ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Over Two Short Days, Our Accessibility Issues Come Up Twice in Ontario's Legislature and Also in the Toronto Star
September 15, 2016
We are very busy advocating on accessibility in Ontario on so many fronts at once, from pressing for an Education Accessibility Standard, to trying to get the AODA effectively enforced, to scanning the recent Throne Speech for accessibility issues, to advocating for more accessibility in our public transit systems in Ontario. All your work at the grassroots helps yield results, like those we report here.
Here are late-breaking developments over the past two days:
* In the Ontario Legislature yesterday, the New Democratic Party raised the AODA Alliance's concerns during the Throne Speech debate, about the fact that the Government included nothing new in the Throne Speech for people with disabilities. The NDP also referred to the AODA Alliance's "Picture Our Barriers" campaign , though not by name, in which we tweet photos to MPPs about the many barriers that people with disabilities still face in Ontario.
We set out the extract below from the September 14, 2016 debates in the Ontario Legislature on the Throne Speech.
* During Question Period in the Legislature today, the NDP again raised the fact that the Throne Speech included nothing new for people with disabilities, attributing this objection in effect to the AODA Alliance. The acting Premier, Deb Matthews, did not directly answer the question. The exchange is also set out below.
We commend the NDP for twice raising our concerns in the Legislature in the past two days. We urge all MPPs to do the same.
* The September 15, 2016 Toronto Star quoted the AODA Alliance in an article, set out below. It focuses on the many accessibility barriers that people with disabilities still face when trying to ride the Toronto Transit Commission. We also set out below the AODA Alliance's September 15, 2016 news release, announcing the TTC's Public Forum on Accessible Transit, being held tonight from 7 to 9 pm in Toronto.
* Ottawa Monday, September 19, 2016 from 1:30 to 3:30
* London Friday, September 30, from 2 to 4 pm, and
* Whitby/Durham region from 10 a.m. to noon.
For more information about these events, and how to RSVP and request any needed accommodations, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09082016.asp
You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at email@example.com
Have you taken part in our "Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our "Picture Our Barriers" campaign by visiting www.aodaalliance.org/2016
To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.
Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance
Please also join the campaign for a strong and effective Canadians with Disabilities Act, spearheaded by Barrier-Free Canada. The AODA Alliance is proud to be the Ontario affiliate of Barrier-Free Canada. Sign up for Barrier-Free Canada updates by emailing info@BarrierFreeCanada.org
Ontario Hansard for Debates in the Ontario Legislature on the Throne Speech on September 14, 2016
Mr. Taras Natyshak: …
We are speaking today in reference to the throne speech. I want to give another shout-out to someone who works tirelessly on behalf of people in the province with disabilities: David Lepofsky. David has been bombarding every MPP, I hope, with the message that we should look at every policy initiative that comes out of this government through the lens of disability and accessibility.
We heard absolutely nothing about accessibility and disability rights through the throne speech yesterday. Years after bringing in the AODA, they have neglected the thousands of people in this province who suffer, who struggle every day to access services. They have done nothing. They won't even initiate any type of oversight on their own AODA. We need a government that addresses that, that gives the opportunity to people in this province who have a disability to access opportunities through employment, to access basic health care services and to access educational services.
We are lagging behind in this province. It's all well to say that you have a plan, but to not put any resources into it and to not have any oversight or governance in it is a shame. It is right for those folks to be speaking out, and you can rest assured that the next throne speech by the new NDP government will address the issues of the disabled in this province, because that's what they deserve and that's what's fair.
Ontario Hansard Question Period September 15, 2016
Miss Monique Taylor: My question is to the Acting Premier. The throne speech was called the plan to build Ontario up for everyone, but there's nothing to build up over 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities who still face barriers when trying to get a job, an education, adequate housing or even basic health care services. According to the alliance working on behalf of Ontarians with disabilities, nothing in the speech will help a quarter of a million students with special education needs in Ontario schools. There is nothing to ensure that they will get an equal shot at the education they deserve.
If this speech is about the Wynne government's priorities and building everyone up, why wasn't there anything in the throne speech about them?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I know that the minister responsible for disabilities would like to answer that question, and I will certainly make sure she's aware that that question was asked and to get that answer.
But this government has been very focused on improving opportunities for people with disabilities. In fact, I remember very fondly when we passed the AODA, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I remember so clearly the people who filled this chamber and supported our actions for people with disabilities.
When it comes to people on ODSP, I'm sure that the Minister of Community and Social Services would love to speak about initiatives designed to support people with disabilities to get back into the labour market. There's a significant focus on this very important issue because we know that we are all stronger when all of us have the opportunity to contribute fully to our communities and to our economy.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
While the Federal and Provincial Infrastructure Spending Plans Catapault Public Transit Infrastructure as a Major Political Issue, TTC Top Brass to Hear from Passengers with all Kinds of Disabilities at Public Forum Tonight about Inexcusable Barriers They Still Face on Public Transit in Canada's Biggest City
September 15, 2016 - TORONTO: With the Federal and Ontario Governments making big promises and plans on transit infrastructure spending, Torontonians with all kinds of disabilities will converge tonight from 7 to 9 pm at the TTC's Accessible Transit Public Forum at the Allstream Centre, Exhibition Place - 150 Princes' Boulevard. The media will have its eyes opened wide by watching TTC passengers with disabilities go face-to-face with TTC Commissioners and senior management, sharing their front-line experience, still facing inexcusable disability barriers on Canada's largest urban public transit system.
"Most find it hard to believe passengers with disabilities still face so many barriers on TTC in 2016. We get a rare chance to grill TTC top brass on why TTC still has too many accessibility barriers facing tens of thousands of riders with disabilities. We can confront TTC on why it wasted public money on new subway cars that don't safely line up with all station platforms," said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide AODA Alliance, the community coalition that spearheads a campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to over 1.7 million people with disabilities. "Hundreds of people with disabilities came to each previous TTC accessibility forum with wrenching stories. We encourage one and all to come to this important event tonight, to try to make "the Better Way" at last become an accessible way for people with disabilities!"
In a 12-year battle starting 22 years ago in 1994, Lepofsky, as an individual, fought and won two Human Rights Tribunal cases against TTC in 2005 and 2007, to force it to audibly announce all bus and subway stops for the benefit of blind passengers like himself. "Measures that make TTC accessible to people with disabilities help everyone," said Lepofsky. "So many sighted people have said that they love those bus and subway stop announcements, because it's often hard to see outside a crowded TTC vehicle's window. They can't believe TTC ferociously fought me on that issue."
When Lepofsky won his second case against TTC in 2007, he got the Human Rights Tribunal to order TTC to hold three annual public forums on barriers facing passengers with disabilities. TTC initially opposed that order. After TTC learned how helpful these forums can be, it agreed to voluntarily continue to hold them annually after the Human Rights Tribunal's three-year order expired. Now regulations under Ontario's Disabilities Act require all Ontario public transit authorities to do the same.
A thorough article about tonight's TTC event in today's Toronto Star entitled "TTC has long way to go for disabled riders," set out below, shows that this is very newsworthy, and that TTC has a long way to go to reach full accessibility by 2025, the deadline that Ontario's Disabilities Act requires. "The fact that several TTC Commissioners won't even show up to this event, whose date TTC itself selected, is one of the reasons why we are so far behind on accessibility in public transit in Toronto," said Lepofsky. "When the Human Rights Tribunal ordered all TTC Commissioners to attend years ago, they showed up. This shows why mandatory, much stronger and fully-enforced transportation accessibility standards are overdue in Ontario."
Learn more about TTC's Accessible Transit Public Forum by visiting: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/09132016.asp
Learn more about key disability accessibility issues concerning people with disabilities across Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05082013.asp
Contact: David Lepofsky, email@example.com Twitter: @aodaalliance
To live tweet this TTC Forum on Twitter, we will use the hashtag #TTCAccess
The Toronto Star September 15, 2016
TTC has long way to go for disabled riders; Agency met more than half of goals laid out in its plan, but falls behind on one target
Louise Bark attended her first TTC accessibility forum about eight years ago. "It's been a huge change over the years," she says. Steve Russell/Toronto Star
For most transit riders, problems on the TTC are an inconvenience. But for people who use mobility devices or have physical or cognitive disabilities, when the transit system fails, it can severely limit their autonomy and even be dangerous.
On Thursday night, transit riders with disabilities will get a chance to air their concerns at the TTC's accessibility forum, an annual event the agency holds to update customers and collect feedback on its efforts to create a barrier-free transit system.
With only nine years to go until provincial law dictates the TTC must be fully accessible, advocates say that the transit agency still has a lot of work to do, but it has made some progress.
"When I first started coming to the forums, I came to the forums out of anger. I was so frustrated," said Louise Bark, who uses a wheelchair and who attended her first TTC forum about eight years ago. "It's been a huge change over the years."
Bark sits on the TTC's Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, but spoke to the Star as a private citizen because she was not authorized to speak on behalf of the committee.
When she first started using the transit system a decade ago, finding an accessible subway station was nearly impossible, and trying to navigate alternative routes provided by the TTC was confusing.
But now, more subway stations have elevators and accessible entrances, and as of last year, the TTC's entire bus fleet is made up of low-floor, accessible vehicles. By the time the TTC finishes taking delivery of its new Bombardier light-rail vehicles, scheduled for 2019, the streetcar network will be accessible as well.
According to Bark, one of the areas in which the TTC has made the biggest strides is communications, by providing online service alerts that notify customers when elevators or accessible entrances aren't working.
Accessibility advocate and lawyer David Lepofsky said there are still several "big ticket items" the agency needs to address, most significantly the fact that only 34 of 69 subway stations are fully accessible. Compounding the problem is that facilities at the accessible stations aren't always reliable, he said, which can strand people who use mobility devices.
"People who go to work in an office building and have to ride an elevator every day don't wonder, 'Gee I wonder if the elevator is going to work today' . . . You just go in and the elevators work," he said. "That's not the experience with TTC elevators and escalators and so on, and that's been an issue for years."
Between 2001 and 2007, Lepofsky, who is blind, successfully petitioned the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to compel the TTC to consistently provide audio announcements of its transit stops. The cases led to the creation of the annual accessibility forum. Lepofsky said he hoped all of the TTC board members would attend the event on Thursday so that they could better understand the "front-line experiences" of TTC riders with disabilities.
The Star asked all 10 board members if they planned to go to the forum. As of Wednesday evening, four - TTC chair Josh Colle, Councillor Joe Mihevc, and citizen members Alan Heisey and Rick Byers - had confirmed.
Three others said they couldn't make it because of scheduling conflicts, one gave no reason why he couldn't attend and another said he would go if he had time. One board member didn't respond by deadline.
According to the TTC's 2016 Accessibility Plan Status Report, the agency will spend $462.8 million on major accessibility projects over the next decade.
The projects, which represent about 5 per cent of the TTC's 10-year capital budget, include elevator overhauls, renovations to bus stops and upgrades to route announcement systems.
The bulk of the money, or $429 million, will be spent on extensive accessibility retrofits at subway stations that will include elevators, sliding doors, fare gates, ramps and signage.
According to the TTC's latest status report, the agency has met 23 of the 41 goals laid out in its 2014 accessibility plan. It's fallen behind on one important target, however - the agency planned to complete accessibility retrofits at nine stations by 2018, but the commission now anticipates it will only retrofit six stations during that time.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross said the agency will meet the deadline set by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to make the entire system accessible by 2025.
One topic that's sure to be discussed at Thursday's forum is a major planned shift to how Wheel-Trans operates. Due to an aging population and expanded eligibility criteria under the AODA, the paratransit system is facing an unprecedented growth in demand that the TTC says will soon become unsustainable. In the last five years alone, demand has shot up by 29 per cent.
Under the "Family of Services" model released earlier this year, the TTC plans to shift half of current Wheel-Trans customers onto the conventional system by 2025. According to the new model, which will be phased in gradually, instead of taking all customers door-to-door, Wheel-Trans would take those who qualify to an accessible transit stop, and they could complete their journey from there.
The model will cut costs, but the TTC says it will also give Wheel-Trans customers greater autonomy.
Terri-Lynn Langdon, an accessible transit advocate, said she's worried the TTC is "putting the cart before the horse" by starting to integrate Wheel-Trans with the conventional system before the entire network is ready for people with disabilities.
She said routes deemed accessible aren't always accessible in practice, and the new model "doesn't take into account what happens if an elevator breaks down."
Ross said the new Wheel-Trans system won't put any passengers at risk.
Ben Spurr Toronto Star