ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION WARNS MUNICIPALITIES AND MUNICIPAL TRANSIT AUTHORITIES TO ENSURE THAT ALL NEW BUSES ARE ACCESSIBLE, DESPITE ANYTHING LESS IN MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT’S PROPOSED ACCESSIBILITY STANDARD

February 17, 2011

SUMMARY

We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for writing local public transit authorities and municipalities across Ontario, warning them not to buy inaccessible buses, no matter what exemptions may be in the McGuinty Government’s proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation. The Government’s inadequate proposed new accessibility standard would let public transit authorities and municipalities rush out now to enter in to contracts before July 1, 2011, which include no accessibility features. The Human Rights Commission warns that to do so could lead to human rights complaints against those organizations that purchase them. This highlights one of the serious problems with the McGuinty Government’s proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation that we have highlighted.

MORE DETAILS

The Government’s proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation was posted for public comment on February 1, 2011. There are 45 days for providing feedback to the Government.

The proposed standard sets out some accessibility requirements for buses that are used to provide public transit. However, among the many large loopholes in the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation, it provides huge exemptions for vehicles that a public transit authority either owns before July 1, 2011, or contracts before July 1, 2011to buy. Thus, a public transit authority could enter into a contract on June 30, 2011 for an entire fleet of completely inaccessible buses. They could freely use taxpayers’ money to create these new barriers against passengers with disabilities, with no obligations to fix this under the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation. The draft regulation states:

“Transition, existing contracts 39. Where a conventional transportation service provider has, on June 30, 2011, existing contractual obligations to purchase vehicles that do not meet the requirements of this Part, the transportation service provider may honour the existing contract. Transition, existing vehicles 40. (1) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers are not required to retrofit vehicles that are within their fleet as of July 1, 2011 in order to ensure that the vehicles meet the accessibility requirements of this Part. (2) If a conventional transportation service provider modifies a portion of a vehicle to which subsection (1) applies in a way that affects or could affect accessibility on or after July 1, 2011, the transportation service provider shall ensure that the modified portion meets the requirements of this Part. (3) Where subsection (2)applies and the modification is with respect to matters referred to in section 53, 55, 57 or 61 or subsection 62 (2), the conventional transportation service provider does not have to meet the requirements of this Part if the modifications would impair the structural integrity of the vehicle or the mobility aid accessible rail car.”

We identified and made public this serious flaw with the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation within hours of it being posted for public comment on February 1, 2011. See our initial response to that draft regulation at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02012011.asp

We are delighted that the McGuinty Government’s own human rights watchdog, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, has acted to try to prevent the damage that the Government’s proposal could create. On February 14, 2011, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall wrote municipalities and public transit authorities across Ontario to warn them that to buy inaccessible busses can lead to human rights complaints. The Human Rights Commission copied the AODA Alliance on these letters. A sample of this letter is set out below.

The Human Rights Commission referred in its letter to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Via Rail v. Council of Canadians with Disabilities. There, the Court found that Via Rail violated human rights requirements when it bought new passenger train cards that were less accessible than the ones they were replacing. Our briefs to the Ontario Government on earlier proposals for a Transportation Accessibility Standard have alerted the Government to similar concerns arising from the Via Rail decision.

The Human Rights Commission referred in its letter to the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in Via Rail v. Council of Canadians with Disabilities. There, the Court found that Via Rail violated human rights requirements when it bought new passenger train cards that were less accessible than the ones they were replacing. Our briefs to the Ontario Government on earlier proposals for a Transportation Accessibility Standard have alerted the Government to similar concerns arising from the Via Rail decision.

This is certainly not the first time that the Human Rights Commission has found proposals on accessibility standards to be wanting. Last fall, the Human Rights Commission slammed a summary of the proposed integrated accessibility standard that the McGuinty Government made public on September 2, 2010. For details, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10192010.asp

Before that, three and a half years ago, on August 30, 2007, the Human Rights Commission released a damning critique of the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard. That proposed accessibility standard had been put forward in the 2007 summer by the McGuinty Government-appointed Transportation Standards Development Committee. The Human Rights Commission’s August 30, 2007 news release bore the headline: “Commission concerned that Proposed Transportation Accessibility Standards are a setback for Ontarians with Disabilities”. To see that public statement, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09052007...

We commend the Human Rights Commission for pointing out these important human rights issues, and urge it to continue to do so. We urge the McGuinty Government to start to listen to its own Human Rights Commission. We call on the Government to promptly endorse the message in Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall’s letter, and to withdraw these unacceptable exemptions in the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation. We urge Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees around Ontario to bring the same message to the Government of Ontario, and to their own municipalities.

Send us your feedback. Write us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com


February 14, 2011

(name and address)

Dear (salutation):
or Your Worship for mayors:

As you may be aware, recently the Ontario Government posted its Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation for public comment between February 1 and March 18, 2011.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is very pleased to see that effective this July 1st all new or used transit vehicle purchases or acquisitions would need to meet the accessibility standards set out under Part 4 of the Proposed Regulation.

In the interim, we strongly encourage that public transit providers and other organizations not sign contracts for inaccessible transit vehicles. Otherwise, such vehicles could be subject to an application (complaint) before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, particularly in light of the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada.

The Commission will be further examining the transportation and other standards under the Proposed Regulation in light of a number of concerns we raised last October regarding the initial proposed regulation and will comment publicly before the March 18th deadline.

Yours truly,

Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon.)
Chief Commissioner

CC: Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Transportation David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance