Access to Justice Survey

ARCH Disability Law Centre is leading a research project about access to justice for persons with disabilities in Canada.

Do you identify as a person with a disability or a family member/ assistant/ supporter/ caregiver of a person with a disability?

Do you have experience using federal tribunals, courts or programs?

If yes, we want to learn from you!

Read more at
https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/access-to-justice-survey/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Access%20to%20Justice%20Survey%20%20Enqute%20sur%20laccs%20%20la%20justice&utm_content=Access%20to%20Justice%20Survey%20%20Enqute%20sur%20laccs%20%20la%20justice+CID_a36ca854800a36a0210c532c722091d2&utm_source=Campaign%20Monitor&utm_term=Details%20about%20the%20Project

George Brown College Survey of Over 900 Canadian Workers with Disabilities Reveals Key Insights into Workplace Experiences

The study focused on participants reporting at least ‘some difficulty’ with sight, hearing, walking/climbing, remembering/concentrating, self-care, and/or communicating, shedding light on crucial insights into their workplace experiences.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/george-brown-college-survey-of-over-900-canadian-workers-with-disabilities-reveals-key-insights-into-workplace-experiences/

How Common Is Intellectual Disability Among Adults?

A new study is among the first to estimate the number of adults in the U.S. with intellectual disability, offering policymakers and other stakeholders a snapshot of the need for resources.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/how-common-is-intellectual-disability-among-adults/

Kirkland Lake Champions Accessibility: A Beacon for Change in Municipal Planning

Sakchi Khandelwal
22 Feb 2024

Let’s take a moment to journey into the heart of Kirkland Lake, a small yet vibrant community nestled in the northern reaches of Ontario. Recently, this town has taken significant strides toward becoming a shining example of what it means to be truly accessible. It’s a story not just of policy and planning, but of a community’s commitment to inclusivity and the well-being of all its residents.

A Blueprint for Accessibility

During a council meeting on February 20, 2023, a comprehensive report unveiled the latest achievements in Kirkland Lake’s ongoing mission to enhance accessibility. Among these achievements, the installation of barrier-free slider doors at the Joe Mavrinac Community Complex stands out, symbolizing the town’s dedication to removing physical barriers. Similarly, the addition of push buttons for washroom entrance doors and the upgrade of exit signage reflect meticulous attention to detail in creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can navigate with ease.

But the efforts don’t stop at doorways and signs. The town has also revamped its approach to parking and pedestrian crosswalks. Designated accessible parking spots have been paved, ensuring smoother, safer access for individuals with disabilities. Moreover, a pedestrian crosswalk has been transformed into a four-way stop, complete with enhanced visibility, marking a significant improvement in pedestrian safety and accessibility.

These recent upgrades are part of a broader, multi-year accessibility plan that Kirkland Lake embarked on back in 2014. This plan was set in motion in response to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR), with the ambitious goal of achieving a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. Kirkland Lake’s initiatives reflect a proactive approach to meeting and exceeding these standards, setting a commendable example for municipalities across the province.

Addressing Challenges Head-On

Despite the significant progress, challenges remain. Concerns have been raised about the reliability of the town hall’s elevator, a crucial aspect of ensuring accessibility for all. In response, the town has not shied away but instead is actively exploring alternative measures to maintain accessibility while plans for a new elevator installation are underway.

Furthermore, Kirkland Lake is taking a hard look at its parking bylaw, with potential changes on the horizon for 2024. The town’s commitment to inclusivity extends beyond infrastructure improvements; it also encompasses a willingness to listen and adapt based on public feedback on accessibility matters. This open, responsive approach is key to creating a community that truly meets the needs of its residents.

Looking Beyond Kirkland Lake

The strides Kirkland Lake has made in accessibility serve as a beacon for other municipalities navigating the complexities of the AODA and IASR. However, the journey doesn’t end here. As recent discussions in the Ontario Legislature highlight, there is still much work to be done across the province. From addressing the shortage of training for teachers of visually impaired students to ensuring government procurement complies with AODA standards, the path to a fully accessible Ontario is paved with ongoing challenges and opportunities for improvement.

Kirkland Lake’s proactive and inclusive approach to accessibility not only enhances the quality of life for its residents with disabilities but also sets a powerful example for other communities. By continuing to challenge the status quo and striving for a more accessible future, Kirkland Lake is not just complying with legislation; it’s leading the way in creating a more inclusive world, one step at a time.

Original at https://bnnbreaking.com/world/canada/kirkland-lake-champions-accessibility-a-beacon-for-change-in-municipal-planning

Please Email the City of Toronto to Support New AODA Alliance Brief that Calls for Toronto to Say No to Electric Scooters that Endanger People with Disabilities

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

February 29, 2024

SUMMARY

Last summer, Toronto City Council directed City staff to prepare a report on whether Toronto should conduct pilot projects with different kinds of micromobility devices, such as e-scooters. The AODA Alliance has just submitted a detailed brief to Toronto City staff. It calls for Toronto to continue to ban people from riding e-scooters in public. Our brief urges Toronto to at long last effectively enforce that ban.

Below is a short summary of our brief. You can read that entire brief at https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/read-the-aoda-alliances-february-29-2024-brief-to-the-city-of-toronto-explaining-why-toronto-must-not-lift-its-ban-on-riding-electric-scooters-in-public/ We oppose the silent menace of those stand-up kick-style e-scooters. We of course do not oppose any mobility devices that help people with disabilities get around.

How You Can Help

Please email the City of Toronto Staff and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. Please tell them to say no to riding e-scooters in public places in Toronto. Please endorse the February 29, 2024, brief to Toronto on e-scooters.

Our accessibility campaign never stops, or even slows down!

You can email City of Toronto staff at micromobility@toronto.ca

You can email Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow at Mayor_Chow@toronto.ca

It helps for you to email them even if you live outside Toronto, since you would be endangered by e-scooters should you visit the city.

If you live in Toronto and want to do even more, write your member of City Council too.

Where to Get More Background

* The February 29, 2024 AODA Alliance brief to the City of Toronto opposing e-scooters.
* The open letter to Toronto City Council, opposing e-scooters, sent by 22 disability and community organizations. * The AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

MORE DETAILS

Summary of the AODA Alliance’s February 29, 2024 Brief to the City of Toronto on Electric Scooters

1. E-scooters are a silent menace, ridden by unhelmetted, untrained, unlicensed and uninsured joyriders. E-scooters cause an increase in personal injuries, including serious personal injuries to innocent pedestrians and e-scooter riders, which further burdens Toronto’s overloaded hospital emergency rooms. Making this worse, their batteries can spontaneously catch fire.

2. If Toronto permits e-scooters, this will create new serious accessibility barriers impeding people with disabilities. This will happen especially in public places like sidewalks where they will be left strewn about, as in other cities that permit e-scooters. They are a tripping hazard for blind people. They block accessible paths of travel for people using wheelchairs, walkers, or strollers. Toronto already has far too many accessibility barriers in public places and has been getting less disability accessible. E-scooters would make this even worse still.

3. Having been forewarned of these dangers, for the City of Toronto to lift the ban on e-scooters would expose the City to major claims for knowingly endangering Toronto’s residents and knowingly creating new accessibility barriers against persons with disabilities. For Toronto to do so knowingly is the same as doing so intentionally.

4. If Toronto allows e-scooters but bans them from sidewalks, e-scooters will nevertheless regularly be ridden on Toronto sidewalks, as shown by experience in other cities. This would endanger innocent pedestrians.

5. Toronto lacks the law enforcement capacity to effectively police nuanced new rules regarding e-scooters, such as a ban on riding or parking them on sidewalks. It is easier and costs less to enforce a ban on riding e-scooters in public.

6. Toronto City staff has found no other city that has found an effective way to permit and regulate e-scooters and to effectively enforce those regulations.

7. Lifting the ban on e-scooters will inflict new financial burdens on the taxpayer, such as added health care costs due to e-scooter injuries, cost of added infrastructure to accommodate e-scooters, added law enforcement costs, added regulatory and monitoring costs, and legal liabilities triggered by e-scooters.

8. Over the past four years, Toronto City Council has received strong united opposition to e-scooters from the disability community, reflecting the needs of vulnerable people with disabilities and seniors. This includes three successive compelling unanimous resolutions against e-scooters by the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, strong opposition by many respected disability community organizations, passionate deputations against e-scooters by persons with disabilities presenting to City Council committees and emails and phone calls to the mayor and City Council members from many people with disabilities and their supporters.

9. In disregard of these serious dangers, a relentless push for e-scooters in Toronto has been mounted by corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies. They have unleashed an extensive, well-financed and well-connected lobbying feeding frenzy at City Hall.

10. The e-scooter corporate lobbyists’ entire campaign is based on the erroneous assertion that rental e-scooters will significantly reduce traffic and pollution, because instead of driving, people will take public transit, and then rent an e-scooter to ride the last mile to their destinations. Yet the vast majority of e-scooter rides are NOT taken to connect to public transit. They thus won’t reduce traffic or pollution. Indeed, a proportion of e-scooter renters use an e-scooter instead of walking or taking public transit. Moreover, for e-scooters to be effective for this “last mile,” Toronto must be inundated with thousands of e-scooters, so one is available whenever a rider wants one. This would exacerbate city clutter and disability barriers.

11. It would be appalling for Toronto to use the public, including vulnerable people with disabilities and seniors, as involuntary guinea pigs in a “pilot project” that is, in truth, a human experiment to which those who are endangered have not given consent. In addition, the City of Toronto has no effective way to accurately track the injuries that e-scooters cause.

12. The public use of e-scooters in Toronto should remain banned in any form, whether privately owned by the rider or rented, e.g. through a shared e-scooter program. The AODA Alliance opposes any e-scooter rental program, whether run by the e-scooter rental companies directly or by the City of Toronto, e.g. through its Bike Share program.

13. E-scooter corporate lobbyists and their allies advance bogus arguments to support their cause. For years, they have inaccurately claimed that new tech eliminates e-scooter dangers. Adding a beeping sound to e-scooters is not sufficient to enable blind pedestrians to scurry to safety in time. E-scooters are not necessary for a robust micromobility strategy, because other safer options are available, such as bikes. Banning e-scooters is a more effective option than trying in vain to regulate how they are ridden.

14. We seek the leadership of Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. We need her and all City Council members to stand up for people with disabilities, seniors, children and others endangered by e-scooters. We need Mayor Chow and City Council to stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.

CBC Report on Employment Disability Discrimination Case Shows Need to Strengthen Ontario’s Weak Employment Accessibility Standard

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

February 28, 2024

SUMMARY

Why do people with disabilities continue too often to face disability discrimination in employment. The late David Onley, former Ontario Lieutenant Governor, often said that the unemployment rate facing people with disabilities in Canada is not only a national crisis it is a national shame.

On February 5, 2024, CBC News published a report about an employee with a disability who has taken the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging disability discrimination in employment. We set out that article below. The AODA Alliance cannot comment on the case’s specifics. However, CBC asked AODA Alliance Chair, David Lepofsky, for background on the challenges facing people with disabilities when they try to get a job.

In Ontario, it has been illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in employment since 1982 – 42 years ago. If a person has been the victim of disability discrimination in employment, it has been harder for them to present their case under the Ontario Human Rights Code since 2008 because they can no longer take their case to the Ontario Human Rights Commission to investigate it. Instead, they must investigate it themselves and then present their case at a formal court-like hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

That 2008 change was promised to speed up the human rights enforcement process. It did not live up to that promise. It now takes upwards of four years, if not longer, to get a hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Back in 2006, the AODA Alliance and several other community groups vigorously opposed that harmful change to the enforcement of human rights in Ontario. You can learn more about that by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s human rights reform page.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005 to require the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, including in employment. The Government’s poor implementation of the AODA has failed people with disabilities in many areas, including in employment.

In 2005, the Ontario Government passed the Employment Accessibility Standard under the AODA in order to ensure accessibility in employment for jobseekers and employees with disabilities. While helpful to a limited extent, that accessibility standard was far too weak. The AODA required the Ontario Government to appoint an Employment Standards Development Committee by 2016 to review the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard and recommend any revisions needed to strengthen it. In or around 2016, the Ontario Government appointed the Employment Standards Development Committee. On May 7, 2018, the AODA Alliance submitted a brief to the Employment Standards Development Committee. It recommended ways in which the Employment Standards Development Committee needs to be strengthened.

Sadly, events since then have included several major let-downs. First, the Employment Standards Development Committee did not act on much, if any, of our recommendations in its final report to the Government. That Committee delivered its final report to Ontario’s Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho on January 22, 2019.

Second, Sections 10 and 11 of the AODA required the Ford Government to make public the ‘Employment Standards Development Committees final report upon receiving it. The Ford Government flagrantly disregarded that requirement. It kept the Employment Standards Development Committee’s final report secret until around February 2021, over two years after receiving it.

Third, at least as inexcusable, the Ford Government has not enacted any revisions to the Employment Accessibility Standard in the half decade since it received the Employment Standards Development Committees final report.

What Can You Do to Help?

Write Premier Doug Ford. Tell him it’s time for the Government to strengthen the weak Employment Accessibility Standard that was enacted in 2011 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Email Premier Ford at premier@Ontario.ca

Where to Get More Background
* The AODA Alliance’s May 7, 2019 Brief to the Ontario Employment Standards Development Committee on Its Draft Recommendations for Revisions to the 2011 Employment Accessibility Standard
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s captioned video explaining the duty to accommodate people with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code. * The AODA Alliance website’s employment page.

MORE DETAILS

CBC News February 5, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/disabled-man-says-ontario-ombudsman-discriminated-against-him-during-job-hunt-1.7102408

Title: Disabled man says Ontario Ombudsman discriminated against him during job hunt | CBC News

In response to human rights tribunal, ombudsman’s office says ‘it met its procedural duty to accommodate’

Photo of: Michael Smee CBC
Caption: Liam Walshe says that in 2022 he was denied the chance to apply for a job as an early resolutions officer at the office of the Ontario Ombudsman.

The agency that fights for fairness in Ontario government and public sector offices is itself being accused of unfair hiring practices by a Toronto man with autism and ADHD.

Walshe says the ombudsman’s office cut off communication with him soon after he asked for an extra 30 minutes to write an online, supervised screening test that ordinarily takes one hour, according to a complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).

“My experience applying for this job with the ombudsman made me feel absolutely worthless, unwanted,” Walshe said.

“There were nights that I cried.”

Walshe is asking that the ombudsman pay him $83,000 in compensation and give him a job as an resolutions officer, according to documents filed with the HRTO in 2023.

The ombudsman’s office wouldn’t speak with CBC Toronto about the dispute, because it’s before the tribunal. But in its response to Walshe’s HRTO filing, it argues the conflict is a misunderstanding that began when a supervisor leading the search for a new early resolutions officer went on holiday over the summer, and a less experienced worker took over.

Documents show Walshe asked in his cover letter for extra time to write the screening test because of his disability.

The supervisor leading the hunt for an adjudicator, identified by the initials PD, asked Walshe to provide medical records proving he had a disability, which Walshe’s paralegal Sean O’Connor told CBC Toronto he did.

Photo of: Sean O’Connor, a paralegal, outside Old City Hall courthouse. He has volunteered to help Donna Rodrigues, provided transcripts of her case still exist.
Caption: ‘The one place whose whole mandate is about justice and fairness failed to do that,’ says paralegal Sean O’Connor about Walshe’s case. (Mike Smee/CBC)

According to the ombudsman’s office’s response, PD left for holidays and Walshe’s file was passed to a less experienced employee, identified by the initials CM.

CM never got Washe’s medical records, according to the office’s response, so he emailed Walshe again asking for proof that he needed an accommodation in order to write the test.

It was this email that angered Walshe, who is now a paralegal working for another provincial government agency.

“I was absolutely horrified that they’d put somebody with a disability through this over such a miniscule thing,” he said.

“What are they thinking? Are they pre-judging me? Are they wondering if I’m capable of doing the work? These are the things that are going through my mind.”

In the HRTO documents, the ombudsman’s office maintains that it did contact Walshe to follow up about the test, but it never received a reply so it took that to mean he was no longer interested in the job.

“The Ombudsman asserts that it met its procedural duty to accommodate and, due to the Applicant’s lack of cooperation and response, the substantive duty to accommodate was never triggered,” the office said in response to the HRTO complaint.

Walshe says he got no such email. He says he eventually called the ombudsman’s office, only to be told the job had been filled.

“They stopped corresponding with him, weeks go by and the next thing he knows, the job is filled,” O’Connor said. “The one place whose whole mandate is about justice and fairness failed to do that.”

The ombudsman’s HRTO response acknowledges there was some bureaucratic confusion in the way it dealt with Walshes case.

But O’Connor says that’s not relevant.

“Saying it’s an accident is no defence for discrimination,” he said.

David Lepofsky says he sees many cases where people, like Walshe, who have an “invisible disability” can face an even tougher struggle job hunting than people with more obvious disabilities.

“If I walk into a workplace with a white cane, I don’t have to prove anything,” said Lepofsky, who is chair of the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“But if you have (an invisible disability) you have the added burden that the employer might not believe it or may want proof of it.”

In any event, Lepofsky says companies are legally bound to offer people with disabilities accommodation unless they can prove it would pose “undue hardship” a major building retrofit, for instance.

It’s not clear yet when the tribunal will hear Walshe’s case.

Accessibility News February 24,2024 Update

Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/acnewsca

The AODA Clock is Ticking

There are 44 weeks, 3 days until a fully Accessible Ontario! Will you be compliant?

In this Issue

*MPP Questions Government Commitment to Accessibility Goal
*Toronto’s Winter Stations are a Sight to Behold, but Disability Advocates Say They’re Far From Accessible
*LETTER: Accessibility Mat Issue is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
*Crawford Technologies Partners with PossibleNOW to Give Greater Control Over Communication Preferences and Delivery
*Starbucks is Updating Its Cafes to Be More Accessible With New Inclusive Designs
*Accessibility Holds a Mirror Up to An Inclusive Society
* AODAAlliance Updates(2)

ARTICLES:

MPP Questions Government Commitment to Accessibility Goal

“It’s unacceptable that you aren’t going to reach this target, and it’s unacceptable that you have been hiding the truth. You owe people with disabilities an apology, and you owe them action,” says Vaugeois.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/mpp-questions-government-commitment-to-accessibility-goal/

Toronto’s Winter Stations are a Sight to Behold, but Disability Advocates Say They’re Far From Accessible

Every year, Beate Hundert says she tries to view the art exhibits part of Winter Stations along Woodbine Beach. And each time, she says she’s robbed of the experience.

Instead of getting to view each station up close, Hundert says she can only go as far as the boardwalk allows.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/torontos-winter-stations-are-a-sight-to-behold-but-disability-advocates-say-theyre-far-from-accessible/

LETTER: Accessibility Mat Issue is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Almost twenty years have passed since the government of Ontario unanimously passed The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA).

It was created to help people with disabilities fully participate in society, bring them to the table in crafting regulations, and build mechanisms to enforce standards. Advocates and experts hailed the legislation as groundbreaking and progressive. The goal was to have Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/letter-accessibility-mat-issue-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/

Crawford Technologies Partners with PossibleNOW to Give Greater Control Over Communication Preferences and Delivery

Crawford Technologies, a provider of innovative document solutions that streamline, improve and manage customer communications, announces it has established a partnership with PossibleNOW, a leading provider of preference and content management software. The partnership opens new opportunities for companies to transform customer engagement with the ability to implement a robust preference management system that connects to Crawford Technologiesâ enterprise communications processing (ECP) software.

Read more at
https://crawfordtech.com/news-events/press-release/crawford-technologies-partners-with-possiblenow/

Starbucks is Updating Its Cafes to Be More Accessible With New Inclusive Designs

Restaurant design changes include a point of sales system that’s accessible for the visually impaired, power-operated doors, and wider pedestrian paths

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/starbucks-is-updating-its-cafes-to-be-more-accessible-with-new-inclusive-designs/

Accessibility Holds a Mirror Up to An Inclusive Society

Efforts to improve accessibility must include consultation with persons living with disabilities and their advocates on priority issues.

Accessibility is not simply bricks and mortar, policies and legislation, but rather a mindset of inclusion to be embraced and nurtured, writes Brian Swainson.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/accessibility-holds-a-mirror-up-to-an-inclusive-society/

AODA Alliance Updates:

In the Legislature, the Ford Government Again Dodges Important Questions About its Failed Implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/in-the-legislature-the-ford-government-again-dodges-important-questions-about-its-failed-implementation-of-the-accessibility-for-ontarians-with-disabilities-act/

Is the Second Time the Charm? AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is Again Invited to Give Evidence at Airline Disability Barriers Hearings at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/is-the-second-time-the-charm-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-is-again-invited-to-give-evidence-at-airline-disability-barriers-hearings-at-the-house-of-commons-standing-committee-on-transport/

Past Newsletters
View past issues of the Newsletter at http://www.accessibilitynews.ca/category/accessibility-news-weekly-newsletter/

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Accessibility News, since November 8, 2006

MPP Questions Government Commitment to Accessibility Goal

Dryden, ON, Canada / CKDR
Randy Thoms
Feb 21, 2024

Ontario will not meet its goal of having all of its facilities fully accessible by 2025.

A report presented to government in June but only made public in December made 23 recommendations following a review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The Act was put in place in 2025 to reduce and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Speaking in the legislature, Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Lise Vaugeois says the government owes it to people with disabilities to react to the recommendations.

“It’s unacceptable that you aren’t going to reach this target, and it’s unacceptable that you have been hiding the truth. You owe people with disabilities an apology, and you owe them action,” says Vaugeois.

The Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, Raymond Cho (CHOY), insists action is being taken to make provincial facilities barrier-free.

“Our government is taking action on a new initiative that will provide direct experience on AODA issues from people with disabilities,” says Choy.

“We are building evacuation plans for all government buildings to ensure safe evacuation of people with disabilities. We will ensure all government procurement complies with AODA. We are using recommendations from the force legislative review to achieve and exceed the goals of AODA.”

In his report, Rich Donovan concluded that accessibility in Ontario currently constitutes a crisis and that bold and decisive action is needed.

Original at https://www.ckdr.net/2024/02/21/mpp-questions-government-commitment-to-accessibility-goal/

Toronto’s Winter Stations are a Sight to Behold, but Disability Advocates Say They’re Far From Accessible

Art exhibition to move some stations to Queen Street East to increase accessibility Vanessa Balintec, CBC News
Posted: Feb 18, 2024

Every year, Beate Hundert says she tries to view the art exhibits part of Winter Stations along Woodbine Beach. And each time, she says she’s robbed of the experience.

Instead of getting to view each station up close, Hundert says she can only go as far as the boardwalk allows.

Hundert uses a walker to get around because of a condition called hereditary spastic paraplegia, which affects how her muscles function. That, coupled with the snowy and often icy terrain, means she can’t experience the exhibit the way it’s intended.

“It makes a big difference because you just don’t enjoy it in the same way,” said Hundert, 68.

“You try not to get depressed.”

According to one local community organization, she isn’t alone. Toronto Lakefront Community says the issue of beach accessibility, both at Woodbine Beach and beyond, has been on its radar for the past couple of years. It says locals have reported difficulty accessing the waterfront, not only during community events like Winter Stations, but throughout the year.

“We have to include everybody,” said the group’s co-founder Jane Anderson. “Solutions are readily available, and that’s the thing that really bothers me.”

Mobility mats as a solution

The Winter Stations is an international design and art competition that brings temporary art installations to Toronto’s east end beaches for the winter. This year, the event runs from Feb. 19 to the end of March.

Anderson points to mobility mats used at other beaches like Wasaga, where portable rollout mats laid on the beach provide a continuous pathway for pedestrians, people using wheelchairs and visitors with strollers or bicycles.

The town also offers all-terrain and water-accessible wheelchairs for rent. And while Toronto has its own beach wheelchair service, the aren’t enough to meet demand, she said.

“There’s a strong commitment to accessibility, but I think in practice … we’re not there,” said Anderson, adding she’s spoken to Winter Stations organizers and the ward’s elected officials for help.

“When you look at other municipalities, they’ve done a much better job.”

In an effort to address the problem, Winter Stations head organizer Dakota Wares-Tani said new installations along Queen Street East at Woodbine Park, Kew Gardens and Ivan Forrest Gardens will help increase access to exhibits for those who can’t make it across the beach.

In the 10 years the event has run, the change is a step forward in addressing a long-term issue that the non-profit organization alone can’t fix, she said. Rough quotes for mobility mats for the event were in the tens of thousands of dollars, making up more than half their funding, she added.

“From the beginning, accessibility wasn’t possible because the beach itself isn’t inherently accessible,” said Wares-Tani, who’s also an architect at architecture firm RAW Design, one of the firms that launched the event.

Under the province’s overarching disability legislation, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, pathways to the beach’s edge and boardwalks must be accessible for everyone.

In an email to CBC Toronto, the city said it strives to reach compliance wherever “operationally feasible,” and that Woodbine Beach has sand mats that extend to the water’s edge.

“Staff continue to investigate opportunities to increase accessibility in our parks and beaches,” the email reads.

City staff for Coun. Brad Bradford, who represents Beaches-East York, said in an email to CBC Toronto that residents flagged the issue to them last year.

“Our office has also had ongoing conversations with community advocates and City Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff about increasing year-round accessibility at Woodbine Beach, and other beaches in our ward,” Bradford’s office said in an email.

“Actions to date have included installing additional accessible picnic tables, work to standardize signage and tactile surface indicators, and designing safer intersection crossings.”

Hundert said she hopes that no matter what gets put in place, it’s important for everyone to feel included, especially when solutions have been proven to work elsewhere.

“It can absolutely be done,” she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vanessa Balintec is a reporter for CBC Toronto who likes writing stories about labour, accessibility and community. She previously worked for stations in New Brunswick and Kitchener-Waterloo. You can reach her at vanessa.balintec@cbc.ca and on Twitter at @vanessabalintec.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/winter-stations-accessibility-1.7117794

LETTER: Accessibility Mat Issue is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Today, in North Bay and across the province, people with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life Letter to the Editor
Feb, 16, 2024

Editor’s note: Mr. Reyce writes in response to the BayToday story Better access to beach and water needed for disabled.

To the Editor:

Almost twenty years have passed since the government of Ontario unanimously passed The Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA).

It was created to help people with disabilities fully participate in society, bring them to the table in crafting regulations, and build mechanisms to enforce standards. Advocates and experts hailed the legislation as groundbreaking and progressive. The goal was to have Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025.

Twenty years later, it is obvious the goals are not being met.

Today, in North Bay and across the province, people with disabilities face barriers in most areas of life. Here is a brief list of concerns from participants at the PADDLE (providing adults with developmental disabilities lifelong experiences) Program.

  • The accessibility mat at the beach is not accessible for wheelchair users to go swimming. There could be floatation chairs available at the beach as additional support to help make it more functional. And if changing rooms are not accessible, what are the options for changing in and out of swimming clothes?
  • Doorways to businesses and public spaces are not always accessible. Often the automatic door openers are either not working or have been turned off. Getting in and out of most businesses is the equivalent of wheelchair parkour.
  • There are no accessible change tables for people with disabilities to use washrooms in public or most businesses.
    When doors to businesses do work, it is impossible in some cases for wheelchair users to pay for goods and services if the debit machines are locked to a counter where people cannot reach the machine. In these cases, wheelchair users have had to hire people to help pay for goods and services.
  • Bus stops on streets without sidewalks are extremely dangerous for people with mobility issues. Streets without sidewalks are dangerous for pedestrians, including seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
  • If one does not have the app on a phone, the Dynamic Dispatch bus system is a barrier for anyone wanting to use public transportation in the evening.
  • Parabus must be booked days in advance and does not run past 6 pm, making it difficult to enjoy spontaneous trips around the community.
  • There is a lack of housing availability and options for persons with disabilities.
  • Support workers who aid people with disabilities often do not make a living wage, leading to a lack of consistency and sometimes unreliable service delivery.

These are only a few observations and concerns from the participants and staff at PADDLE. The list could be longer. Indeed, the accessibility mat is the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ of problems people with disabilities face daily.

On the bright side, PADDLE participants and staff believe problems present opportunities! We commend efforts being made to improve accessibility and believe many people are working hard to address the challenges and barriers being faced. To those people who see the value in people and this work, thank you for your dedication to creating a more inclusive North Bay and world. Following Universal Design principles is a starting point for any new builds (thinking about the new twin pad ‘community centre’.

With thoughtful evaluation and strategic action, we can make significant strides toward a city and province where everyone can participate and thrive. As we continue toward a more accessible North Bay, we can remain committed to continuous improvement. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach, we can ensure accessibility becomes a positive part of our city’s identity.

Sincerely,

Jeff Reyce

PADDLE (Providing Adults with Developmental Disabilities Lifelong Experiences) Health Group

Original at https://www.baytoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-accessibility-mat-issue-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-8313514