Accessibility In The News 2021

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.

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.

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