Episode Three, AODA

In this Episode, Richard Hunt talks to David Lepofsky about AODA. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a law that sets out a process for developing and enforcing accessibility standards. Although the law in enforced for more than a decade there is still so much to be done, David Lepofskey is a Canadian lawyer and disability advocate who works hard for the enactment of AODA. Implementing and enforcing of AODA standards will help Ontario reaches the goal of an accessible province by 2025.

Richard Hunt and David Lepofsky on AODA!


This is Quantization!

Hi, we are Arezoo Talebzadeh and Kaveh Ashourinia and this is our podcast on inclusion.

Arezoo: Quantization is an independent project with support of Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University.

[Music: Quantization (Theme-Guitars)]

Kaveh: After a short absence, we are back with a new episode on AODA, which stands for Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Arezoo: In this episode of quantization, we are pleased to have Richard Hunt in conversation with David Lepofsky. Richard is our host of this episode.

Richard Hunt is a designer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at OCAD University. He has worked in the design field for over 30 years, specializing in typographical practices. He presented “Typography: a matter of life and death” at the Typecon in 2014, looking at the potential of current typographic technologies to optimize legibility in high-stakes medical situations.

His practice focuses on typography for architectural applications and communication design. Richard’s research interests include the functionality of typography in health contexts and issues of legibility and readability in traditional and new media in both single user and environmental contexts. He has been involved in the Safefont project alongside the University Health Network and OCAD University.

Kaveh: This is season one, called signal – episode 3, AODA

[Music: Quantization (Theme)]

Portrait of Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt: Hi my name is Richard Hunt. in this episode of Quantization we are talking to Toronto lawyer and disability activist David Lepofsky. Since being  admitted to the Ontario bar in 1991 David has practiced law in the ontario policy service in the areas of constitutional, civil, administrative and most recently criminal law. He has written a law book and many articles on legal subjects. He was invested as a member of the Order of Canada in 1995 and was awarded the order of Ontario in 2007, for his work on behalf of people with disabilities in Ontario which help lead to the Ontarian with disabilities act of 2001 and the AODA the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. This June he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the law society of upper Canada.

David is also the chair of the AODA alliance, a disability consumer advocacy group who works with a disability community and the government to support the fully effective implementation of AODA, accessibility standards in Ontario; welcome David!

David Lepofsky: Great to be here!

RH: so, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act is accessibility legislation which passed in Ontario by the McGuinty government in 2005 with the promise of the province reaching full accessibility by 2025 here we are it is 2016 how’s that process going?

Portrait of David Lepofsky

DL: well, there is bad news, and then there is good news and then there is bad news and then there is good news. let me start with the first bad news. We are not on schedule, we are behind schedule and we are falling behind schedule for reaching full accessibility by 2025. Now, let me get to the good news. The good news is the law itself that we fought for from probably 1994 to 2005 it’s a good law it’s got a right bones to it sure we don’t want to weaken it anyway and the premier promises us that they would never do that, but when the government got started on implement it back in 2005 to 2011 they didn’t had bad job they did get right to work they picked the important to start working with rolled up their sleeve they’re engaged the business community, the disability community, public sector and coming up with the first  of accessibility standards and they may not covered everything we need, they are certainly important helpful start, then the next bad news. Then the next bad news is that since 2011 summer time the government is just absolutely kind of falling apart on this issue. They have just ground down to snail pace they are moving unacceptably slowly on developing new accessibility standards they are doing a paltry and completely ineffective job of meeting their promise to effectively enforce the rules they have been passed on accessibility and they don’t have a plan to get us from here to 2025. they got eight and half years left to get us on schedule and to get us to that destination which the legislation requires the government to lead us to. then the good news, the good news is there is a road map part of it was mapped out by two independent reviews that government was required to the point to take a temperature and say how we are doing and what we need to do and part of it was mapped out by a membership and supporter of our coalition which we’ve put up a blueprint forward to the government to how to get back on track we criticize them when they do poorly we command them when they do well but we always comfort with constructive ways of doing things better. So, I go back to where I start. The bad news is we are not on schedule. We’ve made some progress, but nowhere near the progress we need to make and we are losing opportunities we are way behind united States on accessibility on number of fronts, education, public transportation all sort of technology, whole wide range of variety. Just behind the schedule and it works in disadvantage of all Ontarians.

RH: so, what’s the problem, is that lack of will, is that you know, is that budget problem?

DL: it is not budget, the fact is in term of enforcement the government has an office the accessibility director which has a power to enforce they’ve been giving budget to enforce, toward freedom of information applications we revealed that every single years since 2005 they’ve been under budget they are not getting the political leadership that they need. And one this law passed in 2005 I was there at the privilege of reading the pre-presider of AODA Alliance called Ontarians with disability   we campaigned for ten years for this law from 1994 to 2005 and we lobbied one candidate at a time one MP at the time, we are not partisan haven’t been to this day and we built some real momentum we and our supporters around the province we built some real exciting momentum the day the legislation passed in 2005 I was there at queen’s park 2 amazing thin happened First the law passed unanimously and the members of the legislation all of them rose in …. That does not happen in Queens Park very often

RH: Sure!

DL: Those folks cannot even agree on what time of day it is, without getting to fight with each other. But here they agreed on the outcome and they applaud to that. But then right after the law passed a press conference was held at Queen’s Park and we and government and there were 3 people speaking in support of this law one was the minister whose brought it in Doctor Marie Bountrogianni she is now teaching at Ryesron, she spoke her she lets a very good process the second was me from the disability perspective and the third was the representative of retail council of Canada. So in that building at Queen’s park we had at the same time unanimity of support from liberal, conservative and NDP , government, disability community and business. Again, it doesn’t happen very often, so when they got to work there was a real sense of mission it’s really falling of the rail side for couple of reasons. There’s been a significant turn over at Queen park many of the members of the legislator who were there with us when we were fighting for this law and who kept try to put on the agenda of    the day , left politics and they’d been replaced by people who are good people but the people who this is past history . This is not a cause that they had any investment in it. And the second thing is that the government is just not showing the leadership we need and that’s been the view of two independent reviews the government appointed. They appointed they pick the reviewer they pick people who were respectful the problem is the government celebrate the pass the law but since then just gone back to business as usual and all add kind of bureaucracy supersede action.

RH: Aha!

DL: So, let me give you an example we tried for since really around 2010, 2011 to get the government to develop new accessibility standard and two of them we said that is very important one that address barriers in healthcare and the other is the barriers in our educations. (7:18)   what can be more important than healthcare and education. Healthcare so you can survive and education to get learn, grow, get a job and succeed in society . They both are really important and both heavily publicly funded. So they government , the plate get the answer for that so for healthcare, for education we still can get any answers, they still haven’t agreed whether will do and education accessibility . we an accessibility law under special education regulation and legislation that passed 1980 – 36 years ago . it is antiquity legislation it is outdated, I can tell you that I also serve as a volunteer chair of the special education advisory committee of Toronto district school board, the largest school board in Canada we have 46000 kids with special education needs and I can tell you we are way behind. As such as question of founding, We have 30000 with special need in publicly funded school across Ontario that’s a third of million and our education system was not designed to meet their needs they kind of an after though they are trying to fit in the system that wasn’t there with them we have 516 school in Toronto built school houses only 85 of them are accessible physically accessible, that’s how out of date we are. We’ve got endorsement from education accessibility standard from the major organization who represent many of those who teach in the front line and secondary school teacher federation, the elementary teacher federation Ontario Ontario English catholic teacher’s association and the Ontario confederation university faculty association. All of these folk are agree with us we need education accessible standard, 6 years later we can’t get the government to say yes. They don’t say no, they just don’t say this still in internal study or bureaucracy and let me turn to healthcare. So, we have a healthcare system full of barriers no body could dispute that so what’s the government done. They didn’t answer until a year and half ago when minister response legislation at that time to his credit he finally announced yes we are going to do healthcare accessibility standard but they haven’t take the next step needed to start on it they required by law and a committee called standard development committee with disability representative, healthcare representative to come up with idea what the standard could do! (10:00)

They have appointed a year and half later they haven’t even appointed the committee getting start to work, what is the government done this is bureaucracy upon bureaucracy  and none of these landed in legislation, first the government decided to do a pre pre consultation that’s their name they decided to hire KPMG private consulting firm and I don’t know what they know about disability in healthcare i just don’t know to go out and consult on what barriers might be addressed guess who they talked to they talked to the healthcare sector but not people with disabilities. Ok, so they then used public money and that gobbled who knows how much time and then after that was done the government is now holding the pre pre consultation is over now they are doing the pre consultation , so the civil service are now asking us now the KPMG is talk to us what are you say the barriers are now all of these before they appoint the standards development committee which under law they ae responsible for asking us what barrier do you feel so you ask me why are we behind schedule that anecdote tells you everything they agreed we need action but this is how they …. In unnecessary bureaucracy , thank god I just wrapped up to answer your question with this the government didn’t do these pre pre consultation and pre consultations back in 2005 or we wouldn’t get anything in the books by now!

Ya, I see the problem there but what’s the root of the problem I mean it’s how could we fix this problem

how can we fix this problem it is actually easy to fix the first step is something that the 2014 independent review by former UOF T law dean Mayo Moran  drafted should be done. she said primer needs to show leadership on this file, so that’s the first thing and I am not saying that premiere Wayne is against it she needs to actually grab this file and says look this thing is off the rails, we are going to get it going. now recently she appointed a new minister Tracy MacCharles gave her responsibility for issues about the 5th or 6th minister we dealt with in 10 years , i have to do the count but we are rolling our sleeve to see what we can do with her, but the second thing the premiere she promised to do but has not done what we have found is this we got a great promises from the government over the years both under mac minty and kathyyn wine what they would do when election come along we write them all the parties because we are non partisan here is what we need you to do and they‘ve written a great letter we great commitment but then we found out after the elections over too often they don’t do it so what we later from our own research and investigation found out is this after each election the premier write what it calls mandate letters to each ministers and says here is your priorities and the commitment that the government promise to us at election too often don’t end up in those mandate letters to her credit after 2014 election premiers wane finally actually made mandate letters publicly first time in Ontario and thats a great move we read them all we are not exciting and you can go to our website which is aodaalliance.org you will see we post an analysis and found out the significant majority of promises they made to us aren’t in those letters in the 2014 election we anticipated this problem and we asked the premiere and all party leaders if you elected will you draft your ministers to keep your election promises to us and your duties on accessibilities and she said yes i would but then when she wrote the mandate letters she didn’t do it so guess what you don’t  tell the minister these are priorities they don’t become priorities the prior minister responsible for this act the guy name brad …. from 2014 up to couple of months a go we said you directed keep the commitment …. his mandate letter didn’t say a word about enforcing this law and guess what brad …. cut enforcement which was already low by over a third so to answer your question first thing we need we really need that leadership and the second thing is we need the premiere to keep her word  of 2014 election and actually directing  her ministers to keep the government commitment to us

Clearly premier and politician, has she reacted to this to the challenge that her mandate letters are not including the material she is promised

We haven’t got an action we need bottom line thing is we haven’t got the action we need so let me tell you what we are doing about it because we don’t just complain we act so we did two things one of which we have confronted the government as nonpartisan coalition we are (13:39) i retired from Ontario public service and i’m teaching part time at the osgoode hall law school visiting professor and the time that I have outside of that I and our supporters all around the province, we are wramping up pressure to confront with practical ideas for the government and meeting with ministers and deputy ministers and trying to do what we can do but the other thing we are doing is that we are also going out there to the public and we launch a campaign last February which has recently gotten great media attention which is we coloured our pictures our barriers campaign what we are encouraging people doing and anyone who is listening to this podcast please join in we encouraging people to take their smart phones and take pictures of barriers in our communities and they can be physical barriers they can be technological  barriers they can be any kind of barrier doesn’t have to be just for people with physical disability because we cover all disabilities and we encourage people to tweet these we are suggesting a couple of things to make it easier one of which is we have a hashtag #aodafail  these are tweets are pictures of aodafails that’s why we call it picture our barriers and we encourage people to also put words in the tweet and describe to people like me who are totally blind we want to know what the barriers are too but the other thing we are doing is we are retweeting them to politicians to put the heat on them and to the media so if people who are listening to this if you are on twitter it would be great if you follow us @aodaalliance if you go and search the hashtag #aodafail if you can add your own tweets that would be great but even if you can’t please just retweet the ones you see there if you see it tweet from us or from anyone to Katlyn Wayne or Patrick Brown or Andrea Horwet or any of members tell them what the barriers we facing you just click retweet you don’t have to go and take pictures of anything if you don’t have a time just click retweet your adding your voice to ours you are showing that this is a movement that you are agree with and that would really help if you want tips on how to do that we got resource on the website we have an action kid we have all the  MPPs tweeter handles just go to the following link and you have shown would be great to tie the link to this www.aodaalliance.org/2016  if you go there yiu will see all the resources you need to even one page cheet notes if you don’t want to read all the other stuff look at it in 30 second and you know what to do it’s been really cool and really helpful and Toronto Star wrote a great article describing some of the more glaring barrier that we brought to public attention (16:40)

R.H. I think that sounds great because I think if you bring the public attention I mean we are talking about politicians here and I imagine they just is not high enough in mind for them to be concern with it that’s what it sounds like

And what’s bezar about that is that they should be because we are the minority of everybody and everybody have their hands on disability now that’s 1.8 million Ontarians or we got one later because they are going to get older hopefully and as you get older you get disabilities let’s talk about an education accessibility standards just for a moment how can any politician be against this we have (I get numbers i gave you before and put them in perspective) In Ontario publicly funded schools catholic boards and public boards there are 2 millions students 334000 are known as students with special educational need so one out of every 6 students in any publicly funded school has special educational needs and we are embarrassingly behind the united state and our laws and what we deliver, I am not saying we don’t have good teachers but they are labeling under the system that is antique and we get the feedback from the frustration that parents face we don’t even have a standard for what a new school should be look like to ensure accessible if a school board sometimes has to turn down an old building and build a new one or build an addition we got the out of date building code and the incomplete building code on accessibility but we don’t have a requirements for schools , so each school boards has to reinvent the wheel , which is crazy now waiting for provincial action I am proud that Toronto School Board special education advisory committee which I have the privilege of serving as chair we as volunteers put forward an education agenda for change and we are pressing the Toronto School Board to adopt it in areas like built environment and digital accessibility but we need provincial leadership on this this is what premium should do they lead on everything else and education and set the curriculum, they set the class size they set all sorts of other things that the province has to follow they set the terms for all sort of things the school boards but this one they are far less willing to lead and leave it to parents to fight these barriers one off the school boards and that’s not just fair  

R.H. Another question I have is do you think there is (I don’t want to sound cynical here ) but is there a resistant from the basically to accessibility enforcement and accessibility standards from the business side of thing  

DL: I am going to tell you mythology  and your question which is a totally fair one brings us to myths vs. reality on counter intuitive reality  number one the myth is business will be behind but government is the big leader and in fact the Ontario government has said we are going to lead by example but unfortunately too often lead by poor example we found that they are instances where businesses are ahead of government when it came to negotiating terms for internet and website accessibility we found that the corporate leaders in information technology were far ahead of the government leaders on information technology in Ontario the second thing the second mythology is you gotta let government do everything first because they need and business needs more time the fact that the matter is there is time that government needs more time and businesses need less I’ve heard from people who are IT Consultants on accessibility that it’s way easier to get a small business or medium size business to change their web practices on accessibility then a huge organization like a government where have gazillion webpages manage by whole bunch of different people but smaller business may just have it manage by couple of people and it is quicker to retrofit and quicker to get them the right thing for things that on a forward bases so the third mythology is we folks with disability we love to regulate the heck out of everybody businesses begging please don’t regulate us please don’t and poor government is in the middle getting pressure from both sides what they do we actually heard and an independent review of the disabilities act by Mayo Morain has heard that business wants standards too they want to know what they got to do they don’t want to hire consultants so government when drops the ball lets done us on the business section I give you a quick illustration so to its credit in an accessibility standards passed just as the government hitting prosales end of 2012 the government set requirements for accessibility in some public spaces and one of the thing they said is if you are in a public service area in a building new one you got to have at least one accessible counter height that’s great but it doesn’t tell you what that height is so and the government position was I guess let’s leave it to businesses we don’t want to be too regular too prescriptive they are not like that, well businesses say just tell us how high to make the counter why should the government dump on businesses the obligation to go hire, eah hire a consultant to reinvent the wheel the government in that standard said that to municipalities if you create a new playground include in it accessibility features for kids with disabilities but they don’t say what they are so then every one of municipalities stuck having the reinvent the same wheel and run a risk of getting it wrong so there are areas where the need to be more prescriptive and then to enforce the law are ones that we and business and other obligated sections were agree on and the government just letting us all down. Let me tell you the last counter intuitive or myth I should say vs. reality mythology is old buildings they are not accessible but new buildings now we know better and we get them right well the recent Toronto Star article we … three new buildings built with public money that have really un acceptable accessibility barriers that should have been caught. I can just wrap them very fast Number one brand new Women’s College Hospital on the 10th of june the premier the prime minister of canada , big photo up ribbon cutting open it what was behind them was a hospital using my money with some accessibility features and that’s always good but number of significant example of accessibility problems I went on the main floor to go to the bathroom and they have braille signage and it has room number doesn’t say bathroom it’s a room number and then there is a tactile graphic supposedly with male symbol and I have a decent education and I’ve put my hand on I had no idea what it is and I challenged anyone who designed that to figure that one out many hospitals have automatic doors that opens as you approach which make sense these are people coming who are sick who are injured who are family they are older people they are coming for healthcare the Women’s College Hospital you have to wave your hand in front of a posted side which blind folks like me won’t know is there won’t be able to easily find and people with motor disability won’t be able to do so they to haul the door open when you get inside the walking route from the front door to the main elevator doesn’t have a appropriate way finding for a blind person. (24:27) to find it let me give you last example (this is brand new hospital) I can give you ton more example so last example from hospital is they have accessible parking in the parking lot and they take some steps to be sure that people with disability can park there but when you coming to building and you want to pay for your parking there is an electronic kiosk built in the wall where the screen is standing height so person on wheelchair can not operate it that by the way violates the accessibility standards that require accessibility features in electronic kiosks and of course the government not enforcing it much more against they brother public sector in an effective way this  is outrageous

Second building Ryerson has a new student learning centre right in the core of downtown toronto lovely building they have these things called hang out stairs I didn’t know the term before I got into this issue, but what it is a socializing area where there are kind of steps of flight stairs and there is like steps that you can sit on and chat so it is a socializing area and may say people with disability need no socializing here if you signed up to do a particular socializing for student who let out student of colour or whatever that’s outrageous well it is no less outrageous to you money to build a hang out area that’s only for people who can climb stairs and it is not news in 2016 the people using mobility devices can’t climb stairs

Third example, where I teach Osgoode Hall law school I went there 40 years ago, started 40 years ago this month I was totally blind , i only have been totally blind for couple of years i had a vision before that I learned my way around that law school and boundaries using my walk …. No problem and it was not good in wheelchair access but at least there was a building I can navigate there since then boon have a huge chunk of money doing a major renovation th a whole inside of the building they haven;t provide wheelchair access and they made it gorgeous building the architect must have been very happy about focusing on visual design but they made a building which is now one of the most difficult building I’ve tried to navigate I give you two  examples which are glaring and anybody in design field should know about this. The first is there is a main corridor and a main thoroughfare yonge street in the middle of the main floor and as you walked down on it we blind folks we use one wall , one sided to navigate one side is soft sitting every couple of meters can’t navigate that …

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