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Opinion: It’s Time to Unify the Disability Movement

Al Etmanski and Kathleen O’Grady
Globe and Mail, August 4, 2020

A decision to issue one time, $600 federal payments to Canadians with disabilities, in order to cover the extraordinary expenses they have incurred because of COVID-19, has finally received royal assent. But it’s too little, too late, and reaches too few.

The $600 amount is nowhere near the extra monthly costs many people with disabilities have incurred during the pandemic. It was issued four months after most other Canadians have received support and well after the country has emerged from lockdown. And it leaves around 60 per cent of Canadians with disabilities behind. Payments will also not be issued until the fall.

Disability Groups Demand Access to North Carolina’s Inaccessible Absentee Voting

July 27, 2020 – Raleigh, NC – Today, disability organizations filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina State Board of Elections (“NCSBOE”) for excluding North Carolinians with disabilities from their Absentee Voting program.

The lawsuit charges the state agency with discrimination against voters who are unable to independently and privately mark a paper ballot due to vision disabilities. All North Carolinians deserve to vote safely and independently, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

The lawsuit was filed the day after the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by a coalition of groups including Disability Rights Advocates, Disability Rights North Carolina, the North Carolina Council of the Blind, the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc., and several North Carolina voters with disabilities, including Jo Taliaferro, Kenneth Durden, Kendall Gibbs, and Dr. Ricky Scott.

15 Moments Within the Fight for Disability Rights

By Julia Carmel
New York Times, July 26, 2020

The disability civil rights movement has many distinct narratives, but the prevailing themes are of community, justice and equity.

As with every other civil rights movement, the fight for disability rights is one that challenges negative attitudes and pushes back against oppression. But it is also more complex.

Often the movement has diverged into a constellation of single-issue groups that raise awareness of specific disabilities. It has also converged into cross-disability coalitions that increasingly include intersections of race, gender and sexual orientation.

Regardless, the prevailing demands of the movement are the same: justice, equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations.

Air Canada Lays Off Blind Longtime Employee, Saying It Can’t Accommodate Him Amid Pandemic

By Christine Long and Selena Ross
CTV News, July 21st 2020

In 2016, Sean Fitzgibbon starred in an Air Canada promotional video about inclusion.

It showed him on the job, working as a stock-keeper. He was also given the company’s award of excellence for his service.

So it came as a shock when he got a letter saying the airline could no longer accommodate his medical condition.

Fitzgibbon has been legally blind for seven years, and last month Air Canada told him that now that it’s downsizing its workforce amid the pandemic, the company can no longer provide him with a suitable job that he can safely perform.

COVID-19 Causing Long Delays for Guide Dogs, Charity Says

Manotick organization says blind clients waiting months to get their service animals CBC News
Posted: Jul 20, 2020

Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, a charity based in the south Ottawa community of Manotick, says its clients have been waiting months for service animals as COVID-19 has made it difficult to do their normal work.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced people inside their homes in mid-March, the loss of freedom was felt particularly hard by blind and partly blind Canadians waiting for guide dogs.

“Clients have been waiting quite a while,” said Steven Doucette, who works with Manotick-based charity Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

How COVID-19 Improved Accessibility for Job Seekers With Disabilities

The expansion of remote work and recruiting technology is leveling the playing field at work, experts told HR Dive. Kendall Davis and Nadzeya Dzivakova/HR Dive
by Aman Kidwai
Published July 17, 2020

Editor’s note: As the ADA approaches its 30th anniversary, HR Dive is taking a close look at employment issues affecting workers with disabilities. Stay tuned for related stories on recruiting, accommodations and more.

As businesses scrambled to create remote work infrastructure following pandemic-driven shutdowns, they may have also unintentionally advanced accessibility for workers with disabilities.

Minister Qualtrough Announces New Details on Proposed Financial Support for Persons With Disabilities(PWDs) During COVID-19

News provided by
Employment and Social Development Canada

GATINEAU, QC, July 17, 2020 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada continues to take immediate, significant and decisive action to ensure that the needs of all Canadians are supported during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, the Government announced a series of measures to help Canadians with disabilities navigate the effects of the outbreak, including a one-time, tax-free, non-reportable payment of $600 to assist with additional expenses incurred during the pandemic.

These additional expenses might include higher costs for personal protective equipment; additional expenses related to hiring personal support workers and accessing other disability supports; paying for increased costs for medical supplies and medication; higher internet costs associated with physical distancing; and increased use of taxis and home delivery services to obtain groceries and prescriptions.

ViewPoints: Brandt-CNIB Regina Development Scandal

Ordinary citizens protested the secretive Brandt-CNIB development that would have developed commercial real estate on a provincially owned park in Regina. They are willing to fight it in court.

Regina City Council repeatedly protested the Brandt-CNIB development and it passed two motions against it calling for more transparency.

The Saskatchewan Provincial Capital Commission’s Board passed a unanimous decision to audit the Brandt-CNIB development. The report raises even more questions about this secretive deal that would allow CNIB to live in prime office space rent-free.

CNIB still refuses to name the commercial tenants that want to rent space in the Brandt-CNIB development.

City’s Amphibious Wheelchairs Put the Beach Within Reach

Specially designed chairs can traverse soft sand, go into the water CBC News, July 13, 2020

All her life, whenever Delaney Dunlop’s friends asked her to go to the beach, she’d decline.

The 30-year-old’s battery-powered wheelchair just wasn’t built to traverse the sand.

“It took like six people to get it out of the sand,” Dunlop said of one earlier attempt.

And what was she supposed to do once she reached the water?

“Getting in and out of the water isn’t always safe for people who need assistance,” Dunlop told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

Glove Translates Sign Language in Real-time

July 6 2020

BIOENGINEERS have built a glove able to translate sign language to speech in real-time.

The cutting-edge glove features thin, stretchable sensors running to the fingertips. These sensors can detect motions and finger placement through electrically conducting yarns. Those sensors are then connected to a tiny circuit board ” approximately the size of a coin worn on users’ wrists.

When people move their hands and fingers to form ‘words’, the glove translates the individual letters, numbers, words and phrases into audible language.

St. John’s Pedestrian Mall Accessibility Will Change, Vows Mayor, After Facebook Post Highlights Problems

Post of wheelchair user unable to navigate area shared almost 1,000 times CBC News
Posted: Jul 09, 2020

The mayor of St. John’s says the city is working to improve accessibility at the new downtown pedestrian mall after a social media post drew attention to the numerous mobility challenges of the area.

In a Facebook post shared almost 1,000 times, Lisa Walters recounted her experience trying, and mostly failing, to visit downtown businesses while in her wheelchair.

“Between all the businesses with no ramps, the clothing racks, patios and bistro tables blocking off huge sections of sidewalk and the lack of access to accessible washrooms, the only real accessible activity you can do at the pedestrian mall is just stroll down the middle of the street,” she said in the post.

Deaf Community Encounters New Challenges

The now mandatory masks make lip reading, facial cues impossible Andrea Yu
Toronto Star, July 9, 2020

For the deaf and hard of hearing, COVID-19 adds extra challenges for communicating in public.

We’ve all been told to avoid touching our face to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But for Thinaja Nadarajah, this public health advice is complicated. Nadarajah is deaf and American Sign Language is her first language.

“There’s a lot of touching of the face when signing,” she says. “We often communicate by touch, like tapping on the shoulder to get someone’s attention.”

AbleDocs Inc. and axes4 GmbH Announce Merger to Become the Worldwide Leader in Document Accessibility Products and Services

July 01, 2020

TORONTO & ZURICH–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AbleDocs Inc. the leading PDF accessibility service provider, and axes4 GmbH, the preeminent developer of leading-edge PDF/UA compliant software today announce their merger to become the worldwide leader in PDF accessibility products and services.

The deal combines the joint brain trust of recognized global accessibility leaders under one roof with the goal of continuing to provide unparalleled document accessibility services and industry leading PDF/UA compliant software offerings.

With a long-standing record of joint collaboration, both companies’ founders and leadership teams couldn’t be more excited to leverage each other’s capabilities to offer their existing and new clients the best in PDF/UA products and services.

VIA Rail Pledges to Improve Rail Accessibility

VIA Rail Canada Inc. last week announced additional steps toward ensuring universal accessibility in order to meet requirements set out by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

To increase accessibility, VIA Rail is proposing:

telephone reservations for riders with disabilities or functional limitations unable to make reservations on the website;
curbside assistance from select station entrances to the platform, which includes wheelchair assistance, guiding assistance and assistance carrying baggage; relief areas for service animals at 80 stations;
an improved digital strategy to make information more accessible; and
on-demand availability of menus and safety cards in braille or large print on board trains.

Fundraising: Peterborough Kiwanis Donates Trail Chairs to Camp Kawartha

By Caroline McConnell, Special to the Examiner
Mon., June 29, 2020

The hiking trails at Camp Kawartha, both at the main site on Clear Lake and others behind the Environment Centre in Peterborough, just became more accessible thanks to a generous donation of two specialized trail chairs by The Kiwanis Club of Peterborough and Motion Peterborough.

“We are absolutely delighted to add these chairs to our accessibility equipment,” said Jacob Rodenburg, Camp Kawartha’s executive director, in a release last week. “These chairs are much more robust than the average wheelchair, and this means any camper or student can join with their peers and friends in an exciting hike through the woods.”

A Disability Lens in the Time of COVID-19

Marcia Carroll
The Guardian, June 10, 2020

The Government of Canada recently marked May 31 to June 6 as National AcessAbility Week. Any other year, it would also be a time to recognize the efforts of individuals, communities and workplaces that are actively working to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the disability rights movement regress and the rights and needs of Canadians living with disabilities have been, for the most part, left out of the conversations and response. Identified below are four core areas in which people living with disabilities have affected by the lack of the use a disability lens when responding to a public health emergency.

When Will Disabled Lives Also Matter?

By John Rae
Editor’s Note: John Rae is a long-time disability rights advocate, who lives in Toronto.

The 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission spotlighted centuries of genocide and assimilation that is the legacy of indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere. It included 94 calls to action for change in Canada, but change has been very slow in coming. The Report was followed up by the report Of the two and a half year National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls whose final Report found “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies” were a key driving force in the disappearance of thousands of Indigenous women. It offered more recommendations for improving the situation of indigenous women and girls in Canada. Recent shooting deaths of Rodney Levi, and Chantel Moore have put a clear focus on recent police encounters with Indigenous communities, and many indigenous peoples are asking do indigenous lives yet matter?

New Transport Rules for Disabled Travellers a Step Forward but Not Enough: Advocates

Michelle McQuigge / The Canadian Press
June 25, 2020

New rules aimed at making travel within Canada safer and more accessible for people with disabilities mark a welcome step forward but don’t yet go far enough to removing long-standing barriers, advocates said Thursday as the new regulations officially came into effect.

The reforms drafted by the Canadian Transportation Agency spell out rules governing most travel between provinces by air, rail, bus or boat. They do not apply to municipal or intraprovincial travel, which do not fall under the agency’s jurisdiction.

New York State Maintains Discriminatory Bar to Employment for Those with Less Than 20/40 Vision

Disability Rights Advocates challenges the State’s irrational, blanket disqualification of workers based on disability, seeks to bring hiring standards into compliance with the law June 10, 2020

New York, NY Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national non-profit legal center, filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the State of New York and several of its agencies. The Charge challenges the State’s bright-line rule disqualifying anyone with binocular vision lower than 20/40 from being hired as a Mental Health Therapy Aide Trainee (MHTAT), a State Office of Mental Health position that supports people with mental illness. The policy bears virtually no connection to the position’s duties, and excludes qualified candidates based on disability without considering if they can actually do the job, in violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law. Read the Charge of Discrimination at the link below.

City Improving on Accessibility But More Can Be Done

By Jensen, Randy on June 24, 2020.
Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

While the City is taking several important steps in leading the way for greater accessibility and mobility in its business units, more effort is needed to apply the effort more evenly, explained City of Lethbridge Mobility/Accessibility Master Plan project lead Chris Witkowski.

“Compared to where we were just five years ago, we have come a long way,” stated Witkowski during Monday’s Communities Issues Committee meeting. “For a lot of the business units who deal with infrastructure it really is coming to the forefront of any project, and something which automatically gets built in. We do have a ways to go; especially with the backlog of some of the deficient infrastructure. We have to work on consistency of our mobility improvements. We can’t just have different improvements throughout different sections of the city.”