ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Amazing Responses to, Including More Media Coverage of our New Video on Serious Accessibility Problems at Ryerson University's New Student Learning Centre
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The Wynne Government Is Taking Longer Just to Appoint a Standards Development Committee on Education Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities Than It Took the Government to Create Ontario's Entire Disabilities Act

November 17, 2017

1. Amazing Response to the AODA Alliance's New Online Video Showing Serious Accessibility Problems at Ryerson University's New Student Learning Centre

There has been an amazing response to the AODA Alliance's new online video, exceeding our hopes and expectations. This video that shows serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre, over the two and a half weeks since we launched this video. The 12 minute and 30 minute versions have been viewed over 3,900 times!

The Toronto Star's website includes a shorter two and a half minute version that the Star edited down. The Star's version has been seen over 5,600 times. That means that in one form or another, our video has been viewed over 9,500 times in two and a half weeks!

We've even gotten feedback on our video from places outside Canada. That shows that this message has spread internationally. As well, an architecture firm has approached us, as a result of this video, asking how to avoid these problems.

To watch the 12 minute version of our Ryerson Student Learning Centre accessibility problems video.

To watch the 30 minute version of our Ryerson Student Learning Centre accessibility problems video.

To watch the Toronto Star's edited 2 minute version of our Ryerson Student Centre accessibility problems video.

No doubt as a result of this new video, the views have also quickly increased for our 6 minute version and our 18 minute version of our earlier video, launched one year ago, that shows serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. Together, that video has now been seen over 2,800 times, an increase of some 400 views in under three weeks.

In addition to earlier coverage on CITY TV and in the Toronto Star, our video also got great coverage on Global TV news on November 3, 2017. Below is the text of the Global report. You can watch it, with captioning, by visiting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqCakktRpjo&feature=em-subs_digest

Of interest, CBC has not given this video any coverage so far. This is ironic since last year, CBC TV broadcast an item on the Ryerson Student Learning Centre in its program called "Disrupting Design", hosted by Matt Galloway. That report gushed about Ryerson's Student Learning Centre as a wonderful design. It said nothing about its serious accessibility problems. In that report, Matt Galloway, who is also the host of CBC Radio Toronto's flagship Metro Morning program, described the Student Learning Centre as:

"slick, smart design of a student center that puts students' needs first."

The disconnect between that report and the reality which people with disabilities can face in that building is palpable.   

We set out the text of that CBC TV report below.

Here is an amazing irony. If you click to watch the Toronto Star's 2-minute edited version of our video on the Ryerson Student Learning Centre, you will likely have a Youtube advertisement come up first, before our video. No doubt this is because that version of our video got so many views in such a short time.

The cruel irony is that when AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky first watched the Toronto Star version of our video on Youtube, the advertisement that came up was from the Ontario Government. It promoted all the great infrastructure the Ontario Government has built. It talked about how that infrastructure is green in its orientation. It said nothing about its accessibility. Yet the Ryerson Student Learning Centre is a striking example of provincially subsidized new infrastructure that lacks proper accessibility. In 2011, the Ontario Government committed that new infrastructure would have accessibility for people with disabilities.

Please urge as many people as possible to watch our video on accessibility problems at the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. Re-tweet our tweets about this video. We're tweeting members of the Ontario Legislature as follows:

3900 PPL have seen our new #accessibility video long or short version on serious access problems at #Ryerson Student Learning Centre. Have you? https://www.dropbox.com/s/q3mzsw171l8i1ao/46%20oct%2029%202017%20aodaa%20update%20releasing%20ryerson%20video%20on%2019th%20anniversary%20of%201998%20disabilit ies%20act%20resolution.docx?dl=0 #AODAfail

2. Still Waiting for the Wynne Government to Appoint the Promised Education Standards Development Committee

There have now been 345 days since Premier Wynne committed to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yet the Wynne Government has still not taken the preliminary step of appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include.

The Government is taking as long, just to appoint this committee, as it took in 2003-2004 to undertake the much larger task of designing the entire Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and introducing it into the Legislature for debate. This painfully illustrates how progress in Ontario on accessibility has too often slowed to a snail's pace.

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, The Ontario Autism Coalition held a very successful news conference and gathering at Queen's Park to protest the serious problems that students with autism face in Ontario's education system. We were honoured when that grassroots coalition, which is a strong supporter of the AODA Alliance, invited us to take part in this event. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to speak at the Queen's Park news conference and at the gathering afterwards, outside, by the steps of the Legislature.

The joint message from the Ontario Autism Coalition and the AODA Alliance addressed the needs of all students with disabilities in Ontario's education system. Together we made it clear that working together, we aim to make education for students with disabilities an issue in the upcoming 2018 Ontario election, as always, as a non-partisan effort. Stay tuned for more news and tips on this, over the next weeks and months.

Below we set out:

* Questions the NDP asked the Government in Question Period in the Legislature on October 26. This included pressing the Government on the need to get to work on the promised Education Accessibility Standard. The Government's response did not say when the promised Education Standards Development Committee would be appointed.

* The October 26, 2017 NDP news release arising from this exchange during Question Period.

MORE DETAILS

Global News Toronto November 3, 2017

Originally posted at: https://globalnews.ca/news/3842917/one-design-flaw-after-another-accessibility-advocate-calls-out-new-ryerson-building/

'One design flaw after another': Accessibility advocate calls out new Ryerson building
By Caryn Lieberman, Reporter
Global News  

Fri, Nov 3: Ontario is promising to be fully accessible by 2025 but as Caryn Lieberman found out, there are barriers in brand new buildings that are causing frustration for some people living with disabilities.

TORONTO – "It's one design flaw after another."

David Lepofsky is a Toronto lawyer with a passion for fighting accessibility inequality.

Blind most of his life, he recently created a video highlighting deficiencies he said he discovered at a publicly-funded building in downtown Toronto.

Ryerson University's Student Learning Centre is an eight-storey, 155-thousand square foot state of the art building with a modern design that has won multiple awards for architecture.

But Lepofsky, who first visited in 2015 when he was asked to chair an all-candidates debate on disabilities issues, noted the building has a number of "accessibility barriers that essentially leave out people.

"We didn't just invent people with disabilities, we've been around as long as there have been people around," he remarked.

"This building is an example of the kind of problems people with disabilities should not be facing in the year 2017 in the province of Ontario."

Lepofsky brought Global News on a tour to show just how difficult it is for a blind man to navigate the entrance and main floor stairs in the building.

"There's no handrail which is bad for somebody with balance issues or a person with vision loss, we routinely use a railing to help guide us especially up a maze-like ramp like this."

In a statement, Ryerson University wrote "The Student Learning Centre meets the requirement of the current applicable Ontario Building Code and meets the best practices of Ryerson's Accessibility standards, to ensure that the building is inclusive to all abilities. In the spirit of inclusivity, on-going improvements are being integrated into the programming and physical operations of the building."

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario also responded, noting "There is still a long way to go to reach our goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025. We will need to keep working together to achieve that goal so that people of all abilities can participate and contribute at their full potential."

Meantime, David Lepofsky will keep fighting for a more accessible Ontario.

"Both our laws and our design professionals who serve us are both letting us down," he said.

CBC TV Disrupting Design

Episode 1

Originally posted at http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2684870478

Matt Galloway: Let me show you one University and how it disrupted out of class student time with a slick, smart design of a student center that's puts students needs first.

This is unlike any student Library I've ever seen. What were you trying to disrupt?

Vaidila Banelis, Zeidler Architects: When you think disruption, it's breaking from the norm. It's trying to challenge people how to occupy space quite differently.

Matt: It's not your typical Student Center. What to you is disruptive about this? What is groundbreaking about the design of this building?

Student: The SLC is definitely designed for the students, with the students in mind. We wanted the students experience to be something that thrives in the building. There are spaces for individual study, for group study, and each floor has a different environment.

Matt: Walk me to the front doors. Walk me through the building. What am I going to see floor by floor?

Architect: You're going to walk to the front door into what we call the valley. It's a multi-use space. It's equipped with media presentation technology, lighting grids, speakers. It's surrounded by wood seating so comfortable, warm.

The lower three levels are looking down at each other which is why we call it "the valley" because it's a big tall volume and it's probably the loudest part of the building. As you go up the building it's orally zoned. We start really loud and as we go up we get quieter and quieter and quieter until we get to the top floor.

From there you had up a grand flight of stairs to the third level where the DME, the digital media experience and the DMZ, the digital media zone, are located.

The 4th floor is called the garden. It's probably the most shocking colored floor in the building. It's really a bright green. It's got an amazing feel to it and people are gravitating to it. One of the biggest challenges here was how to make that kind of community where everything is visible, work in a vertical way where you are really quite separated heavily between those spaces, so making them visually distinct was extremely important. Fairly small moves have created fairly distinct feelings.

Next level up is "the Sun".

Student: Personally, for me, the sun floor isn't really my favorite. Everything is red and I can't study very well there but it's still really popular. There's rooms you can rent out. I've done that a lot of times with my friends where we book a study space and the entire room is a whiteboard.

Architect: There is a blue floor a white floor and a red floor and those are wayfinding ways so that people understand where they are in the building. They're not saying, "meet me on level 4", they're saying, "meet me on the red floor".

The top floor is the sky. You may want to sit in the full sunshine while reading a book, but you don't want that when you're in front of your computer screen. That kind of variety in spaces, light is important for and I'd say the entire facade of the building is designed specifically to create variety in that, but also to make it just incredibly bright.

The signature space is "the Beach". There are some traditional tables, but predominantly it's a space with comfy seating - cushions, bean bags, some really low-slung furniture and students occupy it however they want to.

Matt: What is your favorite space in this building?

Student: My favorite space would be the Beach. It is a beach in the city. Like you can't really argue with that. This floor is really open-ended, is really comfy, is really inviting and we love it. We love hanging out here.

Matt: You see people now and everywhere throughout the building. They want to be here. They're sitting around, they're working, they're hanging out. How do you create a space where people want to be?

Architect: We've done a lot of academic buildings and I don't think we've had this kind of reaction of, "we love to be in your building". It's just opened up my life. My friends live here.

Matt: what is it about this space that works for you?

Student: This space it's for students to learn, collaborate and invent. It's definitely something that is pushing the idea of what a student space is.

Matt: What were you trying to disrupt when you were creating this?

Architect: Predominantly, we were trying to get people out of their norm  but really also to make the time out of the classroom be as important and as productive as the time inside the classroom.

I'm Vaidila Banelis, and this design disrupted academic architecture.

Ontario Hansard October 26, 2017

Question Period
Miss Monique Taylor: My question is for the Premier. Parents of children with autism and developmental disabilities are here once again to fight for the services that their children desperately need. When the government announced their new autism program, they knew it would put added pressure onto our school system, a system already struggling to cope with decades of chronic underfunding and cuts begun by the Conservatives and continued through 14 years of Liberal governments, particularly to special education.
But nothing has been done to prepare for that, and children with autism, yet again, are paying the price. Will the government commit to a comprehensive autism strategy that ensures children with autism get the services they need in an inclusive classroom setting?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Education.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: It's such an honour to rise in this House today. I just want to welcome all of the family members, the students who are here today, the educators who are here today on behalf of the 20,000 students with autism in our school system. I know how hard the Ontario Autism Coalition has been working. I know that I have been working with them, along with the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
We're very committed, as a government, to providing for the appropriate supports in our schools for students who have autism. It's something that we know is needed, and we've been doing that work. In fact, I just recently announced that we are beginning our pilot program that will see applied behaviour therapists being able to come right into schools to ease the transition and to create a more seamless and integrated day for students who have autism.
Of course, there is more work that we need to do, and that is exactly what we're doing to provide better supports for students who need them in our schools.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary. Member from London West.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Again to the Premier: Almost one year later, this Liberal government has failed to deliver on its promise to create an education accessibility standard and has failed to provide the special education resources needed by students with autism.
The chronic underfunding of special education that was started by the Conservatives has continued under the Liberals. Instead of increasing special education funding to actually meet the needs of students, this Liberal government has cut special education budgets even more, leading to an ongoing shortage of EAs, developmental service workers and other specialized staff in schools. Speaker, it's not ABA training for EAs that is just needed; it's more trained EAs.
Will the Premier move forward immediately to develop an education accessibility standard, and will she commit to an inclusive autism strategy in schools that addresses the educational, as well as therapeutic, needs of students with autism?
Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.
Minister?
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: The third party is asking for areas to improve education in Ontario that we are doing right now. We have, in fact, trained 30,000 principals, teachers, education workers in applied behaviour therapy. What we've just announced is in addition to that specific customized—
Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Finish, please.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: —specific customized training for education assistants who work with students with autism.
As it relates to accessibility standards in our schools, that is something that we are already doing. The Premier has committed to that. We're working on that. The minister responsible for—
Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Answer.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: Our government has provided a 76% increase to students who need special education services in our schools and—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.
New question.

Ontario New Democratic Party October 26, 2017 News Release

October 26, 2017

Children with autism left waiting as Liberals stall on autism strategy
NDP says students and families need more EAs in classrooms – not more cuts

QUEEN'S PARK – As hundreds of parents, educators, children and caregivers rallied outside the legislature to call for better access to autism services, NDP MPPs demanded in question period Thursday morning that the Wynne Liberals expedite the creation of a comprehensive autism strategy.

"Parents of children with autism and developmental disabilities are here once again to fight for the services that their children desperately need," said NDP Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities critic Monique Taylor.

"When the government announced their new autism program, they knew it would put added pressure onto our school system, a system already struggling to cope with decades of chronic underfunding and cuts begun by the Conservatives and continued through 14 years of Liberal governments, particularly to special education. But nothing has been done to prepare for that, and children with autism, yet again, are paying the price."

While nearly a year has passed since Wynne promised to act, "this Liberal government has failed to deliver on its promise to create an education accessibility standard and has failed to provide the special education resources needed by students with autism," said NDP Education critic Peggy Sattler.

"The chronic underfunding of special education that was started by the Conservatives has continued under the Liberals," continued Sattler.

"Instead of increasing special education funding to actually meet the needs of students, this Liberal government has cut special education budgets even more, leading to an ongoing shortage of EAs, developmental service workers and other specialized staff in schools."

Each MPP called on the government to act.

"Will the government commit to a comprehensive autism strategy that ensures children with autism get the services they need in an inclusive classroom setting?" asked Taylor.

"Will the premier move forward immediately to develop an education accessibility standard, and will she commit to an inclusive autism strategy in schools that addresses the educational, as well as therapeutic, needs of students with autism?" asked Sattler.

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