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Mcguinty Government Uses Public Tax Dollars to Develop Public Transit Smart Cards with Barriers Against People With Disabilities

June 21, 2010

SUMMARY

We want to bring to your attention a very troubling example that shows the need for the Ontario Government to develop a new, concerted policy, procedure and practice to ensure that it does not use public funds to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with disabilities in goods, services
or facilities. This is also a compelling case showing why the forthcoming Information and Communication Accessibility Standard, which the Government is
still developing, must effectively set strong accessibility requirements for electronic kiosks.

On November 30, 2009, CBC Radio Toronto’s Metro Morning program aired an interview with an official of Metrolinx, an Ontario Government agency that leads strategy for public transit in the Greater Toronto area. The official proudly announced a new smart card that they are testing out on Toronto-area public transit services. The smart card is being developed by Presto System, an organization that is part of the Ontario Government.
This smart card system  would let passengers load money on the smart card and then use it to pay transit fares on various public transit systems.

We inquired what steps Metrolinx is taking to ensure that this new technology is fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We set out the entire chain of emails on this between November 30, 2009 and the present which AODA chair David Lepofsky has had, with the exception of a few emails that dealt with
setting up a March 8, 2010 conference call on this topic. The initial exchanges are with Metrolinx. The latter exchanges are with the Presto System, to whom Metrolinx referred us.

In summary, we were given initial commitments that this project, in which the Ontario Government is deeply involved, was dedicated to ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities. We were told that the project had consulted with persons with disabilities to address this.

Nevertheless, once we got the key officials on the phone to discuss this project on March 8, 2010, we quickly discovered through a few questions that the technology which has been custom-designed and developed, with deep involvement of the Ontario Government and using public money, in fact has barriers impeding
persons with disabilities. The full story is set out below. The details of that conference call were confirmed in a March 9, 2010 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to the Presto System, the government-funded organization that is developing this smart card technology. You will also see that the
response to our pointing these barriers out was delayed, unhelpful and rather nebulous.

We urge the Ontario Government at the highest levels to intervene in this project immediately to stop the creation of new barriers, with the use of taxpayers’ money. Once inaccessible new technology is purchased and installed, it will cost more to retrofit it after the fact to make it accessible.

We have called on the Ontario Government to establish a concerted policy to address this issue more generally. The Government has not yet done so. The Report of the Charles beer Independent Review of the AODA refers to this lost opportunity for the Government to promote accessibility. You can read the Beer Report
at:
http://www.aoda.ca/?page_id=468

You can read the AODA Alliance’s analysis of the Beer Report at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/06032010.asp

You can see efforts we have been making to ensure that Government tax money is not used to create, perpetuate or exacerbate barriers against persons with
disabilities, at:
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/07082009.asp
  and 
http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/12162009.asp

We have called on the Presto System to answer our as-yet unanswered questions, and to stop deployment of its smart card technology until our accessibility concerns have been fully addressed. We note that it is not enough for the Government, Presto System and Metrolinx to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (which has no standards in this area as of now). They must comply with the accessibility requirements of the Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

We welcome your feedback. Write to us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com
        
*****

November 30, 2009

Email from David Lepofsky to Metrolinx

November 30, 2009

Via Email; Leslie.Woo@metrolinx.com

To: Leslie Woo, General Manager

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING AND POLICY

9th Floor, Suite 901

20 Bay Street, Toronto ON M5J 2N8

Dear Ms. Woo,

I am the Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. I heard your interview on Metro Morning this morning regarding the testing of a new smart card system for Metrolinx fare payments.

I am very interested to know what features are included in the electronic kiosk technology that you are testing to enable people with various disabilities to use them, including people with vision loss, people with dyslexia, people with mobility and motor limitations, and other disabilities that would need accommodation. For example, how does one know how much money is left on one’s smart card, if one cannot read print information on a screen?

I look forward to hearing from you.

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.

Chair AODA Alliance

Visit
http://www.aodaalliance.org
        
*****

November 30, 2009

Email from Metrolinx to David Lepofsky

David – thank you for your inquiry, as is to be expected the Presto program will meet all the requirements of the AODA.

That being said I will have some details to you shortly.

Lw

Leslie Woo

Vice President

Policy and Planning

Metrolinx

20 Bay Street, 19th Floor

Toronto, Ontario Canada

416 874 5943

“Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.” Bertolt Brecht

Sent from my BlackBerry

November 30, 2009

Email from David Lepofsky to Metrolinx

Thanks for your response. Regrettably, the AODA does not yet impose any requirements on electronic kiosks. Of course, the Human Rights Code does require accessibility of goods, services and facilities. I am eager to hear any specifics of what is included in the technology you are testing out Again thanks
for the fast reply, and I look forward to your fuller response when you have it.
        
*****

December 2, 2009

Email from Presto System to David Lepofsky

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

Thank you for your interest in the PRESTO System. Your email was forwarded to me by Leslie Woo of Metrolinx.

PRESTO is committed to ensuring e-fare system services and operations are aligned with and adhere to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 and the follow-up
legislation “Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005” by assisting customers with disabilities in a way that maintains their dignity and demonstrates PRESTO’s respect for them.

PRESTO has established an ad hoc external ‘advisory’ committee to assist in ensuring the PRESTO System is accessible to persons with disabilities. The committee is made up of representatives from Municipal/Regional Transit Agencies who are directly involved in accessibility issues (e.g. Para Transit) as well as
individuals representing various accessibility organizations. The American Sign Language instructional videos on the PRESTO website are one result of some
of the feedback received from the advisory group. These representatives have provided valuable input as the system was being designed and tested, and now
that the system is operational, we will be looking to the committee to provide feedback in real life situations.

We have laid out measures to accommodate various disabilities within this stage of PRESTO and we have a five-year plan going forward to extend PRESTO accessibility
in subsequent stages. The PRESTO program approach is designed to allow transit customers with disabilities to be self-reliant and able to use the transit e-fare payment system at their own convenience with independence and dignity. With regards to your question, ‘how does one know how much money is left on their fare card if they cannot read print information on a screen’, PRESTO provides multiple channels for customers to load their card and check the balance. In addition to the devices, customers may check their balances online through the PRESTO website, via telephone through the Call Centre and in-person
at Customer Service Outlets.

PRESTO and its partner transit systems are committed to serving all transit customers with convenience and dignity.

Sincerely,

Ernie Wallace

Executive Project Director

PRESTO System

December 22, 2009 Email from David Lepofsky to Presto system

December 22, 2009

Via Email

Dear Mr. Wallace,

Thank you for your December 2, 2009 email about the accessibility issues we have raised for persons with disabilities using the new PRESTO “Smart Card”
system being tested out for MetroLinx.

We are eager to obtain more specifics about the accessibility features now designed into the system for users with various physical, mental and sensory disabilities. We are eager to ensure that full universal design principles are used from the very start of the design of this system. Could you therefore
please let me know what specific design features for this technology, including the card, the kiosks to be used with it, and the website or other interfaces you are testing, have been included to ensure their full and independent use by passengers with physical, mental and/or sensory disabilities.

Your email conveys the impression that some accessibility features may not be designed into the system yet, and that you may be contemplating adding these later. Is this so? If so, what accessibility features are you deferring from incorporation into the system now? Also, if so, why is this being deferred
until later?

Your email notes that you intend for the system to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We want to ensure that it is also designed from the very outset to fully comply with the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter
of Rights. Since no accessibility standards have yet been enacted addressing this technology under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it is insufficient to simply aim to meet the requirements under those laws.

It would be helpful to know with whom you are consulting on the disability accessibility needs for this system. Finally, we are very interested to learn what steps are being attempted now, as part of the testing of this technology, to assess its usability by passengers with disabilities.

I look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont,

Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
        
****

March 1, 2010

Email from Presto System to David Lepofsky

Good afternoon Mr. Lepofsky,

I’m following up from my voice mail of January 25, left on your office phone, inviting you to meet with the PRESTO team to discuss the project further. The purpose of my e-mail today is to extend the invitation to you in writing. We’d be happy to meet at your office, or in the PRESTO offices. If you have
any questions, or would like to book a time, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you

Suzanne Adamkowski

Manager, Client Relations

647-789-0320 ext. 5122

suzanne.adamkowski@prestocard.ca

PRESTO System Project

130 Adelaide St. West, 15th Fl.

Toronto, ON M5H 3P5

Tel: 647-789-0320

Fax: 647-789-0321

www.prestocard.ca

March 4, 2010

Email from David Lepofsky to Presto system

Thank you for your email, and your earlier voice mail. I am sorry I had not been able to respond sooner. I would be delighted to chat. It would be easiest if we did it on the phone. However, in advance we are eager to receive the information earlier requested. E.g. what specific features are included in the
Smart Card technology and related electronic kiosks to ensure that persons with disabilities can fully and independently use them. I attach the text of
earlier inquiries so you will see what specifics we are requesting.

Could you please email me that specific information, and we can set up a  time to chat on the phone.

March 5, 2010

Email from Presto Project to David Lepofsky

Good Morning Mr. Lepofsky

I had suggested we chat because it will give us the opportunity to provide a context for PRESTO, the roles and responsibilities of participants and approach to accessibility and answer your related questions. If necessary we can then follow up with technical details. Mr. Wallace, the Executive Project Director,
will also join the call.

Shall I arrange for a time with your assistant?

Thank you

Suzanne Adamkowski

March 9, 2010

Email from AODA Alliance to Presto system

To: Ernie Wallace

Executive Project Director

PRESTO System

Dear Sir,

Thank you for speaking on March 8, 2010 about the new Smart Card technology that has been developed for use by public transit authorities in Ontario. You told us that the Presto Project, mandated to develop this technology, of which you are the Director, is a project of the Ontario Government and that it
is directly accountable to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. It is part of the Ontario Government, not a private company. The technology you are bringing forward is funded by the Ontario Government and the Ontario-based public transit authorities that will use it e.g. GO Transit.

As it was explained to us, a consumer will load funds onto the Smart Card either at a point of sale staffed by a human, or via the internet. They will use the Smart Card to pay fares on transit authorities that are using this system.

At present, you said there is no self-serve kiosk developed for putting funds on the Smart Card. You said that developing such self-serve kiosks is part of the future plan, and that disability accessibility would be considered in the design of that technology.

In our discussion, we identified three accessibility issues that arise from the technology that you have developed to date. The first and most troubling is this: You advised that card-readers have been designed and manufactured, and are being deployed, which would enable a passenger to check their card
balance. You also indicated that the information will be displayed on a screen. There is no alternative interface for those who cannot read the screen e.g. due to vision loss or dyslexia.

You confirmed that this was not “off-the-shelf” technology. It was custom-designed to order. We respectfully suggest that that order could have included accessibility features to overcome that barrier. Audio interfaces for such technology have existed for quite some time. They can be found, for example,
on many ATM bank machines.

You indicated that to check the balance on one’s Smart Card, passengers also have the option of lining up for a customer service representative, or checking
the internet, or phoning an automated help system. Those options may be helpful. However, your system nevertheless is not designed to be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. Sighted passengers who can read the card-readers’ screen need not find a pay phone, or try to get a cell phone connection
(if they have a cell phone) or line up for a customer service representative, nor own a computer with internet access, in order to conveniently check their card balance. If those options were sufficient, Ontario would not be spending public funds on card-reader machines.

For the Ontario Government to be involved in the funding and/or design of this new, inaccessible card-reader technology is for it to erect new barriers against persons with disabilities. This flies in the face of the Government’s commitments on achieving full accessibility.

In your December 2, 2009 email to me, you stated: “PRESTO is committed to ensuring e-fare system services and operations are aligned with and adhere to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 and the follow-up legislation “Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), 2005″ by assisting customers with disabilities
in a way that maintains their dignity and demonstrates PRESTO’s respect for them.” Section 5 of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 requires:

“5. In deciding to purchase goods or services through the procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the public, the Government of Ontario shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities to the goods or services.”

In that same email you stated: “We have laid out measures to accommodate various disabilities within this stage of PRESTO and we have a five-year plan going
forward to extend PRESTO accessibility in subsequent stages. The PRESTO program approach is designed to allow transit customers with disabilities to be self-reliant and able to use the transit e-fare payment system at their own convenience with independence and dignity.” This barrier in the card-reader
technology appears to be inconsistent with the independence, dignity and self-reliance about which you wrote.

The second accessibility issue identified concerns your internet site. You indicated that it is designed to meet the disability accessibility requirements of the World Wide Web Consortium’s WCAG 1.0. We asked that it be brought up to WCAG 2.0 Level AA. You said you would look into this. We see no reason why
this website cannot meet those contemporary accessibility standards.

The third issue we identified concerns the feedback that a passenger receives when they use their Smart Card to get admission to a transit system. You advised that one would go through a turnstile and get feedback on a screen confirming payment. There would also be an audible tone.

You said there were two possible tones that could sound. The first is akin to a green light if the card successfully paid for the ride. The second is a
negative or red light message, if the card cannot pay for the ride.

When we spoke, I noted two concerns with this. First, there is a need for a third tone, akin to a yellow light. It would be needed to warn the passenger
that they must put more money on the card or else they will not be able to take another ride after the current one which the Smart Card account can cover.
You said you would look into this.

We noted that it would be helpful for the system to also make an automated verbal announcement for the benefit of those passengers who do not know the meaning
of the tones. This is especially important if there are three possible tones that could be sounded. You expressed concerns for passenger privacy. Yet if
the public can hear one of the tones that are sounded, that privacy is already lost.

We would appreciate hearing back from you on the issues raised here, and on the measures you said you could consider. We also would like to know how it
is that the card-readers were approved and funded without ensuring their full accessibility. Who is responsible for that decision? We are especially concerned
since, as you noted, this technology is already designed, manufactured, and in the process of being deployed, at public expense.

We also believe that before you design electronic self-serve kiosks, it is important for you to consult far more broadly with the disability community on
your design options. We understand from you that you did some disability-related consulting to that end on the system to date. It is evident from our discussion
that those consultations to date did not bring to light the serious concerns that we were able to identify in very short order.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont,

Chair

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

CC: Leslie Woo

Vice President

Policy and Planning

Metrolinx

20 Bay Street, 19th Floor

Toronto, Ontario

Canada

*****

June 3, 2010 Email from Presto System to David Lepofsky

Thank you for your email of March 9 regarding the PRESTO System Project. I apologize for the tardy delay in acknowledging your interest and input.

I appreciated your time and advice as we continue our journey of improvement. As I outlined in our conversation, PRESTO has taken a proactive approach to
providing accessibility in the design and implementation of the PRESTO System. We have and will continue to consult widely as we design and upgrade our
infrastructure, web sites and systems. The PRESTO program approach is designed to allow transit customers with disabilities to be self-reliant and able
to use the transit e-fare payment system at their own convenience with independence and dignity.

PRESTO has made significant progress to ensure the overall usability of the e-fare system for persons with disabilities. However, further work is still
to be completed to enhance the accessibility of the system. To this end, PRESTO is committed to continued improvement to it’s e-fare payment system so
fare payment is accessible and inclusive for all Ontarians and visitors to the province (including persons with disabilities). We are carefully monitoring
new standards, regulations and legislation as it becomes available and incorporating it, as appropriate, into our Accessibility Framework and development
and design processes. PRESTO is only one aspect of the delivery of accessible public transit and we are working with all the Transit Authorities who are
our clients to that end.

I will be pleased to brief you at some time in the future on the PRESTO program as it moves forward to completing the initial deployments in 2011

Ernie Wallace

Executive Director

PRESTO

130 Adelaide St West

Suite 1500

Toronto, Ont M5H 3P5

PH 647-789-0320 Ext 5112

FAX 647-789-0321        

*****

To: Ernie Wallace, Executive Project Director PRESTO System

From: David Lepofsky

Date: June 18, 2010

Thank you for your June 3, 2010 email to me. I regret that in it, you do not answer any of the specific questions in our March 9, 21010 email to you. You
have had ample time to address those specific questions.

May I ask that you answer those questions. May I also ask that Presto’s smart card technology not be deployed until the accessibility issues we have raised
have been fully addressed.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont

Chair, AODA Alliance