ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Help Us Make Transportation Services in Ontario Accessible to Passengers with Disabilities -- By July 27, 2017 Please Send Us Feedback on the draft Brief by the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre on the Transportation Standards Development committee's Draft Recommendations for Improving the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard

July 21, 2017

Summary

We very much want and welcome your feedback on how to make transportation services in Ontario fully accessible to passengers with disabilities! Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com by the end of Thursday, July 27, 2017.

In 2011, the Ontario Government enacted the Transportation Accessibility Standard. It sets accessibility requirements for transportation services in Ontario. Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Government must appoint a Standards Development Committee to review each accessibility standard it creates, to advise on any amendments needed to strengthen that accessibility standard.

Two years ago, the Wynne Government appointed a Transportation Standards Development committee to make recommendations on how to improve and strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. On May 19, 2017, the Transportation Standards Development committee made public a package of draft recommendations for improvements in the area of transportation services. The Ontario Government has invited the public's feedback on these recommendations. This feedback will then be sent to the Transportation Standards Development committee. That Committee will then be able to review the public's feedback, and finalize its recommendations to the Ontario Government for updates to the standard.

The Ontario Government originally gave the public up to July 19, 2017 to send in its feedback on proposed reforms to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. We asked for an extension. We thank the Government for granting that extension. As a result, public feedback can be sent to the Government up to July 31, 2017.

We are asking for your help. The AODA Alliance has again teamed up with ARCH Disability Law Centre to prepare a joint brief that we will be submitting to the Government as part of this feedback process. We have been working on this draft brief for months. Our draft brief makes recommendations.

We are now making public a draft of our brief. It would be great if you could email us to let us know if there is anything in our draft brief that you would change, or if we left anything out. You can download our draft brief in an accessible MS Word document.

Okay, so our draft brief is not very brief. To make things easier for those who do not have time for something that long, we set out a much, much shorter summary of it, below with enough information to help you to give us your feedback and ideas. You can also just look at Appendix 1 of our draft brief, which lists each of our recommendations in one place.

Our draft brief shows that the Transportation Standards Development committee has correctly pointed out some of the areas where improvement is needed. However, the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations for improvements in those areas are insufficient. Moreover, the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations leave out many of the known problems with the 2011 version of the Transportation Accessibility Standard.

Even if each transportation organization did everything it must do to obey the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, transportation services will not be fully accessible to people with disabilities by the 2025 deadline required under the AODA. Unfortunately, even if the Ontario Government made all the changes that the Standards Development Committee's draft recommendations include, this would not significantly strengthen the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. For example, the draft recommendations would not materially speed up progress towards fully accessible transportation by 2025. The AODA Alliance/ARCH draft brief offers a more comprehensive list of detailed recommendations which we believe would make a significant improvement to the legislation and outcomes for all Ontarians.
 
In this draft brief, the AODA Alliance and ARCH have drawn on feedback that both of our organizations have received on disability accessibility barriers in transportation over the past months and years. We welcome any and all suggestions. Remember that this Standard only relates to transportation services in Ontario that the Ontario Government can regulate. The Ontario government cannot regulate air travel, or transportation between the provinces or over provincial lines as those fall under Federal jurisdiction.

We know that there may be some typos in the draft brief, and some numbering problems. Those will get cleaned up before we finalize the brief. We seek your feedback only on the actual content of what we say and recommend.

You can help the accessibility cause in second way too. Please also take a few minutes to complete the Ontario Government's online survey about disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. We are delighted to let you know that the Ontario Government has today announced a second extension of the deadline for completing the Government's online education barrier survey. You now have up to October 16, 2017 to fill out the Government's online survey of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario's education system. We thank the Government for granting this extension, which we had requested.

For links to the Ontario Government's online survey of education disability accessibility barriers, and our tips when completing it, visit disabilities.

Once that's done it would also be great if you could email the Ontario Government at AODA.input@ontario.ca to tell the Government if you support the AODA Alliance's answers to the Government's education barriers survey.   

MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Draft AODA Alliance/ARCH Brief on Needed Improvements to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard

 

C.      Overview of this Brief

In this brief, we identify the deficiencies with the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. We analyze the 2016 Transportation Standards Development committee's recent draft recommendations, which were offered for public comment on May 19, 2017. Where needed, we offer our recommendations on how they can be strengthened. We then turn to deficiencies with the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard which the Transportation Standards Development committee's recommendations did not address. We offer recommendations on how to address those deficiencies.

Appendix 1 sets out a list of all the recommendations that this brief includes. Appendix 2 describes deficiencies in the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard identified in the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. Appendix 3 analyzes the contents of the 2015, KPMG report for the Ontario Government on accessibility barriers in transportation in Ontario. Appendix 4 provides more detailed recommendations on accessibility requirements for public transit stations and stops that should be included in the Transportation Accessibility Standard.

D.      Deficiencies in the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard Broader Look

The first step in an effective review of the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard is to identify what that accessibility standard is supposed to achieve, to assess how well it is doing at achieving that goal, and then to identify how and why it is falling short, if at all.

The AODA's goal is to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Therefore, the goal of a Transportation Accessibility Standard must be to ensure that transportation services in Ontario become accessible to people with disabilities no later than 2025.

This goal is critically important. Accessible transportation promotes independence and people with disabilities' ability to take part in employment, education, recreation, and social activities, as well as being able to buy goods and get access to services like health care.  Accessible transportation is essential for the inclusion of people with disabilities in our communities and for things people without disabilities daily take for granted.

Many people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line. Many cannot afford their own car. Many cannot drive due to their disability. Transportation services, whether public or private, are, for all practical purposes, their "car".  

Before the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard went into effect, transportation services in Ontario were replete with many disability accessibility barriers. Over a decade ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a comprehensive study of accessibility problems facing persons with disabilities who try to use public transit. It found that Ontario's public transit system is replete with barriers impeding persons with disabilities. It recommended, among other things, that new standards be enacted for transit accessibility. The Ontario Human Rights Commission's Report on Public Transit Accessibility Barriers is available at http://ohrc.on.ca/en/consultation-report-human-rights-and-public-transit-services-ontario 

E.      Major problems with the Current 2011 Ontario Transportation Accessibility Standard

The current 2011 Ontario Transportation Accessibility Standard has significant shortcomings. Revisions to that accessibility standard should aim to correct these problems. We summarize these problems as follows:

1. Over six years after the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard went into effect, progress towards full accessibility has been far too slow. There are less than 7.5 years to go before 2025. Yet transportation services are still not fully accessible to people with disabilities. In many respects they fall far short.

The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard will not ensure that transportation in Ontario becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Even if all transportation organizations fully comply with its requirements and time lines, this will not ensure that transportation will become fully accessible by 2025, or ever.

2. The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard does not cover all the known recurring disability accessibility barriers in transportation in Ontario.

3. Where the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard does address a known accessibility barrier, its requirements are too often too weak or too vague. Its exemptions and exceptions are too broad. This all falls short of meeting the accessibility requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

4. The 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard takes an erroneous approach to equality and accessibility for people with disabilities, by permitting "equivalent services" at times, rather than requiring equal services. The Ontario Human Rights Code requires people with disabilities to receive equal services. An approach of unequal access appears to be tolerated if transit providers feel they are providing something they call equitable access.

5. The time lines for action required under the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard are often too long. They permit unjustified delays in providing accessibility in transportation to people with disabilities. It allows transportation providers to create new disability accessibility barriers for too many years.

Further indication that there are significant problems with the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard can be gleaned from two major reports, prepared at the request of the Ontario Government:

a) The 2014 final report of the second Independent Review of the AODA, conducted by Mayo Moran. The Government was required to appoint this AODA Independent Review. In Appendix 2 to this brief, we summarize that report's key contents and findings as they relate to the accessibility of transportation in Ontario.

b) The August 2015 report on KPMG on transportation accessibility barriers. We analyze the key contents and findings in that report in Appendix 3 to this brief.

Our recommendations build on the key findings and contents in those reports, and on our own analysis and research.
 
F.       Summary of Our Analysis of the Transportation Standards Development committee's May 19, 2017 Draft Recommendations for Amendments to the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard

We commend the Transportation Standards Development committee for identifying some of the ways that the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard needs improvement and for seeking ways to improve it. However, the draft recommendations that the Transportation Standards Development committee has circulated for public feedback are substantially insufficient to remedy the insufficiencies in the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. Even if the Ontario Government adopted all the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations, this would not ensure that transportation in Ontario becomes fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, or ever. Indeed, even if the Ontario Government adopted all those draft recommendations, this would not lead to a substantial improvement in the accessibility of transportation services in Ontario. This is because:

1. The Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations do not identify or address many of the inadequacies in the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard. They fail to address key problems with transportation services in Ontario or with the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard identified in the discussions or findings of the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review or the 2015 KPMG report to the Ontario Government on transportation accessibility.

2. In many cases, where the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations identify an ongoing problem with the accessibility of transportation services in Ontario six years after the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard was enacted, the reforms that it recommends are too weak and will not solve the problem identified.

 

3. In several places, the Transportation Standards Development committee recommends efforts at better educating people with disabilities, as a solution to accessibility problems they face. Yet the core reason why disability accessibility barriers remain in transportation in Ontario is not because passengers with disabilities are insufficiently educated on what they need to do to obtain accessible transportation services. These accessibility barriers remain because transportation organizations have not acted quickly enough to remove and prevent the accessibility barriers that remain in transportation services.

4. In some places, the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft recommendations incorrectly propose to shift to others, such as the Ontario Government, responsibilities which properly lie with those who provide transportation services in Ontario.

G.      Summary of Our Recommendations

This brief makes 58 detailed recommendations about the work of the Transportation Standards Development committee. We urge it to:

1. Ensure that the aim of the Transportation Standards Development committee's review assesses whether the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard will ensure that transportation services in Ontario will become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

2. Ensure that the Transportation Standards Development committee hears directly from passengers with disabilities about the disability accessibility barriers they face in transportation, eg. by holding public forums on accessible transportation.

3. Ensure that the Ontario Government keeps its 2007 election promise to provide a fulltime staff resource person for the disability sector representatives on an AODA Standards Development Committee.

4. Ensure that the Government keeps its 2007 election promise that Transportation Standards Development committee members will get to separately vote on each recommendation, clause-by-clause.

5. Withdraw its draft recommendation that would shift responsibility to people with disabilities and to other levels of government to ensure that people with disabilities do not buy mobility devices that do not fit the vehicles that transportation organizations have chosen to use.

6. Not recommend the creation of any new barriers to face people with disabilities, such as an obligation to acquire a provincial card to authorize them being accompanied by a support person on a public transit service.

We recommend that the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard should be amended:

a)  To designate its purpose as ensuring that transportation services in Ontario become fully accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

b) To increase the number and size of mobility devices to be accommodate on public transit vehicles.

c) To require transportation organizations to effectively inform people with disabilities about the sizes of mobility devices that their vehicles can now accommodate.

d) To shorten time lines for action in the Transportation Accessibility Standard and in the Transportation Standards Development committee's draft revisions to it.

e) To provide that when people with disabilities are permitted to use a support person on a transportation organization's services, they should be able to obtain documentation from that transportation organization, confirming that this has been permitted. That documentation should be accepted by any other Ontario transportation organization as authorizing their use of a support person.

f) To require public transit providers to provide a service to assist passengers with disabilities to navigate transit stations, on a same-day call-ahead basis.

g) To provide substantially stronger guarantees and penalties for violations such as refusals to accommodate the use of service animals in transportation services, including stiff penalties for first time violations.

h) To require transportation organizations to announce to passengers at a transit station, in advance of boarding, about pre-boarding accommodations for passengers with disabilities.

i) To require that all transportation organizations that are obliged to make route stop announcements must:

i) Conduct monthly self-audits of pre-boarding and on route announcements;

ii) Make these audits promptly available on the transportation organization's website and to set strict minimum privacy requirements for any para-transit service's policy on collection and disclosure of private passenger information.

iii) Electronically file these audit reports with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario on a quarterly basis, which the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario should make available on a publicly-accessible and searchable website.

10. To set comprehensive universal design requirements that exceed the Ontario Building Code, and that meet the Ontario Human Rights Code ,for the built environment of transit stations and stops, including for new ones to be constructed, renovated ones, and existing ones that are undergoing no major renovations.

To set stronger lighting, colour contrast and accessible signage requirements for public transit vehicles, stations and stops.

11. To require larger municipal transit authorities to develop, deploy and update fully accessible mobile apps to enable all users, including all people with disabilities, to know the nearby bus schedule, the location and identity of nearby stops and routes, and to navigate inside transit stations.

12. To ensure that grab bars, handholds, handrails and stanchions in public transit vehicles have no protruding ends.

13. To delete the category of "conditional eligibility" for paratransit services.

14. To require an appeal decision regarding eligibility for paratransit services, to be rendered within 14 calendar days of the appeal being filed.

15. To repeal any reference to and to eliminate any authorization of the "family of services" retrenchment on paratransit services, that lets a public transit provider force a paratransit passenger to take part of their ride on paratransit and the rest on conventional transit.

16. To ban any transit organization from double-charging people with disabilities when part of a ride is on the conventional service and part of the ride is on a paratransit vehicle, with stiff penalties imposed on both the transit organization and the individual who tries to impose a double charge, including for a first violation.

17. To require public transit providers to regularly announce on their public address systems that no passenger with a disability should ever be charged a double fare, and providing a hotline number and email to report any such violations.

18. To require the provision of same day service on paratransit, with 2 hours advance notice, or, if rejected, to substantially narrow any exemptions from this requirement.

 

19. To require transportation organizations, who require medical documentation to qualify for paratransit, to cover the cost of that medical documentation, in order to remove this transportation barrier, particularly for people with disabilities with limited financial means.

20. To specify that all taxis in each municipality must be accessible by 2025, and that each municipality must take all required steps, to be included in their accessibility plans, to ensure that this goal is reached. This should include, among other things, requiring each municipality to:

a) Give a priority or preference, when issuing permits for new taxicabs, to applicants who undertake that the new taxicab will be accessible, on the understanding that they are permitted to carry any passenger, whether or not he or she has a disability, and

b) In consultation with any special transportation services provider in the community, consider using accessible taxi services as an option for providing specialized transportation services under this Act.

(c) Annually identify progress made toward meeting the need for accessible taxicabs in its status report required under the AODA.

(d) Where the Accessibility Advisory Committee of a municipality is of the opinion that sufficient progress towards fully accessible taxicabs in the community has not been made, it may ask the council of the municipality to develop additional strategies to promote a sufficient increase in the number of accessible taxicabs in the community, and the council of the municipality shall review the sufficiency of the strategies, and report on the result of this review to its accessibility advisory committee, and to the public, including  via a posting on its website.

21. To strengthen requirements for a taxi to display in an accessible format the taxi's registration and identification information.

22. To require accessibility training for taxi drivers, and for those who drive for ride-sharing services like Uber, at the time of obtaining or renewing a license, with this requirement to go into effect immediately upon or shortly after enactment of revisions to this accessibility standard.

23. To increase the percentages of accessible parking spots for parking facilities associated with transit stations.

24. To require permanent streamlined cross-jurisdictional paratransit services along the lines of those temporarily provided in the Greater Toronto Area during the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games.

25. To require each public transit provider to now make public a commitment to achieve accessible public transit as soon as possible, and in any event, no later than 2025.

26. To require each transportation organization to:

a) Create a 7.5 year multi-year plan, listing all the steps needed to ensure its transportation services become accessible to passengers with disability by 2025, and its plans to take all these steps in time to reach that goal;

b) Implement that plan;

c) Post this multi-year plan on its website, make it available to the public in an accessible format on request, and submit it electronically to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario for posting online on a searchable data base;

d) Annually report on its progress in fulfilling that plans' requirements, and indicating whether it is on schedule for reaching the goal of accessible transportation services by 2025, and

e) Post these annual reports on its website, and in an electronic filing with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, which will post them online in a searchable data base.

27. To strengthen the requirement for each public transit provider to hold an annual public forum on accessible transit.

28. To require public transit providers to take and document specified proactive steps to ensure the maintenance of equipment and facilities, as well as all vehicles, needed to ensure accessible transit, such as escalators and elevators.

29. To provide concurrent both audio and video announcements in transit stations.

30. To more effectively ensure the accessibility of electronic kiosks in transit stations and stops.

31. To more effectively provide for safety of people with disabilities during emergencies on public transit systems.

32. To require public transit providers to provide in transit stations, raised line, tactile maps with accessible text and braille, near the main entrance at every station.

33. To better implement and enforce the public's compliance with priority seating for people with disabilities on public transit vehicles.

34. To require every municipality to have accessible vehicles for persons with disabilities, which are available for public transit regardless of the passenger's purpose for their trip.

35. To prohibit public transit providers from requiring that a conventional transit passenger or paratransit passenger be accompanied by a support person. The public transit provider should instead have in place an effective means to receive and convey to its paratransit driver, pre-issued instructions on a passenger's destination, in the case of a passenger who cannot themselves communicate their destination.

36. To require public transit providers to implement readily achievable measures to enable passengers with disabilities who use service animals to be able to meet the animal's need to relieve itself, whether by providing nearby relief areas within a transit station, or by providing a fee waiver if the passenger must leave the station for the animal to relieve itself.

37. To set strong requirements for the accessibility of subway, train and LRT, cars, including a requirement that they properly line up with a subway platform. This should apply to both new and existing vehicles.

38. To set accessibility requirements for public transit platforms. These should ban the use of the center platform design for a public transit station, unless a safe solid shoreline is provided for persons with vision loss, at a designated distance away from the platform's edge.

39. To require readily-achievable accessibility retrofits of public transit vehicles unless they are slated to be removed from service in the next five years.

40. To strengthen requirements for the provision of accessible school bussing services for students with disabilities.

41. To impose comprehensive accessibility requirements on ridesharing services like Uber, operating anywhere in Ontario, that at least include and build upon those enacted in Toronto and in some U.S. cities.

Helpful Background Resources

To learn more about the AODA Alliance's campaign for accessible transportation in Ontario.

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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We encourage you to use the Government's toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

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