yet wearing hearing aids.
  5. e) Lighting shall be adjustable to allow for a minimum of lighting in the public seating area and backstage to allow those who need to move or leave with sufficient lighting at floor level to be safe

102. Sensory Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Sensory rooms will be provided in a central location on each floor where there are classrooms or public meeting spaces
  2. b) They will be soundproof and identified with accessible signage
  3. c) The interior walls and floor will be darker in colour, but colour contrast will be used to distinctly differentiate the floor from the wall and the furniture
  4. d) Lighting will be provided on a dimmer to allow for the room to be darkened
  5. e) Weighted blankets will be available along with a variety of different seating options including beanbag chairs or bouncy seat balls
  6. f) They will provide a phone or other 2-way communication to call for assistance if needed

103. Offices, Work Areas, and Meeting Rooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Offices providing services or programs to the public will be accessible to all, regardless of mobility or functional needs. Offices and related support areas shall be accessible to staff and visitors with disabilities.
  2. b) All people, but particularly those with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing, will benefit from having a quiet acoustic environment – background noise from mechanical equipment such as fans, shall be designed to be minimal. Telephone equipment that supports the needs of individuals with hearing and vision loss shall be available.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. Where offices and work areas and small meeting rooms do not have assistive listening, such as hearing loops permanently installed, portable assistive hearing loops shall be available at the office
  4. d) Tables and workstations shall provide the knee space requirements of an individual in a mobility assistive device. Adjustable height tables allow for a full range of user needs. Circulation areas shall accommodate the spatial needs of mobility equipment as large as scooters to ensure all areas and facilities in the space can be reached with appropriate manoeuvring and turning spaces.
  5. e) Natural coloured task lighting, such as that provided through halogen bulbs, shall be used wherever possible to facilitate use by all, especially persons with low vision.
  6. f) In locations where reflective glare may be problematic, such as large expanses of glass with reflective flooring, blinds that can be louvered upwards shall be provided. Controls for blinds shall be accessible to all and usable with a closed fist without pinching or twisting

104. Outdoor Athletic and Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for outdoor recreation, leisure and active sport participation shall be designed to be available to all members of the school community.
  2. b) Outdoor spaces will allow persons with a disability to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff. Spaces will be accessible including boardwalks, trails and footbridges, pathways, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, parks, parkettes and playgrounds, grandstand and other viewing areas, and playing fields
  3. c) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  4. d) Noise cancelling headphones shall be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  5. e) Outdoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities undergoing rehabilitation.
  6. f) Seating and like facilities shall be inclusive and allow for all members of a disabled sports team to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.
  7. g) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate anyone.

105. Arenas, Halls and Other Indoor Recreational Facilities

The following should be required:

  1. a) Areas for recreation, leisure and active sport participation will be accessible to all members of the community.
  2. b) Assistive listening will be provided where game or other announcements will be made for all areas including the change room, player, coach and public areas.
  3. c) Noise cancelling headphones will be available to those with sensory disabilities.
  4. d) Access will be provided throughout outdoor facilities including to; playing fields and other sports facilities, all activity areas, outdoor trails, swimming areas, play spaces, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  5. e) Interior access will be provided to halls, arenas, and other sports facilities, including access to the site, all activity spaces, gymnasia, fitness facilities, lockers, dressing/change rooms and showers.
  6. f) Spaces will allow persons with disabilities to be active participants, as well as spectators, volunteers and members of staff.
  7. g) Indoor exercise equipment will include options for those with a variety of disabilities including those with temporary disabilities who are undergoing rehabilitation.
  8. h) Seating and facilities will be inclusive and allow for all members of a sports team of persons with disabilities to sit together in an integrated way that does not segregate or stigmatize anyone.

106. Swimming Pools

The following should be required:

  1. a) Primary considerations for accommodating persons who have mobility impairments include accessible change facilities and a means of access into the water. Ramped access into the water is preferred over lift access, as it promotes integration (everyone will use the ramp) and independence.
  2. b) Persons with low vision benefit from colour and textural surfaces that are detectable and safe for both bare feet or those wearing water shoes. These surfaces will be provided along primary routes of travel leading to access points such as pool access ladders and ramps.
  3. c) Tactile surface markings and other barriers will be provided at potentially dangerous locations, such as the edge of the pool, at steps into the pool and at railings.
  4. d) Floors will be slip resistant to help those who are unsteady on their feet and everyone even in wet conditions.

107. Cafeterias

The following should be required:

  1. a) Cafeteria serving lines and seating area designs shall reflect the lower sight lines, reduced reach, knee-space and manoeuvring requirements of a person using a wheelchair or scooter. Patrons using mobility devices may not be able to hold a tray or food items while supporting themselves on canes or while manoeuvring a wheelchair.
  2. b) If tray slides are provided, they will be designed to move trays with minimal effort.
  3. c) Food signage will be accessible.
  4. d) All areas where food is ordered and picked up will be designed to meet accessible service counter requirements
  5. e) Self serve food will be within the reach of people who are shorter or using seated mobility assistive devices
  6. f) Where trays are provided, a tray cart that can be attached to seated assistive mobility devices or a staff assistant solution that is readily available shall be available on demand, because carrying trays and pushing a chair or operating a motorized assistive device can be difficult or impossible.

108. Libraries

The following should be required:

  1. a) All service counters shall provide accessibility features
  2. b) Study carrels will accommodate the knee-space and armrest requirements of a person using a mobility device.
  3. c) Computer catalogues, carrels and workstations will be provided at a range of heights, to accommodate persons who are standing or sitting, as well as children of different ages and sizes.
  4. d) Workstations shall be equipped with assistive technology such as large displays, screen readers, to increase the accessibility of a library.
  5. e) Book drop-off slots shall be at different heights for standing and seated use with accessible signage, to enhance usability.

109. Teaching Spaces and Classrooms

The following should be required:

  1. a) Students, teachers and staff with disabilities will have accessibility to teaching and classroom facilities, including teaching computer labs.
  2. b) All teaching spaces and classrooms will provide power door operators and assistive listening systems such as hearing loops
  3. c) Additional considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features specifically designated for use by students with disabilities, such as accessibility standard accommodations for complex personal care needs.
  4. d) Students teachers and staff with disabilities will be accommodated in all teaching spaces throughout the school.
  5. e) This accessibility will include the ability to enter and move freely throughout the space, as well as to use the various built-in elements within (i.e. blackboards and/or whiteboards, switches, computer stations, sinks, etc.). Classroom and meeting rooms must be designed with enough room for people with mobility devices to comfortably move around.
  6. f) Individuals with disabilities frequently use learning aids and other assistive devices that require a power supply. Additional electrical outlets shall be provided throughout teaching spaces to -accommodate the use of such equipment.
  7. g) Except where it is impossible, fixtures, fittings, furniture and equipment will be specified for teaching spaces, which is usable by students, faculty, teaching assistants and staff with disabilities.
  8. h) Providing only one size of seating does not reflect the diversity of body types of our society. Offering seats with an increased width and weight capacity is helpful for persons of large stature. Seating with increased legroom will better suit individuals that are taller. Removable armrests can be helpful for persons of larger stature as well as individuals using wheelchairs that prefer to transfer to the seat.
  1. Laboratories will provide, in addition to the requirements for classrooms, additional accessibility considerations may be necessary for spaces and/or features in laboratories.

111. Waiting and Queuing Areas

The following should be required:

  1. a) Queuing areas for information, tickets or services will permit persons who use wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices as well as for persons with a varying range of user ability to easily move through the line safely.
  2. b) All lines shall be accessible.
  3. c) Waiting and queuing areas will provide space for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs and scooters.
  4. d) Queuing lines that turn corners or double back on themselves will provide adequate space to manoeuvre mobility devices.
  5. e) Handrails, not flexible guidelines, with high colour contrast will be provided along queuing lines, because they are a useful support for individuals and guidance for those with vision loss.
  6. f) Benches in waiting areas shall be provided for individuals who may have difficulty with standing for extended periods.
  7. g) Assistive listening systems will be provided, such as hearing loops, will be provided along with accessible signage indicating this service is available.

112. Information, Reception and Service Counters

The following should be required:

  1. a) All information, reception and service counters will be accessible to the full range of visitors. Where adjustable height furniture is not used, a choice of fixed counter heights will provide a range of options for a variety of persons. Lowered sections will serve children, persons of short stature and persons using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or scooter. The choice of heights will also extend to any speaking ports and writing surfaces.
  2. b) Counters will provide knee space under the counter to accommodate a person using a wheelchair or a scooter.
  3. c) The provision of assistive speaking and listening devices is important for the range of individuals who may have difficulty with low vocal volume thus affecting production of normal audible levels of sound. The space where people are speaking will have appropriate acoustic treatment to ensure the best possible conditions for communication. Both the public and staff sides of the counter will have good lighting for the faces to help facilitate lip reading.
  4. d) Colour contrast will be provided to delineate the public service counters and speaking ports for people with low vision.

Accessible Design for Interior Building Elements – Other Features Recommendations

113. Lockers

The following should be required:

  1. a) Lockers will be accessible with colour contrast and accessible signage
  2. b) In change rooms an accessible bench will be provided in close proximity to lockers.
  3. c) Lockers at lower heights serve the reach of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
  4. d) The locker operating mechanisms will be at an appropriate height and operable by individuals with restrictions in hand dexterity (i.e. operable with a closed fist).

114. Storage, Shelving and Display Units

The following should be required:

  1. a) The heights of storage, shelving and display units will address a full range of vantage points including the lower sightlines of children or a person using a wheelchair or scooter. The lower heights also serve the lower reach of these individuals.
  2. b) Displays and storage along a path of travel that are too low can be problematic for individuals that have difficulty bending down or who are blind. If these protrude too much into the path of travel, each will protect people with the use of a trip free cane detectable guard.
  3. c) Appropriate lighting and colour contrast are particularly important for persons with vision loss.
  4. d) Signage provided will be accessible with braille, text, colour contrast and tactile features.

115. Public Address Systems

The following should be required:

  1. a) Public address systems will be designed to best accommodate all users, especially those that may be hard of hearing. They will be easy to hear above the ambient background noise of the environment with no distortion or feedback. Background noise or music will be minimized.
  2. b) Technology for visual equivalents of information being broadcast will be available for individuals with hearing loss/persons who are hard-of-hearing who may not hear an audible public address system.
  3. c) Classrooms, library, hallways, and other areas will have assistive listening equipment that is tied into the general public address system.

116. Emergency Exits, Fire Evacuation and Areas of Rescue Assistance

The following should be required:

116.1 In order to be accessible to all individuals, emergency exits will include the same accessibility features as other doors. The doors and routes will be marked in a way that is accessible to all individuals, including those who may have difficulty with literacy, such as children or persons speaking a different language.

116.2 Persons with vision loss/no vision will be provided a means to quickly locate exits – audio or talking signs could assist.

116.3 Areas of rescue assistance

  1. a) In the event of fire when elevators cannot be used, areas of rescue assistance shall be provided especially for anyone who has difficulty traversing sets of stairs.
  2. b) Areas of rescue assistance will be provided on all floors above or below the ground floor.
  3. c) Exit stairs will provide an area of rescue assistance on the landing with at least two spaces for people with mobility assistive devices sized to ensure those spaces do not block the exit route for those using the stairs.
  4. d) The number of spaces necessary on each floor that does not have a at grade exit should be sized by the number of people on each floor.
  5. e) Each area of refuge will provide a 2-way communication system with both 2-way video and audio to allow those using these spaces to communicate that they are waiting there and to communicate with fire safety services and or security.
  6. f) All signage associated with the area of rescue assistance will be accessible and include braille for all controls and information.

117. Other Features

The following should be required:

117.1 Space and Reach Requirements

  1. a) The dimensions and manoeuvring characteristics of wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices will allow for a full array of equipment that is used by individuals to access and use facilities, as well as the diverse range of user ability.

117.2 Ground and Floor Surfaces

  1. a) Irregular surfaces, such as cobblestones or pea-gravel finished concrete, shall be avoided because they are difficult for both walking and pushing a wheelchair. Slippery surfaces are to be avoided because they are hazardous to all individuals and especially hazardous for seniors and others who may not be sure-footed.
  2. b) Glare from polished floor surfaces is to be avoided because it can be uncomfortable for all users and can be a particular obstacle to persons with vision loss by obscuring important orientation and safety features. Pronounced colour contrast between walls and floor finishes are helpful for persons with vision loss, as are changes in colour/texture where a change in level or function occurs.
  3. c) Patterned floors should be avoided, as they can create visual confusion.
  4. d) Thick pile carpeting is to be avoided as it makes pushing a wheelchair very difficult. Small and uneven changes in floor level represent a further barrier to using a wheelchair and present a tripping hazard to ambulatory persons.
  5. e) Openings in any ground or floor surface such as grates or grilles are to be avoided because they can catch canes or wheelchair wheels.

118. Universal Design Practices beyond Typical Accessibility Requirements

The following should be required:

118.1 Areas of refuge should be provided even when a building has a sprinkler system.

118.2 No hangout steps* should ever be included in the building or facility.

* Hangout steps are a socializing area that is sometimes used for presentations. It looks similar to bleachers. Each seating level is further away from the front and higher up but here people sit on the floor rather than on seats. Each seating level is about as deep as four stairs and about 3 stairs high. There is typically a regular staircase provided on one side that leads from the front or stage area to the back at the top. The stairs allow ambulatory people access to all levels of the seating areas, but the only seating spaces for those who use mobility assistive devices are at the front or at the top at the back, but these are not integrated in any way with the other seating options.

118.3 There should never be “stramps”. A stramp is a staircase that someone has built a ramp running back and forth across. These create accessibility problems rather than solving them

118.4 Rest areas should be differentiated from walking surfaces or paths by texture- and colour-contrast

118.5 Keypads angled to be usable from both a standing and a seated position

118.6 Finishes

  1. a) No floor-to-ceiling mirrors
  2. b) Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least between:
  3. Floor to wall
  4. Door or door frame to wall

iii. Door hardware to door

  1. Controls to wall surfaces

118.7 Furniture – Arrange seating in square or round arrangement so all participants can see each other for those who are lip reading or using sign language

118.8 No sharp corners especially near turn circles or under surfaces where people will be sitting

119. Requirements for Public Playgrounds on or Adjacent to School Property

The following should be required:

119.1 Accessible path of travel from sidewalk and entry points to and throughout the play space. Tactile directional indicators would help as integrated path through large open spaces

119.2 Accessible controlled access routes into and out of the play space

119.3 Multiple ways to use and access play equipment

119.4 A mix of ground-level equipment integrated with elevated equipment accessible by a ramp or transfer platform

119.5 Where stairs are provided, ramps to same area

119.6 No overhead hazards

119.7 Ramp landings, elevated decks and other areas should provide sufficient turning space for mobility devices and include fun plan activities not just a view

119.8 Space to park wheelchairs and mobility devices beside transfer platforms

119.9 Space for a caregiver to sit beside a child on a slide or other play element

119.10 Provide elements that can be manipulated with limited exertion

119.11 Avoid recurring scraping or sharp clanging sounds such as the sound of dropping stones and gravel

119.12 Avoid shiny surfaces as they produce a glare

119.13 Colour luminance contrast will be provided at least at:

  1. a) Different spaces throughout the play area
  2. b) Differentiate the rise and run on steps. Include colour contrasting on the edge of each step
  3. c) Play space boundaries and areas where children should be cautious, such as around high traffic areas e.g. slide exits
  4. d) Entry to play areas with shorter doors to help avoid hitting heads
  5. e) Tactile edges where there is a level change like at the top of the stairs or at a drop-off
  6. f) Transfer platforms
  7. g) Railings and handrails contrasted to the supports to make them easier to find
  8. h) Tripping hazards should be avoided but if they exist, providing colour contrast, to improve safety for all. This is more likely in an older playground
  9. i) Safe zones around swings, slide exits and other play areas where people are moving, that might not be noticed when people are moving around the playground

119.14 Play Surfacing Materials Under Foot will be pour-in-place rubber surfacing that should be made of either

  1. a) Rubber Tile
  2. b) Engineered wood fiber
  3. c) Engineered carpet, artificial turf, and crushed rubber products
  4. d) Sand

119.15 Accessible Parking and Curbs, where provided, at least one clearly marked accessible space positioned as close as possible to the playground on a safe, accessible route to the play space

119.16 Accessible Signage

  1. a) Accessible signage and raised line map at each entrance to the park
  2. b) Provide large colour contrasted text, pictograms, braille
  3. c) provide signage at each play element with ID text and braille, marked with a Tactile attention paver to make it easier to find
  4. d) Identify the types of disability included at each play equipment/area

119.17 For Caregivers

  1. a) Junior and senior play equipment within easy viewing of each other
  2. b) Sitting areas that offer a clear line of sight to play areas and equipment
  3. c) Clear lines of sight throughout the play space
  4. d) Access to all play areas in order to provide assistance
  5. e) Sitting areas with back support, arm rests and shade
  6. f) Benches and other sitting areas should be placed on a firm stable area for people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs.

119.18 For Service Animals

  1. a) Nearby safe, shady places at rest area benches where service animals can wait with a caregiver with a clear view of their handlers when they are not assisting them
  2. b) Spaces where dogs can relive themselves – dog relief area with nearby garbage can

119.19 Tips for Swings

  1. a) Providing a safe boundary area around swings which is identified by surface material colour and texture
  2. b) Swings in a variety of sizes
  3. c) Accessible seat swings or basket swings that require transfer. If size and space allow provide two accessible swings for friends with disabilities to swing together

Platform swings eliminate the need to transfer should be integrated

119.20 Tips for Slides

  1. a) Double Slides (side by side) allow caregivers to accompany and, if needed, to offer support
  2. b) Slide exits should not be directed into busy play areas
  3. c) Transfer platforms at the base of slide exits
  4. d) Seating spaces with back support adjacent to the slide exit where children/caregivers can wait for their mobility device to be retrieved
  5. e) Metal versus Plastic Slides (Metal slides avoid static electricity which damaged cochlear implants, while sun exposure can leave metal slide hot, so shade devices are vital)
  6. f) Roller slides are usually gentler in slope and provide both a tactile and sliding experience or an Avalanche Inclusive Slide



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Send Us Your Feedback on the Initial or Draft Recommendations for What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include that Were Prepared by the Government-Appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee


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/

Send Us Your Feedback on the Initial or Draft Recommendations for What the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard Should Include that Were Prepared by the Government-Appointed Health Care Standards Development Committee

May 10, 2021

            SUMMARY

It is more important than ever for the Ontario Government to remove and prevent the many disability barriers that impede patients with disabilities in Ontario’s health care system. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s response to it have made those barriers worse. That flies in the face of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which requires the Ontario Government to lead our health care system and our entire society to become accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

We now seek your feedback once again on the barriers that people with disabilities face in Ontario’s health care system. Last week, on Friday, May 7, 2021, the Ford Government belatedly and at last posted online for public comment the initial or draft recommendations in this area that were prepared by the Government—appointed advisory Health Care Standards Development Committee. We are going to write a brief to that Committee, giving it our feedback on their recommendations. We aim for that Committee’s final recommendations to be as strong and effective as possible. We need your input.

We have posted the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s initial or draft recommendations on the AODA Alliance website at https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Health-Care-SDC-Initial-Report-As-Submitted.doc. The Government also has them posted, at least for now, on its website, with the link set out below.

Please give The Committee’s recommendations a read, and send us your thoughts. What do you like about them? Are they missing anything that should be added? Are they strong and comprehensive enough?

We welcome and invite your feedback to help us as we work on our brief. Send your thoughts to us at [email protected]

Of course, you are also strongly encouraged to send your feedback and recommendations directly to the Health Care Standards Development Committee. You have up until August 11, 2021 to do that. The contact information for the Health Care Standards Development Committee is set out below, in the Government’s announcement.

If you want helpful background on the barriers people with disabilities face in the health care system,, including what the AODA Alliance has recommended in the past to the Health Care Standards Development Committee (based on feedback from our supporters), take a look at these resources:

  1. The AODA Alliance’s February 25, 2020 Framework that it submitted to the Health Care Standards Development Committee on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include. We developed that Framework in consultation with our supporters, after getting input from multiple sources.
  1. The captioned November 26, 2019 online video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky where he describes many of the disability barriers in the health care system that the Health Care Accessibility Standard needs to remove and prevent. This video has been viewed over 1,000 times.
  1. The more recent April 27, 2021 captioned video by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on one specific and frightening barrier that people with disabilities, face, namely Ontario’s disability-discriminatory critical care triage protocol, which was created in case hospitals must ration life-saving critical care due to COVID-19 overloads.
  1. The saga of the AODA Alliance’s non-partisan campaign that it has waged for over a decade to get the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA, documented on the AODA Alliance’s health care web page.

There has been a series of inexcusable Government delays in getting to this important interim stage on the road to the enactment of a strong and effective Health Care Accessibility Standard in Ontario. As a result of our five or more years of advocacy up to that point, on February 13, 2015, the Ontario cabinet minister then responsible for the AODA, Eric Hoskins, announced that the Government of Ontario would develop and enact a Health Care Accessibility Standard under the AODA. That was six years ago.

Under the AODA, the first step required for the government to develop an accessibility standard is for the Minister responsible for the AODA to appoint an advisory committee (a “Standards Development Committee”) to make recommendations on what the specific accessibility standard should include. That Standards Development Committee is required to include representatives from the disability community as well as representatives from the obligated sector, such as health or education.

Some two years later, in or around 2017, the government appointed the advisory Health Care Standards Development Committee to develop recommendations on what should be included in the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. It should not have taken the previous Kathleen Wynne Government some two years just to appoint an advisory committee.

Under the AODA, a Standards Development Committee is first required to develop initial or draft recommendations for the government. These initial or draft recommendations on what the accessibility standard in issue should include are to be submitted to the Minister. Under s. 10(1) of the AODA, upon receiving initial or draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee, the minister is required to make those initial or draft recommendations public for at least 45 days, including posting them on the internet. The public is to be invited to give feedback on those initial or draft recommendations. That is the interim stage we have now reached.

That public feedback is to then be given to the Standards Development Committee. After that public feedback is received, the Standards Development Committee meets to review the feedback and to finalize its recommendations for the government on what the accessibility standard in issue should include.

Once finalized, the Standards Development Committee then is required to submit its final recommendations to the Minister. Section 10(1) of the AODA requires the Minister to make those final recommendations public upon receiving them. Thereafter, the government can enact some, all, or none of what the Standards Development Committee recommended.

Here we are, some four years after the Health Care Standards Development Committee was appointed, and we are now just getting to the stage of being able to review their initial or draft recommendations. This illustrates why progress towards an accessible Ontario has been so painfully slow.

The delays in the health care context are certainly not the sole fault of the previous Wynne Government. The Ford Government left the Health Care Standards Development Committee frozen and unable to work for over a year after it took office. Precious time was lost.

After it finally got back to work, the Health Care Standards Development Committee submitted its initial or draft recommendations to the Ford Government by the end of last December, over five months ago. Yet the Ford Government only made them public last Friday. Section 10 of the AODA required the Government to make them public upon receiving them.

Had the Government made these initial or draft recommendations public upon receiving them, the public consultation could have wrapped up by now. The Health Care Standards Development Committee could have now been going back to work, drawing on that public input to finalize its recommendations. Instead, that Committee won’t be able to resume its work until some time this fall, depending on the extent of further Government delays. More time is wasted due to the Government.

Will the Ford Government’s delays on disability accessibility ever stop? There have now been 830 days, or over 2 and a quarter years, since the Ford Government received 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 effective plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. The Ontario Government only has 1,332 days left until 2025, the deadline by which the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

More Details

The Ford Government’s May 7, 2021 Announcement on the Health Care Standards Development Committee’s Initial or Draft Recommendations

In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 outlines the legislated process for the development of new accessibility standards through Standards Development Committees.

Standards Development Committees are responsible for developing and reviewing accessibility standards in Ontario. These accessibility standards help move Ontario forward on its journey to create a more accessible and inclusive province.

The Health Care Standards Development Committee was tasked with developing recommendations for proposed accessibility health care standards for hospitals. The Committee is a group of representatives comprised of people with disabilities, disability organizations and health sector experts.

The Initial Recommendations Report of the Health Care Standards Development Committee is now available for public comment.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/consultation-initial-recommendations-development-health-care-accessibility-standards

The Report will be posted online for a period of 65 business days. Members of the public can submit feedback until August 11, 2021.

The initial report contains 22 recommendations that the committee developed and on which it voted.

As these recommendations may impact you or your community, we would encourage you to participate in this process. We would also encourage you to share this information broadly with your networks.

A survey has been developed to seek public feedback and is linked from the consultation page together with the report itself.

Written submissions can also be sent in by email to

[email protected].

Members of the public or interested organizations can also reach out to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Division by email at

[email protected]

for any questions.

All feedback received will be considered by the Committee before finalizing their recommendations to the Minister. Identifying information will remain confidential as per the Government of Ontario’s Privacy Policy, and all survey responses will remain anonymous.

Sincerely,

Mary Bartolomucci

Assistant Deputy Minister (A)



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