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Renters With Disabilities Live in Fear of Eviction. Now, This Man with PTSD Sleeps in a Shed

Renters with disabilities are more likely to live in unaffordable situations, Stats Can reports Natalie Stechyson, CBC News
Posted: Jul 07, 2024

Sidney Wood says he was evicted last month because he couldn’t pay his rent.

Wood, 41, couldn’t afford the $1,620 per month for a basement apartment in Edmonton that he shared with his two teenage children. Not after he and his wife separated in March, and not on his CPP disability income that he says is $1,403 per month.

So Wood, who is unable to work due to PTSD after 11 years as a correctional officer in a maximum security prison, had to move back to St. Theresa Point First Nation, an Oji-Cree reserve in Northern Manitoba. His children, who are 15 and 16, stayed in Edmonton with family.

Now, Wood sleeps in a makeshift shed on his father’s property, because there are already eight people living in the three-bedroom house. The shed is about 180 square feet. But that’s not the part that bothers him.

“I just miss my kids so much. That’s what kills me,” he told CBC News, weeping. “It’s just one thing after another after another.”

Wood reached out to CBC News because he wanted his story shared. He is one of the many people with disabilities who struggle to pay rent amid the rental housing crisis gripping the country.

A new survey from Statistics Canada shows that a disproportionate number of disabled renters are subject to eviction, and as the problem gets worse, housing advocates say it puts disabled people at greater risk of becoming homeless.
With surging prices and decreased availability, finding housing has become daunting. Less than one per cent of rentals are both vacant and affordable for the majority of the country’s renters, a recent CBC News analysis of more than 1,000 neighbourhoods across Canada’s largest cities found.

That situation becomes more dire for Canadians with disabilities, who have a lower median income – about $35,700 in 2023, according to CBC’s analysis of Statistics Canada data – but who are also more likely to live in rented dwellings than the total population.

“When governments talk about building affordable housing they rarely mean at the level of affordability that someone on disability benefits could afford,” Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer and policy analyst, told CBC News.

Over-represented in all aspects of inadequate housing
About eight million Canadians, or 27 per cent of the population, have a disability, according to a joint report released last month by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and Office of the Federal Housing Advocate (OFHA).

Disabilities can be physical, mental, intellectual, sensory, visible or invisible, and hinder a person’s “full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others,” according to the United Nations.

According to Stats Can data from 2017, people with disabilities were more likely to spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter costs, the benchmark for affordability set by the CMHC in 1986. And 44 per cent of renters with disabilities were estimated to be living in unaffordable situations, compared to 34.6 per cent of the total population.

Using the $35,700 median income, there are only around 2,800 bachelor or one-bedroom homes available and affordable across the 35 metropolitan areas CBC News analyzed. That’s a small fraction of one per cent – 0.18 per cent – of all bachelor or one-bedroom rentals.

To find something larger would be nearly impossible. Less than one in 6,000 – or 0.015 per cent – of all two-bedroom rentals in the areas CBC analyzed were affordable on a median income for someone with a disability.

According to a CBC News analysis of over 1,000 neighbourhoods across Canada’s largest cities, fewer than one per cent of rentals are both vacant and affordable for the majority of renters. CBC’s Nael Shiab shows a new online tool that reveals where you can afford to rent.
The CHRC and OFHA report found that Canadians with disabilities are over-represented in all aspects of inadequate housing and homelessness.

They were four times more likely to be homeless, the reported noted, as well as more likely to live in unaffordable housing and nearly twice as likely to live in “core housing need” – housing that is unaffordable, not in good repair, and with not enough space for the occupants.

“We’ve been monitoring housing outcomes for people with disabilities in Canada and know that housing affordability is a serious concern,” Marie-Jose Houle, federal housing advocate with the CHRC, told CBC News in an email statement.

“People with disabilities continue telling us that they’re constantly afraid of becoming homeless, and this is seriously impacting their health.”

‘Constant, heavy anxiety’

That’s true for William Rollins, 42, who lives in Toronto and says he is constantly worried for his future ever since his landlord served him an N-12 eviction notice, which forces tenants to move out of an apartment if the owner, a member of their immediate family, or a caregiver wants to move in.

When he originally found his condo, Rollins worked for a bank, and says the $1,775 per month was easily affordable. But now Rollins is on long-term disability with a myriad of diagnoses, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, depression and anxiety, and tachycardia. He is also HIV-positive.

“This situation makes me feel extremely vulnerable. It’s frustrating and demoralizing to know that despite my best efforts, my circumstances are largely beyond my control,” Rollins told CBC News.

Rollins receives about $3,000 per month between long-term disability benefits and CPP disability, but says he is struggling to cover essentials. He doesn’t know how he can possibly afford to move when rent in Toronto is so high – on average $2,793 per month, according to listings website rentals.ca.

He could move back home to Calgary, he said, but then he would lose all his medical supports, including the psychiatrist he’s been seeing for a decade. So he’s fighting the N-12 notice, because he feels his landlord is acting in bad faith.

Disabled people overrepresented in study of evicted tenants
He can’t afford to rent an apartment. So this man secretly sleeps in an office

“The fear of not knowing where I’ll live next is debilitating,” Rollins said.

“If I am evicted, I have very few options. Without a substantial safety net, the likelihood of becoming homeless is very real. This situation brings a constant, heavy anxiety that affects my daily life and overall mental health.”

Significant barriers

People with disabilities face multiple significant barriers when attempting to secure affordable homes, and there’s a long history of ableism within housing including institutionalization, Peters said.

“The short version is that disabled people were deliberately designed out of society and thus everything about our cities, including housing, was designed for non-disabled people,” Peters said.

This woman spends 100% of her income on rent

Many Canadians in their 20s and 30s are delaying having kids – and some say high rent is a factor

Some of the barriers are lacks of support that allow people to live in the community, she explained, inaccessibility and discrimination. But a major barrier is how we define affordability, Peters added, noting that people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and at deeper levels of poverty.

And while people with disabilities are over-represented in terms of evictions, they also have fewer options, Peters added. For instance, couch surfing with friends wouldn’t work for Peters as a wheelchair user.

“Even if I can get into their homes, I can’t use their bathrooms.”

‘It’s killing me’

Housing instability is extremely distressing for anyone, but can be particularly upsetting and disruptive for people with disabilities given these barriers, said Annie Hodgins, executive director of the Toronto-based non-profit Canadian Centre for Housing Rights. Cost is a huge part of this instability, she added.

Hodgins says about a third “at least” of the people who call their rent hotline each year have disabilities.

“The housing crisis is causing a great deal of stress,” Hodgins said.

The distress of being separated from his children, sleeping in a shed and not knowing what to do next has worsened Sidney Wood’s mental health, he told CBC News tearfully. Wood says he developed PTSD from the violence he witnessed as a corrections officer.

He suffers from anxiety and depression and became paranoid, worried he was being followed home from work.

Some of those feelings have recently returned, he said.

“It’s killing me.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Natalie Stechyson
Senior Writer & Editor

Natalie Stechyson has been a writer and editor at CBC News since 2021. She covers stories on social trends, families, gender, human interest, as well as general news. She’s worked as a journalist since 2009, with stints at the Globe and Mail and Postmedia News, among others. Before joining CBC News, she was the parents editor at HuffPost Canada, where she won a silver Canadian Online Publishing Award for her work on pregnancy loss. You can reach her at natalie.stechyson@cbc.ca.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/disability-rent-canada-1.7254118

Federal NDP Belatedly Introduces Bill to Strengthen the Canada Disability Benefit

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

July 11, 2024

SUMMARY

Last month, the federal New Democratic Party introduced a bill into Parliament to shore up the weak Canada Disability Benefit Act, which Parliament passed one year ago and whose budget Parliament (including the NDP) recently passed. The NDP is responding to the massive criticism of the Trudeau Government’s announcement that the maximum benefit an impoverished person with disabilities can get is $200 per month. It is now beyond dispute that contrary to earlier Government promises, the Canada Disability Benefit would not lift out of poverty the vast majority of people with disabilities in Canada who now languish in poverty.

The Canada Disability Benefit Act, widely known as Bill C-22, did not set any minimum requirements for who would qualify for the Canada Disability Benefit. This was all left to regulations which Cabinet could later make, and which subsequent Cabinets could gut, all in secret.

While Bill C-22 was being debated in Parliament, we and a number of other disability advocates called for Parliament to amend the bill to strengthen it. Regrettably, some disability charities urged Parliament to simply pass the bill as is, without amending it to strengthen it.

One area in which we and several others tried to get the bill strengthened concerned the bill’s criteria for who would qualify to receive the Canada Disability Benefit (CDB). We wanted some guarantees for people with disabilities built into the bill. For example, the AODA Alliance’s October 17, 2022 brief submitted to the House of Commons included this:

“No Person with a Disability is Guaranteed that They Are Eligible for the Canada Disability Benefit

The bill is also very weak because it establishes no eligibility criteria at all. Under it, no people with disabilities, including no working-age people with disabilities, are entitled to a Canada Disability Benefit. It delegates to Cabinet the sweeping discretion to set the eligibility criteria through regulations.

As a result, Cabinet’s eligibility regulations could substantially reduce entitlement to the Canada Disability Benefit to an even smaller proportion of people with disabilities than those which the bill now includes within the term “working-age people with disabilities.”

The regulations are not subject to any public debates, public hearings, or public votes. In a minority government, the opposition is entirely excluded from the process of determining eligibility for the benefit.

People with disabilities will not know from one year to the next what benefits they can expect to receive. At a secret Cabinet meeting, a subsequent Cabinet or Government could arbitrarily and unilaterally gut the eligibility requirements that a previous Cabinet had established. It could also do that with no public debate, public hearings, public vote, or participation by any opposition parties.

We therefore recommend that:

#4. Section 4 of the bill should be amended to:

a) Set mandatory statutory criteria for who is eligible for the Canada Disability Benefit.
b) Ensure that if any limited discretion is granted to Cabinet to enact regulations on eligibility criteria, those regulations must be strictly limited. They must not override the mandatory criteria to be set out in the bill itself or disqualify persons with disabilities from the benefit, who meet the bill’s statutory criteria.”

The AODA Alliances April 24, 2023 brief to Canada’s Senate on Bill C-22 included this:

“People with disabilities who now qualify for a provincial or territorial social assistance disability benefit should automatically qualify to receive the CDB. They should not have to re-prove that they have a disability and are living in poverty.

Therefore, the bill should be amended to create a two-track way to qualify for the CDB. Track 1: Those who already receive a provincial or territorial social assistance disability benefit (such as the Ontario Disability Support Program) should automatically qualify for the CDB, without having to go through a second application process. Track 2: Those who are not now receiving a provincial or territorial social assistance disability benefit should have a way to apply for the CDB, with the bill and regulations spelling out the eligibility criteria.

Without limiting who has a “disability” for applying for the CDB, the bill should be amended to provide that a person who applies for the CDB is automatically deemed to have a qualifying “disability” and does not have to re-prove that they have a disability, if they:

a) receive benefits under a federal or provincial employee’s or worker’s compensation law; b) receive disability benefits under a private insurance plan; or c) qualify for the Disability Tax Credit.

11. The following subsections should be added to Section 4:

4 (1)?A person is eligible for a Canada disability benefit if they meet the eligibility criteria set out in the regulations.

(2) A person is deemed eligible for a Canada disability benefit under subsection 1 if they are in receipt of
a) a federal, provincial or territorial disability benefit, as set out in the regulations;
b) compensation under a federal or provincial employee’s or worker’s compensation law, as set out in the regulations; and c) any other benefits, as set out in the regulations.

(3) If a deemed eligible person is no longer receiving benefits listed under subsection 2, their continued eligibility for a Canada disability benefit shall be determined based on the eligibility criteria set out in subsection 1.”

We regret that Parliament made none of these specific amendments. The NDP did not propose any of these amendments in the House of Commons when it had the chance to do so. We appreciate that the NDP pushed for some other amendments to the bill, but sadly, it was not willing to seek or support several key amendments that we felt were important.

It is certainly helpful that the NDP is belatedly now trying to strengthen Bill C-22. However, the NDP had a much better chance of succeeding 18 months ago. Canada has a minority Parliament, so the Trudeau Government did not and does not call all the shots. However, the NDP’s waiting so long to get on board with this serves as a gift to the Trudeau Liberals a chance to fire back that this will now delay the Canada Disability Benefit.

Of course, such claims by the Trudeau Government should be read in light of the Government’s own long delays. When Bill C-22 was before Parliament, the Trudeau Government criticized those who tried to amend the bill to strengthen it, claiming that amending the bill would delay delivering much-needed money into the pockets of impoverished people with disabilities. The Government said that its priority was to get money to impoverished people with disabilities as quickly as possible. The Government then delayed a full year before proclaiming Bill C-22 in force and is still on its own admission a year away from getting any money to anyone, much less the paltry $200 that it has set as its monthly maximum.

Below you can find a June 13, 2024 article in the Toronto Star and a June 13, 2024, NDP news release on tis topic.

What You Can Do to Help

Please contact your MP and the leaders of the major federal parties. Tell them to strengthen the Canada Disability Benefit, and to state what monthly amount they would guarantee for it if they are elected. It is not good enough for them to just criticize the Trudeau Liberals.

Learn all about our advocacy efforts on the Canada Disability Benefit by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s Canada Disability Benefit page.

MORE DETAILS

The Toronto Star June 13, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/ndp-wants-to-dramatically-change-who-will-qualify-for-the-trudeau-governments-disability-benefit-a/article_9fccbf3e-2999-11ef-9072-8b3dbee816b0.html NDP wants to dramatically change who will qualify for the Trudeau government’s disability benefit a month after voting in favour of it
If passed, the bill would increase the number of people who will get the benefit by expanding eligibility for the disability tax credit to automatically include anyone already receiving provincial assistance.

NDP MP Laurel Collins announces the NDP’s plan to make it easier for Canadians when they apply to the disability tax credit on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 13, 2024.

PATRICK DOYLE THE CANADIAN PRESS
By Mark Ramzy Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWAThe New Democrats tabled a bill Thursday that would make drastic changes to the Trudeau government’s disability benefit just a month after it was the only opposition party to vote in support of its funding.

If passed, the bill would increase the number of people who will get the benefit by expanding eligibility for the disability tax credit to automatically include anyone already receiving provincial assistance, a key demand by many disability advocates. The tax credit is a certificate obtained through a doctor’s note that’s required to receive federal disability supports.

The change could mean the Trudeau government will need to raise its funding from the $6.1 billion over six years it earmarked for the benefit in this year’s budget.

“The Liberals need to go back to the legislation and follow the guidelines of that legislation,” said NDP MP Bonita Zarrillo. “They need to fulfil their promise to the community that they are going to do that work in collaboration with them.”

The introduction of the bill also raises questions about what the NDP received in return for its budget support and the original disability benefit model. For weeks, the NDP withheld support for the Liberals’ budget over concerns that included what it called an inadequate Canada Disability Benefit, until NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he received an “openness” from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to address those issues.

Asked about that on Thursday, Laurel Collins, the MP who introduced the bill, would only say her party would have to push the Liberals into supporting this change.

“Almost every time that we’ve put forward a sensible plan to support Canadians, we’ve had to force the Liberals into taking action,” Collins told reporters.

The Trudeau government, meanwhile, claims it’s an attempt at playing politics from the New Democrats that will only delay the rollout of the new disability benefit, slated to begin in July 2025.

“What the NDP is proposing will create more complications and slow down the process,” said one government official speaking on background, noting that there are inconsistencies in eligibility for disability supports in different provinces and territories. The disability tax credit is the fastest and most efficient way to roll out the benefit, they argued.

Still, the bill comes as welcome news to advocates who had long criticized the disability tax credit, a certificate obtained through a doctor’s note that’s required to receive federal disability supports.

Currently, 500,000 working-age persons with disabilities get the tax credit, and the government expects that number to reach around 600,000 as it invests $243 million over six years to help offset some of the costs of medical forms required to apply for it. But it’s hundreds of thousands fewer than the number of working-age people advocates estimate have a disability, and only 25,000 people with disabilities are expected to be lifted out of poverty due to the benefit.

The NDP’s proposal would see the number of people getting the tax credit rise to at least 750,000, according to analysis shared with the Star by Maytree, an organization that advocates for poverty-reduction policies.

“That’s what our community has been advising the government to do for well over a year now,” said Amanda Mackenzie, the national director for external affairs at March of Dimes. “This is a way to get that issue on the radar.”

The New Democrats had joined advocates in slamming the funding of the $200 per month benefit earlier this year, with Singh describing it as a sticking point as they debated their support for the Liberals’ budget.

When it came time to vote on the budget, however, the NDP supported it.

“We’ll be holding this government to account to ensure the problems that I’ve raised are addressed,” Singh told reporters.

Though he did not disclose what commitments he got in return for supporting the budget, he had said there was “some progress on the clawback question.”

So far, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Nunavut have confirmed they have no plans to claw back their own supports, while the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced a new benefit to top-up the federal aid program.

The bill also faces difficult prospects of passing, unless it receives government backing or wide support from other opposition parties.

“Given that (the Trudeau government) knows that this is a problem, and we have presented this as a solution, but they have failed to act, I think you can only assume that they do not want a large portion of people with disabilities to access the benefits that they deserve,” Collins said.

Mark Ramzy
Mark Ramzy is an Ottawa-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Reach him via email: mramzy@thestar.ca

New Democratic Party of Canada News Release

Originally posted at https://www.ndp.ca/news/ndp-announces-plan-make-canadas-disability-benefit-easier-access-canadians-who-need-it Canada’s NDP June 13th, 2024

NDP announces plan to make Canada’s Disability Benefit easier to access for Canadians who need it
OTTAWA On Thursday, NDP MP Laurel Collins tabled a bill to make the Canada Disability Benefit and other benefits including the Disability Tax Credit and disability pensions cover more Canadians. If passed, Collins’s bill will allow any person eligible at the provincial level for a disability tax credit, pension or benefit to qualify automatically for the same benefits available at the federal level.

Right now, people with disabilities must apply to the provincial and federal disability tax credits separately. This means they must undergo two different arduous doctor’s assessments and application processes, which cost thousands of dollars for people often already on the margins.

“If the Liberals have been consistent at one thing, it’s leaving persons with disabilities behind. The government should be ensuring that Canadians are getting the benefits they need when they need them, in the most accessible way possible,” said Collins. “Persons with disabilities need their benefits to afford food, rent and basic needs. Our NDP plan will make it easier for more people to get covered. No one should have to jump through hoops to get their basic needs filled and I hope that Liberals and Conservatives support that.”

Under the Liberals, people with disabilities live disproportionally in poverty, face many barriers and don’t always have the assistance they need to navigate complicated application processes. And successive Liberal and Conservative governments have not put in the resources needed to lift persons with disabilities out of poverty and to remove barriers they’re so often confronted by. Recently, the Liberals announced a mere $200-a-month disability benefit that doesn’t even cover groceries and will leave the overwhelming majority of persons with disabilities living in poverty.

“The Liberals promised people with disabilities that they were going to finally stop failing them, but they short-changed them instead,” said Zarrillo. “Not only did the Liberals botch the Canada Disability Benefit by only offering $200, which isn’t even enough to cover groceries and medication, but this government has also made it difficult to even apply for the benefit. For once, the Liberals can make something easier for people with disabilities, instead of focusing on protecting rich CEOs, and support this bill.”

Canadian Off-Road Bicycles are Helping People With Disabilities

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2024

The staff of Bowhead Corp was eating breakfast one day in Carmel Valley, California, the United States, laptops opened. Five orders for the company’s adaptive bicycles, including two from Ecuador, had arrived overnight.

It was a good karma moment with the Sea Otter Classic, a bicycling and outdoor sports festival in California, pending.

Named after the Bow River in Calgary, Canada, the elaborate machines were born from Christian Bagg’s investor’s persistence and remain engineered and assembled in Canada.

Bowhead has participated in the cycling festival for several years, but its presence has substantially grown.

Adaptive bicycles offer individuals with disabilities newfound freedom, empowering them to explore the outdoors.

Bagg and his wife Ashley had a small booth and one cyclist competed on one of the fledgling company’s bikes at the event in 2017. The staff has steadily increased and about 30 adaptive cyclists competed this year.

“He (Christian) has been building stuff in the basement for years,” said Dean Miller, the company co-founder, president and chief executive officer.

“He had a cross-country ski set-up so he wouldn’t tumble into a tree well. And he came up with a bike about seven or eight years ago. He realised pretty quickly there wasn’t a lot of stuff (equipment) out there. I met him through a family friend who was injured in a diving accident.”

The idea evolved from tragedy. Bagg, the company co-founder and now chief technical officer was a skilled snowboarder and mountain biker, a thrill seeker. He broke his back in a snowboarding big air competition in 1996 in Banff National Park in Alberta. He was paralysed from the waist down.

A former apprentice machinist, Bagg began developing adaptive mountain bikes and cross- country skis. Early contraptions failed but the first commercially viable machine evolved, the Reach.

As Bagg described it in a 2020 article: “The Reach evolved from this thing with a cross-country sit-ski bolted to the front of it, to this super professional, electric motor, articulation, best bike part on the planet. We built a mountain bike.”

Adaptive bicycles enable people with disabilities to fully engage in off-road biking experiences.

Bowhead delivered its first bike in November 2018 and has now sold them in 28 countries. It has three options, Reach, RX and Rogue, with prices varying from US$12,000 (RM56,548) to US$16,000 (RM75,398). The bikes are configured for athletes with different physical challenges.

The Reach, the highest priced, is, according to the company’s website, “a full suspension, an all-electric off-road adaptive trike that has two wheels in front”.

With more than 800 parts, the Reach weighs 42kg and has a top speed of 32km per hour. With its largest battery, the bike has a 61km range.

Throughout the four-day event, riders participating on Bowhead bikes gathered at the company booth, left their wheelchairs and had staff and supporters available for assistance.

Adaptive athletes compete in separate divisions, including the downhill, and dual slalom. The adaptive cyclists, participating in the Sea Otter Classic, are followed by a cyclist on a traditional bike.

They’re called “tailgunners”.”Mobility challenges are a big category,” said Miller. “Even within paraplegics… you have completely different levels (of injuries) and different bikes.”

This specialised bike improves physical health and boosts mental well-being.

Ashley met her future husband in 2009. “He was already established in a chair,” she said. “So I kind of learned that world.” The couple have two children. While helping set up the adaptive athletes’ lounge, Ashley explained the company’s growth and various users.

“We have younger (athletes), some with brain injuries to paraplegic to quadriplegics,” she said. “We have amputees and some with MS (multiple sclerosis),
all that. There’s kind of a range. There’s even someone who might say, ‘My knees just don’t work like they used to’.”

While allowing challenged athletes to compete, the inclusivity hasn’t been fully accepted.

“It’s the perception of the bikes for some people,” Bagg said.

“We have a motor on our bikes. We have batteries on our bikes. It’s different. We need a big motor to climb. When people are just riding for fun, it’s ‘Hey you shouldn’t be out’.

“But the more you get out, the more aware people are. That’s the big thing.” – Monterey Daily Herald/Tribune News Service

Original at https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/living/2024/07/09/canadian-off-road-bicycles-are-helping-people-with-disabilities

Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee Tells Ottawa City Council Not to Again Allow Electric-Scooters Which Endanger People with Disabilities, Seniors and Others – Shows Importance of Mandatory Municipal Accessibility Committees

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

July 10, 2024

SUMMARY

Let us continue to catch you up on developments around Ontario in our ongoing nonpartisan campaign for accessibility for over 8 million people with disabilities in Canada. Here are a couple that seem unrelated, but they are actually very related:

1. On June 21, 2024, the City of Ottawa’s Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee voted to recommend that Ottawa stop its pilot that allows e-scooters. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities. We heartily congratulate that Accessibility Advisory Committee and its member Wayne Antle. He is a superb disability rights advocate and the driving force behind this motion.

The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee had earlier recommended against e-scooters, a recommendation that Ottawa City Council ignored. Last year, without inviting any public input, the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee withdrew its earlier strong opposition to e-scooters. In Wayne Antle’s most recent motion, Ottawa’s Accessibility Advisory Committee went back to its original position of opposing e-scooters. You can read that recommendation below.

This matters for two reasons! First, the e-scooter corporate lobbyists repeatedly point to Ottawa as the gold standard that supposedly proves that e-scooters pose no dangers to people with disabilities and others. The Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee’s new recommendation slams the door on their bogus claims.

Second, last summer when Toronto City Council was considering lifting its ban on e-scooters, City Councillor Dianne Saxe was echoing some of the claims that the e-scooter lobbyists had earlier made in support of e-scooters. When AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky appeared at the City of Toronto Infrastructure and Environment Committee on June 28, 2024, he presented our argument against e-scooters as endangering people with disabilities, seniors and others. Councillor Saxe challenged him on this, relying on the fact that the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee had earlier that year withdrawn its opposition to e-scooters. Yet the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee had already itself made strong recommendations against allowing e-scooters.

Thankfully, Toronto City Council eventually voted to leave the ban on e-scooters in place, though Toronto is still failing to effectively enforce that ban. However, thanks to Wayne Antle and the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee, no Toronto City Council member can throw in our faces a contrary and, with respect, wrong-headed earlier pro-e-scooters recommendation by the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee.

2. According to a June 19, 2024, CBC news report, also set out below, there seems to be controversy over whether the City of Sudbury now has in place a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. If it does not, then it is in violation of provincial legislation. We need the Ontario Government to enforce the law.

There are so many accessibility barriers all around Ontario. The Ford Government has failed for over a year to address or even acknowledge Ontario’s accessibility crisis about which the Government-appointed Rich Donovan AODA Independent Review warned. More than ever, we need strong and effective Accessibility Advisory Committees in every city and town with at least 10,000 residents.

What You Can Do to Help

If you are a member of a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee or a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, we have helpful tips for you on how to effectively advocate for people with disabilities. Check out the AODA Alliance’s captioned online video giving action tips to members of Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees and local Special Education Advisory Committees. Do you know people who sit on one of those committees? Tell them to watch the AODA Alliance video that we made just for them!

Let us know what you do. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

Accessibility Advisory Committee
June 18, 2024 Motion Passed by the Ottawa Accessibility Advisory Committee

Re: Motion e-scooters

Moved by: Member Wayne Antle

WHEREAS, in Ontario, the use of e-scooters is prohibited, subject to any pilot projects adopted under O. Reg. 389/19 Pilot Project Electric Kick-Scooters;

WHEREAS the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) has been actively engaged on the City of Ottawa’s shared Electric Kick Scooter Pilot in Ottawa, including during the 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 pilot projects;

WHEREAS the AAC had, based on the results of the 2020 and 2021 pilot projects, passed a motion (AAC 2022 1/20) advising City Council:

A. not to conduct any more pilots that would allow e-scooters to be used in any public places in Ottawa, whether the e-scooter is owned by, borrowed by, or rented by the rider; and
B. to decline any further participation in O.Reg 389/19 Pilot Project Electric Kick-Scooters.

WHEREAS the AAC had subsequently passed a motion (AAC2023-01-01) which rescinded Motion AAC 2022 1/20, and further stipulated:
THAT the AAC supports the continuation of the City of Ottawa’s shared Electric Kick Scooter Pilot, provided that the pilot:

A. Only allows the use of shared e-scooters provided by qualified providers;
B. Requires qualified providers to use accessibility barrier-preventing technologies on their shared e-scooters; and

C. Dedicates adequate resources to monitoring and enforcing the rules of the pilot, including a fifteen-minute response window for complaints, and adequate deterrents and consequences for misuse of e-scooters.

WHEREAS the AAC based this motion on the fact that the technology on shared e-scooters eliminated the accessibility barriers by preventing improper parking and sidewalk riding, and included sound emission that would alert pedestrians of their approach;

WHEREAS this motion was passed without any input from public delegations, unlike the previous motion recommending against e-scooters;

WHEREAS there have been numerous reports of sidewalk-riding, improperly parked e-scooters, and e-scooters not emitting a sound that could be heard above the noise of city traffic reported to blind and partially-sighted stakeholder groups;

WHEREAS the City’s own report on the 2023 pilot notes that more than half of all survey respondents encountered improperly parked e-scooters, and users riding e-scooters along sidewalks and further recognizes that only 4% of respondents took the time to report rule infractions to the City;

WHEREAS there is growing evidence, based on the above, that the barrier prevention technology is not as effective as the e-scooter providers indicate, and e-scooters continue to pose a threat to disabled, elderly, and vulnerable pedestrians;

BE IT RESOLVED that the AAC rescind Motion AAC2023-01-01; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that:

A. the AAC express to City staff and City Council that they no longer uphold their support for the continuation of the e-scooter pilot, and further express their very serious concern over the safety issues posed by e-scooters, both shared and privately-owned, to persons with disabilities, elderly and all vulnerable pedestrians;

B. The AAC advise City staff to make it easier to report non-compliance and actively encourage all people who witness improperly parked e-scooters or e-scooters riding along the sidewalks to report this to the city;

C. The AAC advise City Council to be prepared to stop the pilot if e-scooter riders continue to demonstrate that they are not operating the e-scooters in accordance with the rules and continue to pose a serious safety risk.

CBC News June 19, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/accessibility-committee-1.7239681

Sudbury doesn’t have an accessibility advisory committee. Here’s why some residents hope to Residents asking the city to replace Accessibility Advisory Panel with a committee

Rajpreet Sahota CBC News
A woman in a blue dress stands in front of a door with a red walker.

Nadine Law is a Sudbury resident living with a physical disability and the regional client services co-ordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.

A Sudbury resident living with a physical disability says the city needs to create a municipal accessibility advisory committee whose work is open and transparent.

Nadine Law, the regional client services co-ordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, said she fell and broke her back in 2019. She then discovered she developed an autoimmune disease that affected her mobility. Due to another fall last year, Law has been forced to use a walker, or what she calls her “hot wheels,” full time.

But it wasn’t her mobility issues that inspired her to speak on the lack of accessibility in Greater Sudbury. She said her son and former partner both have physical disabilities, which led her to join Greater Sudbury’s Accessibility Advisory Panel in 2018.

She said it was a chance to share her concerns with city staff. One of those was the lack of barrier-free washroom facilities at city hall in 2018.

“Issues that I’ve brought up years past, there is no record of it, and for example, my addressing the issue with not having a universal washroom in 2018,” said Law.

Now, Law is pushing for the city to consider replacing the Accessibility Advisory Panel with a municipal accessibility advisory committee.

“By having a committee, we’ve got the minutes, we’ve got this published, there’s that transparency. This is what we need.”

‘Opacity and ableism on our city’s part,’ says Sudbury accessibility activist
Nadine Law is a Sudbury resident living with a physical disability and the regional client services coordinator for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. She is pushing for the city to consider replacing the Accessibility Advisory Panel with a municipal accessibility advisory committee.
At the May 28 council meeting, Eric Labelle, city solicitor and clerk at the City Of Greater Sudbury, was asked about the city’s choice to not have a committee. He pointed to Ontario’s Municipal Act. It defines a committee as a group composed of 50 per cent of members of council or board members with the city. He said this contradicts the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that requires the formation of an accessibility advisory committee composed of a majority of members being persons with disabilities. Thus, the city decided to create an accessibility panel instead of a committee.

Honestly, it looks like opacity and ableism on our city’s part. – Nadine Law
In response to the city, Law said staff have shown a persistent failure to prioritize accessibility for its aging and disabled population. She said they’ve managed to avoid transparency and accountability to taxpayers.

According to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, a committee is required by law to provide and publish regular progress reports. This will ensure concerns are written down and made public to increase transparency and accountability for the city, Law explains.

She points to accessibility advisory committees in North Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie. For all three of these cities, the committee membership is made up of a majority of community volunteers living with a disability and two council members or city staff.

Diane Morrell, the accessibility co-ordinator in Sault Ste. Marie, said the committee has helped address barriers for people with disabilities.

“I would say it’s a very collaborative approach. Every city is supposed to be consulting with the community and an accessibility advisory committee,” she explained. “The advice that the committee provides to council weighs fairly heavily with them.”

A blonde woman wearing black glasses sitting behind a laptop.
Ward 7 Coun. Natalie Labbée says she heard many people with disabilities who were frustrated over the city minimalizing the issue. (Aya Dufour/CBC)
Greater Sudbury Coun. Natalie Labbée first approached the issue at the May 28 council meeting.

“When you look on the website for the province that we’re not listed as a committee. We are such a big city and such a presence in northern Ontario. Maybe we could relook at that, just if it’s a naming thing, I just would like us to be more official.”

Labbée said she doesn’t understand why there’s so much resistance from city staff.

“There’s been mistakes made where it’s cost the city a lot of money. I would think that putting this in place and formalizing it would be an important step to prevent that from happening again.”

Labbée said she’ll keep working with residents to push for a change in the name.

“I really feel that if people are coming to us expressing that they are concerned about it being a panel and not a committee, then for us as able bodied people thinking, I know it’s semantics, who cares if it’s called a committee or panel? If it’s important to those people, then we have a responsibility to listen.”

Complaints About Accessibility Prompt Orangeville Transit to Make Service Changes

By Serena Austin
Orangeville Banner
Monday, July 8, 2024

Despite Orangeville Transit just announcing plans to make the service more accessible, one local family who has struggled to use it with their service dog maintains more changes are needed.

David Vahey and his wife, Vivian Petho, have made numerous complaints to Orangeville’s Mayor, Lisa Post, council and staff about Orangeville Transit’s use of school buses to replace transit buses when they need servicing, and about ableist and disrespectful encounters they said they’ve had with drivers.

Ironically, when Orangeville Transit was first launched in 1991 it was designed to be a fully accessible service, and was the first transit service in Ontario to do so.

Vahey and Petho got a service dog, Major, for their son, Solomon, who is autistic, early this year.

On three separate occasions over January and February, Petho said she was questioned about the dog’s status as she boarded Orangeville Transit buses with him, despite having no issues bringing him other places like Town Hall and the Alder Street Recreation Centre.

Petho wrote to the Town on the day of all three encounters, detailing her experience and how humiliated and singled out she and her son felt by the bus drivers.

“I was singled out multiple times when all we were doing was trying to ride the bus,” said Petho. “I felt humiliated, like I was a second-rate citizen each time we got on the bus.”

In one of her emails, Petho explained that as a member of the Town’s age-friendly committee, she wouldn’t be able to go to her next meeting in-person because she needed to take the bus to get there, but no longer felt comfortable doing so.

She also called for accessibility training for the bus drivers.

Then, in early February, Tony Dulisse, Orangeville’s manager of transportation and development, provided an update on a policy for service dogs on public transportation to the Access Orangeville committee, which is focused on making the town more accessible to those with disabilities.

The committee was in support of the policy, and Dulisse said he would provide an update to council at the end of the month, but the topic didn’t come up in the meetings that followed.

When asked why there is no record of the policy being presented to council, communications staff said that the use of the term “policy” in this case wasn’t accurate, and that what was presented to Access Orangeville was an “operational procedure,” or “code,” which allows for immediate implementation.

The town said that Orangeville Transit has been operating under the procedure since January 2024, which is before it was presented to Access Orangeville, and that since then no more complaints have been received.

First Student Canada, which operates Orangeville Transit, confirmed for the Orangeville Banner that it has received direction from the Town on its process for assisting riders with service animals, and has been training drivers on it.

In that same committee meeting in February, attendees also learned that Dulisse and a member of Access Orangeville had been speaking about neurodiversity and neuro-inclusivity training and that an update about that would be provided soon.

Vahey, Petho’s husband, raised concerns about First Student, and by extension, Orangeville Transit’s compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) when it comes to its use of yellow school buses on public transit routes.

“When my wife goes to get my son, she takes the service dog, but if it’s a school bus then he’s sitting up on the seat,” instead of underneath it because there’s no accessible seating, Vahey explained. “He can’t do what he’s trained to do.”

Vahey said school buses that have been in use are not accessible to people in wheelchairs, those using walkers or pushing strollers, nor are they appropriate for the visually or hearing impaired because they don’t have audio or visual indicators to let passengers know which stop they’re approaching.

Vahey said the Orangeville Transit app is not reliable for tracking the location of buses and knowing when they’ll arrive at which stops, nor does it update users when a regular low-floor accessible bus is out of service.

When he raised some of these concerns in a council meeting on Feb. 5, Mayor Post and CAO David Smith acknowledged the barriers Vahey and his family were facing.

Smith assured him that Dulisse and the rest of staff were committed to finding a solution. “We’re working really hard to make sure we meet the bar, and exceed the bar,” he told Vahey in the meeting, but shortly after that, Vahey said communication with Smith and Dulisse slowed to a stop.

The AODA’s Transportation Standard requires that public transportation companies and providers must make their vehicles and routes accessible to riders with disabilities by using lifting devices and ramps, storing mobility aids, giving passengers enough time to safely board and deboard the bus, among other things.

When accessible equipment is not working, providers must find other ways to accommodate riders and ensure the equipment is fixed as soon as possible.

Transit workers also need to be trained to use accessible equipment and features safely, and to find solutions for riders if they stop working of if there are barriers on the route.

“Our transit buses are fully accessible and meet the standards as outlined in AODA,” the Town said in a statement when asked to speak on Vahey’s concerns at the end of May.

“Currently, when one of our buses requires maintenance, our only option is to fill the gap with a school bus or cancel all service on that route.”

Service disruptions can happen on short notice, the statement said, and when they do, the Town often relies on drivers to share updates with riders verbally and offer alternate options if the school bus won’t work for them.

“Residents requiring accessibility accommodations when we are forced to use a school bus on a route can contact the Town and we will do our best to accommodate their needs,” said Post in an email statement to the Guelph Mercury.

Post also said that the Town has purchased two new buses, which are accessible and will be put on the road “as soon as they arrive.”

Most recently, on Tuesday, July 2, the Town of Orangeville announced that it would be taking steps to make information about Orangeville Transit’s service more readily available to the public, especially when it comes to accessible options and service disruptions.

The Town was previously communicating that information over social media and on its advertising page in the Orangeville Citizen, and “it recognizes access to these methods of communication may be limited,” the release said.

“This will be an ongoing process, with continual improvements made as we identify communication gaps and new ways to keep our riders informed on anything that might impact their trip,” said Dulisse in the release.

To improve communication, Orangeville Transit’s website will be overhauled to make information more prominent and make the site easier to navigate, including prioritized messaging for mobility and rider services and a service disruption section.

Mobility and rider services information is now broken down to include information on accessible buses, alternatives and plans for situations when an accessible bus isn’t available on a route. It also includes information on the service animal policy and procedure.

Service disruptions will also be announced on a banner on the website, which will redirect users to a page with more information when clicked on.

“We have heard our riders who have been asking for more regular communication, and Town staff are working hard to implement more communication procedures,” said Post in the release.

After learning about what the Town of Orangeville is doing to make Orangeville Transit more accessible, Petho and Vahey both said the changes are a step in the right direction, but fail to get to the root of the issue.

“I am happy to hear that new buses have been purchased, but I do not feel that upgrading infrastructure will fix the underlying problem for Orangeville Transit,” said Petho. “People who ride transit should, like everyone else, be afforded dignity,” and that has not been her experience.

“Various members of Town staff took accountability for the treatment that I received, but I never heard anything from First Student,” the company that operates Orangeville Transit, she said.

First Student, in a statement when asked to speak on Vahey and Petho’s concerns and experiences, said: “We recognize accessibility and mobility services are an ever-changing and ever-evolving process.”

The company also confirmed that its staff are scheduled for accessibility training later this summer.

“We are committed to working in partnership with Orangeville Transit to learn, educate and grow,” the statement said.

Moving forward, Vahey encourages other residents of Orangeville who may have faced barriers accessing transit – older adults, people with disabilities, support workers, service animal trainers and users – to let the Town know about their experiences.

Serena Austin is a reporter with the Guelph Mercury Tribune and the Orangeville Banner.

Original at https://www.orangeville.com/news/complaints-about-accessibility-prompt-orangeville-transit-to-make-service-changes/article_47c57797-37ef-5a87-90d8-8c4e2e078f14.html

Media Coverage Further Highlights the Fact that the Ford Government has Failed to set Mandatory Provincial Standards on the Use and Monitoring of Isolation Rooms and Sensory Rooms in Publicly Funded Schools

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

July 9, 2024

SUMMARY

On June 17, 2024, the influential news publication The Trillium published an impressive article, set out below by reporter Sneh Dugga, that further shows the pressing need for the Ford Government to set mandatory provincial rules on when and how a school board can place any students in an isolation room or sensory room in a school in this province. The news report shows that in just a handful of school boards, practices vary widely and data on their use is too often not collected.

Since 16-year-old Landyn Ferris, a student with disabilities, died in such a room in a Trenton-area high school in May, the media, the opposition at Queen’s Park, and advocacy organizations such as the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition (both quoted in this article) have continued to focus public attention on this issue. It is just one illustration of the harm to hundreds of thousands of Ontario students with disabilities that is caused by the Ford Government’s failure to enact the much-needed Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. On January 28, 2022, a full 893 days ago, The Government received a detailed report from the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It provided comprehensive recommendations on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include, including provisions regarding the use of isolation rooms.

This issue is not going away. Stay tuned!

What You Can Do to Help

Write Ontario’s Minister of Education Todd smith. Tell him that the Ontario Government should now enact a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the AODA.

Send us your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

Learn more by watching these videos:

* The June 4, 2024 Queen’s Park news conference, including NDP MPPs and speakers from the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition.
* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s talk on what the Education Accessibility Standard should include for K-12 students.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s 15 year long battle to win enactment of a strong Education Accessibility Standard by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s education page.

MORE DETAILS

The Trillium June 17, 2024

Originally posted at www.thetrillium.ca

Teen’s death sparks renewed calls for provincial standards for sensory, isolation rooms
The Trillium spoke with advocates about what these rooms are and why they’re different. We also reached out to school boards to ask what they call these rooms and how they use them

Sneh Dugga
Jun 17, 2024

Advocates and the NDP speak in support of more special education supports following the death of a 16-year-old boy in May 2024.

In the wake of the tragic death of a 16-year-old at a high school in Trenton last month, advocates have been calling for provincial standards on the use of “sensory” and “isolation” rooms in schools.

Currently, any policies around the use of such rooms are left to school boards to develop, but advocates say this is a problem.

The government and most boards contacted by The Trillium wouldn’t say whether they keep or track data on the use of these rooms.

A “sensory room” is meant to provide a calming space where a student can use equipment for gross motor and sensory needs, according to school boards. Some said they don’t use or allow “isolation” rooms, which lack that equipment.

According to one advocate, language matters because while “sensory” rooms are “a positive thing” that students often look forward to, “isolation” rooms are “basically like a jail cell.”

Concerns over the use of these rooms and the difference between them have been raised since the death of Landyn Ferris last month.

Ferris, 16, was a student at Trenton High School and had Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. He was found without vital signs at the end of the school day on May 14, “unattended in a sensory room,” Josh Nisker, founding partner of Beyond Law and a lawyer representing Ferris’s family, told The Trillium on June 4. One of the triggers for his seizures was sleep, so his mother, Brenda Davis, would sleep in the same room as him every night to “care for him and protect him.”

Ferris’ family is planning to launch a civil lawsuit following the boy’s death.

Following a press conference at Queen’s Park on June 4, where advocates called on the government to take action to ensure this didn’t happen again, a photo circulated on social media after it was posted by CityNews of the room where Ferris was allegedly found, with many users saying it looked like an “isolation” room rather than a “sensory” room.

Nisker provided The Trillium with a copy of the photo and said that while he’s not sure if the term “sensory room” originated from the school board as he hasn’t been provided with any information yet on the “nature of the room,” that was the language referred to him when he started looking into the case.

Nisker said he’s aware there are public concerns about the lack of provincial standards for the use of these types of rooms and he hopes “positive change results from this awful tragedy,” but his focus is on how the room was used.

“To me it’s perhaps just a question of semantics do you call it one thing or the other?” he said. “But ultimately, the issue here, from our perspective, is that this boy was left alone and he had a pre-existing medical condition that rendered him vulnerable and constant supervision was necessary to ensure his safety. So whether it was an isolation room or a sensory room or any other room, at this stage, from my perspective, it matters less than what was done to protect him.”

Nisker said he wants to see what the school board’s policy was on the use of this room.
Asked about the room Ferris was found in and the photo being circulated, Kerry Donnell, a spokesperson for the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, said it is likely a photo of one of the board’s sensory rooms.

“However we did not take the photo,” Donnell said. “Sensory rooms may be empty, and objects may be taken into the space depending on programming needs.”

Donnell said the board has “120 sensory rooms and multi-purpose spaces” at its 39 schools and that they’re “designed to support individual students based on their sensory and self-regulation needs” and that they are “adaptable.”

But the board wouldn’t say what its protocols are around the use of such rooms.

The Trillium contacted several school boards to ask if they use “sensory” or “isolation” rooms, what their purpose is, the policy around their use and whether the board collects data on their use.

Most of the other schools boards contacted did not say whether or not they collect data on the use of the rooms they do use.

However, the Rainbow District School Board, which has “Snoezelen rooms” in a small number of schools, said it does not collect data on this.

“These rooms are another resource available to students who may benefit from a sensory space. The sensory activities are part of the program delivered to students, for instance, an intensive support program, and are supervised by staff,” said spokesperson Nicole Charette, adding that the rooms usually have calming music, nature pictures, bean bag chairs and more.
Bruce Campbell, a spokesperson for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, said they use sensory rooms on a “limited basis” and that “gross motor rooms” are more common. The latter are used when occupational therapists or physiotherapists come to the school to work with children and have equipment that the therapists prescribe for the students.

The Toronto District School Board said it uses “calming rooms” or spaces that are either within classrooms or a nearby room.

“We emphasize the use of strategies, which can include the use of calming spaces in classrooms (often a couch or areas with cushions),” said spokesperson Ryan Bird, adding that there would be similar furniture in a separate room as well.

“Students would choose to go into a calming space. However, an adult may also verbally suggest it or use a visual prompt. The goal is for the student to learn to proactively choose the calming space. Of course, supervision and safety are always paramount, student needs and strategies are documented in Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and parents are consulted,” he said.

Some boards like the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board said it has “sensory rooms” in most schools, but that it’s doesn’t allow “seclusion/isolation” rooms.

“If a student with special education needs exhibits violent behaviour, staff trained in Behaviour Management Systems (BMS) will intervene to assist with de-escalation, in accordance with the student’s safety plan,” said spokesperson Danielle Dupuis.

Students access the sensory rooms individually or in groups with staff and on a scheduled basis depending on their need, Dupuis added.

But the Avon Maitland District School Board said it includes sensory equipment or other elements in classrooms and spaces.

“Our board provides support services in an inclusive setting and we do not have isolation/seclusion rooms,” the board said.

Cory Wilkins of the Durham District School Board said they have different spaces including sensory rooms for student use.

“The purpose of these rooms is varied: they may provide a calming environment, serve as individual instruction or work areas, or be equipped as sensory spaces to meet specific student needs,” said Wilkins. “The use of these rooms is guided by procedures designed to ensure the dignity and safety of students.”

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, said there are several questions that need to be addressed through provincial policy when it comes to the use of these rooms including if and where these rooms should exist, what they can be used for, whether notification or consent is required from parents, whether approval to use one of these rooms is required, when parents should be told about the use of them and what data should be collected.

He has accused the government of “sitting on” recommendations from a K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report that the province posted to its website a few years ago. The recommendations were meant to promote accessibility and safety for students with disabilities.

Lepofsky, who was on the committee, said one of its calls was for the provincial government to provide policy direction to all school boards on “when, how and with what safeguards an isolation room or sensory room can be used, and a student with a disability left there.”
Kate Dudley-Logue, vice-president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, echoed Lepofsky’s call, saying the ministry should develop provincial policies around the use of any rooms used for special needs students.

“Special education is like the wild, wild west out there,” she said, adding that it’s problematic that children with similar needs could have “vastly different” experiences between school boards.

She said the room that Ferris was allegedly found in is “most definitely not a sensory room” and what she would refer to as a “seclusion room.”

The latter, she said, would generally be empty rooms with mats on the walls and floors and be used to “de-escalate a child who was in crisis, who might be of danger to themselves or to others.”

She said these became “frowned upon” eight to 10 years ago, and while some schools have said they’ve “abolished” the use of them, they still exist, though some refer to them as sensory or calm-down rooms.

“I think it’s appropriate to say that there likely is a need for those rooms,” Dudley-Logue said, though she said they should be used as a “last resort” and never as a form of punishment. “What there is also a need for is to be some policies in place on when those rooms are used, that nobody should ever be left alone in those rooms … not only because of a possible safety issue, but because it’s traumatizing.”

Dudley-Logue said she went to pick up her son last year, who was in Grade 4 at the time, from school and found he had been brought to a room she described as a “vacant utility closet with mats on the floor and an exercise bike in the corner.”

She said sensory rooms, on the other hand, provide kids with “body breaks” so they can get needed sensory input. They would normally have equipment such as trampolines, exercise bikes, yoga balls, lights or other objects, she said.

Dudley-Logue said while “sensory” rooms give students a break or allow for their learning to be incorporated into a routine in those rooms, “isolation” rooms are different.

“If you hear that your child is in a sensory room, you’re probably not likely to complain about that too much, whereas a family would likely take great issue to their kid being thrown into a room that, let’s face it, is basically like a jail cell,” she said.

Asked on June 4 about the call for provincial standards for the use of these rooms, former education minister Stephen Lecce would not commit to putting such policies in place.

“School boards are required to have a protocol in place, we expect them to do so recognizing that we provide training to staff in our schools, (educational assistants), behavioural experts, mental health workers, special education teachers every single year to ensure they are well-positioned to support these kids and keep them safe,” he said.

Ottawa Man Using Walker Says Apartment Not Accessible, with No Answer in Sight

Katelyn Wilson
CTV News Ottawa Multi-Skilled Journalist
Published July 6, 2024

An Ottawa man living in the city’s south-end says he’s struggling to get his walker through the front door of his apartment and wants the building’s owner to install an automatic door button.

For the past four years, David Humphries has been living in an apartment building owned by Minto. He has limited mobility and started using a walker a little more than a year ago.

“The doors of the building are really heavy and it’s really hard because I have to use my knee to push the walker out and it’s just very difficult,” said Humphries.

He met with the building’s owner to see about installing an automatic door button and was told they were looking into it – in October.

“When I didn’t need my walker I was fine,” Humphries said.

“But now that the doctors and specialists and my social workers who support me said it’s better to use the walker, I try to, but I can’t maneuver it through the front door.”

In the meantime, Humphries says he was offered a 12th floor unit in another building but he has concerns over his safety.

“What would I do if there was a power outage or the elevator broke?” he said. “I’d be screwed, so I said no because my safety is a top priority to me.”

An e-mail was sent by the city to the property manager on Humphries’ behalf “reminding them that there is a duty to accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code,” and cited safety concerns and risk of injury.

Minto tells CTV News it can’t discuss specific tenant issues due to privacy reasons.

“There are laws governing accessibility requirements for rental housing providers and we comply with all of them. We make every effort to get a resident with mobility issues into an appropriate suite at the outset of their lease and if their needs change over time then we provide other options including relocating to another suite in the building or to another property in the area that better meets their needs,” Minto said in an emailed statement.

By next year, all multi-unit residential buildings must have fully accessible entrances under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Humphries says he’s tired of waiting.

“I can’t do it anymore,” he said.

“I’m tired of not being heard and that’s what happens to a lot of people with disabilities when these types of issues happen. They step back and don’t say anything because they’re scared of getting reprimanded.”

Original at https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ottawa-man-using-walker-says-apartment-not-accessible-with-no-answer-in-sight-1.6954314

Long Overdue! Ford Government Belatedly Posts for Public Comment Draft Recommendations for Regulations to Tackle Disability Barriers in the Built Environment

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

July 8, 2024

SUMMARY

Better late than never! On June 5, 2024, the Ford Government posted for public comment a draft report of the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. The Government had appointed that Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what mandatory accessibility standards should be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to remove and prevent the many accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face in the built environment in Ontario. In a June 5, 2024, email to the AODA Alliance, Assistant Deputy Minister of Accessibility Meenu Sikand wrote:

“The committee’s initial recommendations report addresses accessible built environment requirements found in both the Design of Public Spaces Standards and the Ontario Building Code.”

The public has until August 29, 2024, to send their feedback. The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee is required to review that feedback and take it into account when finalizing its report for the Ford Government.

We encourage one and all to send the Government your feedback. You can find the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee’s draft report on the Government’s website or on the AODA Alliance’s website. If you want us to email it to you in MS Word format, send a request for it to aodafeedback@gmail.com

The AODA Alliance is working on a brief to submit to this Standards Development Committee. We welcome your ideas and thoughts. What is good in the draft report? What is missing? What needs to be improved? Let us know by August 15, 2024. Send your thoughts to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

We here offer a closer look at the abysmally slow effort by every Government in power since the AODA was passed in 2005 to live up to the AODA’s requirement of making buildings in Ontario accessible to people with disabilities by 2025. Take a close look at our closer look!

We set out an excellent article about this in the influential Queen’s Park publication “The Trillium.” We also set out the key part of the Government’s June 5, 2024, announcement.

There are now only 177 days until 2025, the deadline which the AODA set for the Government to have led this province to become accessible to people with disabilities. Premier Ford where’s your long overdue plan of action?

MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look at the Ontario Government’s Lethargic Action on Making Ontario’s Built Environment Accessible to Ontarians with Disabilities

Many have asked us why Ontario is so far behind its mandatory goal of becoming accessible to people with disabilities by 2025, as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires. Just looking at the snail’s pace of action on barriers in the built environment gives some real insight. Of course, disability barriers in the built environment are just one category of accessibility barrier. There are many others as well.

Well before the Ontario Legislature passed the AODA in May 2005, the Ontario Government had wisely announced that it would need to develop and enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard to address the many accessibility barriers in the built environment. Yet almost two decades later, no Built Environment Accessibility Standard has ever been enacted under the AODA to comprehensively remove and prevent disability barriers in Ontario’s built environment.

Commendably, the McGuinty Government appointed a Built Environment Standards Development Committee within the earliest years after the AODA was enacted. However, no government has ever implemented most of what that Standards Development Committee recommended under the AODA at least 15 years ago.

In the 2011 Ontario election, the Ontario Liberals under Dalton McGuinty promised to “promptly” enact a Built Environment Accessibility Standard. It never kept that election pledge. Some 12 years later, we’re still waiting.

The Ontario Liberals took very limited baby steps. In December of 2012, the Ontario Government under Premier McGuinty enacted the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard under the AODA. It covers a tiny fraction of the disability barriers in the built environment. It covers some barriers outside buildings. It covers only a couple of kinds of barriers inside buildings. Since then, the Government made some revisions to the accessibility provisions of the Ontario Building Code. However, these were grossly insufficient.

Taken together, a building can easily comply with the Ontario Building Code and the Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard and still be replete with disability barriers. See for example the widely viewed AODA Alliance video revealing serious disability barriers at Toronto’s Ryerson Student Learning Centre.

Under the AODA, the Ontario Government was legally required to appoint a new Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Design of Public Spaces Accessibility Standard by December 2017. Yet the Ontario Government broke that law by failing to do so for some five years.

Making this worse, the Ford Government failed to hold a public competition for members of the public to apply to be appointed to the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee. There were excellent candidates who could have been considered but who never got a chance to apply.

As one example of someone who was excluded and who might have had something to offer, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky had told the Ford Government in advance that he wanted to apply for a position on that Standards Development Committee. Yet the Ford Government broke with well-established prior practice by failing to hold a competition for serving on that Committee.

It gets worse. The Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee submitted its draft report to the Ford Government in October 2023. By law, the Government was required to publicly post it for feedback upon receiving it. That is what Sections 10 and 11 of the AODA require. Yet the Ford Government disobeyed that legal requirement as well. It unjustifiably kept the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committees draft report secret for 8 months, publicly posting it only on June 5, 2024.

In 2021, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky took the Ford Government to court for failing to obey that same legal requirement in the case of three earlier Standards Development Committees. By the time that case came to court, the Ford Government had belatedly scurried to publicly post Standards Development Committee reports as it had been obliged to do. Yet when no court proceeding was hanging over its head, the Ford Government went back to disregarding the AODA’s clear and strong terms.

All of this comes in the face of three successive government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews that strongly recommended much more action to address barriers in the built environment as a priority. That was recommended by the Mayo Moran Report in 2015, the David Onley Report in 2019, and the Rich Donovan Report in 2023.

Rich Donovan’s final Independent Review report, shared with the Ford Government on June 6, 2023, admonished the Government that Ontario was facing an accessibility crisis, requiring a crisis response. The Ford Government has not announced any crisis response, nor has it even acknowledged Ontario’s accessibility crisis. Instead, after receiving that stern warning, the Ford Government suppressed from the public the draft Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee report for 8 long months, contrary to the AODA.

In its six years in power, the Ford Government has neither enacted nor revised any accessibility standards under the AODA. It has sat on reports from six Standards Development Committees without enacting any of their recommendations, including the Transportation Standards Development Committee, the Employment Standards Development Committee, the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee, the Health Care Standards Development Committee, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee.

To learn about the AODA Alliance’s efforts over the past 15 years to get Ontario to enact a strong, effective and comprehensive Built Environment Accessibility Standard, visit the AODA Alliance website’s built environment page.

We note that in the otherwise superb Trillium article that follows, there is one incorrect statement. The article states:

“Months later, the then-Liberal government announced new standards for the built environment things like stairs, doorways and basically everything man-made that you interact with while walking or rolling.”

No such standard was ever enacted. The cause for celebration was the fact that the McGuinty Government said it would develop a Built Environment Accessibility Standard.

The Trillium July 7, 2024

Originally posted at: www.thetrillium.ca

Six months from accessibility deadline, Ontario has spent decades ‘ignoring’ the issue, advocates say

Province launches survey on built environment standards while ‘fundamentally violating the AODA’: lawyer

As the government embarks on another survey about a set of recommendations from a task force, some advocates say they would prefer it do something.

Ontario recently launched a consultation on 127 proposals from the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee things like more funding for building retrofits, more accessible washrooms and relief areas for service animals.

The proposals are largely good, even boundary-pushing, said Brad Evoy, the executive director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. But there hasn’t been much in the way of enforcement for organizations (and the province itself) lagging behind on accessibility as a legal deadline “is hurtling towards us.”

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), passed in 2005, mandated standards for a fully accessible Ontario including goods, services, accommodation, employment and buildings in the public and private sectors by Jan. 1, 2025.

Some disability advocates thought that was too long, according to David Lepofsky, the chair of the AODA Alliance.

“There was some blowback. ‘Why 20 years? It’s gonna be a long time, people may be dead by then,'” he said, adding that he ultimately accepted the timeline because he accepted the government’s explanation that old buildings would take time to renovate.

Months later, the then-Liberal government announced new standards for the built environment things like stairs, doorways and basically everything man-made that you interact with while walking or rolling.

There was much rejoicing. But it was not to last, Lepofsky said.

“To this day, we do not have a comprehensive built environment accessibility standard,” he said.

“We’ve got buildings being built to a building code that is woefully out of date. We’ve got no accessibility standards to deal with 99.5 or more per cent of the barriers in the built environment. We are less than half a year from the deadline where they’re all to be accessible, and we have no government plan,” he said.

Even if the government accepts these new recommendations, which all have to do with the built environment, it’ll take years to get them implemented, Evoy said. And that’s if they’re not simply ignored.

“Fundamentally, so much of the AODA relies on … an understanding that private corporations and private citizens will take on the cost and take on the implementation of a lot of portions of the AODA. And I don’t think that’s been successful,” he said.

“It’s frustrating beyond all belief,” said Anthony Frisina, a wheelchair user, speaker and accessibility consultant in Hamilton, noting that more than a quarter of Canadians identify as having a disability.

The lack of action “is pretty much stating, without stating, that people with disabilities are a burden,” he said.

Successive governments wear the lack of progress but the Ford government has spent years “fundamentally, inexcusably violating the AODA,” said Lepofsky, who is also a lawyer.

“So we’re way behind in the built environment, and the response of two successive governments is to ignore an explicit legal obligation,” he said.

Lepofsky questioned why accessibility rarely comes up in the Ford government’s push for more housing.

“Where is their strategy to tear down the the red tape barriers that impede homeowners from making their own homes accessible if they want to do it on their own dime?” he said.

A homeowner who wants to put in a ramp may have to get approval from a committee of adjustments or their condo board, or survey their neighbours, he said.

“Now, if you’re an employee and you want a disability accommodation in the workplace, the employer doesn’t have to take a referendum of your coworkers on whether they should,” he said.

Lepofsky will have been in this fight for 30 years come November, which, despite his strong words, provides him with an almost zen outlook. He’s seen governments and ministers that are more receptive and less receptive and, although he said this is the only premier in two decades to refuse to meet with him, he takes a “this too shall pass” approach to advocacy.

“We just have to keep bringing our message to the public,” he said.

“Nobody’s permanent. And if Doug Ford is not the next premier, there will be another premier. If he is the next premier, he will eventually step down. His party will have a new leader.”

Ontario’s survey closes on Aug. 29, just over four months from the AODA’s deadline.

Ontario Government Website Announcement of Public Consultation on Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee Draft Report

Originally posted at https://www.ontario.ca/page/design-public-spaces-standards-development-committee Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee
Learn about the group that makes recommendations on how to improve existing design of public spaces accessibility standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Share your feedback
Share your feedback to help make the design of public spaces more accessible for people with disabilities.

Deadline: August 29, 2024.

Background
In December 2021, the Minister for Seniors and Accessibility established the Design of Public Spaces Standards Development Committee to undertake an evidence-based and focused review of the province’s accessible built environment standards in regulation under both the AODA and the 2015 barrier-free accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code.

Recommendations
The committee put forward initial recommendations and asked for public feedback to help them draft their final recommendations to the Minister Responsible for Accessibility.

Accessible Beach Wheelchair Program Launched in Saugeen Shores

Kate Otterbein
CTVNewsWindsor.ca Journalist
Published July 6, 2024

WaterWheels, floating wheelchairs, are now available to use through the day at certain beaches in Saugeen Shores.

“Saugeen Shores is continually looking to provide equal access to its amenities and facilities for residents and visitors, regardless of age or ability,” said Mayor Luke Charbonneau.

“These floating wheelchairs, alongside our mobility mats, help ensure that everyone has the chance to enjoy our beautiful Lake Huron waters.”

The floating wheelchairs are available until Labour Day. You can book from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., or both periods when available. Accessible mats can be borrowed at each location as well, to help get to the water.

Rental locations are in Port Elgin at the Harbour Office and in Southampton at 1 Beach Road, the Long Dock Parking area, for self-service pickup.

If you would like to book one of the wheelchairs, you can do so through the town’s website or scan the QR code at the rental spots.

Each location also includes accessible parking, beach access, and accessible washrooms.

Original at https://london.ctvnews.ca/accessible-beach-wheelchair-program-launched-in-saugeen-shores-1.6954020

Canada Isn’t as Accessible as It Claims to Be

Our aims to make the country barrier-free by 2040 are falling short. How do we ensure access for all? By Samuel Dunsiger
July 3, 2024

I visit a French-inspired coffee shop just a block away from my midtown Toronto apartment on a weekly basis, but each time I walk in, I’m reminded of its inaccessibility. At first glance, the entrance, which is outfitted with a ramp, appears to be accessible. When coffee-loving patrons with mobility disabilities reach the door, however, they quickly realize it lacks an automatic opener.

Growing up with a disability and now working as an accessibility consultant, I notice these types of barriers all the time. For me, and for the estimated 27 percent of Canadians who also have
a disability that affects their day-to-day activities (a number that Statistics Canada expects to increase as the baby boomers age), automatic door openers are just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2019, the federal government passed the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), which aims to make Canada fully accessible by 2040. Despite this perception that the proverbial needle of accessibility is moving forward, Canada isn’t as accessible as it thinks it is. Many bars and restaurants still lack accessible washrooms; Braille menus and signage are still uncommon; obstacles make it hard for wheelchair users to navigate public spaces.

New findings from accessibility technology company AccessNow corroborated this reality as part of its research project, Mapping Our Cities for All. Considered Canada’s largest accessibility research initiative to date, the project evaluated the state of accessibility at more than 14,000 sites in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. Released last November, the research found that almost 60 percent of public businesses were only partially accessible or not accessible. Much like my Toronto cafe, many of these spaces had some accessibility features, like a ramp, but also barriers, such as a bathroom only reachable by stairs.

AccessNow’s research found that part of the problem is the lack of accessibility data in Canada – put simply, if we don’t know the scope of the problem, we can’t work toward solutions. The report also noted that, while the ACA is a positive step forward, significant work still needs to be done. This was echoed in a recent report from Rich Donovan, who was appointed to review Ontario’s progress in implementing the recommendations outlined in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which was enacted in 2005. “There is a near unanimous consensus that the AODA is currently failing people with disabilities,” Donovan wrote, adding that the province’s state of accessibility is currently in “crisis.” What makes these findings especially troubling is that there’s no real system of accountability to ensure accessibility standards are being enforced. In recent years, we’ve even seen some spaces add barriers that weren’t there before.

Toronto’s Union Station, for instance, is considered accessible – it has accessible entrances and an elevator. But David Lepofsky, a long-standing disability activist and chair of the AODA Alliance, explained in a video that recent renovations include installing several pillars directly in the path of travel, making it difficult for someone with a mobility issue to navigate.

If we truly want to make Canada barrier-free by 2040, we need to conceptualize accessibility as more than just ramps and prioritize the lived experiences of people with disabilities. This starts with learning directly from the disability community to identify the multitude of barriers they face daily. Only then will this goal finally become a reality.

Samuel Dunsiger is an Ottawa-based freelance writer, career adviser and accessibility advocate who identifies as disabled. He works within the intersection of employment and disability and enjoys using storytelling to normalize living with disabilities.

Original at https://broadview.org/canada-isnt-as-accessible-as-it-claims-to-be/