Sep 07, 2018
by Allan Benner
The St. Catharines Standard
Lawyer David Lepofsky says local changes fly in the face of the purpose behind the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
A Toronto lawyer specializing in accessibility issues says abrupt changes to Niagara specialized transit services that have negatively impacted passengers during the past few weeks, fly in the face of the purpose behind the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
Although Niagara Region issued a media release Wednesday saying the changes do not contravene the legislation, David Lepofsky, chair of the AODA Alliance, said: “It violates what the law is there for.”
Lepofsky said the legislation “requires Ontario to become totally accessible by 2025 for people with disabilities, and it requires the government to lead us there.”
But the changes to Niagara’s specialized transit service are “not working towards greater accessibility, this is working against it,” he added.
Lepofsky, a visually impaired lawyer who more than a decade ago successfully led a legal challenged that forced Toronto transit to announce bus stops, said he couldn’t comment specifically on the details of the service changes, because the alliance has yet to investigate.
However, he said legislation overseeing accessible transit services need to have more teeth to address similar issues.
“The first problem is the regulations under the accessibility act are too weak. The second problem is even when they are adequate on paper, they’ve never been properly enforced.”
For instance, he said Ontario’s Transportation Accessibility Standard falls short of providing equal doesn’t even require para-transit providers “to have enough vehicles to actually serve you.”
Compared to typical transit services, he said standards for specialized transit are “ridiculous.”
“It’s total second-class status,” Lepofsky said.
And that, he added, is contrary to the Charter of Rights and the Ontario Human Rights Code, which both guarantee equality in services that the government provides including public transit.
“Equality is equality,” he said. “You can’t say to one group you get the preferred service, and the other people aren’t even guaranteed same day. And now, it’s getting even worse.”
Lepofsky said the alliance will be lobbying the provincial government to plug holes in the legislation, to better offer equal access to transit services for people with disabilities.
“The good news is that the new Doug Ford government appointed a full time minister for accessibility and seniors. We’ve only had part-time ministers up until now,” he said. “The bad news is, so far all they’ve done at least in terms of accessibility standards is frozen the work that had been going on before they got elected.”
Allan Benner is a reporter with the St. Catharines Standard. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org