Proposed Transportation Accessibility Standards a setback for Ontarians with Disabilities



    TORONTO, Aug. 30 /CNW/ - 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 www.ohrc.on.ca.

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For further information: Jeff Poirier, Manager, Communications Policy
and Education Branch, (416) 314-4539


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