Hon. Madeleine Meilleur
Minister of Community and Social Services
80 Grosvenor Street, 6th floor
Dear Minister Meilleur:
Re: The Canadian Hearing Society’s Response to the initial Proposed Accessible Information and Communications Standard Document
The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) commends the Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) for determining that Information and Communications be a topic addressed in an accessibility standard. Thank you also for including CHS in the membership of the Information and Communications Standard Development Committee, as barriers to information and communications are faced daily by our constituents – culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing Ontarians. MCSS has demonstrated an attitude of inclusiveness and public engagement in arriving at and seeking input into this proposed standard.
CHS is pleased to have a further opportunity to review and provide feedback on the initial proposed Accessible Information and Communications Standard document on behalf of our constituents.
In addition, as a member of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODAA) Committee, CHS wholeheartedly endorses the AODA Alliance’s brief on the initial Proposed Accessible Information and Communications Standard. The recommendations we put forth in this letter support those contained in the position submitted by the AODA Alliance; however, our recommendations focus more specifically on the needs of persons who are culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing.
CHS respectfully submits the following considerations:
First and foremost, the proposed standard risks falling below the existing Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In addition, and enclosed herewith, attached CHS position papers on “Accessibility and Accommodation”, “Access to Democracy and the Electoral System”, “Alarms and Emergency Notification Systems”, and “Discrimination and Audism” cite legal citations including Human Rights tribunal decisions, Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Court of Canada decisions that set precedents with regards to access to information and communication. Where the proposed standard falls below existing obligations and precedents, especially in relation to classes and timelines, changes must be made to raise the standard.
The standard does not address who is obligated to pay for accessibility. Case in point, accessible elections, candidate information, all candidates’ meetings, constituency, party and campaign offices, and riding associations. Although the proposed standard does address Accessible Municipal and Provincial Elections (7.0), it does not address who would incur the costs for these requirements and the standard must outline clearly where that responsibility lies as it is currently not consistent with Section 3 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Second case in point, the Ontario Human Rights Commission Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms require accessibility to the point of undue hardship. The Information and Communications standard must be clear about where the obligations lie to arrange for and pay, when necessary, for accommodations.
Section 5.7, entitled “Sign language interpretation, intervention, note taking and real-time captioning services and personal assistant”, is critical to this standard and is buried at the end of section 5. We request that this section be moved up in the standard and, more importantly, made clear that it applies to all classes and the timeline for compliance is immediate as these are existing obligations.
Also with regard to Section 5.7.1, we request the phrase “that have significant personal impact for an individual” be removed as there is no place in a regulatory requirement for a subjective interpretation, nor should there be a requirement that information and communication have significant personal impact, by anyone’s definition, in order to be required to be accessible.
With respect to the implementation of AODA, there is no effective enforcement mechanism addressing government procurement, sponsorship and funding policies for events or products, requiring that they be accessible to persons with disabilities, in this proposed standard.
There are a number of principles not addressed in the proposed standard. These gaps include:
- Lack of clear and specific standards for access and accommodation requirements, making it difficult for consumers, service providers and businesses to know what the actual standards are
- No quality assurance or minimum standards for quality access and accommodation provisions in service providers and businesses. For example, it is essential for employers, service providers, organizations, and businesses to hire or book sign language interpreters with appropriate credentials or qualifications in sign language interpreting (i.e., Association of Visual Sign Language Interpreters of Canada’s Certificate of Interpretation, or minimally active membership.)
- No outcome measurements
- No enforcement mechanisms to ensure that access and accommodation are provided as required. (The standard must establish strong and effective regulations that empower the Ministry to revoke licenses, permissions, or funding, to related programs that deny access and accommodations to persons with disabilities, i.e. Ministry of Transportation regulating private sectors to provide accessible driver education; Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities regulating private vocational schools to ensure accessibility in the classroom for culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing learners)
- No standards for developing and implementing an anti-ableism/anti-audism policy to ensure that policies and practices remove systemic attitudinal barriers, prejudices and discrimination towards people with disabilities
- Lack of clear recommendations directing all sectors (public, private and not-for-profit) to establish advisory committees that would include employees and customers with disabilities to assist in the development and implementation of policies and procedures, including access and accommodation
- No clear standards for dealing with businesses and organizations that fail to accommodate people with disabilities e.g. accessible complaint policy and procedures
These gaps need to be addressed and appear explicitly in the standard.
With regard to timelines, in most instances it should be regulated that any new information and communications being developed in any format (spoken, recorded, videotaped, written, printed, etc.) must be developed to be accessible upon their release and not by 2013.
For example, DVDs and Videos being developed now should be captioned, whether for entertainment in theatres, for use in the workplace for training, or for use by schools, colleges and universities. In addition, in these cases, theatre houses, employers, and schools, colleges and universities should not show films that are not captioned unless other accommodations are in place to ensure the content is accessible to deaf and hard of hearing viewers.
In addition, when captioned DVDs and Videos are used, the technology must be in place to allow the captioning to be seen. It is not only necessary to have an accessible film, but also to have the proper equipment to show the film in its accessible format.
In reviewing this proposed standard it is important to know what is and is not covered in other standards being developed. It is essential that the process not allow components to fall through the cracks. For example, where the transportation standard may not address announcements or notifications, it is imperative that the Information and Communications standard applies to such activity. Likewise for Customer Service, Employment and Built Environment standards as they relate to information and communications. For example, it is essential to incorporate auditory information and electronic display systems in malls, sports stadiums, theatres, public entertainment venues, transit systems, etc. that would cover emergency, evacuation, delay information, stop announcements, etc.
With regards to Schedule 1 – Information and Communications Technical Requirements – section 9.0 American Sign Language (ASL) or Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) interpretation: this section does not address the necessary competencies of the practitioners and 9.0 d) leaves it entirely open to contract anyone to provide these services. This section should list one criterion and that is: active membership in the Association of Visual Language Interpreters of Canada (AVLIC). AVLIC has membership criteria that address training, and is the certifying body of sign language interpreters in Canada.
Ideally, the Government of Ontario should take the opportunity to establish, in conjunction with the Deaf and interpreting associations, a screening tool to qualify interpreters to work in Ontario.
In addition, the proposed standard for the public review process was not available in an accessible format for consideration. For example, the document was not produced and offered in a sign language format or in a plain language format.
Thank you for the opportunity to review and submit feedback on the proposed Accessible Information and Communications Standard document. We trust that the committee will be given this input to consider when it reconvenes and look forward to a resulting standard that comprehensively addresses accessible information and communications in Ontario.
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|President and CEO||Special Advisor to the President, Public Affairs|