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Despite Promising to be the Most Open and Transparent Government in Canada, Wynne Government Again Tries Charging a Hefty Fee to Give Answers on Its Promises on Disability Accessibility

Metrolinx Asks AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to pay $250 Just to Find Out Why Metrolinx Designed Several Stations on the New Eglinton Crosstown Line with Accessibility/Safety Problems

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO
October 17, 2014

SUMMARY

Defying Premier Wynnes instructions to all Cabinet ministers to be the most open and transparent government in the country, Metrolinx has asked AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky to pay $250, just to get answers on why Metrolinx isnt keeping Premier Wynnes 2014 election pledge not to use public money to create or perpetuate accessibility barriers against 1.8 million Ontarians with disabilities. On August 22, 2014, Lepofsky had to resort to a Freedom of Information application to get answers to questions Metrolinx has dodged to date, on why Metrolinx insists on using a design for several stations on the 5.3 billion dollar Eglinton subway line, now under construction, that creates troubling accessibility and safety problems for people with certain disabilities such as blindness.

In the latest development in this saga, in an October 3, 2014 letter, Metrolinx says Lepofsky must pony up fully $250 dollars, or else Metrolinx wont reveal the information he seeks. (Letter set out below.) Metrolinx is the Ontario Government agency of the Ontario Transportation Ministry leading this public transit development.

In August, the Toronto Star and Global TV reported that several public transit stations on the new Eglinton line, not yet built, are planned have a centre platform, with tracks on both sides. (Links to those media reports are set out below.) Metrolinx has chosen not to use a clearly safer and more accessible “side platform” design in those stations. In a station with a “side platform” design, the tracks are in the middle of the station. There is one platform for passengers on either side of the tracks.

Lepofsky has shown that the controversial centre platform design is less accessible and safe for people with certain disabilities, such as those with vision loss. In a station with a side platform design, each platform has a wall, running the length of the platform. It is a safe distance from the tracks. The wall can be safely trailed without having to walk close to the platform edge. A station with a centre platform design also presents a safety concern for passengers with no disabilities, who heed warnings to stand as far back as they can from the edge while waiting for a train, to avoid the risk of being pushed over the edge.

Metrolinx has refused to change its station design on the Eglinton line. It has offered no other new option for effectively addressing this safety/accessibility concern. From what Metrolinx has told the AODA Alliance, it appears that none of the stations on the Eglinton line have been built yet, so it is certainly not too late to fix this problem before it happens.

Metrolinx claimed it consulted experts, and that its station design is safe and accessible. Lepofsky had to resort to his Freedom of Information application because Metrolinx wont reveal all of whom it consulted, what they were asked, and what they told Metrolinx, or the options Metrolinx considered.

In its September 19, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, (set out below) Metrolinx now claims that no one before identified this safety/accessibility concern. If this comes as news to Metrolinx, the AODA Alliance has called on Metrolinx to reveal what it has done to investigate solutions, after it realized this is a problem.

In his October 14, 2014 letter (set out below), Lepofsky called on Metrolinx to waive its $250 charge to get the answers to questions Metrolinx has, until now, dodged. Lepofsky is the chair of the AODA Alliance, an unfunded voluntary, non-partisan community coalition. It has no money. It seeks this information in the public interest, to hold the Government to election promises the Premier made directly to the AODA Alliance.

Moreover, any fee is inappropriate, since the Government had to gather the same information, just to look into the concerns that the AODA Alliance had raised. Metrolinx, acting responsibly, should have already assembled the very same information for the Metrolinx President/CEO.

Here we go again, groaned David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, the coalition that spearheads the grassroots non-partisan campaign to make Ontario fully accessible to people with disabilities. Last fall, the Government tried charging me $2,325 to get information on whether it was enforcing the Disabilities Act. It waived that fee after it got blasted in the Legislature during Question Period, and in a Toronto Star editorial, for trying to charge for that information. Its unfair for the Government to force resort to a Freedom of Information application just to get basic answers on what the Government is doing to keep promises it made to us, and then to try to charge an unfunded disability coalition $250 to give us information that the public has a right to know.

Metrolinx President/CEO Bruce McCuaig has not taken up the AODA Alliances offer to show him the problems with a centre platform design, by together visiting examples on TTCs subway. Instead, McCuaigs September 19, 2014 letter says that blind people have a 2.5 meter path to walk alongside the edge of the platform in Eglinton line subway stations with a centre platform.

For a senior citizen getting used to recent vision loss, trying to walk right near the edge of the platform as passengers are rushing on and off the platform is hardly a safe and accessible solution for Metrolinx to offer, even if there is a tactile marking right at the platform edge, said Lepofsky. This shows why the Metrolinx President should emerge from his office and visit a couple of subway stations so we can show him what his words mean, in the real world, where we live.

The Freedom of Information application seeks such things as:

* Who within the Ontario Government took part in the decision to create these barriers to accessibility and safety, using public money?

* Who was consulted on disability accessibility and safety, before or after this decision?

* What expert advice, studies or feedback has Metrolinx received on this issue?

* What options for addressing these accessibility and safety concerns did Metrolinx consider?

* Why did Metrolinx or the Government decide to proceed with creating these barriers to accessibility and safety?

* What information does Metrolinx have has on the costs of designing these public transit stations with or without these barriers to accessibility and safety?

* Any such information that post-dates its decision to design these stations as it did.

Below we make public:

* the September 19, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance from the Metrolinx President/Chief Executive Officer, giving palpably incomplete answers to the AODA Alliances inquiries

* the October 3, 2014 letter to AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky from the Metrolinx Freedom of Information Act Coordinator, demanding $250 for answers to the Freedom of Information application

* the October 10, 2014 letter from David Lepofsky to Metrolinx, explaining why Metrolinx should waive its $250 fee to get the answers sought, and

* the AODA Alliances October 14, 2014 letter to the Metrolinx President/Chief Executive Officer again seeking complete answers on this safety/accessibility issue.

To read the Toronto Stars August 19, 2014 report on the accessibility and safety problems with design of several stations on the Eglinton Crosstown line, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08192014.asp

To watch a Toronto Star video of an interview with AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky in two TTC subway stations, one with a centre platform design and one with the safer side platform design, visit http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/08/18/planned_eglinton_lrt_platforms_dangerous_and_inaccessible_says_blind_human_rights_lawyer.html For the Global TV August 19, 2014 story on the accessibility/safety problems at several Eglinton Crosstown line subway stations, visit http://globalnews.ca/news/1516383/visually-impaired-man-questions-accessibility-of-eglinton-crosstown/ To read David Lepofskys August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application to Metrolinx, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08272014.asp

To learn more about the Wynne Governments attempt in the 2013 fall to charge AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky $2,325 to answer his earlier Freedom of Information application to learn what the Government was doing to keep its promise to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10032013.asp

To read NDP MPP Cheri DiNovos question in Question Period on October 29, 2013 on why the Government was trying to charge the AODA Alliance a hefty fee to answer his earlier Freedom of Information application on enforcement of the AODA, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10302013.asp

To read the Toronto Stars October 31, 2013 editorial, slamming the Wynne Government for trying to charge a fee to answer the AODA Alliance chairs earlier Freedom of Information application on AODA enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11052013.asp

The accessibility clock ticks on. A disturbing 334 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. This revelation came from a Freedom of Information application last year. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA’s effective enforcement. Two hundred and forty days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan “in short order.” One hundred and fifty-seven days have passed since Premier Wynne promised to establish a toll-free line for members of the public to alert the Government to accessibility barriers against people with disabilities in the community. None has been announced.

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11182013.asp

To read the Government’s February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in “short order” its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/02202014.asp

To read the Governments May 14, 2014 election promise to establish a toll-free line to report disability accessibility barriers, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

As well, 416 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games. Only 265 days remain until the 2015 Games begin. Time is running out!

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MORE DETAILS

September 19, 2014 Letter from the President of Metrolinx to the AODA Alliance

Sent by Email
david.lepofsky@gmail.com

David Lepofsky
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

RE: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

Thank you for your letter of August 11, 2014 in response to my letter of July 17, 2014.

I appreciate your concerns about the selection of centre platforms in the stations on the new Eglinton line and other future stations, and your preference for side platforms for ease of navigation by people with vision impairment.

Accessibility of our services and design have been informed by consultations with our Accessibility Advisory Committee, stakeholder organizations, members of the public through public meetings, and customers through their comments on our service. We also monitor current best practice in accessibility, particularly in the transit industry. We have not been aware of any objections to centre platforms on the basis of them being dangerous, and a number of new stations with centre platforms have been constructed in Toronto and elsewhere.

Meeting the mandatory, comfort, safety, and convenience requirements of travelers with disabilities was an important consideration in selecting the layout of the station platforms for the Eglinton line. Well-designed centre platforms have many advantages in providing a quality service, clear wayfinding, accessible vertical circulation in the station, and are widely used in transit systems throughout the world. We are not aware of evidence of safety concerns with centre platforms, as compared with side platforms, for any customers. Nor has the issue of compromised safety been raised in input from the TTCs Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, the public meetings that took place at the time, or at public meetings for other stations built in Toronto in the past. For example, the TTC Sheppard line, and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension, currently under construction, both employ centre platforms. This said, the design of the centre platforms must facilitate safe, efficient and comfortable navigation by all customers with particular attention to requirements of people with vision impairment.

The requirements for the design of the stations have been assembled with expert advice on best practice in accessible design, as well as input from our Accessible Advisory Committee, including representatives who have vision impairment. Specific provisions to assist customers with vision impairment to navigate the centre platforms will include:

2.5 m. wide unobstructed paths along platform edges, standard tactile warning strips,
enhanced lighting along platform edges, and
Tactile Walking Surface Indicator (TWSI) path along the entire length of the platform.

Detailed station design to comply with these requirements will take place in 2015 after the contract for the stations has been awarded, with input from the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Construction of the tunnels has been contracted and tunnel boring is underway, with approximately 2.5km already completed. Station alignments are of course closely aligned with tunnel alignments. We would welcome, however, your input on how to make the existing plan as accessible as possible to customers with vision impairment. We would also welcome a full discussion on your concerns with centre platforms for future consideration in the planning process for transit infrastructure, where appropriate.

In our work with our Accessibility Advisory Committee, and the TTCs experience with station design, the requirement for centre platforms has not been raised. We want to fully understand your perspective so appropriate consideration can be built into the ongoing planning process.

Please contact Eve Wyatt, Executive Technical Advisor, at (416)202-5598, or eve.wyatt@metrolinx.com to discuss any remaining items from your letter.

She is responsible for accessibility at Metrolinx and will arrange a meeting on this matter with the key individuals involved in transit infrastructure development.

Sincerely,

Bruce McCuaig
President and Chief Executive Officer

c. The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier, Province of Ontario Steven Del Duca, Minister, Ministry of Transportation
Brad Duguid, Minister, Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Carol Layton, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Transportation
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate Anthony Tibbs, President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians John Rafferty, President, Canadian National Institute for the Blind

October 3, 2014 Letter to David Lepofsky from the Metrolinx Freedom of Information Coordinator

October 3, 2013

David Lepofsky
Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

RE: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST
Fee Estimate

Further to your request for access to records under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, section 57 of the Act allows fees to be charged.

The total estimated fee for access to the requested records is $250.00. A breakdown of the fee for this request is provided below:

Search Time: 7 Hours x $30.00/hour = $210.00
Preparation Time: 40 pages requiring partial redactions x 1.5 minutes/page = $30.00 CD ROM = $10.00

As per your telephone conversation with Metrolinxs FOI Coordinator on August 22, 2014, you advised that, although the FOI process is for requesting access to existing records, you are open to receiving a written response to your questions where appropriate. This fee estimate reflects the portions of your request that will be satisfied by records and/or where you have specifically requested to receive records.

Our preliminary review of the records indicates that some of the following exemptions may apply to the records you have requested: Section 13(1) Advice to government
Section 17(1) Third party information
Section 18(1) Economic and other interests of Ontario Section 21(1) Personal privacy

This is an interim decision because the head is not yet in a position to fully determine whether and how exemptions will apply. This interim decision is not binding on the Chief Executive Officer of Metrolinx.

As per your letter dated August 21, 2014, we understand that you wish to request a waiver of all fees associated with this request. The Act provides that all or part of the fee can be waived if in our opinion it is fair and equitable to do so, if the fee will cause you a financial hardship or if dissemination of the records will benefit public health or safety.

If you feel the disclosure of the records will benefit public health and safety, please provide a detailed explanation of your reasoning.

If you feel the fee will cause you financial hardship, please provide the following documentation:
1. An income/expense statement and a balance sheet setting out your finances
2. As well, you will have to demonstrate that the payment of the fee would cause financial hardship

If you do not wish to pursue a fee waiver, your written acceptance of this fee estimate together with a deposit of $125.00 is requested prior to proceeding with the request. Please make your cheque or money order payable to Metrolinx. You will be advised of the amount of the final fee once the request is processed and actual search and preparation costs are determined. Receipt of any remaining balance will be required prior to disclosure of the records.

This file will be placed on hold pending additional information to support your fee waiver request or payment of the deposit.

You may appeal this fee estimate with the Information and Privacy Commissioner located at 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1A8, Telephone: (416) 326-3333 or toll free 1-800-387-0073. In the event that you wish to do so, please provide the Commissioner’s office with the following within 30 days from receipt of this letter:
1) An appeal fee in the form of either a cheque or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance in the amount of $10.00 if your request was for your personal information or $25.00 for all other requests for information. Please include the fee with your letter of appeal. 2) The file number listed at the beginning of this letter. 3) A copy of this letter.
4) A copy of the original request for information.

Should you wish to revise your request as a result of this fee estimate, I would be happy to assist.

I trust this is satisfactory. If you have any further questions please contact me, the undersigned, by telephone at 416-202-5518, or email at Christina.MacDonaldRuder@Metrolinx.com.

Sincerely,

Christina MacDonald Ruder
Freedom of Information Coordinator

David Lepofskys October 10, Letter to the Metrolinx Freedom of Information Coordinator

October 10, 2014

Via Email: Christina.Ruder@metrolinx.com

Christina Macdonald Ruder
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Coordinator Metrolinx
97 Front Street West,
Toronto Ontario M5J 1E6

Dear Metrolinx,

Re: Freedom of Information Application dated August 22, 2014

I write in response to your October 3, 2014 letter, which requires me to pay $250 to the Ontario Government to get answers to my August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application regarding the subway platform design of stations on the Eglinton subway line. May I ask for an immediate response to the following:

1. As explained in my August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application, I am aware that certain of my requests could be answered more quickly and with very little time or effort. In my August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application, I stated:

Please provide any requested information as soon as available. In other words, please do not hold back all requested information until it is all assembled. If some information can be quickly provided, while other requested information may take longer, please provide the immediately available information as soon as possible, and do not hold it back until all other requested information is sought and obtained.

If some requested information would require extensive efforts to collect and provide, please contact me. I am open to adjusting, clarifying or refining the request for information to reduce the time and cost to the Government of complying with this request, so long as I can obtain the substance of the information I am seeking.

To the contrary effect, your October 3, 2014 email implies an unfair all or nothing arrangement. I must either agree to pay $250, or I can get access to none of this information.

May I ask you to immediately identify any of the requested information that can be easily provided with little if any search time, and hence, no cost. I request that any such information immediately be provided to me.

2. In any event, I wish to ask the Ministry to waive the fee for any and all of the items requested. Please also forward this request directly to the President of Metrolinx, who I gather decides on fee waivers. I ask that a decision on this fee waiver request be made as quickly as possible. If this request is refused, I request written reasons for that refusal.

I request that the fee be waived for the following reasons:

a) I make the request for information under the Freedom of Information Act as a matter of public interest. I am the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, a volunteer position with a volunteer coalition. Our coalition is a non-partisan, non-profit community coalition that advocates for the effective implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005.

I hope and trust that the Government, including Metrolinx, is sufficiently familiar with my public interest activity, and that of the AODA Alliance, in the area of disability accessibility, to lay to rest any question of whether this is a public interest application. If Metrolinx has any doubt about this, or questions whether a genuine public interest motivation underlies this Freedom of Information application, please let me know, and tell me what further I can provide.

I made this request for information in good faith. The search fee should not become an unfair barrier to access to information for such a community group or for people with disabilities generally. The AODA Alliance has been recognized by all parties in the Ontario Legislature as a leading voice advocating for accessibility for people with disabilities in Ontario. As one illustration of this, each of the political parties has made their election commitments on disability accessibility in the form of letters to the AODA Alliance in the 2007, 2011 and 2014 Ontario elections.

b) My Freedom of Information application concerns information on whether the Government is honouring or violating clear promises on disability accessibility. To build new subway stations with accessibility and safety problems for any people with disabilities runs contrary to the law, and to several Government promises.

Premier Kathleen Wynne promised Ontarians with disabilities that public funds would not be used to create or perpetuate barriers against people with disabilities. This promise is set out in Premier Wynnes May 14, 2014 letter to me, in my capacity as chair of the AODA Alliance. That letter states:

“We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Our current mandate fully supports responsible governance and we will continue to pursue objectives that align with this belief.”

As well, in his August 19, 2011 letter to me in my capacity as chair of the AODA Alliance, Premier McGuinty promised in the 2011 election that accessibility would be integrated as a fundamental consideration into vital Government decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians. In that letter, Premier McGuinty pledged:

We are integrating accessibility as a fundamental principle when it comes to making vital decisions that affect the daily lives of Ontarians.

Last year, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, Dr. Eric Hoskins, announced in the Ontario Legislature on May 28, 2013, that accessibility for people with disabilities is a top priority for the Government. He was then the minister with lead responsibility for enforcing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

In a free and democratic society, the Government should not charge a fee of $250 to get access to public information that directly bears on promises the Government made, especially when that fee is to be charged to the very person to whom those election promises were made. To charge such a fee flies in the face of the Governments commitment, echoed in Premier Wynnes September 25, 2014 Mandate Letter to the Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca (to whom Metrolinx reports) to make Ontario the most open government in Canada. In that Mandate Letter, Premier Wynne stated:

We want to be the most open and transparent government in the country. We want to be a government that works for the people of this province and with them. It is of the utmost importance that we lead responsibly, act with integrity, manage spending wisely and are accountable for every action we take.

Premier Wynne’s May 14, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance, setting out the Government’s 2014 accessibility election pledges, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06132014.asp

Premier McGuintys August 19, 2011 letter, setting out the Governments 2011 election pledges on disability accessibility, is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/090220111.asp

To see Minister Hoskinss declaration that accessibility for people with disabilities is a top priority for the Government, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05292013.asp

Premier Wynnes September 25, 2014 Mandate Letter to the Minister of Transportation is available at: http://www.ontario.ca/government/mandate-letters

c) Your October 3, 2014 letter says that a fee waiver can be granted if, among other things, dissemination of the records will benefit public health or safety. This Freedom of Information application relates to a serious concerned we have raised with Metrolinx about the safety and accessibility of the design which Metrolinx is using for subway platforms on the Eglinton subway line.

d) Your October 3, 2014 letter also states that to support this fee waiver on financial hardship grounds, An income/expense statement and a balance sheet setting out your finances must be given to the Government. It is rather ironic that the Government would ask for such intrusive disclosures, in order for the Government to honour a law that is aimed at protecting freedom of public information and individual privacy.

The AODA Alliance is an unincorporated, volunteer community coalition. We have absolutely no money. We have no real or personal property. We have no bank accounts. We charge no membership fees. Because we are unincorporated, we have no corporate documentation. We have no financial statements to provide.

Metrolinx should not need financial statements or records to support what I have told you about this Freedom of Information application. We have had a very extensive working relationship for years with the Ontario Government at all levels. The Government and opposition parties have each made election commitments to us over the years, and have praised our efforts in support of accessibility for people with disabilities. You are strongly encouraged to speak with the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario to get any information you might need, to assess my request for a fee waiver. The Directorate can quickly and easily give you this information about me and the AODA Alliance. You can also learn all about us by visiting www.aodalliance.org

e) Last fall, the Government initially tried charging me a substantial fee of $2,325 to fulfil a Freedom of Information application for information concerning another Government promise, namely its pledge to effectively enforce the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. That Freedom of Information application was directed to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Last year I requested a fee waiver on the same grounds as are set out here.

After a question in the Ontario legislature during Question Period and an editorial in the October 30, 2013 Toronto Star, slamming the Government for attempting to impose that fee, the Government chose to waive the fee. My request of Metrolinx for a similar fee waiver is as compelling as was the case one year ago.

Here is the Toronto Stars October 30, 2013 editorial:

The government is refusing to give details on the success or failure of accessibility standards for the disabled.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised “open and transparent.” Now’s her chance to fulfill that promise.

Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised an open and transparent government more times than its possible to count. So its particularly perplexing that Ontarios Ministry of Economic Development has refused to give a volunteer group for the disabled important information on hard-won rights for equality. Theyre looking for details on the compliance and enforcement of the provinces standards for accessibility in private businesses and organizations. In other words, the very information that would prove whether the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is actually working or not.

The governments response so far isnt anywhere close to open and transparent. Thats a shame. Wynne must prove her promises of accountability are principled and not just empty words. The information should be provided as soon as possible, for the benefit of all Ontarians who are disabled. The public should not be kept in the dark about the successes or failures of the law.

Since the roll-out of the new rules wont be completed until 2025, its especially important to keep a close watch on the system. Problems like lack of compliance and enforcement should be fixed as soon as possible. If the act fails to embrace the needs of the disabled in everyday life something as simple reaching an office in a wheelchair then whats the point of moving forward with new rules that dont work?

The obfuscation began in January when David Lepofsky, chair of the volunteer group Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, asked the ministry for information that would determine if the new standards were having any effect. Lepofsky, who is blind, wanted to know how businesses had to file the new online compliance reports; how many actually did file; and what, if any, enforcement action, including hefty fines, was taken against those not following the new rules. They made a fundamental commitment to us and we want to know what theyre doing about it, Lepofsky says. Its a reasonable request for accountability.

Companies with 20 or more employees are among those that are now supposed to fill out these online reports. They must state whether they comply with the acts accessibility standards, which focus on areas like employment, transportation and customer service. One question, for example, asks if service dogs are allowed on the premises. The ministrys response was unfortunate. Lepofsky said he received no response despite months of requests for the electronic data. He gave up in August and filed a freedom of information request. Instead of getting the files, he received a letter informing him of a $2,325 charge to process his request an impossible amount for his small volunteer group to pay.

On Tuesday, NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo asked about the request in the legislature and received a similarly opaque answer from Economic Development Minister Eric Hoskins, who said a five-year routine review of the act is underway. Unfortunately, that response doesnt meet the premiers new transparency standards. As DiNovo says, Its egregious that no one knows whether the law is being enforced. Shes right.

Since DiNovo raised the issue, the government has offered to lower the freedom of information processing fee. That may be well-intentioned but its an insignificant development, to say the least. Ontarians have a right to scrutinize the implementation of important standards that on paper support the basic rights of so many. Its a sad statement that a government that uses transparency as a slogan wont allow disabled citizens to see whether theres any truth to the acts promise for change.

To see the exchange in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 2013 during Question Period to which this editorial refers, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10302013.asp

3. The $250 fee seems excessive. You propose to charge $10 for a CD-ROM. These cost pennies. Last year the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment gave me requested materials on USB memory sticks at no charge.

It should not take the proposed search time to find the material requested. No doubt the President of Metrolinx has already requested similar information, to respond to our inquiries about the same issues. Moreover, the letters to us from the President of Metrolinx offer conclusions that would have required him and his staff to have made the kinds of inquiries that are the focus of my August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application. I should not be facing a fee for searches that should already have been done.

4. Your October 3, 2014 letter proposes that Metrolinx may attempt to invoke exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act, to block disclosure of some unspecified information that is here sought. You wrote:

Our preliminary review of the records indicates that some of the following exemptions may apply to the records you have requested: Section 13(1) Advice to government
Section 17(1) Third party information
Section 18(1) Economic and other interests of Ontario Section 21(1) Personal privacy

I must object to any such exemption claims. The Government is not obliged to refuse disclosure even when exceptions like these might apply. To invoke them in these circumstances would fly in the face of Premier Wynnes strong directions to each Cabinet minister, including the Minister of Transportation, about her pledge to make the Government the most open government in Canada.

Moreover, these exemptions dont fit. The Government of Ontario does not have any valid economic interests in designing subway station platforms in a way that lacks proper accessibility and public safety. To the contrary, the Government has over and over said that accessibility is good for Ontarios economy.

As for privacy interests, the Government has made public statements, including in letters to the AODA Alliance, about its consultations on subway station accessibility. As such, it has opened the door publicly to my requests for further information about them. In any event, typically, when the Government holds consultations, it makes it clear to participants that they are subject to disclosure under Ontarios Freedom of Information legislation.

As for the exemption regarding advice to Government, last year the Government opted to disclose information on the enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act that included advice to Government. There is no reason why it should not do so here.

As for third party information, to the extent that this is not already covered by my earlier comments, the Government can seek authority from third parties to disclose such information. If those include public sector organizations such as the Toronto Transit Commission, they too are subject to Freedom of Information obligations and cannot hide behind provincial privacy exemptions.

5. Your October 3, 2014 letter to me states:

Should you wish to revise your request as a result of this fee estimate, I would be happy to assist.

My August 22, 2014 letter, setting out my Freedom of Information application, offered to provide clarifications if they would facilitate my application, without impairing my goals. I regret that Metrolinx has not taken me up on that offer in the period of almost two months since then. I am happy to do so, on your request, if that will help move this along. Just contact me to discuss what might assist.

Please confirm that you received this email, and let me know how soon I can get a response.

Sincerely,
David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, email sdelduca.mpp@liberal.ola.org Carol Layton, Deputy Minister of Transportation, email carol.layton@ontario.ca
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure, email Brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, email giles.gherson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email ann.hoy@ontario.ca

AODA Alliances October 14, 2014 Letter to the President of Metrolinx

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

October 14, 2014

Via email: ceo@metrolinx.com

To: Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO
Metrolinx
97 Front Street West,
Toronto, ON M5J 1E6

Dear Sir,

Re: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

Thank you for your September 19, 2014 letter regarding the request that any new public transit stations, including passenger platforms, be designed to ensure full accessibility and passenger safety. We regret that you have still not answered many if not most of our key questions.

Our June 18 and August 11, 2014 letters to you explained that in any subway, light rapid transit or train stations, there are two options for platforms. By the first option, the “centre platform” option, there is one passenger platform, in the middle of the station. On either side of the platform are tracks. There is no wall along the length of the platform.

By the second option, the “side platform” option, the tracks are in the centre of the station. There are two passenger platforms. One is on each side of the tracks. Each platform has a wall running the length of the platform, on the side of the platform opposite the tracks.

The centre platform option is harder and riskier for people with vision loss to navigate, if the edge of the platform is open and unprotected. Even when the platform floor is marked with tactile walking surface indicators, including near the edge, this presents a significant challenge for safe navigation by people with vision loss.

Where the side platforms design is used, a person with vision loss can trail along a wall, a safe distance from the platform’s edge. They can safely approach a train, after squaring off against that wall.

Our June 18 and August 11, 2014 letters to you asked for a clear assurance that all stations under construction, or to be built in the future, will only use the side platforms option. Your July 17 and September 19, 2014 letters do not give that commitment. You have still not agreed to hold off further construction on the Eglinton subway line, pending resolving the disability accessibility and safety issue we have raised. You have also not responded by presenting any other fully safe and accessible option for addressing this issue.

You have still not provided a full explanation of your reasons for incorporating a problematic design for the platforms in several stations on the Eglinton line. In the face of the concerns on this issue that we have publicly raised, Metrolinx has claimed that its subway design is safe and accessible, and that Metrolinx consulted on this design. Yet you have not answered our request to know all of those with whom you have consulted, and what you were told.

You have not told us who made the decision on this issue in the first place. You have not accepted our offer to show you in person why this is a serious concern. You have also not explained what options Metrolinx has considered to address this accessibility and safety concern.

You have said that you cannot make any changes to address this concern, due to some unidentified procurement documents. Yet you have not revealed what procurement documents these are, or how it is that you think Metrolinx can unilaterally contract out of its accessibility obligations under the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

You told us that Metrolinx is now investigating and developing accessibility guidelines for public transit stations. You have not explained why Metrolinx is developing these guidelines only after and not before it designed the Eglinton lines stations. This is an extremely inappropriate approach to the use of huge sums of public money.

It is evident from your July 17 and September 19, 2014 letters to us that you are only open to consider our concerns in relation to future public transit projects, after the Eglinton subway line, but not including the Eglinton line.

Your September 19, 2014 letter states

“The requirements for the design of the stations have been assembled with expert advice on best practice in accessible design, as well as input from our Accessible Advisory Committee, including representatives who have vision impairment.”

We again ask whom you consulted, and what they told you. What were they asked, if anything, about the choice of either a centre platform design or side platform design for transit stations, and about any other options, beyond tactile walking surface indicators, for protecting passengers (including passengers with disabilities) in relation to the edge of the platform?

In your September 19, 2014 letter to us, you list the following features that Metrolinx has included in the design of the station platforms on the Eglinton line:

2.5 m. wide unobstructed paths along platform edges, standard tactile warning strips,
enhanced lighting along platform edges, and
Tactile Walking Surface Indicator (TWSI) path along the entire length of the platform.

This is no solution. By your approach, a person with vision loss, such as a blind person using a white cane, could well have to walk along or right near the platform edge, if they need to navigate the length of a centre platform through a station. On the TTC, passengers have been warned to keep well back from the platform edge. This is of course to protect their personal safety, and to avoid the risk of someone pushing them over the edge. As well, during rush hour, crowds rushing on and off a subway increase the challenges of trying to walk that route.

Your September 19, 2014 letter seems to rely, in your defence, on the fact that TTC has used a centre platform design on the Sheppard line and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension. Yet, two wrongs dont make a right. TTC did not consult with us on those station designs.

Moreover, Metrolinx is ill-advised to use TTC as a model of transit accessibility for passengers with disabilities. TTC recently purchased new subway cars that dont safely align with all station platforms. This presents a safety risk for passengers using wheelchairs. As well, TTC spent some $450,000 on lawyers in its unsuccessful effort to oppose reliably announcing all subway, bus and streetcar stops for the benefit of passengers with vision loss. This should give Metrolinx pause, before holding TTC out as an exemplar of accessibility for Metrolinx to emulate.

Your September 19, 2014 letter states:

Detailed station design to comply with these requirements will take place in 2015 after the contract for the stations has been awarded, with input from the Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Construction of the tunnels has been contracted and tunnel boring is underway, with approximately 2.5km already completed. Station alignments are of course closely aligned with tunnel alignments.

This makes it clear that construction has not yet even started on any Eglinton line subway stations. That means it is certainly not too late for Metrolinx to find a solution.

Your September 19, 2014 letter states that Metrolinx was not aware that a centre platform design presents more of an accessibility and safety problem for passengers with disabilities than a station using a side platform design. Important additional questions arise from this.

First, if Metrolinx only learned of this concern for the first time when we wrote you on June 18, 2014, what steps has Metrolinx taken since then to investigate possible solutions for the Eglinton subway line and any other mass transit lines that are now under construction. If Metrolinx is reluctant to switch to a side platform design, what other additional measures has it explored? With what results? When an organization like Metrolinx learns of an accessibility need of which it claims to have earlier been unaware, it has a duty to investigate a solution.

Second, if you did not learn of such an accessibility and safety concern during Metrolinxs earlier consultations on station design, this calls into question the sufficiency and effectiveness of your prior accessibility and safety consultations. I can tell you that as a resident who lives near the Eglinton subway line, I received an automated invitation to take part in a telephone town hall some weeks ago that Metrolinx was in the midst of conducting on the entire project. I asked a question over the phone on accessibility, but when I tried to ask a follow-up question that focused on the specific issue of the platform design, the organizers cut me off. It seemed that no follow-up questions were being allowed.

Third, if this issue comes to you as news, why have you not taken up our offer to be personally shown the dimensions of this problem, before your evidently having decided not to take any new corrective action to address it on the Eglinton line? In our June 18, 2014 letter to you, we offered to personally show you the problem using examples on TTC.

We appreciate your offer for us to contact Metrolinx officials to give our input into future subway station design. However, that invitation does not indicate that you are open to reconsider your plans for any Eglinton stations to address this issue.

To that end, it is important for us to deal directly with you, as the Metrolinx president and chief executive officer. We would expect that the Metrolinx president and chief executive officer, and not a Metrolinx Executive Technical Advisor, has the authority to take the corrective actions we seek. Moreover, as the senior public official where the buck stops at Metrolinx, we hope you would want to quickly ensure that this unmet accessibility/safety issue in the Eglinton subway line is properly and effectively addressed, and to find out how such a major design problem occurred.

Please reconsider this accessibility and safety issue. Please use only a side platform design in all stations. If you are reluctant to do this, please find an equally effective alternative for ensuring safety and accessibility.

It remains important for us to receive an immediate, direct and authoritative response from you on all these important issues. It should not be necessary for an individual to resort to a Freedom of Information application, to unearth answers to such basic questions. Metrolinx should not try to charge $250 to get answers. This is especially so since Premier Wynne has directed the Minister of Transportation and all other Cabinet Ministers in her September 25, 2014 Mandate Letters that this Government aims to be the most open government in Canada.

May we please meet with you in person as soon as possible to demonstrate to you in person the concerns with subway station platform design, and to discuss solutions to these concerns?

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.,
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc: Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, email sdelduca.mpp@liberal.ola.org Carol Layton, Deputy Minister of Transportation, email carol.layton@ontario.ca
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure, email Brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Giles Gherson, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, email giles.gherson@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Anthony Tibbs, President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians email tibbs@blindcanadians.ca
John Rafferty, President, Canadian National Institute for the Blind email john.rafferty@CNIB.ca Eve Wyatt, Metrolinx Executive Technical Advisor, email eve.wyatt@metrolinx.com