If anyone has any accessibility concerns about council’s decision to implement the Open Air weekends or Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act compliance, they can complain via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This opinion by Linda Saxon was published in the River Town Times, March 31, 2021.
RE: Open Air Weekends Approved March 24, 2021
It was interesting to read about the variety of ideas that might possibly entice visitors or change the purpose of the weekend events.
The article mentioned, “Councillor Marc Renaud said there is a lot of parking a short walk from the downtown core, noting many will walk to and around shopping malls.”
In a report to council, Anne Rota and Nicole Rubli noted what the transportation planners suggest is an acceptable range of walking distance for retail, employee and special event parking.
The figures mirror those in an article originally published in 1994 when the authors discussed conditions that should be taken into account to determine how far people using parking garages should be asked to walk. It was determined that there was a lack of consensus for what is considered maximum walking distance.
The report mentions beliefs, perception and“the travel distance acceptable to an individual is contingent on an individual’s willingness to walk.” Transportation studies mention a willingness to walk in terms of close proximity to transit.
Notably absent was any reference to accessibility guidelines or consultation with residents with disabilities and the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee which has a mandated duty to advise council about the requirements and implementation of accessibility standards.
A separate report to council regarding accessibility requirements noted, “no consultation with the committee was possible at this time” due to COVID, yet the committee met previously during COVID on zoom, as has council.
Given mandatory training on the human rights code and accessibility legislation, why was there no checklist identifying potential barriers and their removal? If persons with disabilities had been consulted, barriers could have been prevented. For example, placing a group of accessible parking spaces on Dalhousie street is unacceptable, considering the slope on the southwest side.
Administration would also recommend the elimination of the Kings Navy Yard Parklot being a primary accessible parking location. Why? These spots were allegedly under-utilized. The town is obliged to provide a specific number of accessible parking spaces so it should not remove them, unless they cannot be accessed due to road closures.
Other potential barriers should have been identified. How many accessible parking spaces are type A? type B? What is the percentage of accessible seating in the eating areas? Are there any rest areas? How many accessible washrooms are there? Are the pathways unobstructed? Is signage accessible? Is marketing material available in alternate formats?
If there is a parking problem, maybe the problem is with the plan that barricades access to the downtown area.
In response to the RTT article, ‘County will not endorse Amherstburg’s request for AODA website compliance’ letter by Linda Saxon as published on November 4, 2020.
I appreciate Essex County Council not endorsing the town’s request.
Is COVID a convenient excuse?
For eighteen years, since September 2002, I appeared before town council and the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, emailed the town’s IT Department, wrote letters to the editor and appeared before the provincial Standing Committee on Justice Policy regarding the need for an accessible town website. The Manager of Information Technology assured me twice that a new website was being launched and would comply with web accessibility standards and informed council the site was standard compliant in July 2007. I provided site check results indicating the site failed minimum standards in June 2008 and in January 2009 after the launch of the newly designed site.
I served on the Essex County Website Redesign Committee when the county launched its redesigned site in 2014. Why did Amherstburg wait until 2016 to hire the same web design company? And, in the four years since, what is the town’s excuse for non-compliance? Obviously, it isn’t COVID.
The Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee should have also ‘vehemently’ opposed the town’s resolution that was distributed to all other municipalities in the province.
Most disappointing was that council members placated administration when the question on behalf of the community they serve should have been, why are we not compliant by now?
Although the report to council claims COVID is the reason, administration explained at the council meeting that it was due to third parties. I guess no one on council realized the town is also responsible for third party vendors because no one commented.
From the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, nothing in the legislation prevents a community from implementing accessibility earlier than deadlines that were carefully considered and allowed for plenty of time to comply. It is shameful that the town requested an extension when it was aware of the compliance deadline for years; certainly, for longer than COVID has existed.
Councillor Patricia Simone asked if it was possible to get assistance from a third party that deals specifically with websites; if it was possible to potentially get a quote and then weigh that against the time staff would need to be in compliance. (September 14, 2020 council meeting discussion).
The Town of Amherstburg’s website is already designed by a third party, eSolutions (stated at the bottom of the town’s site).
Other third parties:
Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc.
Bang the Table Pty Ltd. for the Town of Amherstburg’s TALK THE BURG.
CAO Miceli and town clerk, Paula Parker, also referred to third party vendors during council’s discussion regarding non-compliance. Miceli referenced third party vendors that the town hosts on its own website; Parker mentioned the town has some third party vendors who are responsible for such things as the tourism website, the fire website is another one that is third party.
Email request for information
Ms. Parker’s response to my request for information regarding third party vendors for the town’s website was:
There are a number of third party vendors providing services to the Town in a variety of manners and a review by Town staff is ongoing as to redundancy, duplication and contract terms/conditions. While this review is underway and not yet complete, I cannot at this time provide a thorough list. A report is expected to be available in 2021 with suggestions from Administration for efficiencies in service delivery and a streamlined approach to web content delivery.
FOI request for information
- The names of all third-party vendors that the Town of Amherstburg hosted on the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
- Copies of all Requests for Proposals, Requests for Quotes and Tenders for the redesign of the town’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
- Copies of each individual contract for the third-party vendors with the Town of Amherstburg website from January 1, 2012 to present.
- All the costs of each individual purchase of the third parties’ services for the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
- All the cost of hosting each of the third parties’ services for the Town of Amherstburg’s website from January 1, 2012 to present.
Ms. Parker sought clarification. Ms. Parker was advised, the wording was based on the wording CAO Miceli and she used at the September 14, 2020 town council meeting when both referred to the town’s website non-compliance of the accessibility standard due to third party vendors.
Ms. Parker then issued two decision letters:
- the Town of Amherstburg requires an additional 30 days to December 4, 2020.
- a fee estimate of $967.50, exclusive of photocopies.
more to follow.
In a letter to county council, the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee (ECAAC) stated, “The ECAAC does not support the resolution from the Town of Amherstburg, but also vehemently opposes any extensions to this deadline for compliance.”
“The members of the ECAAC noted that “fifteen years is long enough to take the necessary steps in achieving website compliance” and “not only does this request undermine the legislation as it stands, but also sends a message that meeting accessibility standards is not important”.
Kingsville Deputy Mayor Good Queen spoke against the resolution and Amherstburg Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche, in the absence of Mayor DiCarlo, offered an explanation.
View the discussion at county council meeting.
More to follow.
Members of Amherstburg town council were asked to provide the reasons for voting in favour of the Resolution on September 14, 2020.
The following responded.
Councillor Michael Prue: Please view the tape or the video. I was very passionate about why this should not be done. If this is not possible call me.
Councillor Patricia Simone: After reading the report provided in the agenda, discussion with administration and staff and research I conducted before the meeting.
Follow up question: What kind of research did you conduct and would you cite the sources you relied on to reach your decision?
Councillor Donald McArthur: I voted the way I did because I believe the extension request was earnest and made in good faith by staff, who are diligent, dedicated and hard-working.
As the report to Council makes clear, the Town’s robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on operations and established work plans.
“The work plan to address website accessibility did not anticipate the interruptions and redeployments caused by the declared pandemic, COVID-19,” said the report. “The demands of addressing the emergency declaration have devoted key resources away from other projects to ensure the safety of the community and staff, continued operations and new procedural changes to how the municipality ensures the provision of its services during a pandemic.”
Follow up question: regarding your comment at the meeting that amherstburg is not the only one of the 444 municipalities asking for this extension: would you know the numbers or names of those other municipalities?
McArthur: I based my comments off the report: ‘The Town of Amherstburg is not alone in finding it difficult to meet this timeline. Other municipalities have stated that they understand they may not be able to meet this target, especially given that there have been no funding announcements from the provincial government.’
More to follow.
On September 14, 2020, the following members of Amherstburg town council voted in favour of the Resolution to request the province to extend the compliance deadline ‘to meet the compliance standards, by a minimum of one (1) year to at least January 1, 2022.’
- Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche and
- Michael Prue
- Peter Courtney
- Patricia Simone
- Marc Renaud
- Donald McArthur.
A discussion was held and is summarized below; disclaimer – this is not an official transcript.
Councillor Michael Prue spoke first and recalled his involvement with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) enacted in 2005. Prue wondered if they were doing the right thing to attempt to delay the website when the town has known since 2005 it had to be done and since the 2011 schedule saying it had to be done in 2020. He didn’t think they were doing a service to persons with disabilities or that it was in the municipality’s best interest.
Paula Parker, town clerk, agreed they were aware of the deadline for some time but COVID became a priority and they requested the extension to prevent the order or fines if they are non-compliant.
Councillor Michael Prue responded to Paula Parker: he didn’t understand why they would need a year extension when they only lost 5 months.
Councillor Donald McArthur disagreed and thought it was a bit of a cry for help from staff and that they should listen; that they’re not the only one of the 444 municipalities asking for this extension and he thought it was reasonable in light of COVID.
Councillor Patricia Simone asked about the possibility of a third party that deals specifically with websites and weigh that against staff time needed to be in compliance.
CAO MICELI mentioned Kevin Fox advised they can’t comply because of third party vendors and their information and those parties don’t follow the same rules.
Councillor Peter Courtney would support the extension on advice of administration and hope they have some compassion for them and hope the town doesn’t face any consequence.
Councillor Michael Prue asked if the matter went before the disability committee and wondered what people think of the town not meeting the deadline.
Councillor Marc Renaud, council’s representative on the Accessibility Advisory Committee, remained silent.
Paula Parker responded that it had been dealt with by the committee on a number of occasions and believed most recently at the end of last year. Parker responded to Courtney’s comments and pointed out the town’s website does meet the WCAG level 2.0 not only single A but double A. Parker mentioned the problem is with PDFs and some third party vendors who are responsible for such things as the tourism website and the fire website.
Councillor Michael Prue acknowledged the consensus but wasn’t sure if politically it was wise.
Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche agreed they need to get this done and mentioned part of the problem for years is administration puts in requests for help and council denies and they all just have two hands and can’t do the work of 4.
More to follow.
The following was included in the report to council for its September 14, 2020 meeting:
It is recommended that:
- WHEREAS Section 14(4) of O.Reg 191/11 under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires designated public sector organizations to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA by January 1, 2021;
- AND WHEREAS the municipality remains committed to the provision of accessible goods and services;
- AND WHEREAS the municipality provides accommodations to meet any stated accessibility need, where possible;
- AND WHEREAS the declared pandemic, COVID-19, has impacted the finances and other resources of the municipality;
- AND WHEREAS the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act contemplates the need to consider the technical or economic considerations in the implementation of Accessibility Standards;
- BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the municipality requests that the Province of Ontario extend the compliance deadline stated in Section 14(4) of O.Reg 191/11 to require designated public sector organizations to meet the compliance standards, by a minimum of one (1) year to at least January 1, 2022;
- BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the municipality requests that the Province of Ontario consider providing funding support and training resources to meet these compliance standards.
More to follow.
What was recommended?
That the municipality requests the province of Ontario to extend the website compliance deadline to at least January 1, 2022 and that the province of Ontario consider providing funding support and training resources to meet these compliance standards.
The report for council’s September 24 meeting is not a status update; it is a request, 3 months in advance of the compliance deadline, for an extension to 15 months from now.
COVID-19/the pandemic is the most obvious reason for the recommendation and it is referenced nine times in the report:
- RECOMMENDATION: AND WHEREAS the declared pandemic, COVID-19, has impacted the finances and other resources;
- enhanced monitoring of declared pandemic, COVID-19;
- has been consumed by its response to COVID-19;
- did not anticipate the interruptions and redeployments caused by the declared pandemic, COVID-19.
- how the municipality ensures the provision of its services during a pandemic
- a number of staff were on unpaid leave during the pandemic,
- Due to the impact of the pandemic emergency on municipal operations
- FINANCIAL MATTERS: suggests that it cannot comply by January 1, 2021 due to COVID-19;
- CONCLUSION: extend the compliance deadline from January 1, 2021 to at least January 1, 2022 due to the impacts of the pandemic (COVID-19).
RISK ANALYSIS did not acknowledge the historical disadvantage of persons with disabilities. While the report mentioned administration will continue in its efforts to comply, the risk was relative to hypothetical consequences to the town: If non-compliant; can require; If this is the case; suggests that it cannot comply; may still enforce its timelines; there may be financial implications.
FINANCIAL MATTERS did not specify a dollar amount of hardship, given the reliance on how “COVID-19 has impacted the finances and other resources of the municipality.” Instead, it was noted the town might face financial implications in the form of administrative penalties or increased expenses in trying to meet the required standards after an order to comply. There was no mention of the AODA procedure relative to an Order.
CONSULTATIONS listed three staff; there was no mention of public consultations of ratepayers that pay for the town’s website or their thoughts on financial priorities for the community.
Council voted in favour of the resolution.
More to follow.
Difficulties arose when I tried to tune in to today’s meeting of the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAAC).
The September 24, 2020 AAAC meeting was advertised on the last page of this week’s River Town Times along with other meetings. A notation at the bottom includes text under the heading, Electronic Meeting Link http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestream.
I copied and pasted it but the link was invalid, as verified by a google search:
Your search – http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestreamRecycleYardWasteNorthZone519-736-0012 • http://www.www.amherstburg.ca 271 Sandwich St. South, Amherstburg, Ontario did not match any documents.
It would be so much easier for everyone to access the meetings on the town’s website if the video link was placed right next to the meeting, which it wasn’t. After navigating through a couple of links too many, I emailed Kevin Fox, Committee Co-ordinator, who advised, The livestream for all town meetings is unchanged and remains http://www.amherstburg.ca/livestream.
It turns out the meeting was on zoom and there were technical difficulties with audio cutting out for several minutes and video disappearing.
Most annoying was the sound as though someone was constantly tapping on a microphone.
Most disappointing was that one member used the outdated “handicap accessible signs.”
Most frustrating was that members did not identify themselves prior to speaking when only audio was available. Also, I couldn’t find any listed accommodations for persons who are deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing.
This opinion was written in response to a River Town Times article, Grand Opening of River Bookshop.
The article mentioned building owner Richard Peddie’s observation that “Right now, within 150 yards of where we are standing, there are 11 other retail entrances that could become accessible if they too used StopGap ramps.”
Entrances would not necessarily become accessible just by utilizing a StopGap ramp which, as the name implies, is a temporary measure. In fact, in order to participate in the ramp project, the StopGap organization requires business owners to agree to and sign a waiver acknowledging, in part, “I know that this ramp is not intended to be a permanent ramp to my storefront and that the ramp should only be used when needed. When in use, the ramp should be level and flush against the step with no gaps present. When the ramp is not in use, it should be stored in a safe location. I understand that the use or storage of the ramp could cause injury to persons or property.”
A small window sign is supposed to advertise the availability of the ramp so customers can request it if required. In my opinion, this access method does not meet the core principles of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity.
Accessibility requires more than a ramp. A commitment to accessibility would include the removal of attitudinal barriers, the installation of automated doors, signage for people who are blind or have low vision, training on the human rights code including the accommodation of people with disabilities, and a public statement.
The bookshop’s website has some accessibility issues and provides no accessibility statement and no phone number or email or alternate methods of communication for potential customers. And, if the upper level will hold events, will it be accessible?
After a decade-long conflict with the town and my human rights complaint to ensure accessibility at the library, my observation is that there is greater emphasis on heritage preservation than barrier removal.
Windsor Police held its ‘Coffee With A Cop’ on June 27 at the Caffeine & Co., housed in an inaccessible building in Amherstburg, Ontario.
Windsor, as a Proponent to the Amherstburg RFP Police Services, was informed in section 33, ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (AODA), that it shall ensure that all its employees receive training regarding the provision of goods and services to per sons with disabilities in accordance with the AODA.
Windsor Police should have already created Accessible Customer Service policies pursuant to provincial legislation that included training:
7.(1) Every obligated organization shall ensure that training is provided on the requirements of the accessibility standards referred to in this Regulation and on the Human Rights Code as it pertains to persons with disabilities.
On February 24, 2011 the Windsor Police Service, Windsor Police Services Board, Ontario Human Rights Commission and Ontario Police College launched the Human Rights Project; Vision Statement:
The Windsor Police Service endeavours to be a professional, effective and accountable law enforcement organization that upholds the human rights and dignity of all people in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Windsor Police Service is committed to playing its part in making Windsor a community where everyone lives, works and visits in a safe, comfortable and inclusive environment.
The Human Rights Project Final Report 2014 noted next steps:
The inclusion of human rights themes through all WPS training and the requirement to monitor training programs to ensure that human rights issues are being addressed on an ongoing basis, will assist WPS members to provide services to the public without discrimination.
As a long time accessibility advocate, I asked Windsor Police for an explanation and received the following:
“My name is Jason Bellaire and I am the Inspector in charge of our uniform patrol officers at the Windsor Police Service (WPS). I was not at the “Coffee with a Cop” event last night (due to a prior commitment); however, I am somewhat familiar with the location where the event was held. This appears to be a regretful oversight on our part as co-organizers of the event. Please accept my apology on behalf of WPS and I assure you that better consideration regarding accessibility will be given when planning future events.
We genuinely appreciate your bringing this issue to our attention and we always welcome any critical feedback from our community members, partners and stakeholders. Once again, please accept our apologies for this misstep and always feel free to contact us with any concerns. Have a safe and happy summer.”
As much as I appreciate the apology, after the fact, I would rather this type of incident not occur in the first place.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
Amherstburg, known for its history, not accessibility?
I officially began requesting an accessible website for the Town of Amherstburg, among other accessible amenities, in September 2002 and continued into 2016. Promises were made, as were statements that issues were addressed, but problems persisted.
Amherstburg was invited to hire esolutions when the County redesigned its site to meet accessibility standards in 2014. Leamington and Essex had already hired the web design company but Amherstburg declined. According to the town’s site, esolutions redesigned Amherstburg’s site in 2016, although it still has issues.
The new visitamherstburg.ca has accessibility issues that need to comply with provincial legislation.
Let’s Talk Amherstburg’s “website has been has been built by the team at Bang the Table Pty Ltd on behalf of Town of Amherstburg.”
How many sites do we need to pay for? Who is ensuring the town of Amherstburg complies with standards of equal access?
I do remind myself it took over a decade and a human rights complaint from me for the Amherstburg Public Library to be made accessible. Was money an issue then? NO, and I would need to be convinced it is now.
Here we go again. Candidates want to reach as many voters as they can with their promises and platforms and are increasingly relying on social media to do so.
However, just like the previous campaign, there are website accessibility issues.
If so little thought is given to being inclusive, how will these candidates indicate their commitment to identifying, removing, and preventing barriers and comply with legislation?
Accessibility is not exactly a buzz word during any election campaign, but we are all governed by the provincial accessibility legislation and its regulations, as well as the Human Rights Code.
And, if senior is a buzz word during the Amherstburg election campaign, the sector is directly affected by elected officials’ decisions to strengthen a commitment to people with disabilities or not.
The Centre for Independent Living in Toronto (CILT) Inc., organizer of Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues, invite people with disabilities and their allies from across Ontario to ask questions to each party regarding: Accessible/Subsidized/Supportive Housing, Employment, Poverty Reduction Strategies, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), Education and other disability issues.
May 16, 2018, from 6 to 8.30 pm Debate Livestream Webcast: https://ryecast.ryerson.ca/72/live/1807.aspx.