ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Send Your Member of the Ontario Legislature the Great Media Coverage of the Final Report of Mayo Moranís Independent Review of the Implementation and Enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

February 17, 2015

Summary

1. Great New Media Coverage on the Need for Premier Wynne to Show Strong New Leadership on Disability Accessibility

Here’s yet another quick and easy way you can help our grassroots blitz to rebuild strong support for disability accessibility among all members of the Ontario Legislature (MPPs). We want  To get the Government to take new action to get Ontario back on schedule for full accessibility by 2025, please contact your MPP and send them recent media coverage of final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. Below we set out great articles that appeared in the February 14, 2015 Toronto Star and the CBC on-line.

These articles emphasize that:

* The final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review showed that Ontarians with disabilities have not experienced significant improvements, even after implementing the AODA for over ten years, and with less than ten years left before the Government must have led Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities.

* The Government needs to show strong new leadership to ensure that Ontario reaches the mandatory goal of full accessibility by 2025, a goal the AODA requires Ontario to reach.

* This ultimately lands on the desk of Premier Wynne, who herself must show that strong new leadership on this issue that we need. She also needs to ensure that every ministry of the Ontario Government makes accessibility a priority.

* As one illustration that shows how the Government has fallen down on the job, it has failed in the past ten years to address the important issue of retrofitting existing barriers facing people with disabilities. The February 14, 2015 CBC on-line report from Hamilton Ontario shows this problem in vivid detail. A Hamilton community group commendably organized last weekend, to build low-cost ramps to help local retail stores become accessible to people with disabilities. However, of the many businesses that still need such ramps, a paltry twelve agreed to get one of these ramps, even though the community group was only charging a mere $25 for a ramp. We believe the Ontario Government should move to require municipalities to cut unfair regulatory red tape that can dissuade local businesses from installing such ramps.

This news, and the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, is especially powerful medicine for the Government. The Government has claimed for years to be treating accessibility as a top priority, a claim we have repeatedly challenged.

Similarly, on the very day that the Government made this Report public, after studying it for some three months, the Government again made the laughable claim that it is a “world leader on accessibility.” That claim is overwhelmingly disproven by the detailed analysis and clear recommendations of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

In this Update we:

* Set out these two new media reports.

* Offer you ideas of what you might tell your MPP about these news reports, and give you helpful links to on-line resources to share with your MPP.

* Give you more background about the Government’s initially posting the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review on-line without taking steps we have urged over and over to ensure its full accessibility, and

* Take a short visit to the Accessibility Clock to show how behind we are on reaching full accessibility by 2025.

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MORE DETAILS

1. Read This Great Media Coverage

Toronto Star February 14, 2015

Page A-10
Originally posted at http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2015/02/13/ontario-needs-to-boost-accessibility-efforts.html
Ontario needs to boost accessibility efforts
Premier needs to show leadership to meet 2025 goal of an accessible Ontario, report says.

PHOTO: Lawyer David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says "we have not made real progress that is affecting the lives of people with disabilities." Bernard Weil / Toronto Star file photo

By: Laurie Monsebraaten, Social justice reporter

Ontario is falling short of its 2025 goal to ensure the province’s 1.8 million people with disabilities have the opportunity to learn, work and play to their full potential, warns a review of the government’s landmark accessibility legislation.

The periodic review, mandated by the legislation, documents the “slow and challenging implementation to date” and urges the government to “show leadership that will breathe new life” into the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

The province must lead by example and the “premier should explicitly and prominently direct all ministries to treat accessibility as a key government-wide priority,” Mayo Moran says in her report, released Friday.

“The commitment of the premier and, through her, the government of Ontario can make a critical difference at this time,” says Moran, a University of Toronto law professor and provost of Trinity College.

Moran’s report echoes the legislation’s first independent review by former Progressive Conservative Charles Beer, whose 2010 report also bemoaned the government’s lacklustre efforts and called for “more focused attention at the highest levels of government.”

The act, passed unanimously in 2005, directs the government to develop, implement and enforce accessibility standards for with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment and buildings by 2025.

But as Moran found in her review, the regulations are still too weak for people with disabilities and too confusing for businesses and municipalities to implement.

“I strongly urge . . . the government to make simplification and clarity key objectives when reviewing the current standards or developing new ones,” she says in the report.

One of the most common complaints from people with disabilities are inaccessible buildings. And yet retrofits are not covered by the legislation, says Moran, who suggests the government show how they are good for business.

Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid, who is responsible for implementing the legislation, acknowledged the challenges ahead.

“I recognize that there is always more work to do, and we are already moving forward on a number of provost Moran’s recommendations,” he said in a statement.

“Over the coming months, I look forward to making further announcements in response to this review and to continuing our discussions with experts, persons with disabilities and the business community.”

Accessibility advocates praised Moran’s “ground-breaking” report for its detailed analysis and for reflecting the disappointment of people with disabilities who said they haven’t seen much improved accessibility to jobs, or goods or services in the public or private sector.

Mayo Moran, a University of Toronto law professor and provost of Trinity College, released on Friday a review of the government’s accessibility legislation.

“The bottom line is, more than 10 of the 20 years are up and we have not made real progress that is affecting the lives of people with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance, a coalition of accessibility activists dedicated to ensuring the legislation’s success.

“They are good at ticking boxes, but not in producing results that affect us,” said Lepofsky, a lawyer who is blind.

As a first step, Premier Kathleen Wynne should keep her election promises to instruct all cabinet ministers and other senior government officials to implement all their accessibility duties and pledges, and to establish a toll-free number for the public to report AODA violations, he added.

Lepofsky praised the government for announcing Friday that is moving ahead on the alliance’s three-year battle to create a new accessibility standard to address barriers in health care. But the alliance is disappointed the government hasn’t committed to tackling barriers in education and housing, also highlighted in Moran’s report.

“How long do kids have to wait before they can have an accessible education?” he said. “If our goal is to try and create employment for people with disabilities, kids with disabilities need to be able to get a proper education.”

Lepofsky was also frustrated that the report was initially posted online in a format that was inaccessible for him to read.

“If they don’t understand that was an accessibility problem, that’s proof of the problem,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Duguid said the online report met accessibility standards and that an alternate version that Lepofsky could read was sent by email to him at the same time as other stakeholders.       

CBC Hamilton On-Line February 14, 2015

Originally posted at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/nervous-shopowners-trip-up-hamilton-accessible-ramp-building-project-1.2957913

Nervous shopowners trip up Hamilton accessible ramp-building project
12 businesses signed up for ramps from Hamilton Tool Library event; library wanted to build 250
By Kelly Bennett, CBC News Posted: Feb 14, 2015 5:53 PM ET| Last Updated: Feb 14, 2015 5:56 PM ET

Vivek Patel cuts wood to be made into an accessibility ramp.
Mark Bainbridge cuts wood for an accessibility ramp project at the Hamilton Tool Library.
Mark Bainbridge and Tyler Gorr measure the height of a custom ramp.
Halden Sproule measures a ramp at the Hamilton Tool Library.

The buzz of power tools overtook the Hamilton Tool Library workshop on King Street East on Saturday with volunteers building accessibility ramps to specifications by business owners around town.

The simple ramps are made of plywood, painted bright colours and made portable via a rope handle. Following the lead of a Toronto-based organization called StopGap, the local project aims to provide an easy solution to businesses that have steps at their entrances.

"If you walk around downtown, if you had any mobility issues, most places you just can’t go into," said Halden Sproule, founder of the Hamilton Tool Library.

The project was the brand-new library's answer to a call for community activities to run as part of the city's Winterfest. But city bylaws about businesses encroaching on the sidewalk and provincial accessibility laws left some business owners feeling too nervous to sign up for one of the ramps, which the library was offering to build to custom specifications for $25.

Provincial legislation requires buildings to be accessible by 2025, a benchmark a new report this week said is out of reach at Ontario's current pace.

"We had a lot of interest from businesses that wanted them but they don’t want to run into issues with bylaw," said Halden Sproule, founder of the Hamilton Tool Library, which opened officially at the start of January.

Sproule's team was hoping to make 250 ramps over three days this weekend. But by the end of this week, only 12 businesses had signed up.

"I just thought it was a good idea; it just seemed like it made sense," said Peter Lahie, who ordered a ramp for his family's shop, Jack Carruth Shoes Ltd., in Westdale. "We don't have a big step but if you're in a wheelchair or something that's a huge step."

Sproule said it was disappointing to see such a small response, but was happy to see big community response from volunteers, including a Flamborough hockey team.

"We’ve got a small number of ramps to build," Sproule said. "It’s better than nothing."

'On-demand only'

Two issues businesses may be worried about are triggering the need for a permit, and getting fined for encroaching on the sidewalk.

Hamilton's public works department wouldn't require a permit for the ramps as long as they're not attached permanently to the building, said spokeswoman Kelly Anderson. The city's building department added that the ramps would need to be "on-demand only" and removed immediately after each use.

"If the property owner brings it back indoors when it is no longer needed (whether it’s after a customer uses it or at the end of the work day) that’s OK," Anderson said.

That's how Lahie said he plans to use his ramp.

Beyond permitting, bylaw officers would be the ones to decide whether the business owner could get fined for encroaching on the sidewalk even temporarily. A representative for the city's bylaw enforcement did not return a request for clarification.

"Any effort by local businesses and community groups to address those barriers is highly commendable," said David Lepofsky, an attorney who runs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. "The city should be promoting accessibility, not impeding it. We think that cities should be working with businesses to make it easier for businesses to build ramps. And the businesses shouldn't be afraid."

StopGap's founder, 36-year-old Luke Anderson, uses a wheelchair to get around Toronto. He said there are 500 ramps in this style being used by business owners around the country. Though in practice, some store owners may just leave the ramps out on the sidewalk during business hours, StopGap policy is that the ramps are to be deployed when needed. StopGap advises business owners to put up a sign, post a phone number, or rig up a simple doorbell to alert staff that there is someone outside who needs to have the ramp deployed.

"That's how we've managed to negotiate the current bylaws, is with that clause," Anderson said. "But there's been a lot of interest from the municipalities to take a look at what current bylaws look like."

'A storefront that allows everyone to access it'

The approach isn't perfect, Anderson said. But like any stopgap, he said the measure may help businesses — and municipalities — realize how many parents with strollers, wheelchair users and even delivery people they're making it easier for with a simple ramp.

"I think the ramp project is really shining a light on what it means to have a storefront that is inclusive, that allows everyone to access it," Anderson said. "It's not a perfect solution but what it's doing is it's creating conversation. It's getting people talking about the need for good, permanent solutions to be in place."

In Hamilton, Sproule said he hopes to hold another ramp-building event soon to provide ramps for more businesses.

Anderson said he didn't think the numbers would stay small for long.

As for the 12 business owners who signed up for the first wave -- "they're pioneers, they're trailblazers, they're champions of Hamilton, for sure," Anderson said. "You watch — there'll be other businesses recognizing them and wanting one as well."

2. Points You Might Wish to Share with Your MPP

After having as much as three months to study the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review, the Government still has little to say about its contents. It has not stated whether it agrees with the Report’s findings about the slim progress made to date. In a statement released on February 13, 2015, Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid said the Government is already implementing some of Moran’s recommendations. Yet he doesn’t say which ones. He said the Government will have further announcements in the future in response to the Moran Report. Yet he doesn’t say when, or about what. In sharp contrast, in recent weeks, when the Government received a damning report about problems at the Toronto District School Board (unrelated to disability accessibility), the Government quickly announced that it accepted that report and its recommendations.

You may wish to urge your MPP to read the Moran Report. Ask if your MPP agrees with its findings. Ask your MPP to press Premier Wynne to:

* personally show new, strong leadership on disability accessibility.

* speed up implementation of the AODA.

* agree to develop accessibility standards to address barriers that impede people with disabilities in the important areas of education and residential housing.

* get the Government moving to address removal of existing barriers that impede people with disabilities in Ontario.

* beef up the inadequate enforcement of the AODA.

* keep her 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free phone line for the public to report AODA violations.

* direct her cabinet ministers to keep the Government’s accessibility promises and fulfil its accessibility duties

* ensure that in advance of the fast-approaching 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, the Government will announce and implement a strong plan to significantly increase the accessibility of restaurants, stores, hotels, and other tourism and hospitality services.

For a list of every MPP in Ontario and their contact information.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 13, 2015 news release, responding to the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

To read the AODA Alliance’s February 13, 2015 brief summary of key findings in the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review.

To visit the Government’s web page where it has posted the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review originally only in PDF format, and later also in MS Word format (after we pressed the Government to do so).

To download the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in MS Word format.

We received some early reports that this link did not work for some people. We have tested it and it worked for us. We apologize for any problems you may have experienced. If you have problems using it, or want us to simply email you the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review in PDF or word format, send an email to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Do you want more ideas for ways you can help? To download the AODA Alliance’s recent Action Kit for more ideas on how to get your MPP to call for strong new action on disability accessibility.

You can watch the interview with David Onley and David Lepofsky on TVOntario’s February 2, 2015 edition of The Agenda With Steve Paikin.

3. More on the Government’s Initial Accessibility Problems with Its On-line Posting of the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review

We made public on February 13, 2015 the troubling fact that the Government initially posted the final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review on-line only in a PDF format that presented accessibility problems. When the Toronto Star asked the Government about this, the Government gave a response, which the Star reported, and which we find quite troubling. The Toronto Star’s February 14, 2015 article stated:

“Lepofsky was also frustrated that the report was initially posted online in a format that was inaccessible for him to read.

“If they don’t understand that was an accessibility problem, that’s proof of the problem,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Duguid said the online report met accessibility standards and that an alternate version that Lepofsky could read was sent by email to him at the same time as other stakeholders.”

Let us set the record straight. First, we alerted the Government in advance to ensure that if the Government was going to post the Moran Report on line in PDF format, it should also post it in MS Word format to ensure its accessibility. The Government initially did not do so. When it publicly released the Moran report on February 13, 2015, it only posted it in PDF format.

Second, the Government only provided it in MS Word format to us, and posted it in that format on line, later that morning, and only after we pressed the Government over and over on the phone and by email.

Third, the Government would benefit from better studying its own accessibility regulations. Section 12 of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation provides:

“12. (1) Except as otherwise provided, every obligated organization shall upon request provide or arrange for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports for persons with disabilities,

(a) in a timely manner that takes into account the person’s accessibility needs due to disability; and

(b) at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged to other persons. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 12 (1).

(2) The obligated organization shall consult with the person making the request in determining the suitability of an accessible format or communication support. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 12 (2).

(3) Every obligated organization shall notify the public about the availability of accessible formats and communication supports. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 12 (3).

(4) Every obligated organization that is required to provide accessible formats or accessible formats and communication supports by section 3, 4, 11, 13, 19, 26, 28, 34, 37, 44 or 64 shall meet the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) but shall do so in accordance with the schedule set out in the referenced section and shall do so only to the extent that the requirements in subsections (1) and (2) are applicable to the requirements set out in the referenced section. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 12 (4).

(5) Obligated organizations shall meet the requirements under this section in accordance with the following schedule:

1. For the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, January 1, 2014.

2. For large designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2015.

3. For small designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2016.

4. For large organizations, January 1, 2016.

5. For small organizations, January 1, 2017. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 12 (5).“

Fourth, this is certainly not the first time this has happened. In November, 2012, when the Government made public the final report of the Government-appointed Independent Review of the Human Rights Code conducted by Andrew Pinto, it only made it available in an inaccessible PDF format. Then, as now, we had to intervene to get the Government to make that report available in an accessible format. To read about the Government’s posting the final report of the Andrew Pinto Independent Review of the Human Rights Code in an inaccessible format, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11162012.asp

Finally, we had directed a clear request to a senior Government official in late 2013 and again in the spring of 2014, to ensure that the Government always posts a document in an alternative accessible format, whenever it posts that document in PDF format. That public official has never answered that she took the action we requested.

Here is what AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky wrote to Ms. Alana Guest, director of communications for the Ontario Cabinet Secretariat, on April 17, 2014:

“To: Alana Guest, Assistant deputy Minister, Cabinet Office of Ontario
From: David Lepofsky Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Date: April 17, 2014
Re: Ensuring Government Websites and Electronic Documents Are Accessible for People with Disabilities

I am writing as a follow-up to our December 5, 2013 meeting, and my December 6, 2013 email to you. In that email, I wrote as follows:

"Thank you for meeting with me yesterday to discuss steps needed to make Ontario Government websites properly accessible to people with disabilities.

At our meeting, I asked that the Government immediately direct that if a document is posted on a Government website in PDF format, whether or not the Government thinks it contains accessibility features, the same document should also always be posted in a fully accessible format, such as HTML, MS Word, or both.

You indicated that the Government is studying other formats to use to ensure accessibility. I emphasized that whatever be the long term plans, I am asking that the directive I proposed be issued immediately. The Government has a duty to accommodate and to provide accessibility now. Each time a PDF is posted, it is creating a new barrier. This is unjustified and unjustifiable. It should stop immediately, while the Government takes whatever time it wishes to explore long term accessibility options.

Finally, it is important for you, as Director of Communications for the Government, to take steps to disabuse the Ontario Public Service of the myth that PDFs are or can be sufficient to ensure accessibility. As discussed, I have too often encountered this misconception within the Ontario Public Service, though I have been unable to track down which person or persons have been propagating this counterproductive misunderstanding.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible in specific response to this request. As also discussed, I would be happy to publicize any request you provide for people to test for accessibility from the disability community."

I wish to ask what steps you and the Government have taken in response to my specific request for effective action to ensure that the Government does not exclusively post a document in PDF format on a mistaken belief that PdF format can be sufficient to meet accessibility requirements.

Since sending that email, it has come to my attention that the training which the Government is now using for Ontario Public Service employees on accessibility of information and communication, under the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation, includes some content that flies in the face of our request, and further perpetuates inaccurate and counterproductive information about the supposed accessibility of PDF format. That training includes this inaccurate statement:

"The easiest way to make an accessible document is to make it accessible in its source document, then convert it to a PDF."

I have contacted the acting Chief Diversity Officer to raise concerns about this training content about this training content.

I wish to repeat the request set out in my December 6, 2013 email to you, and wish to ask what the Ontario Government has done and plans to do in response to that specific request.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.”

4. Another Visit to the Accessibility Clock

The Government has only nine years and 319 days left to lead Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, as the AODA requires.

A breathtaking 455 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not effectively enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised detailed plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. The Government’s November 7, 2014 web posting on AODA enforcement includes little new. It does not constitute the promised detailed AODA enforcement plan.

Three hundred and sixty-one days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order." Two hundred and seventy-six days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182013.asp

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02202014.asp

To read the Government’s May 14, 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free line to report disability accessibility barriers, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

To read our analysis of the Government’s paltry November 7, 2014 web posting on the AODA’s enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182014.asp

As well, 537 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 144 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!