Accessibility In The News 2017

Top Stories

Blind travelers can get around an airport more easily with new app

Fredrick Kunkle, December 21, 2017
The new feature for Nearby Explorer — which was developed by the American Printing House for the Blind and officially launched this week — has been in road-testing since October at Louisville International Airport. But the app’s developers hope to see it replicated elsewhere so that visually impaired travelers can navigate an airport with a more detailed idea of what’s around them, and without having to rely on airport personnel, inadequate signage or the kindness of strangers.

Accessible Technology Program

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, December 6, 2017
The new Accessible Technology Program will co-fund innovative projects led by the private sector, not-for-profit organizations and research institutes to develop new assistive and adaptive digital devices and technologies. It will invest $22.3 million over 5 years, starting in 2017-18 to make it easier for Canadians with disabilities to more fully participate in the digital economy.

The Government of Canada tables the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Employment and Social Development Canada, November 30, 2017
Today, the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, on behalf of the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is proud to announce that the Government of Canada tabled in the House of Commons the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. The first is a complaint procedure that allows individuals and groups to bring petitions to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated. The second is an inquiry procedure that allows the Committee to inquire into allegations of grave or systematic violations of the Convention by a State Party. The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN in 2006 and entered into force in 2008. As of November 2017, there are 92 States Parties to the Optional Protocol.

Indoor navigation system transforms working conditions for the blind

John Moore, Site Editor, November 27, 2017
An assistive technology program at Bosma Enterprises now includes an indoor navigation system that uses Bluetooth beacons and iOS’ native VoiceOver feature. When Bosma Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that employs blind and visually impaired people, opened a new headquarters earlier this year, it introduced assistive technologies to help employees find their way in the 170,000-square-foot facility. The BlindSquare indoor navigation system — ready for use when the headquarters opened — represents a new level of commitment from the company to enable its 208-employee workforce, more than half of which are blind or visually impaired.

Minister Lebouthillier announces Canada Revenue Agency Disability Advisory Committee

John Power, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of National Revenue, November 23, 2017
The Government understands that living with a disability can have significant impacts on individuals and their families. The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, announced that the Disability Advisory Committee, originally formed in 2004 and disbanded in 2006, is being re-instated to provide the CRA with a formalized means of collaborating with various stakeholders. Enhancing the accessibility of the CRA’s services to persons with disabilities is an ongoing effort, which will be greatly assisted by the Committee’s work.

Section 508 Gets an Update: New Web Accessibility Guidelines for Government Sites Take Effect in January

Zack Quaintance, Staff writer for Government Technology, November 20, 2017
People with hearing and sight disabilities using screen readers and other assistive tech must be able to access content on government websites, but getting and staying compliant is a challenge. Updates for Section 508 accessibility legislation go into effect in January, creating new specifications for how federal agencies must make websites and other digital information channels navigable for users with disabilities. Not being able to keep up with updates has been an ongoing problem in terms of making tech accessible for users with disabilities. There is continual discord between people who create and edit content, the massive companies that issue updates to the most common Web browsers, and the much smaller companies that make assistive tech.

Ryerson’s student centre isn’t accessible for students with disabilities

MIRIAM KATAWAZI, Toronto Star Staff Reporter, November 1, 2017
Ryerson University’s $112-million Student Learning Centre poses safety risks for people with disabilities, advocate David Lepofsky says. The eight-storey structure, which opened in February 2015 at the corner of Yonge and Gould Sts., provides space on campus for students to socialize and work. The building won an award from the Canadian Architect Magazine for its proposed design in 2012.
Ryerson Student Centre AODA Alliance Youtube video

Grassroots Disability Coalition Unveils Powerful New Video Showing Serious Accessibility Problems at the New Ryerson University Student Learning Centre

AODA Alliance, toronto, October 29, 2017
The AODA Alliance today makes public a striking 12-minute video (and a more detailed 30-minute version) revealing significant disability accessibility barriers in a new public building in the heart of downtown Toronto, built in part with public money. This video documents accessibility problems at the new Ryerson University Student Learning Centre with such things as stairs, ramps, student socializing areas, elevators, signage, an information desk and electronic kiosk. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky guides you on a tour of barriers that hurt people with blindness, low vision, mobility disabilities, dyslexia, balance issues, and more.

Accessibility legislation to be tabled by spring 2018, minister says

Sean Kilpatrick, Toronto Star, October 15, 2017
The federal minister responsible for crafting Canada’s first national accessibility legislation says the law should be ready by next spring and should benefit not only people with disabilities, but their caregivers. Minister Kent Hehr says the bill, which has been highly anticipated, will benefit both those with disabilities and their caregivers. Kent Hehr says the timeline for the new law has shifted slightly since he took over the portfolio for sport and persons with disabilities in a recent cabinet shuffle. The legislation, which is highly anticipated by Canada’s disabled community, was originally set to be unveiled either late this year or early 2018.

New OHRC policy statement explains the duty to accommodate under Ontario’s Human Rights Code

Alicia Ann Pereira, Ontario Human Rights Commission, October 12, 2017
Today, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released a new policy statement explaining the purpose and importance of the duty to accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Employers and unions, housing providers and service providers have a legal duty to accommodate the Code-related needs of people who are adversely affected by a requirement, rule or standard. Accommodation is necessary to address barriers in society that would otherwise prevent people from fully taking part in, and contributing to, the community.

Exploring a $55-billion untapped market

Rich Donovan, Special to the Globe and Mail, September 29, 2017
Canadian business has struggled since 1989 to hire people with disabilities in any material numbers. This is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. The experience has been repeated globally by millions of companies. Stats show that the 18.7 per cent of the population that self-declares as a person with a disability (PWD) makes an average annual income of 91 per cent compared with those living without a disability. Simple math means 6.2 million Canadians with a disability control $55.4-billion in annual disposable income. When their friends and family are added to the market, disability touches 53 per cent of consumers controlling more than $366.5-billion. Globally, this market opportunity is more than $10-trillion.

CNIB Installs App-Enabled Info Beacons for Visually Impaired in Toronto Neighbourhood

Anastasia V. Silva, Samaritanmag online magazine news, October 5, 2017
The CNIB has started to install beacons in the Yonge-St. Clair area of Toronto, which will improve accessibility for those in the neighbourhood with visual impairments. Two hundred shops and restaurants are expected to come on board at no cost to them. The beacons are small battery-powered devices that silently communicate pre-programmed information about the businesses to users via the BlindSquare iPhone app.

Wheel-Trans users fear new program will force them to use inaccessible TTC

Natalie Nanowski, CBC News, September 20, 2017
TTC hears concerns about long waits and inaccessible stations at annual meeting. The TTC’s annual accessibility meeting drew about 300 people to the Beanfield Centre at Exhibition Place. It’s intended to highlight any concerns or questions people have about the accessibility of the TTC or Wheel-Trans. The TTC says it’s actively working on upgrading old elevators and installing new ones. Currently 34 of the 69 stations are accessible. Activist David Lepofsky doesn’t think people with disabilities should be made to use the TTC unless it’s fully accessible.

New smart beacons open doors for the blind in Toronto neighbourhood

Emily Chung, CBC News, September 19, 2017
CNIB pilot project plans to install 200 wayfinding beacons in Toronto stores and restaurants. If you were blind and walked into a coffee shop, how would you find the counter so you could order? The iOS BlindSquare app gives verbal directions to customers at several businesses in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, thanks to a pilot project called ShopTalk launched by the CNIB, a charity that provides community-based support for people who are blind or partially sighted.

New Program Helps Ontario Business Connect with the Right Talent

PR Newswire, September 14, 2017
The Discover Ability Network will showcase the business advantages of employing persons with disabilities. The Honourable David Onley, Special Advisor to the Government of Ontario’s Minister Responsible for Accessibility, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) and the Discover Ability Network partners launched a new program and online portal that will connect persons with disabilities seeking employment directly with Ontario businesses looking to meet their talent requirements. The portal is a key feature of Access Talent: Ontario’s Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities, a comprehensive plan focused on connecting more people with disabilities to rewarding jobs and more employers to new talent to help grow their businesses.

Liberal minister Carla Qualtrough wants to make history with federal accessibility laws

Vjosa Isai, Toronto Star Staff Reporter, August 23, 2017
Federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities Carla Qualtrough heard from local and international disability experts on Tuesday as Canada prepares to introduce its first national accessibility legislation. Although the prospective act would govern only those areas under federal authority, such as banks, telecommunications and interprovincial transportation, Qualtrough believes it will also show leadership beyond this jurisdiction and inspire provinces to create similar laws. Currently, seven provinces do not have accessibility legislation.
August 21 2017 cbc radio here and now lepofsky on CDA conference.mp3
August 22, 2017, three-hour online Policy Experts Conference.

On accessibility, Ontario needs less secrecy, more action

LUCAS OLENIUK, Toronto Star Editorial, August 7, 2017
Disability advocate David Lepofsky has worked tirelessly since the McGuinty Liberals passed the landmark Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005, holding the government to account as it moves toward its goal of a fully accessible Ontario by 2025. David Lepofsky just wants to make sure the province is doing what it promised to do. Too often, however, what he has found is failure – and too often the province has tried to keep him from discovering the frequently disappointing truth. The government should stop fighting disability advocates and start working alongside them.

Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada | All Abilities Together

Jan Ditchfield, Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada, August 3, 2017
The Alliance is proud to be hosting our pioneering conference, called What Should Canada’s Promised National Accessibility Law Include? Cutting-edge ideas from Experts from Around the World. Hosted by David Lepofsky, the event will be lived streamed on August 22nd, 2017 from 10:00 am-1:00 pm ET. The Government of Canada has committed to adopting a strong federal accessibility law to remove and prevent barriers facing people with disabilities. The Alliance is consulting Canadians to collect their comments, concerns and suggestions about this new law. We want to know what your main accessibility issues are and how they could be addressed through the law. visit The Alliance’s YouTube Channel to watch the live stream.

People with disabilities feel left out of the modern digital workplace

Genna Buck, Metro News, July 31, 2017
Former federal worker Abigail Shorter is taking the government to task in a human rights case. After her position was made redundant, she was not able to find a new one in the public service. Because of her disability, she claims she is not able to use much of the software required in government jobs. There are international standards for building accessibility into the online experience: The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The rules for who is required to adhere to these standards vary from province to province.

Province overcharged advocacy group for information request by almost $4K, privacy commission rules

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press, July 31, 2017
Ontario’s privacy commission says the provincial government significantly overcharged an advocacy group fighting for information on accessibility law compliance in the province and must now hand over the material. The commission’s decision says the government tried to charge the Access for Ontarians with Disabilities Alliance $4,200 for a sweeping access to information request seeking details on many issues, including plans to make sure private businesses are complying with accessibility laws. Commission knocked $4,200 price tag for accessibility group’s request down to $750. The Information and Privacy Commission 67-page ruling

New program wants to make Yonge and St. Clair the GTA’s most accessible neighbourhood

May Warren, Toronto MetroNews Canada, Jun 27, 2017
The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is putting small battery powered beacons in 200 restaurants and shops. The beacons will transmit to an app called BlindSquare, to verbally guide people around indoor buildings. The program is funded through a grant from the the Rick Hansen Foundation.

For public servants with disabilities, some tools of the trade out of reach

Julie Ireton, CBC News, June 19, 2017
Thousands of federal public servants across Canada are unable to utilize internal government software programs and websites because they’re inaccessible to people with a range of disabilities. The problem has led to job losses, grievances, a human rights complaint and, as one lawyer suggests, opens the door to a potential court challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Big Win for Blind Shopper in First U.S. ADA Web Accessibility Trial

Law Office of Lainey Feingold, June 13, 2017
On June 12, a judge in the federal District Court in South Florida made history. That history came in the form of a court order in a lawsuit filed by blind Florida resident Juan Carlos Gil against regional grocer Winn-Dixie. After a two-day trial the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff (Mr. Gil). That order is historic because it is believed that this is the very first trial in an ADA case about website accessibility against a private company, known legally as a public accommodation.

Fixing society involves boosting accessibility laws

Kevin Rollason, Winnipeg Free Press, June 8, 2017
David Lepofsky is in Winnipeg this week to speak during Manitoba Access Awareness Week. He spoke on Wednesday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights about accessibility rights legislation.

The world has been designed as if the only people living in it successfully are people without disabilities. The buildings around us, public transit, stores, education systems, are all designed like people said, Let’s design things so people with disabilities can’t use them. What we’re trying to do is fix society. There are four million-plus Canadians with disabilities.

Job strategy for Ontarians with disabilities lacks specifics, critics say

Lucas Oleniuk, Toronto Star, June 6, 2017
The province’s new strategy to address the high unemployment rate among Ontarians with disabilities was panned by advocates who said it lacks specifics and will take months if not years to have an impact. Plan focuses on students and youth, and aims to connect employers with potential workers. But advocate David Lepofsky says it is not the immediate, practical strategy that was needed. Tracy MacCharles, the minister responsible for accessibility, told the Star in an interview that the strategy will particularly focus on helping students and youth better plan and prepare for employment, as well as try to connect employers with potential workers.

Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned

Following eight months of consultations held with Canadians from coast to coast, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, released a report on May 29 entitled, Creating new national accessibility legislation: What we learned from Canadians.
Through the consultations, Canadians from across the country shared their personal stories, their challenges, successes, hopes and aspirations. This consultation process was a very important step forward towards inclusion, but it is only the beginning of a journey to reach our goal of a truly inclusive Canada. Thank you to all who participated. Moving forward, we’re going to take what we learned through this historic consultation process to develop new federal accessibility legislation that will provide all Canadians a better chance to succeed in their local communities and workplaces. As Canadians, we all benefit from accessibility when we and our family members, friends, neighbours, classmates and co-workers are able to fully participate and contribute in our communities and workplaces without barriers. Currently, one in seven Canadians has a disability, and that number is expected to grow with an aging population. It is clear that these barriers to accessibility can no longer be ignored. This is why the Government of Canada is working towards new legislation to help address these barriers and strive towards a more accessible Canada.

Nova Scotia Is the Third Canadian Province to Pass an Accessibility Law

Sarah Gillis, Government of Nova Scotia, Department of Justice, April 27, 2017
On Thursday, April 27, 2017, the Nova Scotia Legislature passed a new accessibility law, the Accessibility Act, following the lead of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Nova Scotia becomes the third Canadian province to enact a comprehensive accessibility law. The Nova Scotia law has the goal of Nova Scotia reaching full accessibility by 2030.

E-Agenda Going Back to Tender

Graeme McNaughton, The Oshawa Express, MARCH 22, 2017
When the Region of Durham puts out a new tender for its electronic agenda system, it will ensure the winning company knows what its doing. the company that previously held the contract, the American-based Accela, couldnt make a system that worked within the province’s legal requirements. The contract was first terminated in late January because Accela could not make the system work with the province’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which says that web pages and other online documents belonging to government entities must be accessible for those with disabilities, including the ability to resize text, audio description for pre-recorded video content and captioning for live video. The Region says it will ensure next winner has local references.

Nova Scotia Government Puts Brakes On Accessibility Bill 59

Graham Steele, CBC News Political analyst, March 8, 2017
The Bill 59 Community Alliance is only a few months old, and has already become a powerful player in any discussion around the future of the Accessibility Act. Last week the legislature saw a remarkable example of effective citizen action. The alliance has been working from the moment the McNeil government hit the pause button on Bill 59 last November. When the four alliance spokespersons appeared before the Law Amendments Committee last Thursday, they carried the endorsement of 35 organizations serving Nova Scotians with disabilities. That’s remarkable. That’s the power of numbers.

Federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities wraps up cross-country consultations on proposed accessibility legislation

LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN, Social justice reporter, Toronto Star, February 9, 2017
Cost can no longer be a barrier to creating an accessible Canada, says Carla Qualtrough, federal minister of sport and persons with disabilities. Qualtrough hopes the new law will spark a culture shift away from the fallacy that making the country fully accessible for more than 2.3 million Canadians with a disability would be financially ruinous.

Canadians with Disabilities Act to focus on employment: minister

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press, February 5, 2017
Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, says removing accessibility barriers will be crucial to tackling long-standing high jobless rates among the country’s disabled population. Data has long shown that Canadians with disabilities are greatly under-employed compared to their non-disabled counterparts, with multiple studies finding that only half of disabled Canadians have found work. Qualtrough said the federal act has to be written to work alongside existing provincial laws without encroaching on their areas of jurisdiction.

Accessibility advocate appeals access to information fee

LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN, Social justice reporter, Toronto Star, January 30, 2017
The Wynne government is denying Ontarians the right to know the details behind its promised 2015 crack-down on businesses that ignore their responsibilities under the province’s landmark accessibility legislation, an accessibility activist says. In documents filed in advance of Tuesday’s hearing, government lawyers argue the fee is being charged to offset costs to the public. David Lepofsky, Lawyer, appeals $4,250 fee to access information on how Ontario’s accessibility law is being enforced.

How an app helps the visually impaired navigate the world

Linda Stuart, News, Cable and Telecom, February 2, 2017
For most of us, location-based augmented reality apps might be considered nice to have, entertaining technology that conjures up images of last summer’s PokaMon Go craze. But for blind and visually impaired people, the use of augmented reality technology in audio-based navigation apps can provide a safer and often liberating way to travel through unfamiliar streets and especially inside buildings. That’s the idea behind BlindSquare.

Canadian Accessibility Guidelines Survey

Accessibility News International, January 27, 2017
A committee has been organized through the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers that has been tasked with reviewing accessibility guidelines published by various levels of government across Canada. Your participation and feedback will assist with the development of uniform accessibility guidelines across Canada.

Government of Canada improves accessibility for Canadians with disabilities within their workplaces and communities

Employment and Social Development Canada, SURREY, BC, Jan. 17, 2017
the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, visited the Centre for Child Development of the Lower Mainland to announce the approval of 573 Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) projects. The Minister highlighted how these projects will help strengthen the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring greater accessibility and opportunity for Canadians with disabilities in their communities and workplaces.

Only half of disabled Canadians have a full or part-time job

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press, January 17, 2017
A new poll suggests that employment conditions remain dismal for Canadians with disabilities. The survey commissioned by CIBC and conducted by Angus Reid found that only half of respondents living with a disability have a full or part-time job. The unemployed respondents overwhelmingly said they were out of work as a direct result of their disability, with 67 per cent citing it as the reason for their current circumstances.

U.S. Leading the Global Failure on Disability Employment

David Fazio, LinkedIn, January 1, 2017
More than 80% of U.S. Americans with disabilities are unemployed according to the U.S. Department of Labor, while the World Bank reports an 80 – 90 percent unemployment rate for persons with disabilities across Latin America, and the Caribbean. Despite 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, disability rights law has mostly failed, not led to more jobs, and the employment rate for the disabled remains basically unchanged after a quarter-century. The 40 year old rhetoric about empathy, the acknowledgement, and acceptance of differences, and a stinging mantra of disability matters, is deeply rooted in the problem-solving mentality that we’ve all become so accustomed to. Unfortunately, the problem-solving mentality produces deficit-based thinking. Employees are trained to always be on the lookout for deficits, or weaknesses, anomalies in the workplace. Once discovered, problem-solving teaches us to uncover the root of that problem, and fix, or eliminate, it. Any way you look at it, disability translates into a problem to be solved. After all, the legal definition is an impairment due to a medical condition that limits one or more major life function.