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Attend September 29, 2015 Toronto All Candidates’ Debate on Federal Election’s Disability Issues

More Media Coverage on Federal and Provincial Disability Accessibility Campaigns and AODA Alliance News Release on Tonight’s TTC Accessible Transit Public Forum

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities

September 16, 2015


Here’s another grab bag of recent developments on the disability accessibility front, both federally and provincially. Below you will find:

* The announcement of the September 29, 2015 Toronto All Candidates’ Debate on disability issues. We thank those organizations, listed in that announcement, that are convening this event, and will live tweet from it. Follow the Twitter hashtag #AccessFEF

Please come to this event. Encourage others to do so. Be sure to RSVP in accordance with the announcement set out below. Urge the media to cover this event.

Remember to use action tips on raising accessibility issues in this election in the helpful Election Action Kit produced by Barrier-Free Canada. To read the Barrier-Free Canada Election Action Kit, visit

* The Canadian Press’s September 12, 2015 article on accessibility barriers facing voters with disabilities in this federal election, posted on the Global News website. The AODA Alliance has spearheaded the campaign in Ontario to ensure that provincial and municipal elections are fully accessible to voters with disabilities. Federally and provincially, we sadly still have a long way to go! To learn more about the long campaign in Ontario to ensure accessibility of provincial and municipal elections, visit

* The very troubling September 15, 2015 article in the Law Times newspaper about the employment accessibility requirements under the AODA in Ontario. Quoting lawyers who give legal advice to employers in Ontario, this article shows that just weeks before private sector organizations must comply with the employment accessibility requirements in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation that was enacted back in June 2011, far too many employers have no idea about these legal obligations. We trace this back to the Ontario Government’s ongoing failure to effectively publicize and enforce AODA requirements failures whose harmful effects are documented in the 2014 final report of the Mayo Moran AODA Independent Review. This article states:

`My sense is that most organizations with 50 to 100 employees have not heard about this regulation let alone are in a position to comply with it,’ says Doug MacLeod.

“The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is one of Ontario’s best-kept employment law secrets,” says Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm.

“This may, however, be one of the situations where you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. In other words, if the government is not enforcing this law, then employers may be turning a blind eye to it until there are meaningful consequences to non-compliance.”

* the AODA Alliance’s September 16, 2015 news release on tonight’s annual TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit. We also remind all in the greater Toronto area to try to attend tonight’s Toronto Transit Commission Public Forum on Accessible Transit, from 7 to 9 pm. This gives TTC passengers a chance to report to TTC on barriers they face when trying to use TTC’s conventional transit system and the Wheeltrans para-transit system. If you cannot attend, follow and retweet our tweets live from this event, which will use the hashtag #TTCAccess

For background on why TTC holds annual public forums on transit accessibility, visit

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Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting


Announcement of September 29, 2015 Toronto All Candidates’ Debate on Disability Issues

Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability
DATE: Tuesday Sept. 29, 2015
TIME: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre, 341 Yonge St. (at Gould St.) in Toronto.

CILT and Community Partners invite you to ask questions to federal party candidates and find out their parties’ positions regarding:

Anti-poverty strategies
Accessible housing strategy
Assisted dying
Record of seeking candidates with disabilities
Creation of a Canadian Disabilities Act
Commitment to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

ASL, real time captioning and attendant services will be provided.

RSVP by Friday Sept. 25, 2015 to Melanie Moore at or 416-599-2458 ext. 222 or

Follow us on Twitter: @ARCHDisability #AccessFEF

Community Partners: Access Ryerson (Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion), Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Anne Johnston Health Station, ARCH Disability Law Centre, Birchmount Bluffs Neighbourhood Centre, Canadian Disability Alliance, Canadian Hearing Society, Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, Citizens with Disabilities Ontario, Ethno-Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario, North Yorkers for Persons with Disabilities, and Springtide Resources

Global News September 12, 2015

Originally posted at Disabled voters still face accessibility challenges at the polls, advocates say

By Michelle McQuigge The Canadian Press

Advocacy groups and observers say disabled voters will likely still encounter some inaccessible polling stations, ballots that cannot be marked independently and a shortfall of election day supports on Oct. 19.

Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press

Elections Canada’s recent efforts to make the voting process more accessible across the country have addressed but not eliminated the challenges that disabled voters often encounter at the polls, observers say.

The national electoral body has poured resources into improving accessibility protocols and procedures in the five years since it was taken to task by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

But advocacy groups and observers say disabled voters will likely still encounter some inaccessible polling stations, ballots that cannot be marked independently and a shortfall of election day supports on Oct. 19.

James Hicks, National Co-ordinator with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, said Elections Canada has made accessibility an evident priority in the 18 months since it began consulting with disability organizations across the country.

The system, he said, has options and accommodations that did not always exist.

“Is it perfect? No. It’s a lot better than it has been in the past for sure.”

‘Checkered’ history with disabled community

Elections Canada’s history with the country’s disabled community could charitably be called checkered. Aspects of the entire voting process, from the distribution of pre-election material to the way ballots were cast, have been criticized by various disability groups over the years.

But one high-profile incident prompted the agency to revisit its processes after it was reprimanded by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in 2010.

The tribunal heard that a Toronto man, who relied on a walker for mobility and was trying to vote in a local byelection, was forced to enter an inaccessible polling station by sliding down a set of stairs on his behind.

The setup he encountered at the bottom was also too narrow to accommodate would-be voters with mobility aids. When a general election was called mere months later, the same polling station was still in use, barriers and all.

The tribunal ruled that James Hughes’ experience was a symptom of a broader systemic flaw that gave disabled voters short shrift.

“It is disappointing that in the disability rights, accessibility-heightened time in which we find ourselves living as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, Mr. Hughes would have had to experience the humiliation and indignities of those two voting events,” Tribunal member Matthew Garfield wrote in his ruling.

Garfield ordered Elections Canada to cease using polling locations that did not provide “barrier-free access” and asked the agency to review a slew of practices ranging from its lease arrangements to the types of signs used on voting day.

Changes for October vote

Many of Elections Canada’s recent activities seem tailored to Garfield’s requests. The agency established a committee of disability groups that offered feedback on the voting process from start to finish.

Based in part on their feedback, Elections Canada recently completed an audit of all 25,000 prospective polling stations in the country and rated them all according to a list of 35 accessibility criteria.

The 2015 voter cards will feature a legend showing whether each local venue is fully accessible or not, and voters can check the Elections Canada website for a complete breakdown of how their polling station scored on each individual criterion.

At the polls, visually impaired voters will now have access to magnifiers and voting screens that let in more light, as well as previously available resources like Braille candidate lists and templates that, theoretically, allow a person to mark their own ballot.

But disability rights activist David Lepofsky said the tools fall short, since users will still have to seek sighted help to see if the ballot is properly aligned within the template. Past elections, he said, have consistently been marred by half-baked solutions.

“The ability to mark the ballot has several components: independently marking your own ballot in private, and being able to verify that you marked it correctly,” he said. “Everything that’s out there falls short.”

Lepofsky hopes Elections Canada will one day join more than 40 Canadian municipalities and offer the ability to vote over the Internet, but spokeswoman Diane Benson says the logistical and security challenges of such a project mean it’s not currently under consideration.

The same goes for the use of accessible voting machines that allow blind voters to listen to a ballot and mark their choices alone. A 2010 report says the machines were given a limited test but later abandoned because they were impractical.

Benson says technology may play a greater role in the agency’s future accessibility improvements.

“We’re moving as society moves too, and the more there are advances there, the more we’re able to take advantage of them,” she said.

Hicks said disabled voters wanting to avoid potential election day hassles have multiple options to cast their votes ahead of time, including mail-in ballots and even home visits from Elections Canada workers.

All such services, however, need to be scheduled in advance, much like the sign language interpreters who can be booked to accompany deaf or hard-of-hearing voters to regular or advanced polls.

Hicks said Elections Canada’s next focus needs to be on spreading the word on the various alternatives available.

“No matter what the person’s barrier is, they should be able to vote,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting that information out to people.”

The Law Times September 15, 2015

Originally posted at:

Focus: Employers urged to prepare for new AODA requirements
Written By Marg. Bruineman

With a new year approaching, employers will once again need to prepare for a new set of obligations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

‘My sense is that most organizations with 50 to 100 employees have not heard about this regulation let alone are in a position to comply with it,’ says Doug MacLeod.

“The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is one of Ontario’s best-kept employment law secrets,” says Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm.

“Perhaps the most onerous obligations for employers are set out in the employment standard which takes effect for private sector organizations with 50 or more employees on Jan. 1, 2016. My sense is that most organizations with 50 to 100 employees have not heard about this regulation let alone are in a position to comply with it.

“This may, however, be one of the situations where you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. In other words, if the government is not enforcing this law, then employers may be turning a blind eye to it until there are meaningful consequences to non-compliance.”

The government is phasing in the legislation, first introduced in 2005, over 20 years. Employers with 50 or more employees should have provided training on the Human Rights Code pertaining to people with disabilities and the integrated standards by the start of this year. And by Jan. 1, 2014, they were to have established, implemented, maintained, and documented a multi-year accessibility plan.

Lawyers say it’s a significant year for private sector employers and non-profit organizations that must ensure they have an accommodation plan for employees as well as a return-to-work plan. Smaller employers will have to implement less stringent standards next year.

“I do think that this is a very important year for the legislation, especially for the private sector,” says Andrew Zabrovsky, whose practice at Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP includes a focus on human rights issues for employers and service providers. “We can’t wait for December to roll around because the obligations . . . are very significant.”

Employers must build accessibility into the employment life cycle from the hiring process through the entire job relationship. That includes a training component that needs to be in place this year. Public sector organizations such as hospitals and municipalities were to have the same standards in place two years ago.

While it does take work to put the plans together, Zabrovsky suggests the work will pay off in the end in terms of liability from a human rights perspective. By following the legislation and completing an audit, employers can demonstrate they’ve fulfilled their obligations and did everything required of them in case of a complaint.

“A lot of the cases before the tribunal, that’s where the case breaks down,” says Zabrovsky, who has been developing policies for his clients and is running training workshops. “I think a lot of organizations see it as another thing that they have to comply with.”

In February, a legislative review by Mayo Moran that focused on the impact of the legislation suggested the act could use a boost in attention through the inclusion of a minister responsible for accessibility. It also suggested a focus on enforcement and simplifying the standards to “clarify key objectives.”

The Moran report also suggested clarifying the relationship between the Human Rights Code and the act.

While the code is a complaint-based system allowing people to assert their rights, the disabilities legislation seeks to remove systemic barriers.

Carol VandenHoek, an employment lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP in Guelph, Ont., who has a special interest in human rights, suspects companies with 50 to 100 workers could experience difficulties because they may not be quite large enough to dedicate resources specific to the disabilities act.

She also notes the concern that there may be confusion between the Human Rights Code and the disabilities act.

“There needs to be clarification,” says VandenHoek.

There’s also a concern about the lack of attention given to the legislation, something that percolates down to the employers that are responsible for complying with it.

“The vast majority of our clients are surprisingly uninformed about this legislation,” says Adrian Ishak of Baker & McKenzie LLP. “The implement of the requirement under [the act] doesn’t fall under any traditional corporate functions. I think for a lot of our clients, this isn’t even on the radar.”

The issue doesn’t fall naturally into any of the typical departments, such as human resources, legal or corporate compliance. There are no labelling, licensing or filing requirements. As a result, awareness of responsibility falls through the cracks for many companies.

Parisa Nikfarjam of Rubin Thomlinson LLP notes there are tools available through the Ontario government as well as other guidance from organizations to help employers through the process. And from an enforcement perspective, a few companies have already received fines for not filing accessibility reports.

“It’s definitely a work in progress,” says Nikfarjam.

AODA Alliance’s September 16, 2015 News Release



September 16, 2015 – TORONTO: With Canada’s hotly-contested and tight federal election overheating with infrastructure spending as a major issue, Torontonians with all kinds of disabilities will converge tonight from 7 to 9 pm at the TTC’s Accessible Transit Public Forum at the Allstream Centre, Exhibition Place – 150 Princes’ Boulevard. The media will have its eyes opened wide by watching TTC passengers with disabilities go face-to-face with TTC Commissioners and senior management, sharing their front-line experience, still facing inexcusable disability barriers on Canada’s largest urban public transit system.

“As voters decide which federal party has the best infrastructure transit plan for Toronto, tonight we get a chance to grill TTC top brass on why TTC still has too many accessibility barriers facing tens of thousands of riders with disabilities. We can confront TTC on why it wasted public money on new subway cars that don’t safely line up with all station platforms. We can demand to know why several stations on the new Eglinton line won’t ensure proper accessibility and safety,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the province-wide AODA Alliance, the community coalition that spearheads a campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to over 1.7 million people with disabilities. “Hundreds of people with disabilities came to each previous TTC accessibility forum with wrenching stories. We encourage one and all to come to this important event tonight, to try to make “the Better Way” at last become an accessible way for people with disabilities!”

In a twelve-year battle starting 21 years ago in 1994, Lepofsky, as an individual, fought and won two Human Rights Tribunal cases against TTC in 2005 and 2007, to force it to audibly announce all bus and subway stops for the benefit of blind passengers like himself. “Measures that make TTC accessible to people with disabilities help everyone,” said Lepofsky. “So many sighted people have said that they love those bus and subway stop announcements, because it’s often hard to see outside a crowded TTC vehicle’s window. They can’t believe TTC ferociously fought me on that issue.”

When Lepofsky won his second case against TTC in 2007, he got the Human Rights Tribunal to order TTC to hold three annual public forums on barriers facing passengers with disabilities. TTC initially opposed that order. After TTC learned how helpful these forums can be, it agreed to voluntarily continue to hold them annually after the Human Rights Tribunal’s three-year order expired. Now regulations under Ontario’s Disabilities Act require all Ontario public transit authorities to do the same.

Learn more about TTC’s Accessible Transit Public Forum by visiting: Learn more about key disability accessibility issues concerning people with disabilities across Ontario by visiting

Contact: David Lepofsky, Live-tweeting TTC Forum on Twitter @aodaalliance We will use the hashtag #TTCAccess