News Release – Landmark Decision for Equal Access Won by ARCH Disability Law Centre
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Landmark Decision for Equal Access Won by ARCH Disability Law Centre
(Toronto, Ont. April 22, 2022)
On April 12, 2022, the Divisional Court released a decision in Hejka v. The Regional Municipality of Durham, 2022 ONSC 2233. This case involved access to accessible transportation services following the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The court decided to substitute its own decision in finding that Mr. Hejka is eligible for unconditional specialized public transportation service, since he cannot ride conventional transportation safely.
The court decided that the Regional Municipality of Durham’s decision was unreasonable as it created additional barriers for Mr. Hejka to access transportation and furthers discrimination as he had to be accompanied by an abled bodied person to compensate for his disabilities. Their decision was not in line with the AODA, which aims to remove barriers, avoid the creation of new barriers, and ensure equal access to opportunities and services.
Mr. Hejka was receiving paratransit services to get to work, activities, and volunteer since 2013. As with many other municipalities the paratransit provider reviewed its service delivery through a family of services model. Due to these changes Mr. Hejka was no longer found eligible for the services he was receiving. In addition, he was required to have an attendant with him at his expense at all times. ARCH Law Disability Centre (ARCH) on behalf of Mr. Hejka filed for judicial review on June 8, 2021 arguing that the decision changing his eligibility was unreasonable because, “it forced Mr. Hejka to have a PCA at his own expense, which removes his independence and has unrealistic financial consequences.” stated by Gabriel Reznick, ARCH Staff Lawyer.
“I was very disappointed when I could not be independent. Going to work and community events on my own safely is important to me”, stated Mr. Hejka. Fortunately, as a result of the court decision, Mr. Hejka is now eligible for unconditional specialized services. “I feel happy and excited to get back going to the places that I want to go to.
This decision will help me to continue to go to work, community events, and sports games.” Hannah Lee, ARCH Staff Lawyer said, “My hope is that this decision serves to challenge the attitudinal barriers we have around how we prioritize the needs of persons with disabilities within a larger social context of accessible public services”.
This decision emphasizes the importance of ensuring a person’s independence and dignity when providing services within the purview of the AODA. The court found that the paratransit provider’s decision serves to “undermine rather than promote Mr. Hejka’s independence and dignity, two fundamental needs of persons with disabilities that have historically been ignored.”
ARCH Disability Law Centre (ARCH) is a specialty legal clinic that practices exclusively in disability rights law. Since its incorporation in 1979, ARCH has been a leader in disability rights advocacy and test case litigation. To learn about the case decision, please visit: https://bit.ly/3vC4zW5 To learn more about ARCH, please visit https://archdisabilitylaw.ca/ or call 416 482 8255.
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
ARCH Disability Law Centre
416 482 8255 EXT 2231