IPC/Ontario addresses legibility and the duty to accommodate FOI requesters

On December 23rd, the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario issued an order that illustrates the Ontario law governing the legibility of records and institution’s duty to accommodate freedom of information requesters with disabilities.

These issues are governed by section 48(4) of the provincial act and section 37(3) of the municipal act. They read as follows:

Where access to personal information is to be given, the head shall ensure that the personal information is provided to the individual in a comprehensible form and in a manner which indicates the general terms and conditions under which the personal information is stored and used.

The IPC has held that these sections require institutions to provide reasonable quality copies, though not to transcribe or provide records in an alterative format subject to a duty to accommodate. Regarding accommodation, the IPC has held that institutions have a duty to provide disabled requesters with their personal information in a format that is comprehensible or intelligible to them. This duty is to be informed by the duty to accommodate in respect of service provision as established by the Human Rights Code, and presumably has a similar scope.

As with accommodation requests made under the Code, requesters who seek accommodation have a duty to establish the existence of a disability and their related medical needs. In its December order, the IPC dismissed an appeal that claimed a university had a duty to provide handwritten notes in an alternative format because the requester’s disability rendered the notes illegible. The requester did not provide sufficient evidence of his medical needs to establish a right to accommodation.

McMaster University (Re), 2022 CanLII 123506 (ON IPC).

FC confirms ATIA institutions can make only one access decision

On July 11th, the Federal Court held that an Access to Information Act institution’s access decision was null and void because it had made a prior access decision in response to the same request. It confirmed that institutions can only make one decision, though they may make supplementary disclosure based on an Information Commissioner recommendation (pursuant to section 29) and change their position in responding to a section 44 application to Federal Court.

Porter Airlines Inc v Canada (Attorney General), 2013 FC 780 (CanLII).