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After Almost Three Months, The Wynne Government Answers the AODA Alliance’s Request for An Update on Government Plans on Implementing and Enforcing the AODA, but Several of Our Important Questions Remain Unanswered

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 23, 2017

SUMMARY

Back on March 16, 2017, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles, to ask what the Government has recently done, and what it plans to do over the next year, to implement and enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Eighty-three days after we wrote, the Minister responded. The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter is set out below.

In our March 16, 2017 letter, we ask the Government specific questions in twelve important areas, to learn what the Government has done, and what it plans to do over the next year on the AODA’s implementation and enforcement. This is important since the Wynne Government has one year left in its mandate. Ontarians with disabilities want to know what the Government will do over this upcoming year to get Ontario back on schedule to reach full accessibility by 2025, the deadline which the AODA imposes.

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer fully 5 of the 12 clear questions that we had asked. Of the remaining questions, the Government largely reported information that we had already ourselves learned over the 83 days since we wrote the Government. Here are the questions we asked the Government, and a summary of the Government’s responses:

Creating a Detailed Plan to Reach Full Accessibility by 2025

1. Has your Ministry developed a detailed plan designed to ensure that Ontario will reach the AODA’s required goal of full accessibility by 2025? If so, may we see that plan?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question.

Effectively Enforcing the AODA

2. What are your Ministry’s detailed plans to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement for last year, this year, and next year leading up to the 2018 election? Can you give us the promised enforcement reports for 2015, 2016 and for 2017 up to now? What specifically is your Ministry doing to meet Premier Wynne’s direction in her September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to you, to increase compliance reporting rates among private/not-for-profit sector organizations by an additional 50 per cent in 2017?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question. The Government pointed to previous Government announcements regarding the AODA’s enforcement in 2014 and 2015. The Government stated that later this year, the Government will make public a statement about AODA enforcement in 2016. The Government gave no information on its activities or plans for AODA enforcement this year, or next year.

Creating an Education Accessibility Standard

3. By when will you post an announcement inviting people to apply to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee, and by when will that Committee be appointed? Will you ensure that the Government does not impose prior restrictions on which disability accessibility barriers the Education Standards Development Committee can consider in our education system?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that it had begun recruiting members of the Education Standards Development Committee and was conducting a survey of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. By the time we received this letter, we already knew this. the Government’s letter came after it had, on May 25, 2017, begun the process of recruiting people to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee.

The Government’s letter does not say by when it plans to have appointed that committee. It did not answer our request that the Government not impose prior restraints on the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee, i.e. limiting which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system can be considered by the Education Standards Development Committee. The June 21, 2017 AODA Alliance Update shows that the Government does in fact plan to impose those prior restraints, despite our repeated objections.

Creating a Health Care Accessibility Standard

4. When will the Health Care Standards Development Committee be appointed?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that the Health Care Standards Development Committee had been appointed. By the time the Government wrote us, we had already learned of this development.

Review of the Employment and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standards

5. By when will you appoint the new Employment Standards Development Committee and the Information and Communications Standards Development Committee to review the current accessibility standards addressing accessibility barriers in employment and in information and communication? What will be done to ensure that the disability community gets a full chance to be fully included in and give direct input to those Standards Development Committees, beyond the specific disability sector representatives that you appoint to those Committees?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that these two Standards Development Committees had been appointed and had started their work. Here again, by the time the Government wrote us, we had already learned of this development.

The Government did not answer our inquiry about what would be done to ensure that we and the disability community have full input into the work of those Committees.

Reviewing the Transportation Accessibility Standard

6. What has been completed so far in the review of the transportation accessibility provisions enacted in 2011 under the AODA, and when will we and other interested voices from the disability community, such as the AODA Alliance, be afforded a chance to speak directly to the Standards Development Committee that is conducting that review?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that the Transportation Standards Development Committee has made public its initial recommendations and is now seeking public input on them. By the time the Government answered our March 16, 2017 inquiry, we had already learned this.

Addressing Ongoing Barriers in the Built Environment

7. What actions will your Government take under the AODA to ensure that Ontario’s built environment becomes fully accessible by 2025, and by when? When will you appoint a Standards Development Committee to recommend measures for retrofits and for accessibility in residential housing?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that it had been asked.

Ensuring Accessible Customer Service

8. What is your Ministry doing to bring stakeholders together to explore ways to improve the Customer Service Accessibility Standard? Would you bring stakeholders together to find ways to improve accessible customer service?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that the Government had revised the Customer Service Accessibility Standard in 2016, and that this accessibility standard would be subject to review again in 2021. We already knew this. the Government did not respond to our request that the Government now bring together representatives of the disability sector, the business community and other obligated organizations, to try to find improvements in this area now. Its letter can be understood in effect as refusing to do this.

Creating a Disability Employment Strategy

9. When will your Government announce its new Disability Employment Strategy, and what has been done to date to develop it?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that its Disability Employment Strategy was announced on June 5, 2017. By the time we received this letter, we already knew this, and had issued a news release responding to it.

Reviewing All Ontario Laws For Accessibility Barriers

10. How is your Ministry conducting its review of all Ontario statutes and regulations for accessibility barriers? What has been done so far, since your Ministry took lead responsibility for this review? Who is leading it? When will it be completed? By when will an omnibus bill be before the Legislature to address accessibility barriers that require legislative amendments? By when do you aim to go before Cabinet with needed amendments to any Ontario regulations to address accessibility barriers?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that we had asked it. Premier Wynne’s September 23, 2016 Mandate Letter to the Accessibility Minister had directed the Minister to lead this review going forward. The Government promised this review of all Ontario laws for accessibility barriers a decade ago, in its September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance.

Deliberations on Idea of Creating a Private Accessibility Certification Process

11. Is your Ministry proceeding with the idea of a private accessibility certification process? What has been done about this, and what are your Ministry’s plans? Can you let us know if no public money will be spent on any private accessibility certification process, as we urge?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter did not answer this question or acknowledge that we had asked it.

Ensuring the Ontario Public Service Becomes a Fully Accessible Service-Provider and Employer

12. Since becoming minister, what new efforts or initiatives have been launched or are being planned to remove and prevent customer service and employment accessibility barriers in the Ontario Public Service, and to ensure that public money is never used to create or perpetuate disability accessibility barriers?

Our Comment:

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter said that as of April 1, 2017, the Government had created an Ontario Public Service Accessibility Office, and referred to the Government’s Multi-Year Accessibility Plan, announced at the start of this year, and required under the AODA.

This response did not provide any specifics on future action for improving accessibility within the Ontario Public Service. Despite ongoing accessibility issues within the Ontario Public Service, the Government’s letter continued the Government’s practice of declaring itself a leader on accessibility.

Our Concluding Comment:

We have been concerned for years that Ontario is falling further and further behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025, the AODA’s deadline. Up until the Government’s June 8, 2017 letter to the AODA Alliance, the Government had not contradicted our concern that Ontario is behind schedule. Premier Wynne had promised in a letter to the AODA Alliance back on December 3, 2013 that if she became Ontario’s premier, she would ensure that Ontario is on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

The Government’s June 8, 2017 letter included the first direct or implied claim we have seen in writing by any Ontario minister that Ontario is now on schedule to reach full accessibility by 2025: The letter concludes:

“I look forward to continuing to work with organizations, businesses, stakeholders and members of the public to ensure that we stay on track to becoming an accessible province by 2025.”

With respect, Ontario is not now on track or on schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. If every obligated organization in Ontario fully obeys all AODA accessibility standards now in force, Ontario will not reach full accessibility by 2025, or ever. The results of two successive Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews, in 2010 by Charles Beer and in 2014 by Mayo Moran, showed that substantial improvement in the AODA’s implementation was needed, if Ontario was to be on schedule for full accessibility by 2025.

It is for this reason that we need the Government to develop and make public, as soon as possible, a 7.5 year plan that will ensure that Ontario reaches full accessibility on time. We regret that the Government’s June 8, 2017 letter does not commit to developing that needed 7.5 year plan. We urge the Government to reconsider. We would be happy to assist in its development.

At the end of this update are links to key background information.

MORE DETAILS

Text of the Accessibility Minister’s June 8, 2017 Letter to the AODA Alliance

Minister Responsible
for Accessibility

6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1L2

June 8, 2017

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

Thank you for your email regarding our governments commitment to creating an accessible province by 2025. I am always pleased to hear from you.

Our government remains committed to supporting the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) as well as other initiatives that promote accessibility. Through collaborative programs promoting accessibility awareness and our engagement in standards development and review, we are continuing to build momentum as we move toward an accessible province by 2025.

I am pleased to say that Standards Development Committees for health, information and communications, and employment have been established. Members met for an initial orientation meeting in late March 2017. Since then, we have hosted a second set of productive meetings involving all three committees. Membership information and mandate letters are available online for public review.

In addition, a review of the Transportation Standards is currently being conducted by a Standards Development Committee comprised of representatives from the disability community, transit industry, municipalities and affected ministries. The committees initial recommendations have been posted online for public feedback, and the committee will consider this feedback before finalizing its recommendations to the government.

An inclusive education system is key to helping all students in Ontario reach their full potential. That is why the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario is working with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to establish an Education Standards Development Committee. We have recently launched a survey. The results of this survey will help support the work of the Standards Development Committee, providing insight into where a new standard can have the greatest impact for Ontario students. We have also officially launched the recruitment process for a Standards Development Committee for Education, and are now accepting applications. People can indicate their interest in applying to participate on the committee by selecting yes on question three of the survey, or by contacting Phil Simeon, Manager of Standards Development at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario, via email at phil.simeon@ontario.ca. More information on SDC membership recruitment will be communicated publicly in the coming weeks.

Our Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Reports outline compliance and enforcement activities undertaken in 2014 and 2015, and they are available online for public review. In 2017, we will release an Accessibility Compliance and Enforcement Report detailing compliance activities conducted in 2016.

Regular reviews of the AODA and accessibility standards promote ongoing accessibility awareness, support a culture of inclusion, and increase economic and social opportunities for people of all abilities. In 2016, the Customer Service Standard was amended based on recommendations from the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee and extensive public feedback. As a result of this feedback, changes were made that help to clarify obligations and align requirements across standards. The Customer Service Standard is scheduled to be reviewed a second time beginning in 2021.

Accessibility legislation is a key factor in breaking down barriers, but it is not the only one. To help raise accessibility awareness and foster engagement, our government has partnered with OCAD Universitys Inclusive Design Research Centre to deliver the BIG IDeA a collaborative pilot program that celebrates successes and promotes innovations in accessibility. The goal of the BIG IDeA program is to inspire a cultural change toward greater inclusion, and to equip businesses with the tools and resources they need to lead and innovate in accessibility. The program is designed to help organizations deliver a more accessible experience by fostering collaboration and inspiring Ontario businesses to become leaders in accessibility.

As you know, our government announced its new Employment Strategy for people with disabilities. This strategy aims to connect more people with disabilities to job opportunities and more businesses to a talented labour pool. We have taken a whole-of-government approach, involving multiple ministries, to develop this strategy. As part of its development, we consulted broadly with individuals, stakeholders, service providers, educators, business leaders and not-for-profits across the province to assess needs and determine appropriate outcomes. I look forward to engaging with employers to remove barriers and create inclusive workplaces.

Additionally, I am proud to say that recent organizational changes resulted in the creation of a dedicated Ontario Public Service (OPS) Accessibility Office as of April 1, 2017. The OPS is a leader in accessibility, and this new office reinforces our position by championing and coordinating efforts to deliver OPS-wide initiatives. This includes the implementation of the new Multi-Year Accessibility Plan (MYAP), which outlines how we will make the OPS a more accessible organization. The plan includes initiatives that will help to remove and prevent accessibility barriers across government, including the review of existing and new legislation and regulations.

Before I close, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for sharing your insights on accessibility within the OPS, which helped inform the development of the MYAP.

As always, I appreciate your continued support. The input we receive from Ontarians, especially members of the disability community, is invaluable. I look forward to continuing to work with organizations, businesses, stakeholders and members of the public to ensure that we stay on track to becoming an accessible province by 2025.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Tracy MacCharles
Minister

c: The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier
Steve Orsini, Secretary of the Cabinet, Head of the Ontario Public Service
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, Francophone Affairs and Senior Affairs
Angela Coke, Deputy Minister of Government and Consumer Services Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Susan Picarello, Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment Division, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
Phil Simeon, Manager of Standards Development, Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

Important AODA Alliance Resources on Accessibility

You can read the AODA Alliance’s March 16, 2017 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/03162017.asp

You can read the AODA Alliance’s January 16, 2017 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/01162017.asp

You can read the AODA Alliance’s July 10, 2016 letter to Accessibility Minister Tracy MacCharles by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07122016.asp

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Governments 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 Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Lawsuit for People Who Lived at CPRI in Ontario Between 1963 and 2011

By Yedida Zalik, Staff Lawyer

Over the last year, many former residents of Schedule 1 Facilities made claims for compensation. This was because of a class action lawsuit about twelve Schedule 1 Facilities where many people with disabilities had been abused. That lawsuit was called Clegg v. Ontario. The Clegg lawsuit settled. This means that the parties agreed to end the lawsuit without a trial. People who lived at these twelve places were able to ask for money from the settlement.

Not all Schedule 1 Facilities were part of the Clegg lawsuit. For example, there were other lawsuits about the Huronia, Rideau and Southwestern Regional Centres, which were also Schedule 1 Facilities. Those lawsuits also settled.

Now there is a lawsuit about another one of these other facilities, the Child and Parent Resource Institute, in London, Ontario. This place used to be called the Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute, or CPRI.

You may be part of this lawsuit if you lived at CPRI between September 1, 1963 and July 1, 2011.

What is this lawsuit about?

Many people with disabilities were harmed or hurt at CPRI. The government of Ontario was in charge of CPRI. The lawsuit says the government did not protect the people who lived there.

What is happening in the lawsuit?

Lawsuits start when someone makes a claim in court. In a class action, one person or a few people start a lawsuit for a large group. The lawyers for that person need to ask the Court’s permission for the lawsuit to be a class action.

James Templin lived at CPRI and he started this lawsuit for everyone who lived there. In the court papers, this lawsuit is called Templin v. Ontario.

In December 2016, the Court said that the CPRI lawsuit can be a class action.

What happens next?

So far the CPRI lawsuit has not settled.

There could be a trial in the lawsuit. There might also be a settlement of the lawsuit.

Can I get out of the lawsuit?

If you want to get out of the lawsuit, you are allowed to do so. This is also called “opting out”. You can get out of the lawsuit by signing and sending an Opt Out Form, which is also called an Opt Out Coupon. If you opt out of the lawsuit, then you will not get any money if the lawsuit wins at trial, or if there is a settlement.

There are different reasons someone might want to opt out. If you are thinking about opting out, it would be a good idea to get legal advice before deciding.

If you would like to get legal advice before deciding if you want to Opt Out, you can contact Koskie Minsky LLP at:

Toll-free: 1-844-819-8523 or email: cpriclassaction@kmlaw.ca

You can find the Opt Out form (which is also called an Opt Out Coupon), at http://www.classactioncpri.ca/opting-out.html

If you want to opt out, you must send your letter or Opt Out Form by October 20, 2017.

Where can I get more information?

There is more information online. For that online information, go to https://kmlaw.ca/cases/cpri-class-action/

or

http://www.classactioncpri.ca/index.html

You can also call or email:
* Toll Free Phone: 1-866-640-9989
* TTY: 1-877-627-7027
* Toll Free Fax: 1-888-842-1332
* Email: CPRI@crawco.ca

Original at http://www.archdisabilitylaw.ca/sites/all/files/ARCH%20Alert%20-%20Volume%2018,%20Issue%202%20-%20June%2021%20%2017%20-%20Text.txt

D’AMATO: Is a School a Public Place? Question Affects Boy and His Service Dog

Opinion Jun 22, 2017
by Luisa D’Amato
Waterloo Region Record

Is a school a public place?

It’s a simple question, but you could answer it either way.

This is what is at the heart of an Ontario Human Rights Commission hearing in Waterloo that will decide if a boy with autism has the right to have his service dog in the classroom with him.

Final arguments concluded Wednesday at the tribunal, which pits Craig and Amy Fee, parents of nine-year-old Kenner, against the Waterloo Catholic District School Board.

In a case that has commanded national attention, Kenner’s parents appealed to the commission after the school board said Kenner could not have his service dog with him in his classroom at St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener.

His family says the dog, a black Labrador named Ivy, helps Kenner manage anxiety.

Without Ivy, Kenner has displayed increasing difficulties at school. His increasingly severe “meltdowns” and other problems have been discussed in detail. He no longer attends full-time, and has experienced “serious adverse effects” including thoughts of suicide, said the Fees’ lawyer, Laura McKeen.

Human rights legislation and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act affirm that people have the right to bring service animals with them into restaurants, shopping malls and other public places.

You would think that a school is an even more public place than a store. After all, it’s funded by public money. And schools have the public’s trust in their vital job of educating future generations.

As McKeen pointed out, “Kenner is required by law to go to school.”

But there is another way to think about all this.

“The school is not a public place,” countered the board’s lawyer, Nadya Tymochenko. “The classrooms in a school are not publicly accessible.”

The school has the right to deny access if there are concerns about safety, she said. The board has to consider the needs of others, who may have a phobic reaction to dogs, or severe allergies.

Tymochenko also said there isn’t any scholarly evidence that the use of autism service dogs in schools is effective.

The fact that Kenner feels better when he is near his dog could be because Ivy is home, where he feels more comfortable anyway.

Schools must provide disabled students with access to the curriculum, including extra help such as an education assistant. But it isn’t up to the parents to decide what those modifications should be, Tymochenko said.

“We are responsible for accommodating Kenner and providing for his development,” she said.

“Given that we have this responsibility, we also have the right to determine how to exercise this responsibility.

“Schools are not a place for public access. It would be impossible for a school to do its job if we couldn’t control who comes in and out of the school building.”

Over the past few months, there have been dozens of hours of testimony and many thick binders of information shared. Yet two completely different interpretations have developed from the information. The adjudicator’s decision will be announced later this year.

ldamato@therecord.com , Twitter: @DamatoRecord

Original at https://www.therecord.com/opinion-story/7385114-d-amato-is-a-school-a-public-place-question-affects-boy-and-his-service-dog/

The Wynne Government’s Current Online Survey of Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education system Leaves out Many if not the Majority of Barriers Impeding Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education System

The AODA Alliance Offers Ways to Fix That Survey.

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 21, 2017

SUMMARY

On June 21, 2017, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Minister of Accessibility Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter, and Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews. In that letter, set out below, we identify problems with the Government’s online survey about disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. The Government launched that survey on May 25, 2017. We offer 10 constructive recommendations to improve the survey and related Government efforts on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In summary, our letter explains the following concerns:

1. the need for the Government to Speed up the development of the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

2. the Government’s online disability education survey is too narrow. Its list of five focus areas leaves out many if not the majority of disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system. It also leaves out many educational organizations in Ontario such as early learning programs, private schools, and job training programs that are not offered by a college or university. Its final open-ended questions let the public talk about other disability accessibility barriers. While helpful, that is not sufficient to offset the way the survey steers and narrows the discussion..

3. the similar need for the Government to expand the Government’s Engagement Guide for education organizations like schools that hold public forums or meetings on education disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

4. Our serious concern that the Government is preparing to restrict which education barriers the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider, when it recommends what the promised Education Accessibility Standard should include. This threatens to prevent the Education Accessibility Standard from ensuring that Ontario’s education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities by 2025, the deadline that the AODA imposes.

5. The Government has failed to consult the AODA Alliance on the disability barriers online survey and Engagement Guide.

6. It is time for the Government to keep two key decade-old election promises made to the AODA Alliance concerning education in Ontario.

As always, we offer practical recommendations for prompt action. Our letter recommends the following 10 actions, which the Government could easily and quickly take:

1. We ask the Government to accelerate the process of appointing the Education Standards Development Committee as soon as possible after the July 31, 2017 deadline for people to apply to serve on it.

2. Once it is appointed, we ask the Government to get the Education Standards Development Committee up and running as quickly as possible, starting by mid-September.

3. We ask the Government to adjust its online survey to explicitly include the additional disability accessibility barriers we list in our letter. Because the Government’s survey is being run on the Survey Monkey website, it will be easy to adjust it at any time.

4. We ask the Government to expand the survey to include disability accessibility barriers in all educational organizations in Ontario’s education system, not just in publicly-funded schools, or in colleges and universities. For example, it should also include private schools, early learning programs and job training programs.

5. We ask the Government to remove the reference in the survey that suggests that older buildings are a problem for built environment accessibility, unlike newer buildings.

6. We ask the Government to re-issue its Engagement Guide for schools, colleges and universities, after expanding it to include a wide and inclusive spectrum of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, including the missing barrier areas that the AODA Alliance has identified in this letter.

7. We ask the Government to widely circulate to educational organizations the June 19, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, which offers tips to Ontario’s education system on how to conduct public forums or meetings to gather feedback for the Government on disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations.

8. We ask the Government to not try to impose prior restraints on which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider within the scope of the AODA.

9. We ask the Government to consult with and work with the AODA Alliance on its upcoming actions on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard, including e.g. on the terms of reference or mandate for the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee.

10. We ask the Government to now keep its decade-old election promises to

a) reach out to self-governing professions (which certain should include teachers) to include disability inclusion and accessibility training in their professional training, and

b) create school curriculum on disability accessibility and inclusion.

At the end of this Update, we offer helpful links to important background information

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliances June 21, 2017 Letter to the Ontario Ministers of Accessibility, of Education and of Advanced Education and Skills Development

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance www.aodaalliance.org

June 21, 2017

Via Email Tracy.MacCharles@ontario.ca

The Honourable Tracy MacCharles,
Minister of Accessibility and Minister of Government and Consumer Services Office of the Minister Responsible for Accessibility
6th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

And

Via email: Mitzie.hunter@ontario.ca

The Honourable Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education
22nd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

And

Via email deb.matthews@ontario.ca

The Honourable Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development 3rd Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay St,
Toronto, ON M7A 1L2

Dear Ministers,

Re: Ensuring Ontario’s Education System Becomes Fully Accessible to Hundreds of Thousands of Students with Disabilities

We commend the Government for three steps that it took on May 25, 2017

1. launching the process for recruiting people to serve on the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee.

2. launching an online survey of the public on disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, and

3. encouraging educational organizations like schools to hold community forums or meetings to gather input on the education disability barriers that students with disabilities face.

However, we wish to raise several concerns regarding your Government’s May 25, 2017 announcements. Unless our concerns are addressed, the promised Education Accessibility Standard could fail to address many if not the majority of disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario. We also wish to recommend constructive action to address our concerns. As always, we would welcome the chance to work with you and your Government to succeed in the important area of tearing down the many disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system.

1. Speeding Up the Development of the Promised Education Accessibility Standard

We are very concerned with the protracted delay in getting to work on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard. It was not necessary for the Government to take fully six months to release this public survey and launch the recruitment of people to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee. Premier Wynne commendably announced on December 5, 2016 that the Government would create an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Before that, The Government had spent years exploring whether to agree to develop an Education Accessibility Standard. Only seven and a half years remain for the Government to lead Ontario to full accessibility, including its education system. Premier Wynne has promised to ensure that Ontario is on schedule for that deadline, a deadline which the AODA makes mandatory.

Recommendations

1. We ask the Government to accelerate the process of appointing the Education Standards Development Committee as soon as possible after the July 31, 2017 deadline for people to apply to serve on it.

2. Once it is appointed, we ask the Government to get the Education Standards Development Committee up and running as quickly as possible, starting by mid-September.

2. The Government’s Online Disability Education Survey is Too Narrow

The Government’s online survey of education disability accessibility barriers is too narrow. We have two concerns:

First, the Government’s online survey only asks about disability accessibility barriers in publicly-funded schools, and in colleges and universities in Ontario. This leaves out the significant number of other organizations in Ontario’s education system which provide education programming to the public. It leaves out all private schools. It leaves out pre-school early learning programs. It leaves out all job training and apprenticeship programs, if they are not administered by a college or university.

All the excluded educational organizations must obey the right of students with disabilities to equality in education enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code. An AODA Education Accessibility Standard aims to ensure that that right is fully honoured and implemented.

Excluding those educational organizations flies in the face of Government policy and priorities. The Government has itself emphasized the importance of early learning and early literacy. Children with disabilities should be able to fully participate in and fully benefit from that programming. School education is important, whether it is provided in a publicly-funded school or a private school. The Government has recognized the importance of a good education to getting a job. Job training programs are thereby critical for people with disabilities, whether or not they are offered by a college or university.

Second, the Government’s survey takes much far too narrow a view of the many accessibility barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. the Government’s online survey only focuses on five limited kinds of disability accessibility barriers. As explained in the Government’s related “Engagement guide”, these are:

“1. Accessibility Awareness and Training
Ensuring all members of the school community have differentiated training to provide an accessible and inclusive educational experience

2. Awareness of Accessibility Accommodations Policies, Processes, and Programs/Supports
Ensuring parents, students, and instructors have access to information about programs

3. Information, Communication, and Inclusive Decision-Making
Ensuring people with lived experience have a voice during planning processes

4. Transition Planning
Supporting children entering school from child care and planning for entry into post-secondary education or employment

5. Inclusive and Accessible Learning Spaces
Ensuring that K-12 schools, colleges and universities include accessibility features throughout the built environment.”

The Government’s survey does not specifically focus on many if not the majority of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. If the promised Education Accessibility Standard only or primarily focuses on the five kinds of disability accessibility barriers that the Government has chosen, before it even appoints the Education Standards Development Committee, that new accessibility standard will leave many if not most of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system in place. They will continue to impede students with disabilities.

Here is a much more inclusive list of questions that we propose. Where the Government’s online survey addresses an area in whole or in part, we note this in this list:

1. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that make it harder for students with disabilities to independently get in, get around, and safely use the buildings or grounds of a school, college, university, early learning center, or job training program? (physical barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey includes this topic)

2. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of to digital accessibility in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? This can include such things as accessibility barriers for students with disabilities using computers, tablets, software, mobile apps, websites, e-books, or other classroom or online technology that is not equipped for students with disabilities. This can, for example, also include education organizations that circulate information in documents or electronic formats that lack accessibility features. (digital accessibility barriers)

3. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities from getting, on a timely basis, instructional materials like school books or textbooks, in formats that they can read? (information and communication barriers)

4. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or to do you know of, in the process for getting into any specific education program in Ontario? This can include, for example, barriers in the admission qualifications, requirements or criteria, or in the application process, or in an admissions test. Are there qualifications or tests that make it harder or impossible for students with certain disabilities to get in or to be fairly considered? (admission barriers)

5. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of created by the attitudes of other students, parents, or staff that can impede students with disabilities from being fully included in and fully participating in education activities at school, colleges, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (attitude barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey includes this at least in part)

6. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from getting into and fully participating in work study programs, co-op placements, apprenticeships, and other “experiential learning activities in school, college, university or job training programs? In the fall 2016 Throne Speech, the Ontario Government promised an experiential learning opportunity for every student in publicly-funded schools. (experiential learning barriers)

7. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in the curriculum used in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (curriculum barriers)

8. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of in the way classes or lessons are taught in schools, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? When a class is taught, do instructors’ lesson plans use the approach called “universal design in learning” (teaching in a way to include students with different learning styles and needs)? (lesson plan barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey addresses this in part.)

9. What barriers in schools, colleges, universities, early learning programs or job training programs, have you experienced or do you know of, that impede teachers from knowing how to effectively teach all students including students with disabilities? (instructor training and skills barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey addresses this.)

10. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that impede students with disabilities from fully using libraries and library resources at a school, college, university, early learning centre or job training program? (library barriers)

11. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible transportation to the educational organization, where they will study and learn? (transportation barriers)

12. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible housing where needed to participate in education at a school, college, university or other educational organization? (housing barriers)

13. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that can impede students with disabilities from fully participating in extra-curricular activities? (extra-curricular barriers)

14. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from using disability supports and accommodations that they need, like a service animal, at a school, college, university, early learning program or job training program? (service animal barriers)

15. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, in the way a student’s learning or progress is tested, and that impede students with disabilities from being fairly and accurately assessed? (testing barriers)

16. What disability accessibility barriers or other problems have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities and their families from getting easy and prompt access to information needed to fully participate in education programs like schools, colleges, universities or other education programs, e.g. difficulty in finding out the options that are available for them and how to get them? (access to needed information barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey addresses this.)

17. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that make it harder for students with disabilities or their families to

a) take part in and be fully included in decisions on how the school, college, university or other educational organization will accommodate the student’s individual disability needs;

b) ensure that the school, college, university or other educational organization provides the disability accommodations that they have committed to provide, or

c) quickly and easily appeal within the school board, college, university or other educational organization, if the educational organization refuses to provide a disability accommodation that the student or their family has requested (i.e. to avoid the need for the student to have to go to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to file a human rights complaint against the educational organization). (fair procedure barriers) (Note: the Government’s survey addresses this at least in part.)

18. What policy or bureaucratic barriers exist at school boards or other education organizations that can make it harder for students with disabilities to be included in regular classes with the disability supports they need to fully participate? (inclusion barriers)

19. What legal barriers can get in the way of school boards or other education organizations from effectively meeting the disability needs of students with disabilities, such as in Ontario’s Education Act, which does not include all students with disabilities within the definition of students with special education needs? (legal barriers)

The preceding additional accessibility barriers took us little time to compile, using volunteer effort. The Government should certainly know about all of these disability accessibility barriers. Over seven months ago, the AODA Alliance gave the Government its Discussion Paper on what the Education Accessibility Standard should address.

Moreover, over seven months ago, the AODA Alliance gave the Government our detailed analysis of the 2015 KPMG Report on education disability accessibility barriers. It is obvious from the Government’s online survey that the Government relied heavily on the KPMG report when designing this education barrier online survey. Our detailed analysis showed last fall that the KPMG report left out key education disability accessibility barriers.

It is good that the Government’s survey asks about accessibility barriers in the built environment.
However, the survey incorrectly suggests that new buildings in schools, colleges or universities are more accessible than old ones. the survey states:

“Students may face challenges navigating older buildings designed and constructed before current accessibility requirements were established.”

This statement is regrettably not accurate as a generalization. Newer buildings can present as many or more accessibility problems than older ones. This is due to deficiencies in the Ontario Building Code, in AODA accessibility standards, and in the problematic practices of too many design professionals such as architects.

For example, the major recent renovations at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School resulted in a far less accessible building for people with vision loss than the older building, that had originally been built over four decades ago. As well, a widely-publicized AODA Alliance Youtube video shows serious accessibility problems at the brand-new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre.

Fortunately, the survey’s questions themselves do not seem to be limited to older buildings. However, the sentence, quoted above, risks steering the public to focusing on older buildings.

The Education Accessibility Standard’s purpose should be to ensure that our education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities by 2025. Removing and preventing accessibility barriers lets students with disabilities be fully included in and fully benefit from our education system.

The Education Accessibility Standard needs to address accessibility barriers facing students with any disabilities, not just the disabilities which Ontario’s 36-year-old outdated special education laws recognize. This should include any physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, mental health, learning, communication, neurological or other kind of disability. To that end, it is commendable that the Government’s May 25, 2017 announcement includes the more inclusive AODA definition of “disability.”

It is commendable that in the Government’s online survey, after it focuses on the five chosen areas of disability accessibility barriers, the Government invites the public to tell about any other disability accessibility barriers they know of in Ontario’s education system. Yet the survey’s five focus areas substantially steer the public input that the Government will receive to an unduly narrow list of barriers.

Recommendations

3. We ask the Government to adjust its online survey to explicitly include the additional disability accessibility barriers we list in our letter. Because the Government’s survey is being run on the Survey Monkey website, it will be easy to adjust it at any time.

4. We ask the Government to expand the survey to include disability accessibility barriers in all educational organizations in Ontario’s education system, not just in publicly-funded schools, or in colleges and universities. For example, it should also include private schools, early learning programs and job training programs.

5. We ask the Government to remove the reference in the survey that suggests that older buildings are a problem for built environment accessibility, unlike newer buildings.

3. Expanding the Government’s Engagement Guide for Education Organizations Like Schools that Hold Public Forums or Meetings on Education Disability Accessibility Barriers

It is commendable that the Government is encouraging education organizations to organize and convene public community events to gather information on the accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system. The May 25, 2017 Engagement Guide which the Ministry of Education has sent to publicly-funded school boards across Ontario to help them do this, is helpful. However, it has problems that need to be corrected.

The Government’s Engagement Guides for schools, colleges and universities, like its online survey, steers the discussions with students, families, educators and others that it invites to the five limited areas of disability accessibility barriers that we quoted earlier in this letter. By leaving out many if not most of the disability accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities, this Engagement Guide thereby misses a great chance to get helpful input on the full range of accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

It is commendable that the Engagement Guide, like the survey, also ends with open-ended questions that let people identify other disability accessibility barriers. However, as with the survey, the Government’s steering the discussion in this way is not rectified by those concluding questions. After all, the Engagement Guide shows its primary focus, by stating right near the start:

“We have identified five potential themes for discussion:”

Recommendations

6. We ask the Government to re-issue its Engagement Gide for schools, colleges and universities, after expanding it to include a wide and inclusive spectrum of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, including the missing barrier areas that the AODA Alliance has identified in this letter.

7. We ask the Government to widely circulate to educational organizations the June 19, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, which offers tips to Ontario’s education system on how to conduct public forums or meetings to gather feedback for the Government on disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations.

4. Government’s Preparing to Restrict Which Education Barriers the Education Standards Development Committee Can Consider

From Communications that the Government has sent to the education sector, but not the disability community, it is now clear that the Ontario Government is planning and preparing to try to restrict in advance, which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can deal with. We have made it clear to the Government that this should not occur. It works against the goals of the AODA, achieving a fully accessible education system by 2025. Because the Government has taken so long to get the Standards Development Committee process going, it has thereby reduced the time that educational organizations will have to reach full accessibility, once an Education Accessibility Standard is enacted.

The Government has given different explanations to the disability community, as contrasted with the education sector (like school boards), on how it plans to use the results of its education barriers online survey. In a May 25, 2017 broadcast email that announces this survey, Assistant Deputy Minister for Accessibility Ann Hoy told the disability community that the survey results will be shared with the Standards Development Committee to help with its work. She wrote:

“Your input through this survey will be shared with a Standards Development Committee and will help to provide the foundation for a new accessibility standard for education in Ontario.”

We have no objection to this, as long as it does not delay the appointment of the Education Standards Development Committee. To the contrary, this survey can be very helpful, if the survey is modified, as we recommended earlier in this letter.

In sharp contrast, in a concurrent May 25, 2017 letter to the education sector such as school boards, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter went further. She said that the Government will also use the survey’s results to define which education accessibility barriers the Standards Development Committee could even consider. The Government will do this before that Standards Development Committee starts its work. The Government initially did not send the Education Minister’s letter to us. Someone in the education sector passed it on to us. In that letter, Education Minister Hunter wrote:

“We are also conducting a survey to hear from you in the possible scope of this committees mandate.”

It is wrong for the Government to try to restrict, in advance, which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider. Under the AODA, the job of the Education Standards Development Committee is to give the Government advice on which disability accessibility barriers need to be addressed in Ontario’s education system. For example, for the Government to limit the Education Standards Development Committee to publicly-funded schools, colleges and universities, and to limit it to the five areas of disability accessibility barriers that are the focus of the Government’s survey and Engagement Guide would, as noted earlier, force the Education Accessibility Standard to leave permanently in place many if not the majority of disability accessibility barriers now impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system.

This independent Standards Development Committee needs to be free to give whatever advice it wishes. Indeed, any such attempted prior restraints will be futile. Those who serve on that Committee should give whatever advice they feel is needed, so long as it falls within the AODA’s parameters.

Recommendations

8. We ask the Government to not try to impose prior restraints on which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider within the scope of the AODA.

5. The Government’s Failure to Consult the AODA Alliance On the Disability Barriers Online Survey and Engagement Guide

We regret that over the six months that it took to work on them, the Government never consulted the AODA Alliance on the contents of its online survey or its Engagement Guide. This letter itself shows that we have positive, helpful and constructive ideas to share. This is made worse by the fact that the Government did not earlier have KPMG consult us or people with disabilities generally on the disability accessibility barriers they face in Ontario’s education system, when it prepared its Government-funded report on which the Government has relied.

We fear that there is a troubling and growing pattern. The Government also did not consult the AODA Alliance on its Disability Employment Strategy, announced on June 5, 2017. Our input can help the Government. As the saying goes, “Nothing about us without us!”

We have led the campaign for accessibility in Ontario for people with disabilities since the AODA was passed. This includes our leading the campaign to get an Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario.

Recommendations

9. We ask the Government to consult with and work with the AODA Alliance on its upcoming actions on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard, including e.g. on the terms of reference or mandate for the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee.

6. Time to Keep Two Key Decade-Old Election Promises Made to the AODA Alliance

In its survey and Engagement Guide, the Government seeks input from students, teachers and families about the need to better train teachers on how to teach students with disabilities. It also asks about educating students without disabilities about including students with disabilities and about meeting their accessibility needs. It has been a full decade since the very same Government made two important and as yet unkept promises on these very points. In the 2007 provincial election, Ontario’s Liberal Party leader, Premier Dalton McGuinty, wrote the AODA Alliance on September 14, 2007, promising to advocate to self-governing professions (which would include teachers) to include accessibility training in their professional training. It also promised to offer curriculum to school boards on similar disability content. In his September 14, 2007 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out his party’s election promises on accessibility, Premier McGuinty wrote:

“Institute a new program to ensure that students in schools and professional organizations are trained on accessibility issues.

We already include awareness of and respect for students with special needs: in every curriculum document there is a front piece on planning programs for students with special education needs. Disability awareness is an expectation in the Grade 12 Social Sciences and Humanities course. Our government also introduced character education.

Character education is about schools reinforcing values shared by the school community values such as respect, honesty, responsibility and fairness. It is about nurturing universal values, upon which schools and communities can agree. We will ensure that this curriculum includes issues relating to persons with disabilities.

The Government of Ontario does not set the training curriculum for professional bodies such as architects, but we commit to raising this issue with the different professional bodies.”

Recommendations

10. We ask the Government to now keep its decade-old election promises to

a) reach out to self-governing professions (which certain should include teachers) to include disability inclusion and accessibility training in their professional training, and

b) create school curriculum on disability accessibility and inclusion.

In conclusion, please accept this detailed letter as showing both our expertise in this area and our eagerness to help the Government succeed in making educational organizations fully accessible to people with disabilities.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont.
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, premier@ontario.ca
Marie-Lison Fougère, Deputy Minister of Accessibility, marie-lison.fougere@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, ann.hoy@ontario.ca Steve Orsini, Secretary to Cabinet steve.orsini@ontario.ca
Sheldon Levy, Deputy Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Sheldon.levy@ontario.ca Bruce Rodrigues, Deputy Minister of Education Bruce.Rodrigues@ontario.ca

List of Recommendations

1. We ask the Government to accelerate the process of appointing the Education Standards Development Committee as soon as possible after the July 31, 2017 deadline for people to apply to serve on it.

2. Once it is appointed, we ask the Government to get the Education Standards Development Committee up and running as quickly as possible, starting by mid-September.

3. We ask the Government to adjust its online survey to explicitly include the additional disability accessibility barriers we list in our letter. Because the Government’s survey is being run on the Survey Monkey website, it will be easy to adjust it at any time.

4. We ask the Government to expand the survey to include disability accessibility barriers in all educational organizations in Ontario’s education system, not just in publicly-funded schools, or in colleges and universities. For example, it should also include private schools, early learning programs and job training programs.

5. We ask the Government to remove the reference in the survey that suggests that older buildings are a problem for built environment accessibility, unlike newer buildings.

6. We ask the Government to re-issue its Engagement Gide for schools, colleges and universities, after expanding it to include a wide and inclusive spectrum of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, including the missing barrier areas that the AODA Alliance has identified in this letter.

7. We ask the Government to widely circulate to educational organizations the June 19, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, which offers tips to Ontario’s education system on how to conduct public forums or meetings to gather feedback for the Government on disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations.

8. We ask the Government to not try to impose prior restraints on which disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee can consider within the scope of the AODA.

9. We ask the Government to consult with and work with the AODA Alliance on its upcoming actions on developing the promised Education Accessibility Standard, including e.g. on the terms of reference or mandate for the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee.

10. We ask the Government to now keep its decade-old election promises to

a) reach out to self-governing professions (which certain should include teachers) to include disability inclusion and accessibility training in their professional training, and

b) create school curriculum on disability accessibility and inclusion.

4. Helpful Links and Resources

For the June 16, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, which offers tips for people filling out the Government’s online survey of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06162017.asp

For the June 19, 2017 AODA Alliance Update, offering tips to educational organizations in Ontario, when they organize a public meeting or forum on disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06192017.asp

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, visit www.aodaalliance.org

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11212016.asp

To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06142017.asp

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Governments 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 Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Employees With Disabilities Need More Than a Government Strategy, Say Advocates

Meagan Gillmore
June 20, 2017
Rabble news

The Ontario government’s recently announced strategy to increase employment of people with disabilities lacks concrete details about how to meet the complex problem, disability advocates say.

The strategy, called Access Talent, was released earlier this month. It challenges all Ontario employers with more than 20 employees to hire at least one more person with a disability, resulting in approximately 56,000 more jobs.

The strategy focuses on four main areas: better preparing youth with disabilities for employment; supporting employers to hire employees who have disabilities; integrating government-operated services and making the government a leader in accessibility.

“Access Talent is a starting point,” the strategy says, noting ongoing consultations will refine the strategy. The government will consult with Indigenous and Francophone groups to ensure programs are culturally appropriate, the strategy says.

Advocates and service organizations welcomed the announcement, but the lack of details in the strategy tempered their enthusiasm.

Tobi Muntaz, adult services coordinator at Autism Ontario, said the strategy addresses “fantastic and necessary work.” But she stressed the importance of people finding meaningful and sustainable jobs. “It’s great that we’ve created jobs,” she said, “but are they jobs that people are happy in?”

Muntaz called the strategy “high-level and lofty.” It offers few specifics about the government’s plans.

The strategy announced initiatives like an employers’ partnership table and an online portal for employers to share experiences and resources, as well as providing more personalized services and supports in the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to help youth gain employment. The strategy also includes a new supported employment program through Employment Ontario that will provide high-quality services to people looking for work and support for employers.

In an email to rabble.ca, the government said it will increase annual funding to ODSP Employment Supports by $2 million in 2017-2018. Another $1 million is slated for public education.

There are few specifics about the strategy. The employers’ partnership table has not been formed. The government has not determined how it will track which businesses are hiring employees with disabilities. The online portal will be available in the “near future,” the government said. About the supported employment program, the government said it is beginning to “assess the willingness and readiness of service providers” in Cornwall, Timmins and Belleville, locations where the government hopes to implement the strategy by April 2018.

The lack of details frustrated some disability advocates.

In a release, David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, a non-partisan group committed to accessibility in the province, criticized the government for continually moving slowly when addressing the unemployment and underemployment of people with disabilities.

The strategy “too often re-announces things government had said it was already doing,” Lepofsky said in the statement, noting more consultations could result in months of delays. “After years of waiting, what we need instead is a plan to hit the ground running now, with immediate, practical action that will quickly help get jobs for far too many unemployed and under-employed Ontarians with disabilities,” he said.

The alliance asked the government to consult with them, Lepofsky told rabble.ca in an email. He called the government’s failure to do so “really inexcusable.”

Donald Prong, executive director of the Ontario Association of the Deaf, said the strategy has the government “singing the same tune over and over again.”

“There’s nothing new there,” he said, calling new initiatives “regurgitated information to help (the government) win the next election.”

Prong emphasized the government needs to “walk the talk” and hire more Deaf people. Most Deaf provincial government employees work at Deaf schools run by the province, not in mainstream departments people with disabilities use, like the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) that administers ODSP. Frontline workers’ lack of knowledge about the struggles Deaf people face every day is “scary,” he said.

Employing people with disabilities isn’t always simple

The government’s Access Talent strategy repeatedly stresses the need to show employers that people with disabilities are good workers, and that making workplaces where they can demonstrate their skills is simple.

Getting government supports for adults with developmental disabilities can be difficult. Services in the education system end at age 21. Adults may wait years to access programs from Developmental Services Ontario (DSO). Not all people who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) qualify for DSO, said Tobi Muntaz. Eligibility is partly based on IQ scores. If someone has ASD and a high IQ, they may not qualify for DSO services. They may still need funding for support in learning skills like personal hygiene or social interactions, critical when accessing jobs.

“There’s just a lot of ways that you can become ineligible (for DSO services), and only one way that you can become eligible,” said Muntaz.

People with ASD can struggle learning “the hidden curriculum” of skills like communicating with authority figures, she said.

Each person may need different things to excel at work. These could include completing job interviews online, or changing the workplace environment to eliminate distractions. Employers could let people work from home if that’s an environment where workers can be most productive, Muntaz said. But this requires employers to be flexible, and for employees with ASD to know what they need and how to ask for it.

When that happens, employees can succeed. David Moloney has worked at CIBC in Toronto since 2007. He recently began training for a back office job after years as a branch ambassador interacting with customers. He enjoyed his previous position, but likes how his new role gives him more routine and could allow for job advancement.

Moloney, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s as a young adult, said he used to be extremely shy. He’s gotten better at being in large groups, and “revels” in public speaking, he said. But difficulty understanding social cues “is something that’s always with me.” He credits his success to a job coach he accessed through ODSP Employment Supports, and supportive managers.

Not everyone has these resources.

Donald Prong said Deaf employees face particular barriers, partly because of limited education opportunities. They’re also sometimes excluded from broader groups of people who have disabilities. This is because Deaf people are a linguistic, cultural minority group, he said.

More employers are used to accommodating people who use wheelchairs or installing assistive technology for people with visual impairments. (The Access Talent strategy repeatedly mentions helping employers get adaptive technology or assistive devices.) But the language barrier to communicate with a Deaf person can intimidate employers. Prong has heard about Deaf employers who were reprimanded for not following new health and safety procedures. But the policies were presented at staff meetings where there was no sign language interpretation.

Deaf employees will likely need a sign language interpreter to succeed at work — an added cost for employers. Unlike wheelchairs that only need replacement every few years, sign language interpretation is an ongoing need. Prong worked in human resources at a large non-profit before coming to the Ontario Association for the Deaf. He says he succeeded at that job because he had a sign language interpreter at work.

The Ontario Association of the Deaf participated in a community forum about the government’s strategy. It recommended employers receive tax breaks for hiring interpreters.

Moloney said he’s not concerned the government’s challenge for employers to hire more people with disabilities will lead to tokenism.

“I personally believe that however we can do it, we should get as many people with disabilities (jobs),” he said. “It’s on us, and various employers, to employ people with disabilities not because they need the work, but because it makes sense.”

Meagan Gillmore is rabble.ca’s labour reporter.

Original at http://www.rabble.ca/news/2017/06/employees-disabilities-need-more-government-strategy-say-advocates

Mother of Two Disabled Daughters Concerned About Lack of Accessibility at New Foldens Playground

By Bruce Chessell, Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Tuesday, June 20, 2017

While most children were able to enjoy the new Foldens playground during its grand opening Saturday, there was at least one who could not.

Eight-year-old Chloe Nicol came to the playground from Salford with her mother Karen on Saturday for the opening in Foldens Park. Chloe, however, couldn’t make it to the playground equipment because of her wheelchair.

Chloe is a brain trauma injury survivor who has been in a wheelchair for her whole life. Karen also has another daughter Norah, 8, who is also confined to a wheelchair with Kleefstra syndrome. Karen said neither of her daughters could make it to the equipment because the playground surface is covered in wood chips, with no cement walkways to connect the entrance to any of that equipment.

“A child like mine, who goes in a wheelchair to the park that gets pushed, or my other daughter, who goes in a chair that pushes herself independently, cannot get to the playground,” Karen Nicol said. “They even post on the Oxford County website their mission statement about accessibility and what Oxford County stands for.”

Karen Nicol also noted that South-West Oxford Township’s mission statement states the township is committed to inspiring all people in a way that allows them to maintain their dignity and independence. The statement also emphasizes a commitment to meeting the needs of people with disabilities by preventing and removing barriers to accessibility and meeting all the requirements under the Accessibility for Ontario with Disabilities Act.

“Clearly they go against their own protocol because a child with mobility issues cannot access that park,” Karen Nicol said.

When she and her two daughters arrived at Saturday’s playground opening, her eight-year-old could not play on the equipment because her wheelchair couldn’t navigate through the surrounding sand or wood chips.

“People were watching. My 12-year-old son (Owen) got upset because he couldn’t play with his sister at the park,” she said. “That’s discrimination to me.

“All I ever get told is go to Woodstock’s Southside Park or go to Ingersoll Park.”

Karen Nicol said she has talked to both Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman and South-West Oxford Mayor David Mayberry about the issue.

Hardeman told the Sentinel-Review the playground meets all of the provincial accessibility standards.

“The big challenge is that the actual pad where the playground is in is on wood chips for the protection of young children as they fall off the playground equipment,” the MPP said. “That covering is not conducive to having wheelchairs roll over it, and I guess the challenge is that if a child in a wheelchair could get up to the equipment, it would be difficult for them to use that equipment.

“With the rules right now, accessibility means whether you can get to a particular point and in that case it does meet that standard.”

Foldens Hall Board chair Mitch Kirby echoed the MPP’s remarks, saying that the park meets all of the provincial standards for accessibility.

“We met all provincial standards and guidelines,” Kirby said. “We’ve met everything that we needed to, to put our playground in.”

Karen Nicol suggested the playground should remove the wood chips, put in a rubberized bottom, make the sidewalk cement and move the wall panels from the edge of the playground to make it more accessible.

Mayberry said there is a difference between being accessible and being barrier free.

“The issue with the wood chips … They are difficult for people in wheelchairs, and we understand that,” Mayberry said, “but they are approved by the province as a surface area. There are other surface areas that you can use, which are equally difficult, maybe more so than the wood chips.

“The ultimate covering for the playground would be a rubber mat, and it’s fairly expensive. The quote for the rubber mat for this playground was like $40,000, and the playground was just shy of $60,000, so it’s fairly expensive and we don’t know how long they’re going to last.

“So you have to say that this is what the province is recommending, this is what the township wants to do and our full intention is to live up to the regulations of the province and the recommendations of the county’s accessibility committee, and we haven’t heard from them – that committee – that this doesn’t meet the code.”

Mayberry said he does recognize that Karen Nicol’s children have to deal with significant disabilities, adding they tried to meet the needs of as many people as they could.

“I think we recognize that we’re not perfect yet,” he said. “We did try and live up to the standards of the province. I think the real question is are the standards of the province good enough?”

bchessell@postmedia.com

Original at http://www.woodstocksentinelreview.com/2017/06/20/mother-of-two-disabled-daughters-concerned-about-lack-of-accessibility-at-new-foldens-playground

Toronto Needs New Plan to Be Barrier Free as Accessibility Becomes Law, Says Advocate

Some accessibility advocates say they’re concerned barriers going up not coming down By Philip Lee-Shanok, CBC News Posted: Jun 19, 2017

Maayan Ziv, founder of Access Now remembers Arruda for his warmth but also his contrasting sharp jokes about living with a visible disability.

As the city seeks to renew its accessibility plan, those who want to eliminate barriers say some Toronto small businesses are putting them up instead of tearing them down.

Maayan Ziv is the founder of AccessNow, an app that finds and rates accessibility of restaurants and stores, found out a place where she used to buy shawarma on Spadina Avenue is no longer barrier free.

She says she was shocked to find that the entrance to the Paramount Fine Foods on the corner of Spadina Avenue and Richmond Street West suddenly has a step.

“There used to be another Middle Eastern restaurant there and in renovating they built over and existing ramp and created a step,” said Ziv. “They went in the wrong way in terms of accessibility.”

It turns out there is indeed a secondary entrance that is accessible off Richmond Street, though not always used or consistently open, and that the restaurant now has a StopGap ramp to help make its main entrance barrier-free.

Public consultations begin

But other businesses in her neighbourhood have also added steps where there used to be a barrier free entrance, Ziv says. The renovation of the Pizzaiolo at 123 Spadina Avenue also included the addition of a step.

Manager Anik Gosh says the store did have a sloped entrance before but that steps had to be put in to create a stairway to the second floor. He says his store is also looking into putting in a StopGap ramp.

Paramount after
While the front entrance of this Paramount Fine Foods now has a single step, the location has put in a StopGap ramp to make it more accessible. (Google Maps)

But Ziv says that “to have business invest in additional or new barriers is absolutely ridiculous.”

Ziv voiced her concerns to CBC Toronto ahead of Monday’s public consultations on how it plans to meet the standards of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in the areas of employment, transportation, information and in acquiring goods, services or facilities. The law, passed in 2005, aims to have all government, non-profit and private businesses accessible and fully barrier free Ontario by 2025.

But her recent experience with eateries in her neighbourhood have left Ziv skeptical.

‘It needs to be a priority’

“The risk when we hear the city is consulting is that it sounds like genuine interest it sounds good. But it needs to be a priority.” she said. “What I’d like to see is that the same way we can invest millions in a new park, that we address accessibility with the same seriousness.”

Ziv hopes the city’s accessibility plan emphasizes that addressing accessibility should be not be an afterthought, but something that helps create a more inclusive fruitful economy.

She adds that after the access problem was brought to the attention of Paramount they have since installed a Stopgap ramp.

Luke Anderson, co-founder of Stopgap Foundation, came up with the idea for the plywood ramps so “single-step storefronts” can become accessible. But like the name suggests, it’s a temporary solution.

‘How valuable it is to live in a world that is barrier free’

He says the colourful ramps are a way to “create conversations about the importance of designing spaces that everyone can enjoy.”

Pizzaiolo after
The renovation of the Pizzaiolo at 123 Spadina Avenue also included the addition of a step. (Google Maps)

Anderson says that for stores to be creating new barriers during renovations is unacceptable.

“It’s completely regressive… it make absolutely no sense,” said Anderson. “We kind of operate with blinders on. We don’t realize how valuable it is to live in a world that is barrier free.”

He says even though the AODA requires stores to be accessible to all customers, there are exemptions to those rules, such as, for workplaces under 20 employees.

“When I am told, ‘No we don’t need a ramp because we don’t have customers who use wheelchairs,’ at that point I just let them figure out why,” said Anderson. “It makes economic sense to become barrier-free, but at root of it is the human right of equal access.”

Anderson says to make matters worse, provincial and municipal rules are sometimes at odds.

‘Human rights code should trump the bylaws’

He brings up the case of Roncesvalles deli, Stasis Preserves, which has had a Stopgap ramp since 2013. In March, the city ordered it torn down because it encroached on public space in violation of a municipal bylaw.

Luke Anderson
Luke Anderson’s StopGap Foundation builds ramps for single-step storefronts and raises awareness about barriers in our built environment. (Luke Anderson)

“We’ve been working with the city and the province… policymakers from both have been communicating on accessibility issue,” said Anderson.

“The keys to a barrier-free Ontario really lie in the municipalities’ hands. The province sets the rules, but municipalities need to update their bylaws,” he said. “The human rights code should trump the bylaws.”

And while in the case of the ramp at Stasis, the city is enforcing the right-of-way bylaw, the province has not been as diligent in enforcing the AODA.

Anderson says pushing for a barrier free society has been a “a slow and painful process. Up until the early 70’s we didn’t have curb cuts at intersections,” he said.

Toronto’s public consultation on its accessibility plan begins Monday night at 8 p.m. at Metro Hall.

Philip Lee-Shanok

From small town Ontario to Washington D.C., Philip has covered stories big and small. An award-winning reporter with two decades of experience in Ontario and Alberta, he’s now a Senior Reporter for CBC Toronto on television, radio and online. He is also a National Reporter for The World This Weekend on Radio One.

Original at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/public-input-needed-to-help-meet-accessibility-rules-1.4165906

We Invite Schools, Colleges, Universities, Early Learning Programs and Job Training Programs in Ontario to Use These Tips for Holding a Public Event to Gather Feedback from Your Organization and the Public on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Our Education System

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 19, 2017

SUMMARY

It is commendable that the Government is encouraging schools, colleges and universities to convene public community events to gather information on the accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system. Recent AODA Alliance Updates explained that the Ontario Government is asking the public to tell it about the disability accessibility barriers that create problems for students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Public forums or meetings that educational organizations might organize can really help the Government get public feedback on these education disability accessibility barriers.

We heartily encourage all education organizations in Ontario to organize and host public meetings or forums to get feedback from the public on this important topic. In this Update, we give helpful tips to schools, colleges, universities, and any other educational organizations (like early learning centres and job training programs) on how to organize a public forum or meeting on this topic. Our ideas supplement those which the Government offers in its “Engagement Guide” which the Government wrote and sent to school boards.

As explained further in our tips below, schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations should not rush to hold one of these community events before the Government’s July 14, 2017 deadline. The feedback on disability accessibility barriers that can be gathered at a community event like this can and will still be very useful if it is gathered and sent to the Government this fall.

Please help us get as many schools and other educational organizations in Ontario to take up the Government’s good suggestion, to hold public meetings to gather information on education disability accessibility barriers. These public meetings will also help those schools, colleges, and other organizations learn themselves about these disability barriers, so they can take action to remove and prevent them.

We encourage all who received this Update to

* send this AODA Alliance Update to your local school, college, university, school board trustee, early learning centre, job training program, or other education organization. Urge them to organize a public meeting or forum on education accessibility barriers, and to send the feedback they gather to the Government. Feedback on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system should be sent to AODA.INPUT@ontario.ca

It would also be great if those education organizations also forwarded the feedback they gather to us at AODA Alliance. we can be contacted at aodafeedback@gmail.com That feedback will help us, as a non-partisan independent community coalition, shape our proposals that we submit to the Government.

* As our recent June 16, 2017 AODA Alliance Update explained, we also urge one and all to fill out the Government’s online survey on disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system before the Government’s July 14, 2017 deadline. To fill out the survey online, the links are as follows:

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EducationSurveyEN

French: https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/SondageAccessibilite

* For the AODA Alliance’s tips when filling out the Government’s survey, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06162017.asp

MORE DETAILS

1. Why Schools, Colleges, Universities and Other Education Organizations in Ontario Should Organize a Community forum or Meeting To Gather Information About Disability Barriers in Ontario’s Education System

It is very good that the Ontario Government has promised to enact an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That accessibility standard will spell out the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system that must be removed and prevented, and by when action must be taken. These rules will aim to help educational organizations in Ontario fulfil their duties to students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code and, where applicable, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Feedback gathered at a community meeting that a school, college, university or other educational organization holds, on the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, can be used to shape the content of the promised Education Accessibility Standard.

2. When To Hold Community Meetings to Gather Feedback for the Ontario Government on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario’s Education system

In a recent announcement, the Ontario Government asked educational organizations for feedback on education disability accessibility barriers by July 14, 2017. However, we urge schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations not to worry about that deadline. Take the time needed to do it right. Feel free to organize a community meeting or public forum on this topic this fall.

School boards, colleges and universities will be in a far better position to organize these events in the fall, when students will be back in class and easy to reach. The Ontario Government released its invitation for this public feedback on May 25, 2017. That was near or past the end of the teaching term.

The chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, David Lepofsky (who is also the AODA Alliance chair) has publicly recommended that TDSB not rush in June to try to organize these community events. The school year is about to end. Schools and school boards are tied up with year-end workloads.

This information on disability accessibility barriers, once gathered, will not be stale by this fall. The Ontario Government will likely not have the promised Education Standards Development Committee established until early fall. That is the Committee that will need this information on disability accessibility barriers.

Applications can be submitted to serve on the Education Standards Development Committee up to July 31, 2017. That Committee will develop recommendations, that will be submitted to the Ontario Government, on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include. It will use the information gathered at these community events.

3. Tips on How to Gather Information on Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario’s Education System

* Remember that the Government is asking about disability accessibility barriers as they affect students with any kind of disability, whether it is a visible or invisible disability, whether or not it is defined as an “exceptionality” under Ontario’s Education Act. This includes students who have a physical disability, sensory disability (like vision or hearing loss), learning disability, intellectual disability, communication disability, mental health condition, autism, or any other kind of disability.

* Be sure your community meeting or forum focuses on the full range of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Do not in any way limit or primarily focus your community event or your other feedback-gathering to the limited five kinds of accessibility barriers that predominate the Government’s Engagement Guide and online survey. The Government’s Engagement Guide and online survey do not include many, if not most of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Fortunately, the Government’s survey leaves it open at the end to list any other kinds of disability accessibility barriers in educational organizations. That opens the door to a full exploration of all kinds of disability accessibility barriers.

We therefore encourage you to ask these questions of participants, as the focus of the discussion at a community meeting or event on this topic (a list which largely covers off most of those in the Government’s Discussion Guide, one way or another):

1. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that make it harder for students with disabilities to independently get in, get around, and safely use the buildings or grounds of a school, college, university, early learning center, or job training program? (physical barriers)

2. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of to digital accessibility in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? This can include such things as accessibility barriers for students with disabilities using computers, tablets, software, mobile apps, websites, e-books, or other classroom or online technology that is not equipped for students with disabilities. This can, for example, also include education organizations that circulate information in documents or electronic formats that lack accessibility features. (digital accessibility barriers)

3. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities from getting, on a timely basis, instructional materials like school books or textbooks, in formats that they can read? (information and communication barriers)

4. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or to do you know of, in the process for getting into any specific education program in Ontario? This can include, for example, barriers in the admission qualifications, requirements or criteria, or in the application process, or in an admissions test. Are there qualifications or tests that make it harder or impossible for students with certain disabilities to get in or to be fairly considered? (admission barriers)

5. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of created by the attitudes of other students, parents, or staff that can impede students with disabilities from being fully included in and fully participating in education activities at school, colleges, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (attitude barriers)

6. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from getting into and fully participating in work study programs, co-op placements, apprenticeships, and other “experiential learning activities in school, college, university or job training programs? In the fall 2016 Throne Speech, the Ontario Government promised an experiential learning opportunity for every student in publicly-funded schools. (experiential learning barriers)

7. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in the curriculum used in school, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? (curriculum barriers)

8. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of in the way classes or lessons are taught in schools, college, university, early learning programs or job training programs? When a class is taught, do instructors’ lesson plans use the approach called “universal design in learning” (teaching in a way to include students with different learning styles and needs)? (lesson plan barriers)

9. What barriers in schools, colleges, universities, early learning programs or job training programs, have you experienced or do you know of, that impede teachers from knowing how to effectively teach all students including students with disabilities? (instructor training and skills barriers)

10. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that impede students with disabilities from fully using libraries and library resources at a school, college, university, early learning centre or job training program? (library barriers)

11. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible transportation to the educational organization, where they will study and learn? (transportation barriers)

12. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, in getting accessible housing where needed to participate in education at a school, college, university or other educational organization? (housing barriers)

13. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that can impede students with disabilities from fully participating in extra-curricular activities? (extra-curricular barriers)

14. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, that can impede students with disabilities from using disability supports and accommodations that they need, like a service animal, at a school, college, university, early learning program or job training program? (service animal barriers)

15. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or do you know of, in the way a student’s learning or progress is tested, and that impede students with disabilities from being fairly and accurately assessed? (testing barriers)

16. What disability accessibility barriers or other problems have you experienced or do you know of that impede students with disabilities and their families from getting easy and prompt access to information needed to fully participate in education programs like schools, colleges, universities or other education programs, e.g. difficulty in finding out the options that are available for them and how to get them? (access to needed information barriers)

17. What disability accessibility barriers have you experienced or are you aware of, that make it harder for students with disabilities or their families to

a) take part in and be fully included in decisions on how the school, college, university or other educational organization will accommodate the student’s individual disability needs;

b) ensure that the school, college, university or other educational organization provides the disability accommodations that they have committed to provide, or

c) quickly and easily appeal within the school board, college, university or other educational organization, if the educational organization refuses to provide a disability accommodation that the student or their family has requested (i.e. to avoid the need for the student to have to go to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to file a human rights complaint against the educational organization). (fair procedure barriers)

18. What policy or bureaucratic barriers exist at school boards or other education organizations that can make it harder for students with disabilities to be included in regular classes with the disability supports they need to fully participate? (inclusion barriers)

19. What legal barriers can get in the way of school boards or other education organizations from effectively meeting the disability needs of students with disabilities, such as in Ontario’s Education Act, which does not include all students with disabilities within the definition of students with special education needs? (legal barriers)

* Before holding your community event or meeting on this topic, or as part of this meeting, why not organize an Education “Disability Barriers Scavenger Hunt.” Encourage all students (including students with disabilities), their families, and education staff and instructors to look for accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Students and other participants can hunt for disability barriers of all kinds, and keep a list of them. They can take photos or videos of these accessibility barriers, and even share them on social media as part of a school project. Encourage them to also come up with solutions. A class can then come together to share what students found and what solutions they devised.

* Use social media to publicize your community meeting on education disability accessibility barriers. If you include @AODAAlliance in your tweets about it, we would be happy to widely retweet them, garnering you more publicity.

* Invite guest speakers to your community event to recount front-line experiences of students with disabilities with accessibility barriers they have encountered. The AODA Alliance would be happy to try to help, time permitting. Send a request to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

4. Helpful Links and Resources

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, visit www.aodaalliance.org

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11212016.asp

To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06142017.asp

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.com

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. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

Before July 14, 2017 Please Fill Out the Ontario Government’s Survey of Disability Accessibility Barriers that Hurt Students with Disabilities in Ontario’s Education System – Here Are Great Tips to Help You

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 16, 2017

SUMMARY

We strongly encourage you to fill out the Wynne Government’s online survey on accessibility barriers facing students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system, by the July 14, 2017 deadline. Please fill it out whether you are now or have ever been a student with a disability in Ontario, a parent or friend of a student with a disability, a teacher or other staff member in Ontario’s education system, a disability professional who has worked with students with disabilities, or if you have in any way have knowledge about the disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system.

As well, the Ontario Government commendably is encouraging school boards, colleges and universities to convene public forums to gather your input on the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. Please attend these.

This Update’s tips help you, as you fill out the Government’s survey or if you attend a public forum that invites your input on identifying the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. A future AODA Alliance Update will give tips to education organizations on how to conduct those public forums, and on the survey. A later Update will also offer our further reflections on this survey.

Please urge others to fill out the survey, and to use our tips in this Update. We encourage disability community organizations to also use these tips when gathering input and filling out that survey. We invite schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations to circulate these tips to their student population and their staff, and to encourage them to fill use these tips when filling out the Government’s survey.

Right off the top, we flag a very serious concern about the Government’s survey. Our tips, below, show you how to counteract this serious problem, as you answer the survey. As a future AODA Alliance Update will further explain, in this survey, the Wynne Government takes an excessively narrow view of the disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, that impede students with disabilities from fully participating in, being included in, and benefitting from education in Ontario. It also takes too narrow a view of the range of education organizations that need to provide full accessibility to students with disabilities.

It is very troubling that the Government’s survey’s five focus areas leave out many if not most of the recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. If the promised Education Accessibility Standard was limited to those five areas, listed later in this Update, the Government would not ensure that education in Ontario becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities. It would leave many if not most disability accessibility barriers in place forever in Ontario’s education system.

By inappropriately narrowing the survey, the Wynne Government is narrowing the public discussion from the start. The Government appears to be trying to narrow the work of the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee. That Committee, once appointed, will use your feedback to make reform recommendations to the Government.

How can you help us ensure that the Government hears about all the different kinds of disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system that need to be fixed, and all the education organizations that need to fix them? Just follow the action tips we set out below, when you fill out the Government’s survey.

Why does this survey matter? Over a third of a million students with special education needs face too many unfair accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. The AODA Alliance successfully campaigned to get Premier Wynne to agree that her Government will develop an Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That accessibility standard should spell out what school boards, colleges, universities and other education organizations should do to remove these disability accessibility barriers and to prevent new ones from being created. Through this survey, you can tell the Government and the forthcoming Education Standards Development Committee what disability accessibility barriers must be fixed in Ontario’s education system.

To fill out the survey online, the links are as follows:

English: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/EducationSurveyEN

French: https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/SondageAccessibilite

If you want to receive the survey as an MS Word document, fill it out off line, and email it to the Government, click here to download the survey form:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/20170616education-barriers-survey.docx If you fill the survey form out offline, you can email it to the Government at this email address: AODA.INPUT@ontario.ca

For more background on our campaign to win the enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard in Ontario to tear down the many disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system, visit www.aodaalliance.org

To read the AODA Alliances Discussion Paper that explains what we would like the promised Education Accessibility Standard to include, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11212016.asp

To learn how to apply before July 31, 2017 to sit on the Government-appointed Education Standards Development Committee, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06142017.asp

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at aodafeedback@gmail.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: aodafeedback@gmail.com

We encourage you to use the Governments 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 Alliances YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign. https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates: https://www.facebook.com/Accessibility-for-Ontarians-with-Disabilities-Act-Alliance-106232039438820/

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org

MORE DETAILS

1. Telling the Government About the Five Kinds of Disability Accessibility Barriers the Ontario Government’s Survey Asks About in Ontario’s Education System

The survey identifies five focus areas that the Education Accessibility Standard could address. These ignored many if not most of the accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system. We here list those five areas, and give you tips on what you may wish to tell the Government about them.

1. Accessibility Awareness and Training.

Here the Government asks how aware teachers, professors, other students without disabilities and their parents are about meeting the needs in Ontario’s education system of students with disabilities.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had because teachers, professors, or other staff at an educational organization did not seem to know how to teach students with disabilities and to meet the disability learning needs of students with disabilities.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had because other students in their class or at their school, college, university or other educational organization. did not understand the need for their disability accommodation and full inclusion e.g. teasing, bullying, or social isolation of students with disabilities.

2. Awareness of Accessibility Accommodations Policies, Processes, and Programs/Supports.

Here the Government asks about whether students with disabilities, their families and educational organizations are sufficiently aware of available supports and programs for students with disabilities, or if instructors are not aware of their obligations.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, finding out what options are available at an educational organization like a school board, college or university, to meet their disability needs in education.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had to face, figuring out to whom and how to advocate for the student’s individual disability needs to be accommodated so they can fully benefit from their education program.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, in trying to get students with disabilities included in regular classes, rather than being pressed to agree to being placed in segregated or special education programs for students with disabilities (for example, if a school board tells a student or family that the board will give the student with a disability more support if they are in a segregated or special education program).

3. Information, Communication, and Inclusive Decision-Making.

Here, the Government asks about two things: whether students with disabilities or their families are properly included in decisions on how an educational organization will meet the student’s individual disability-related needs e.g. individual education accommodations in the classroom, and whether the school, college or gets advice from students with disabilities and their families on how more broadly to achieve accessibility. It includes in this whether information about these specific topics is provided to students with disabilities in accessible formats.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have experienced when trying to get a school board, college, university or other educational organization to meet with them and to really listen to them, to discuss what individual supports or accommodations the student with a disability needs to be able to study, learn and succeed, e.g. when a school prepares an Individual Education Plan for the student.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, when trying to get the school, college, university or other educational organization to actually deliver the disability supports and accommodations that they have agreed to provide.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had to face, in trying to get their school, college, university or other educational organization to change its mind, if it had already refused to provide a disability support or accommodation that the student or family requested and needs.

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have faced, when trying to get a school, college or university to make changes to its buildings, facilities, programs or other features in order to ensure their accessibility for students with disabilities.

4. Transition Planning

The Government here asks about difficulties students with disabilities may face, when students transition from child care to start school, or from primary school to high school, or from school to work, or to more advanced education and/or community living.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have had, when trying to get disability needs met when they first start at school, or go from elementary school to high school, or go from high school to college or university, or go from school to a finding a job and to living in the community as an adult.

5. Inclusive and Accessible Learning Spaces

Here the Government asks about challenges students with disabilities face, when navigating school, college or university buildings and surrounding grounds.

Our Tips:

* Explain problems that students with disabilities or their families have faced, when trying to get into and around buildings and grounds at school, college, university or other educational organizations. These are not limited to barriers facing people using a wheelchair, and who encounter stairs. This can also include any kind of disability: e.g. difficulties facing students with vision loss in finding their way around the buildings or grounds, lack of accessible signage, excessive noise creating a barrier for some students with autism spectrum disorder, etc.

* The survey wrongly places an emphasis on accessibility barriers in buildings problems in designed and constructed before current accessibility requirements were established. You should tell the Government about accessibility barriers in new buildings and surrounding grounds, and not just in old buildings. The Government’s question lets you tell about new or old properties.

It is inaccurate for the survey to leave an impression that newer buildings are in fact more accessible than older ones. Due to poor provincial requirements on the accessibility of the built environment in the Ontario Building Code and AODA accessibility standards, new buildings are regularly built with accessibility problems, and can be worse than an older building.

2. How to Use the Government’s Survey to Tell the Government About the Many Additional Disability Accessibility Barriers in Ontario’s Education System that the Survey’s Five Focus Areas Leave Out

Near the survey’s end, after it covers those five focus areas, the survey opens the door to let you tell the Government about all the many other disability accessibility barriers that those five areas leave out. The survey’s last two questions are:

“Other Questions

As a student or parent, what other accessibility barriers have you experienced in pursuing your or your childs education, and how could they be addressed through a new accessibility standard for education?

As a professional in the education sector, what other barriers have you experienced in providing an accessible, inclusive education, and how could they be addressed through a new accessibility standard for education?”

Take this opportunity! In fact, you may wish to spend most of your time and effort on this part of the survey.

Our Tips:

Please make these important additional points. You can cut and paste from this Update or use your own words:

* The Education Accessibility Standard’s purpose should be to ensure that our education system becomes fully accessible to students with disabilities by 2025.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should apply to any and all education programming in Ontario, not just publicly-funded schools, and to colleges and universities. It should also apply to private schools. They too have a duty under the Ontario Human Rights Code to provide accessible education to students with disabilities. It should also apply to early learning programs, outside of school boards, and to job training programs, whether or not they are offered in a college or university.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should address disability barriers facing students with any and all kinds of disabilities, not just the disabilities which Ontario’s 36-year-old outdated special education laws recognize. This should include any physical, mental, sensory, intellectual, mental health, learning, communication, neurological or other kind of disability.

* The Education Accessibility Standard should fix all the different kinds of disability barriers in Ontario’s education system, not just the narrow ones covered by the survey’s five focus areas. Here are examples you are encouraged to tell the Government about:

1. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in transportation to get to school (education transportation barriers).

2. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities experienced when trying to use computers, tablets, software, websites, and other digital technology provided at a school, college, university or other educational organization (digital accessibility).

3. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities experienced when trying to use the gym, playground or other equipment or facilities at an school, college, university or other educational organization (equipment accessibility).

4. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to take part in extracurricular activities (extracurricular barriers).

5. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to take part in work study programs, co-op placements or other kinds of on-the-job “experiential learning” programs (experiential learning barriers).

6. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to bring a service animal to school or class (barriers to service animals).

7. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when trying to get instructional materials, like text books and class assignments, in an accessible format, at the same time classmates without disabilities receive the course materials (instructional material barriers).

8. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in course curriculum that doesn’t take into account learning needs of students with disabilities (curriculum barriers).

9. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face when taking tests, exams or other evaluations if these don’t fairly and accurately assess the progress of students with disabilities (testing barriers).

10. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in admission rules, criteria or other screening when trying to get into a course or other educational program (admissions barriers).

11. Disability accessibility barriers that students with disabilities face in French immersion or other specialized programs offered in Ontario’s education system (specialized program barriers).

12. Disability accessibility barriers and problems that students with disabilities face with the way a school, college, university or other education organization decides how it will accommodate the student with disabilities’ needs (placement and accommodation procedure barriers).

13. Explain any policies or bureaucratic barriers that students with disabilities can face when trying to make sure that they can be fully included in and benefit from education programs in Ontario (such as difficulties or roadblocks in getting students with disabilities included and effectively served in a student’s neighbourhood school’s regular classroom). (policy and bureaucratic barriers.)

14. Explain any legal barriers that students with disabilities have faced when trying to fully benefit from and be fully included in education programs in Ontario (such as problems coming from Ontario’s special education laws). (legal barriers.)

15. Any other kinds of disability accessibility barriers that can make it harder for students with disabilities to be fully included in, fully participate in and fully benefit from education programs in Ontario.

16. Overall, how effective has your school, college, university or other educational organization been at ensuring that students with disabilities are fully included in, can fully participate in, and fully benefit from education programs in Ontario?

Supreme Court Rules on the Application of Human Rights Protections to Persons with Addictions Disabilities in Safety-Sensitive Employment Contexts

June 15, 2017

The Supreme Court of Canada released its judgment today in the case of Brent Bish on behalf of Ian Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corporation, Cardinal River Operations, et al., 2017 SCC 30. ARCH Disability Law Centre lawyers, Karen R. Spector and Mariam Shanouda, represented the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) and the Empowerment Council (EC) as joint interveners before the Court.

CCD/EC is concerned with the majoritys decision to dismiss the appeal, finding that there was no discrimination based on the particular set of circumstances before the Court. However, the jurisprudence on the prima facie test for discrimination as set out in Moore v. British Columbia (Education) SCC 2012 61 (Moore) and Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v. Bombardier Aerospace Training Center), 2015 SCC 39 (Bombardier) remains strong and was not overturned by the Court.

The Chief Justice, writing for the majority, re-affirmed that the test set out in Moore and Bombardier is based on three requirements, with no need to add a fourth: First, I see no basis to alter the test for prima facie discrimination by adding a fourth requirement of a finding of stereotypical or arbitrary decision-making (para. 45).

This re-affirmation is important as it directs the lower courts and tribunals to refrain from importing additional factors into the prima facie legal test which raises the threshold to a much higher standard than it is intended to be.

CCD/EC made submissions regarding the barriers in the workplace faced by persons with addictions disabilities including the challenges of disclosing their disability-related needs for accommodation. CCD/EC also made arguments regarding the scope of the employers duty to accommodate including in circumstances where the employees failure to disclose their disability is itself disability-related.

CCD/EC welcome the lengthy dissent by Gascon, J., who found that the prima facie test for discrimination had been met and that the test for undue hardship had not been satisfied. In his dissent, Gascon J. paraphrased CCD/ECs factum and stated, As one intervener put it, drug dependence whether through stigma or denial can be a factor in an employees failure to voluntarily disclose their disability. On that basis, prima facie discrimination was satisfied here. (para. 119)

Gascon J. emphasized that human rights protection extend to persons with addictions disabilities, who:

represent one of the marginalized communities that could easily be caught in a majoritarian blind spot in the discrimination discourse, they of course require equal protection from the harmful effects of discrimination. In my view, improper considerations relied on by the Tribunal here such as drug-dependent persons having some control over their choices and being treated equally to non-drug-dependent persons under drug policies, and drug policies not necessarily being arbitrary or stereotypical effectively excluded Mr. Stewart, a drug-dependent person, from the scope of human rights protections. (para. 59)

April DAubin, Research Analyst at CCD states, The legal test for prima facie discrimination is at the cornerstone of human rights. The courts confirmation of the three-part test maintains the appropriate threshold for establishing discrimination.

Jennifer Chambers, Executive Director of the Empowerment Council states, Persons with mental health disabilities, including addictions disabilities, often experience discrimination and moral judgment. It is essential for persons with addictions disabilities to be included within the scope of human rights protections as recognized by Justice Gascon in his dissent.

For further information, please contact:

James Hicks, CCD National Coordinator: 343-291-1118, or
April DAubin, CCD Research Analyst: 204-947-0303.

Jennifer Chambers, Executive Director, Empowerment Council: jennifer.chambers@camh.ca

Karen R. Spector, ARCH Legal Counsel: 416-482-8255
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Original at http://www.archdisabilitylaw.ca/node/1211