ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
AODA Alliance Makes Public a “Reality Check” on the Wynne Government’s August 4, 2015 News Release Re the Upcoming Toronto 2015 ParaPan American Games - Government Claims on Its Accessibility Accomplishments Are Overstated
August 5, 2015
In an August 4, 2015 news release (set out at the end of this Update), the Wynne Government claims that the upcoming Toronto 2015 ParaPan American Games will be “The Most Accessible Parapan Am Games Ever.” This cries out for the following five-page reality check.
While the Government has taken some commendable steps on accessibility within the bubble of the Games principally for athletes with disabilities, it has fallen short vis à vis tourists with disabilities who attend the Games, or who want to find a place to stay, or to eat, or to shop, or simply to go to the washroom, when they leave the Games’ Bubble.
This huge missed opportunity is especially vexing since a Government-appointed Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act reported last year that, after ten years on the books, Ontario’s new accessibility law has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Ontario cannot afford to miss any such opportunities to substantially increase accessibility for people with disabilities. This is especially so since during the upcoming ParaPan American Games, the public’s attention will be focused like never before on the need to ensure full inclusion of people with disabilities. Ontario’s track record on keeping its disability accessibility will be at centre stage.
The Government may have issued its August 4, 2015 news release in response to the AODA Alliance’s July 28, 2015 news release, under the headline: “Despite All the Official Rejoicing, Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games Sadly Missed a Huge Chance for a Great Legacy for Ontarians with Disabilities by Failing to Increase Accessibility of Tourism/Hospitality Venues like Restaurants and Stores – Before any 2024 Toronto Olympic Bid, Ontario Must Ensure It Doesn’t Repeat This Wasteful Mistake.” The AODA Alliance’s July 28, 2015 news release.
The AODA Alliance has led an uphill campaign over the past two years to try to get the Wynne Government to ensure that the Toronto 2015 Games leave behind a strong legacy of increased accessibility for people with disabilities. After our five-page Reality Check, we set out several pages of news articles and correspondence with the Toronto 2015 organization to support our analysis.
We applaud those individuals who have taken their stories of barriers they have faced at the Toronto 2015 Games, or in restaurants and other venues in Ontario to the media. As illustrated in examples set out below, these help focus public attention on the need for greater Government action.
We are truly honoured that the media continues to turn to the AODA Alliance for comment on these issues, as several news stories below illustrate. For more news reports of this kind, sign up for the AODA Alliance’s channel on www.youtube.com
We encourage one and all to keep bringing any examples of accessibility barriers to the public’s attention, whether these barriers are at the Toronto 2015 Games, or outside the Games in our community. Publicize them on social media using the hashtag #accessibility. Contact the local media to seek coverage of them.
Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.
Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.
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AODA Alliance’s Five-Page Reality Check on the Wynne Government’s August 4, 2015 News Release
1. The Most Accessible ParaPan American Games in the World?
The Government and the Toronto 2015 organization have taken some commendable steps on accessibility. Some are ground-breaking, such as the expansion of TV coverage of the ParaPan American Games, and the availability of live audio description at some of these Games on site.
Yet the Government has not effectively used the Pan/ParaPan American Games as it should have, to leave behind a strong legacy of substantially increased accessibility for people with disabilities. To have missed this incredible opportunity is to do a real disservice to all Ontarians, including 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities.
The Government’s claim here, like its claim to be “Number One in the world” on promoting accessibility for people with disabilities, is a striking exaggeration. Below, we set out troubling media reports about inexcusable accessibility barriers that faced people with disabilities who wanted to attend the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games. These include:
1. Mr. Joseph Freeman recounted a harrowing and exhausting ordeal trying to enter and reach accessible seating at the dress rehearsal at the Rogers Centre for the Pan American Games opening ceremony. Global News reported that Mr. Freeman found Games volunteers misdirected him several times, compounding his ordeal.
Below we set out the July 17, 2015 Global TV report on this incident, as well as Mr. Freeman’s detailed description of it in an email to the Toronto 2015 organization and the media. We also set out the Toronto 2015 organization’s response to this incident and its email exchange with the AODA Alliance. The Toronto 2015 organization does not appear to dispute Mr. Freeman’s description of the accessibility problems.
2. Ms. Mary Penner also reported a harrowing ordeal the next day, trying to get to her accessible seat at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games opening ceremony at the Rogers Centre. CBC reported on this incident, as set out below, under the headline “Pan Am Games accessibility lacking during opening ceremony, woman says.” She wanted a refund of all other Games tickets after her ordeal. Yahoo News Online also reported on this incident.
In an email exchange set out below, the Toronto 2015 organization lists all the steps it has taken to ensure accessible Customer Service at the Games. These two incidents show that while those measures look great on paper, their execution did not ensure the result of accessible Customer Service. The claim by the head of the Toronto 2015 organization, Mr. Saad Rafi, in the July 13, 2015 CBC news report, set out below, that accessibility is a top priority for the Games, does not translate into assured accessibility on the ground.
Below we also set out an excellent article in the July 24, 2015 edition of Yahoo News Online that shows how these incidents are symptomatic of broader failures by the Wynne Government on the accessibility front. These follow on the heels of other Pan/ParaPan American Games barriers which the AODA Alliance addressed in its June 22, 2015 Update.
1. The Toronto 2015 organization proudly released an iPhone app for the Games that unjustifiably lacked the most basic accessibility requirements. Some corrective action that was insufficient to fully fix that app, was only taken after Global Television news ran a news story about this accessibility barrier as its lead story on the June 19, 2015 evening news.
2. The Toronto 2015 organization had restricted a person with a disability using an accessible seat at the Aquatic Centre to sitting with only one person without a disability, until the Toronto Star covered this barrier. The Games then backed down, and let a child with a disability go to a competition and sit with both a parent and a friend without disabilities.
2. A Closer Look at The Government’s Specific Claims
* The Government’s August 4, 2015 news release recites that:
“All 31 competition venues (including Pan Am Games venues) meet or exceed accessibility requirements, ensuring persons with disabilities can fully enjoy these facilities, either as participants or spectators.”
It would of course be commendable if all competition sites are accessible. However, that is a rather bare minimum requirement. If the Ontario Government invites athletes with disabilities to come to Toronto to compete in the ParaPan American Games, it could hardly do anything less than offer them an accessible venue in which to compete. A government would hardly boast as a huge accomplishment for the Pan American Games (for athletes with no disability) that: “We are proud that we have provided stadiums where athletes without disabilities can get in and compete!”
We have taken on faith the Government’s assertions about the accessibility of these competition sites. We have not been in a position to audit any of these competition sites.
Giving some pause, we set out below a very troubling report in the July 21, 2015 edition of the Hamilton Spectator under the headline: “Tim Hortons Field gets failing accessibility grade.” It summarizes several accessibility failings at Hamilton’s new Tim Hortons Field, which the article says was renamed the CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium for the duration of the Toronto 2015 Games. The article suggests that Infrastructure Ontario was involved in this stadium’s construction. If so, that means that Ontario tax dollars helped fund it. In the 2014 Ontario election, Premier Kathleen Wynne promised that her Government would ensure that public money is not used to create barriers against people with disabilities.
* Under the heading “Accessible Tourism,” the Government’s August 4, 2015 news release says:
“To help create barrier-free travel for Ontarians and visitors with disabilities, Ontario is supporting the development of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association's (ORHMA) online accommodation directory. The website contains accessibility information designed to help travellers with disabilities choose accommodations that meet their needs. The directory will benefit visitors attending the Games and other travellers for years to come.”
Yet despite our two years of urging, the Government has done nothing to substantially increase the accessibility of tourism and hospitality venues such as restaurants, stores, hotels, taxis, and other tourism sites like the Air Canada Centre, as a pre-Toronto 2015 strategy. Below we set out recent troubling news reports about barriers to accessible Customer Service that are reported to continue to plague people with disabilities, including:
1. The July 3, 2015 Toronto Star article reporting on two blind women being kicked off a flight at Toronto Pearson Airport because they reportedly refused to muzzle their guide dogs.
2. July 13 and 14, 2015 Global News reports and a July 17, 2015 Yahoo News Online report on difficulties a person with a disability faced seeing performances and sports at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre from accessible seating, whenever people in seats in front of that section stand up during an event.
3. A July 28, 2015 Global News report that a family said it was told they could not remain at a Toronto Pizza Pizza restaurant due to the fact that a child had a service dog. The family said the father had to stay outside with the dog during the meal. The restaurant disputed the claim.
4. A July 30, 2015 CBC news report that a Toronto man with Tourette Syndrome said he was kicked out of a downtown bar because of a tic that bouncers may have mistaken for a sign of drug use.
In advance of the 2015 Games, the Ontario Government has not used its enforcement powers under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to conduct a targeted campaign at increasing the accessibility of tourism and hospitality services in the areas around the Games sites. To the contrary, it has cut by over one-third the number of organizations in Ontario that it will audit this year under that legislation. The Government only plans to start to reverse that unjustified and unexplained enforcement cut next year, well after the 2015 Games have wound up. The Government has not undertaken a focused effort to convince those organizations to become more accessible in preparation for the Games. It has not called on its officials and the Games volunteers to decline to patronize inaccessible tourism and hospitality venues, like stores and restaurants.
The only action to which the Government’s August 4, 2015 news release points regarding tourism/hospitality accessibility is a private sector website listing some hotels and restaurants that are, or claim to already be accessible. That website, while helpful, would, at best only list those organizations that are already accessible. It involves no increase in the accessibility of hotels, restaurants, or any other tourism/hospitality services. That is not a legacy of increased accessibility.
* The Government’s August 4, 2015 news release asserts:
“TO2015 provided accessibility training for all Games volunteers. Some volunteers received enhanced accessibility training based on their role and the venue they are assigned to.
This results in over 23,000 Ontarians being trained to support athletes, spectators and tourists of all abilities.”
It is good that Toronto 2015 Games volunteers and staff were trained on accessibility. However, once again, that is a very basic requirement for operating such an event. Accessible Customer Service training has been the law in Ontario since 2007, and is nothing new. To do anything less would be a profound dereliction of duty.
As well, the two troubling incidents of failed accessible Customer Service described earlier and reported in the media, in connection with the Toronto 2015 Games, show that this training did not ensure accessible Customer Service. As well, memories of such training can readily fade over time. An enduring legacy of substantially increased accessibility requires much more, like far more stores and restaurants that have created level access to their front doors, and their goods and services, and menus in Braille and large type, just to name a few simple measures.
* The Government’s August 4, 2015 news release says:
“Accessible transportation is a top Games priority for Ontario and its transportation partners.”
The Government has taken some helpful steps to enable people with disabilities to use existing accessible transit services in Ontario for the ParaPan American Games. However we have seen no announced effort to increase the limited and insufficient accessible transit services that are available, in preparation for the Toronto 2015 Games. Ontarians and tourists with disabilities alike will find a Toronto subway system where fully half of the subway stations are not accessible, and where we cannot ever count on the reliable operation of the elevators and escalators in the subway stations which TTC says are now accessible.
These transportation barriers are especially troubling because the Government decided to spread the ParaPan American Games over sites that are very far apart around the Greater Toronto area.
* The Government’s August 4, 2015 news release says regarding the athletes’ village:
"During the Games, the Village will have approximately 270 accessible units. Post-Games, a minimum of ten per cent of the affordable rental housing units will be accessible."
Ontario has for years had a crisis of far too little accessible housing available for people with disabilities. We would have expected far more than 10% of any new housing in this context, created with public money, to be accessible. To date, the Government has not acted on our call for it to create an Accessible Housing Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to help combat the critical shortage of accessible housing in Ontario for people with disabilities.
* The Government’s August 4, 2015 news release claims that “Ontario's legacy accessibility investments for the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games will leave lasting benefits for Ontarians, visitors and athletes of all abilities.”
Yet when the Wynne Government publicly unveiled its legacy plans for the Pan/ParaPan American Games fully two years ago at a carefully-staged press conference, it entirely left out disability accessibility from its announced legacy plans. We have been trying for two years to get the Government to take increased disability accessibility far more seriously as part of its Pan/ParaPan American Games legacy plans, especially in connection with tourism and hospitality services. We commend actions listed in the Government’s news release as helpful steps, where accurately described. However, these neither prove that these are the most accessible Games in history, nor live up to the Games' potential to substantially increase accessibility for people with disabilities in our community, and especially outside the bubble of the Games themselves.
The AODA Alliance’s October 1, 2013 Proposal for a Strong and Lasting Disability Accessibility Legacy can be viewed at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10012013.asp
To read the Toronto Star’s September 3, 2014 article, raising these issues again several months ago.
To read our analysis of the June 2, 2015 letter to the AODA Alliance from the Toronto 2015 Games Deputy Minister Drew Fagan, which further shows the Government didn’t plan for a Games legacy of increased tourism/hospitality accessibility.
Major Background Documents
1. Media Reports on Barriers at the Toronto 2015 Games
Global News July 17, 2015
by Christina Stevens
Senior Reporter, Global News
A Pan Am spectator has complained to Pan Am Games organizers about his experience attending an event.
Joey Freeman said accessibility was the issue.
Finding no signs for accessible parking was just the beginning of Freeman’s problems when he attended the Pan Am Opening Ceremonies dress rehearsal at Rogers Centre.
“As a person with a disability, I try to make it more the background of my life and make living my foreground and my experience here did the opposite,” said Freeman.
Coping with both MS and Parkinson’s, he does his best, but has his limits.
He said after finally finding a spot on Windsor Street Freeman walked to Rogers Centre to find a huge line, that would have exhausted him, so he said he asked a Pan Am volunteer for a disability access point.
“She didn’t know and basically shrugged her shoulders,” said Freeman.
So he found another volunteer who told him to go to Gate 7, at the opposite end of the building.
Then he asked a third volunteer who did help, directing him though the closest entrance and elevator… he then made his way to his seat.
Once in his seat Freeman said he enjoyed the show and thought getting back to his car would be a snap, it turned out to be anything but.
He said after walking halfway back to the elevator where he came in, a Rogers Staff member told him and another spectator they could not use that elevator, but had to go out gate seven.
From there he had to walk outside the building, up several stairs, then back to his car.
The games CEO said Toronto 2015 provided extensive training on accommodation.
“Both on diversity language and on accessibility for our volunteers and for our staff,” said Saad Rafi, Toronto 2015 CEO.
Officials ignored a request by Global News to see the training module, but said in a statement: “…we are refreshing volunteers on training they have received in this regard.”
Rogers Centre said the person Freeman spoke with may have made a mistake, due to misunderstanding training, where it was emphasized Gate 7 was for shuttles.
“At the end of the day the fact that he came in the building though Gate 13 he should have been allowed to leave by Gate 13,” said Mario Coutinho, Vice President, Stadium Operations, Rogers Centre.
Freeman said improving training and signage before the closing ceremonies would be the right thing to do.
“Give people dignity.”
CBC July 13, 2015
Pan Am Games accessibility lacking during opening ceremony, woman says
Mary Penner lost her promised seat, wants a full refund
A woman who attended the opening ceremony of the Pan Am Games this weekend wants a full refund of all her tickets after the lack of accessibility at the site left her frustrated and disappointed.
Mary Penner, who uses a walker to get around, said she had been looking forward to the Games for a long time.
"I just want to forget the Games are on now," she told CBC News.
On Friday, Penner took an accessible Wheel-Trans vehicle to the opening ceremony, but security would not let her get out in the designated area documented in the Games accessibility guide, she says.
Once inside, she found out the accessible section she was supposed to be in was full.
Moved twice, lost view
Ushers moved her twice, eventually finding her a seat nowhere near the one her $150 ticket entitled her to.
"I was sitting watching the Olympic flag and the Pan Am flag come in with [Canadian Paralympian] Rick Hansen as one of the flag bearers and I couldn't even see because everybody stood," she said.
She said she's used to dealing with accessibility issues, but wasn't expecting it from the Games.
"They have all these things all over their website saying how great it's going to be for accessibility, and then they screw it all up."
Toronto 2015 CEO Saad Rafi says accessibility is one of the Games' top priorities.
Pan Am Games officials contacted Penner immediately after CBC News told them about her situation. They say they want to know exactly what happened so they can fix any accessibility problems before the closing ceremony.
Penner says she bought hundreds of dollars worth of Games tickets and wants a full refund.
July 24 Article in the Yahoo News Online
Gaps in Ontario’s disability strategy highlighted with PanAm Games
By Aaron Broverman | Daily Brew – Fri, 24 Jul, 2015
PHOTO: The Rogers Centre is one venue where patrons have experienced difficulty with accessibility. (Getty Images)
As the PanAm Games draw to a close and Toronto prepares for the ParaPanAm Games to get underway, accessibility issues are leaving something to be desired for patrons with disabilities.
Recently, Yahoo Canada highlighted how walker user Mary Penner lost out on her $150 accessible seats to the opening ceremonies because someone was already sitting in them and Global News reported the story of Joey Freeman, a man with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease who had to walk 400 metres from his parking spot to the Rogers Centre after finding no accessible parking close by for the Opening Ceremonies Dress Rehearsal.
Then, when looking for an accessible entrance close to his seat, he was instructed by a PanAm volunteer to walk from one gate to another on the other side of the building and the route back to his car became just as circuitous.
PanAm/ParaPanAm Games CEO Saad Rafi insists that both volunteers and staff received extensive training on accommodating people with disabilities. He told Global they received “[training] both on diversity language and on accessibility.”
But David Lepofsky, chairman of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, is not surprised by what Penner and Freeman experienced.
Symptoms of a Larger Problem
“Incidents like the ones described if accurate, are strong illustrations that after ten years of having the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA], we are nowhere near reaching full accessibility by 2025 and after ten years this law has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities in Ontario,” he says.
The Ontario Government admitted as much in 2010 when, for the first time, the progress of the AODA legislation was independently reviewed. Former Liberal MPP Charles Beer called for “more focused attention at the highest levels of government.”
These sentiments were echoed in the latest mandated review by Mayo Moran, a University of Toronto law professor and provost of Trinity College, who acknowledged the “slow and challenging implementation to date” and suggested that “the commitment of the premier and, through her, the government of Ontario can make a critical difference at this time.”
For Lepofsky, Penner not being able to see from her seat and PanAm volunteers not being able to accurately direct Freeman to an accessible entrance are just symptoms of wider and more consistent issues around accessibility in this province. The lack of hospitality for people with disabilities at the PanAm Games is simply a microcosm of a much larger failure on the part of the provincial government.
“The kinds of accommodations sought in these instances are ones which are not hard to do and the needs didn't only arise the moment these people presented them,” says Lepofsky.
Failure at such a basic level, notes Lepofsky, does harm not just to people with disabilities, but Toronto's own Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Not being able to accommodate people with disabilities means a huge economic loss for the province.
“Tourism and hospitality, of the kind illustrated in these incidents, is a huge area where Ontario and Toronto lag behind and are economically shooting themselves in the foot,” he says.
“There are estimated to be a billion people with disabilities around the world – around 1.8 million Ontarians have a disability with 4 million across Canada – that's a huge tourism and hospitality market. To the extent that Toronto and Ontario remain a problematic destination in terms of accessibility, it's not going to be an attractive place for them to come and spend their tourism dollars. Therefore, all of Ontario loses.”
It's not like the Ontario Government doesn't know this. In 2010, with the introduction of some new accessibility standards in the AODA, they commissioned a report on the economic benefits of having a more accessible province. Along with an improved labour force, more participation in higher education and saving on healthcare and social assistance costs, one of the main benefits was the expansion of the retail and tourism sectors.
“In the case of the PanAm/ParaPanAm Games, they want people to go to the events. They also want people to go eat after, leave the bubble of the games themselves, and be able to ensure they can find a place to stay that's accessible, a taxi that's accessible, use public transit that's accessible and even go to a bathroom that's accessible,” says Lepofsky.
“That's kind of basic to being a tourist. If they can do all those things, they can spend money in our community and we all benefit. It's not one or the other, it's everything.”
A Lost Legacy
Typically, when a major sporting event comes to town, residents of the host cities are hoping for some sort of enduring legacy that will benefit their community in the long-term. Both London and Vancouver made increased accessibility part of that legacy after they hosted the Olympics. But, as part of hosting the PanAm Games, Toronto did not.
That's when Lepofsky and other members of the AODA Alliance met with representatives at the highest levels of government to try and get them to see this missed opportunity. As a result, the government acted in some areas, but Lepofsky says they made one crucial and obvious mistake.
“They did not take on, or act seriously, in the area of increased accessibility in the tourism and hospitality sector,” he says.
The AODA Alliance urged the provincial government to increase the number of restaurants, hotels and stores that were accessible, but instead, the reverse is now the case.
“Right now, the municipal government in Toronto is actively trying to get Signs Restaurant to remove a ramp the owner installed. The city is using public money to oppose accessibility. It's an illustration that we're going the wrong way,” says Lepofsky.
“We don't have enough accessible restaurants. What is the city of Toronto trying to do? They're trying to make things worse and are using public money to do so. It's crazy.”
Meanwhile, the Ontario Government is extremely proud of the fact that all ParaPan athletes will have fully-accessible venues to compete in.
“That's great, but that's a pretty basic thing if you're hosting the PanAm/ParaPanAm Games,” concludes Lepofsky. “But when you get beyond that, they've fallen down on the job.”
The Hamilton Spectator July 21, 2015
Tim Hortons Field gets failing accessibility grade
By Nicole Thompson
PHOTO: LACK OF COLOUR | Cathie Coward, The Hamilton Spectator
Tim Hortons Field lacks important accessibility features for people with disabilities even though it's been in use for months, say members of a city advisory committee.
The issues include poor visibility and barriers for people using mobility devices.
The sports field, where the Hamilton Tiger-Cats play their regular season, opened last September. But the stadium on the site wasn't declared "substantially complete" until May.
Last month, members of the city's Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities toured the facility, which was renamed the CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium for the duration of the Games.
"The city's project team has met with the Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities (ACPD) on site to review their list of concerns," Rome D'Angelo, director of facility management and capital programs, wrote in an email.
D'Angelo says some of the committee's recommendations are on a deficiency list of issues yet to be addressed.
Others need to be added, some members say.
Terri Wallis, a member of the committee for nine years, says while on the tour she saw wheelchair accessible washrooms with handles on the hinge-side of the door. In addition, the emergency call buttons were too far from the toilet, making it easy for people to fall over when trying to push them, she says.
Wallis, who uses a wheelchair, says the carpet pile was so high that it was hard for people who use wheelchairs and scooters to wheel on.
Tim Nolan, also a committee member, says that while he didn't attend the tour, he's heard that there are issues with sightlines at the stadium, particularly for people in wheelchairs and scooters.
None of those mobility issues are on the deficiency list, D'Angelo says.
There were also significant issues for people with vision loss, Wallis says.
For people who have partial or impaired vision, increased contrast makes it easier to see important details.
But in the stadium, "everything is grey, various shades of grey," Wallis says.
One example, she says, is the stairs. Typically, in this type of venue there's a bright yellow warning strip on each step.
At the new stadium, the stairs are "light grey with a dark grey warning strip," she says. "So nobody can see that. It's completely useless."
Moreover, the glass windows and doors have grey decals on them, also hard to see.
Both of these issues are on the list of stadium deficiencies, D'Angelo says.
Another item on the list: Braille on directional signs that's too high for people in mobility devices to touch and use. Wallis also noted the Urban Braille at the site didn't indicate there was a stadium. D'Angelo said this was not on the deficiency list.
In spite of these shortcomings, the city shared an email from a stadium worker who wrote that a spectator in a scooter said stadium volunteers and staff made a visit there on Saturday easy for her.
D'Angelo wrote in an email that any issues he was made aware of would "be discussed with the contractor and (Infrastructure Ontario) and … dealt with as a deficiency or through the stadium operations group."
Alan Findlay, vice-president of communications at Infrastructure Ontario, wrote in an email that they "welcome any feedback to build on our high standards and will work with the city on any concerns the committee brings forward," including "seeking any corrective action for items (for which) Ontario Sports Solutions is responsible."
2. Correspondence Regarding the Joseph Freedman Incident
July 15, 2015 Email from Joseph Freeman to the Toronto 2015 Games Organization
As a 57-year-old living with both Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease and Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, I work hard to manage my conditions and delay progression of these diseases. I have limited mobility, use a cane to walk, and tire after walking relatively short distances, particularly after a long day.
Staying as active as possible is a big part of staying healthy and, thankfully, Toronto offers a wide range of opportunities for remaining active and independent. Over the past couple of weeks, for example, I enjoyed close to half a dozen Fringe Festival plays at a variety of venues. Unfortunately, my accessibility experience with the Toronto Pan Am Games was very disappointing, from a customer service perspective, information and communications perspective, and practical physical access perspective.
When a friend recently offered me a single, complimentary ticket to the Pan Am Games Opening Ceremony rehearsal, I was excited and looking forward to the experience. However, despite enjoying the ceremony itself, I arrived home that night exhausted, frustrated, and disappointed at the lack of accessibility and how it had negatively impacted my experience.
I was unable to find accessible parking available anywhere near the PAD Ceremonies venue (Rogers Centre). Even with an accessible parking permit, I had to park my car far from my destination (close to half a kilometre away on Wellington and Windsor Street), resulting in a long walk from my car to the northwest entrance to the venue. Afterwards, I noticed the following information on the Toronto 2015 Accessibility website: “Accessible parking spaces will be available at or near all ticketed competition and ceremony venues. These spaces must be pre-booked prior to attending your event.” Since I don’t typically need to pre-book accessible parking spaces, I did not expect this. Presumably this is on a first-come, first-served basis and, from what I’ve since heard, both accessible parking and accessible seating are very limited.
As I walked from my car, approaching the venue from the main intersection of Front Street and Blue Jays Way, I did not observe any signage indicating accessible entrances or elevators.
• Customer Service:
A long line had formed on Front Street down Blue Jays Way leading to the northwest entrance to the venue (gate 14). The line was progressing quite slowly and I was concerned about needing to be on my feet for an hour or more before I was even able to enter the building and I knew that would make any stairs even more challenging if I was exhausted.
I approached a Pan Am volunteer at the corner of Front and Blue Jays Way and inquired about an accessible entrance or support. She didn’t seem to understand what I was referring to, so I explained, but she still seemed confused and unable to help me and didn’t offer any suggestions or further assistance.
Again, reviewing the Accessibility Guide afterwards, I noticed the following note: “During the security screening process, spectators with mobility impairments, or those who need additional assistance, are directed to an accessible security screening lane.” Unfortunately, not all volunteers seemed trained or aware of this.
While walking south on Blue Jays Way towards the venue, I encountered another Pan Am volunteer, who was maintaining a break in the line for cars to enter a driveway to a hotel at the venue. I asked him where the accessible entrance to the venue was. He apologized, saying he didn’t know for sure, but thought it was gate 7. Although polite, he seemed focused on his designated task and returned to that without directing me to someone who could offer a definitive answer.
I walked closer to the building and encountered two more Pan Am volunteers. I approached a woman with a clipboard and asked where the accessibility entrance to the building was. She confirmed that it was at Gate 7, but, perhaps noticing that I was tiring at only at Gate 14, she suggested I join a short line of people at Gate 14 and directed the volunteer she was with to assist me with locating the elevators inside the building (possibly due to a lack of signage outside the venue indicating where they were). That volunteer escorted me to the elevators and explained that there would be an operator/attendant on the elevator to assist me. Eventually, I made my way to my seat on the 500 level.
• Physical Access:
Reviewing the Accessibility Guide after the event, I noticed that the Pan Am Ceremonies Venue “Accessible entry/exit” section noted: “Spectators may enter this venue at any gate. The venue and all gates are accessible.” While a flat service technically might be considered accessible, knowing where the elevators are would be extremely helpful and this was not mentioned anywhere in the venue description (although it was mentioned inconsistently, for some other facilities (e.g., Ryerson, Oshawa). The map located at the Ceremonies Venue link (http://www.toronto2015.org/venue/pan-am-ceremonies-venue) does not indicate where elevators can be located either.
After the rehearsal ceremony ended, I started to walk back to the same elevator that I had used earlier. A woman asked me if I knew where the elevators were. I told her that I was walking towards them and that they were near section 548. A Rogers Centre customer service rep nearby told us that we should go to the elevator near the 520 section that would take her to Gate 7, the “official” accessibility entrance on the southernmost part of the building. I told the Rogers Centre rep that the elevators I came up on were near section 548 and Gate 14, which was at the northwest side of the building and closer to where I was parked. However, he informed me that I needed to walk back from where I came from and take the 520 elevators, which I reluctantly did.
After finally exiting the building at Gate 7, I needed to climb two sets of stairs that I could have avoided if I was able to use my original elevator and entry point. By now, I was thoroughly exhausted.
The following day, after hearing about my experience, a concerned friend found a Pan Am contact number to call. She told me that the response she received was sympathetic, and apologies were provided, but the customer service representative was not aware of what accessibility training was provided, was not sure if more accessible physical options (elevator or parking) would have been available, indicated that there was no Accessibility Coordinator or single point of contact that I could speak with, and offered no explanation as to why I would have experienced such issues or if improvements would be made for the remainder of the Pan Am /Parapan Am Games.
Again, checking the website, we were informed: “Customers can expect an acknowledgement of verbal/telephone feedback within 72 hours… Feedback response timing will be adjusted during Games time and will be detailed in the policy addendum put forward in 2014. [?] TO2015’s Accessible Customer Service Plan document, as required by the AODA, is available upon request.” I did not request the document. Actions speak louder than words and my Pan Am Customer Service experience remains one that I will recall as disappointing.
Perhaps my experience at the Fringe Festival was different (with several volunteers even taking the initiative to direct me to elevators and offering to assist when they noticed my cane) because they acknowledge the importance of the principles behind the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act - dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity – within their policies and procedures (http://fringetoronto.com/site/wp-content/uploads/Toronto-Fringe-Accessibility-Policies-Procedures.pdf). Unfortunately, these guiding principles are not mentioned once in the Pan Am Games Accessibility Guide and do not seem to be emphasized in their policies, procedures, or practices either.
I am writing this with the hope that there is enough time and interest that Pan Am staff will make changes so that others will have a more positive and more accessible experience before the Games come to an end.
July 17, 2015 Email to Joseph Freeman from the Toronto 2015 Organization
Dear Mr. Freeman,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday. I was very sorry to hear that you had a negative experience at the Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal and we take your feedback very seriously and I will follow up on the specific items we discussed, and wanted to follow up with a summary of the training and planning approach we have taken specific to accessibility of the Games.
As we discussed, TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games Organizing Committee (TO2015) is committed to creating an accessible Games experience for everyone, and ensure all spectators receive the same experience or level of service regardless of which venue they visit.
The ultimate goal of TO2015’s policy is to meet and, where possible, exceed service delivery expectations while serving customers with disabilities.
All volunteers are required to complete an extensive training program, which includes a comprehensive review of accessibility. When developing the training modules, TO2015 consulted closely with The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to ensure that our content met provincial standards.
Their first training component is a 90-minute online training module (Games Impact), which:
- Defines accessibility and its importance
- Instructs on how to remove barriers for people with disabilities;
- Advises on how to communicate with and about people with disabilities (“Put the Person First”);
- Advises on how to assist People with Disabilities (“Just Ask, Just Listen”).
Games Impact also contains a description of disabilities (including: mobility, vision, hearing, intellectual, speech and mental health) and includes the do’s and don’ts of how to interact with and assist individuals with these disabilities. Several scenario examples and knowledge-check quizzes are also included in the training module.
In addition to the Games Impact online module, volunteers receive training specific to their role (Role Impact), including information specific to assisting those with accessibility needs. All volunteers also go through an extensive venue-specific training (Venue Impact) that contains a review of specific accessible services and locations at their venue, including:
- Accessible transportation options.
- Accessible entrances and exits.
- Accessible amenities such as washrooms, concession stands and merchandise kiosks.
- Accessible seating and adjacent companion seating.
- Accessible medical services.
- Complimentary wheelchair loan on a first come, first serve basis.
- Personal wheelchair storage.
- Service animal relief areas.
- Assistive listening device loan on a first-come, first-served basis.
If a volunteer receives an accessibility-related question they cannot answer, they are advised to seek assistance from the information booths located at every venue. If we become aware of any incidents where accessibility services are not being provided, we will investigate and take corrective actions, as we are doing in the cases that you described.
Supporting our work with external advice and direction is our Accessibility Advisory Council. This group of volunteers has been meeting since 2013 to offer their professional, academic or living experience on a range of Games plans. They have advised on issues including but not limited to transportation, online communications, the Torch relay, volunteer experience and our Accessibility Guide.
Further to your suggestions, I will share the following with the appropriate TORONTO 2015 teams:
- Follow up with our call centre to ensure they know to the process for escalate accessibility issues (the person at the call centre said they didn’t know if anyone was responsible for accessibility at TO2015)
- Review of signage and wayfinding to see how elevators can be better marked in the venue map online and on venue
- Venue team to follow up with volunteers to review accessible areas and services prior to the Closing Ceremony
Once again, I thank you for your interest in helping us make the Games a great experience for all.
Director, Parapan Planning and Integration
Directrice, Planification et intégration parapanaméricaines
Directora, Planificación e Integración Parapanamericanos
July 17, 2015 Email to the Toronto 2015 Organization from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance appreciates being copied on the correspondence regarding this issue. We are eager to know what the Toronto 2015 Games organization did to investigate this complaint and what information its investigation revealed.
We ourselves cannot address the accuracy of the information that Mr. Freeman took the time to share. However, if accurate, it suggests a serious breakdown in effective and accessible customer service. It also would suggest that the measures listed in your email, while commendable, were insufficient to ensure accessible customer service for tourists with disabilities. We should caution that online training on accessibility can be far less effective than face-to-face training.
Given that the Games are well underway, we are eager to know what your investigation reveals, and whether the Games organization disputes the narrative in Mr. Freeman’s email to you. Your July 17, 2015, email to Mr. Freeman expresses no disagreement with the description he had earlier provided of his experiences. If the Games organization accepts Mr. Freeman’s description as accurate, we are eager to know why such a troubling accessibility breakdown occurred. If the Games organization accepts as accurate Mr. Freeman’s description of these events, the corrective measures listed in your email appear to be insufficient to ensure that similar experiences do not occur across the different venues where the Pan/ParaPan American Games are being held.
Given the immediacy of these concerns, we are eager to hear from you as soon as possible about this. As you know, the AODA Alliance has been in the lead in pressing for assured accessibility throughout the Pan/ParaPan American Games for people with disabilities.
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
July 19, 2015 Email to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from the Toronto 2015 Organization
Our response to Mr. Freeman’s email was provided on the basis that Mr. Freeman’s facts are accurate. We are unable to investigate as thoroughly as we would like because we do not have the names of the volunteers with whom Mr. Freeman interacted. As such, we have responded with the following measures:
- Sending a reminder of accessibility training principles and the accessible services and locations to all Functions and venue teams to re-brief their staff and volunteers.
- Increasing wayfinding around the venue, and within the venue in particular to identify the elevators.
- Additional briefings with volunteers and Roger’s Centre staff (ushers) on the accessible services and locations (including the fact that there are accessible lanes at each gate entry).
- Follow up has also occurred with our call centre to ensure that they know where to direct accessibility questions.
Director, Parapan Planning and Integration
Directrice, Planification et intégration parapanaméricaines
Directora, Planificación e Integración Parapanamericanos
3. Media Reports on Other Recent Customer Service Barriers
Toronto Star July 3, 2015
Two women kicked off plane at Pearson after refusal to muzzle guide dogs
By: Ethan Lou
Two blind Toronto women were booted from a flight to Europe on Canada Day after they refused to muzzle their guide dogs.
Two blind Toronto women made it to Stockholm Thursday, but not before a “humiliating” experience on Canada Day — reduced to tears, ordered off of their flight at Pearson and escorted out by police — because a flight crew insisted their guide dogs had to be muzzled.
Amal Haddad and Nayla Farrah, who were flying with Farrah’s 11-year-old daughter, did not have muzzles for the dogs. They don’t even own muzzles because they’ve never needed to use them.
“We travel every year and that was the first time a stewardess asked us to muzzle our dogs,” said Haddad, a civil servant.
“We did it with Air France, we did it with Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, WestJet, Middle East Airlines … Lufthansa,” she said.
But on Wednesday, when Haddad and Farrah were flying Jet Airways to Sweden via Brussels, it was suddenly a problem.
Once they boarded the plane, a flight attendant said there was an issue with the dogs.
Haddad said it was clear the bottom line was non-negotiable. “There was no common ground for communications,” she said. “(It was) either you muzzle or you leave the plane.”
The two refused and police were called.
“A policeman tells two ladies … ‘You evacuate now or we put handcuffs on you’ because we didn’t have muzzles?” she said.
Haddad said the India-based airline scheduled them for another flight the next day and paid for their stay that night at the airport hotel. But that flight was with a different airline, Austrian Airlines, which Haddad was “99.9 per cent” sure would not force the dogs, Nina and E.V., to be muzzled.
However, the Austrian Airlines aircraft was too small for the two dogs, and so the group was forced to take an Air Canada flight to Brussels.
Whether Haddad’s experience was a one-off incident or the result of Jet Airways’ service animal policy is yet unclear. Jet Airways did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A Peel Regional Police spokesman said a flight’s captain has final authority over who flies, and officers were on scene only “for the purposes of keeping the peace.”
Transport Canada spokeswoman Roxane Marchand said the agency itself does not require service animals to be muzzled, but encouraged passengers to check their carrier’s individual policies before flying.
“As a rule of thumb, the animal can remain with you in the aircraft cabin provided it has been trained by a professional service animal institution to assist a person, is properly harnessed and remains under your control,” Marchand said.
Both Nina and E.V. had those harnesses, and both are trained, Haddad said.
Haddad said she planned the trip more than six months ago, looking up the airline’s policy and getting a representative to guide her through the website.
According to Haddad, nowhere did it say that guide dogs have to be muzzled.
“Once we’re back, we’re filing a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency,” she said.
Global News July 13, 2015
Film mogul outraged over accessible seating view at Air Canada Centre
Paul Bronfman says the purpose of the Air Canada Centre’s accessible seating sections are defeated when people in front of them stand up, blocking the view of those in wheelchairs. Mark Carcasole reports.
TORONTO — A prominent Toronto film industry executive says he’s fed up with the lack of action from the Air Canada Centre on developing a better viewing experience for people with disabilities.
Paul Bronfman, Chairman and CEO of the Comweb Group, William F. White International Inc. and Chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, says he has had many bad experiences with trying to view events at the ACC.
“The issue is real simple, the sight lines at the Air Canada Centre for people in wheelchairs are non existent,” he said.
“I’ve been to a lot of buildings in North America and the Air Canada Centre is by far is the worst building, and what really gets my goat is that they know about it and they haven’t done a bloody thing about it for 16 years. So I’ve decided to go public.”
Bronfman says that the issue hit a boiling point for him last week at a U2 concert in Toronto, where he says fans stood up in front of the accessible seating section and blocked his view.
“Not a bloody thing has been done, all they’ve given me is lip service and I am out of patience and that last U2 concert Tuesday night was the nail in the coffin for me,” he said.
“I didn’t see a thing … it’s the same nonsense every time — people sitting in wheelchairs, people stand up in front — it’s not a proper wheelchair section.”
Bronfman says he missed the majority of the show and that the issue is “fixable” but Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment refuses to upgrade the seating despite numerous complaints in the past.
“This is a fan experience issue that we take very seriously,” said Wayne Zronik, vice president, facilities and live entertainment.
“We continue to explore a number of potential solutions that addresses the issue in a way that enhances the experience for those affected, including Mr. Bronfman. His feedback has proven to be extremely valuable to date, and we look forward to having him actively involved as we explore any potential solutions.”
Bronfman says he’s not satisfied with the response and believes the company is in violation of both the Ontario Human Rights Commision and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which he says states that people with disabilities are entitled to enjoy the same experience.
David Lepofsky, Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, says that because the province has fallen behind on accessibility goals.
“People like Mr. Bronfman are left having to fight these battles individually and that’s not fair,” said Lepofsky.
“This should have been fixed long ago and it’s important when people with disabilities go to a sports stadium or one of these events that they have ample accessibility seating options,” he said.
“Seating is designed to be versatile enough that it can be altered to be accessible if needed and where people with disabilities can enjoy the same part of the program that everybody else does.”
Lepofsky says that more than 1.8 million Ontarians have a disability, a number that is only going to increase as the province’s population ages.
“Ultimately everybody either has a disability, or has someone near and dear to them who has a disability, or will get a disability if they live long enough,” he said.
“So the barriers that hurt individuals with disabilities who come forward to fight these battles now are really the barriers that hurt everybody and fixing those barriers helps everybody.”
Bronfman says that the ACC would have to raise the platforms for the accessible seating or take out seats that are in front of the section that are blocking views.
“I’m going to see if they’re actually going to do something now, because I’m like a dog with a bone and I love my rock and roll shows,” he said.
“I’m basically out here to ruffle some feathers and get these people to do the right thing. It’s not about the law, it’s about doing the right thing and showing a little compassion and empathy and good corporate citizenship.”
Global News July 14, 2015
Film exec ‘cautiously optimistic’ after ACC proposes changes to accessible seating
By Adam Miller, Global News
TORONTO — A Toronto film mogul says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about the proposed changes to accessible seating at the Air Canada Centre, in order to develop a better viewing experience for people with disabilities.
Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of the Comweb Group, William F. White International Inc. and chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, says he’s glad to see Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment stepping up to do something about improving the sight lines for the accessible seating section after he went public with his complaints.
He says after a meeting with an MLSE official yesterday, the ACC has pledged to no longer sell tickets for seats in the rows directly in front of the accessible section and will now include a ramp that is raised eight inches in order for those in the section to see over the heads of other concertgoers.
“It will help. I won’t know until I go to the next show because you can’t really tell until you’re on the vantage point. However, it is a gesture, it’s a good gesture I have to give them credit,” says Bronfman.
“So we’ll see what happens. You know, words are cheap. I want to go to the next concert, I want to see that those seats are empty and that they’re cordoned off because of course when concertgoers see empty seats they’re going to grab them.”
Bronfman says he has had many bad experiences with trying to view events at the ACC, but the issue hit a boiling point for him last week at a U2 concert in Toronto where he says fans stood up in front of the accessible seating section and blocked his view.
“So I’m cautiously optimistic that we will get some action from these folk at MLSE,” he says.
“But they also know that they’re not going to be able to do nothing, [because] they’re going to continue to hear from me.”
A spokesman for MLSE says they are continue to work on the issue to find a resolution for concertgoers in the accessible section, but Bronfman says Toronto Maple Leaf games will still be an issue because season ticket holders can’t be asked to move from the rows directly in front of the accessible section.
“Delivering the very best experience we can for every fan, at every event we host, is our constant priority,” a statement from MLSE states.
“We have been working diligently to address the issue raised by Mr. Bronfman and have presented a solution to him that we believe will improve the experience for all fans in the lower level accessible section, particularly for concerts where fans stand throughout the show.”
But Bronfman says MLSE will have to relocate season ticket holders for Leafs games, or the issue will continue to be a point of contention.
“They know they have a problem, it’s going to require them removing some sections and really redesigning quite a bit of the accessible areas,” he says.
“But they’ve got the money I would assume. I haven’t seen their financial statements but MLSE I think make a few bucks so they can afford it.”
James Glasbergen says he has faced the same issue as Bronfman, but has gotten nowhere trying to raise the issue with MLSE over the past decade.
“No changes have ever been made and for the last 10 years they keep promising that they’re working on a solution, they’re looking into it, they assure me that it’s important to them but nothing ever changes,” he said.
“We all know that they have the money to do it, it’s not a hard fix, it just seems to me like they’re unwilling to do it and I don’t know why — it’s too bad.”
Glasbergen says he’s angry because of the fact that he doesn’t pay discounted prices for tickets in the accessible section and his view is often obscured.
“When I go to a concert I’m constantly moving around trying to see between a shoulder here and there, hopefully I have an aisle seat so that I can look straight down the aisle,” he says.
"But it’s ridiculous, people are paying hundreds of dollars for concerts and not being able to see anything — it’s wrong, it’s unfair and it’s unjust.”
Bronfman says he and Glasbergen have experienced the same type of “lip service” from MLSE for years, but that he’s happy to see others in the community speaking out.
“It really bothers me when a private corporation with the financial means doesn’t do the right thing,” Bronfman said.
“All they needed was quite a push, now they’re going to get one.”
Yahoo News Online July 17, 2015
Frustrating accessibility issues persist at major MLSE entertainment venues
By Aaron Broverman
PHOTO: A brought-to-their-feet opening ceremony at the Pan Am Games was bad news for some attendees.
The slogan of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) is “Bringing the World to its Feet” and that was exactly the problem for Paul Bronfman.
The film executive uses a mobility scooter because of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, but when he bought a seat in the accessible section of the Air Canada Centre for the U2 concert on Tuesday, July 7, he couldn't see 85 per cent of the performance because other concert-goers in the row ahead stood in front of him.
This wasn't the first time either. Bronfman even went so far as to give MLSE chairman Larry Tenenbaum a tour of the section and explain the problem with its sight lines, but his experience this summer was proof nothing had been done and Bronfman has vowed to take legal action against the MLSE over violation of his human rights.
Meanwhile, The Rogers Centre, hasn't fared any better in the accessibility department. When walker user Mary Penner attended the PanAm Games Opening Ceremony, security wouldn't allow the WheelTrans van she arrived in to drop her off in the designated area. From there, her experience went from bad to worse. The accessible section she'd bought a ticket for was full and she was moved twice, each time further away from the original vantage point that cost her $150. Then, when she was finally brought to an empty seat, other audience members stood in front of her and, like Bronfman, she couldn't see. Now, she's demanding a full refund for the hundreds of dollars in games tickets she bought.
With both Bronfman and Penner feeling violated, what actually is MLSE's legal responsibility as the owner of the offending venues? After all, both the Rogers and Air Canada centres have accessibility policies that can be read here and here. Plus, MLSE has since told The Toronto Starthey plan to build an eight-inch concrete ramp they hope to finish by September that will raise their accessible sections. Bronfman wants the accessible sections raised to at least 24 inches, but was told by MLSE that would violate the building and health and safety codes.
When Yahoo Canada contacted MLSE for this story they offered “no comment,” saying they didn't have anyone available at the time who could speak about accessibility issues and that they were uncomfortable speaking about AODA issues.
What is The AODA?
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA] contains the MLSE's legal obligations as far as accessibility, along with the accessibility obligations of every public and private business with one or more employees in Ontario. Its goal is a fully-accessible Ontario when the law goes into full effect in 2025. In the meantime, parts of the law are slowly being phased-in and have been doing so since the law was enacted by the provincial government in 2005.
“The AODA is made up of five standards and the entertainment industry is unfortunately not one of them,” says Trish Robichaud, an AODA compliance expert. “But, all of the rest of the standards all have some application here, the biggest component being The Customer Service Standard, which came into effect on January 1, 2012.”
The key phrase in the AODA Customer Service Standard that the MLSE is legally obligated to uphold states the following: “Organizations must provide their goods and services in a fashion that takes into account the person's disability.”
“To me, if you're going to an entertainment event, that service provision is the entertainment and if I can't see the stage, that falls way short of The Customer Service Standard,” says Robichaud.
In most cases, there's no bigger failure than not following the law, but these incidents point to a problem much bigger than violating what is legislated on paper. They provide evidence of the systemic and institutional barriers that allow such violations to become pervasive.
“Just because a venue is accessible does not mean it’s barrier-free,” says Lauri Sue Robertson, president of Disability Awareness Consultants. “Accessible customer service does not have to be 'barrier-free' service, but it must allow for customers to have independence, dignity, integration and equality of opportunity.”
These two cases did not provide those things. When Bronfman moved into the aisle for an unobstructed view, he was told to move back to where he couldn't see by an usher. It was only when a manager was called that he was given permission to stay in the aisle. Similarly, Penner was moved from the seat she paid for to two other seats that were further away and where her view was also obstructed by standing patrons.
“Systemic Barriers mean that his ability to access the service and disability in a manner that accommodated his disability was not only physically unavailable to him, but attitudinally unavailable as well. MLSE doesn't have a written policy that says they're supposed to act like they did, but when everyone in an organization thinks it’s not a big deal to place a person back in a place that doesn't accommodate them these are systemic barriers,” says Robichaud.
“If your ushers have top-of-mind knowledge of how to handle outside the norm situations – and disability might be that to them – then you don't have ushers directing a person with a disability back to an inaccessible situation.”
AODA Compliance Training
How does one gain top-of-mind knowledge about how to accommodate those with disabilities? It takes a little training, a little empathy and a little common sense.
When we spoke to Robichaud she'd just finished training 600 customer service agents at Pearson Airport and were she to train the ushers at the Rogers and Air Canada Centres, she'd start with some disability sensitivity training.
“I would teach them that everyone has a disability, that disability is a common part of life and that each and every one of us if we don't have one now, we either will have one or we care about somebody who will have one and it's not to be feared,” she says.
Once there's a level of understanding and empathy where a conversation can be started, it's important that anyone wronged in these matters receive an acknowledgement that they got lesser service.
Not only must the seating be elevated, but Robichaud suggests not selling seats along the width of – and at least three rows ahead of – the accessible sections, so that views remain unobstructed until the sections can be raised.
“I'm not sure how the MLSE Board of Directors would feel about the income they would lose by partitioning off those seats,” says Robichaud.
Apparently, they’d be quite happy to. In addition to their plans to raise the accessible sections, MLSE confirmed to The Star that they will not sell tickets directly in front of the accessible sections at concerts. However, they have yet to make that same commitment for sporting events.
Let's see what happens in September.
Global News July 28, 2015
TORONTO — The mother of a child with disabilities has claimed her family was told they could not remain in a Toronto restaurant with their service dog.
Andrea Haefele’s six-year-old daughter Bella has physical and cognitive disabilities, including autism.
Bella’s service dog Kadence keeps her physically safe and helps with her emotional wellbeing.
Haefele said when they first arrived at the Pizza Pizza in Don Mills for dinner on Saturday, staff complimented Kadence and observed that she was a service dog.
She said the problem started once they sat down to eat.
“Within minutes the staff behind the counter told us there were no ‘pets’ allowed … And then asked us to leave,” Haefele said.
She said she offered to show them Kadence’s certification, but they declined.
So she said her husband took the dog outside, while the rest of the family finished their meal.
“We had customers who came up to us to apologize to our family,” Haefele said.
But Pizza Pizza had a different version of events.
“At no point did they ask Andrea or anyone to leave the store,” said Navid Manouchehri, District Sales Manager for Pizza Pizza.
He said staff assured him they only asked whether Kadence was a service dog.
Manouchehri said he couldn’t comment on a follow up conversation Haefele said she had with the manager of the store in an attempt to get an explanation.
Haefele claimed the manager walked away from the conversation.
“If that’s the case she needs to be retrained as a manager to control her employees,” said Manouchehri.
Pizza Pizza showed Global News security video of the family’s visit to the restaurant to back up the company’s version of events.
However, the video didn’t make the situation clear.
According to the district manager, Pizza Pizza’s employees are all trained on the rights of people with disabilities. Additionally, he said he would be reviewing the laws with them.
Meanwhile, Haefele said no one else should have to go through the situation her family did.
“I was very overwhelmed at the incident. I sat there crying and feeding the kids,” she said.
“From the email she sent, she mentioned she was in tears while feeding the kids,” said Manouchehri, overcome with emotion.
He also said that he wants to apologize, not just as a Pizza Pizza employee, but as a father.
Haefele said she is following up with formal complaints and speaking publicly for other families.
“I want to ensure this does not ever happen again.”
CBC News July 30, 2015
Toronto man with Tourette's says he was kicked out of club over tic
Crews and Tangos ownership says it is seeking bouncer's side of story
A Toronto man with Tourette syndrome says he was kicked out of a downtown nightclub after a bouncer mistook his tic for a sign that he was using drugs.
Graham Kent says he was at Crews and Tangos, a busy Church Street bar, with his girlfriend and a group of friends two weekends ago when a bouncer approached him and asked him to leave.
"I said 'are you kicking me out?'" Kent recalls.
He said the bouncer told him he was "not comfortable" with him being in the club, and that the establishment has a "zero drug policy."
Only when he was out on the street, Kent said, did he realize the bouncer may have seen his tic — an uncontrolled, repetitive movement where he rubs his nose with his thumb and forefinger several times — and mistaken him for a cocaine-user.
He tried to reason with the bouncers, but he said they didn't listen, which was the most frustrating part for him.
"It's no secret that I have Tourette's," he said.
"Ask me as many questions as you want. I'm happy to talk about it,"
Still, despite his pleas — Kent said he was calm throughout the encounter and wasn't intoxicated — security staff would not listen or let him back inside.
Similar situations common
Melissa Muskat, a volunteer with the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, says this kind of thing happens with some regularity to people with Tourette syndrome.
"We have had incidents where someone has been asked to leave a movie theatre because of their tics, whether vocal or perhaps motor but noticeable."
More seriously, she said, some people with the neurological disorder have problems keeping their apartments because landlords feel they're making too much noise.
After the incident, Kent emailed the club's ownership, but heard nothing back after 11 days. He has since written a Reddit post to warn other people about what happened to him.
"If other people are going to go there, expect this kind of thing could happen to you," he said.
Crews and Tangos management said it is talking with the bouncers involved to get their side of the story and will then contact Kent.
Kent said while an apology from the club would be nice, he's also looking for a chance to educate people about his condition.
4. August 4 2015 Government of Ontario News Release
The Most Accessible Parapan Am Games Ever
August 4, 2015 11:45 A.M.
Pan Am and Parapan Am Games
Ontario's legacy accessibility investments for the TORONTO 2015 Parapan Am Games will leave lasting benefits for Ontarians, visitors and athletes of all abilities. Investments include:
Together with partners, Ontario is ensuring that all Games venues are accessible and barrier-free.
All 31 competition venues (including Pan Am Games venues) meet or exceed accessibility requirements, ensuring persons with disabilities can fully enjoy these facilities, either as participants or spectators.
To help create barrier-free travel for Ontarians and visitors with disabilities, Ontario is supporting the development of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association's (ORHMA) online accommodation directory.
The website contains accessibility information designed to help travellers with disabilities choose accommodations that meet their needs. The directory will benefit visitors attending the Games and other travellers for years to come.
Live broadcast of selected events - the most Parapan Am Games coverage ever - will showcase parasport and the abilities of people with disabilities to millions of viewers. This marks the first time that the Parapan Am Games will be televised in English and French in Canada.
Volunteer Training and Supports
TO2015 provided accessibility training for all Games volunteers. Some volunteers received enhanced accessibility training based on their role and the venue they are assigned to.
This results in over 23,000 Ontarians being trained to support athletes, spectators and tourists of all abilities.
After the Games, Ontario will make the accessibility "e-Learning Module" available to organizations, businesses and committees who host events that require volunteers.
Accessible transportation is a top Games priority for Ontario and its transportation partners.
Accessibility experts from partner organizations have reviewed transportation plans for each venue to ensure everyone can enjoy the Games. Accessible travel options include accessible public transit, pre-booked accessible parking, barrier-free routes to venues and a specialized transit booking system called "Call One" that helps coordinate trips to and from events for eligible customers.
Parasport Equipment Funding
Through the Canadian Paralympic Committee's Games legacy program, the province is helping participating organizations and municipalities acquire para equipment that meets the needs of athletes with disabilities, including audible balls, eye shades, wheelchair rugby chairs and ramps.
This investment will support the development and training of para-athletes, increase participation in parasport and build on Ontario's accessibility plan to leave long-lasting benefits for Ontarians with disabilities and para-athletes after the 2015 Games. Recipients of Ontario's investment include:
Ontario Blind Sports Association
Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association
Wheelchair Basketball Canada
City of Mississauga
Town of Milton
City of Toronto
Accessibility Innovation Showcase
From August 8-10, this event will profile Ontario innovative accessible technology and assistive device companies. Motivational speakers, artists and athletes will share their experiences and demonstrate how technological advancements can improve the lives of people with disabilities.
The showcase is open to the public and admission is free. Opening hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Monday.
Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids
Pan Am/Parapan Am Kids is designed to get kids of all abilities active. The program supports increased accessibility awareness, instruction and participation in parasports like sitting volleyball, goalball and boccia.
All program resources are inclusive for all students, and include adaptations to meet the needs of youth with disabilities.
The initiative is a legacy of the Games and will continue at schools and after-school programs across the province after the Games have ended.
The Athletes' Village, a provincially funded project, provides a barrier-free environment for residents and visitors.
During the Games, the Village will have approximately 270 accessible units. Post-Games, a minimum of ten per cent of the affordable rental housing units will be accessible. Some of the accessible public space design features include:
Tactile strips on all stairs, ramps and grade changes and tonal contrast for doors and frames throughout;
Oversized corridors with barrier free turn-arounds every 30 metres; and
Oversized elevator cabs equipped with audible floor level announcement and braille/tactile controls.
The IGNITE Ontario grant program, which is supporting celebrations across the province in advance of the Games, gave funding priority to initiatives that consider accessibility for people with disabilities in their planning.