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ODA Update
May 11, 2002

ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE

Ontario Human Rights Commission Calls On Provincial Government To Set Standards For Removing And Preventing Barriers Facing People With Disabilities In Public Transit -
ODA Committee Endorses These Recommendations


May 11, 2002

SUMMARY

The Ontario Human Rights Commission recently released a comprehensive
Consultation Paper on accessibility for persons with disabilities to public
transit in Ontario. It found that persons with disabilities continue to face
serious barriers when they try to use public transit. It recommended that the
provincial government set clear, enforceable standards on the steps that must
be taken to remove and prevent barriers to access to public transit for all
persons with disabilities, and that greater public funding is needed for this
purpose.

The ODA Committee congratulates the Ontario Human Rights Commission for its
findings and recommendations. These generally accord with the position which we
have been advocating in connection with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

We urge the Ontario Government to use its powers under the ODA 2001 to
implement all the Ontario Human Rights Commission's recommendations. The ODA
2001's provisions regarding access to public transit services remain
unproclaimed and thus not in force. They should be proclaimed in force now.

Among the 13 commitments that the Ontario Government made to Ontarians with
disabilities last fall were commitments to set standards and timetables in all
sectors, including the broader public sector. That includes public transit. The
Ontario Government also committed that the disability community would be put in
the driver's seat to develop these standards. The Government specifically
committed as well that transit providers will be required not only to make
accessibility plans, but also to comply with them. Then Citizenship Minister
Cam Jackson stated the following in the Legislature: "Private sector transit
services and all transit systems in this province will mandatorily have to file
and comply with their accessibility plans." (Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson,
Hansard Second Reading Debate on Bill 125, November 19, 2001)

THE COMMISSION'S REPORT - A CLOSER LOOK

In early 2001, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released an excellent
Discussion Paper on barriers to public transit facing persons with
disabilities. You can review that paper at the ODA Committee's website at:

http://www.odacommittee.net
That paper called for public input. Now after a year of study, the Ontario
Human Rights Commission has released this new paper, which provides the results
of its consultation. If you would like to see a copy of the entire new
Consultation Paper which is around 40 pages long, Email your request to:

oda@odacommittee.net

Below we set out the following materials:

* The executive summary of the Ontario Human Rights Commission's new
Consultation Paper

* The Ontario Human Rights Commission's news release, issued at the same time
as this Consultation Paper

* the Ontario Human Rights Commission's "backgrounder" on the new Consultation
Paper that it has released.

* Articles on this Consultation Paper in the Toronto Star on April 22, and 23,
2002. The latter article includes the following: "Groups such as the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act Committee and the Canadian Association for Retired
Persons applauded the report. "We are delighted with the key recommendations of
the human rights commission in calling on the government to set standards for
removing barriers to public transit and timetables for those barriers to be
removed," said David Lepofsky, chair of the Disabilities Act group. "No public
transit provider should ever buy another inaccessible bus with our tax
dollars.""

In the body of the new Consultation Paper is the following finding about the
impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act on public transit:

"Many responses to the Discussion Paper pointed to the standards for accessible
transit set in the United States by the ADA. This legislation sets out detailed
standards and timelines for the accessibility of both conventional and
paratransit services. For example, the ADA sets benchmarks for paratransit
services, requiring that they have comparable hours of service, fares,
geographic services areas, waiting times, and levels of service as conventional
transit services, and that there be no priorizing of trips. The passage of the
ADA in 1990 has resulted in significant improvements to the accessibility of
transit services in the United States, in a period of just over 10 years."

The new Consultation Paper also had the following to say about the Ontarians
with Disabilities Act 2001:

"A number of respondents felt that significant progress on accessible transit
would occur only when there were clear, enforceable, legislated standards in
place. They therefore advocated the passage of an ODA that would contain many
of the significant features of the ADA. Submissions described an effective ODA
as setting out clear standards for accessible transit services, having
timetables for implementation, and including an enforcement mechanism....

...Since the consultation period on the Discussion Paper closed, the Ontario
government has passed the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (“ODA”). The ODA
differs significantly from the ADA. The focus of the ODA is on accessibility
planning and standard setting. Section 14 of the legislation requires every
public transportation organization in Ontario to prepare a yearly accessibility
plan, addressing the identification, removal and prevention of barriers to
persons with disabilities in the organization’s bylaws, policies, programs,
practices and services. This accessibility plan must be made available to the
public. While municipalities are required to take accessibility into account
when purchasing goods or services (s. 13), no such requirement applies to
transit services.

The government will develop guidelines for the preparation of accessibility
plans. These guidelines may exempt organizations, including public
transportation organizations, from their application.

Section 19 of the Act mandates the creation of an Accessibility Advisory
Council, which shall advise the Minister of Citizenship on the implementation
of the ODA, programs of public information, and accessibility of services
provided or funded by the government.

The government has the power to adopt codes of conduct, guidelines, protocols
or procedures as regulations, and to require compliance with them.

As well, any building project funded by a government funded capital program
must meet or exceed the accessibility requirements of the Building Code and
regulations.

While requiring transit providers to plan for accessibility, there are no
provisions within the ODA requiring the implementation of plans, or the
ultimate achievement of accessibility.

Section 3 of the ODA states that nothing in the Act, its regulations, or
standards and guidelines set under it, diminishes in any way existing legal
obligations to persons with disabilities. In other words, the Ontario Human
Rights Code, including the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities and
the undue hardship standard, as outlined in the OHRC's Policy and Guidelines on
Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, continue to apply. The Code will
continue to operate as the major enforcement mechanism for the rights of
persons with disabilities.

The ODA has potential to assist in the creation of standards, through the power
of the government to develop guidelines. Unless this power to create guidelines
is exercised, however, the ODA is unlikely to result in the creation of the
kinds of standards for accessible transit that have been envisioned in
submissions to the OHRC. Without enforceable guidelines, services across
Ontario will likely continue to exist as a patchwork, and access to transit
will vary from municipality to municipality. Benchmarks for excellence and
improvement in accessible transit services will not be available for the
assistance of transit providers or patrons.

The requirement under the ODA for all transit providers to develop publicly
available, annually updated, accessibility plans will mark a step forward in
this area. A number of transit providers have already taken this step and have
plans in place, but several do not. It is essential that plans set out
accountability structures and timelines, if they are to be effective. ...

...In the past, the Province was actively involved in transit issues.
Historically, the Province allocated significant funding to assist
municipalities to provide services to persons with mobility impairments. In
1993, the Ontario government required municipalities to provide full
accessibility transit plans. As well, all new transit vehicles leased or
purchased had to be low-floor, or equipped with Easier Access features.

Such initiatives were gradually abandoned until, at the time of the release of
the Discussion Paper in February 2001, the Province had completely withdrawn
from the field of accessible transit.

However, there are signs of a renewed interest in transit issues on the part of
the Province. As mentioned elsewhere, the new ODA specifically addresses issues
surrounding accessible transit. As well, the Province has recently committed
new funding to public transit services in Ontario. ...
...Significant advances in transit accessibility cannot be made without the
involvement of senior levels of government. The two key components for
advancing transit accessibility are standard setting, and funding.

The OHRC therefore welcomes the recent initiatives of the Ministry of
Transportation, and the Ministry of Citizenship in the area of transit. The
announcement of new funding for transit services, as well as the focus on
transit in the recently passed ODA, mark positive steps in this area, and a
welcome opportunity for change....

...The ODA provides an opportunity to develop standards and timelines for
transit accessibility. The OHRC considers this a very important step forward.
The OHRC encourages the new Accessibility Directorate to develop guidelines for
transit service providers."

...

*****

ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION PUBLIC TRANSIT CONSULTATION PAPER EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Equal access by persons with disabilities, older Ontarians, and families with
young children to adequate, dignified public transit services is a right
protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. For many, it is also a necessity
– in order to obtain an education, find and keep a job, or use basic public
services like health care. Lack of access to transit may also lead to
isolation, as visiting friends or participating in the life of the community
becomes difficult or impossible.

Recognizing the importance of accessible public transportation to the ability
of persons with disabilities, older Ontarians, and families with young children
to fully and equally participate in their communities, during 2001 the Ontario
Human Rights Commission consulted with transit providers, seniors’
organizations, disability consumer groups, labour organizations, advocacy
groups and individuals regarding the status of accessible transit in Ontario.

Unfortunately, equal access to transit services is far from reality for many
Ontarians. While many improvements have been made in recent years to improve
the accessibility of conventional transit services, such as increased use of
low-floor or lift-equipped buses, and modifications to bus and subway stations,
progress remains slow, and many of Ontario’s transit systems anticipate that it
will take 15 years or more to achieve maximum accessibility. At the same time,
there are troubling limitations in many of Ontario’s specialized or paratransit
systems. Patrons too often face restrictive eligibility criteria, long waits
for rides, punitive cancellation policies, and unequal fare structures.

Improvements in accessibility of public transit services have been hampered by
a lack of resources. Public funding for transit in Ontario is relatively low,
accounting for only 25% of revenues, the rest coming from the fare box, as
compared to American transit systems, which typically receive about 60% of
their revenue from public sources.

Another stumbling block has been the lack of common, objective standards or
benchmarks for accessible transit services. Standards are essential in
motivating and sustaining increased accessibility, as well as in ensuring that
access to transit is not contingent on where in Ontario people live.

Accessible transit is a complex issue, involving many players. For advances to be made, all players transit providers, municipalities, senior levels of government, non-governmental organizations, the Ontario Human Rights Commission itself, and persons with disabilities - must rethink their roles and responsibilities, and work together to find solutions.

The Commission recommends that transit providers set a goal of full integration
and accessibility; design inclusively when developing new policies and
procedures, creating new services, or building or purchasing new structures or
capital equipment; develop and maintain plans to achieve full integration and
accessibility; involve persons with disabilities, and older Ontarians when
planning accessibility improvements; and take all steps short of undue hardship
to achieve integration and maximum accessibility.

The Ministry of Transportation has an important role to play in this field, and
should take accessibility issues into account when considering transit funding
initiatives. As well, the passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and
the creation of the Accessibility Directorate create a timely opportunity to
address the urgent need for standards for accessible transit services.

The Commission itself will continue to take an active role in furthering
transit accessibility. It will work with transit service providers to ensure
they understand their human rights obligations and work to fulfil them. As
well, the Commission will continue to monitor developments in this area, and to
raise awareness about these issues through a variety of communication mediums.

*****

Ontario Human Rights Commission
NEWS RELEASE
April 22, 2002
For immediate publication

For information:

Acting Director,
Policy and Communications
(416) 314-4532

ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RELEASES CONSULTATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND PUBLIC TRANSIT SERVICE IN ONTARIO

Toronto - There is a legal obligation under the Ontario Human Rights Code for
equal access to public transit services without discrimination based on
prohibited grounds, yet persons with disabilities, older persons and families
with young children face difficulties in accessing transit on a daily basis.
Human Rights and Public Transit Services in Ontario: Consultation Report
summarizes the input received from transit providers, seniors' organizations,
disability consumers groups, advocacy groups and individuals during the Ontario
Human Rights Commission's consultation on public transit. The report was
released today at the Ontario Transportation Expo Conference and Trade Show in
Toronto.

"Today, there are 1.6 million disabled persons and 1.5 million people over the
age of 65 living in Ontario," stated Chief Commissioner Keith Norton. "In 20
years, those statistics are expected to increase to one in five Ontarians with
a disability and an estimated 3 million over the age of 65 who will need access
to public transit services. Improvements must be made."

"Lack of accessible transit service places barriers to education, work, and
health services - preventing many people full and equal participation in their
community. This, clearly, is an infringement on human rights," said Mr. Norton.
"The report indicates that our public transit services need vast improvements
and the collaboration of all parties to meet the needs of people with
disabilities.

The report contains recommendations aimed at achieving full integration and
accessibility of services, developing inclusive policy, procedures and programs
and taking all steps short of undue hardship to achieve these goals. The
Commission encourages the provincial government to set standards and timelines
across the province and to consider the urgency and impact of accessibility
issues in public transit services.

For electronic copies of the complete Report or the Discussion Paper on public
transit please click here to e-mail your request to the Commission:
info@ohrc.on.ca

- 30 -

*****

Ontario Human Rights Commission

Background Information

HUMAN RIGHTS AND PUBLIC TRANSIT

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, every citizen of Ontario has a right to equal treatment in receiving public services, which include public transit services.

Transit providers have a legal responsibility to ensure that transit systems are accessible to all Ontarians. For many, access to public transit is a necessity - in order to obtain an education, find and keep a job, or use basic public services like health care.

In June 1999, the OHRC surveyed transit providers to establish accessibility of Ontario's public transportation systems. The initial information revealed that while significant efforts have been made, there remains much more to be done. The survey also identified a lack of awareness among transit providers of their obligations in adhering to the Code.With an aim to raising awareness about accessibility and human rights issues, the OHRC released a discussion paper in February 2001.

The paper went out to more than 400 stakeholders and solicited written contributions by June 30, 2001. Submissions were received from 30 groups including transit providers; seniors' organizations; disability consumer groups; labour organizations; advocacy groups; and individuals. In the summer 2001, transit providers were contacted to update the results attained in 1999. The report brings together the information collected throughout the two-year process. It identifies key finding and recommendations for all parties involved in addressing the issues of human rights and public transit services.

Key Findings:

Across the province, there are gaps in accessible conventional transit systems and paratransit services experience even greater discrepancies in services.

Paratransit services have inconsistencies in eligibility criteria, fees and
geographic limitations.

Services that do not compare to those offered by conventional transit systems often perpetuate isolation among disabled and older persons, as well as families with young children.

In some cases, persons with mental or ambulatory disabilities cannot access
either conventional or paratransit services.

Key Recommendations:

Public transit providers need to set a goal of integration and accessible services and develop inclusive policy, procedures and programs that ensures the dignity of those affected.

The provincial government has a role to play in setting standards and timelines across Ontario for accessible public transit and consider the urgency of the issues when determining transit funding in the future.

The report also recommends that the OHRC develop communication tools on human rights and public transit and to ensure providers know their obligations in adhering to the Code. In addition, it recommends an update in five years to evaluate the progress in making transit systems fully accessible.

Another recent report by the OHRC, TIME FOR ACTION: Advancing Human Rights For Older Ontarians, also supports the latest findings and recommendations regarding transit. Under-equipped transit systems make it difficult for older persons to access medical care, family members, community and other activities of daily living.

For electronic copies of the report on transit please click here to e-mail your
request to the Commission: info@ohrc.on.ca

See also

The Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services in Ontario

*****

The Toronto Star
NEWS, Tuesday, April 23, 2002, p. A03
Transit changes urged to serve disabled
Kelly Pedro
Toronto Star


Ontario's public transit system needs improved access for the disabled, says a
provincial human rights commission report.

Released yesterday, it's the culmination of a two-year study highlighting gaps
in access to conventional transit and the limitations of paratransit services
for disabled commuters.

"Lack of accessible transit service places barriers to education, work and
health services, preventing many people full and equal participation in their
community," chief commissioner Keith Norton said in a news release. "The report
indicates that our public transit services need vast improvements and the
collaboration of all parties to meet the needs of people with disabilities."
The commission is recommending that the province set standards and timelines
for making transit more accessible. It also asks transit providers to improve
service to a level that "ensures the dignity of those affected."

Groups such as the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee and the Canadian
Association for Retired Persons applauded the report. "We are delighted with
the key recommendations of the human rights commission in calling on the
government to set standards for removing barriers to public transit and
timetables for those barriers to be removed," said David Lepofsky, chair of the
Disabilities Act group. "No public transit provider should ever buy another
inaccessible bus with our tax dollars."

The report says Ontario's 1.6 million disabled people, 1.5 million seniors and
families with young children face daily difficulties using transit. In some
cases, people with mental or ambulatory disabilities cannot use even
paratransit services.

"As far as transit is concerned, it's a vital necessity for seniors," said Lily
Morgenthau, president of CARP.

Morgenthau said the TTC has tried to accommodate disabled people and seniors
with buses that have lower steps, but there aren't enough of them. The TTC has
more than 300 buses with lift equipment or low floors and 372 fully accessible
subway cars.

Chair Brian Ashton had not seen the report but said the TTC has been
"aggressively" updating and now buys only low-floor buses. "Generally, mobility
is one of the key equalizers in any society," he said. "Fifty per cent of
dignity is based on mobility. The TTC has to make a really strong commitment to
improving accessibility."

GO Transit spokesperson Ed Shea said GO has also been making improvements.

*****

Toronto Star Apr. 22, 2002.

Disabled transit needs 'vast improvements' Human Rights Commission calls for wholesale change From Canadian Press

Ontario's public transit system needs to improve access for people with
disabilities, says the province's Human Rights Commission.

There are "gaps" in access to conventional transit systems, the commission
concludes in a two-year study released today, and paratransit services for
disabled commuters have inconsistent eligibility criteria and fees as well as
geographic limitations.

"Lack of accessible transit service places barriers to education, work, and
health services - preventing many people full and equal participation in their
community," chief commissioner Keith Norton said in a news release.

"The report indicates that our public transit services need vast improvements
and the collaboration of all parties to meet the needs of people with
disabilities."

The disabled, the elderly and families with young children face difficulties
accessing transit on a daily basis, the report says. And in some cases, the
commission found people with mental or ambulatory disabilities cannot access
either conventional or paratransit services.

"This, clearly, is an infringement on human rights," Norton said.

In its recommendations, the commission calls for the provincial government to
set standards and timelines for making transit more accessible and asks public
transit providers to improve services to a level that "ensures the dignity of
those affected."

The commission estimates there are currently 1.6 million disabled persons and
1.5 million people over the age of 65 living in Ontario.

It was also recommend that the commission evaluate public transit again in five
years on the province's progress in making transit systems fully accessible.

.

Links
HUMAN RIGHTS AND PUBLIC TRANSIT SERVICES IN ONTARIO Consultation Report ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

 


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