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Proposed Transportation Accessibility Standards a setback for Ontarians with disabilities

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August 30, 2007

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission has made a submission to the Transportation Accessibility Standards Development Committee of the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. The Committee is charged with developing the Initial Proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA).

The Commission is concerned that the proposed standard falls short of human rights requirements in a number of significant areas. For example:

  • Most of the accessibility requirements for transportation vehicles apply only to new vehicles, leaving barrier removal on existing vehicles to the discretion of transportation providers;
  • Transportation providers are permitted to continue to make non-inclusive design choices e.g. they can continue indefinitely to purchase non-accessible second hand buses; and
  • The timelines for full accessibility defer equality for persons with disabilities to an unacceptably distant future. For example, in a recent case involving the Toronto Transit Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal found that there was no cost or significant health and safety risk associated with bus and streetcar drivers announcing stops, and ordered the TTC to commence announcements within thirty days of the decision. By contrast, the proposed Transportation Standard does not require transportation providers to announce stops until three to eighteen years after the adoption of the standard.

In 2000-2002, the Commission conducted a public consultation on access to transit for persons with disabilities. It found that persons with disabilities continue to face serious barriers to equal access to transit services. The Commission recommended: the adoption of clear, enforceable standards for transit accessibility; adequate municipal, provincial and federal funding for public transit; and setting as a goal full compliance with the requirements of the Human Rights Code. This proposed standard, however, will not bring transit providers into compliance with the Code, and as a result, service providers may frequently find themselves inadvertently in non-compliance, and may face human rights complaints.

“Lack of accessible transit service places barriers to education, work, and health services”, stated Chief Commissioner Hall. “For many, it makes the difference between isolation and loneliness, and full participation in the life of their community. This, clearly, is a human rights issue. The Commission urges the Committee and the government to ensure the final Transportation Standard is in alignment with the purpose of the AODA and adheres to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.”

While the AODA has great potential to significantly impact the lives of persons with disabilities, it will not do so if the standards being proposed are less than existing rights.

To view the Commission’s submission please go to visit the Commission's Web site.

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Jeff Poirier
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission