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COVID-19 and Disability: Recommendations to the Canadian Government from Disability Related Organizations in Canada

March 24, 2020

It is imperative that the Government of Canada urgently address the unique vulnerabilities of people with disabilities and their families during the COVID-19 crisis. People with disabilities represent 22% of the Canadian population. Many are at extreme risk and require additional support to ensure their health and safety at this time.

Some people with disabilities are vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the nature of their disability and related health challenges. Many others are at risk because of the measures put in place in response to COVID-19 which require people with disabilities and their families to distance themselves from their communities and support systems and to invest funds up front for supplies needed to maintain wellbeing during an extended period of isolation.

Microsoft Joins Forces With Enable Ireland to Embed AI Into Assistive Technology Passport

Irish Tech News’March 12, 2020

Microsoft and Enable Ireland have joined forces today to announce a new commitment to embed AI into the Assistive Technology Passport which is being developed to empower people with disabilities to have an independent life. The announcement marks the 20th anniversary of Microsoft’s partnership with Enable Ireland.

Disabled Canadians Feel Excluded From COVID-19 Messaging

Michelle McQuigge / The Canadian Press
March 18, 2020

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Health Patty Hajdu and President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos are flanked by sign language interpreters as they participate in a press conference on COVID-19 at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Karen McCall clicked eagerly on the link tweeted out by her provincial health ministry, keen to read the promised list of tips meant to help her protect against COVID-19.

Accessibility Essential for Alberta’s COVID-19 Updates: We have no choice but to wait

By Morgan Black -Global News
Posted March 16, 2020

On Monday, an ASL/English interpreter was present during an Alberta Health COVID-19 update for the first time.

It’s a significant moment for the deaf and hard of hearing community, which had called on the government to provide an interpreter or live captioning during the updates.

“It’s about accessibility,” said president of the Edmonton Association of the Deaf, Sarah Snively.

“Ever since the information was released about the pandemic, hearing individuals were kept informed by listening to what is being shared in real-time through all media outlets, while deaf people were left out.”

COMING TO TERMS WITH MY DISABILITY

By Amy M. Warren w
Globe and Mail, Mar. 16, 2020

I started my career as a 25-year-old professor eagerly running between classes, but my body held within it a debilitating illness. Looking back, there were clues. I was able to do “party tricks” (like bending my thumb backward until it touched my forearm), I had dental issues, I had knee surgery at the age of 16, I had multiple subluxations/dislocations of my hip, knees and shoulders, I had problems with my stomach, pain and migraines – all signals of my then-undiagnosed chronic illness.

The Coronavirus Response Shows How Crucial Accessibility Is

Seeing companies make drastic changes to accommodate working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak is great ” but it’s also frustrating for those of us who could have used those accommodations much sooner. Amy Meng
BuzzFeed Contributor
Posted on March 13, 2020

The list of organizations and events migrating to online platforms multiplies daily. Moving these hubs of in-person interaction to a virtual space is a critical part of flattening the curve of coronavirus spread ” and although I’m sure these changes were not always simple to enact, the last few weeks have shown they are exceedingly possible.

The BlindShell: An Accessible Cell Phone with Real Buttons

by Curtis Chong
Braille Monitor March 2020

From the Editor: Many of us have had an electronic partner that stays with us almost all the time. It is a smart phone. But many blind people have felt left out in this world of accessible phones, because they lack the interest or the dexterity to use a touchscreen. They want buttons, and they want menus they can hear and use to accomplish some of the tasks that their smart phone buddies using touch screens have.

Curtis Chong offers what may be a good solution. His credentials to evaluate and explain technology are well known to readers of the Braille Monitor, so let us go directly into his article:

Flying While Disabled: Air Travelers Must Wait Decades for Handicap-Accessible Bathrooms

New proposals for handicapped-accessible airline lavatories would only apply to new aircraft not the 5,600 planes already flying today. Jayme Fraser, USA TODAY Network
Mar. 2, 2020

Federal officials want to make airplane bathrooms easier to use for people with disabilities and aging travelers with reduced mobility. But it could be decades before planes with those features dominate the air.

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed its first update to lavatory design rules since 1990, when the Air Carrier Access Act barred discriminating against passengers with disabilities. The airline industry is exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act that sets accessibility standards for most businesses.

Vaudreuil Residents Struggle With Lack of Accessibility During Winter

By Kwabena Oduro -Global News
Posted February 18, 2020

Piero Gervasi, who is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, recently moved into a condo in Vaudreuil for more accessibility.

The interior of the condo has an open concept, with elevators and an exterior ramp, but Gervasi has been dealing with parking issues since he moved there in May.

The issues started with people parking in his spot, he said, adding things have gotten worse since winter began.

“I would like somebody to understand the accessibility for me to get in and out of my own place that I paid for that I cannot,” Gervasi said.

Judge Finds NYPD Liable, Must Provide People with Disabilities Access to Police Stations

Ruling affirms and holds NYPD accountable for broad inaccessibility of police precinct stations

Police department must include disability community as it works to eliminate barriers

NEW YORK A federal judge has issued a major ruling holding the New York City Police Department (NYPD) liable for discrimination against people with disabilities by shutting them out of police precincts.

“In the thirty years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (‘ADA’) the City of New York and NYC Police Department (‘NYPD’) have made little progress eliminating physical barriers to access to NYPD’s police stations,” wrote U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York in her ruling yesterday. “Plaintiffs have now shown that those barriers are not merely theoretical or technicalthey have actually prevented individuals with mobility disabilities from accessing the benefits of services provided from stations.”

‘You Just Spiral’: UBC President Who Overcame Mental Health Crisis Determined to Help Canadian Students

Santa J. Ono was afraid to speak out about his mental illness; now he’s a champion for mental health on campus CBC Radio
Posted: Feb 14, 2020

University of British Columbia president Santa J. Ono understands the immense pressures students face, having dealt with his own mental health crisis as a student.

Eleanor Vannon was a student at Camosun College in Victoria when anxiety literally stopped her in her tracks.

Vannon had experienced anxiety in high school, but she had high expectations of herself, and felt she had to be “the strongest and the toughest.” At the same time, she was haunted by feelings of low-self worth, and questioned if she even deserved a post-secondary education.

Advocates, Industry Await Plan to Make N.S. Restaurant Washrooms Accessible

Working group collected ideas, concerns in series of meetings last fall Shaina Luck, CBC News
Posted: Feb 13, 2020

The restaurant industry and accessibility advocates alike are hoping to hear back from the Nova Scotia government in the next few months on a plan to make every restaurant washroom in the province accessible, a process that’s expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Late last year, a working group wrapped up a series of Justice Department meetings designed to gather input on the issue, said Gordon Stewart, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia.

Charlottetown Failing Those With Disabilities

The Guardian
Published: Feb. 11, 2020

“Accessibility in Canada is about creating communities, workplaces and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers.” That’s the first paragraph one finds when searching the Accessible Canada Act on the federal government’s website.

Progressive as those words may appear, none of those things seemed to occur for P.E.I. resident Paul Cudmore when his accessible van recently broke down in Charlottetown.

In Cudmore’s case, he was protected by the friends who came to his aid, not the legislation that was supposed to support him.

That is not acceptable.

Vancouver Taxi Companies Stop Subsidizing Drivers of Accessible Vehicles, Cite Ride-Hailing Competition

B.C. considers adding new incentives from fees it collects from Uber, Lyft CBC News
Originally Posted: Jan 30, 2020

The Vancouver Taxi Association says it will no longer subsidize drivers who operate accessible vehicles, claiming sudden competition from ride-hailing means taxi companies can no longer afford it.

Without the subsidies, the association said, drivers are less likely to choose an accessible van because it will cost them more out of pocket.

“I want to make it crystal clear “we have not stopped trying to service these trips. We’re doing our best to try and service these trips,” said Kalwant Sahota, speaking Wednesday for the Vancouver Taxi Association.

eSSENTIAL Accessibility To Expand Software Platform With New Funding Round

By Dan Anderson
February 3, 2020

Accessibility-as-a-Service company eSSENTIAL Accessibility recently announced it closed $16 million in funding led by Lead Edge Capital. This round of funding will provide eSSENTIAL Accessibility with resources to expand its software platform and pursue rapid geographic expansion in order to meet escalating demand.

Accessibility is a business mandate that has arrived with tremendous force and the consequences of not offering accessible experiences are costly and brand debilitating.

This funding builds on a major year for eSSENTIAL Accessibility which saw a rapidly growing list of clients, key executive appointments, and market momentum in the areas of accessibility and inclusion.

Accessibility Advocate Pans Proposed QEII Parkade Location

People with disabilities will have to travel farther and cross a city street to get health care Anjuli Patil
CBC News
Posted: Jan 31, 2020

A Halifax disability advocate says the proposed location for a new hospital parkade will create a barrier to health care.

“It’s going to make it more difficult to access our human right of health care. And that’s my concern. It’s going to create dangerous conditions with the weather in the crosswalk and the cars,” Paul Vienneau told CBC News in an interview on Thursday.

The province plans to build an 800-space parking garage on land partially owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Emotional Support Animals Could Soon Be Banned From Planes

The Department of Transportation is considering new rules that would restrict service animals on airplanes to specially trained dogs. By Nina Golgowski
01/23/2020

The Department of Transportation is considering overhauling current rules for service animals on planes, including allowing airlines to prohibit those used for emotional support.

The proposed changes announced on Wednesday include only allowing specially trained service dogs to qualify as service animals, which ride for free in a plane’s cabin. Any other animal used for emotional support or simply to make a passenger “feel better” would be considered a pet and airlines would not be required to allow them on board, the DOT said.

B.C. Ride-Hailing Services Won’t Be Accessible to All

In B.C., ride-hailing companies will not be required to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles Jennifer Saltman
Updated: January 20, 2020

Many people are eagerly looking forward to ride-hailing finally being available in Metro Vancouver, but Vince Miele is not one of them.

The Tsawwassen resident, who uses a wheelchair, said he and many others who have disabilities and use mobility aids will be left behind when services like Lyft and Uber begin operating, because they will be unusable by those who can’t get in and out of a standard vehicle.

Feeling The Accessibility Of Gift Cards

ByAmanda Fugazy
January 21, 2020

Remember all those gift cards you sold for the holidays? Little did you know that gift cards what was once thought of as the gift that keeps on giving, could soon be the gift that bites back.

Recently, a wave of lawsuits were filed against restaurants and retailers located in New York for their failure to sell gift cards that contain braille. These lawsuits allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. New York hospitality employers who sell gift cards should be aware of this new and novel concept, and consider preparing proactively to avoid being faced with similar lawsuits.

I Was Very Ignorant. How Being Paralyzed Changed One Woman’s View of How the World Treats Disabled People

After an accident severed her spinal cord, Kristi Leer has been using a wheelchair CBC News
Posted: Jan 19, 2020

A wheelchair user from Fort Nelson in northeastern B.C. is pushing for better accessibility for all, based on her own experiences struggling with moving around.

Two years ago, Kristi Leer severed her spinal cord in a vehicle crash. Since then, Leer has used a wheelchair to get around.

Leer says the experience has been eye opening.

“You know when I got in this chair, I’m going to be very honest, my attitude toward persons with disabilities and wheelchairs was very ignorant, and when I say ignorant, I mean not knowing,” Leer told host Carolina de Ryk on Daybreak North.