New Enhanced Accessible Parking Permit (APP) and Enforcement-Related Supports

Commentary by Linda Saxon

All Chiefs of Police, Ontario’s municipalities, and the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers Association have been advised about the new enhanced Accessible Parking Permit (APP) and enforcement-related supports.

Enforcement of accessible parking infractions in Amherstburg in the past, verified by former Police Chief Roger Hollingworth, was minimal; he confirmed that Amherstburg did not have new tickets for bylaw enforcement until January 30, 2009.

In 2009, the Amherstburg Police Service issued one accessible parking infraction and one more by the spring of 2010; Hollingworth advised the town By-Law Officer may also have issued some but he did not have that information or specific information relative to the number that were contested and/or proceeded to trial and/or convictions, if any.

Since the Town of Amherstburg 2015 Public Events Manual contains outdated terminology, for example, “disabled persons parking spaces and Designated Disabled Parking spaces;” it needs to be updated to reflect the fact that the Accessible Parking Permit (APP) was renamed years ago.

And, although the manual mentions barrier free, there is no reference regarding what barrier free standard, if any, is to be implemented.

Not one member of the current council responded to my suggestions to improve and update the town’s Public Events Manual.

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Taxpayers Pay For Private Firms To Obtain Public Input

Last fall, the Wynne Government announced a controversial decision to hire the Deloitte firm for $415,000. to consult the public on the Government’s problem-ridden idea of a private accessibility certification process being established. The AODA Alliance reports that the Government is not having its own Accessibility Directorate conduct this consultation.

Amherstburg has hired MDB Insight to create a community based strategic plan for just over $36,000. According to MDB Insight’s website, ‘We have grown into Canada’s largest specialist economic development consultancy and continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients.’

In its January 31, 2016 article, the River Town Times reported that ‘Miceli said the matter has not yet gone to the town’s economic development committee, and told town council it is in the preliminary stages. The next step will be how to engage stakeholders such as the economic development committee and the community as a whole.’

Maybe council should put the unused money budgeted for the strategic plan consultant toward hiring an expert accessible web designer to ensure, finally, that the town of Amherstburg website is accessible.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Amherstburg Website Added To Barriers In The Burg

The Town of Amherstburg website has been added to the new barriers in the burg page, created in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.

Below is a screen shot of the town website taken today:

screen shot of the town of amherstburg websiteDespite my officially requesting an accessible website for the Town of Amherstburg since September 2002, changes are still needed today, March 4, 2016. There were promises to change but a real commitment has not materialized in all these years and for some strange reason, some people believe it will require funding.

I believe the well paid IT staff should be competent enough to address all the accessibility issues.

And, I wish someone would explain how a town the size of Amherstburg can afford body cameras for its police officers when larger municipalities can’t.

Considering all the financial requests council considers, money doesn’t always seem to be an issue; is it a question of priorities?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

#AODAfail

Barriers In The Burg

A new page has been added to the burg watch: barriers in the burg will contain pictures of barriers to persons with disabilities in Amherstburg in conjunction with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Action Kit “Picture Our Barriers” Action Kit.

As the AODA Alliance points out, “the Ontario Government’s effort to make Ontario fully accessible to over 1.8 million people with disabilities has slowed to a crawl, mired in lethargy and bureaucracy. A widely-respected Independent Review that the Ontario Government appointed reported, over a year ago, that Ontario lags behind schedule for full accessibility for people with disabilities and that, after ten years on the books, Ontario’s accessibility law has not made a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”

For over two decades, I’ve raised awareness about the barriers in Amherstburg, at times having to resort to the human rights complaints system to ensure my equal access rights.

Yet barriers continue to exclude the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in this community; pictures will clearly depict what those barriers are.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

#AODAfail

An End To Segregated Sheltered Workshops

Ontario’s sheltered workshops to close forever

Ontario will eliminate provincially funded workshops where people with intellectual disabilities do menial tasks for pennies a day, says a top official with Ontario’s Ministry of Community and Social Services. The decision is the strongest statement yet from the ministry following a Toronto Star series exposing the problem. Initially, the government announced there would be no… Continue reading

Misguided Support for Segregated Sports

Commentary by Linda Saxon

The River Town Times reports that the Town of Amherstburg has given the go-ahead for Miracle League billboards, awaiting final OK from the county and ERCA.

The article includes comments from Mayor Aldo DiCarlo and Councillors Diane Pouget, Joan Courtney and Rick Fryer praising the work of the Miracle League and its volunteers, all misguided in my opinion.

The Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 (ODA), the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (AODA), The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code all promote integration, not segregation.

Mandatory training of Essex County Council included presentations by the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee that specifically addressed the full and equal participation of every member of society and attitudinal barriers that interfere with the human right to do so.

Has anyone wondered why there was only one Miracle League in Canada? Has anyone wondered if negative stereotypes were being perpetuated?

As an accessibility advocate, I have often criticized the Town of Amherstburg for its lack of commitment to removing barriers in the community, including attitudinal barriers. As a few examples: for the past thirteen years I have advocated for an accessible town website, for accessible voting stations, for an accessible front entrance to the town hall – would any other minority group tolerate an enter at the back sign? No progress regarding these items was made to this day.

In my opinion, the approval of these billboards indicates to me that council needs to learn how to provide a more inclusive community in terms of full and equal access to recreation, festivals, communications, facilities and more.

Kathie Snow, of Disability is Natural, and a previous keynote speaker at the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee Accessibility Workshop has published several informative articles on her site, including Separate And Unequal, about segregated sports, which I highly recommend.

All the information is readily available in legislation and resources; those should be guiding council’s actions, not emotions and misguided intentions.

Accessibility Concerns Misunderstood

Commentary by Linda Saxon

In a letter to the editor, River Town Times, April 8, I expressed my concerns regarding town council’s pre-approval of grants to four community organizations: the Park House Museum, North American Black Historical Museum, Amherstburg Community Services and the House of Shalom Youth Centre.

It would appear, in a letter the RTT published this week from Kathy DiBartolomeo, Amherstburg Community Services, that my concerns were misunderstood.

To reiterate, council is using taxpayer dollars to grant these requests, despite a well-publicized 46 million dollar debt and promises of fiscal responsibility to control and/or reduce it.

Ms. DiBartolomeo believes that my “concern over the town’s website and accessibility to information and the importance of all of the agencies and organizations that receive community grants are two different issues.”

I disagree. Council has not found money over the past twelve years to ensure the town’s website and its documents are universally accessible, but community organizations have received approximately $360,000.00 in grant funding in that time frame.

Policy F10-Grants to Community Groups, enacted May 25, 2005 and amended September 22, 2008 is another outdated municipal policy that needs to be updated.

Council should include accessibility criteria as a requirement when evaluating grant requests from organizations. Additionally, council needs to enact a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Because of a lack of an accessibility requirement, shamefully, council has committed taxpayers’ dollars to four organizations that maintain websites with accessibility issues.

Town council approves $27,500 in community grants

Ron Giofu reported in the River Town Times that “Elected officials voted unanimously Monday night to pre-approve the grants as part of the 2015 budget, noting the value the agencies and organizations that requested the money give to the community.”

Councillor Jason Lavigne was quoted as saying, “I’m going to fund these groups no matter what.”

Firstly, it’s the taxpayers that are funding these groups, thanks to council’s decision, which I disagree with. I’d rather personally decide what, if any, organizations receive my donations. Accordingly, the organizations could extend their fundraising activities to seek more donations from those supporting individuals and/or corporations instead of requesting taxpayer funding.

Secondly, given Amherstburg’s much publicized debt crisis, council knew it would be faced with tough decisions during last fall’s municipal election campaign when we heard numerous promises of fiscal responsibility.

Councillor Leo Meloche was also in favour of keeping the groups funded, suggesting that town vehicles that need replacing be stretched out for another year.

Has accessibility also taken a back seat yet again? Council has not found money over the past twelve years to ensure the town’s website and its documents are universally accessible, nor has it demonstrated a strong commitment to a more inclusive community.

Council concluded these agencies and organizations are of value to the community, but council should include accessibility criteria in its evaluation of monetary requests.

Last fall I asked the candidates if they would commit to a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. A range of opinions was expressed by those who chose to answer, but the most impressive response was candidate Joshua Rene’s, who said, “I am frankly surprised that this question still has to be asked.”

I still strongly believe a policy is needed so council can consider the impact of its decisions on everyone, including persons with disabilities.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

More Comments on $12,000.00 Poll From Members of Council

Members of Amherstburg Town Council were advised of the Poll results that indicated 75% felt council should not have spent $12,000.00 on the law firm.

Additionally, I offered my personal opinion: “has council established a precedent whereby it acts on someone’s suggestion and/or offer? an RFP should have been issued. regardless, if we can afford to spend $12,000.00 on what might prove to be a duplicate process, then there is money to spend on improved accessibility at the town hall, truly making the town’s website accessible, and offering increased accessibility through internet voting.”

In addition to Councillor Leo Meloche’s response, the following replied.

Councillor Rick Fryer: Thank you.

Councillor Diane Pouget did not comment on accessibility improvements, but responded: Thanks Linda.  I stand by my decision. Please feel free to call if you wish to discuss.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo:  Since my voting position has been covered by all of the area’s media outlets, I don’t think I need to get into it again.  Council has made a democratic decision and I am obligated, as the Mayor, to move that decision forward.

This voting process does not provide for any precedent that I am aware of.  Council is still bound by the procedural by-law in place.

The Town continues to work towards a fully accessible website.  It remains a priority that will require funding to accomplish.

Although I know these comments don’t explicitly answer your questions, I hope it provides some more clarity of Council’s actions.

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Councillor Leo Meloche’s Comment on $12,000.00 Poll

Members of Amherstburg Town Council were advised of the Poll results that indicated 75% felt council should not have spent $12,000.00 on the law firm.

Additionally, I offered my personal opinion: “has council established a precedent whereby it acts on someone’s suggestion and/or offer? an RFP should have been issued. regardless, if we can afford to spend $12,000.00 on what might prove to be a duplicate process, then there is money to spend on improved accessibility at the town hall, truly making the town’s website accessible, and offering increased accessibility through internet voting.”

Councillor Leo Meloche did not comment on accessibility improvements, but responded: “Polling questions can be formulated to achieve a desired result. The question should have been … Are you agreeable with a Council’s decision to mount an opposition against the proposal that involves the potential closing of the high school in our town. I will make no further comment on the issue. I stand by my decision.”

I replied to Meloche: “your question could have been asked prior to council’s decision and maybe if the town’s website becomes accessible after my asking for it for 12 years, council could post its own polls.

since i asked for input after council’s decision, your question is moot.”

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Town council asks for report on employees’ qualifications

In a River Town Times article by Ron Giofu, “Town council agreed via a 4-3 vote to get details on employees hired and moved by former CAO Mike Phipps, pending a legal opinion, but there are also questions over if that will put the town in legal jeopardy.”

The town’s Hiring of Employees policy, one of the policies former CAO Phipps would not provide without “a reasonable explanation for the request,” can now be found on the town’s website and CAO Miceli did provide it.

The 2007 policy currently states, “The Town shall provide accommodation for persons with disabilities who become employees of the Corporation.”

An updated policy is needed to reflect the passage of the 2005 AODA, the IASR (Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation) and the town’s 2013 IASR Policy to include the requirement to notify its employees and the public about the availability of accommodation for applicants with disabilities in its recruitment processes.

Anne Rota Now Has Completed Human Rights Training

1762668 Ontario Inc., owned by Rennie and Anne Rota, was added to the Accessibility Hall Of Shame because it failed to comply with a February 20, 2014 Human Rights Tribunal Ontario Order, part of which stipulated, “The landlord must retain a consultant with expertise in human rights, disability and access who will provide training to Mr. Rota, and any managers, on the landlord’s obligations under the Code with respect to accommodating disability, and the landlord must provide to the applicant by June 1, 2014, a copy of a letter from the consultant verifying that the training is completed.

Six and a half months late, a December 20, 2014 letter certified that Rennie Rota completed a Human Rights Training Program; the letter was received via regular mail December 30, 2014.

Now, seven and a half months late, Anne Rota completed a Human rights Training Program.

Bart DiPasquale Added To Accessibility Hall Of Shame

In response to my concerns to Bart DiPasquale, as council’s representative to the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee, he advised me that the committee’s meetings were rescheduled via several emails as mentioned in this post.

Finally, on December 15, I emailed that he still had not addressed my concerns and requested that he advise me of the outcome; his response was, “I believe your concerns were forwarded to the accessibility committee some time ago. I will check on them.”

I have not received any further response.

For the above reasons, DiPasquale is added to the Accessibility Hall of Shame.

What’s The Point?

In response to the post, Rene Rota Completed Human Rights TrainingBob Rozankovic asked, “Your point in posting this is what?”

My response is: the point is to publicly raise awareness of the equal rights of persons with disabilities and the complaint/enforcement mechanism. Some municipal candidates in the recent election were obviously misinformed about the accessibility legislation so if I can contribute to eradicating some of that ignorance, I will exercise my right to do so, as I have for over the past two decades.

Who would argue that public education isn’t needed?

Rennie Rota Completed Human Rights Training

On December 2, 2014 I posted that 1762668 Ontario Inc., a company owned by Rennie and Anne Rota, was added to the Accessibility Hall Of Shame because it failed to comply with a February 20, 2014 Human Rights Tribunal Ontario Order, part of which stipulated, “The landlord must retain a consultant with expertise in human rights, disability and access who will provide training to Mr. Rota, and any managers, on the landlord’s obligations under the Code with respect to accommodating disability, and the landlord must provide to the applicant by June 1, 2014, a copy of a letter from the consultant verifying that the training is completed.

Six and a half months late, a December 20, 2014 letter certifies that Rennie Rota completed a Human rights Training Program; the letter was received via regular mail December 30, 2014.