ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
HELP US RESPOND TO THE ASSOCIATION OF MUNICIPALITIES OF ONTARIO'S AND THE PUBLIC TRANSIT SECTOR'S EFFORTS TO WEAKEN THE INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY REGULATION AND TO DELAY ITS ENACTMENT
April 4, 2011
We now have a unique insight into the views of perhaps the most vocal voices advocating to weaken the McGuinty Government's proposed new regulation to address barriers facing persons with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, and information and communication. It is striking that this resistance comes from organizations that advocate for municipal governments and public transit authorities in Ontario. In other words, these are the voices of local government agencies, raised to try to slow down progress towards accessibility for persons with disabilities.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Ontario Public Transit Association (OPTA) have each urged the McGuinty Government to delay enactment of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation (IAR) and to weaken its protections for persons with disabilities. We have obtained each of their submissions to the McGuinty Government. We respond to their troubling contents here. OPTA's submission is made jointly with the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) but we just call it the OPTA submission. AMO's March 16, 2011 submission to the Ontario Government endorses OPTA's recommendations and adds its own additional points.
Our detailed analysis of AMO's and OPTA's submissions, set out below, shows that those submissions, taken together, exaggerate the cost of complying with the IAR. They do not recognize that the measures towards barrier-removal and prevention that the IAR imposes are already required by the Human Rights Code and, where applicable the Charter of Rights. These are in fact not new obligations invented by the IAR. The AMO and OPTA submissions also seriously undervalue the benefits to society of providing accessible municipal services including accessible public transit.
AMO says it speaks for a majority of municipal governments, which, of course, are all funded by the taxpayer. OPTA says it speaks for municipal public transit authorities. Those transit services are largely if not totally part of local government. They are also funded by the public.
AMO's March 16, 2011 submission and OPTA's March 8, 2011 submission each pay lip service to their commitment to achieving accessibility. They then spend virtually the entire time explaining why the IAR should be weakened, and why time lines for addressing barriers to accessibility should be longer. Neither AMO nor OPTA recommend anything that would significantly strengthen the IAR or speed up progress towards full accessibility.
We do not know how much of AMO's message comes from elected municipal politicians, from publicly funded municipal public servants, or from internal AMO staff (the latter of whom are subject to no direct accountability to the voter). It is deeply troubling when elected municipal politicians, municipal public servants, or organizations whose funds come in whole or in part directly or indirectly from the taxpayer, choose to use the public's money to campaign to delay or reduce efforts on accessibility for persons with disabilities.
In sharp contrast to AMO and OPTA, we (with the endorsement of a number of key disability organizations as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission) have criticized the draft IAR because it is too weak, falls below Human Rights Code requirements, and imposes time lines that are too long. In other words, AMO and OPTA advocate for the IAR to fall even further below the requirements for accessibility that the Human Rights Code now demands.
We need your help to get city councils to now raise their voices on the right side of the campaign for a fully accessible Ontario. We need to get them to distance themselves from the regrettable and counter-productive position that AMO and OPTA have taken on the Integrated Accessibility Regulation.
We should not conclude from AMO's troubling submission on the IAR that municipal governments are always opposed to strong, effective measures to promote accessibility. Unlike AMO's and OPTA's current position on the IAR, an impressive number of city councils strongly supported our campaign between 1994 and 2005 to get the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act enacted. Over that period, many municipal councils around Ontario passed wonderful resolutions that called on the Ontario Government to enact a strong and effective Disabilities Act. They did so on the urging of voters in their communities, including many persons with disabilities. The history of those events is recorded at: http://www.odacommittee.net.
We regret that we only obtained AMO's and OPTA's submissions in PDF format without proper accessibility features. OPTA actually refused to send their submission to us in MS Word. We have ourselves done our best to convert them to accessible MS Word documents.
- You can download AMO's March 16, 2011 submission in its original PDF format (which has accessibility issues in the file format)
- You can download AMO's March 16, 2011 submission in MS Word format (which we did our best to convert from the original PDF file)
- You can download OPTA's March 8, 2011 submission in its original PDF format (which has accessibility issues in the file format)
- You can download OPTA's March 8, 2011 submission in MS Word format (which we did our best to convert from the original PDF document)
We also want to alert you to one additional development regarding AMO. On April 1, 2011, we received an email from AMO executive director Pat Vanini. She complained that our March 17, 2011 update, posted on our website, made two inaccurate claims about AMO. That update can be seen at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03172011.asp.
At the end of this update, we set out our email exchange. In summary, AMO complained about two things.
1. AMO said it was incorrect for us to state in our March 17, 2011 update that AMO had made efforts to stall the enactment of the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation.
We stand by our position. AMO's March 16, 2011 submission to the Ontario Government on the IAR urges the Government not to enact that accessibility regulation until an independent regulatory impact study is conducted. As address further below, conducting such an assessment (which we consider completely unnecessary) would clearly delay enactment of the IAR.
2. AMO says that our March 17, 2011 update incorrectly stated that AMO filed late submissions to the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding proposed accessibility initiatives (i.e. the IAR).
In fact, our March 17, 2011 update did not say that AMO filed its submissions late. That update addressed the fact that AMO sought to get an extension of time, so that it could file its submissions late. A report in the March 3, 2011 Hamilton Spectator, set out in our March 17, 2011 update, stated that AMO had sought an extension of time to file its submissions with the Government. However, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings, we wish to make it clear that we do not suggest that AMO filed its submissions late.
We have asked for a meeting with AMO leadership to address our concerns regarding AMO's position on the IAR. We would welcome the chance to work with AMO to seek common ground.
In this update we:
* Offer you ready-to-use action tips on how you can help us answer the troubling and counterproductive proposals of AMO and OPTA
* Summarize our concerns with the positions advanced by AMO and OPTA; and
* set out the email exchange between us and AMO on its criticism of our March 17, 2011 update.
1. HOW YOU CAN HELP
Ontarians with disabilities need the draft IAR strengthened, not weakened. We need to counter the ill-founded and inaccurate attack on it that AMO and OPTA levelled.
We do not believe that all elected city councillors across Ontario endorse AMO's and OPTA's call for the IAR to be delayed and for its measures on accessibility to be weakened with time lines lengthened. We do not believe that many municipal councillors take AMO's narrow and dim view of the benefits of providing accessibility to the voters, residents and taxpayers whom they are elected to serve.
Here's how you can help:
* Please email, phone, fax, visit or write your mayor and any of your city councillors as soon as possible. Urge them to distance themselves from and not endorse AMO's call for the Integrated Accessibility Regulation to be delayed and weakened. Ask them to help get their whole city council to also do this.
If they cannot make that happen quickly, ask them to individually contact the Ministry of Community and Social Services to distance themselves from AMO's position. They can also get their city council colleagues to individually do the same. This can build momentum towards a joint message from a majority of city councillors in your municipality to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
* If you are a member of a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, get your Committee to pass a resolution that rejects AMO's March 16, 2011 brief on the Integrated Accessibility Regulation, and calls on your municipal council to do the same. A simple resolution might state:
"We the Accessibility Advisory Committee of the Municipality __ do not endorse the position on the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act set out in the March 16, 2011 submission of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to the Ministry of Community and Social Services. We resolve that in the interest of achieving a fully accessible Ontario for persons with disabilities by 2025, our City Council should similarly state that it does not endorse the Association of Municipalities of Ontario's March 16, 2011 submission on the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation."
* Let your local media know that local municipalities and local public transit authorities should not use public funds to wage such a campaign, to weaken the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation and slow down progress towards a fully accessible Ontario. Tell them AMO doesn't speak for you. For example, write a guest column for your local newspaper, or call your local radio call-in program. Feel free to use information we offer in this update.
* Because the public does not get a chance to vote for AMO, or its board of directors or staff, AMO has no direct accountability to the voting public for positions it takes. Let AMO know if you support its call for delaying and weakening the IAR. Let them know if AMO should be using funds that ultimately come directly or indirectly from Ontario taxpayers to slow down progress towards accessibility. You can contact the Executive Director of AMO at: PVanini@amo.on.ca.
* Circulate this update to friends, family and co-workers. Urge them to steps that we list here.
2.A CLOSE LOOK AT WHAT AMO AND OPTA SAID ABOUT THE DRAFT INTEGRATED ACCESSIBILITY REGULATION
* The AMO and OPTA submissions base their strong criticisms of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation on a fundamental error. Both are built on the obviously implied and incorrect presumption that the barrier-removal and barrier-prevention measures set out in the IAR are new obligations, and that municipalities and public transit services don't now have a duty under the Human Rights Code to effectively remove and prevent barriers identified in the IAR. They go on to complain about the cost of taking the supposedly new actions that the IAR requires to address these barriers, and the time lines for doing this.
In fact, the IAR imposes no new obligations to remove and prevent barriers. Municipalities and public transit services have had these obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights for decades. If anything, the IAR requires these organizations to do less to remove and prevent barriers than the Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights require, and gives these organizations longer time lines than the Human Rights Code or Charter of Rights would necessarily permit. We show this in our March 11, 2011 brief on the IAR, available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/default.asp.
The Human Rights Commission reached a comparable conclusion, particularly regarding the Human Rights Code, in its March 18, 2011 submission to the Government on the IAR. It endorses our recommendations to correct this. Visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03212011.asp.
Neither the AMO nor the OPTA submissions recognize this. AMO's and OPTA's submissions ignore the fact that municipalities and public transit services already have this cost to bear.
The IAR also requires municipalities and public transit services to engage in periodic accessibility planning. Accessibility planning is not a new cost burden. These organizations have had to make annual accessibility plans since the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 went into effect, almost a decade ago.
Things the IAR requires municipalities and public transit services to do to increase accessibility are also part of good and responsible public service to their many and growing number of residents, taxpayers and voters with disabilities.
* A core message in the AMO brief is that AMO cannot tell what it will cost to comply with the Integrated Accessibility Regulation. It calls for certain IAR time lines for providing accessibility to be lengthened, unless the provincial Government gives municipalities money to finance their compliance with the IAR. The AMO submission states:
"In our October 2010 submission on the draft proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation (IAR), one of the key recommendations put forth was a slight adjustment in the timelines for implementing the integrated regulation pertaining to the Employment, Information and Communication and Transportation standards. Our rationale for increasing the staggered implementation timelines was, and continues to be, that in the absence of funding to support municipalities in meeting the AODA objectives, more time is needed to implement what is being asked."
Yet, the Ontario Government has no obligation to separately pay or supplement municipalities or public transit services before these government organizations will obey the law. Providing accessible services and workplaces is, and has been, an ordinary cost of doing business. Certainly, a municipality or public transit service cannot simply say it will ignore Ontario's laws against polluting our natural environment until the Ontario Government pays these public sector organizations to stop polluting.
* The AMO and OPT submissions each convey the idea that the Integrated Accessibility Regulation will impose major costs on organizations like municipal governments and public transit services. AMO and OPTA each raise the spectre of having to hike public transit fares and cut transit services, all due to the IAR.
In addition to points made earlier, the fact is that the IAR for the most part focuses on preventing the creation of new barriers in the future, rather than removing existing barriers in these organizations. It is widely accepted that preventing the creation of new barriers often costs little if anything. AMO and OPTA would have municipal governments and public transit services free to use taxpayers' money to create new barriers against persons with disabilities into the future, for even longer periods than the IAR's excessive time lines would permit.
As one example of AMO's incorrect description of the IAR's cost implications, the AMO submission complains that the IAR imposes major new capital burdens on municipalities when buying public transit vehicles. It states: "Specifically, the province’s proposal to immediately require new capital expenditures for the transportation standard circumvents proper municipal financial planning and it puts the financial health of the municipality at risk by requiring that capital investment be completed outside of the normal business cycle."
Municipalities and their public transit services have known these accessibility requirements were coming for up to four years, if not longer. They are found in each draft of the Transportation Accessibility Standard, dating back to mid 2007.
AMO here assumes that municipalities were now planning to use taxpayers' dollars to buy inaccessible public transit vehicles that would violate the IAR's accessibility requirements -- accessibility requirements we have shown to be too weak. Their complaint would only be valid if it were lawful for them to now buy inaccessible public transit vehicles. Yet the Human Rights Commission has warned municipalities that if they were to go ahead and use that loophole in the IAR to buy inaccessible public transit vehicles, they can face human rights complaints. See http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02172011.asp.
Moreover, our March 11, 2011 brief on the IAR points out that for municipalities to now buy inaccessible public transit vehicles would violate the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark decision in Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. Via Rail.
* AMO's submission attempts to stall the enactment of the IAR. It argues that the Ontario Government should not enact the IAR before an independent regulatory assessment of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation's impact has been conducted. It states:
AMO believes that the proposed standards and all requirements under AODA require a thorough cost-benefit analysis.
AMO requests that an independent regulatory impact assessment of the proposed regulation be conducted prior to the passage of any further regulations under the AODA, including the integrated Standard."
There is no need for such a study. We understand that AMO took part in each of the three Standards Development Committees that worked over several years, to make proposals that led to the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation, namely the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee.
We trust that AMO knows that the Ontario Government already commissioned three independent cost studies, one for each of the proposed areas in the IAR, namely accessibility of employment, transportation, and information and communication. We understand that these studies were given to the respective Standards Development Committees listed above. We have elsewhere criticized those studies as having overstated the costs involved in compliance. See e.g. http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02022008.asp.
Moreover, the core task of the three Standards Development Committees included careful consideration of the cost of addressing barriers when developing proposed accessibility standards and time lines for action.
The public, including AMO and its members, had fully two formal opportunities to give feedback in connection with the work of each of the three Standards Development Committees. Moreover, because AMO took part in these Standards Development Committees, it had an added, ample, ongoing front-line chance to identify and raise its cost concerns.
In any event, for the Government to now commission such an additional, redundant assessment, as AMO urges, would clearly delay the enactment of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation. It would likely delay enactment of the IAR until after the next Ontario election, to be held this October. If a new Government were elected, AMO's proposal could well push this accessibility regulation's enactment back even more months.
We hope and trust that AMO, with its experience with the activities of Government, should know of these consequences of its recommendation.
* AMO's submission also says there needs to be a cost/benefit study regarding the IAR so municipalities can determine whether, among other things, compliance will undermine the "competitiveness" of municipalities. AMO's submission states:
"AMO believes that the proposed standards and all requirements under AODA require a thorough cost-benefit analysis.
It is only with this understanding that municipalities can determine whether the goals and timelines as set out in the integrated regulation are achievable without undermining municipalities’ resource capacities and competitiveness."
We disagree that municipalities' "competitiveness" is in issue or jeopardy here. Ontario Municipalities will all be bound to obey the IAR, just as they are all obliged now to obey the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. Providing accessibility to their own residents, voters and taxpayers with disabilities does not put any municipality in some sort of competitive disadvantage. American municipalities and public transit authorities have had accessibility obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other U.S. laws for a good number of years. Ontario municipalities and public transit authorities need to play catch-up.
* AMO's submission questions whether providing accessibility for persons with disabilities is economically beneficial to the municipality. It states:
"The Martin Prosperity Institute report, “Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario,” highlighted the potential benefits of the standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, including:
• an increase of up to $1.6 billion in new tourism revenue;
• an additional increase in total sales of between $3.8 and $9.6 billion; and
• up to $359 million in employment income.
The report contends that these benefits will be experienced by businesses within communities and could result in both business and economic growth.
However, the report fails to demonstrate how untapped spending power will in fact benefit municipalities. Sales taxes and employment taxes benefit the provincial and federal governments. While some municipalities may benefit from some additional tourism dollars, all municipalities will be facing significant cost increases and budgetary pressures to meet the provincial mandate of the AODA. Municipalities will not benefit from any direct cost offsets."
It is very troubling that AMO's submission does not recognize that there is a real and substantial benefit when a municipal government (including its municipal public transit service) provides accessible services, transportation, and employment to its many residents, voters and taxpayers with disabilities. AMO's submission appears mainly or only to think in terms of whether implementing the IAR increases a municipal government's bank account. That is a disturbing view of the dignity and worth of the citizen by governments that are supposed to serve them.
In any event, providing full accessibility generates many benefits for the municipality, even in purely economic terms. By preventing new barriers, the municipality avoids the greater costs of removing barriers later that could have been prevented. It also avoids the cost of human rights litigation. The Toronto Transit Commission spent $450,000 on legal fees to unsuccessfully oppose having its subway, bus and street car crews announce all route stops to benefit passengers with vision loss.
Accessible municipal government workplaces let the municipality benefit from the skills of employees with disabilities. Accessible public transit reduces the cost load of providing more costly para-transit. A more accessible municipal government with accessible public transit and other services makes the municipality a more attractive place for persons with disabilities to live, work, go to school and spend their money. That AMO either sees or voices little benefit in this is fundamentally disrespectful of persons with disabilities.
What if a municipality asked for a five year hiatus from maternity leave obligations for municipal employees, to make the municipality financially “more competitive”? What if Ontario municipalities decided to stop translating documents into French in order to save money, to becoming more competitive? What if a school board decided that allowing female children to attend school placed an economic burden on municipal taxpayers, and that they could hire fewer teachers (and thereby save money) by only schooling male children for the next five or ten years? These things are all just as wrong-headed and unjustified as the request for an unwarranted “hiatus” from meeting disability accommodation measures
* AMO raises the unexplained spectre that the Integrated Accessibility Regulation might hurt efforts at protecting against violence in the workplace. It is difficult to understand how it will be harder to protect people from violence in the workplace if, for example, persons with disabilities have more accessible public transit, if people who are refused para-transit can appeal this refusal, if municipal websites are more accessible to persons with disabilities, if municipal government workplaces accommodate the needs of municipal employees with disabilities, and if municipalities do more to get more accessible taxis on the road. The AMO submission states:
"The fact that the Built Environment standard is still under development and recognition of the government requirements for example under Bill 168, speak to the need for planning processes that not only provides municipalities the opportunity to maximize its resources but also to ensure that expectations under the AODA do not conflict with such serious matters like violence in the work place. This concern will be most relevant in relation to a number of expectations in the transportation standard that place requirements on operators that are in direct conflict with Bill 168."
* AMO's submission asks that municipalities not have to even start implementing the IAR until two years after the Ontario Government does. We agree that there are many circumstances when the Ontario Government should have shorter time lines for finishing an accessibility initiative under the IAR. However, municipalities are not excused from even starting to obey the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights until after the Ontario Government lives up to its own obligations under those fundamental laws. There is no reason why municipalities should get even more time to meet their obligations under the IAR than the many excessively-long time lines now in the IAR that we identified in our March 11, 2011 brief. AMO's position yet again rests on the incorrect assumption that municipalities had no obligation before the IAR to meet the Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights.
* The AMO brief complains that the IAR is unclear where it requires municipalities to consider accessibility when using public funds to procure goods, services and facilities. AMO's brief states:
"Organizations are expected to “incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities, except where it is not practicable to do so”: this expectation is not defined and requires clarification;"
We note that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 has imposed such a requirement on municipalities for almost a decade. Section 13 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 requires:
"13. In deciding to purchase goods or services through the procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the public, the council of every municipality shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities to the goods or services."
If AMO is concerned that the IAR is not detailed and prescriptive enough, we would agree. We have recommended in the past that this procurement requirement be more specific to make it more effective.
* AMO's submission notes that the IAR requires certain accommodations to be provided "upon request." It asks that "upon request" be defined. The AMO submission states:
"Some sections require actions to be carried out “upon request” or that information is provided “upon request as soon as practicable”. Consistency is important to ensure expectations are met. It makes sense to add the definition “upon request” to the standard."
We agree that some terms in the IAR are too vague and should be clarified. However, the meaning of "upon request" should be quite obvious. Municipal officials should be able to readily know if a person with a disability has requested a disability-related accommodation, whether it is one identified in the IAR, or not.
* The AMO brief says that AMO has been working with the Ontario Government to ensure that the AODA meets its objectives. The AODA's goal is that Ontario will become accessible for persons with disabilities by or before 2025. The AMO submission states: "Since 2005, AMO has been working with its members and the government to ensure that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will achieve its stated objectives for the majority of Ontarians with disabilities."
The AODA should not only meet its objectives for the "majority" of persons with disabilities in Ontario, as AMO suggests. The AODA includes no such huge loophole or exception. It should meet its objectives for the whole disability community.
In any event, as now worded, the IAR falls far short of this goal. It will not ensure fully accessible employment, transportation, and information and communication by 2025. Despite this, AMO does not call for the draft IAR to be strengthened. It calls for the draft IAR to be delayed and weakened.
3. A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SUBMISSION OF THE ONTARIO PUBLIC TRANSIT ASSOCIATION THAT AMO ENDORSES
It is unfortunate that the AMO submission endorses the recommendations of the public transit sector, voiced by OPTA. We believe that responsible municipal public officials should want to distance themselves from OPTA's ill-founded and extremist attack on the Integrated Accessibility Regulation. AMO endorses OPTA's baseless fear-mongering that the public should fear transit fare hikes and service cuts to the public at large, if the IAR requires public transit services to provide accessibility for persons with disabilities by such things as not buying any more accessible public transit vehicles, by telling persons with disabilities on public transit vehicles what route stop they are at, by providing consistent criteria to qualify for para-transit and so on. OPTA's tactics could drive an unfair wedge between people without disabilities and persons with disabilities.
* The OPTA submission makes it sound like the McGuinty Government has chosen to ignore important positions taken by the public transit sector in arriving at the transportation provisions of the IAR. The OPTA submission states:
"The transit industry is disappointed that the Ministry has chosen to overlook the proposed solutions with respect to timelines in this version of the Integrated Regulation, and as such, there remain significant concerns regarding timelines and related flexibility in standard compliance …"
This is misleading. Many of the transportation provisions in the draft IAR trace directly back to the proposed transportation standard that was recommended to the Government by the Transportation Standards Development Committee. We have been told by disability sector participants at the Transportation Standards Development Committee that the public transit sector systematically voted to weaken the requirements in the standard, voted down stronger proposals from disability community representatives, and voted for a good number of weaker provisions now found in the IAR. The IAR reads to us as if it was largely written by the public transit sector.
In the preceding passage, OPTA complains that the Government hasn't followed its advice on time lines for addressing barriers. We note that at the behest of the public transit sector, the initial proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard, developed by the Transportation Standards Development Committee in 2007, would have given public transit authorities an excessive 18 years just to start announcing all bus route stops. See http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08132007-Support-BriefOnProposedTransportationAccessibilityStandard.asp.
* The OPTA submission makes absurdly inflated claims about the cost of complying with the IAR. It says that some small to medium public transit systems would have their operating costs increase by up to 50%, simply by preventing new barriers and planning for accessibility. The OPTA submission states:
"The cost implications for the standard are believed to be significant. Provisional estimates completed to date for a number of smaller to medium size transit systems would see the annual ongoing operating costs associated with compliance equated to upwards of 50% of the current operating budget."
This unproven and undocumented claim contradicts their claim elsewhere in the same submission that the Government doesn’t know the cost of compliance. The OPTA submission elsewhere states: "Further, the Province has no real idea of the cost implications of compliance with this regulation given they have not undertaken to complete a full assessment of the total costs and benefits, a requirement that is clearly spelled out in the Ontario Regulatory Policy."
If these public transit services' cost estimates are so high, this would suggest that their current operations are so bereft of accessibility that it would cost a great deal to change. That in turn contradicts their earlier claim that they have been committed to accessibility for years and have been working on achieving accessibility.
OPTA, like AMO, does not attempt to show which of these alleged costs, if any, are not already required by public transit services to comply with the Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights.
* OPTA makes the alarmist claim that if this accessibility regulation is enacted, there is a "very real possibility" that para-transit services will cease to exist in Ontario. OPTA's submission states: "Should the definitions remain as is, there is a very real possibility that specialized services falling into this category will cease to exist, leaving the disability community without any access to specialized transit services."
"Specialized services" is the term used in the IAR for para-transit, like Toronto's WheelTrans. To shut down all para-transit services would certainly seem like a palpable violation of the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights. That would expose municipal transit authorities to very serious liability, given the ongoing barriers that remain in conventional public transit services around this province.
* OPTA objects to the IAR requiring that public transit vehicles have designated seats for passengers with disabilities, stating:
"12. Courtesy Seating (Section 49) — The transit industry reiterates its objection to this proposal given that it represents a significant shift in the principle behind courtesy seating moving to one of priority and/or exclusive seating for disabled customers to the exclusion of others in the community who would benefit from the seating and will result in complaints and conflicts. The requirements create the potential for:
conflict with other protected groups under the Ontario Human Rights Code i.e. protection re family status vs. disability vs. age;
conflict between passengers and/or passenger and driver on use of seating and/or space particularly noting there is no enforcement provision supporting the requirement and that all passengers pay fares; and
privacy issues on declaring/advising of disability recognizing that certain disabilities are not readily apparent."
We disagree. We believe that the good people of Ontario who are passengers on public transit vehicles will be open to having designated seats for persons with disabilities who need them, and will be able to deal with it in a more mature way than OPTA expects. It is unfortunate that OPTA sought to turn this issue into a clash between different disadvantaged groups whom the Human Rights Code protects. We have never heard any advocates for other Human Rights Code-protected groups voice such an objection to courtesy seating for passengers with disabilities. Those communities are better-positioned than OPTA to voice their own concerns, if any.
* OPTA also made the alarmist claim that if the IAR is passed as is, 750,000 persons with disabilities will apply for permission to bring a free support person on the public transit service with them. OPTA's submission states:
"The Province of Ontario indicates on its website that currently 1 in 7 Ontarians has some form of disability (14.3%). Given the lack of clarity provided in this section with respect to demonstrating the need for a support person, it is conceivable that each of those disabled Ontarians may choose to apply for free support person travel. In 2010, the population of Ontario systems with transit systems was approximately 10.5 million. Applying the Provincial statistic to this population, means that approximately 1.5 million residents of Ontario cities with conventional transit services have some form of disability. Assuming half of this group utilizes public transit in some form, 750,000 applications for free support person travel will have to be processed prior to the effective date."
OPTA presents no evidence that one out of every two people with disabilities in Ontario now needs and has a support person to travel with them. Were there so many, we are left wondering why public transit authorities have not properly accommodated them along the lines of the IAR up until now.
* OPTA complains about the fact that some of the IAR's requirements go into effect on July 1, 2011. Yet its submission concedes that in relation to those requirements: "….in many cases the sections represent requirements that transit systems are generally in compliance with…"
Public transit providers have been very effectively and vigourously represented throughout the development of this accessibility standard all the way back to 2006. The IAR's requirements can come to them as no surprise whatsoever.
* OPTA objects to the IAR requiring public transit services to annually consult with people with disabilities on their accessibility plan, since the plan need only be updated every five years. OPTA's submission states:
"In terms of the accessibility plan requirements, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 (ODA) already requires municipalities to produce accessibility plans on an annual basis. The proposed Integrated Standard requires the development of a 5 year plan with annual status reports on progress. The requirements further stipulate the 5 year plan must be established, reviewed and updated in consultation with persons with disabilities, however, for the transportation component only of such plans, there is a requirement for public consultation on an annual basis, noting the plan is only required to be updated every 5 years. Accordingly, Section 11 of the ODA should be repealed and the integrated regulation be amended to delete the specific requirement for the public transportation component of an accessibility plan be subject to annual public consultation noting the plan will only be updated every 5 years."
OPTA's opposition to even consulting with the broader public of persons with disabilities a mere once per year on their accessibility needs alone shows why a strong, effective IAR is needed. Absent the IAR, it is quite evident from the tenor of the OPTA submission that that an influential percentage of its members would not want to engage in such consultation with the people they are supposed to serve.
In 2007, in Lepofsky v. TTC #2, the Human Rights Tribunal ordered TTC to hold an annual public forum for persons with disabilities for three years, so passengers with disabilities could tell senior TTC managers and commissioners about the barriers they face on TTC. TTC found these to be constructive. TTC leadership commendably committed to keep holding them, even after the three-year period during which they were ordered to do so. We would hope that OPTA would have taken a similarly constructive view of this. Unfortunately, its submission does not.
* OPTA argues in its objections to the IAR's enforcement provisions (provisions which we consider to be far too weak) that an organization that does not obey the IAR will likely do so because they cannot afford to do so. OPTA's submission states:
"24. There is no reference in the Section 82 as to consideration toward the organization's ability to pay, noting that if an organization has failed to meet a legislative requirement, resource availability is in all likelihood one of the primary contributing factors."
We disagree with OPTA's assumption that public transit services will only fail to take required actions under the IAR if they cannot afford to do so. As but one well-known example, in Lepofsky v. TTC #1 and #2, the TTC failed to ensure that its bus, streetcar and subway crews announce all route stops. This violation was not due to a cost concern. It costs nothing for drivers to call out stops. TTC did not argue that the cost of making those announcements had anything to do with its multi-year failure to obey the Human Rights Code in this context. Instead, and as noted earlier, TTC spent fully $450,000 of taxpayers' dollars on lawyers to fight against that accessibility requirement.
4. AMO'S COMPLAINT ABOUT OUR WEBSITE
On April 1, 2011, we received an email from AMO executive director Pat Vanini. She complained that our March 17, 2011 update, posted on our website, made two inaccurate claims about AMO. Her email stated:
"It’s come to our attention that for the past two weeks your website (www.aodaalliance.org) has reported that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has:
• Filed late submissions to the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding proposed accessibility initiatives, and
• Made efforts to stall the enactment of Ontario’s Accessibility regulations.
(See full statements at end of this email)
Both of these statements on the AODA Alliance website are incorrect.
AMO’s submission on the draft Integrated Accessibility Requirements was made on March 16, 2011, well within the Ministry’s deadline of March 18.
In addition, AMO has not taken steps to delay enactment of the regulation.
On the contrary, AMO has worked hand-in-hand with the Government of Ontario to improve accessibility and to have improved regulations introduced. AMO has also encouraged the Ministry to enact the regulations in a manner that is both practical and achievable for municipalities. To that end, it has asked that the Government of Ontario lead with implementation, so that municipal governments, with far more limited tax bases, can follow and learn from and benefit from the province’s own experience.
We trust that the inaccuracies on your website will be corrected.
Quoted from www.aodaalliance.org
“We must not let such ill-informed, inaccurate claims undermine our effort towards making Ontario fully accessible by 2025. We commend Community and Social Services Minister Meilleur for writing to the Spectator to counter these claims. Her letter, set out below, was in the March 9, 2011 edition. We also commend her for rejecting efforts by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to stall the enactment of this regulation. AMO has been at the table throughout the several years when these requirements were being devised. We, an unfunded community coalition, got our brief submitted a week before the deadline, using volunteers. With the ample resources of Ontario's many municipalities and their paid staff, behind it, AMO and its members could certainly have done the same.”
AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky promptly responded to her by email on April 2, 2011 as follows:
To: Pat Vanini, Executive Director AMO
David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont., Chair,
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
April 2, 2011
Thank you for your April 1, 2011 email to the AODA Alliance. In your email, you state that the AODA Alliance's website has a posting that includes two inaccuracies concerning the Association of municipalities of Ontario (AMO). You refer to our update dated March 17, 2011 that can be found at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03172011.asp.
May I take this opportunity to address these:
1. You say that it is inaccurate to state that AMO "Made efforts to stall the enactment of Ontario’s Accessibility regulations." I agree that our website and our March 17, 2011 email update reported this. It stated: "We also commend her (i.e. the Minister of Community and Social Services) for rejecting efforts by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to stall the enactment of this regulation."
With respect, it is accurate to state that AMO attempted to stall the enactment of this regulation. AMO's March 16, 2011 submission to the Ministry of Community and Social Services took the clear position that the Ontario Government should not enact the proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation before an independent regulatory assessment of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation's impact has been conducted. Your submission states:
AMO believes that the proposed standards and all requirements under AODA require a thorough cost-benefit analysis.
AMO requests that an independent regulatory impact assessment of the proposed regulation be conducted prior to the passage of any further regulations under the AODA, including the integrated Standard."
We take strong issue with AMO's recommendation that the Integrated Accessibility Regulation's enactment be delayed for an independent regulatory impact study. There is no need for such a study.
We understand that AMO took part in each of the three Standards Development Committees that made proposals that led to the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation, namely the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, and the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee. Their work spread over several years.
We therefore trust that AMO knows that the Ontario Government already commissioned independent cost studies for each of the proposed areas in the IAR, namely accessibility of employment, transportation, and information and communication. We understand that these studies were given to the respective Standards Development Committees listed above. We have elsewhere criticized those studies as having overstated the costs involved in compliance.
Moreover, the work of the three Standards Development Committees was to develop proposed accessibility standards and time lines having regard to considerations such as the cost of removing and preventing barriers. This was part of their core work.
The public, including AMO and its members, had fully two opportunities to give feedback in connection with the work of each of the three Standards Development Committees. Moreover, because AMO took part in these Standards Development Committees, it had an added, ample front-line chance to identify and raise its cost concerns.
In any event, for the Government to now have such an additional, redundant assessment conducted, as AMO urges, would clearly delay the enactment of the Integrated Accessibility Regulation. Indeed, it would likely delay enactment of the IAR until after the next Ontario election to be held this October. If a new Government were elected, AMO's proposal could well push this accessibility regulation's enactment back even more months.
We hope and trust that AMO, with its experience with the activities of Government, knows or ought to know of these consequences of its recommendation. As such, our website's contention is accurate and requires no correction.
2. You say that our website states that AMO "…Filed late submissions to the Minister of Community and Social Services regarding proposed accessibility initiatives…".
Our website and our March 17, 2011 email update stated the following:
"We also commend her (i.e. the Minister of Community and Social Services) for rejecting efforts by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to stall the enactment of this regulation. AMO has been at the table throughout the several years when these requirements were being devised. We, an unfunded community coalition, got our brief submitted a week before the deadline, using volunteers. With the ample resources of Ontario's many municipalities and their paid staff behind it, AMO and its members could certainly have done the same."
We did not mean by that passage to convey that AMO in fact filed its submission late. We meant to convey that AMO tried to get the opportunity to file its submission late.
In that same AODA Alliance web posting and email update to which you take exception, the March 3, 2011 article in the Hamilton Spectator is set out which states in material part:
"The draft of proposed standards for the transportation, communications, and employment upgrades was released on Feb. 3 and forwarded a few days later to city staff, who have spent the past few weeks studying its ramifications.
That leaves only a little more than two weeks for the city to meet a March 18 deadline set by the province for municipalities to provide their feedback.
Councillor Russ Powers, who sits on the Association of Ontario Municipalities, says AMO has asked the province to extend its deadline."
Your April 1, 2011 email to us does not claim that that information, as set our in our web posting and March 17, 2011 email update, is inaccurate. We are also unaware of any correction to that information having been printed in a later edition of the Hamilton Spectator. Thus, we take it that AMO did in fact ask for an extension of time to submit its response to the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation.
Please let us know if that report of AMO's request for an extension of time is inaccurate. If not, then our core message remains accurate. If we, using volunteers to prepare our March 11, 2011 brief (whose clause-by-clause analysis of the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation is at least as detailed as AMO's), we believe that AMO, backed by the publicly-funded municipalities who comprise its members, should be able to do the same.
However, just to ensure that there is no risk of any misunderstanding, we would be pleased to make it clear in our next update that we do not suggest that AMO did not file its submission by the March 18, 2011 deadline. We only mean to suggest that it sought the opportunity to file its submission to the Ministry of Community and Social Services after the March 18, 2011 deadline.
We welcome your feedback on our website. If you have any further concerns, let us know.
In turn, we would welcome the chance to meet with you and your president (and if possible, the AMO board of directors) to discuss our serious concerns with the position that AMO advances in its March 16, 2011 submission on the draft Integrated Accessibility Regulation. Please let me know if your organization would be open to such a meeting.
I would appreciate it if you could confirm by a reply email that you received this email.
David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.
Chair, Accessibility for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
Visit our website at http://www.aodaalliance.org