Accessibility In The News 2021

Top Stories

Corporate Canada gets mixed report card from Canadians living with disabilities

Angus Reid Institute, November 4, 2021
A plurality of Canadians living with disabilities say corporations need to do more to hire and support them
Against the backdrop of an aging population and compounding labour shortages, there is a substantial talent pool that is currently being overlooked. A new study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the Rick Hansen Foundation finds that two-in-five (40%) of those living with a disability say that companies fall short when it comes to hiring those who are disabled. Barriers also persist in the workforce, with another two-in-five (39%) of those living with disabilities saying that Canadian companies have a way to go when it comes to supporting their employees who have a disability.

Blind Halifax man files formal complaint against Air Canada with Canadian Transportation Agency

Barrier Free Saskatchewan, Facebook Post, August 23, 2021
Canadian Transportation Agency to hold virtual hearing to address Air Canada’s online booking system. Since Air Canada launched its new website in January 2017, Lui Greco has had difficulty using their online booking system. Blind since birth, Greco uses a screen reader, computer software that enables people with sight loss to use a computer. Greco believes Air Canada’s inaccessible website violates his rights as a traveler with a disability, which, the Canadian Transportation Agency has affirmed since the late 1990s; and filed a formal complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. Next week the agency will hold a virtual hearing to formally address Air Canada’s online booking system.

Disability Justice Lens Missing From Party Platforms, Advocates Warn

Gabrielle Peters, The Maple, August 30, 2021
With a federal election underway, Peters said she and other disabled people have been left feeling like an “add on.” “We’re still not being a major component of any of the parties’ thought processes,” said Peters. As a result, she sees that most political parties are offering only slight changes to the status quo without addressing deeper injustices faced by people with disabilities. Party Platforms Fall Short. The Liberal Party has not yet released its election platform. Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party, meanwhile, is promising to increase the disability supplement of the Canada Workers Benefit from $713 to $1,500. She noted that the NDP also eventually came out against Bill C-7, but that the party has not said anything about it in its election platform.

Swimmer Becca Meyers is skipping Tokyo Paralympics because of covid rules

Dave Sheinin, The Washington Post, July 19, 2021
This deaf-blind Paralympian was told to navigate Tokyo alone. So she quit Team USA.
“This has been very difficult for me,” Becca Meyers said of giving up on the Tokyo Paralympics. But “I need to say something to effect change, because this can’t go on any longer.” On Sunday evening, roughly five weeks before the start of the Tokyo Paralympics, Meyers, a deaf-blind swimmer with a chance to medal in four events, pulled the plug on her Olympic dream — most likely forever. With a click, she sent an email informing U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials of her decision to withdraw from Team USA. The decision was rooted in both self-preservation and a larger sense of duty and purpose. Born with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that left her deaf from birth and that progressively has robbed her of her sight, she requires a personal care assistant (PCA) to function as an athlete and as a member of society. Since 2017, in the aftermath of Rio, Meyers has had an understanding with the USOPC that permits her mother, Maria, to travel with her to international competitions as her PCA. The results have been spectacular. In 2018, she won five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in Cairns, Australia, and in 2019, she won four medals and set two world records, the eighth and ninth of her career, at the World Para Swimming Championships in London. For the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, however, Meyers’s needs have collided with the drastic restrictions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Competitions are being held almost entirely without spectators, and significant limitations on foreign delegations mean personal care assistants, including Maria Meyers, will not be permitted into Japan for the Paralympic Games. For Becca Meyers, that meant she wasn’t going to Japan, either.

American linguist develops braille alphabet for traditional dialect of the Ts’msyen people

CBC News, British Columbia, July 18, 2021
The Sm’algyax braille alphabet created by Harris Mowbray is now available to the public online as a series of illustrations that correspond to characters conventionally used to write Sm’algyax, the traditional language of the Ts’msyen people in northern B.C. Harris Mowbray has never been to Prince Rupert, B.C., but he has left his touch there. Mowbray, an amateur linguist and software programmer based in California, in collaboration with Prince Rupert resident and Gitga’at Nation member Brendan Eshom, has created a braille alphabet for Sm’algyax, the traditional dialect of the Ts’msyen people of the north coast. According to the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, which works to preserve B.C. Indigenous languages, Sm’algyax is in serious decline and most speakers are over 70 years old.

Reflection, Revolution, and Race: A Growing Understanding Within the Organized Blind Movement

Mark A. Riccobono, President, National Federation of the Blind, July 2021
Tonight, we, as blind people organized in a civil rights movement, come to our own moment of reflection. We cannot remove ourselves from the nation in which we live. We cannot deny the influence of the pressures, perspectives, barriers, and inequities of that nation, a nation that is not broken but simply unfinished. We can find hope, opportunity, and safety in knowing that we have created something meaningful within our nation.

Accessibility Legislation

Province of British Columbia, April 2021
We are committed to supporting people with disabilities to meaningfully participate in their communities. To support this, the Government of B.C. has introduced accessibility legislation. In fall 2019, over 7,000 British Columbians provided input to develop accessibility legislation.

Shared e-scooters will make Ottawa’s sidewalks more dangerous

Wayne Antle, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Ottawa Citizen, April 10, 2021
Wayne Antle, president of the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, disagrees with Ottawa Council’s enthusiasm for e-scooters. Shared e-scooters will make Ottawa’s streets and sidewalks more dangerous. Sharing public space with these devices will lead to injuries, especially among the disabled and visually impaired. Recently, Ottawa Council passed a motion to allow and expand the use of e-scooters on our streets in the downtown and some suburbs, putting blind people, other persons with disabilities and all pedestrians at risk. Despite the very real safety concerns raised by various groups, council did not even require the e-scooter companies to implement measures to lessen the risks. Last summer, the city ran its first e-scooter pilot project in the downtown area. Of course, there were far fewer pedestrians in the city’s core because of COVID-19. Nevertheless, there were many cases of e-scooters illegally parked, blocking pedestrian traffic, and instances of e-scooter users driving along the sidewalks.

Reconsidering Our Resistance to the Idea of Blind Culture

Justin Salisbury, Braille Monitor, April 2021
In our movement, we have often resisted the idea that there is such a thing as blind culture. I am certain that there will be people reading this article to whom I personally have parroted the talking points about how there is no such thing as blind culture. I am now challenging my own views on this topic and am doing it publicly in order to invite others to do it with me. Some of you who read this article will come up with ways to build upon what I have said, and I want that.

Walking While Blind in Manhattan During the Pandemic

Peter Slatin, NFB Braille Monitor, March 2021
Crowded sidewalks and roadways have a few benefits to the blind: motion provides clues to what is happening. Before the pandemic, when I approached a corner I could hear whether other pedestrians were walking in the same direction, stopping, slowing or hurrying. I could hear cars traveling in the same direction and zooming past me on a parallel track through the intersection. I could hear other cars idling perpendicular to me, waiting for a light to change, or driving directly in front of me. These were all signals that it was okay to cross or not. I soon realized that even with loosened rules, the quiet of COVID-19 was magnifying some already difficult situations. But even these aural signals required pausing to listen for anomalous counter indications from vehicles or foot sounds that may have been masked by other sounds, or could occur as a slight shift in energy, vibrations; what Luke Skywalker might call disturbances in the Force.

Government of Canada Increases Funding for Alternate Format Materials for Persons with Print Disabilities

Social Development Partnership Program, Disability component, Government of Canada, March 23, 2021
The Government of Canada continues to take important and decisive action to ensure that all Canadians are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know Canadians living with disabilities are facing significant challenges during this difficult time and that long-standing barriers to inclusion have been heightened. As we work together to restart the economy, we must continue to protect health and safety, and ensure the right supports are in place for all Canadians.

Advocates urge Liberals to cancel ‘devastating’ cut to services for Canadians with print reading disabilities

Richard Raycraft, CBC News, March 7, 2021
$4 million cut comes as shock to those who rely on services to curb isolation during pandemic. Advocates for Canadians with disabilities related to reading printed text have launched a protest campaign after the federal government abruptly announced it would cut their funding, a surprise move they say will be “devastating” in the middle of a pandemic. According to the Liberal government’s 2020 Fall Economic Statement, funding for the Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) and the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) is being phased out over four years from the current level of $4 million. Funding for both services is to be eliminated by the 2024-25 fiscal year. Print disabilities include any condition which negatively affects someone’s ability to read traditional print materials. Such conditions include blindness, dyslexia, Parkinson’s and cerebral palsy. Kim Kilpatrick of Ottawa has been blind since birth and reads primarily in braille. She said she’s shocked the federal government is cutting funding to two organizations that distribute accessible reading materials.

Advocacy group for blind Canadians says Ottawa's funding application was inaccessible

Kristy Kirkup, Ottawa, The Globe and Mail, March 3, 2021
An advocacy group for blind Canadians is accusing the federal government of negligence after the organization applied for a funding program to support people living with disabilities through an online process it says was not accessible to those with visual impairments. The Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians (AEBC), a national charitable organization that advocates for the inclusion of individuals who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, tried to apply for funding to help build capacity for their organization, Ottawa-based lawyer Anne Levesque said. But there was a huge problem: The application process was only online, the form was not accessible and there was no option to fill it out in another way, she said. “It’s really beyond belief,” Ms. Levesque said. The organization wants the government to take action to address what it calls systemic discrimination by Employment and Social Development Canada.

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities

Greg Thomson, Accessibility For Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance, January 28, 2021
A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care. Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality. In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment. Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or triage of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.

Educators raise safety concerns about special needs students being back in the classroom. But parents say their kids need the support

Olivia Bowden, Staff Reporter, The Star, January 18, 2021
While the rest of the province is hunkering down under new, stricter stay-at-home orders, Jim Rossiter is his usual place, with students in his classroom. Rossiter is a special-education teacher at Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa and, even with most schools shuttered amid surging COVID-19 numbers, he is teaching in-class, as in-person learning continues for many students with disabilities. His heart is with his students, but he worries about the safety risks the kids and his fellow staff members face being together in a classroom while the rest of the province is in lockdown amid a 28-day state of emergency.

As A Blind Person, COVID-19 Has Changed My Daily Life In Ways Most People Don't Consider

Dorianne Pollack, Guest Writer, Huffington Post, January 16, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, but those of us who are blind or visually impaired have been compromised in ways that the sighted community may not realize. People who are blind or visually impaired already experience loneliness and isolation at much higher levels than the general population. With the pandemic, there is a whole new set of physical and psychological barriers when it comes to maintaining our independence.