Ford government faces legal battle over online health card renewal for people with disabilities

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Doug Ford’s government is facing legal action over its online Ontario health card renewal policy.

The online service is only available to residents with a valid driver’s license, a rule that disability advocates say discriminates against people who can’t drive or don’t have no permit.

“People like me who, because of their disability, are absolutely excluded from having their health card renewed online,” said David Lepofsky, Toronto lawyer and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance.

Lepofsky, who is blind, filed a petition in Superior Court last week against the provincial government asking for an urgent rule change.

Time is running out, he argues, with a moratorium on health card renewals that has been in place for much of the COVID-19 pandemic ending Feb. 28.

In-person renewal is a ‘health risk,’ says Lepofsky

The grace period may be ending, but the pandemic is not, and Lepofsky says that means many Ontario residents who don’t drive will have potentially risky face-to-face interactions, while many others have the luxury of doing everything online.

“Individuals like Mr. Lepofsky are in immediate, unjust and cruel danger of losing their health insurance or exposing themselves to the health risk of visiting a ServiceOntario office in person,” the motion reads. judiciary of Lepofsky.

In response to questions from CBC Toronto, a spokesperson for the Department of Health wrote that no one will be denied health care.

“Healthcare providers have been urged to continue accepting expired cards, and most people will continue to be able to use their health card to access insured health care services as they always have, despite the deadline,” a statement read.

Mail-in renewal available

The statement also notes that some residents can renew their health card by mail, including those over 80 and those with a valid Ontario photo card.

But that’s no good substitute for Lepofsky, who says the mail-in option presents too many “hurdles” for some and may also require close contact with other people.

And he says the provincial photo card should also be an online option.

Ontario says doctors should accept health cards that expired on or after March 1, 2020. (Ontario.ca)

“What is completely arbitrary and irrational is that the Ford government will not allow Ontario photo ID to be used in place of an Ontario driver’s license to allow you to renew your health card online,” he said in an interview.

In his statement, the ministry spokesman said the government was “taking steps” to enable the online renewal system to accept the photo card.

In November, CBC Toronto spoke to Ontarians who called it “shameful” that the province would place such a restriction on people with disabilities and seniors with reduced mobility by not allowing them to renew their health cards online. .

In December letter to the Ford government, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) had asked Ontario ministers to develop a plan to remove the barrier for people with disabilities and seniors, who would be required to attend a ServiceOntario facility for renewal.

“The Human Rights Code requires proactive planning to prevent or remove barriers to services for people with disabilities and older adults,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire.

“I am writing to encourage you to ensure that people with disabilities and seniors will have the same opportunity as others to obtain health card renewals online,” read DeGuire’s letter.

“As many people with disabilities also face barriers when traveling and may be more vulnerable to any exposure to COVID-19, it is especially important that they can access, use and benefit from the convenience of all online services. available to avoid in-person travel and service.”

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