ODA News Brief
February 20, 2001
Human Rights Commission Discussion Paper
on Accessible Public Transit Shows Need for
Ontarians with Disabilities Act
On Monday, February 19, 2001, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a major Discussion Paper on barriers facing persons with disabilities who try to use public transit in Ontario. When read as a whole, this Discussion Paper provides a strong case for the prompt enactment of a strong, mandatory Ontarians with Disabilities
Act. In it, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recognizes that:
* Ontarians with disabilities face many serious barriers impeding them from fully benefitting from public transit facilities in Ontario. There is a pressing need for improvements. This is a human rights issue.
* While there have been some improvements in the past, there remains much to be done to achieve the goal of barrier-free public transit for all persons with disabilities, whether their disability is physical, mental or sensory. Provincial cuts and downloading have certainly not helped this situation.
* A barrier-free transit system benefits not only persons with disabilities, but seniors and people who have children as well.
* Ontario now has no legislation or technical or service benchmarks aimed at creating standards for accessibility for service-providers. There is a need for such standards to be set.
The lack, in many cases, of up-to-date plans to resolve issues of access and inclusion, as well as of standards and benchmarks, is likely to hamper progress in this context.
* The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, with its clear and enforceable standards for transit services, has provided a major impetus in the U.S. towards accessible transit.
Standards for service levels will be more likely to be implemented and will be enforceable only with legislation. The American experience with the Americans with Disabilities Act
indicates the strong positive influence of legislated standards for service levels. In the U.S., following the passage of the ADA, there have been real improvements for persons with disabilities in the area of public transit.
* The government should consider the introduction of minimum legislative standards, similar to those in the ADA, to ensure basic levels of service.
* The Ontario Government has made a commitment to enact the ODA, and the Ontario Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution which declares that the ODA should, among other things, "require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure
that their goods, services, and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities ... providers of these goods, services, and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables."
Below you can find the news release of the Ontario Human Rights Commission regarding this Discussion Paper, including an invitation for public input. We also set out below the news release on point by the Ontario Liberal Party's Disability Critic, Ernie Parsons.
If you want us to Email you a copy of the Discussion Paper directly, send a request to: email@example.com
The ODA Committee calls on the Ontario Government to respond to this Discussion Paper by promptly keeping its commitment to enact a strong, effective ODA which will achieve among other things, a barrier-free public transit system. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has recognized that such legislation in the U.S. has had a real and positive impact. It has not, as Premier Harris has claimed, been "devastating" for persons with disabilities. Ontarians should not have to file individual human rights complaints against each transit service across Ontario to redress the barriers which the Discussion Paper has identified. The Ontario Government should recognize that this Discussion Paper is further proof that the blueprint which the ODA Committee has proposed for the ODA provides a good plan for legislation to tackle problems such as this.
ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION NEWS RELEASE
For immediate publication
February 19, 2001
Commission Tackles Accessibility of Transit Systems by Persons with Disabilities
Toronto: The Ontario Human Rights Commission today released a Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services in Ontario. The Paper analyzes the accessibility of transit systems in Ontario by
persons with disabilities and the obligations of transit service providers to respect human rights law.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, persons with disabilities, older persons, and families with children have a right to equal treatment in "services", which includes public transit services.
Inaccessible public transit services are important human rights issues because they prevent individuals who have difficulties in accessing public transit from participating in community life.
In July 1999, the Commission conducted a survey on the accessibility of transit systems in Ontario. The survey reveals a lack of awareness among transit service providers of their human
rights obligations. While significant efforts have been made to improve the accessibility of transit services across the province, much more needs to be done.
The Commission believes that human rights principles, when applied to public transit services should set certain standards, such as full integration and accessibility, and equal access to transit services for persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children regardless of where they live in the province. Other standards include the right of persons who use paratransit systems to receive levels of service comparable to those who use the conventional system, and the right to equal
treatment in the provision of transit services for all persons with disabilities, regardless of the nature of their disabilities.
The survey found several gaps in the accessibility of conventional transit systems in Ontario. It also revealed that people using paratransit services experience major discrepancies in service levels across the province, including eligibility criteria, fees and geographic limitations. In addition, few survey participants had set objectives for full accessibility and integration, and there were no plans to establish a uniform set of standards across the province for accessible transit services.
Chief Commissioner Keith Norton stated that, "For persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children, difficulties in accessing public transit are a daily reality. This Paper is a first step in promoting discussion of human rights issues surrounding transit services and sets out the legal duty for all transit providers to ensure that transit systems are accessible."
As part of the process, the Commission is accepting written submissions from individuals and organizations regarding the issues raised in this Paper until June 30, 2001.
LIBERAL CRITIC FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
LIBERAL CRITIC PRAISES HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION PAPER ON TRANSIT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2001
Queen's Park - Today, Ernie Parsons, Liberal Party Critic for Persons with Disabilities and MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings praised the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommendation for "minimum legislative standards" to rectify the ongoing disparity in transit service for persons with disabilities across Ontario. The Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services in Ontario, released yesterday, calls for greater municipal and provincial commitment to accessibility and specifically points to the need for provincial legislation.
"The lack of uniformity in standards and accessibility in transit service for persons with disabilities has created a crisis for many across this province", said Parsons. "This problem was one of many
discussed last spring during the Liberal consultation hearings on an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It was determined then as it is recommended now that the provincial government has a responsibility
to ensure uniform standards and full accessibility for all Ontarians. We cannot continue to leave the
municipalities struggling with limited resources and support. They can't do it alone. The province must be involved," Parsons declared.
"Mike Harris promised six years ago to enact effective disabilities legislation in his first term of office. If he had kept his promise, I believe the Human Rights Commission would be
today talking more about our successes rather than our failures to make Ontario inclusive. It is not too late, however. This government must keep its latest promise to enact an effective and meaningful Ontarians with Disabilities Act by this November so that we can begin to make Ontario truly barrier free," Parsons demanded.
Contact: Ernie Parsons, MPP (416) 325-4700
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Last updated February 22, 2001