The Government of Canada is leading consultations to inform planned accessibility legislation.
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A Voice of Our Own: Spring 2012
On the CCD Agenda:
- Challenge Media Portrayal that Denigrates People with Disabilities
- Evolution of Access—Building in Access to ICT
- Welcoming “Boomers” to the Disability Community
CCD Member Group Updates:
- BC Coalition of People with Disabilities
- Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities
- Saskatchewan Voice of People With Disabilities
- Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities
- La Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec
- Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities
- Coalition of Persons with Disabilities-Newfoundland and Labrador
- Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians
- National Network for Mental Health
On the CCD Agenda:
Much of western culture interprets life with a disability negatively. People without disabilities wrongly equate disability with suffering and poor quality of life. San Francisco University researcher and notable disability advocate Paul Longmore found that medical professionals rated life with a disability less positively than people with disabilities rated their own lives. We have many examples of these misguided social perceptions in Canada as well. Most recently, viewers of the Global Television series 16 x 9 witnessed the devaluation of disability during an alarming episode called “Taking Mercy.”
Annette Corriveau lobbied for legalized euthanasia, because she contends her adult children, Janet and Jeffrey, would be better off dead than living with their disabilities. Janet and Jeffrey, who have Sanfilippo syndrome, experience intellectual disabilities. Global Television enlisted Robert Latimer and his supporter, university professor Arthur Schafer, to legitimize Annette’s position. Canadian courts convicted Latimer for the murder of his daughter Tracy, who had Cerebral Palsy. Tracy, much like Janet and Jeffrey, could not walk, talk or feed herself. While Janet and Jeffrey have a chronic condition, they are not terminally ill, facing imminent death.
As the social model of disability explains, the concept of disability is determined by how society and culture interpret people’s impairments. During “Taking Mercy” severe disability was equated with suffering that should be relieved by killing those who experience it. The program reinforced the negative and erroneous stereotype that it is better to be dead than to live with a disability.
In the broadcast, it was the people without disabilities who defined the meaning of disability. Disability Studies theorist, Catherine Frazee has criticized people without disabilities for their lack of imagination because many seem unable to envision that a life made different from their own by disability can be meaningful and joyous. “Taking Mercy’s” producers did not include people with disabilities whose experiences would challenge ableist stereotypes about disability. To the detriment of balanced reporting, they disqualified the experiential knowledge of people living with disabilities from the broadcast.
Global Television’s viewers would have been left with a different perception of life with a disability if the show’s producers had included people with severe disabilities whose lives are characterized by contribution and creativity and not suffering.
The power of messaging by people with disabilities can be seen in the 100 Huntley Street video “Redefining Disability”, available on YouTube, which presents a snapshot of Dr. Heidi Janz PhD, a playwright and university professor who has Cerebral Palsy, moves assisted by a wheelchair and uses “echoing” because she has a speech impairment. With echoing, a colleague, familiar with Heidi’s speech, voices her comments. In the video, Heidi says that she has been uniquely equipped to be the voice of people with disabilities. Her mission is to redefine disability. She is doing this through her work at the University of Alberta on disability ethics and as a playwright. “I should be able to acknowledge that I am disabled without my life being devalued by others. Sadly, this is often not the case,” states Heidi. Heidi’s semi-autobiographical play “The Book of Jobes” explores what happens to Rachel Jobes, an academic with a disability, after she undergoes violence in her home.
David Martin, who has Muscular Dystrophy, uses a wheelchair and breathes with the assistance of a ventilator. David is a special advisor to the Hon. Jennifer Howard, Manitoba’s Minister responsible for disability issues. During his career, David has travelled to the Ukraine and West Indies to share his expertise on disability issues.
Winnipegger Catherine Schaefer has an intellectual disability and uses a wheelchair. She lives in her own home supported by staff, family and friends. In Does She Know She’s There, her mother wrote about Catherine’s contributions to society, such as participation in school programs teaching students about diversity.
Had Global’s producers included the perspective of Heidi, David, Catherine or many of the other Canadians living with severe disabilities “Taking Mercy’s” viewers would have learned that disability and suffering are not synonymous. They would have seen that disability and elite academic success, international travel, and relationships including family love and support are not mutually exclusive. Instead, the negative message of “Taking Mercy” has reverberated to larger audiences.
Unfortunately, mass media negative portrayals of persons with disabilities did not end with Global’s program. The Dr. Phil program picked up Annette Corriveau’s story, giving it an international audience. Dr. Mark Mostert, Institute for the Study of Disability and Bioethics, has demanded an apology. “Dr. Phil owes more than 50 million people in the U.S. with disabilities an apology. Late last week he ran a segment that was unapologetically pro-death masquerading as an informed serious debate. The topic? Whether people with severe disabilities should be killed because they have no quality of life,” states Mostert.
Canadians with disabilities have been taking Global Television to task.
The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) made a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), alleging that “Taking Mercy” violated broadcasters’ Equitable Portrayal Code. The Code holds that programming should not include “unduly negative stereotypical material or comment which is based on matters of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status or physical or mental disability”. By not including people with disabilities with alternative viewpoints, “Taking Mercy” reinforced the “better dead than disabled” stereotype. CCD challenged this negative portrayal because the media plays a large role in establishing public perceptions of disability. The Canadian Association for Community Living has also made a complaint.
Unfortunately, “Taking Mercy” is not the exception to the rule. It is a stereotypical piece of reporting on disability and euthanasia. Karen D. Schwartz and Zana M. Lutfiyya, who studied media coverage of the Houle/Fariala assisted suicide case, found that the reporting on disability and euthanasia “does indeed present disability as a fate worse than death. It also confounds disability with terminal illness and perpetuates the stereotypical view in our society that conditions outside of the norm are unacceptable.” They argue this negative media portrayal of disability fuels the lobby for assisted suicide legislation.
Canada has an assisted suicide lobby. The Quebec Select Committee on Dying with Dignity tabled its report in March 2012, which recommended making “medical aid in dying” part of palliative care. The Carter case in British Columbia is a constitutional challenge of Canada’s law prohibiting assisted suicide. The Leblanc case also seeks to overturn Canada’s law on assisted suicide. Legalizing assisted suicide is a potential recipe for the lethal abuse of persons with disabilities and elderly people. For that reason alone, the stereotypical media portrayal reinforcing the erroneous assumption that it is better to be dead than live with a disability should not go unchallenged. Make a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council whenever you encounter media portrayal that reinforces negative stereotypes about disability. Visit the CBSC at <http://www.ccnr.ca/>.
Longmore, P. (2003) Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability. Temple University Press.
100 Huntley Street. (2012) “Redefining Disability” Heidi Janz. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-6wHbMGddiU >
Schaefer, Nicola. (1999) Does She Know She’s There? Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Schwartz, Karen D, and Lutfiyya, Zana M. (2009) “‘What lay ahead…’: a media portrayal of disability and assisted suicide.” Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. Volume 9 Number 1.
Evolution of Access—Building in Access to ICT
Information and communication technology (ICT) reflects the assumptions designers and sellers have about who will use their products. If designers operate from an able-ist world view, then ICT will include barriers that prevent people with disabilities from fully enjoying all that technology has to offer. If, on the other hand, designers follow a universal design approach, then people with a broad range of functional abilities will be able to use ICT, because universal design screens out barriers. Forty years ago when the access message was new, people with disabilities grudgingly accepted “backdoor” access. Today, the access message has a long history and Canadians with disabilities expect access to be built-in and new barriers avoided. The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization working for an accessible and inclusive Canada, recently consulted people with disabilities about ICT use and for recommendations on barrier removal and prevention.
How Canadians with Disabilities Use ICT
Although the universal design model is not the predominant approach in the ICT world, many Canadians with disabilities nevertheless use available ICT both to overcome barriers and to enjoy how these products make work easier and life more fun and “connected”.
Diane Driedger, Provincial Coordinator of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities, is a part-time “telecommuter”, who, rather than going to the office daily, performs some of her work from home, using email, Skype, and other options made possible by the internet. This is a job accommodation that addresses fatigue. By working from home, she avoids fatigue producing activities such as commuting and long hours outside in Manitoba’s frigid climate.
Lawyer Yvonne Peters, who works with CCD’s Human Rights Committee and has vision impairment, uses Apple’s iPad, in her professional work. The iPad, which comes with the VoiceOver screen reader, is accessible when it comes out of the box. Built-in accessibility features mean that people with disabilities do not have to buy adaptive technology to make an ICT usable. The need for adaptive technology adds extra cost, time delays, and the need to learn yet another computer program. In short, there are additional frustrations for the end user with a disability. “Moreover, the growing complexity of ICT makes the creation of timely and affordable adaptive technology increasingly difficult,” states Gary Birch of the Neil Squire Society. Thus, it is not surprising some people with disabilities are switching to ICT manufactures who build-in accessibility. Like other ICT users, Canadians with disabilities want the convenience of “plug and play” products.
The internet is a forum for social networking. Like their nondisabled counterparts, people with disabilities are using the internet to boost their social lives. Some disability groups are informing their members about cyber safety.
Although accessible ICT is available in the marketplace, it can take an incredible amount of self-advocacy and persistence for an individual to obtain it. Doreen Demas, who has vision impairment, discovered this when seeking an accessible cell phone from the Manitoba Telephone System (MTS). For customers without a disability, acquiring a cell phone that meets their needs is a relatively straightforward consumer activity. MTS’s original offer to Doreen was an inaccessible Blackberry. Over a period of several years, it took numerous frustrating sessions with MTS representatives and a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for her to obtain a contract, with reasonable terms and conditions, for an accessible iPhone. The CRTC has a policy requiring that Canadian cell phone service providers include an accessible product in their catalogue of devices on offer to the public.
Some postsecondary students with disabilities encounter barriers related to ICT. While a student intern, who requires large print, may be most comfortable using a particular program to enlarge text, their field placement agency may think it is reasonable to expect them to use whatever programs are available on the in-house computer system. Although educational institutions and employers have a duty to accommodate disability-related needs, individuals continue to struggle to have need accommodations provided.
In some respects, Canada lags behind other countries in providing people with disabilities necessary ICT. Nowhere is this truer than in access to Video Relay Service (VRS), which is now widely available in the United States but not in Canada. VRS enables ASL users and non-ASL users to communicate with each other via video technology rather than a relay service. With VRS, using a web camera and internet or cable technology, an interpreter is visible “on the line” with both an ASL user and the non-ASL user in a three-way call. The interpreter signs the spoken message to the Deaf caller and speaks the signed message to the hearing caller. This method allows Deaf callers to function in their first language. The Canadian Association of the Deaf has launched an online petition to demand that the Government of Canada support a permanent national Video Relay Service (VRS) in Canada by the fall of 2012.
For some people with intellectual disabilities, ICT is problematic due to the complexity of devices, the lack of plain language instruction guides and few educational opportunities. Cell phones, computers, and other devices require users to input a variety of complex commands. Many devices do not comply with the universal design principle on simple and intuitive use. The payoff for following the principle is easy to use products, regardless of past experience, language skills and educational attainment. ICT instruction manuals often do not follow plain language guidelines. There are limited opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to learn how to operate ICT. People First of Canada uses its national meetings as an opportunity to instruct its membership about computer use.
Today, touch screen technology is a component of new household appliances. Users of ovens, washing machines, air conditioners and other products interact with a touch screen rather than turn a dial or flick a switch. While the iPad example demonstrates that accessible touch screens are possible, many manufactures are not taking the opportunity to champion accessibility. Cable and satellite television providers offer on-screen program guides. Consumers whose disabilities prevent them from using inaccessible screen-based technology are paying for services that they cannot enjoy. “Too many people in the general public assume that with today's technology, consumers with disabilities are part of it. In truth, too many companies continue to exclude us by making technology such as televisions, household appliances, smart phones and public technology like airport kiosks and point of sale machines that are inaccessible to blind users. This results in consumers with disabilities either making do like second class citizens or having to launch lengthy battles for equal access, despite rulings like the CRTC ruling. In short, we are having to constantly play catch up,” states Doreen Demas.
“People with disabilities in rural areas, First Nations communities and small urban centres are lacking accessibility in many ways,” states Tony Dolan, CCD’s Chairperson. “Access to ICT is just another of the many barriers people in these communities are struggling to resolve.”
Poverty a Major Factor in the Digital Divide
Like everything in the marketplace, ICT comes with a price tag. People with disabilities experience a disproportionate level of poverty. People with disabilities of working age are about twice as likely to live on a low income as their counterparts without disabilities. “There is the assumption that everybody can afford a computer. That’s an assumption. It is not a fact,” states Marie White, Chairperson of CCD’s Social Policy Committee. “Our most challenging issue is poverty.” Some people with disabilities face additional costs because they have to buy ICT, and they also must purchase adaptive technology to make inaccessible technology usable. In some provinces, provincial programs provide people with disabilities access to technology.
The Way Forward
CCD consulted Canadians with disabilities about how to remove barriers from ICT. They recommended the following actions: Enforceable regulations, poverty alleviation, working collaboratively with other sectors.
Enforceable Regulation—People with disabilities recommend the adoption of standards with teeth that prevent barriers from being created in new and emerging technologies. In essence, the Supreme Court of Canada proclaimed ‘no new barriers!’ when it decided the VIA Rail case, which came about in response to VIA Rail’s purchase of inaccessible passenger rail cars. People with disabilities are looking to Canadian legislators to follow suit and place a “no barriers” requirement on the ICT sector.
Poverty Alleviation—People with disabilities seek robust, comparable technical aids programs across Canada. Ontario’s program is a model to follow.
Collaboration—Canadians with disabilities believe the creation of a standard of excellence on universal design and the establishment of university chairs in this field would increase Canada’s capacity to create homegrown accessible ICT.
John Rae, Co-chair of CCD’s Access to Technology Committee, concludes, “Accessibility will not advance without clear and direct government intervention.”
“Personally Speaking: Poverty and Disability in Canada. http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/poverty-citizenship/demographic-...
“Baby boomers” are becoming today’s seniors; many seniors have disabilities or will acquire impairments as they age. A new government report, the 2011 Federal Disability Report, reveals that seniors with disabilities have much in common with other members of the disability community. In this article, CCD identifies three of its priorities that are relevant to seniors with disabilities: disability-related supports, employment and poverty eradication and encourages seniors to become champions on disability issues.
Minister Finley in her introduction to the 2011 Federal Disability Report notes that its focus on seniors reflects the changing nature of the Canadian population, explaining that today there are four working Canadians for every retiree and by 2030 there will be 2 working Canadians for every retiree. The report reveals that about 43% of seniors have disabilities and projects that by 2036 there will be between 4.6 million and 5.1 million seniors in Canada. Minister Finley predicts that seniors will be important contributors to the workplace and Canadian communities.
The 2011 Federal Disability Report states that, “42 percent of seniors who need help have unmet needs. These include 6 percent who have none of their needs met, and 36 percent who have some of their needs met. There are just over 500 000 seniors with disabilities who have unmet needs for care.” Seniors need access to disability-related supports. Improving access to disability-related supports is CCD’s priority; with CCD calling for new government investments to lever improved access to supports. CCD maintains disability-related supports should be available to people with disabilities throughout the lifecycle.
Similar to younger people with disabilities, seniors with disabilities are more likely to be unemployed than seniors without disabilities. The Report states, “Sixty-four percent of seniors aged 60 to 64 are not in the labour force, compared to 41 percent of seniors aged 60 to 64 without disabilities.” Employment is another CCD priority; one CCD recommendation calls for additional resources for the Opportunities Fund, which assists unemployed people with disabilities get jobs.
Seniors with disabilities have a slightly lower income than seniors without disabilities. The 2011 Report states, “The median annual personal income for seniors with disabilities is $20,827, compared to $22,821 for seniors without disabilities.” Additionally, the 2011 Federal Disability Report notes that the extra cost of disability is pushing some seniors with disabilities into the low-income group. Poverty eradication is another CCD priority; from CCD’s perspective a Refundable Disability Tax Credit (DTC) would be a good first step for addressing disability poverty. Through its research project, Disabling Poverty/Enabling Citizenship CCD is developing policy recommendations to address poverty in the disability community.
People with disabilities are men and women, moms and dads, students and graduates, and members of the “baby boom” generation. We in the disability community welcome “boomers” to our community and encourage you to take out a membership in a CCD member group. The generation born between 1946 and 1964 has affected many aspects of life in Canada; now, we encourage you to become a champion on disability issues.
The CHRC Annual Report describes the work of the Commission and highlights important changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act that took effect in 2011.
The most significant of these changes affects over 700,000 people, principally residents of First Nations communities. Since June 18, 2011, the Commission has been able to receive discrimination complaints against First Nations governments on matters under the Indian Act. Since that time, First Nations people have had access to the same level of human rights protection in law as everyone else in Canada.
“For over three decades, the Indian Act was shielded from Canada’s human rights laws,” Acting Chief Commissioner David Langtry said. “It will take many years of effort to remedy this long legacy of neglect.”
The Annual Report tells stories of individuals who have successfully used the Canadian Human Rights Act to bring about meaningful change, and illustrates how the Act continues to play an important role in the daily lives of Canadians.
The report discusses how the Commission is working collaboratively with employers to prevent discrimination. It also highlights some of the important cases in which the Commission has intervened before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and the courts in representation of the public interest. The 2011 Annual Report illustrates how the Commission’s voice continues to be heard in the national discussion on human rights in Canada.
The 2011 Annual Report is available on the Commission’s website.
CCD Member Group Updates:
BC’s Representation Agreement Act Selected as One of the Eight Best Policies in the World
The Representation Agreement Act of BC has been chosen as one of eight best policies in the world by disability experts and a scientific advisory panel of the World Future Council. The Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry, a non-profit organization, is recognized as the driving force behind the legislation.
Nidus Chairperson, Christine Gordon, gave a presentation on the development and implementation of the made-in BC legislation at the International Summit on Accessibility in Vienna in January 2012. The Summit brought together around 250 parliamentarians, NGOs, foundation representatives, academics and activists from the disability rights movement from 35 countries to discuss exemplary policies and to encourage their dissemination to other countries.
For over two decades, the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD) has been a key community partner in the development of Representation Agreements (RAs). Along with the Nidus Resource Centre, the BCCPD has worked to raise the public’s and government’s awareness and support for RAs. These efforts culminated in the enactment of the Representation Agreement Act of BC in 2000.
RAs allow people to create legal arrangements for the management of their personal affairs in the event of illness, injury or disability. RAs cover arrangements for financial affairs as well as health care matters. A central feature of RAs is that they enable a person to name someone they trust to be their representative and to carry out their wishes if they are incapable. The law requires the representative to make decisions according to the person’s wishes; not what the representative thinks is best. RAs protect self-determination.
The Representation Agreement Act’s flexible definition of capability is unique and extremely progressive in that it recognizes trust as one of the defining features of support relationships and shifts the burden of proof of incapability to others.
The BCCPD has always believed strongly in Representation Agreements and congratulate Nidus for this great success. We are proud to be their partners in the community.
The Zero Project
The goal of the Zero Project is to work for a world with zero barriers for people with disabilities. One of the strategies for achieving this goal is researching and promoting policies from around the world that provide the best hope for eliminating barriers. Our Representation Agreement was chosen as one of these best policies by a scientific advisory panel.
The conference was attended by 300 invited guests from every corner of the world. In the two workshops where Christine presented the Representation Agreement, there was great interest in BC and even greater interest in how we had managed to achieve the RA’s innovative vision of capability and supported decision-making. Her presentation focused on the importance of the ground-up process in designing and implementing the RA, and the crucial role that has been played by the Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry in creating a center of excellence for practice.
In a communication from the conference organizers immediately after the conference, we learned that the host country Austria “has started to promote the BC Act as a good example for further development and reform of the Austrian Guardianship legislation.” Similar efforts are underway in Ireland, where the BC experience has been closely studied.
Government Raises AISH Monthly Amount by $400
The Government of Alberta has increased the maximum monthly financial benefit for Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) clients by $400 per month to $1,588, effective April 1. The employment income exemptions will double from $400 to $800 for single clients and from $975 to $1,950 for families. About 17 per cent of AISH clients and/or their cohabitating partners (more than 7,500 households) report some form of employment income.
In 2012-13, the AISH program will provide financial assistance and health benefits to about 46,000 Albertans with a severe and permanent disability that substantially limits their ability to earn a living.
Budget 2012 provides $271 million to cover the cost of increasing the maximum monthly benefit and doubling the AISH program’s employment exemption thresholds. The total 2012-13 budget for the AISH program is nearly $1.1 billion.
Since 2005, the maximum monthly financial benefit for the AISH program has increased six times: from $850 to $950 on April 1, 2005; to $1,000 on April 1, 2006; to $1,050 on April 1, 2007; to $1,088 on January 1, 2008; to $1,188 on April 1, 2009; to $1,588 effective April 1, 2012.
AISH recipients receive other health-related benefits such as prescriptions, dental, optical, diabetic supplies, ambulance, and Alberta Aids to Daily Living. The average health-related benefit per AISH recipient is $370 per month.
ACCD requested in our Election 2012 Fact Sheets that AISH be indexed yearly to the cost of living (inflation) in Alberta.
Alberta Provincial Election
The Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities encouraged all members of the disability community, friends, and supporters to participate in the April 23, 2012, provincial election. We are actively raising our voices and talking about the changes we would like to see happen in Alberta to improve programs and services for people with disabilities.
ACCD’s non-partisan election campaign aimed to educate the candidates about issues of importance to people with disabilities and to educate people with disabilities about the election process.
This was an opportunity for us to bring forward the issues that affect the everyday lives of people with disabilities. ACCD studied the parties’ policies and talked about the issues; we can propose ideas that may not have been considered before. By attending forums, asking questions, and speaking to candidates, we brought our concerns forward.
The Alberta Disabilities Forum prepared a 2012 election campaign kit, which could be accessed on ACCD’s web site at www.accd.net. It provided necessary tools to make disability issues a priority in the 2012 election campaign, including Fact Sheets on the following issues:
Access to Medications: Many medications prescribed by physicians, and alternative effective therapies needed by Albertans with disabilities or chronic illnesses, are not covered because they are not on the Alberta Drug Benefit List. Recommendation: The Alberta Drug Benefit List should include physician prescribed medications and proven alternative therapies.
Aids to Daily Living: Albertans with disabilities often have difficulty accessing the AADL program supplies and equipment they need to enhance their independence and maximize their health and safety. Recommendation: Reduce paperwork, improve communication, streamline processes, and update administrative technology to provide supplies and equipment in a more efficient manner.
Education: An inclusive education is critical to success in today’s society. People with disabilities are unemployed, underemployed, and poorer than people without disabilities partially due to a lack of equitable access to education. Recommendation: Ensure children with disabilities have an opportunity to receive an inclusive education from kindergarten through high school with the supports they need to be successful in schools in their own communities.
Employment: Many Albertans with disabilities lack the supports needed to enter the workforce. Education, skills training, accessible workplaces, and job opportunities are concerns when people with disabilities seek employment. Recommendations: Government should provide internship programs for people with disabilities to assist them to transition into the work force and generate on-going awareness campaigns to shift attitudes of employers towards hiring people with disabilities.
Home Care: Adequate resources are necessary to provide the scope and quality of home care services required by people with disabilities to maximize independence and self-determination. Recommendations: Ensure self-managed care is available to clients who wish to direct their own care and revisit administration and criteria of eligibility to ensure it is working for the client. Increase services for rural programs, taking into consideration the unique situations of clients and their caregivers in rural areas.
Housing: People with disabilities have limited housing options and rent support programs have been cut back. Recommendation: Increase availability of rent support programs so people with disabilities do not have to be on waiting lists for accessible, affordable housing.
Income Support: ACCD and the people receiving AISH appreciate the recent increases to AISH. The cost of living in Alberta increases each year and, in the past, the AISH living allowance has not kept up with inflation. Recommendation: The AISH living allowance should be adjusted yearly to the inflation rate in Alberta.
Transportation: People with disabilities need affordable, accessible, and flexible transportation for school, work, medical care, and community activities. Recommendation: Expand funding to municipalities to ensure people with disabilities have adequate transportation.
Recreation and Active Living: Many people with disabilities are not able to gain the health benefits and enhanced quality of life from participating in recreational and physical activities. Recommendations: Ensure new facilities have universal access and increase funding to make existing facilities accessible. Educate and train service providers and programmers to effectively accommodate participation of people with disabilities.
Alberta Disabilities Forum Survey
The Alberta Disabilities Forum has developed a survey to gather information on the experiences of people with disabilities and their political involvement. The results of the survey will help to better manage non-partisan campaigns and may also be used for future projects. We have asked Albertans with disabilities or their advocates (family, friends) to complete this brief survey as soon as possible. It is ANONYMOUS; no information gathered will be shared with any other organization or regulatory body. There are no costs or risks for filling out the questionnaire, and it takes only 5-10 minutes to complete. It can be accessed at www.accd.net.
ACCD’s Executive Director Celebrated 20 Years
October marked a special milestone here at ACCD. Executive Director, Bev Matthiessen, celebrated her 20th year with our organization. In this time, Bev has overseen the rapid modernization of ACCD, and she has played an important part in the changes that have occurred in the disability community over the past two decades.
When Bev first came to ACCD in 1991, there were four people working in the office, one of whom was part time. In those days, ACCD had one computer for the staff to share and, while everyone was passionate about issues, there was little administrative structure in place to steer the organization and keep it focused.
Bev’s administrative and business background, coupled with her genuine passion for helping people, set ACCD on a new course. When Bev was asked about her role in making ACCD what it is today, she immediately spoke of our board of directors and how, in her 20 years, none of what ACCD has achieved would have been possible without their immeasurable support and valuable insight.
When asked about her greatest achievements as ACCD’s executive director, Bev spoke of things that she has been a part of, like the twelve years she and others committed to advocating for improvements to AISH. She is also proud of her role in helping to build the Alberta Disabilities Forum into a unified voice of the disability community.
Bev deserves credit as the architect behind ACCD’s reputation for excellence. Although our organization continues to operate with a small staff, we achieve great things under her direction, and we all look forward to a bright future with many more positive changes to come.
ACCD Board Member Wins Prestigious Award: Doreen Gyorkos
In celebration of the International Day of the Older Person (October 1), the Columbia Retirement Community, along with key support from the Lethbridge Herald, CTV, and CKVN Radio, paid tribute to deserving members of Lethbridge’s seniors community with the annual Seniors of Distinction Award. Among those recognized was Doreen Gyorkos, vice president of ACCD’s board of directors.
Doreen was diagnosed with a severe hearing impairment in 1985. Since then, she has dedicated much of her time to helping those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
For her contributions, Doreen was presented with the Lethbridge Seniors of Distinction Award for Leadership. Everyone here at ACCD extends our appreciation and sincere congratulations to Doreen for such a wonderful achievement.
YES Camps for Young Men
The Saskatchewan Voice of People with Disabilities held a new YES camp for young men with disabilities (age 14-24). It is similar to our popular Girl Power camps in the lessons they teach but with a male perspective. The camp was one-day in length as it was a pilot camp. It was on Saturday June 2nd from 9-5.
Girl Power Camps 2012
The Voice is pleased to announce it held a two-day Girl Power Camp on June 2nd and 3rd in Regina for young women (age 14-24) with disabilities.
This was a two-day camp. The camp ran from 9-5 each day (Saturday & Sunday) and covered different topics each day.
MLPD Celebrates Political Allies, Then Back to Developing Recommendations for Government
On March 21, 2012 at the Manitoba Legislature, Manitobans with disabilities honoured seven provincial politicians who are leaders on disability issues: Muriel Smith, Jon Gerrard, Tim Sale, Bonnie Mitchelson, the Hon. Gord Mackintosh, the Hon. Dave Chomiak, and the Hon. Jennifer Howard. The honorees, from the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties, received “Closing the Gap”, unisex jewelry created by MLPD and DAWN Manitoba celebrating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the new MLPD anthology, The Voice of People with Disabilities: Making A Difference in Manitoba, which describes how the disability community has been removing barriers for 38 years.
One unique characteristic of the seven honorees is they listen to the disability community. MLPD Co-chair Paula Kierstead reminded participants, “The success of all our efforts is really evident tonight. It is evident by you being here, by the incredible anthology, and by the fact that some political folk got it right. They actually figured out what we are talking about and they made the decisions that needed to be made so that Manitobans with disabilities could be full participants in our society.”
In their comments, the honorees recognized the disability community’s contribution to Manitoba. The Hon. Jennifer Howard stated, “It has been my absolute gift to work with this community, and to be a member of this community at the same time. It is my privilege to work with you and learn from you. And I always consider this community like a best friend. You know, like your best friend tells you, you have got to pick it up a little bit there, Howard, you have to move a little faster, you’re falling behind, but they’re always there on the hard days to remind you of the things that we have accomplished and that’s why events like this are important.”
At end of the night, Jess Turner, MLPD Co-chair, and Dale Kendel recognized additional MLAs who advanced disability issues: Doug Martindale, Saul Miller, Rene Toupin, Don Orchard, Sharon Blady, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Bud Sherman, Drew Caldwell, Gary Filmon, Denis Rocan, Howard Pawley, Lloyd Axworthy. “Our list of political allies is not exhaustive. We have named many, but there are others who have championed issues, and I would invite all of you, our participants, to continue to add to that list other elected officials you know who have been champions of disability issues and worked to build a more inclusive and accessible Manitoba,” commented Chris Summerville, event emcee and Executive Director of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society.
On March 22, 2012, Paula Keirstead, MLPD Co-chair, facilitated a workshop on poverty which brought together the disability and poverty communities and government to develop recommendations to improve the lives of Manitobans with disabilities living in poverty. Poverty researcher John Stapleton presented information on the five programs that provide income to Canadians with disabilities. Participants prioritized the following activities: changing attitudes, advocacy, legislative reform, making improvements to housing, employment opportunities, income support system, and health care.
MLPD partnered with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, the Allan Simpson Memorial Fund and the Manitoba Disabilities Issues Office to organize these events. Call Diane at 204-943-6099 to purchase a “Closing the Gap” pendant or to join MLPD’s work to eradicate poverty.
MLPD Speaks Out on Made in Manitoba Accessibility Legislation
On Tuesday, May 7, 2012, members of the disability community shared views with Manitoba’s Accessibility Advisory Council (AAC) about how to remove barriers and make Manitoba accessible. Nothing new, right? Wrong! While Manitoba's disability community has been talking about access since the 1970s, something different was happening at the Victoria Inn, where over 100 people gathered with many more participating via the Internet. Unlike at other meetings on access issues, other sectors—business, education, municipal governments, and academics— joined the conversation. On Tuesday, educators and university students, the Mayor from Steinbach, Councillors from Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg, business people along with members of the disability community described for the AAC the path that barrier removal should follow. In Manitoba, access is now being recognized as a feature of society that benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Jim Baker, President of the Manitoba Hotel Association, stated, “Accessibility is an opportunity to do more business with more people.” The Hon. Jim Rondeau, Minister of Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs, stated, “An inclusive society benefits everyone.” This is the message that the Manitoba League has been advocating since 1974.
The Hon. Jennifer Howard, the Provincial Minister mandated to address disability issues, has instructed the Accessibility Advisory Council to draft recommendations on accessibility legislation by June 16, 2012. The Council will include what it hears from the public in its report to Minister Howard. The focus of the consultation was the AAC’s Discussion Paper on Accessibility Legislation. The end product will be “Made in Manitoba” access legislation.
Jim Derksen, AAC Chairperson and Yvonne Peters, AAC Co-chair, explained the workings of accessibility legislation. Peters explained that the legislation will provide the foundation for the province’s barrier removal activities and the regulations, which will be written later, will provide more in-depth guidance on how barrier removal will happen. On Tuesday, participants discussed the foundation. Prof. Debra Parkes, University of Manitoba Faculty of Law, facilitated the meeting.
The Manitoba League of Persons with Disability (MLPD) was represented at the meeting by members of the Executive Committee, Committee chairs, and staff.
The MLPD spoke out about the Preamble, Purpose, Application and Duties of Municipalities. We told the Council that the new Accessibility Act should frame a role for the organizations of people with disabilities in barrier removal. During the discussion of the Act's Purpose, we called for assurances that the following areas would be covered by the legislation: communication, transportation, electoral process, arts, culture, recreation. In the discussion about the approach to standard setting, concern was raised about how this would be resourced. Historically, community groups, compared with industry, have been under-resourced when participating in standard setting bodies. During the discussion of Municipal Responsibilities, we suggested the creation of a provincial fund that would assist small municipalities to become accessible.
If you did not attend the consultation and want to add your views on Made in Manitoba accessibility legislation, the AAC is accepting written submissions. The MLPD Council will draft the outline of its submission at its May Provincial Council Meeting. MLPD Committees have been invited to participate in this meeting. Submit your views to the AAC by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions are due by June 5, 2012.
by Deanna Ng
This book is a collection of reflections, stories, experiences and work of people within or supporting the Disability Community. It reflects the past 30-40 years of change in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the world in the Disability Movement. The authors share their experiences as persons from different backgrounds in different areas, which they have advocated for or seen change.
The first reflection is by the Honourable Jennifer Howard on the development of the Disability Movement and the partnership between government and Manitobans with disabilities in creating change towards a more accessible community.
The next two articles are from the MLPD Co-Chairs, Paula Keirstead and Jesse Turner – stories of their experiences and history of advocacy with the MLPD. The article that follows describes the great impact that Allan Simpson had on was in the Disability Movement. The next section is “Creating Change”. This includes articles such as the history of accessibility in the community, feminist views, the Deaf Community, and the creation of political offices such as the Disabilities Issues Office (DIO).
The section, “Inclusion” follows. It has stories of people advocating for inclusion into the community facing many barriers such as physical barriers, lack of services, inadequate legislation, and discrimination. The history of MLPD is described and the things that MLPD has accomplished such as the creation of different organizations and partnerships such as the Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC), and Reaching-Equality Employment Services (REES). It also describes partnerships such as with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD). The next short sections that follow discuss areas of advocacy that include; housing, education and work, human rights, transportation, and disability studies. In each section, there have been great improvements. Housing discusses places such as Ten Ten Sinclair as a leader in accessibility, Fokus Housing, and self-directed home care. The section on education and work discusses developments like REES, the creation of supported employment groups, and the success of people with disabilities finding employment and attending post-secondary education. The section on human rights discusses the creation of the clause on rights of people with disabilities in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Vulnerable Persons Act and other legislation to allow for a more inclusive society. The transportation section describes improvements in Winnipeg Transit (being made universally designed) and accessible taxi cabs. The Disability Studies section describes the creation and advancement of courses to take at a joint program between U of W and RRC for undergraduate studies and a multi-disciplinary master’s degree at the U of M that educates students on the Disability Movement with a social model emphasis.
This book reflects the history and work of the Disability Community in the Disability Movement and is a story of success. You may also get it online at: http://www.mlpd.mb.ca/download/making-a-difference-in-manitoba-2012.pdf
Pushing Back the Age of Eligibility for Old Age Security: Extending the Poverty of People with Disabilities
The Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN) urges the Canadian government to consider the negative effects of the raising the age of eligibility for various retirement programs of the Government of Canada on people with disabilities.
The extent of poverty is disproportionately experienced by people with disabilities. Therefore, many people with disabilities are eager to be 65 to qualify for the Old Age Security (OAS) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS). They receive better benefits from these programs than from any other income social assistance program.
"No changes to Old Age Security (OAS) should be contemplated without first studying the possible effects on other programs to alleviate poverty,” said Richard Lavigne, CEO of COPHAN. The OAS does not exist in isolation, away from other welfare benefits such as long term disability insurance benefits, the Canada Pension Plan, Workers Compensation, and personal exemption of the tax system,” he said.
COPHAN therefore requested Members of Parliament of Canada to examine the potential impact of any change in OAS on people with disabilities who are often excluded from the labor market because of the obstacles inherent in their functional limitations. COPHAN invited them to take into account the real needs of people with disabilities when assessing any future pension reform.
"The new policy initiatives should improve the situation of persons with disabilities and their families, not disadvantage them further," said Lavigne.
Still A Long Way to Go
May 28 – June 2 has been proclaimed by Premier Dexter as Access Awareness Week in Nova Scotia. This week has been set aside to celebrate advances being made by the disabled community.
Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities and many organizations in the province have worked tirelessly to increase access in many areas. Earl Flynn, Chair of NS LEO states that “The situation which was reported on Friday, where access to Metro Transit in Halifax has been denied to a hearing impaired citizen and her service dog is very discouraging and points to the fact that we still have a very long way to go before all citizens have full access to services”.
NS LEO is pleased to hear that service dogs are able to ride on all metro transit vehicles, however there apparently needs to be increased driver education and awareness of the need for service dogs to accompany their owners on transit. Mr. Flynn goes on to say, “ We understand that a complaint has been made to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission as well as Metro Transit and we urge the immediate resolution of this complaint by Metro Transit”..
Show Us the Money!
The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities-Newfoundland and Labrador (COD-NL) applauded the Dunderdale Government for the launch of the Provincial Strategy for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador released on April 19th, 2012. However, COD NL is disappointed that the Provincial Budget did not make apparent the fiscal commitment to support the strategy.
Michelle Murdoch, President of COD-NL says “Disability Organizations are going to be at the forefront of this strategy, so funds must be made available to ensure that the voice of disability continues to be heard and broadened. Advocacy plays a crucial role in protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. Inclusion ensures equal treatment from all levels of government, businesses and community in general. Our advocacy service will continue to make a real difference to the lives of people with disability by providing information, education, and cross disability awareness” said Murdoch.
Operating at the provincial and local levels, COD-NL is a systemic advocacy organization concerned with all persons with disabilities, promoting their rights and raising public awareness of their needs. COD-NL is proactive in working to improve legislation and services at all government levels and networking with national and regional groups to support independence and foster positive self-concept of its members.
COD-NL applauds new fines for illegally parking in Blue Zones!
The Coalition of Persons with Disabilities – Newfoundland Labrador (COD-NL) applauded the recent announcement by Government Services for increasing fines for illegally parking in blue zone parking spaces in this province. Accessible parking spaces are reserved for persons with disabilities who have a disabled parking permit issued by the Motor Vehicle Registration.
Motorists without disabilities who park in spaces specifically marked for persons with disabilities, even ‘just for a minute’ is 60 seconds too long. “It is our responsibility to educate the public and ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are protected,” said Michelle Murdoch, Chairperson of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities. “We need to remind the general public of the need to respect our Blue Zone Parking areas made available to those with disabilities." The illegal use of disabled parking spaces infringes upon the rights of citizens with disabilities and immediately becomes an enforceable violation. “It is vital that children, women, and men who require Blue Zone parking have access to the blue zone spaces. When those who do not require such spaces use the designated parking, they are preventing persons with disabilities from accessing services afforded by Blue Zone parking” says Murdoch.
The penalty for parking in a designated disabled parking space will increase from the current range of $45 to $180 to the new range of $100 to $400; the new regulations also state that signs identifying blue zone parking spaces are to be permanent and visible at all times.
COD-NL hopes that the results of educating the public will allow easier and more frequent access to these designated parking spaces for residents and visitors with disabilities.
Operating at the provincial and local levels, COD-NL is a systemic advocacy organization concerned with all persons with disabilities, promoting their rights and raising public awareness of their needs. COD-NL is proactive, working to improve legislation and services at all government levels and networking with national and regional groups to support independence and foster positive self-concept of its members.
Presentation from the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians to the Legislative Committee considering Bill C11
On February 27, 2012, Marc Workman, an Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) Member at Large of the national Board, appeared before the Parliamentary Committee considering the bill to amend Canada's CopyrightAct. Here is the Brief he left with the Committee:
I want to begin by thanking the committee on behalf of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians for inviting us to appear. We appreciate the opportunity. My name is Marc Workman. I am a National Director with the AEBC. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians is a national organization made up primarily of blind, deaf-blind, and partially sighted individuals. We advocate on a wide variety of issues at the local, provincial, and national level. To learn more about us, you can visit our website at www.blindcanadians.ca.
Copyright legislation and its reform are of deep importance to blind Canadians. Access to printed material, much of which is protected by copyright, is one of the key barriers that prevents blind people from fully participating in Canadian society.
That said, if it were up to us, blindness would have nothing to do with this discussion. I would rather not be here today representing blind Canadians. I would rather not rely on an exemption that allows me, persons I ask, or non-profits working for my benefit to create alternative format versions of inaccessible copyrighted works. Instead, I, and other blind Canadians, would prefer to borrow books from libraries just like our sighted counterparts. We would prefer to purchase books from online and brick-and-mortar bookstores just like our sighted counterparts-in short, we want to be able to access copyrighted works just like our sighted counterparts.
Unfortunately, blind Canadians cannot do this today. Less than 10%, some say less than 5%, of printed material is available in an accessible format, and those few accessible versions exist only because inaccessible materials are reproduced in an accessible form.
I would like you to keep this point in mind as you listen to my recommendations. These recommended changes are necessary only because publishers and copyright holders are creating a product that could be, but is not, accessible to blind people. Genuine access requires not an exemption, but a commitment on the part of publishers and copyright holders to make accessible products. We do not want to rely on an exemption; we have to rely on one. Because of that, I urge you to make the exemption as effective as possible by adopting the recommendations I will make throughout the rest of this presentation..
Recommendation 1: Technological Protection Measures While we support the exemption in Section 41.16 of Bill C11 that permits the circumvention of Technological Protection Measures for the purpose of producing alternative format versions of copyrighted works, this right, for all practical intents and purposes, will not be one that the average blind Canadian can exercise.
Breaking the digital lock on copyrighted works is almost certain to be beyond the means of the average blind Canadian. Not only is some level of technical expertise required, which many will not possess, there is no guarantee that the circumvention tools will be accessible even to the most tech savvy of blind Canadians.
Moreover, circumventing TPMs places a significant burden on those organizations that produce alternative formats for the benefit of blind Canadians. These organizations will have to hire and maintain staff with the technical expertise to break the digital locks.
Despite that Section 41.16, sub section 2, of Bill C11 also provides an exemption to those offering services or manufacturing products for the purpose of circumventing TPMs in order to produce alternative formats, the exemption is permitted only to the extent that these services or circumvention tools do not "unduly impair the technological protection measure". It is not clear what exactly it would mean not to "unduly impair"
a TPM, and this ambiguity is very concerning.
Given the general restrictions on circumventing TPMs, it is unlikely that the necessary tools will be widely available and readily accessible to blind Canadians and the organizations working on their behalf. The AEBC recommends, along with thousands of other Canadians and organizations that make up Canadian society, that the restrictions on circumventing TPMs be tied to actions that would otherwise be violations of copyright. Not only is this balance better for Canadian society in general, but it is the best way to ensure that blind Canadians have access to the tools that are necessary for them to access copyrighted works that they have a legal right to access.
Without this change, the right of blind Canadians to circumvent TPMs to produce alternative formats will almost certainly be a right that few of us can exercise.
Recommendation 2: For-Profit Production of Alternative Format Materials Section 32 of the Copyright Act currently only exempts non-profits from having to attain permission from the copyright holder in order to produce an accessible version of the work. However, under our present system, only a fraction of copyrighted works are ever converted to an accessible format.
There is a growing industry of for-profit companies that are involved in the production of accessible formats. The AEBC recommends removing the limitation to non-profits in the exemptions in both the Copyright Act and Bill C11. We believe this will lead to a significant increase in the availability of alternative format versions of copyrighted works.
Recommendation 3: Sending Alternative Formats Outside Canada The AEBC applauds the attempt to clarify our laws with respect to sending alternative formats outside Canada. This brings us one step closer to realizing an international agreement that will increase the cross-border exchange of alternative formats and significantly reduce the duplication of work taking place around the world. However, Section 37, paragraphs A and B, of Bill C11 limit the ability of organizations to send alternative formats to other countries to those cases where the copyright holder is a Canadian citizen or a citizen of the country to which the material is being sent.
This limitation places a significant burden on those organizations that would exchange alternative formats across borders, and it restricts the number of works that may be exchanged.
The AEBC recommends that the only restrictions be: 1) whether the work was legally produced in Canada and could legally be produced in the country to which the work is sent, and 2) whether the work is already available in an accessible format in the country to which the work is being sent. This reduces the burden on organizations that send these works to other countries and dramatically increases the number of works that may be sent.
Section 32, subsection 2, of the Copyright Act limits the scope of the Section 32 exemption by excluding the making of large print books. This limitation harms print disabled Canadians of all ages but is particularly harmful to older Canadians, and it's only going to become more of an issue as the population ages and more and more Canadians experience sight loss and become reliant on large print. The AEBC recommends that this limitation be removed from the Copyright Act.
Recommendation 5: Adaptation of Cinematographic Works Section 32, subsection 1, paragraph A of the Copyright Act, also limits the usefulness of the Section 32 exemption by excluding the adaptation of cinematographic works to make them more accessible. This limitation is partly responsible for the extremely limited availability of films that include descriptive video, which enables blind Canadians to better understand what is being communicated by the film. The AEBC recommends that this limitation also be removed from the Copyright Act.
Similar limitations concerning large-print production and adaptation of cinematographic works are contained in Section 37 of Bill C11. This section deals with sending alternative format versions of copyrighted works outside Canada, and in the proposed Section 32.01 (2), large-print materials and cinematographic works are excluded from the exemption. We believe this subsection should also be removed.
Balancing the rights and interest of copyright holders and consumers is difficult. I expect some copyright holders will be concerned about expanding the Section 32 exemption in the ways I've suggested. However, as I said at the outset, any copyright holder that wishes to void the exemption only has to do one thing, make the product accessible. Until this becomes the norm, we must rely on the second best solution of an exemption. Because it is the case that we have to rely on this exemption, we need to make the exemption as effective as possible. I believe implementing these 5 recommendations will bring us closer to that goal.
Statistics Canada Fails to Make Its Surveys Accessible to Blind and Deaf Canadians
February 9, 2012
The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians today expressed its dismay over the way some blind participants have been treated by Statistics Canada during a recent international longitudinal survey focusing on employment, education, the use of technology, and volunteerism. (International study on
“It is shocking to know that this federal agency continues to turn a deaf ear to accessibility,” says Donna Jodhan, National President of the AEBC.
“Blind persons must not be deprived of their right to express their opinions through surveys.”
Richard Marion, Vice-President of the AEBC’s British Columbia Affiliate, was denied his right to accessibility after he agreed to take the survey as a randomly chosen participant. “This is shocking and unacceptable!” he says.
“This does not make sense in light of the fact that Canada is one of the signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities.”
The AEBC is fully committed to ensuring that equal access for all Blind and deaf/blind Canadians is a given and is not to be treated as either a “nice to have” or as an accommodation.
“We will be calling on Statistics Canada to develop policies and procedures to ensure that surveys are accessible to everyone,” says Jodhan. “it is important that their survey results reflect the entirety of the population, and excluding persons who are blind, or those who are deaf, or any other group, doesn’t accomplish that.”
Human Rights Presentation
On Friday, February 24, AEBC's 1st Vice President, John Rae presented oral testimony before Mr. Andrew Pinto, who is reviewing Ontario's Human Rights system, and subsequently submitted written comments. To read AEBC's Brief, please visit:
AEBC Seeks Improvements to Ontario's Social Assistance System
In March, the AEBC submitted a Brief to Ontario's social assistance review, in response to the Commission's second issues paper. To read the AEBC's comments, "Response to "Approaches For Reform": visit:
What did I learn today?... CAPTCHAS
By Cindy Ferguson
New technology helps some, and presents new barriers to others.
I am enrolled at Ryerson University, taking part-time distance courses towards a degree in Disability Studies. I am registered with the Access Centre, Ryerson’s accommodation provider for students with disabilities.
This week, the Access Centre circulated a survey to students in an attempt
to evaluate and improve the services they provide. I thought to myself,
here is an opportunity to recognize those things the Centre does well, make suggestions about those services where improvements should be made, and to discuss my views on accommodation versus accessibility.
I found all the radio buttons, filled in all the text boxes. The survey was short, but we all know how difficult navigating a multiple choice survey can be. I completed all the questions and pressed “submit”. Nothing happened.
I pressed “submit” again, and again nothing happened. Did I miss a question? I moved backwards (I use a Mac so it is VO + left arrow - for those of you who use JAWS think of Shift + tab) until I found the message at the top of the survey - “incorrect CAPTCHA”. You can probably fill in the blanks for the expletive I uttered.
In order to submit my completed survey, I had to fill in the CAPTCHA. I tried the audio CAPTCHA numerous times and each time shift tab to find the message that the CAPTCHA was incorrect. So today, I learned about CAPTCHA.
CAPTCHA is an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. CAPTCHAs are designed to allow humans to complete a web form, post a comment, or verify content. CAPTCHAs are also designed to discourage automatic computer generated tools from accessing web materials, posting spam or entering some pages. Unfortunately, as stated in the W3C Working Draft 25 May 2011, “all forms of CAPTCHA introduce unacceptable barriers to entry for users with disabilities”
Audio CAPTCHA is not an accessible solution. CAPTCHA audio tests are extremely difficult for a blind user as the screen reader speaks while the user is attempting to navigate through the controls, further distorting the already distorted audio output. Some suggest that sighted users, without the additional interference of a screen reader, have less than 50% success using audio CAPTCHA
In ‘Understanding WCAG 2.0’, W3C notes that CAPTCHAs are a ‘controversial topic in the accessibility community”. Most organizations rely on CAPTCHA to limit the amount of unsolicited computer generated spam. Organizations are understandably unwilling to give up the use of CAPTCHAs. W3C goes on to say that every type of CAPTCHA will be unusable by people with certain disabilities. WCAG suggests that web pages should:
Provide more than two types of CAPTCHAs
Provide access to a human customer service representative who has the ability and knowledge required to bypass CAPTCHA Not require CAPTCHA for authorized users So I have written to the Access Centre and explained that they have sent a student registered with the Access Centre a survey about the Access Centre that is not accessible. I will let you know how they “accommodate” this request.
Retirement of Joan Edwards Karmazyn
National Network for Mental Health (NNMH) President, Jean Beckett, announced the retirement of Joan Edwards Karmazyn from her position of National Executive Director of the NNMH at the end May 2012. Joan, who has retired from the mental health field will not be totally disappearing from our sights though, as she plans to stay involved and connected with the field in general and in particular with the psychiatric survivor movement as she stays engaged with various programs and projects and especially with the National Network for Mental Health, providing support and advice as needed.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Joan for her leadership and management experience and for her passion in advocating for her peers who live with mental illness. It has been an honour and privilege to work with Joan as we, at the NNMH continue to strive to build strong stakeholder partnerships individually and collectively to embrace the vision of seeing mental health become the foundation of total health for all Canadians,” stated Beckett.