ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Media Reports that Conservative Leader Tim Hudak Promises More Jobs for People with Disabilities -- But Won't Promise that He Won't Cut Accessibility Regulations, Including Standards Aiming at Workplace Accessibility -- and -- More Disability Barriers to Voting
June 11, 2014
1. Yet More Media Coverage of Disability Accessibility Platform Issues on the Day before the 2014 Ontario Election
The June 11, 2014 on-line edition of the Toronto Sun reports that on the second-last day of campaigning before the June 12, 2014 Ontario election Conservative leader Tim Hudak promised more jobs for people with disabilities. The article does not describe what Mr. Hudak proposes to do to achieve this. (Article set out below.) This article also quotes AODA Alliance chair, David Lepofsky, stating that Mr. Hudak, who promises to cut one-third of Ontario regulations, won't commit to keep our accessibility regulations off his chopping block.
The Conservatives have elsewhere said that regulations should focus on a few important priorities like the environment, public safety and consumer protection. We have no word from them unequivocally saying that this list of protected regulations includes disability accessibility.
Our non-partisan coalition has been trying to get the Ontario parties to strengthen their packages of election commitments on disability accessibility. When it comes to the Conservatives, one of our goals has been to get a pledge that they won't cut gains on accessibility that we have made to date, such as the accessibility standards that have been enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
In our March 3, 2014 letter to the leaders of the major parties, seeking their 2014 disability accessibility election commitments, we asked for a clear commitment from all the parties, among others, to:
"strengthen the implementation of the AODA 2005 and the companion Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001, and not weaken or reduce any provisions or protections in that legislation, in regulations enacted under them, in any policies, practices, strategies or initiatives of or within the Ontario Government that exist to implement them or achieve their objectives, or any rights that persons with disabilities enjoy under the Ontario Human Rights Code or in rules or regulations made under it."
At the end of this Update we again give you links to key information on the parties' disability accessibility pledges.
Déjà vu? Our Second Election Trying to Get Ontario's Conservatives to Commit Not to Cut our Accessibility Gains
This is the second Ontario election in a row when we have tried to get this commitment from Mr. Hudak. In the 2011 election, he promised to cut 30% of Ontario regulations. We made the same request of him and all the major parties in the 2011 election - for a commitment not to cut our accessibility gains, such as accessibility regulations enacted to date.
On September 13, 2011, we wrote Mr. Hudak to ask him to commit to strengthen, and not weaken Ontario's efforts to achieve a fully accessible province for persons with disabilities. Our September 13, 2011 letter to Tim Hudak.
Later in that election campaign, on the Wednesday, September 28, 2011 edition of TV Ontario's flagship current affairs program "The Agenda," Steve Paikin asked Tim Hudak why the PCs were Ontario's only major party that had not given us a commitment to not cut our gains on accessibility. We set out the text of the exchange between Steve Paikin and Tim Hudak below.
Mr. Hudak clearly told Steve Paikin in that exchange that his party supported the disabilities legislation, and remained committed to fulfilling its provisions – "absolutely." Yet in that interview, Mr. Hudak did not clearly say that he would not roll back gains we have made under the AODA. It might be argued that his answer to Steve Paikin's last question almost three years ago covered provisions of regulations enacted under the AODA, and not just the provisions of the AODA itself. However, we have not wanted to run the risk that Mr. Hudak might later say that this wasn't what he meant in this exchange. We need a commitment that is clear, comprehensive and not open to interpretation. This last exchange was as follows:
"STEVE PAIKIN: And you are still here tonight to commit to fulfilling the Ontarians with Disabilities Act provisions that will make Ontario truly accessible by 2025.
TIM HUDAK: Absolutely. We supported it. We continue to support it."
Later in the 2011 election campaign, Mr. Hudak faced more questions about his position on this issue on television. On Friday, September 30, 2011, Tim Hudak took part in a live, televised town hall meeting for the current election on cable TV channel CP24's Stephen LeDrew Show - LeDrew Live. As a question from the audience, AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky asked Mr. Hudak to clearly commit that he won't cut new accessibility regulations enacted under the AODA. In his answer, Mr. Hudak said, among other things:
"So that anything that we would do to change regulations with respect to those with disabilities would be to help improve things, to help get better access, to help people move forward, to help them get jobs and move into the workplace, if they want to."
We set out below our transcription of the entire exchange.
3. Encourage Friends and Family to Watch The Agenda With Steve Paikin Tonight at 8 or 11 pm on TVOas AODA Alliance Chair is Interviewed
Please encourage as many as possible to watch TVO tonight at 8 or 11 pm. AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky will be interviewed on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He will address this election's disability accessibility issues. The program is captioned. It will also be posted on YouTube, likely some time tomorrow.
4. Even More Barriers Facing Voters with Disabilities in this Election
On the front page of today's edition of the Kingston Whig-Standard is a hard-hitting report on the unacceptable voting barriers that Steve Cutway, himself blind, faced last week when trying without success to use Elections Ontario's accessible voting machine. We set out that article below. It also quotes the AODA Alliance's chair on this issue. For more background on Mr. Cutway's unsuccessful attempt to use Elections Ontario's so-called accessible voting machine.
Today is the last day in this election period when voters can go to their riding's returning office to use an accessible voting machine. It is not available for use on June 12, voting day.
In addition to Mr. Cutway's experience, on June 9, 2014, we received an email from long time disability accessibility advocate Penny Leclair, reporting a barrier she had faced while trying to vote in this election. Ms. Leclair is deaf-blind. She has been a tremendous supporter of our accessibility cause. She has made riveting presentations on accessibility to the Ontario Legislature.
Ms. Leclair wrote:
"I took the opportunity to go to Bank Street 1800 at 250 Suite to vote but they didn’t have a list of the people that I could read.
I waited 15 minutes while several people searched for it.
I had to have names read to me, and I voted through trust in another person. Felt like I went back in time! Access??"
With Ms. Leclair's permission, we are making her concern public here. We have also forwarded it to Elections Ontario. Elections Ontario has not yet provided a response.
Her immediate need, identified here, would have been met by Elections Ontario giving her a Braille list of the candidates in her riding. However, the broader need for ensuring the right of all voters with disabilities to independently and privately mark their ballot and verify their choice would be far better met, if Ontario were to make telephone and internet voting available. A deaf-blind person, with the right training and equipment, could use a refreshable Braille display to access a secure website for marking their ballot, reading the names of the candidates, etc.
We regret that due to restrictive Ontario legislation and a recalcitrant Elections Ontario, telephone and internet voting remains a distant dream for all voters in Ontario at the provincial level. This is so despite the fact that a growing number of municipalities are making telephone and internet voting available in this fall's municipal elections in Ontario. Elections Ontario's unjustified opposition to telephone and internet voting is reflected in the June 11, 2014 Kingston Whig-Standard article, set out below. For our detailed answer to Elections Ontario's opposition to telephone and internet voting.
5. What does the Accessibility Clock Have to Say Today?
A troubling 205 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. One hundred and eleven 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."
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.
As well, 287 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.
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Toronto Sun June 11, 2014
Posted at http://www.torontosun.com/2014/06/10/hudak-vows-to-help-disabled-find-work
Hudak vows to help disabled find work
By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak talks to supporters during a campaign stop in London on Tuesday. (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak stressed his softer side Tuesday with a pledge to help the disabled and disadvantaged realize their potential in the workforce.
At a campaign stop in Richmond Hill, Hudak said his plan would deliver jobs for those who currently struggle to find work.
“Who’s closest to my heart? Those who are falling through the cracks today, those with disabilities, the disadvantaged, young people graduating from school with a lot of energy and hope but no job. That’s who I’m going to fight for every day,” Hudak said.
Hudak noted that 20 unions, many of them representing public sector workers, have joined with his political challengers in a barrage of negative messages about him and his party in the lead up to the June 12 vote.
His opponents would have voters believe that the sky would fall if the PCs gain government, he suggested.
“I’m going to set the record straight. The sun is still going to shine. Cows will still give milk. The sky’s still going to be blue,” he said.
The PCs have said they will not cut teachers or educational assistants who work with children with special needs, or social workers who help the disabled overcome their difficulties.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Alliance of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), said the organization is non-partisan but did analyse the commitments of the three major political parties.
Hudak has pledged to cut one-third of the “red tape” in provincial government, and has refused a request to protect regulations that ensure accessible workplaces for Ontarians with disabilities, Lepofsky said.
The community has fought hard to make these gains and wants assurances that they’re not on the chopping block, he said.
“We aren’t happy with any of the leaders,” he said. “With that, we have to say that Tim Hudak’s position on disability-accessibility is by far the weakest.
“We requested a series of commitments — the NDP made the most of any, the Liberals made some but we feel they should have been making more given their leadership on accessibility.”
Hudak has said this issue is “personal” for him as one of his two daughters has developmental needs.
EXCERPT FROM THE SEPTEMBER 28, 2011 INTERVIEW WITH PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE LEADER TIM HUDAK ON TV ONTARIO'S "THE AGENDA WITH STEVE PAIKIN"
STEVE PAIKIN: There is an alliance that represents Ontario's disabled community that went out and got assurances from every party—all the main parties, rather, running in this election – except yours, not to go back on the gains that that community has made in making Ontario truly accessible. How come you won't give them similar assurances that the other parties are?
TIM HUDAK: Well, you know, I think this may relate to surveys and we were focused, because you get all kinds of surveys from all kinds of different groups. Our plan is actually out there. It's called ChangeBook and we made sure people knew what we're going to do. But we did support – I'm not sure what the particulars are – but we did support the legislation to ensure that we had greater accessibility in the province. The Ontario PC Party supported that. We support it to this day.
STEVE PAIKIN: You did vote for it in the …I think everybody voted for it in the Legislature. I think it was …
TIM HUDAK: Pretty sure.
STEVE PAIKIN: …a unanimous vote.
TIM HUDAK: Yup.
STEVE PAIKIN: And you are still here tonight to commit to fulfilling the Ontarians with Disabilities Act provisions that will make Ontario truly accessible by 2025.
TIM HUDAK: Absolutely. We supported it. We continue to support it.
STEVE PAIKIN: Okay….
EXCHANGE BETWEEN AODA ALLIANCE CHAIR DAVID LEPOFSKY AND CONSERVATIVE LEADER TIM HUDAK ON SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 EDITION OF CP24'S LEDREW LIVE PROGRAM
David Lepofsky: My name is David Lepofsky. I lead a non-partisan coalition of people with disabilities across Ontario who are trying to achieve a fully accessible province so we can enjoy the jobs, the goods and the services everybody else can enjoy, on an equal footing. As you know, Mr. Hudak, we've for the fifth election in a row asked all the parties to commit not to cut the gains we've made, and instead to take specific action to improve things. The only leader of the major parties who hasn't, is you. And I want to ask a very clear and simple question. You've said that you will cut, if elected, at least 30% of the regulations in force in Ontario. Will you promise that off of that chopping block you will take — you will not cut the accessibility regulations that we fought for over the past five years and only recently won? Will you commit that you will not cut those regulations?
TIM HUDAK: Well, David, listen, thanks for being here and I've enjoyed working with you in the past in moving legislation through the House and the advice you've given me in my capacity as leader of the Ontario PC Party, and, if I get a chance, as Premier of the province. So that anything that we would do to change regulations with respect to those with disabilities would be to help improve things, to help get better access, to help people move forward, to help them get jobs and move into the workplace, if they want to. And I'll give you one example of some of the red tape that we need to clear aside to help people with disabilities. Right now if you're on Ontario Disability Support Program and you try to get a job, a part time job or full time job, the money gets clawed back. So 50 cents of every dollar you make gets taken away from you. That's a disincentive. If somebody wants to get out there in the workforce, we want to help them do that – to get a full time job, part time job, and help as best as we can to contribute back to society. So there's an example of something I think we'd agree upon, to help clear aside, to allow more people to move into the workforce.
And moving forward, David, I'd look for a chance to work with you to make sure we can help move even more people – make sure they have access to the right buildings. They can get in the Government offices. They get the services that they need as citizens here in the Province of Ontario. I think that one of the most important things that you can judge a society by is how you treat our most vulnerable.
David Lepofsky: Could you just say yes?
TIM HUDAK: Yeah, I think I answered your question. Like, there's some red tape I think we need to move aside that actually holds people back. Why, if somebody is getting into the workplace, why in the world you'd punish somebody, taking 50 cents off every dollar that they make? I think we'd want to reward work in our system, and those that have disabilities, to help them when they want to get a job, to move into the workplace.
June 11, 2014 Kingston Whig-Standard
The Kingston Whig-Standard June 11, 2014
Posted at http://www.thewhig.com/2014/06/10/blind-man-frustrated-by-voting-experience
Blind man frustrated by voting experience
By Chloe Sobel
Tuesday, June 10, 2014 9:47 PM
Steve Cutway is frustrated by the experience he had when he voted in advance at the returning office last Friday. (Chloe Sobel For The Whig-Standard)
Steve Cutway, a Kingston resident, voted in advance at the returning office last Friday. This wouldn't be unusual, except that Cutway had to make two attempts before finally casting his ballot.
Cutway is totally blind. He had gone to the returning office to use the accessible voting machine there, the only one in the riding.
A poll clerk told him that he would need to press the "blue button" in order to print the completed ballot.
"I asked her which was the 'blue button' and she said, 'the button right here' and I assume pointed to it. That was the first sign of possible trouble," Cutway wrote in an email describing the experience.
Cutway then put on headphones and listened to an audio message that said "for English instructions, press the red Select key." Cutway has been blind all his life and has no conception of the colour.
"I thought 'I'm not gonna know what the colour is, but where is the button?'" he said.
Cutway said he hadn't been given an opportunity to examine the keypad before beginning, so he didn't know which key was the select key. He found a Braille "Select" label above what was the select key, but below that same key was a label reading "Help."
After pressing the button he believed to be the select key, he was asked what input he wanted to use. He thought he needed to press various keys to choose input, and pressed the select key to choose audio. He was then told he would be using "sip and puff".
"I sensed that the poll clerk was becoming a bit flustered. She thought that if I didn't do anything, I'd be given a chance to choose another input. I wasn't, so she restarted the process. Again, I chose the same input.
"At that point, I gave up and my wife marked my ballot for me," Cutway wrote.
He learned later that he wasn't being given choices, and was supposed to wait to press the button until he heard the input he wanted spoken.
"Had I been told that, either by the poll clerk or by the machine, my voting experience using the accessible voting machine might have been more positive," Cutway wrote.
Cutway emailed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance that day describing his experience. David Lepofsky, chair of the Alliance, forwarded Cutway's complaint to Elections Ontario.
Cutway received an apology, which he accepted, and an assurance that the staff would receive fresh training.
"I appreciate their challenge but I suspect that their training is designed to try to teach their staff a one-size-fits-all solution," Cutway said.
Cutway has other concerns about poll worker training.
He'd believed that in order to use the machine, he had to vote in the advance polling period. He mentioned this to a poll worker at the returning office.
"That belief wasn't corrected, and it probably should have been," he said.
Cutway is also concerned that voters with less experience with this technology than he has would have a difficult time voting.
"Think about a person who's a senior, 85 years old, who walks in, who has the expectation -- the hope -- of being able to use that machine. I would agree with (Lepofsky) there that I don't think that they would have coped or could have coped, not at least with the level of instruction that I was given."
He said a move to telephone and Internet voting, or network voting, would be more accessible for voters.
Network voting is not permitted on the provincial level, but is permissible in municipal elections. The City of Kingston will use network voting in the October municipal elections.
Andrew Willis, a media spokesperson for Elections Ontario, said that it has not yet found a method of network voting that meets its eight principles to measure success, including accessibility.
David Lepofsky said that Cutway is not the only person to have problems with voting accessibility.
"I've already gotten an email from a visually disabled person in Toronto who had a similar problem," he said.
"I'm blind, I used that voting machine myself, but the fact is, it's gotta be consistently reliable or it's not good enough."
The person who emailed Lepofsky found the machine "complicated to use" and the instructions unclear, and had to ask a friend to read the printed ballot in order to verify who they had voted for.
"This is the story that we face in 2014, you know? The risk of an inaccessible candidates' debate, an inaccessible polling station or an inaccessible ballot. Not every time, but I'm saying: too many times," Lepofsky said.
He said that part of voting is the ability to cast a secret ballot, something that blind voters weren't able to do until the introduction of the accessible voting machine.
"Most of my adult life I haven't had that opportunity. I've had to have somebody else mark my ballot and I have to trust that they wrote down what I asked them to and I have to trust that they don't tell anyone."
"And that's a lot of trusting that sighted voters don't have to do," he said.
He added that voters facing accessibility barriers also receive lessened political influence.
"We want full access to the vote so we can have full access to government and get our rights."
Helpful Links on the 2014 Ontario Election's Disability Accessibility Issues and How to Help Raise Them during the Campaign
To get easy-to-use non-partisan tips on how to raise disability accessibility issues with the candidates during this Ontario election, check out our 2014 Ontario Election Action Kit.
To watch the AODA Alliance's virtual news conference, unveiling the parties' 2014 election disability accessibility pledges, all made in letters to the AODA Alliance.
To read the AODA Alliance's summary of the three parties' 2014 election commitments on disability accessibility.