ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Remember to Catch Tomorrow's Online Conference on What Canada's Promised National Accessibility Law Should Include
More Media Coverage on Accessibility Triggered by Wonderful Grassroots Ontario Accessibility Advocates
August 21, 2017
1. A Great Chance to Learn from Amazing Speakers from Around the World on What the Promised Canadians with Disabilities Act Should Include
Remember to log in to watch tomorrow's online policy experts' conference on what the Federal Government should include in the promised national accessibility law. It will be streamed live on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT. It will later be posted online as a permanent video. ASL and CART will be available tomorrow.
The conference is being presented by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada, and graciously hosted by the world-renowned Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is the volunteer who arranged the content and who will chair the conference. We're delighted that Canada's Minister for People with Disabilities Carla Qualtrough and Deputy Minister of Labour Lori Sterlin are expected to attend.
To see a list of the speakers and their biographies at this conference.
This conference will be informative for anyone interested in what Canada's promised national accessibility law should include. It will also be helpful for anyone in Canada or elsewhere around the world, who wants to know what to include in a provincial or national accessibility law.
2. Recent Media Coverage on Accessibility Barriers Shows Again the Need for More Ontario Government Action
It is great that individuals and community organizations at the grassroots continue to bring their stories and their concerns about accessibility in Ontario to the media. This is a great way to keep the pressure up on the Ontario Government to strengthen its implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Below you will find:
* An August 17, 2017 story on CBC (which other media also covered) about a couple who reports that a bed and breakfast in Toronto refused to admit them because one of them was accompanied by a service animal. This story also quotes AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the need for stronger AODA enforcement.
* A great guest column in the August 19, 2017 Toronto Star by Adam Kassam, calling for more federal and provincial action on accessibility. It points out that Ontario is hosting the Invictus Games.
* The AODA Alliance hopes that the Ontario Government does a far better job than it did with the Toronto 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games, of using the invictus Games to get our tourism and hospitality sector to increase its accessibility for athletes and tourists with disabilities. The Ontario Government totally missed the boat in 2015 on that huge opportunity.
* A great letter to the editor in the August 12, 2017 Toronto Star, congratulating the Star for its August 6, 2017 editorial. That editorial had blasted the Ontario Government for too much secrecy and not enough action on accessibility. That in turn arose from the Government's efforts to block AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky from getting the Government to disclose, at no charge, documents on the AODA's implementation and enforcement.
CBC News August 17, 2017
Originally posted at:
Toronto couple with service dog barred from Prince Edward County B&B
Prominent lawyer and accessibility advocate says that's against the law
By John Rieti and Taylor Simmons, CBC News
Posted: Aug 17, 2017 5:00 AM ET
The owners of this Bloomfield, Ont. B&B say they weren't told some of their guests were bringing a service dog until they arrived. Refusing to welcome them has resulted in a series of critical posts online. (TripAdvisor)
A Toronto couple were shocked when they were forced to leave a Prince Edward County bed and breakfast that wouldn't accept their service dog.
David Greenwood is visually-impaired and relies on Romy, his black Labrador, to get him around. "She's basically my eyes," he told CBC Toronto.
But when Greenwood and his wife, Jill, arrived at Sunrise Bed and Breakfast in Bloomfield, Ont., this summer, they were told its no-pet policy extends to service animals — even though they showed the owners all of the proper paperwork.
"We were set aback," said Greenwood.
"We mentioned that service animals are allowed in all public places, and they said this isn't a public space, this is their home," he said.
John Stenning, who runs the Sunrise along with his wife, Joan, is also upset about what transpired, although he stands by his decision.
Stenning says he wishes the couple had told him they were bringing a service dog (Greenwood says he can't remember if he did,or not), so he could have told them months in advance and helped find them another place.
Stenning says he didn't want to house the dog because he was worried it would leave allergens that would bother future guests of his two-room facility, noting he often hosts people with breathing issues.
The ordeal has left both Greenwood and Stenning wondering what the rules are in a situation like this.
Refusing couple violates accessibility rules, province confirms
The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario said in an emailed statement that if a bed and breakfast has at least one employee, it must adhere to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which states people with disabilities must be able to bring service animals with them in areas open to the public.
Prominent accessibility lawyer David Lepofsky, who chairs the AODA Alliance, says refusing someone with a service animal also violates Ontario's Human Rights Code, which guarantees everyone equal treatment with respect to services and facilities.
"Renting a hotel or a B&B room would seem to me to be pretty obviously a service or facility," he said.
Stenning has hired his own lawyer, Anthony Peter Girard.
On TripAdvisor, where several online posters lashed out at Stenning for refusing a service dog, Girard wrote a post accusing them of making libelous comments.
The lawyer also suggests bed and breakfasts are private homes that have "limited accommodations for the public" and don't have to adhere to Bill 80 of the Ontario Service Dogs Act 2016 — a piece of legislation that hasn't cleared Queen's Park.
B&B association says its advice is to welcome service animals
Kitchener-Conestoga PC MPP Michael Harris is behind the bill. His executive assistant, Rob Willett, says the legislation is intended to get service animals into more places, not fewer, and suggested the language could be changed to specifically include places like bed and breakfasts.
Doug Frost, president of the Federation of Ontario Bed & Breakfast Accommodation, says his organization has never obtained a legal opinion about whether or not B&B operators must be prepared to welcome service animals.
"If someone requires a service dog, our general policy is the service dog should be allowed into the house," he said.
In cases where the host can't do that, they're urged to help find another option.
Frost, noting many bed and breakfasts are run from family homes, suggests guests should let the host know that they're bringing a service dog in advance and provide relevant documentation.
Lawyer blasts 'ridiculous' treatment of those who rely on service animals
Greenwood and his wife wound up staying at a hotel in Trenton, Ont., more than 40 kilometres away from where they wanted to be.
He says he's not planning on launching any legal action as a result of what happened, but he hopes it will educate some other bed and breakfast owners.
"I hope that people are cognizant of the law," he said.
He also wants the government to make the rules clear. Meanwhile, Lepofsky, accessibility advocate, says it's time the province starts cracking down on those violating the AODA.
"The frustrating thing is this: people who use a guide dog or a service animal continue to face exclusion and discrimination all over the place," he said.
"In the year 2017, it's ridiculous."
Toronto Star August 19, 2017
Originally posted at:
Celebration also chance to advocate; Invictus Games can help us apply pressure on elected leaders on disability reform
These two diminutive words have featured prominently in arguably one of the most patriotic advertising campaigns in this country's history. And while Molson was able to capitalize on nationalistic pride by creating the "I am Canadian" commercials, the slogan I Am, inspired by key phrases of the Invictus poem, will carry an entirely different meaning in the coming weeks.
From Sept. 23 to 30, Toronto will play host to the Invictus Games, an initiative started by Prince Harry with his vision to create an international version of the U.S.-based Warrior Games for wounded, ill and injured military personnel and veterans. Invictus - Latin for unconquerable - is also the title of the poem that inspired the I Am slogan.
Interestingly, the poem was penned by William Ernest Henley, who suffered from tuberculosis and received a below-knee amputation. That Prince Harry named the Games as a subtle nod to an English poet who could relate to other amputees - many of whom will be competing in the Games - is quite an elegant anecdote.
Not so elegant, however, is the considerable amount of work we as a society still need to do in terms of advocacy and accessibility for those with disabilities.
Canada has an opportunity to be a global leader in this area, but it needs to improve its track record of championing causes for both veterans and civilians with disabilities.
Disability, as defined by the World Health Organization, is an umbrella term covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.
An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by a person in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.
Military veterans often suffer violent injuries on the battlefield. These include physical injuries such as traumatic amputations, brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, in addition to the development of latent diseases including chronic pain and mental health disorders including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Disability and Rehabilitation shows that Canadian military veterans are more than twice as likely as the rest of the population to experience a long-term disability.
Canada's defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, recently announced the federal government's defence policy entitled "Strong, Secure and Engaged," which comes with a price tag of $62 billion. Most of the investment will focus on military infrastructure, however, $198.2 million - or just $9.91 million a year - will be invested in what is described as the Total Health and Wellness Strategy.
Disappointingly, this represents less than 0.5 per cent of the entire budget. Put another way, the federal government spends more than twice on the prime minister's personal security than it plans to spend for all military veterans' disability-related health needs in a given year.
To its credit, Canada is one of a few nations to have a federal minister dedicated to addressing the needs of those with disabilities. However, nearly two years after being installed as Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough has yet to produce the legislation she was tasked with.
In her mandate letter from the prime minister, her top priority was to lead an engagement process with provinces, territories, municipalities and stakeholders that will lead to the passage of a Canadians with Disabilities Act. While the minister indicated it was too early to speculate on a timeline for this legislation, two years can seem like an eternity for those dependent on these initiatives.
Even provincially, the government has failed to keep its promise of enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This comes as Premier Kathleen Wynne recently amended the requirements of the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, enacted under the disabilities act, in what critics have called "a sad game-changer for 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities."
The Liberal government has even gone so far as to obstruct investigations by disability advocates. This does not seem like leadership "committed to building a more accessible Ontario as it is not only the smart thing to do, it's the right thing to do."
The Invictus Games will be a tremendous moment to celebrate our veterans and their sacrifices for the freedoms we enjoy every day. It will also be a high-profile event attended by all levels of government. With municipal, provincial and federal elections around the corner, the Invictus Games can serve the function of applying pressure on our elected leadership to follow through with real action on the promises they made for disability advocacy.
Adam Kassam, MD, is a resident in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Western University in London, Ont.
Toronto Star August 12, 2017
Letters to the Editor
Re: Accessibility: Less secrecy, more action, Editorial, Aug. 7
Accessibility: Less secrecy, more action, Editorial, Aug. 7
Kudos for bringing the public's attention, once again, to the vulnerability of the largest minority group in Canada: those with disabilities.
Premier Kathleen Wynne talks of social justice but that is not good enough. Individuals with disabilities need to see action. Action to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and Regulation 181 of the Education Act, which is supposed to ensure equity in access to educational services. Neither of these acts are currently being monitored and enforced, although the government receives complaints regarding their inaction on a regular basis.
Equity has been a problem in Ontario for years. Inequities can be seen in education, health services, employment, transportation, housing, etc. We should all be appalled that any government should be permitted to allow this type of discrimination to persist.
Passing a law is not nearly enough. We must have protection of human dignity and worth through enforcement.
Janis Jaffe-White, co-ordinator, and Reva Schafer, resource parent, Toronto Family Network
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