Jonathan Mosen, Address delivered to the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, July 6, 2023
My current podcast, Living Blindfully, brings blind people together from, at last count, 113 countries. Living Blindfully discusses a wide range of topics including policy, philosophy, employment, parenting and more. We also talk a lot about technology, because it can assist with equal participation in society. It’s technology I’d like to focus on today. In an age where technology plays a critical role in all aspects of society, the Federation has been relentless in its advocacy for accessible technology as part of its pursuit of security, equality and opportunity. To assess the effectiveness of that advocacy, we need only reflect on how much more information we have access to in 2023 versus, say, 1983. Computerisation in general, and the Internet in particular, mean it is easier for everyone to work, shop, bank, travel, communicate, be informed, and entertained. The increasing digitisation of society was inevitable because of technological change. But the social change required for the blind to be included was not. Accessibility didn’t magically appear out of the goodness of people’s hearts. It happened because people in this room, alongside many pioneers in advocacy and technology who are no longer with us, and who we remember with appreciation and respect, put in the effort and made it happen.
New Low in the Accessibility
Industry, Overlay Company Sues Globally-Recognized Accessibility Expert
Law Office of Lainey Feingold, Structured Negotiation | Disability Rights, July 11, 2023
This is an article about a lawsuit filed against a digital accessibility advocate named Adrian Roselli. Adrian has been outspoken against a type of software called an overlay. This type of overlay promises to make websites accessible for disabled people with just one line of code. Lainey has criticized this software too. Adrian was sued by AudioEye, a company that sells overlays. It is Lainey’s opinion that this lawsuit is a SLAPP suit. Those initials stand for
Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Adrian has been part of an urgent global dialogue about harms caused by overlays. And about their failure to meet the promise of website accessibility. Lainey urges AudioEye and its lawyers at a big global law firm called Akin to drop this lawsuit. AudioEye sells (licenses) an overlay. The company has sued Adrian to stop him from expressing his opinions about the Audio Eye overlay product. It is an opinion shared and documented by many.
Government of Canada, Senate sitting: #126, May 18, 2023
Senate sitting: #126
Location: Senate Chamber, Senate of Canada Building
Scheduled: Thursday, May 18, 2023
Time: 4 Hours (14:00-18:00)
Clip: Bill C22 at about 14:55 time slot
Star Editorial Board, March 20, 2023
An interim review of Ontario’s progress in implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is anything but laudatory.
Do you care? When the conclusion of a report begins and ends by asking the premier that question, you know that the rest of the report isn’t likely to be praising the province’s accomplishments. After extensive consultation with the disability community, Donovan notes that 77 per cent of people with disabilities report having a negative experience in public or at work, while only eight per cent describe their experience as positive. These negative experiences, Donovan maintains, are the result of a lack of leadership, enforcement, research and accountability, and of flaws in virtually every aspect of the system, including
services, products, technology, buildings, infrastructure, careers, processes and human imagination. Donovan therefore concludes that without
urgent action, the province will fail to meet the AODA’s target of making Ontario accessible by the beginning of 2025. That target seemed an achievable goal when the act, the first of its kind in Canada, was passed unanimously in 2005. But successive legislative reviews in 2010, 2014, and 2019 have sounded the alarm about the lack of progress. The ministry seems to perceive the situation very differently from those with lived experience of disability. And this disconnect is, in fact, present in society at large: In sharp contrast to the experiences of people with disabilities, 88 per cent of the general population describe Ontario as
very accessible. This misconceptualization, which exists inside and outside government, is one of largest impediments to progress. As Donovan observes,
Until there is a greater societal shift in how people conceptualize and interact with people with disabilities, barriers will remain.
Tyler Griffin, The Canadian Press, Global News, March 10, 2023
People with disabilities still consistently face barriers in their everyday experiences, from navigating city streets, to applying for jobs, to accessing public transit and government services, wrote report author Rich Donovan. Donovan, who was appointed by the province in early 2022 to conduct a legislative review of the act, said little progress has been made since the law was passed in 2005. That stems from design flaws in
services, products, technology, buildings, infrastructure, careers, processes and human imagination, he said. The report examined the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and said a lack of basic leadership, accountability and data will make meeting the 2025 target difficult, if not impossible to achieve. Donovan’s scathing report asserts the government has failed the roughly 2.9 million Ontarians with a disability, more than one-fifth its population. The report called the Ford government’s lack of a plan to implement the accessibility law
utterly shocking and also criticized opposition parties, private sector organizations and the media for failing to hold the province accountable.
Rich Donovan, entrepreneur, March 1, 2023
It is the assessment of the 4th Reviewer that leadership on accessibility, and the AODA, has been absent for 17 years. Without leadership, progress on this file is impossible. Without leadership, there can be no accountability. This has certainly been the case with the AODA. Yet this difficulty goes beyond ownership of this file. It is the assessment of the 4th Reviewer that even with engaged leadership, as it stands today, accountability would be a significant challenge. A key reason is there are no metrics for what success looks like. Based on what was heard, combined with a fulsome jurisdictional scan, the 4th Reviewer has organized their assessments into four primary buckets: outcomes, governance, leadership, and accountability. It hardly needs repeating that AODA outcomes have been poor. PWD report continued disappointment in the AODA since its inception, and as has been indicated in previous reviews, progress has been painfully slow and uneven. The 4th Reviewer has identified two main drivers of these poor outcomes: a reliance on standards, and the absence of enforcement/incentives. As a conclusion, the Reviewer is obliged to highlight that the Premier of Ontario and his Cabinet have yet to meet the basic needs of a group of people totaling over one fifth of its population. Do you care? The Reviewer has been haunted by this question since having candid discussions with senior government officials early in this review process.
In a democracy, demand defines direction. Advice to government is only as good as how well we understand your needs and wants. To help us understand, we need your participation. This applies to Ontarians with disabilities as well as businesses, not-for-profits and public sector entities that seek to delight all Ontarians. What Do You Think?
CBC News, Toronto, February 24,2023
A Toronto woman is speaking out about the experience of flying with a disability, saying her most recent flight with Air Canada left her feeling like an
unwanted burden. Georgia Pike, a graduate student at York University, says she has travelled in and out of Toronto Pearson Airport many times, but her latest experience was so bad that it prompted her to come forward about
a system that discriminates against people with disabilities. Air Canada says it is reviewing Pike’s case and is committed to providing accessible transportation, but Pike says her trip never should have been so difficult. Pike was travelling to Toronto from Phoenix on January 31 with her seeing eye dog, Maggie. She says she informed Air Canada staff several times that she needed an escort to follow so that she and her dog could make their way through customs and to her departure gate. After multiple waits and having to tag along with airport workers pushing other passengers in wheelchairs, she says she was taken part of the way to security. Then, she was left by an airport worker who could not take her any further because she did not have priority boarding status and told her the screening area was
David Lepofsky, Contributor, TheToronto Star, November 7, 2023
It’s good the government promised to create a Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) to lift people with disabilities out of poverty. Now it’s time to fix the problems with Bill C-22. The federal government calls it “shameful” that one million people with disabilities languish in poverty. However, their weak Bill C-22 before Parliament does not require the government to ever pay a CDB, or set a deadline to start paying it. It sets no minimum benefit amount or ensure it keeps pace with inflation. It could be $1 per month. The bill disqualifies almost one-third of people with disabilities over age 15 from the benefit because of their age, no matter how poor. Only working-age people qualify. Yet, disability poverty doesn’t start at 18 or end at 65. We need Bill C-22 swiftly strengthened and swiftly passed. The CDB shouldn’t be restricted to “working age” people. The bill should set a mandatory minimum CDB amount, indexed to inflation, and a mandatory start date for paying it. Let cabinet increase but not reduce it.
The Agenda with Steve Paikin, host of TVO’s flagship current affairs program, February 3, 2023
The Honourable David C. Onley left a lasting impression on those he met as a friend, as an accessibility advocate, and as a former lieutenant-governor of Ontario. Ontario’s former lieutenant governor, David Onley, left the world at the age of 72. In late 2019, David was rushed to the emergency after a brain scan revealed a tumor at the front of his brain. David is survived by his wife, Ruth Ann, and children, Jonathan, Robert, and Michael. Records show the former governor used a motorized scooter throughout his life after contracting polio as a child and frequently drew on his lived experience when highlighting existing accessibility barriers in all facets of society. David emerged as a champion of disability rights during and after his stint as Ontario’s 28th lieutenant governor. David Charles Onley served as the 28th lieutenant governor of Ontario for seven years till 2014. Before being appointed lieutenant governor, Onley served as the chair of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council and was a member of the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre’s accessibility councils. As the province’s first Lieutenant Governor with a disability, he utilized his vice-regal position to help remove physical barriers to Ontario’s 1.5 million people with disabilities and focus on other issues affecting the disabled, including obstacles to employment and housing. David made history throughout his seven years in office, the advocacy group Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance and helped Campaign for AODA Alliance to give testimony on Bill C-22, the proposed Canada Disability Benefits Act. Records show during his tenure; the governor channeled his passion for access to opportunities into expanding literacy and education programs for Indigenous people in Ontario while emphasizing the importance of reconciliation.
Lucas Robinson, Wisconsin State Journal, January 24, 2023
Where the likes of Louis Braille and Abraham Nemeth made it possible for the blind to read and perform mathematics, John Boyer took it a step further. Boyer, a Madison resident who was pivotal in the development of STEM reading material for the blind, died on January 17 from a bout of pneumonia. He was 86. Born in rural Minnesota without the ability to see, Boyer eventually lost his hearing from infection as a boy. From the 1960s onward, Boyer excelled as a computer programmer, a pioneer in a field then barely understood by the general public let alone widely accessible to the blind. Through Boyer’s work, people who had lost their sight had greater access to science, technology, engineering and math literature.
Editorial, Winnipeg Free Press, January 18, 2023
Sometimes, a passing grade is considered a satisfactory result, the product of sufficient preparation and effort to allow for an outcome that qualifies as success even though it may have flirted with failure along the way. In other words, just enough to be good enough. When it comes to the midterm report card issued to the provincial government by Barrier-Free Manitoba (BFM) for the implementation and enforcement of its accessibility-standards legislation, a
barely passing grade should be regarded as a cause for concern and immediate remedial action rather than reason for anything resembling celebration or self-congratulation. BFM is a non-profit cross-disability initiative formed in 2008 to lobby the province to enact
strong and effective legislation that requires the removal of existing barriers and prevents the creation of new ones. Its mock report card offers an assessment of the current Progressive Conservative government’s success (or failure) in bringing into force the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA), which was passed into law in December 2013 by the province’s previous NDP government, promising
significant accessibility progress by 2023. With the 10-year implementation timeline ticking toward its end, BFM’s most recent assessment gives the government an overall
D grade for fully setting in motion the legislation aimed at affording Manitobans with disabilities the opportunity to fully participate in all the province has to offer.
Bonnie Allen, CBC News, January 18, 2023
CNIB Guide Dogs president says
you have to invest money to get money. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) began its
urgent appeal for donations in late 2020. A charity watchdog says CNIB spends more than half of each dollar raised on fundraising costs, and that its spending on programming is below what’s reasonable for Canadian non-profits. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) has been making an
urgent appeal for donations to its guide dog program for more than two years to solve what it calls a
crisis-level demand. Overall, more than half of what CNIB takes in from donations is spent on fundraising costs, and finding out exactly what proportion goes to the puppies is difficult. Charity Intelligence Canada, a charity watchdog that aims to help Canadians
be informed and give intelligently, reviewed CNIB’s online financial statements from 2021. The accounting applies to the entire CNIB organization and not just its guide dog program. It found CNIB collected roughly $29.1 million in donations and spent about $15 million on fundraising costs.
Jon Hernandez, CBC News, British Columbia, January 6, 2023
Woman alleges City of Maple Ridge has created unsafe walking conditions for people with disabilities. Maria Kovacs won’t risk waiting for the bus near her church on her own anymore. The last time she tried it, a cyclist hit her.
When I got out of the bus, the bike hit me in the back, she told CBC News.
This area is very unsafe for someone who is blind.