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4 Areas AI Makes the World More Accessible

AI technology such as voice interaction, image recognition and real-time captioning is starting to break down barriers for people with sensory, physical and cognitive disabilities.

In today’s world, so much relies on information. But this can make navigating everyday life even more of a barrier for people with a sensory, physical or cognitive impairment. Fortunately, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology is helping people with disabilities both interact with the physical world and use digital devices and services.

How LED Lighting Can Help Those With Visual Impairments Navigate The City

July 13 2018

CANADA: Vision loss will increase by 30 percent within the next 10 years in Canada. People with visual impairments risk social isolation as well as less community participation, which is why it’s so important for cities to be more accessible to them. This can be alleviated with the use of LED lighting.

LED lighting is growing in popularity. In Canada alone, the phasing out of incandescent bulbs has resulted in other, more accessible lighting options. One of these is LEDs. Since they last up to 25 times longer than incandescent lights, use less energy, and work well in all weather conditions, they provide a valuable lighting system for both public and private spaces. They can also help to light the way for people with vision problems who rely on well-lit public areas in order to get around with greater ease. Here are other benefits of LEDs for those with visual impairments.

Court Orders CRA to Stop Setting Political Limits on Charities’ Activities

National Post
Canadian Press, July 17, 2018

OTTAWA – An Ontario Superior Court judge is telling federal tax authorities they can’t set limits on how much a charity devotes to political activity in a new ruling that grants a win to a national anti-poverty group.

Justice Ed Morgan said in the decision Tuesday that the Canada Revenue Agency could not justify a restriction on charities that they spend no more than 10 per cent of their time on political advocacy, calling it an unconstitutional limit on freedom of expression.

Morgan’s ruling – which begins with the philosophical question, what is political? – says all political activities are charitable activities so long as groups advocate “in pursuit of the overall charitable purpose.”

Proposed San Francisco Straw Ban May Limit Accessibility for People With Disabilities

by Kate Larsen
Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cities around the country have anti-plastic straw legislation in the works, including San Francisco. While reducing plastic waste is positive for the environment, it’s concerning for some people with disabilities.

“Anything that attempts to limit the amount of plastic waste in our environment today, is very positive,” says Nina McCullaugh, who is visiting her daughter in San Francisco from Los Angeles County, where Malibu is also working to ban plastic straws. Three years ago, video of a plastic straw stuck in a sea turtle’s nose went viral. Now, people around the world are ditching their single-use plastic straws in favor of biodegradable paper and reusable straws.

Disability Legislation to Crack Down on Public Bodies in the UK

New legislation coming into force will mean that, as early as 2020, all public-sector organisations, including all councils will need to make sure that their digital services and online information are accessible for disabled people.

In October 2016, an EU Directive came in which states all public-sector bodies must have accessible digital services by 2020. This means that they can be used by people with disabilities and additional needs, for example using screen readers or other assistive technology. Brexit has meant that this Directive is now being transferred into UK law and will come into effect in its first phase in 2020. The move will ensure that the 20% of people in the UK who have a limiting illness or disability will be able to access public sector websites, software and mobile applications.

B.C. Residents With Disabilities Demand a Say on Proposed Accessibility Law

Nick Eagland
Updated: July 13, 2018
From left, Amanda Reaume, Kent Loftsgard, Jessica Leung, and Vivian Ly are people living with varying disabilities who say they have to be involved in drafting any new accessibility legislation.

For Amanda Reaume, acquiring a disability meant awakening to a civil rights movement in a way made possible only through lived experience.

Last year, the 33-year-old writer suffered a brain injury that left her with balance problems and having to relearn how to walk and talk at the same time. She returned to work in Vancouver six months later but with a new, invisible disability.

Left In The Dark: Canadians With Disabilities Deserve Better From CRA

My colleagues and I learned that both of Canada’s Disability Tax Credit programs are failing our most vulnerable people. Sen. Jim Munson

Canadians with physical disabilities and serious mental health issues are being denied crucial tax credits due to a change in eligibility criteria.

One Ontario mother who cares for her 16-year-old son who has ADHD and a learning disability told CBC News she had been informed by the Canada Revenue Agency she was no longer eligible for the Disability Tax Credit. As a caregiver for her son, she had relied on the tax benefit for years until she was suddenly denied last year. No explanation was given.

Bike-Lane Bus Stops Dangerous for Blind: Suit

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist
July 6, 2018

The City of Victoria and B.C. Transit have put the lives of blind pedestrians at risk by moving bus stops away from the curb to accommodate bike lanes, claims the Canadian Federation of the Blind.

“It’s a Russian Roulette game,” said Oriano Belusic, 56, who is named in the complaint that the federation is making with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the city and transit, claiming discrimination against the visually impaired.

He cited a close call he had in a bike lane in March.

New Canadian Accessibility Standard for Buildings Benefits Everyone, Disability Advocates Say

By Wanyee LiStarMetro Vancouver

VANCOUVERPeople with disabilities often get their own cashier line, their own bathroom stall, their own entrance and that type of building design amounts to segregation, disability advocates say.

Part of the problem is that Canada did not have a standard for accessibility design in buildings, said Brad McCannell, vice-president of access and inclusion with the Rick Hansen Foundation.

(left) Brad McCannell, vice president of access and inclusion with the Rick Hansen Foundation, (centre) Kirsten Sutton, vice president of and managing director at SAP Labs Canada, and Rick Hansen, founder of the Rick Hansen Foundation, celebrate a ‘Accessibility Certified Gold’ rating at SAP Labs’ Yaletown office.

‘I’m Just Amazed’: Inverness Beach Becomes Accessibility Leader

Organizers hope to make beach the most inclusive in Atlantic Canada Kayla Hounsell · CBC News
Posted: Jul 02, 2018

The Inverness Development Association and the Inverness County Accessibility Committee partnered to purchase two of the beach-friendly wheelchairs, mats that make it easier to walk on the sand and two floating chairs that allow people to go in the water.

Christine Hannigan’s delight is evident as she sits at the water’s edge watching the waves crash on Inverness Beach in Cape Breton.

“You never thought you’d ever do this?” says the woman pushing her along the sand in what looks like a lawn chair with large rubber wheels and a Velcro strap for safety.

‘Disappointing and Frustrating’: Air Travel Accessibility Highlighted at Winnipeg Passenger Rights Meeting

CBC News · Posted: Jun 25, 2018

Jesse Turner, who uses a wheelchair, says she loves to travel but hasn’t flown for months because of concern following severe damage to her chair during a flight last summer.

A national forum on air travel passenger rights in Canada heard from Winnipeggers on Monday, including a presentation from one woman who said she hasn’t flown for months following serious damage to her wheelchair on a flight last summer.

Jesse Turner, who works as an accessibility advisor in Winnipeg, told the Canadian Transportation Agency that even before the incident 10 months ago, her wheelchair has been damaged regularly during loading and unloading for air travel.

‘Handicapped’ Removed From P.E.I. Legislation, Thanks to Hannah MacLellan

Island also teen inspired changes in 2016 around accessible parking Nancy Russell
CBC News, June 25, 2018

The P.E.I. government has removed the word handicapped from five major pieces of legislation, as a result of lobbying by former Easter Seals ambassador, Hannah MacLellan.

“I was so grateful that our provincial government saw the need to amend the acts to include up to date terminology,” said MacLellan, 19. “Language is very important ? to not have negative terminology. It’s really great to see these changes.”

‘Pretty exciting’

The Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act (Persons with Disabilities) changes the wording in five major pieces of legislation: the Employment Standards Act, the Engineering Profession Act, the Labour Act, the Mental Health Act and the Public Health Act.

Funding is Available to Improve Accessibility and Safety in Your Workplace

June 19 2018

A new funding opportunity under the Government of Canada’s Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) has been announced. Your business or organization could receive a grant of up to $100,000 through the EAF program to improve accessibility and safety in your workplace for current or future employees with disabilities.

The EAF program funds workplace projects which help remove barriers to accessibility through:

  • the construction, renovation or retrofit of workplaces, which could include the construction of access ramps and accessible offices and washrooms and the installation of elevators; and
  • the provision of accessible information and communication technologies for work use such as braille printers, accessible computer software, and visual alarm systems.

Generation Z: Waiting – Often Months – to Get Mental Health Help

By Leslie Young
June 20th, 2018

This is the third story of an eight-part series on the generation Z population in Canada who they are, what drives them and how they envision their near future.

Shailee Korrane was still in high school when she had her first panic attack.

Eventually, she decided to seek help. “I was obviously very afraid,” she tells Global News. “It was actually a friend who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder who kind of sat me down and said, ‘I’m really worried about your health and you remind me of me before I sought care.'”

Minister Duncan Introduces the Proposed Accessible Canada Act

From: Employment and Social Development Canada
News release

Most significant progress for people with disabilities in over 30 years
June 20, 2018 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada

Today, following the most inclusive and accessible consultation with Canadians with disabilities and with the disability community, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, introduced the proposed Accessible Canada Act to Parliament. This historic legislation would enable the Government of Canada to take a proactive approach to end systemic discrimination of people with disabilities.

Canada’s First National Accessibility Law Tabled in Ottawa

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Canadians with disabilities felt a surge of tempered optimism on Wednesday as they watched Canada table its first piece of federal legislation aimed at improving accessibility for people with disabilities.

Disabled residents and advocacy organizations said the introduction of the Accessible Canada Act marked a key step towards greater inclusion and contained several critical points community members had named as priorities during a lengthy cross-country consultation process that helped shape the new bill.

But they also raised concerns about provisions the draft bill appears to lack, such as measures to ensure new accessibility barriers do not work their way into future government laws.

American Foundation for the Blind Launches the First Fully Accessible Digital Archive of the Helen Keller Collection

More than 160,000 artifacts can now be viewed in a groundbreaking, fully accessible online archive thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and American Express

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 12, 2018)The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) today announced the launch of the Helen Keller Archive, the world’s first fully accessible digital archive collection, comprising more than 160,000 artifacts, dedicated to the fascinating life of Helen Keller.

The Helen Keller Archive is the largest repository of historical content about Helen Keller, whose iconic name is known in every corner of the globe for her groundbreaking work as an author, political activist, and humanitarian who played a critical role in changing public perceptions about people with disabilities.

Mobility Devices and Air Travel Forum

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) will host an international forum on June 12-13, 2018, in Toronto, in order to address issues related to the storage and transportation of mobility aids on aircraft.

The CTA is Canada’s longest-standing independent, expert tribunal and regulator. One of its core mandates is to ensure that transportation services are accessible to persons with disabilities.

Over the last 18 months, we’ve undertaken a major initiative to modernize all the regulations, codes and guidelines we administer, starting with those in the area of accessible transportation. In the course of the consultations and analysis related to this initiative, it became clear that these issues are becoming more serious as mobility devices grow in size and complexity.

A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses

It’s the biggest health crisis you’ve never heard of. Doctors, philanthropists and companies are trying to solve it. By Andrew Jacobs
New York Times, Originally posted May 5, 2018

PANIPAT, India: Shivam Kumar’s failing eyesight was manageable at first. To better see the chalkboard, the 12-year-old moved to the front of the classroom, but in time, the indignities piled up.

Increasingly blurry vision forced him to give up flying kites and then cricket, after he was repeatedly whacked by balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches, and he came to dread walking home from school.

“Sometimes I don’t see a motorbike until it’s almost in my face,” he said.

The IDeA Competition Deadline May 31, 2018

CANADA: The Innovative Design for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition aims to inspire students to use their creativity to develop innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions to accessibility-related issues resulting in communities that are more accessible for persons with disabilities.

The objectives of the program are:

  • to contribute to the creation of a culture of accessibility in Canada
  • to motivate students to think about accessibility issues and to include accessibility in their creation of social and technological innovations now and in the future
  • to develop cost-effective, practical and innovative concepts, programs, initiatives or designs that address everyday accessibility issue