City Removes Hurdle to Access With New Bus Stop Outside Orillia Recreation Centre

New bus stop outside facility means world of difference for local man and others Frank Matys
Orillia Today
Tuesday, June 28, 2022

This started out as a very different story.

For Orillia resident Mark Moore, however, it was the unexpected ending that mattered.

The local man, who has multiple disabilities, contacted in early June to voice frustration with the “appalling” hurdle he and other city transit users faced in accessing the Orillia Recreation Centre.

The nearest bus stop was situated on the opposite side of West Street South, a four-lane road that presents a crossing danger for people with disabilities, older adults and parents with young children, Moore said.

“We’ve got this wonderful, beautiful facility, but there’s a whole huge segment of the population that can’t safely access it,” the 28-year-old said at the time.

Moore, who said he is not eligible to use the Orillia Wheelchair Limousine Service, was left to rely on friends and family to drive him to the facility.

That happened “not as much as I would like, as someone with a disability who is trying to live as independent a life as possible.”

The issue pointed to a gap in accessibility, one that, unbeknownst to Moore, was about to be addressed in a meaningful way.

The city recently announced Orillia’s South A and B transit routes would now service the recreation centre’s main entrance every 30 minutes during regular transit hours.

Jeff Hunter, manager of construction and transit, said part of the challenge in making that happen involved a perceived difficulty in northbound buses turning left into the property, as well as turning left while exiting the site to reach the transit terminal.

“We started to explore maybe doing different routing, trying to reverse the route,” Hunter said of an option that would have “been pretty expensive.”

The issue took on added priority as pandemic restrictions were eased and residents began to make greater use of the facility.

Hunter said the city urged its transit provider, TOK Transit, to try the left-hand turn in and out of the property and said it proved workable.

The result was “a big win for us,” said Hunter, adding staff had heard from facility users who raised the accessibility issue.

“We want to make it accessible for everybody,” he said, noting city buses feature fold-out ramps while the vehicles’ front ends can “kneel down” for easier boarding.

For Moore, word of the new stop came as “wonderful news.”

On top of ensuring safe access, “it will also allow teams and facility user groups to promote the availability of direct public transit access to the facility to non-Orillia teams as they are organizing tournaments,” he added.

Accessibility advocate Tyhme Thompson applauded the measure, while adding that more work is needed to address barriers.

“Since becoming a wheelchair user, I’ve seen a slow progression,” she said. “More awareness is happening, but we definitely need more from a provincial standard.”

She recounted a recent incident in which a sidewalk along West Street was partially blocked by a parked scooter that, in combination with a nearby tree, narrowed the sidewalk to the extent that she was forced onto the busy road in her wheelchair.

Original at

Experts Reveal How On-Demand Transit Can Transform Accessibility for Commuters in Canada

Cities across Canada and the world are changing the ways they approach transportation post-COVID. In order to make systems efficient, inclusive and environmentally friendly, thoughtful planning must be put towards ensuring that people with limited mobility or mobility challenges are central in the decisions being made.


Cambridge Continues to Lead in Removing Accessibility Barriers

‘We are entering a world with an aging population, so we do have to consider accessibility for all, to plan for a better world for everyone, from children to elderly alike’ Barbara Geernaert
Jun 17, 2022

Accessibility is key to living in an inclusive city. And more and more cities seek to be more accessible, including mobility for its residents.

Cambridge continues to help minimize barriers for those with disabilities.

Dan Lajoie, chair of the city of Cambridge Accessibility Advisory Committee, says that Cambridge rates high when it comes to supporting accessibility.

‘The Accessibility Advisory Committee and city council have always been really receptive in making areas more accessible and have always made sure that there is a process in place to make places as accessible as possible,’ Lajoie said.

All municipalities in Ontario are required to have an Accessible Advisory Committee that advises council on issues surrounding the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (AODA)

‘The committee has evolved over the years as has the AODA. Essentially, our role is to make sure that the city complies with any new property developments, trails, parks, or any facilities that are owned and operated by the city,’ Lajoie said.

The Cambridge Accessibility Advisory Committee (CAAC) provides advice to council and consults on projects under the AODA. The committee assists the city in promoting and facilitating a barrier-free Cambridge for citizens of all abilities.

The committee does this by reviewing municipal policies, programs and services and the identification, removal, and prevention of any barriers.

‘Often times, we will get site plans. For example, if the city is working on an arena, we would look at those plans to make sure that all accessibility standards are in place, and even go above and beyond,’ Lajoie said.

For the Accessibility Advisory Committee, Lajoie says it’s not just about meeting regulations, but building inclusive spaces.

‘I think in the past few years, especially, we have taken strides to ensure that inclusive and universal design is a part of the plan early on,’ Lajoie said.

‘Traditionally, we may have seen a set of plans and made recommendations, but now we are part of early capital project planning, to ensure that we have inclusion and accessibility on the minds of the designers who are building the space.’

Sheri Roberts also sits on the Cambridge Accessibility Advisory Committee and says that the idea is accessibility, not only for folks with disabilities, but universal design and accessibility for everyone.

‘Whether it’s a mom with a stroller or an elderly person, it’s about getting into places safely and easily while supporting our local businesses,’ Roberts said.

‘We are entering a world with an aging population, so we do have to consider accessibility for all, to plan for a better world for everyone, from children to elderly alike. And if we do it right the first time, it will save money in the end.’

To ramp up efforts within Cambridge, Roberts created a chapter of the Toronto-based initiative, Stop Gap.

Stop Gap aims to minimize barriers for those with disabilities, creating free ramps for small businesses that might otherwise not be able to afford.

‘Since 2015, there have been over 50 ramps installed in Cambridge. We partnered with the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, Cambridge Campus, and students helped with the graphics and design,’ Roberts said.

‘The ramps are light weight and made of wood, little decorative pieces of art seen throughout Cambridge.’

Roberts hopes to see the Stop Gap program continue post-pandemic.

‘I love all of our heritage buildings. We want everyone to enjoy them, regardless of ability. With some of our older buildings, the Stop Gap is a wonderful measure until something permanent is put in place,’ Roberts said.

For anyone who has an issue with accessibility, they can contact the city.

‘Anyone with a concern, can contact the inclusion coordinator at the city to get the process started. The city is very responsive. I have been here for over 15 years and since then, the city has been so supportive of these issues including Stop Gap,’ Roberts said.

Lajoie says that anyone with a concern regarding a city-run property, can contact the city.

‘The city will investigate in terms of what the issue is, and what can be done to accommodate the request,’ Lajoie said.

‘In an older town, there are some architectural building designs that are dated and not always easy to make accessible. The AODA does not require a redesign of space unless a major renovation is taking place.’

There is a difference between city-run, owned properties and privately owned properties, but Lajoie says the city continuously takes measures to encourage accessibility.

‘If it’s a private business with a step to get into the store, we have in the past provided letters to vendors to say that people are interested in entering your store. Businesses do have their own requirements under the AODA that are to be followed. Anything over and beyond, what we can do is let them know that are some concerns.’

Roberts says that since living in Cambridge, she has always felt connected to her community.

‘Everyone is so welcoming, even if there is something that may not be as easily accessible,’ Roberts said.

‘Someone is always there to lend a hand.’

For more information, visit the city of Cambridge at

Original at

They Wanted to See the Jays. How Toronto’s Lack of Wheelchair Taxis Left Them ‘Totally Disappointed’

Wendy Stanyon took to Facebook to decry the city’s lack of accessible transportation CBC News, Posted: Jun 22, 2022

What was supposed to be a real treat ended up being a real disappointment for a Vancouver woman and her brother in Toronto on Sunday after no wheelchair accessible cabs showed up on time to take them to the ball game.

Wendy Stanyon said she had planned to take her brother, David Stanyon, who has a disability, to the Toronto Blue Jays game on Sunday afternoon against the New York Yankees. David uses a wheelchair and lives in Toronto. Wendy, who visits him once a year, flew into the city to be with him.

The pair never made it to the game despite months of planning. Now, they are trying to raise awareness of the lack of wheelchair accessible transportation in Toronto.

“She comes once a year. God bless her angel heart,” David said on Tuesday.

“And she comes and spoils me for a whole week … I don’t get to go out that much anymore. I was really looking forward to it, and of course, the Blue Jays were playing so well these days, it was a real treat. It didn’t happen.

The Stanyons’ experience is an all-too familiar one to advocates for people with disabilities, who say Toronto falls well short of standards for accessibility. One of the cab companies Wendy Stanyon called, Beck Taxi, says City of Toronto regulations are partly to blame for the lack of accessible cabs.

Wendy had bought two tickets to the game in February, then paid for airfare from Vancouver to Toronto weeks later. She initially called the TTC’s service for people with disabilities, WheelTrans, which said it had trouble on Sundays and recommended she call Toronto taxi companies such as Beck Taxi and Co-op Cabs.

Last Wednesday, she booked a wheelchair accessible cab with Beck for 11:00 a.m. on game day. The game started at 1:37 p.m. She received a confirmation number and thought they were good to go. Beck’s wheelchair accessible taxi did not show up. When she called at 11:30 a.m., she was told Beck had her order and the confirmation simply means the company had confirmed her order. She was told to call back in half an hour.

Wendy tried calling Co-op Cabs at noon. It promised a wheelchair-accessible cab within 15 minutes to half an hour, and that one didn’t show up either.

“They said, ‘Oh no, no wheelchair cabs in your area.’ Well, I said, ‘Can’t you send one to our area?'”

By about 1:30 p.m., just before the game was to start, Wendy said she gave up.

“I’m on a moderate pension myself and Blue Jays tickets are not inexpensive and I wanted it to be a good experience so they were in 100 level. It’s a big expense for me to blow off,” she said.

In a Facebook post, Wendy wrote: .”I bought these tickets as soon as they came out and my brother & I had been looking forward to this for months. I am totally disappointed in Toronto’s accessible transportation.”

David, an avid Blue Jays fan, said he tried to look on the bright side.

“Well, I was disappointed, but thankfully, the Blue Jays won! 10-9! That took a little of the bitterness out of it.”

Beck ‘terribly sorry’ about delays in rides

In a statement, Beck Taxi said it was “terribly sorry” about delays that people in Toronto are experiencing to get a ride, but it blamed the city, insurance companies and gas prices for the situation.

“This is particularly difficult for our most vulnerable citizens who require wheelchair accessible service,” Beck said.

“Wendy and her brother should be able to receive on-demand wheelchair accessible service in the city of Toronto. Bad regulation, lack of enforcement and access to affordable insurance, purchase prices and gas prices are some of the reasons that wheelchair accessible taxicabs are not being replaced in Toronto,” Beck added.

“We are looking forward to being able to collaborate with our regulator to ensure that this necessary service is improved with a better plan than is currently in place. This situation was predicted long ago and we are looking to the City of Toronto to create a better regulatory environment than currently exists.”

Beck, however, tried to make up for the disappointment by providing a cab for the Stanyons on Tuesday so they could go for dinner. The cab was paid for and showed up on time.

People still dealing with no-shows, advocate says

Luke Anderson, executive director of the StopGap Foundation, said the incident is a good example of how unreliable wheelchair-accessible transportation can be in Toronto. The foundation says it helps communities discover the benefit of barrier-free spaces and provides support to create them.

“We’re still in this place where people are dealing with no shows and forgotten about,” Anderson said.

Anderson said taking public transit sometimes doesn’t even work out. as a Plan B. “Not all subway stations have an elevator,” he said.

The disappointment of the Stanyons should serve as a reminder to the taxi companies that it’s time to improve service for people with disabilities, he said.

“I think that there’s a tremendous opportunity for cab companies to amp up the amount of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their fleet.”

As for David Stanyon, he said it should be simple. When a taxi company provides a confirmation number, that should mean the ride is confirmed.

“Show up on time. We don’t have a whole lot of choices.”

Original at

The Hamilton Spectator Shines a Light on Mohawk College’s Axing its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web:
Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 30, 2022


The June 30, 2022, Hamilton Spectator is the latest media outlet to shine the light on Mohawk College’s harmful decision to axe its much-needed Accessible Media Production (AMP) graduate certificate program. You can find that article below.

This article attributes a statement to Mohawk College which we believe to be quite inaccurate. The article states:

“A smaller, more flexible ‘micro-credentials’ option – a program that has graduated 50 people in the past 18 months, with a 70 per cent employment rate – will remain available.”

This makes it sound like Mohawk College is now offering micro-credential courses on producing accessible documents, websites and/or other media and that 50 students have already taken these courses. If Mohawk told The Spec this, it is incorrect, according to information we received from the AMP program coordinator. No micro-credential courses in the area of accessible media have been offered at Mohawk whatsoever. A mere two such micro-credential courses are intended to be available this fall. They do not cover the vast majority of topics covered in the AMP program.

Mohawk may be unwilling to undo its decision so far, but we are tenacious! This is not the first time that we have confronted inflexibility. We invite you to write a letter to the editor at the Hamilton Spectator. Tell The Spec what you think of Mohawk’s axing this program. Letters should be a maximum of 250 words and include your full name and daytime phone number for verification. Send letters to

We also encourage you to tweet about this issue on Twitter. Use the hashtag #SaveAMPMohawk

For more background, read the AODA Alliance’s June 10, 2022 news release on this topic including its initial letter to Mohawk College, and the subsequent letters between the AODA Alliance and Mohawk College.

There are 916 days remaining until the start of 2025. That is the deadline for the Ford Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. That includes digital accessibility. Mohawk College’s axing of the AMP program just makes it harder for Ontario to reach that deadline.


Hamilton Spectator June 30, 2020

Originally posted at ‘This is all we’ve got and Mohawk just killed it’ College facing criticism for cancelling program that develops accessible media

Kate McCullough The Hamilton Spectator Kate McCullough is an education reporter at The Spectator.
When a blind disability advocate reached out to Mohawk College to complain they’d cancelled a program that trains students to develop accessible media, he received a response in a format he couldn’t fully read.

The irony of the situation was not lost on David Lepofsky, chair of advocacy group Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance, given the right to have documents that are accessible to all was one of the things he was fighting for.

“These kind of things go on regularly in our lives,” said the retired lawyer.

“It’s enormously frustrating and it’s entirely preventable.”

In this case, it’s also “embarrassing,” given the subject of the correspondence, Lepofsky said.

Mohawk College president Ron McKerlie’s response – citing low enrolment as a reason for killing the accessible media program (AMP) – was a PDF, and those generally don’t work with screen readers, software that turns text and images to speech allowing the visually impaired to use a computer.

The Hamilton community college has been under scrutiny since suspending AMP, the only known program of its sort in Canada, earlier this month. It trains students to develop documents, websites, social media and video accessible to people with disabilities.

“This is all we’ve got and Mohawk just killed it,” Lepofsky said.

Mohawk said in a statement on its website the “difficult decision” was made after years of low enrolment. Forty-one students have graduated from the program since its launch in 2017, failing to meet targets and sector demand.

“The delivery of the program as a graduate certificate has not proven to be viable,” the statement reads.

The AMP certificate “has been actively marketed over the years,” including through professional journals, websites, social media and open houses, Mohawk spokesperson Sean Coffey said in an email Tuesday.

He also said “an accessible Word document was prepared and sent” as soon as Lepofsky let them know he couldn’t read it.

But Lepofsky isn’t convinced the college “vigorously” recruited students to the program.

“We could be tweeting it … we reach thousands of people,” he said of the AODA Alliance.

Instructor Karen McCall said the certificate program has a “strong employment rate” – 91 per cent, according to Mohawk.

Students learn to write in inclusive, plain language and create accessible documents, closed captioning and audio description for video, among other skills. For a final project, they work with a small business or organization to help them become more accessible.

“This was disappointing,” said McCall, a longtime disability rights advocate. “This was a good opportunity for a career path.”

The college has faced plenty of backlash – including letters from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund, which funded a course, and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, as well as a #SaveAMPMohawk hashtag on Twitter – which has left some advocates and disgruntled students holding onto a thread of hope that the decision might be reversed.

However, Coffey confirmed on Tuesday the college has no plans to reverse its decision to suspend the graduate certificate program.

A smaller, more flexible “micro-credentials” option – a program that has graduated 50 people in the past 18 months, with a 70 per cent employment rate – will remain available. The province defines micro-credentials as “rapid training programs” that teach in-demand skills.

Lepofsky said it’s “no substitute” for a certificate program.

“It’s like saying, ‘I need a meal’ and they offer you passed-around hors d’oeuvres and you get one or two little bites,” he said.

Kate McCullough is an education reporter at The Spectator.

Here We Go Again! New Wing at University of Toronto’s Robarts Library Was Designed and Built with Preventable New Disability Barriers

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web:
Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 29, 2022


The University of Toronto created totally preventable new disability accessibility barriers when it created new student space in a new wing of its major student library, according to a powerful report in today’s Globe and Mail. (Article set out below)

We applaud the Globe and Mail for investigating this blunder and bringing it to public attention. It is staggering in 2022 that a major Ontario university could show such palpable disregard for the needs of people with disabilities, including their own students with disabilities. The university is bound to obey the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. It should not be creating any new disability barriers.

Both the architecture firm that designed this project and U of T are quoted as trying to justify their actions. Their excuses are transparently meritless. For example, the architecture firm involved in this project said that the discussion around accessibility has evolved in the past few years. Yet people with disabilities were not invented in the past few years. It was not a recent revelation that people using mobility devices cannot go up or down stairs. As a result of this news report, the following questions cry out for answers:

Who at the University of Toronto approved the creation of these new accessibility barriers, to the long-term detriment of people with disabilities?

Was any public money used as part of this project? If so, how is it that the Government allowed public money to be used to create new disability barriers?

If charitable donations were used to build this project, has the University of Toronto accounted to its donors that their money was improperly used to the detriment of people with disabilities, including students with disabilities?

This new U of T library wing flies in the face of the entire direction of the final report of the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee which the Ford Government received several months ago. Barriers in the built environment of colleges and universities were included in that Government-appointed advisory committee’s review of impediments that students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system.

This further illustrates why the Ford Government must create a strong and effective Built Environment Accessibility Standard under the AODA and must revise the Ontario Building Code to ensure that no buildings can be built with new accessibility barriers. Visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page to learn about our struggle for well over a decade to achieve this goal.

What the University of Toronto here did was appalling but sadly, not unusual. Here are just five inexcusable examples that we have previously brought to public light of similar bungling in new public infrastructure, including infrastructure that draws on public money:
* A 2017 AODA Alliance video, referred to in the Globe article, revealed serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre (now Toronto Metropolitan University.
* A 2016 AODA Alliance video documented serious accessibility blunders at the New Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre.
* A 2018 AODA Alliance video shows serious accessibility problems in new public Transit stations and recently renovated ones in the Toronto area.
* The December 1, 2017, AODA Alliance news release revealed that York University had approved plans for a new Markham campus that included serious accessibility screw-ups. That project was to cost $250 million, including $125 million from the Ontario Government. Since then, we have heard informally that both the plans and possibly the funding arrangements have changed. We have not been consulted on the new design, and do not know how many accessibility problems were solved.
* The AODA Alliance website’s courts accessibility page documents serious accessibility problems in the New Toronto Courthouse, which the Ontario Government is now building.

The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. That includes ensuring the accessibility of buildings, according to the AODA. There are now only 917 days before 2025.

We also need the Ontario Government to dramatically reform how public infrastructure projects are designed and approved, especially when public money helps pay for them. The Ford Government is embarking on many major new infrastructure projects, including new hospitals, schools and public transit, just to name a few. We raised this issue yet again with Premier Ford in the AODA Alliance June 22, 2022, letter to him, and in the AODA Alliance’s June 27, 2022, letter to re-appointed Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho.


Globe and Mail June 29, 2022

Originally posted at OPINION

Why is accessibility still an issue in architecture?

The first thing you see is a set of stairs. As you walk or roll through the front doors of Robarts Common – the new wing at the University of Toronto’s main library – the staircase rises up behind the front desk. It’s lined by a set of large platforms where you can lounge, visit and study. Unless, that is, you have a physical disability.

This is a problem. This five-storey wing provides study space for students on the U of T’s downtown campus, and it’s designed for people to gather. Yet a major aspect of its architecture clearly excludes people with disabilities. This reflects an issue within the architectural profession and in Canada at large: We are still designing buildings that add barriers, rather than removing them.

The key issue at Robarts Common is the diagonal elements between floors. These combine a conventional staircase; a parallel set of oversized steps, which are large enough to sit on; and desk seating in stepped rows.

Gary McCluskie described these elements as gathering space. The system of stepped spaces “allows you to see where you’re going and draw you in,” he said.

But that’s sales patter, the kind of thing architects use to persuade their clients to accept a design.

Robarts Common is not a simple building. It is a relatively skinny rectangle that rests on two points in the ground, and reaches out across the loading dock of the library. Its structure involves steel beams joined into a complex triangular geometry, supporting a fully glass wall. (The glass is itself a weird choice for a building that gets a lot of afternoon sunlight.) Diamond Schmitt’s design increases the complexity of the space and structure by adding those diagonal elements.

The fact is that architects, in general, love these sittable steps. Also known as grand stairs, Spanish steps or bleachers, they have been a trend for a decade. Architects like to design “in section,” as they say – in other words, with the movement of light and people from level to level.

The problem is that not everyone can take the stairs. And for a building to be truly accessible, it should not set up any unnecessary barriers; people with disabilities should have the same experience of a building as anyone else. This has long been a consensus among disability advocates.

Until very recently, however, architects and most of their clients have held themselves to a lower standard: that certain spaces don’t need to be accessible, as long as people with disabilities have a parallel option. That idea shaped the Robarts building, which has been in process for a decade.

On each level, there is an area at the bottom of the stairs designated for people with physical disabilities. Someone in a wheelchair could, in theory, linger here, and look up at classmates on the stairs.

But this kind of separate but equal experience should never have been viewed as acceptable, said David Lepofsky, a lawyer who chairs the advocacy group AODA Alliance. “That’s basically saying that students with disabilities are second-class citizens,” he said. “Human rights are human rights.”

The issue, when I raised it, prompted uncomfortable responses from the university and Diamond Schmitt. Mr. McCluskie acknowledged his firm’s current work – including Ottawa’s new main library – aims for a much higher level of accessibility.

“The discussion around accessibility has evolved in the past few years,” he said.

A university spokesperson, by e-mail, made a different argument: “U of T strives to centre accessibility in everything that we do,” they said. “Tiered classrooms and informal collaboration spaces that connect levels of our multi-storey buildings are intended to maximize space.”

But that’s not true. The diagonal elements at Robarts Common take a two storey section of the building and combine it into one. The result is less floorspace, not more, as Mr. McCluskie acknowledged.

This issue is not unique to U of T or to Diamond Schmitt. Grand stairs figure prominently in recent buildings at UBC (by Dialog and B&H), York University (by Cannon Design) and Toronto Metropolitan University (by Snohetta and Zeidler).

I wrote approvingly about the latter building, then called Ryerson Student Learning Centre, in 2015. Then in 2017, Mr. Lepofsky released a YouTube video which skewered its accessibility problems. Mr. Lepofsky, who is blind, found the building difficult and even dangerous to navigate.

As he revealed, it has numerous design features – including sittable stairs – that are not accessible.

Then in 2019, a New York Public Library building by the prominent architect Steven Holl prompted a lawsuit over its stair-oriented design. The U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act is far stricter than its Canadian counterpart.

So: Some of us have learned a lesson about inclusion in the past five years. But Mr. Lepofsky makes two points: One, it shouldn’t have taken so long. “The Ontarians with Disabilities Act” – which sets out standards for accessibility – “was passed in 2005,” he pointed out. “Why were architects not paying attention?” The profession has much to learn in this respect. And the problems continue. The University of Toronto is currently renovating a building for its administration, designed by prominent New York architects OMA, which will have a prominent set of bleachers.

And two: accessibility problems often are self-inflicted. “Very often these features are not there because they’re necessary,” he said. “They’re someone’s idea of cool design.”

That is manifestly the case at Robarts Common. On my third visit to the building, I walked behind the ground-floor stair to see what was there. It turned out to be a forlorn little lobby, wedged in under the diagonal mass that the architects have imposed on the building.

This evokes a complaint I’ve heard from architects when it comes to accessibility: that these constraints crush their creativity. That position is unethical, and it’s also wrong. There are many ways for architecture to engage people without sending them upstairs: the modulation of light, the creative use of materials, graphics, even colour. Robarts Common is a hunk of undifferentiated glass and grey aluminum panel. Surely there is another way to access great design.

Premier Doug Ford Says He’ll Meet the Timelines Imposed by Ontario’s Disabilities Act

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web:
Twitter: @AODAalliance

June 28, 2022

Premier Ford has finally said something publicly about his government’s duty to lead Ontario to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

The very influential Queen’s Park-based news publication QP Briefing published an excellent, detailed report yesterday on the AODA alliance’s most recent effort to get the Ford government to fulfil its important duties under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. (article set out below) We spelled those duties out most recently in the AODA alliance’s June 22, 2022 letter to Premier Ford and the AODA alliance’s June 27, 2022 letter to re-appointed accessibility minister Raymond Cho.

The report included a rare instance when Premier Ford actually spoke about this issue. It includes:

“under the accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the province must be fully accessible by Jan. 1, 2025.

With less than three years to go and after expert reports decrying sluggish progress under the Ford government the goal seems more unlikely than ever.

But premier Doug Ford renewed his commitment to the deadline on Monday.

“We’ll make sure we meet those timelines, and we’ll move as quickly as we possibly can,” he said, adding that re-elected accessibility minister Raymond Cho has “done a fine job so far.”

Media reports, set out below, also address Premier Ford’s commitment to raise ODSP rates by 5%. The AODA alliance is quoted in a global news report that this raise, while long overdue, is not enough to lift vulnerable people with disabilities out of poverty.

There have now been 1,244 days since the Ford government received the final report of the third independent review of the accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, undertaken by former lieutenant governor David Onley. There are now only 918 days before the start of 2025, Ford’s deadline to lead Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities. Ontario needs premier Ford to establish an effective an action plan now to get it done.

Send feedback to us at


QP Briefing June 27, 2022
Originally posted at
Ford Government Missed Accessibility Deadlines in First Term

Jack Hauen

Under theAccessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act(AODA), the province must be fully accessible by Jan. 1, 2025.

With less than three years to go and afterexpertreportsdecrying sluggish progress under the Ford government the goal seemsmore unlikely than ever.

But Premier Doug Ford renewed his commitment to the deadline on Monday.

“We’ll make sure we meet those timelines, and we’ll move as quickly as we possibly can,” he said, adding that re-elected Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho has “done a fine job” so far.

Cho, whooftenstrugglesto givecoherentanswers, did not respond to an interview request and emailed list of questions, including what he was most proud of from his first term and how he plans to meet the 2025 AODA deadline.

The Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility touted grants and programs like the Rick Hansen Accessibility Certification for public buildings, “and numerous Employment and Skills Training Supports,” which it said demonstrates “the unwavering commitment towards this goal.”

The provincialweb pageon accessibility laws says the 2025 goal is “complex and ongoing” and “can’t be completed by the province on its own.” The 2022budgetdoesn’t mention the AODA.

One prominent disability advocate said it’s not enough.

“Because you held this ministerial post for the past four years, you can now get right to work. You won’t need extensive briefings by Ministry staff to introduce your duties to you,” David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer, professor and head of the AODA Alliance, wrote in a letter to Cho on Monday. LISTEN: The QP Briefing Podcast: Welcoming David Lepofsky
Lepofsky has criticized the Tories forallegedly disregarding the AODA before.

He reminded Cho that the government was required to appoint a Customer Service Standards Development Committee by June 6, 2021; and a committee to review the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard in December 2017 before the pcs were elected.

The last meeting minutes for the former committee arefrom 2014.

Cho has appointed a chair for the latter group, and said it would be up and running by early 2022. Though it’s not on the officiallistof agencies, the ministry said the committee has met.

“I should add that I myself wish to apply to serve as a member of that Standards Development Committee, but have found nowhere to apply,” Lepofsky wrote.

He also noted that some Ontarians living with disabilities arebarely surviving. The Ford government has pledged to increase Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates by five per cent, which advocates say is nowhere near enough.

Some people with disabilities havespokenpubliclyabout opting for medical assistance in dying (MAID) instead of living in their current situation.

“Other disability advocates are effectively and commendably leading the disability advocacy efforts on that vital issue,” Lepofsky wrote. “You need to listen to them and act on their urgent recommendations.”

Ford didn’t speak to the MAID issue but said the rate bump is “one of our number 1 priorities” when the legislature reconvenes this summer.

Ford said he’ll “never waver” from supporting people with disabilities. “I know that rate of inflation’s gone up we’re increasing (ODSP rates) by five per cent,” he said.

As he usually does when talking about ODSP, Ford encouraged people to find work if they can.

“There’s plenty of employment out there in every single sector, skilled and unskilled. We need you to go out there and fill those positions,” he said.

The government didn’t enact any new AODA accessibility standards in its first term, or strengthen any existing ones, Lepofsky noted.

He called on Cho to enact accessibility standards in education and health care and strengthen the ones for transportation, employment, and information and communication as recommended by the committees responsible for those standards.

Enforcement of the AODA “has beenpaltryand grossly inadequate,” Lepofsky added.

And he said the government which has promised billions for new and expanded housing, transit, schools and hospitals needs to be explicit about their plans to make sure all of it is accessible.

Lepofsky ended his letter by asking for a meeting with Cho or his staff, saying the last one was over a year ago.

“You have told us in the past that you found our input to be helpful,” he said. “Let’s work together.” With files from Andy Takagi

Global News June 27, 2022

Originally posted at
Doug Ford says election promise to increase disability support will be in 2022 budget

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says fulfilling an election promise to increase payments for people with disabilities is “one of” his number one priorities.

Ford has not provided a date to fulfil the pledge.

“When we go back into the house, we will make sure that moves as quickly as possible,” Ford told reports Monday. “When that happens, they’ll get their five per cent increase.”
The recently re-elected Ontario Premier was speaking at a joint press conference with Toronto Mayor John Tory, where the pair discussed topics including affordable housing.

Ford and his PC Party dissolved the Ontario legislature and called the 2022 election before passing their most recent budget. The document went on to serve as the party’s campaign platform.

Mpps will “keep the same budget” apart from a five per cent increase to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Ford said. The increase was promised during the election campaign.

Ford said his government would spend $425 million on a five per cent increase, and introduce legislation to increase ODSP rates annually.

The Ontario Liberals, NDP and Greens all promised more generous increases to ODSP than the pcs.

“We’re going to increase it, I know the rate of inflation has gone up, we’re increasing it by five per cent. That’s one of our number one priorities when we pass the budget,” Ford said Monday.

ODSP rates have been frozen since 2018, with a single person on ODSP able to receive up to $1,169 a month for basic needs and shelter. Advocates say that is far too low, and the level of support would remain well below what’s needed.

“Impoverished people with disabilities languishing below the poverty line and coping with the disproportionate burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic needed a substantial ODSP increase long ago,” David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, told Global News.

Ford said his re-appointed Minister of Seniors and Accessibility, Raymond Cho, would make sure the government funds accessibility improvements in Ontario.

“We’re going to continue funding it and we’re going to move forward as quickly as we possibly can,” Ford said.

Re-Appointed Ontario Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho Must Get Right to Work on a Specific List of His Top Priority Duties, According to New Letter from the AODA Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web:
Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 27, 2022


On Friday, June 24, 2022, Premier Doug Ford announced his new Cabinet at the start of his second term in office. He re-appointed Raymond Cho as Minister for Accessibility.

The AODA Alliance has just written Minister Cho to congratulate him on his re-appointment as minister, and to list his top priorities. He is required by law to lead the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. He is already the longest-serving minister with that responsibility since the AODA was enacted in 2005. The AODA requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to be accessible to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities by 2025.

Our letter explains that Minister Cho is well-positioned to get right to work on all these priority items. Because he has held this ministerial role for four years, he is not like a brand-new minister who has to start from scratch, knowing nothing about the job, and read a pile of briefings on the topic.

In our letter, we ask Minister Cho for a virtual meeting. The Minister and his ministerial staff have had no conversations with the AODA Alliance leadership in well over one year.

Your feedback is always encouraged. Write us at:


Text of the June 27, 2022 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 27, 2022

To: The Hon Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility Via email:
College Park 5th Floor
777 Bay St
Toronto, ON M7A 1S5

Dear Minister,

Re: Fulfilling Your Statutory Duties Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Congratulations on again winning your seat in the Legislature in the June 2, 2022 Ontario election, and on your re-appointment as Ontario’s Minister for Accessibility. You are the minister in charge of leading Ontario to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. We write to assist you in fulfilling your duties to over 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities.

Because you held this ministerial post for the past four years, you can now get right to work. You won’t need extensive briefings by Ministry staff to introduce your duties to you. Had a new minister been appointed, they and their political staff would need time to study all the briefing books, receive detailed briefings and get to know the key stakeholders before sinking their teeth into their priority tasks. You can and should get to work right away on the issues we list in this letter.

On June 22, 2022, we wrote Premier Ford to outline the Government’s top priority actions. Your Ministry officials have already had a good chance to review that letter. None of it came as unexpected news to them or you.

You are required to develop all the accessibility standards under the AODA that are needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Over the past four years, no new AODA accessibility standards were enacted. None of the existing accessibility standards were revised to strengthen them. They need to be strengthened.

Here are your top priorities, as of now:

1. You need to enact the promised Education Accessibility Standard and Health Care Accessibility Standard. You need to strengthen the existing Transportation Accessibility Standard, the Employment Accessibility Standard and the Information and Communication Accessibility Standard. The AODA empowers you to do all of this now. This is because you have on your desk the final reports of six AODA Standards Development Committees, including

* The Transportation Standards Development Committee’s final report, which the Government received in the spring of 2018, before you took office.
* The Employment Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in January, 2019.
* The Information and Communication Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in January 2022.
* The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee ‘s final report, which you received in February 2022.
* The Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in or around March 2022, and
* The Health Care Standards Development Committee’s final report, which you received in February 2022.

2. You need to strengthen the Customer Service Accessibility Standard.

The AODA requires you to appoint a Customer Service Standards Development Committee to review the Customer Service Accessibility Standard, and to recommend measures needed to strengthen it. In fact, the AODA required you to appoint that Standards Development Committee by June 6, 2021, over a year ago.

3. You need to appoint a Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard. In fact, the AODA required the Government to do this over 4.5 years ago, back in December 2017 (when the previous Government was still in power.) We have alerted you about this duty several times since you became the Minister for Accessibility four years ago.

Last December, you announced that you had appointed a chair for that Standards Development Committee. No competition was held for that position. You also announced that this Standards Development Committee will review accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code as well as those in the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard (something we applaud).

Last December, you also committed that this new Standards Development Committee would be up and running by early 2022. It does not appear that this Standards Development Committee is appointed and working. We have seen no Government announcement inviting people to apply to serve on this Standards Development Committee, nor any other appointments to the Committee, nor any minutes of meetings of that Standards Development Committee which are required to be publicly posted. I should add that I myself wish to apply to serve as a member of that Standards Development Committee, but have found nowhere to apply.

The chronic shortage in accessible housing for people with disabilities has become a crisis. We need that AODA accessibility standard to address all the disability barriers in the built environment, including in the housing sector.

4. Beyond these accessibility standards under the AODA, we need prompt Government policy and program reform in important areas like education, health care, employment transportation, and housing, to fulfil the AODA’s goal of an accessible Ontario for people with disabilities. The reports of the six AODA Standards Development Committees, listed above, include detailed recommendations for those non-regulatory reforms. Moreover, the AODA Alliance’s thoroughly-researched briefs which we submitted to those accessibility standards, including additional recommendations meriting swift Government implementation. You are mandated as our voice at the Cabinet table to press for this.

5. Many Ontarians with disabilities now face a harrowing crisis affecting their very survival, due to their chronic poverty. Tearing down disability accessibility barriers can help them over time, but their existential crisis is immediate. Other disability advocates are effectively and commendably leading the disability advocacy efforts on that vital issue. You need to listen to them and act on their urgent recommendations. We echo their pleas for action on that important issue.

6. Ontarians with disabilities need you to effectively enforce the AODA. For upwards of a decade, since it first became enforceable, there has been paltry and grossly-inadequate enforcement of the AODA. We fear that many will think they need not comply with the AODA.

7. The Government is spending billions on new infrastructure. This includes, among other things, building and expanding schools, hospitals, college and university facilities, and public transit. The Government has in place no measures that effectively ensures that this new infrastructure will be accessible to people with disabilities, and that public money will never be used to create new disability barriers. You need to fix this.

8. Your Government needs to swiftly establish a comprehensive plan that will ensure that the AODA’s goal and 2025 deadline is met. A good starting point for creating this plan is the final report of the Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation, that was submitted by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. You received this report on January 31, 2019, which was 1,243 days ago. You would also be aided by the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief to Mr. Onley

We are certain that other priority issues will emerge. However, those listed in this letter are ample to get your second term started.

As you begin your second term in office, we ask for a virtual meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss these priority items. We have not had a virtual meeting or conversation with you or with any of the officials in your Minister’s Office in well over a year. You have told us in the past that you found our input to be helpful. Let’s work together.


David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont, LL.B. (Osgoode Hall Law School), LL.M. (Harvard Law School), LL.D. (Honorary) (Queen’s University, Western University, the Law Society of Ontario, and Brock University

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Twitter: @davidlepofsky

CC: The Hon. Premier Doug Ford
Carlene Alexander, Deputy Minister of Accessibility,
Alison Drummond, Acting Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate,

Accessibility News June 25,2022 Update

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The AODA Clock is Ticking

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In this Issue

*Media Covers Backlash Against Mohawk College’s Wrong-Headed Axing of Its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program
*North Bay Still Waiting for Parabus Improvements
*AODA Alliance Welcomes Premier Ford to His Second Term by Listing His Job Duties as Premier to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities
*I don’t know how long I can do this: Disabled Ontarians still waiting on federal disability benefit
*Denied a Cab Because of Her Service Dog, This Disability Advocate is Pointing to a Larger Problem
*Mohawk College’s Reasons for Cancelling Its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program Don’t Stand Up Under Scrutiny
*Young Man with Developmental Disabilities Denied Care from Community Living BC

eSSENTIAL Accessibility is an Accessibility-as-a-Service platform. It helps organizations deliver inclusive web, mobile, and product experiences in compliance with legal requirements to ensure that no one with a disability is left behind.

To learn more, visit

Press Releases:

*KKR-backed eSSENTIAL Accessibility and JMI-backed Level Access to merge
* Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility Agree to Merge, Strengthening Market Presence as an All-Encompassing Digital Accessibility Solutions Provider

Past Press Releases:


Media Covers Backlash Against Mohawk College’s Wrong-Headed Axing of Its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program


North Bay Still Waiting for Parabus Improvements

It has been two years since the North Bay Accessibility Advisory Committee told the municipality that Parabus is the top priority for people living with disabilities, yet we have seen no action.


AODA Alliance Welcomes Premier Ford to His Second Term by Listing His Job Duties as Premier to Lead Ontario to Become Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities


I don’t know how long I can do this: Disabled Ontarians still waiting on federal disability benefit

Ottawa recently reintroduced legislation to create a national disability benefit. So where is it?

Ronald Hoppe spent years trying to make a living in the entertainment industry; now he gets excited when he finds discounted bagels or produce.


Denied a Cab Because of Her Service Dog, This Disability Advocate is Pointing to a Larger Problem

Anne Malone said the incident, which took place at the St. John’s airport, highlights the obstacles she and others who use service animals face.


Mohawk College’s Reasons for Cancelling Its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program Don’t Stand Up Under Scrutiny


Young Man with Developmental Disabilities Denied Care from Community Living BC

“They are- just hoping that he takes care of the problem through overdosing or killing himself” – RB’s mother


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Media Covers Backlash Against Mohawk College’s Wrong-Headed Axing of Its Much-Needed Accessible Media Production Program

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities Web:
Twitter: @aodaalliance

June 24, 2022


There has been impressive media coverage of the strong backlash against Mohawk College’s wrong-headed cancellation of its much-needed Accessible Media Production (AMP) graduate certificate program earlier this month. Below we set out news articles from CBC, Global News, the Hamilton Spectator and InSauga on this issue.

There is a radical disconnect between Mohawk College’s decision and the reality facing people with disabilities in Canada. Canada has an obvious shortage of people with the skills and knowledge to create accessible documents, websites, videos and other media. The Mohawk AMP program is likely the only program in Canada that provides comprehensive training to do this. People can take the program remotely, from anywhere in Canada or Elsewhere.

There is a growing demand for this service. Inaccessible documents, websites and other media can give rise to disability discrimination complaints in every province across Canada, and federally as well. The federal government and five provinces have enacted accessibility legislation, including Ontario, Manitoba, BC, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland/Labrador. It is hoped that eventually all provinces will do so.

The demand for expertise in accessible media design is international in scope. The trend towards enacting accessibility legislation is expanding around the world, buttressed by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

As you read these news articles, it is clear that Mohawk College’s disturbing initial response to this backlash seems quite predictable. It simply digs in and doubles down on a bad decision. However, as the AODA Alliance’s June 21, 2022 letter to Mohawk College shows, all Mohawk’s arguments in its defence crumble to dust when they are carefully examined:

* Mohawk says they are replacing the AMP program with micro-credential workshops that will cover all the same content. Yet Mohawk’s micro-credential courses, still under development, do not and cannot deliver all the same content, or give the cumulative benefits of a full AMP program.
* Mohawk argues that enrollment in the AMP program was too low. Yet it has not shown any serious plan to market that program to the large potential Canadian and international pool of potential students.
* Mohawk tells the Hamilton Spectator in an article yesterday that it is running a deficit. Yet accessibility for people with disabilities should be the last place for cuts. It is not clear whether the timing of that report in the Spectator, on the heals of all this bad press for Mohawk, is just a coincidence.
* Mohawk College argues that having to take the AMP program full-time is a barrier that deters students from enrolling in it, such as those who work full-time. Yet Students can and do take the program on a part-time basis. It is taught on evenings and weekends, so there is no impediment to full-time employees taking the AMP program.
* Mohawk says it is strongly committed to accessibility for people with disabilities. Yet it cancelled this program when some students, taking the program on a part-time basis, are right in the middle of the program. They won’t be able to finish it, after investing their time and money into it, because Mohawk took precipitous action without regard to the needs of their own enrolled students.

In the AODA Alliance’s June 21, 2022 letter to Mohawk College, we suggest that Mohawk’s cancellation of this program should be seen in a larger context.

Within the past decade, Mohawk also cancelled its course for training orientation and mobility O&M instructors. O&M instructors are the indispensable professionals teaching persons who are blind or who have low vision how to get around independently, using tools such as the white cane. This is the only such course in Ontario. Due to Mohawk’s action, there is a troubling shortage of O&M instructors in Ontario.

Let us expand on this. Back in 2001, it appears that Mohawk College earlier tried to cancel that O&M program. Backlash against it from blindness-related organizations got coverage in the March 29, 2001 Brantford Expositor. We reproduce that news report, below. It turns out that after that backlash, Mohawk backed down, and kept that program running for more than a decade. Years later, Mohawk College again decided to cancel that program, this time without reversing that decision.

People with disabilities need Mohawk to take a long, hard look at its treatment of these programs that are so important for people with disabilities. At the very least, Mohawk should now restore the AMP program for the next year. It should do a blitz to recruit new students. This would also reverse the process of pulling the rug out from under those students who are partway through the program. Mohawk should then engage with the disability community in an open discussion on how to protect this program after next year.

Mohawk College is a community college which is funded by the Ontario Government. It has an important duty to the public, including to the most vulnerable in our society. If Mohawk won’t do the right thing on its own accord, we need the Ontario Government to step in.

Send us your feedback. Write us at


InSauga News June 8, 2022

Originally posted at

Hamiltons Mohawk College faces backlash for suspension of Accessible Media Production program

By Anthony Urciuoli

Hamilton’s Mohawk College made the decision to suspend its Accessible Media Production program and it’s being called foolish, troubling, and surprising.
Due to low enrollment numbers, Hamiltons Mohawk College made the decision to suspend its Accessible Media Production (AMP) program for Fall 2022. The decision was a business one that has been met with backlash from the accessible media community and advocates, who are calling the decision foolish, troubling, and surprising.

Through the colleges official Twitter account, Mohawk says It was a very difficult decision as we strongly believe in the concept of this program. We plan to continue to work with our Program Advisory Committee and Mohawk Colleges specialists to help reassess and plan our path forward. Thank you for your continued support.

Jennifer Jahnke is the AMP coordinator at Mohawk College and says she was surprised by the decision to suspend the program. She claims that she was never consulted.

The hashtag #SaveAMPMohawk has been trending in Hamilton.

Accessibility advocates have pointed to the timing of Mohawks decision, considering legislation around accessibility has been strengthened at both the federal and provincial levels, signalling an even greater need for accessible media professionals.

Angie Rajani, a certified professional in accessibility core competencies, shared an open letter sent to Mohawk College on behalf of the accessibility community.

the need for highly skilled and qualified professionals in digital accessibility has never been more desperately needed in Ontario and Canada. To even propose to put this valued program on hold for one year will be detrimental to meeting this growing need and demand for trained professionals in this specialized area, and more importantly, detrimental to training accessibility professionals with lived experience of disability, the letter continues.

Indeed, as provincial and federal legislation continues to strengthen in Ontario and in Canada, Mohawk College is positioned to be currently the only program in Canada that offers this level of immersive, integrated, and relevant digital accessibility training to current and emerging accessibility professionals. Within the next 1-3
years, the need for trained digital accessibility professionals will increase immeasurably, and as such, we implore Mohawk College to consider how detrimentally impactful this decision will be on the accessibility industry.

Mohawks AMP was the first graduate program in Ontario to focus on accessible media production.

The eight-month program provided courses in advocacy and legislation, as well as intensive training in producing accessible content, including closed and open captioning, described and integrated described video, accessible documents taking into consideration inclusive writing and communication, and accessible social media and websites.

CBC NEWS June 9, 2022

Originally posted at

Mohawk College faces backlash for shuttering one-of-a-kind Accessible Media Production program

Hamilton school says enrolment low, will offer micro-credentials; critics say program needs better marketing

Bobby Hristova – CBC News

Mohawk College is facing criticism over its move to shutter Accessible Media Production its one-of-a-kind program geared toward making Canada more accessible to people with disabilities.

The eight-month, online, post-graduation certificate program teaches students how to create accessible content, like captions and described video, and delves into disability legislation and inclusive writing. It also includes a capstone project.

While the Hamilton-based college says the program will be replaced by micro-credentials and no content will be lost, the program’s creator, who is also the lead on developing the micro-credentials, is skeptical.

The full-time college program is the only of its kind in Canada, and critics say the school’s decision will have a huge impact.

“Accessibility and disability must be a higher priority for the college than meeting enrolment targets and the suspension of this program cannot simply be viewed through the lens of ‘business decision,’ but rather, as a decision impacting disability human rights and Disability Justice goals,” reads an open letter to the college from concerned students and community members.

Low enrolment led to ending full-time program, Mohawk says
Mohawk College’s chief operating officer, Paul Armstrong, told CBC Hamilton the full-time program won’t be reinstated any time soon.

He said he disagrees with the idea there will be an impact on the industry by ending the full-time program.

Armstrong said the school is moving away from the full-time program because of enrolment numbers.

Since fall 2017, he said, there have been just 41 graduates 30 from the full-time post-graduate program and 11 through part-time studies.

“Enrolment in this delivery format has been a challenge right since we started,” he said.

Armstrong said that since 2017, the college has spent $85,000 to $100,000 a year to keep the program running.

It’s such a micro concept it’s by no means the same program at all clearly he doesn’t understand what we do. – Jennifer Curry Jahnke, Mohawk program’s creator and co-ordinator

Some critics have pointed out the employment rate for graduates of the program is 91 per cent and say the problem is in the school’s marketing efforts.

Armstrong said the program was nearly suspended in 2020 for the same reason and the school has tried advertising, but enrolment levels haven’t changed.

“It’s not from lack of effort on anyone’s part to try and recruit students,” he said.

“A 91 per cent employment rate is fantastic, but that, in some years, is based on four graduates.”

COO ‘doesn’t understand what we do’
Jennifer Curry Jahnke, the program’s creator and co-ordinator, and Sandi Gauder, an instructor in the program, said in separate interviews the school has done a poor job of promoting the program.

Both of them also sit on the program advisory committee and said despite Mohawk College saying it will work with the committee, people were only told about the decision once it was official.

Armstrong said the first of the micro-credentials replacing the full-time program, which are “smaller module, bite-sized pieces,” will be launched this fall.

He said the move to micro-credentials will save the school money and also offer students more freedom as to when they learn without losing any content from the full-time program.

“We’re still in the process of building them but there’s no reason to think we’d lose anything at the end of the day from a curriculum perspective,” he said.

Jennifer Curry Jahnke
Jennifer Curry Jahnke, the program’s creator and co-ordinator, says she doesn’t believe micro-credentials will make up for losing the full-time program. (Mohawk College)
Jahnke, who is leading the effort on micro-credentials, said she was tasked with creating 10 micro-credentials and said she’s “nowhere near done.”

She is also skeptical the school will fit all the same content into micro-credentials, since the ones she’s working on only represent two out of the 11 courses in the program.

“It’s such a micro concept it’s by no means the same program at all clearly he doesn’t understand what we do,” she said after hearing Armstrong’s comments.

“It doesn’t add any of the work-integrated working or the applied research or anything happening on social media.”

Concerns about impact on disability community
Gauder said that, as an employer in the industry (she’s the co-owner of CMSWebSolutions), she knows the impact replacing the full-time program would have.

“There is a dearth of qualified individuals to get the work done. There is no lack of interest from employers, we can’t graduate enough students to fill the need,” she said.

An open letter from concerned students and community members echoed concerns.

“It cannot be overstated how devastating this decision is to the accessibility industry, persons with disabilities who continue to be excluded from digital environments, and the province as a whole as we move toward an increasingly accessible Ontario,” read the letter.

Ryan Joslin, who graduated from the program in 2021, said he thinks the micro-credentials could work, but based on what he learned, it should remain a full-time program.

“There’s just a lot of information that’s covered it covers the whole gamut of accessibility,” he said.

“The field is growing immensely and it’s expanding to the point where there’s always job opportunities and people needed with this specialty without this type of program being there for people to take, it’s really going to leave the employers without many options to hire people.”

Bobby Hristova is a reporter for CBC News in Hamilton. You can contact him at Follow @bobbyhristova on Twitter

Global News June 9, 2022

Originally posted at: Mohawk College says suspension of accessible media program in Hamilton tied to sustainability issues

By Don Mitchell Global News

Mohawk College suspended its accessible media program on June 6, 2022, citing low enrolment targets and issues with its financial stability.

The chief operating officer for Mohawk College is defending a decision to suspend a one-of-a-kind program that teaches the creation of content for people with disabilities.

Despite producing successful graduates, Mohawks Paul Armstrong says the accessible media production program has been challenged around how the content is packaged, resulting in a deficiency in student enrolment.

We remain committed and want to continue to deliver this type of education, its just we had to make a decision on how we would do it to be a little different, Armstrong told 900 CHMLs Bill Kelly Show.

Executives announced the suspension on Monday, effective in the fall, due to enrolment targets not being met and the programs financial unsustainability.

Since then, the college has been facing public backlash for the hold on a curriculum that teaches the creation of closed and open captioning content, described video and other digital options for people with disabilities.

The decision spurred many to take to social media to express their displeasure and initiate a campaign using the hashtag #saveAMPMohawk

Program co-ordinator Jennifer Jahnke says she was surprised by the announcement and insists she was not consulted in the process.

It was actually quite a surprise for me, Jahnke said.

Although our enrolment was low last semester, were on target I think, to meet a fairly successful cohort this coming fall.

Jahnke understands the financial issues but believes the college should put in a long-term commitment and seek more funding support through the Ministry of Education for an outlet that provides marginalized people access to a post-secondary institution.

Many of our students are persons with disabilities, and so theyre not only being able to bring that long-lived experience to the program, but theyre also being able to bring that lived experience to employment and fill in employment gaps for persons with disabilities, said Jahnke.

The first intake of the program was in the fall of 2017, which saw 56 people enrolled over a five-year period, producing 41 graduates.

Armstrong says 30 of those were in the full-time program, while 11 ventured through a part-time option.

Jahnke says the program had a 91 per cent employment rate for graduates.

Despite producing 30 skilled workers, Armstrong says average enrolments of only five or so students per year is not sustainable and fails to meet the needs of the industry.

He says part of restructuring potentially will entail developing content in the form of a micro credential program a smaller package of consumable bits of learning.

The hope is to alleviate not only issues with low enrolment but support the training of teachers to execute the curriculum.

A new scheme potentially could be launched during the fall semester through continuing education streams people can take on a part-time basis.

However, the timeline is dependent on engaging the help of experts in the field.

Its very important to us and we really hope we can re-engage all the people to help us move to the next level and to start to get the training out there in a way that we think is going to meet the needs of industry, Armstrong said.

Hamilton Spectator June 21, 2022

Originally posted at

Hamilton’s Mohawk College running $5-million deficit
College forecasts flat domestic enrolment and more international students

By Mark NewmanReporter
Tue., June 21, 2022

Mohawk College is running a $5-million deficit in 2022-23.

New light bulbs and computer systems will contribute to a $5-million deficit at Mohawk College this year and part of next.

Paul Armstrong, chief operating officer at Mohawk, noted the 2022-23 budget that was approved by the board of governors in April contains forecast revenues of $270 million (mostly from tuition fees) and expenditures of $275 million.

Armstrong said the board agreed to run a deficit so that two major initiatives can proceed.

One is the installation of light emitting diode or LED lighting at the Fennell and Stoney Creek campuses over the next three years at a cost of $7.5 million, including many thousands of light bulbs.

Armstrong said the conversion has already begun at the Fennell campus.

The other initiative is $2.5 million to upgrade college computer systems, including registration and admissions systems and making some programs more flexible to enable in-person and online learning.

Ontario community colleges are permitted by the province to run deficits provided they have the reserves to cover them.

According to Mohawks 2021 financial statements, the college has $58.3 million worth of internally restricted assets or reserves.

The operational side of the college is running on a balanced level, said Armstrong who noted there are no plans for staff reductions.

The budget includes provisions for 1,058 faculty, support and administrative staff.

Thats the same as it was last year, said Armstrong, who noted about 62 per cent of the budget, or roughly $100 million, goes to staff salaries and benefits.

Armstrong said total enrolment this fall is projected at about 30,000.

Thats up from about 27,000 over the past two years and roughly the same as the pre-COVID 2018-19 year, but still below the record 32,000 in 2019-20.

The 2022-23 student numbers are based on 15,000 individual students enrolling in two semesters.

Of that total, about 5,000 will be international students, up from about 3,600 last year.

While international students pay higher tuition rates (domestic students pay $5,000 to $6,000 per year and international students pay $16,000 to $18,000 per year), Armstrong said there has been an increase in demand from students from abroad, many of whom are looking to study business and information technology.

Meanwhile, domestic enrolment is not increasing.

Domestic enrolment in the college system continues to be fairly flat, Armstrong said.

The big reason for that is a strong jobs market, which means fewer people are looking for retraining or a new career.

Our enrolments are almost opposite to whats happening in the labour markets, Armstrong said. When unemployment goes up, our enrolments go up, when unemployment goes down, our enrolments go down.

Mohawk has been criticized on social media for the colleges decision to suspend the accessible media production program.

The program which began as a two-semester postgraduate certificate program in 2017, trained media industry people to make content that is accessible to everyone regardless of physical ability.

Armstrong noted only four people were enrolled in the program last year and 20 are needed to make it sustainable.

Instead, Armstrong said Mohawk is offering micro credits where media people can take smaller, part-time accessible media courses starting in the fall.

We are remaining committed to offering that content, Armstrong said.

For the first time in two years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mohawk will be holding graduation ceremonies in the McIntyre Performing Arts Centre at the Fennell campus during the week of June 20.

Armstrong said 13 graduation ceremonies are scheduled.

The Brantford Expositor March 29, 2001

Originally reprinted on the website of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians at Outrage After Mohawk Axes Blind-Related Programs: College Offered Only Courses in Canada That Trained Instructors to Aid The Blind

Axing two Mohawk College programs designed to train instructors to aid the blind will have a major local impact and negative consequences across the country, say support groups for the blind.

Citing low enrolment, the college announced Tuesday the suspension of both its specialized programs, orientation and Mobility and rehabilitation, which train teachers to work with the blind and the visually impaired. Offered at the Brantford campus since 1991, they are the only fulltime, English speaking programs of their kind in Canada.

Gerrard Grace, Vice President of Marketing for the CNIB in Toronto, said staff there has been scrambling since receiving the word of the program suspensions. He said the CNIB already has nine vacancies for orientation and mobility instructors.

“This is creating a crisis,” Grace said. “waiting lists for clients needing these services are already quite long. Now people could be waiting for over a year.”

Shelagh Gill, vice president of academics at Mohawk, said the programs will not be offered next year and likely into the future. “We have had a significant difficulty with applications and enrolment in these programs since 1994,” said Gill. She said there are currently just 15 students enrolled in both programs, which were designed for a capasity of 30. She said the programs hit an enrollment high in 1996, when 31 students participated and the numbers have been on the “downhill slope” ever since.

Gill also said applications for the September start-up for the one year, post graduate program are “pretty low.” Those applicants have been notified that the programs will not be offered. While Mohawk’s Web site boasts of the “extremely good” employment rates for graduates of the programs (jobs are traditionally found with school boards, the Ministry of Health and the CNIB), Gill said there is simply not enough interest from the potential students to make the program viable. “Part of the thinking is that the starting salary for graduates is quite low. There are jobs there, but they are low paying.”

Gill said that she couldn’t comment on whether the two program instructors at the Brantford campus would lose their jobs. Those training in the orientation and mobility program are frequently seen on the city streets wearing blindfolds and carrying white canes. This “travel training” allows students to get a sense of the challenges facing the visually impaired. The program focus is on teaching visually impaired clients how to live more independently.

Students in the rehabilitation program receive instruction on how to assist visually impaired clients through supportive counseling, communicating skills and leisure counseling. John McGregor, Chairman of the W. Ross Macdonald School Council and parent if one of its students, worries that the demise if the programs will leave the visually impaired to rely on untrained people to provide their life skills instruction.

According to the CNIB there is already a shortage of orientation and mobility instructors and rehabilitation teachers and that shortage will increase over the next five to ten years, as an aging population facing growing visual impairments. “Blindness is increasing especially among the elderly,” said McGregor. “This will certainly have an impact on the people in the community. It could impede the learning of life skills as simple as pouring a cup of coffee in the morning.”

While McGregor believes a college’s decision to suspend a program is “generally irreversible”> steps will be taken to ensure training in the field continues to be available. “We could look at what other opportunities are possible. Maybe the onus doesn’t have to be all on Mohawk.” Gill said representatives from the college would be willing to discuss with other groups alternative ways to deliver the training. Robert Fenton, president of the National federation of the Blind: Advocates for Equality, said “without Canadian programs, students will be forced to take their training in the United States where they will face huge tuition fees.

Fenton said he is upset that Mohawk didn’t consult his organization and other agencies that provide services to the blind prior to making their decision.

“If we were consulted, perhaps it would have been possible to establish partnerships to allow Mohawk College to continue to offer these important programs. It is a travesty that the board of governors of the college has denied us this fundamentally important opportunity.”

An emergency meeting in Toronto may be called next month, said the CNIB’s Grace, to discuss possible solutions to the problem.