ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE
Because the Ontario Government Announced No Plans for a Disability Accessibility Legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ ParaPan American Games, the AODA Alliance Urges the Government to Adopt Our Proposal for the Games' Accessibility Legacy
October 1, 2013
The 2015 Pan/ParaPan American Games will be hosted in and around Toronto. Today, the AODA Alliance makes public its proposal for our proposed plan for ensuring that the 2015 Games leave behind a proud legacy of accessibility for people with disabilities. We call on the Ontario Government and its partners overseeing the 2015 Games to endorse, adopt and implement our plan for the Games' disability accessibility legacy.
The Games' legacy is what is left behind after the Games are over - the permanent benefits to Ontario from the large sum of public money that Ontario is investing in the games - a legacy to be enjoyed long after the athletes and tourists have gone home.
The 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games must have a comprehensive legacy of disability accessibility. This is because:
* If so much public money is to be spent on this event, on new infrastructure, on catering to so many tourists, on publicity, and on reaching the public with a new message of inclusive sport, arts and recreation, the needs of over 1.7 million Ontarians with disabilities should not be left out!
* The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. Ontario is now behind schedule in meeting that mandatory goal.
* The Ontario cabinet minister responsible for the Disabilities Act, Dr. Eric Hoskins, told the Ontario Legislature that disability accessibility is a "top priority" for the Government. Read the Government's statement in the Ontario Legislature that disability accessibility is a top priority.
* The OntarioGovernment's 10-Year Infrastructure Plan requires new provincially-financed built environment to be accessible to people with disabilities. TheGovernment's 2011 election promises extended this to electronic kiosks and information technology.
It is essential for the Government to take the lead role in planning for the disability accessibility legacy of the 2015 Games. The Ontario taxpayer is investing huge amounts of public money into those Games. The Ontario Government predicts that some 250,000 tourists will come to the Games.
On August 28, 2013, the Ontario Government held a carefully-planned news conference to unveil its planned legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. It was shocking and deeply troubling that at that news conference, the Government included no planned legacy of accessibility for people with disabilities in its plans for the Games. Read the OntarioGovernment's news release and the August 28, 2013 speech by Minister Michael Chan (responsible for the 2015 Games).
This could not have just been a mistake or an oversight. The scripted speech given by an Ontario cabinet minister at such a carefully-staged event goes through many hands in the Government before it is finalized and approved.
It is not enough for the Government to simply say that alongside the Pan American Games will be the ParaPan American Games, which will involve athletes with disabilities. It is also not enough to try to highlight the achievements of para-athletes, though this is of course an important strategy.
Ontario's planned disability accessibility legacy for the Toronto 2015 Games must go much, much further. It should at least meet, and preferably should exceed those of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics.
A disability legacy won't occur unless Ontario now actively plans for it, and ensures it is part of all planning for the 2015 Games. It should announce these legacy plans immediately. It should also reveal what budget it has appropriate within the funding envelope for the Games, to address disability accessibility.
Today the AODA Alliance offers constructive proposals to fill the unexplained gap in the OntarioGovernment's announced legacy, planned for the 2015 Games. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Ontario Government and its various partners who will conduct these Games, to ensure that the Ontario public gets its money's worth for its enormous public investment.
More generally, the Ontario Government should put in place an aggressive strategy to ensure that no barriers against people with disabilities are ever created, perpetuated or exacerbated through the use of public money.
In other accessibility news, an unexplained 250 days have passed since we wrote the Ontario Government to ask for its plans to keep its pledge to effectively enforce the AODA. We have received no substantive public response to that inquiry. Learn more about our request for the OntarioGovernment's plans to enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
As well, 47 days have passed since AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky filed a Freedom of Information Act application to find out how many private sector organizations did not file required accessibility reports under the AODA and to unearth theGovernment's plans to enforce the AODA. See what information on enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act David Lepofsky requested under Ontario's Freedom of Information Act.
Proposed Goals for Ontario's Disability Accessibility Legacy for the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games
The goals of the disability accessibility legacy should include:
a) To significantly increase the accessibility of the infrastructure, services, facilities and goods for serving the public, especially the tourism market, in the greater Toronto area and other regions that will host the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games, including public transportation, accessible taxis, hotels, stores, restaurants, tourist sites and other tourism facilities.
b) To combat persistent and pervasive attitudinal barriers against people with disabilities by exemplifying the contributions and abilities of people with disabilities, not only in sports, but in the arts and other aspects of Ontario life to be profiled during the Toronto 2015 Games.
c) To promote the full competitive employment of people with disabilities in paid jobs and volunteer positions.
d) To promote physical education and physical fitness for people with disabilities of all ages, including students with disabilities in pre-school and school programs.
e) To advance Ontario towards becoming an accessible destination for tourists with disabilities, and to promote it as such.
f) To ensure that public money spent on the 2015 Games is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against people with disabilities.
g) To promote the full incorporation and inclusion of accessibility into Ontario's economic development strategy.
Proposal for Key Planks in a Disability Accessibility Legacy for the 2015 Games
The Ontario Government should immediately and quickly consult with the public, including with people with disabilities, to identify further measures, beyond those listed here, to ensure that this legacy is achieved. Implementation of the following measures should not await any future consultations on this topic.
To ensure that this disability accessibility legacy is achieved, we recommend that the Ontario Government, as a major funder for the 2015 Games, immediately announce and implement these legacy strategies:
1. To promote a legacy of greater accessible infrastructure in Ontario, the Government should, among other things, take these steps:
a) The Government should commit that at the 2015 Games, all physical infrastructure built for the Games, renovated for the Games, or used "as is" for the Games, will be fully barrier-free. It is not enough to use the insufficient accessibility requirements of the Ontario Building Code, and the accessibility standards passed to date under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
The Games should adopt and announce more stringent, mandatory accessibility standards to be used for any built environment for the Games that will ensure true and full accessibility, and that can serve as a good model for other organizations to follow. For example, any new or renovated buildings, or existing buildings used for the Games, and public sidewalks to access those buildings, should be adapted to include Tactile Walking Surface Indicators for way-finding by people with vision loss.
b) All public transit services and stations at and to the 2015 Games sites, and between the various sites for the Games spread over Southern Ontario, will be fully accessible to people with disabilities including athletes, employees, volunteers and tourists with disabilities. This should exceed the insufficient and incomplete transportation accessibility requirements of the Integrated Accessibility Standard Regulation enacted in 2011. For example, all public transit stations and public transit vehicles to be used should be adapted to ensure full accessibility. All elevators and escalators on the Toronto Transit Commission's subway network should be fully serviced to ensure they are consistently and reliably working.
c) The Athletes' Village, and any other facilities for accommodating athletes, including athletes with disabilities, should not only be physically accessible, but should have contained within it or nearby accessible support services and facilities, such as accessible automatic bank machines, accessible places to eat and other commonly-used services.
d) All fitness equipment to be used in the Games, including any new equipment to be purchased for the Games, should be fully barrier-free and usable by para-athletes as well as athletes without disabilities.
e) The Government should ensure that the part of the Trans-Canada Trail that is located in Ontario, which Minister Michael Chan profiled at his August 28, 2013 news conference, will be fully accessible to people with disabilities. It should meet and exceed the accessibility requirements and time lines in the Public Spaces Accessibility Regulation the Ontario Government enacted in December 2012.
f) The Government should work with the City of Toronto and other municipalities where the 2015 Games will occur, to ensure that there are automatic Audible Pedestrian Signals (APS) installed and working (for people with vision loss) and accessible curb cuts from sidewalk to the road (for people with mobility disabilities), at all major intersections in the areas where the Games will occur, where the athletes will reside, between those two points, and in major areas where tourists are likely to visit while attending these Games. These APS devices should not require a person to search out and find a button and press it to trigger the audible signals.
2. To help ensure a long term legacy that reduces attitudinal barriers against people with disabilities, among other things:
a) media broadcasts and coverage, as well as official on-line coverage of the 2015 Games should ensure live and replay coverage of the ParaPan American Games. This should be required in the terms of rights to broadcast coverage of the Games by any TV and radio stations or networks. The Government should also meet with the heads of any networks that will be conducting such coverage, to urge substantial and equal profile for the ParaPan American Games, not just the Pan American Games;
b) any officially-organized or publicly-funded cultural and other festive events associated with the 2015 Games should profile artists, musicians, dancers and other performers with disabilities;
c) athletes with disabilities should always be included and equally profiled in events, advertising or other publicity organized by or on behalf of the Toronto 2015 Games, to celebrate or promote the Games. Profiling and of and involvement of athletes with disabilities should not simply be segregated in coverage, publicity or celebrations that focus on the ParaPan American Games;
d) the Government should advocate to the media for getting people with disabilities included in on-the-air coverage of the Games e.g. as commentators.
e) The Government should make available for schools, curriculum packages on the 2015 Games, that include, as an important part, a teaching component on the ParaPan American Games, and on the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities in all activities, including mainstream physical education.
3. The Government should implement and widely publicize a concerted strategy to use the 2015 Games to help increase the employment of people with disabilities, e.g. through employment in paid jobs and volunteer positions associated with the Games. This is especially important in light of theGovernment's commitments to youth employment and employment for people with disabilities.
4. To support long term fitness and physical education for people with disabilities in Ontario, the Government should:
a) dedicate an appropriate part of the $42 million announced for the 2015 Games, for development of para-athletes and para-sport in Ontario. This should include, for example, support for athletes with disabilities from a young age, developing the skills of coaches so that they can provide support for athletes with disabilities, and ensuring there are accessible sports and fitness facilities in communities across Ontario that people with disabilities can use;
b) promote the implementation of inclusive physical education programs in Ontario schools and pre-school programs, that fully include students with disabilities, e.g. by providing curriculum and training for school physical education teachers on inclusive physical education for students with disabilities in mainstream schools and special education settings;
c) support para-sports programs and organizations around Ontario for athletes with disabilities;
d) in any public advertising or public education strategies regarding public physical fitness, an emphasis on physical fitness for people with disabilities of all ages, including an emphasis on seniors.
5. To ensure that the Greater Toronto Area and other zones around the 2015 Games become an accessible tourist destination for tourists with disabilities, along with their families and friends, Ontario should:
a) launch a comprehensive and widely-publicized strategy to get tourism service-providers to become fully accessible;
b) as a first step, immediately and publicly tell major tourism service providers in the Greater Toronto Area, (including the zones for the 2015 Games), that the Government will develop and widely publicize an inventory of accessible tourism service-providers, such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, transportation services, and tourism attractions, in the 2014 summer. This will give these organizations an immediate chance and an incentive to become fully accessible before the Government publicizes the inventory of accessible tourist services;
c) work with the City of Toronto, other municipalities hosting the 2015 Games, and taxi services in those areas, on strategies to substantially increase the number of accessible taxis available to private customers, and make public the targets for the number and percentage of accessible taxis per municipality to have on the road by the time of the Games;
d) ensure that no official festivities and other celebratory events connected with the 2015 Games is held at a venue or served by services unless the venue and services are barrier-free;
e) provide training and information resources to tourism service providers on how to find, remove and prevent accessibility barriers with an emphasis on the economic gains that come with becoming an accessible hotel, store, restaurant, tourism site or other service-provider;
f) launch a widely-publicized promotion strategy to promote Ontario as an accessible tourism destination for tourists with disabilities, their families and friends, giving profile to those tourism service providers that are fully accessible;
6. To ensure that public money is never used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against people with disabilities:
a) the Government should commit and widely-publicize that no public money associated with the 2015 Games may be used to create, exacerbate or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities, and direct all public officials, contracting parties and grant recipients associated with the Games of this strict and enforceable condition;
b) the Government should commit that in any application to the Government or organizations administering the 2015 Games, any grants, subsidies, procurement of goods, services or facilities, and other contractual arrangements that the Government enters or finances in whole or in part in connection with the 2015 Games, an applicant must show that that the recipient, vender or contracting party will ensure that no public money is used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against people with disabilities;
c) any goods, services or facilities procured in connection with the 2015 Games with public money should be accessible for use by people with disabilities. This should be advertised and included as a requirement for any organization bidding to win those procurement contracts.
7. To ensure that all information and communication in connection with the 2015 Games is fully accessible, the Government should:
a) ensure that all broadcast programming, websites, advertisements, leaflets and other prepared publicity and public communications in connection with the 2015 Games are fully accessible. When the Ontario Government invited AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky (known to be blind) to theGovernment's August 28, 2013 news conference, at which the 2015 Games' legacy was to be unveiled, the Government inexplicably sent him an email in an entirely inaccessible format. Learn more about theGovernment's inaccessible invitation to its August 28, 2013 news conference.
This includes such accessibility supports as captioning and audio description. It should also include working with those providing live play-by-play coverage to include, to the extent possible, descriptive narrative of visual events where feasible;
b) ensure that needed communication supports are available for employees, volunteers, athletes and tourists with disabilities such as Sign Language interpretation.