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.
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.
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.
Members of council were asked two simple questions two weeks ago re accessibility concerns of Open Air weekends:
- why was accessibility not considered during the decision making process?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
In a Report to Council by Kevin Fox for the September 14, 2020 council meeting, Administration recommends that Council request that the Province of Ontario extend the compliance deadline from January 1, 2021 to at least January 1, 2022 due to the impacts of the pandemic (COVID-19) emergency and the impacts it has had both on the finances and resources of municipalities such as the Town of Amherstburg.
And town council voted in favour.
COVID-19 has only existed for the past several months compared to provincial legislation that was enacted in 2005: the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Provincial Standards included deadlines for compliance but, suddenly, in September 2020, the town needs more time? 15 months more time?
More to follow.
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.
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.
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:
Despite 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
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
The shopamherstburg.ca site has accessibility issues that need to be addressed, which makes me wonder – was accessibility included in any RFP?
There is no accessibility statement on the site, nor does the company that designed the site have any accessibility related information on its site.
One can ‘search’ to find a business but unfortunately, there is also no information regarding accessibility of individual businesses, something people need to know – both residents and tourists.
For example, there are two dollar stores in town, but the Dollar Tree is the only one i visit because of its push button doors and wide uncluttered aisles.
I expect the building department to adhere to its ‘minimum requirements’ position, but I would remind everyone that the Ontario Human Rights Code supersedes all legislation in Ontario.
If businesses want to attract more customers, they need to be more accessible; otherwise, I shop out of town.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
Two occasions cause me to reflect on my campaign to improve accessibility in my community.
Last week the AODA Alliance gathered at Queen’s Park to celebrate the November 29, 1994 birth of Ontario’s tireless grassroots movement for a fully accessible Ontario and December 3 is the International Day for People with Disabilities.
Prior to the ODA 2001, I endured a decade long battle with the Town of Amherstburg to obtain equal access to the town’s historic Carnegie library. Funding opportunities were lost because the town prioritized other amenities even when the grants specified accessibility came first.
Finally, as a result of my human rights settlement in 2004, an elevator was installed at the library. I was not invited, but the council of the day held a ribbon cutting ceremony and unveiled a plaque crediting council.
A second human rights complaint, merged with the library complaint, resulted in the creation of two accessible parking spaces in the rear parking lot of General Amherst High School.
I recently filed another complaint when I encountered difficulty entering a physiotherapy clinic in a building owned by a corporation. Following a September 2013 Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Hearing, a February 20, 2014 decision was issued against two Respondents: the landord, 1762668 Ontario Inc., owned by Rene and Anne Rota, and the tenant Anna Maria Fiorito Physiotherapy.
The Tribunal ordered both respondents to pay monetary compensation and install an automatic door with a 4 inch diameter push button. Additionally, the landlord was ordered to 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.
The adjudicator noted, “It is obvious that the landlord does not appreciate its obligations under the Code with respect to making its facilities accessible to people with disabilities.”
Mr. Rota did not comply with the training requirement by June 1, nor did he respond to my July 21, 2014 letter reminding him of his obligation.
Any discussion regarding the removal of barriers should include the lack of redress for the non-compliance of an HRTO Order without imposing any additional bureaucracy and/or expense to the victim of discrimination.
Commentary by Linda Saxon
Comments have been made regarding transforming Amherstburg into a Niagara-on-the-Lake, but the topic of the community’s lack of accessibility has never been mentioned.
Thankfully, more open minds exist; the Niagara Parks recently conducted an audit of all its attractions to ensure inclusion and accessibility for both visitors and staff and even updated the agency’s websites to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Full story at the Niagara Falls Review.
The poll at the bottom of the article indicates that 57% are limited of places because of lack of accessibility.
If there were no attitudinal barriers, there would be no barriers – Linda Saxon