Province-Wide Parties Debate on Accessibility and Disability Issues

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.

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

shopamherstburg.ca has accessibility issues

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

Equal Access Movement 20 Years Old

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

MAKING NIAGARA THE ACCESSIBLE DESTINATION OF CHOICE

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

Amherstburg Has No Accessible Taxis

Commentary by Linda Saxon

Any commentaries on this blog pertaining to a lack of accessibility in Amherstburg or anywhere else contain my personal opinion and not that as Chair of the Essex County Accessibility Advisory Committee.

I telephoned South Shore Taxi yesterday to inquire if they had any accessible taxis; the answer was “no.” The response to my question, “why not?” was “we just don’t” which was followed by a hearty laugh and the suggestion that I would have to speak to the owner.

Not having accessible taxis is not funny; I would also mention that the website has accessibility issues.

Part of Question 29 to the candidates relative to accessibility issues that I raised was, “Will you commit to specific plans to ensure fully accessible public transit and taxi services in your community?”

For the most part, the position was that taxis are private enterprise and should therefore not be interfered with.

However, ONTARIO REGULATION 191/11 made under the ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2005, sets out Duties of Municipalities in sections 78, 79, 80.

Duties of municipalities, accessible taxicabs
79.  (1)  Every municipality shall consult with its municipal accessibility advisory committee, where one has been established in accordance with subsection 29 (1) or (2) of the Act, the public and persons with disabilities to determine the proportion of on-demand accessible taxicabs required in the community.

(2)  Every municipality shall identify progress made toward meeting the need for on-demand accessible taxicabs, including any steps that will be taken to meet the need, in its accessibility plan required under Part I.

(3)  Municipalities shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2013.

(4)  In this section,

“accessible taxicab” means an accessible taxicab as defined in section 1 of Regulation 629 of the Revised Regulations of Ontario, 1990 (Vehicles for the Transportation of Physically Disabled Persons) made under the Highway Traffic Act.

I do not recall a public meeting ever having been held nor can I find any reference in the town’s accessibility plan.

IS IT TIME FOR LOCAL AODA ALLIANCE CHAPTERS?

Commentary by Linda Saxon
Published in Accessibility News – THE PREMIER ONLINE MAGAZINE FOR DISABILITY ACCESSIBILITY

The AODA Alliance has been a very effective voice for the disability community, raising awareness of barrier removal with provincial leaders, but has it trickled down?

I feel somewhat isolated and frustrated that action taken at the provincial level has little effect on my community – a small southwestern Ontario town that boasts about its history and the need to preserve it.

For over two decades, I appeared before town council, wrote letters to the editor, and campaigned for a more inclusive community. To date, I have had to rely on the human rights complaints system twice to have my rights enforced.

Following the AODA Alliance’s suggestion, I urged candidates to commit to, among other items, a municipal policy that no public funds will ever be used to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities.

Eight of the twenty-nine candidates responded; only one would support a policy, one would “commit to not place public barriers against persons with disabilities, unless it is for THEIR safety” and one would obtain further details before committing to a policy that would potentially limit the possibilities of the entire population.

In answer to the other accessibility related questions, not one candidate provided any specifics as to how she or he would improve accessibility. Some offered to consult with the Accessibility Advisory Committee or improve accessibility as budget permits.

As for the question to commit to specific plans to ensure fully accessible public transit and taxi services, a couple believed in full accessibility; others felt a taxi service is private enterprise and therefore we must always be careful in how and what we legislate if we are adding costs then the enterprise may not be viable and they simply shut down, thus affecting an even greater percentage of the population.

Another stated that public transportation, accessible or not, should not be a cost born by the town.

I also sought pledges from the candidates that no candidate will agree to attend an All Candidates event to be held in an inaccessible location. Only two of the twenty-nine responded; it has been there for some time, but personal assurances were made to have someone there to open doors for anyone who requires assistance and one will try to facilitate the installation of accessible entrances for the future.

Three candidates were advised their websites had accessibility issues; one made the required changes, one did not respond and one said he was told by the company he purchased the space from that he had no option other than to hire a code developer to revamp his site. Furthermore, the cost was extremely high and out of his price range for the two months that the site would be active, but he apologized.

I am really tired of hearing apologies and half-assed commitments to move forward; I want action taken regarding my right to equal access without having to fight for it or waiting for it to happen.

I would like for regional chapters of the AODA Alliance to be established with the hope that local voices would be just as effective at the local level as David Lepofsky’s is at the provincial level.

Aldo DiCarlo’s Followup Comment Re Inaccessible Verdi Club Debate

Aldo DiCarlo submitted a follow up comment to his answer that is repeated here.

As a follow up, I have spoken to the new President of the Verdi Club and apparently the Club is in the process of having the accessible doors installed. They were already aware of the need for the upgrade and the issue raised here. They assured me that there would be people there to assist those who require it. Hope this helps in the interim.
Aldo DiCarlo

Aldo DiCarlo’s Answer to Inaccessible Verdi Club Debate

Aldo DiCarlo submitted the following via the comments to the original post and it is being repeated here.

I spoke with a representative at the Amherstburg Chamber who explained to me that the Libro Centre was not available for the scheduled nights. I cannot speak to rescheduling as that is the will of the Chamber. After being told that someone would try to keep watch for individuals who need assistance, I suggested using high school students, who could allocate the time as community hours. This would ensure having someone specifically for access and providing an opportunity for high school students to accrue hours while being exposed to the challenges of people with disabilities. Although I do not have a physical disability, I am sensitive to those that do, and that not all disabilities are visible. As a Facilitator for CUPE National, I’ve attended and teach workshops specifically about disabilities in the workplace, as well as many others. Having grown up on Texas Road I have an emotional, as well as a community, attachment to the Verdi Club and would like to help keep events there. I thank you for raising this issue, and in turn, I will also contact the Verdi Club and try to facilitate the installation of accessible entrances for the future.
Sincerely,
Aldo DiCarlo

Tall Ships Not Accessible To Everyone

The historic Town of Amherstburg continues celebrating the bicentennial of the war of 1812 with the “Coastal Trails Sails To See Tall Ships Festival” in late August.

Promotional information is included on the town’s website, along with another site devoted to the war of 1812 events; there was no mention of accessibility so I submitted an online inquiry to ask if the tall ships were barrier free and accessible to people with disabilities.

Shortly afterward, I received an email response and was advised, “Due to the historic nature and design of Tall Ships, wheelchairs cannot be brought on board the ships. Any guest with disabilities may board a ship, as long as they can stand and walk on their own or with the assistance of a companion. For wheelchairs, the ships are available for viewing from dockside, not on-deck. In addition, there are multiple exhibits and activities that are being organized dockside, including Parks’ Canada’s 1812 On Tour and storytelling/theatrical experiences.”

Pursuant to section 5(2) of Ontario Regulation 191/11, I subsequently emailed members of town council and inquired if there was a determination that “it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities” in relation to the tall ships and I requested an explanation if there was.

I received an email from someone who did not state his position, but I assumed he was a town employee as throughout his email he referred to a collective we and our; his response was, “Tall Ships are not, traditionally or technically, universally accessible by design. To my knowledge there is one, or possibly two, ships in the world that are specifically crafted to offer some level of accessibility. I’ve been able to find information on one:http://www.jst.org.uk/lord-nelson.aspx and read an article that indicated there was a second ship in existence but I cannot find its name. The Lord Nelson is currently sailing in the waters of Australia and New Zealand.

The Tall Ships that we have procured are part of a tour called the “Tall Ships Challenge – Great Lakes 2013” which is operated by a company known as Tall Ships America. Our opportunity to procure the Tall Ships that will be visiting us came as a result of this Tour that stretches geographically from Brockville, Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota and includes 14 ports-of-call. In essence, our opportunity to host this event was tied to the ships that are involved in this Tour as opposed to being selected based on their individual merits – whether that be universal accessibility, size, design, port-of-origin or other criteria.

Despite being unable to guarantee equivalent access to the decks of the Tall Ships visiting our ports for all potential patrons of the event, we felt that we would be able to provide opportunities for accessible viewing from shore. Our plans include a volunteer-staffed and clearly stanchioned area that will be reserved on shore in very close proximity to the ships to ensure the best possible viewing for patrons who are in need of this opportunity. Ancillary events that are part of the festival have been located to provide as much opportunity for universal accessibility as King’s Navy Yard Park allows.

As a result of this inquiry it has come to our attention that these plans and opportunities have not been included on our website describing the event – this has been, or will be, rectified immediately.

My hope is that this email offers a satisfactory explanation of not only why it was not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features into the deck viewing portion of our visiting Tall Ships, but also our rationale for proceeding despite this lack and the steps we have taken to supplement event logistics to the best of our ability.”

I emailed back and mentioned there was only a reference to ‘accessible viewing’ from shore and asked what contingencies are in place for people with visual and hearing disabilities. I further relayed that information on the 1812 website relative to ‘wheelchair access’ is relegated to the last day of the event only; same for the town’s site, and there is still no alt text for jpegs on the town’s site. I mentioned that I also couldn’t find a reference anywhere to accommodating the needs of people with disabilities either visiting the town’s festivities or accessing information on the web.

Although I did not receive a response to my last email, information pertaining to wheelchair accessibility is now listed under a separate heading titled ‘additional information’ at the bottom of the site’s event page; there are still insufficient descriptors or none at all for the images, despite my numerous requests for an accessible town website over the past decade.

I do not support my taxes being used toward events that are not accessible to everyone.

Tall Ships To Visit Amherstburg, But Are They Accessible?

In an online feedback form submitted today I asked, “are the tall ships barrier free and accessible to people with disabilities?”  Christopher Laforet, Office Manager of Tourism Windsor Essex emailed this response, “Due to the historic nature and design of Tall Ships, wheelchairs cannot be brought on board the ships. Any guest with disabilities may board a ship, as long as they can stand and walk on their own or with the assistance of a companion. For wheelchairs, the ships are available for viewing from dockside, not on-deck.

In addition, there are multiple exhibits and activities that are being organized dockside, including Parks’ Canada’s 1812 On Tour and storytelling/theatrical experiences.”

Information relative to the tall ships’ visit to Amherstburg in late August is posted on both the town’s and the War of 1812 web sites; unfortunately, there is no text alternative to pictures on either site although numerous requests to make the town’s web site accessible to everyone have been previously made.

UPDATE: An August 23 email from Dean Collver explains why it is not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features when procuring or acquiring goods, services or facilities:

“Tall Ships are not, traditionally or technically, universally accessible by design. To my knowledge there is one, or possibly two, ships in the world that are specifically crafted  to offer some level of accessibility. I’ve been able to find information on one:http://www.jst.org.uk/lord-nelson.aspx and read an article that indicated there was a second ship in existence but I cannot find its name. The Lord Nelson is currently sailing in the waters of Australia and New Zealand.

The Tall Ships that we have procured are part of a tour called the “Tall Ships Challenge – Great Lakes 2013” which is operated by a company known as Tall Ships America. Our opportunity to procure the Tall Ships that will be visiting us came as a result of this Tour that stretches geographically from Brockville, Ontario to Duluth, Minnesota and includes 14 ports-of-call. In essence, our opportunity to host this event was tied to the ships that are involved in this Tour as opposed to being selected based on their individual merits – whether that be universal accessibility, size, design, port-of-origin or other criteria.

Despite being unable to guarantee equivalent access to the decks of the Tall Ships visiting our ports for all potential patrons of the event, we felt that we would be able to provide opportunities for accessible viewing from shore. Our plans include a volunteer-staffed and clearly stanchioned area that will be reserved on shore in very close proximity to the ships to ensure the best possible viewing for patrons who are in need of this opportunity. Ancillary events that are part of the festival have been located to provide as much opportunity for universal accessibility as King’s Navy Yard Park allows.

As a result of this inquiry it has come to our attention that these plans and opportunities have not been included on our website describing the event – this has been, or will be, rectified immediately.

My hope is that this email offers a satisfactory explanation of not only why it was not practicable to incorporate accessibility criteria and features into the deck viewing portion of our visiting Tall Ships, but also our rationale for proceeding despite this lack and the steps we have taken to supplement event logistics to the best of our ability.”

Amherstburg Accessible Customer Service Feedback Form

ONTARIO REGULATION 429/07 made under the ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2005, outlines the Accessible Customer Service Feedback process in section 7.  (1)  Every provider of goods or services shall establish a process for receiving and responding to feedback about the manner in which it provides goods or services to persons with disabilities and shall make information about the process readily available to the public.

I find the town’s web site difficult to navigate and the link to the Amherstburg Accessible Customer Service Feedback Form on this page is broken.

To Locate the Amherstburg Accessible Customer Service Feedback Form:

Visit www.amherstburg.ca

Click on residents

Click residents tab at top

Click accessibility on the left side bar (not in alphabetical order)

Click customer service under accessibility on the left side bar

Scroll down until you find the link to the Accessible Customer Service Standards Policy

The feedback form is the last page of the policy.

Note: it doesn’t state any action will be taken, just that feedback will be responded to within three (3) business days of its receipt by the Town.