Reality To Counter Accolades – Open Air

I would like to counter all the accolades with a dose of reality.

Shame on Anne Rota for recommending a report for adoption that omits compliance with provincial legislation.

Rota’s Report referenced under-utilized parking for employees but plans to continue offering those spots. However, the alleged under-utilized accessible parking in the King’s Navy Yard Park lot will be reduced. The rationale for this differentiation was unclear, until the council meeting when Ms. Rota stated this reduction would allow for a turn around to be created instead. Further, the plan is to add three accessible parking spaces in three locations at the outside perimeter.

Shame on council for approving a plan that fails to meet its obligation to consult with the public.

Mayor DiCarlo advised, in April 2021, the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee was not consulted with respect to Open Air Weekends and only one person with a disability was consulted in the design of the footprint.

It is mandatory, pursuant to O. Reg. 191/11: Integrated Accessibility Standards for the town to consult on the need, location and design of accessible on-street parking spaces and shall do so with the public and persons with disabilities as well as its Accessibility Advisory Committee.

My submission to members of council, prior to the council meeting, wherein I asked if the town would discriminate against persons with disabilities, quoted the provincial legislation regarding public consultation, and objected to the arbitrary placement of accessible parking spaces, especially in a distant perimeter, and accessible spaces that cannot be accessed due to road closures, was ignored.

Given council’s duty to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality, I must question the $90,000. taxpayer funded expenditure that creates barriers to persons with disabilities.

Commentary by Linda Saxon as published in the River Town Times December 1, 2021

Decorum, Please!

The Town of Amherstburg Code of Conduct states, in part:

Every Member shall conduct themselves with decorum and respect at council, committee, local board and other meetings, and in accordance with the provisions of the Procedural By-law, this policy, and other applicable laws.

My personal observations of a meeting of council and the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee follow.

Members:

do not always go through the Chair.

talk over each other.

grandstand.

belabour the point.

go off-topic.

share irrelevant personal anecdotes.

use acronyms.

do not appear prepared.

Staff:

monopolize the discussion.

interject their opinions to lead the discussion.

belabour the point

General:

The committee’s agenda was posted the day before the meeting.

There was no link to the live feed of the committee meeting.

Off camera speakers do not identify themselves for home viewers.

Minutes do not accurately reflect content of meetings. (read the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee post.)

What’s One More Survey?

There was no link to today’s Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting on the town’s site, although it was live streamed; the agenda was available in html format only and it was posted one day prior to the meeting.

There will be a very limited timeframe, deadline December 7, for asking people if they ‘feel’ the Town’s amenities meet their accessibility needs. The general questions the Accessibility Committee reviewed are at the end of this post.

Asking people how they feel, in general terms, is not the same as the legislated stipulation to review and update the town’s accessibility plan in consultation with persons with disabilities, aside from an accessibility advisory committee.

I’m guessing the survey’s short time frame and plan to present to town Council on December 13 is because the last multi-year plan on the town’s website is from January 2013.

The committee reviewed the brief questions:

  1. Are you an Amherstburg resident?
  2. What is your age?
  3. Do you identify as a person with a disability?
  4. Do you feel that Town facilities and amenities meet your accessibility needs?
  5. Do you feel that Town parkland and recreational amenities meet your accessibility needs?
  6. Do you feel that Town sidewalks and paths of travel meet your accessibility needs?
  7. Do you feel that the Town’s multi-use trail network  facilities meets your accessibility needs?
  8. Do you feel that the Town’s communications meet your accessibility needs?

What’s Wrong With Rota’s Open Air Weekends 2021 Post Report?

Commentary by Linda Saxon

edited: this was sent to members of council on November 21, prior to the November 22 meeting

Aside from the spelling and grammatical errors, and the ‘boots on the ground’ reference, I have some concerns regarding Anne Rota’s recommendation that council approve the 2022 Open Air weekend in principle.

Will the Town of Amherstburg discriminate against persons with disabilities?

The report notes 50 downtown employee parking permits were not used to full capacity at times, but the same amenity would be offered in 2022.

Yet, administration noted the accessible parking lot at the Kings Navy Yard Park (KNYP) was under-utilized and Administration recommends those spaces be reduced to two.

I fail to see the rationale for the differentiation.

Public Consultation Is Mandatory

Mayor DiCarlo previously advised only 1 person with a disability was consulted.

Pursuant to provincial legislation, the Town of Amherstburg is obliged to consult the public and persons with disabilities, as well as its Accessibility Advisory Committee on the need, location and design of accessible on-street parking spaces.

According to the report, Administration would recommend the addition of 3 accessible parking spaces at the other 3 entrances and mentions future consultation with only the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

The arbitrary placement of accessible parking spaces, especially in a distant perimeter, is unacceptable, as are accessible spaces that cannot be accessed due to road closures.

While the report includes the total number of parking spaces, there are no locations listed, no percentages of accessible spaces stated, and no types of accessible spaces mentioned.

Economic Development was the primary objective of Open Air weekends.

Rota states, “By using the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries; Regional Visitor Profiles figures indicated that; A one day spend of a tourist is $79 p.p. and overnight spend of a tourist (40km+) is $244 p.p. We can then conclude the following of Open Air Weekends 2021:

Total # of visitors 64,310
Day visitors 52,091 (81%) spends $ 79 p.p. per day for a total of $4,115,189

Overnight visitor (19%) 12,219 spends $244 p.p. per day for a total of 2,981,436

Total visitor spending $7,096,625.”

However, the Ministry’s regional figures are based on Region 1: southwestern Ontario, which includes the municipalities in the Windsor, Essex, Lambton, Elgin, Middlesex and Haldimand Norfolk areas. (see map here: http://www.mtc.gov.on.ca/images/regions_maps/Region01.pdf and below)

Additionally, the statistics are based on pre-COVID 2018 data – prior to restrictions.

Therefore, the conclusion regarding tourist spending for Open Air 2021 is flawed.

map of region 1 southwestern Ontario tourist area

Financial Matters

The proposed budget is generalized with no line-by-line details. As a taxpayer, and in the spirit of accountability and transparency, a detailed request for approval is warranted.

Risk Analysis

In my opinion, Council should not approve this report in principle; it is flawed and contains proposals that are contrary to provincial legislation and fiscal responsibility.

Amherstburg Fire Department Website Issues

Privacy and Accessibility are two concerns when using the Amherstburg Fire Department website.

Privacy

The site lacks a Notice of Collection and use of personal information.

Section 29(2) of the provincial MFIPPA Act state that when collecting personal information, unless an exception applies, an institution must provide the individual to whom the personal information relates with notice which includes specific details on the following three requirements:

    • the legal authority for the collection;
    • the principle purpose(s) for which the personal information is intended to be used;
    • the title, business address and telephone number of a person employed by the institution who can answer questions about the collection.

In response to a concern that personal information was shared with unaffected parties, Fire Chief Montone stated, “When you make an inquiry to my office, I have always, and will always include members of my staff and the corporation I represent who are very aware of the confidentiality and sensitivity required and expected…”

Accessibility

As for accessibility issues, Aaron Peterson, Web & Print Boutique responded, “The website passed WCAG Level AA when we built it.”

Paula Parker and John Miceli mentioned third party vendors at a September 14, 2020 council meeting, In response to a request for a list of vendors Ms. Parker stated, 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.”

An FOI request on the matter is outstanding.

Unblocked Access to Canada Post: Councillor Marc Renaud on Open Air Complaint

All members of council were asked, How necessary is it to block access to the post office during the open air weekends? Isn’t the post office an essential service as opposed to a retail establishment? It’s especially important for use by persons with disabilities; I’m not sure if you considered that, seeing as only one person with a disability was consulted.

Only Councillor Marc Renaud responded: I have been downtown for most open air weekends. There is unblocked access to Canada post parking at Precision Jewellers.

Follow up comments with further questions: You must have not witnessed an enthusiastic crossing guard on Friday afternoon stopping traffic from travelling west of Ramsay Street to park in front of the post office or the jewelry store. You also might not have seen an irate driver squeal his tires as he left the area after she stopped him.

Your personal anecdote offers little to address a very important issue regarding the controversial open air weekends. Given that the mayor confirmed only one person with a disability was consulted, i’m not assured that accessibility is a priority.

Perhaps you could explain why accessibility features, now being considered in this evening’s report, were not included at the time of procurement and renovations for the community hub? Did the AAAC inspect the site plans? With regard to spending taxpayer dollars, the tenants are equally liable for half the accessibility expenditures so why are taxpayers being asked to pay their share?

No one responded to date.

This week’s River Town Times article on a new Open Air survey reports that this year traffic is blocked off on Richmond Street from Ramsay to Dalhousie Street. Therefore, access to Canada Post is blocked.

Court Hearing Lepofsky v. Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho September 27

Monday September 27, 2021 10 AM Court Virtual Hearing Livestream: Blind Disability Advocate David Lepofsky Argues Disability Rights Case Against Accessibility Minister Raymond Cho

September 24, 2021 Toronto: On Monday, September 27, 2021 at 10 a.m., the Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice will hold a public virtual hearing for the oral argument of a case brought by blind lawyer, law professor, and volunteer disability rights advocate David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, against Ontario’s Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, the Honourable Raymond Cho. In Lepofsky v, Cho,. Lepofsky asks the Court to issue a declaration that Minister Cho violated section 10(1) of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This is the first time someone has gone to court to contest the sufficiency of the Ontario Government’s implementation of the AODA, and to get a judicial interpretation of the AODA.

The case is scheduled for about two hours. It will be livestreamed to the public on Youtube at https://youtu.be/LuD6fKu0dlE As far as is now known, it will only be available online for livestreaming in real time.

Full press release at aoda alliance site.

Wants vs. Needs

Commentary by Linda Saxon submitted to the River Town Times in response to the article “Local business owners adding new building to portfolio.”

While I appreciate Richard Peddie’s enthusiasm for ‘what historic Amherstburg once looked like,’ I disagree that ‘the town is not investing enough in heritage.’

The town was so committed to heritage that it remained silent throughout my ten-year campaign to make the Carnegie library accessible. The library retrofit cost continued to rise over a decade, as did legal fees for the town to resist any library changes. The Ontario Human Rights Commission highlighted the case in its Annual Report and the town credited others with my accomplishment.

In addition to ignoring my requests, the town disregarded funding initiatives that prioritized accessibility. When I questioned the marina, instead of changing the priority project to the library, the town withdrew its application.

In 2001, I requested that council include accessibility in the tender for library repairs; Instead, the town donated $710,000 for a replica of the HMS Detroit, for which taxpayers incurred a 9% tax hike over a two-year period.

The town attracted negative attention when it circulated its council resolution throughout the province to request an extension to the accessible website deadline that it knew about for several years. I had been requesting the town make its website accessible since 2001, along with other items that would have increased accessibility, but they were received, noted and filed.

Shamefully, only one person with a disability was consulted about the Open Air weekends and the town placed accessible parking in an unsafe location.

More recently, administration recommended an over-expenditure of salary and benefits expenses in the Clerks Budget Centre for additional staff overtime to deal with advisory committee commitments and AODA compliance. There were no details in the report so I can only wonder why AODA compliance was not routinely incorporated without overtime.

Too often heritage takes precedence over accessibility; sometimes accessibility is not even incorporated in the initial planning stages, all of which is contrary to the human rights code. Not everyone is aware that heritage buildings can be made accessible.

I do not believe that heritage should be ‘referenced in the budget.’ Elected officials have human rights obligations and must consider the health, safety and well-being of the community they serve, and provide services and things that the municipality is authorized to provide.

Committees, Consultation and COVID: Council Agenda item

Members of council were asked two simple questions two weeks ago re accessibility concerns of Open Air weekends:

  1. why was accessibility not considered during the decision making process?
  2. why was the accessibility advisory committee not consulted for input?

This post addresses the second question and the answer that followed, in part, by Mayor DiCarlo, the only member of council to respond:

“The AAAC was not consulted with respect to Open Air Weekends because the AAAC and many other committees were and still are not functioning due to COVID.”

Paula Parker, in a memo on council’s April 26 Agenda states, “Council continues to be advised on matters of accessibility, equality and inclusivity by the Amherstburg Accessibility Advisory Committee.”

Now a new committee is being recommended: a special purpose Ad-hoc Committee, the Inclusive Community Program (ICP) Advisory Steering Committee to “help Amherstburg to become an age-friendly community by ensuring that the needs of the residents of all ages and abilities are considered in every stage of community planning and development.”

There are plans to hire a consultant: “approval is requested for an over-expenditure in the CAO’s Office budget centre professional fees expense account for up to $60,000 including net HST to fund consulting services for development of the Needs Assessment and Action Plan; this cost would be funded by the ICGP.” 

The report’s RISK ANALYSIS section includes, “Administration is of the opinion that all advisory meetings should resume through the Town’s zoom meeting platform” and “Should Council wish not move forward with this engagement solution for advisory committees, it may result in political criticism.” (report’s typo)

Should administration include consideration of political risk when it provides advice or recommendations to council?

A request for the grant application was submitted.

More to follow.

Open Air Amherstburg Access Questioned

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.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Background Byte

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.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

Amherstburg requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Third Party Vendors

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Third Party Vendors

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:

Wired Solutions

Next ideas

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Copies of each individual contract for the third-party vendors with the Town of Amherstburg website from January 1, 2012 to present.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. the Town of Amherstburg requires an additional 30 days to December 4, 2020.
  2. a fee estimate of $967.50, exclusive of photocopies.

more to follow.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Essex County Council Does Not Endorse It

The River Town Times reports that on Wednesday October 21, Essex County council voted to not endorse the town of Amherstburg’s Resolution.

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.

Related posts:

Town of Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Recommendation.

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Resolution

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – The Vote

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Follow Up Questions to Council

Amherstburg Requests Website Compliance Deadline Extension – Circulation of Resolution