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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.”

BC Transit is Using COVID Safety Precautions as An Excuse to Infringe the human Rights of Disabled People

By Lyle Attfield
June 22, 2020

I was denied access to the bus identified above because the driver refused to let me board citing COVID 19 related safety concerns.

I, an individual who requires a scooter for mobility, assured the driver that I was physically capable of securing myself without the driver’s assistance after the driver indicated that they were not comfortable securing my scooter due to the proximity and associated COVID 19 risks. The driver still refused to allow me to board the bus.

Residents Complain About Lack of Accessibility for Wheelchair Users

Tyson Fedor CTV News Calgary Video Journalist
@CTV_TysonFedor Contact
Published Tuesday, June 16, 2020

CALGARY –Llano Gorman has lived in his Glendale Meadows home for more than 30 years.

He has had more than a dozen surgeries on his legs, which has made him rely on a wheelchair and electric scooter for mobility.

He says accessing sidewalks,or even crossing the street, can be a real challenge.

“We shouldn’t – as anybody that needs a ramp – (have to) fight the city for years to get it done,” said Gorman.

“It’s ridiculous.”

Gorman has wanted the access to wheelchair ramps at many of his neighbourhoods’ intersections, making progress on some, but not others.

B.C. Advocate Says Proposed Federal COVID-19 Benefit For Canadians With Disabilities Leaves Many with Nothing

One-time $600 payment would only be paid to people who claim the federal disability tax credit CBC News ยท Posted: Jun 16, 2020

The federal government is considering a one-time emergency benefit for people with disabilities to help them cope with the added costs imposed by the pandemic, but a B.C.-based disability advocate says even if the legislation does pass, it won’t go far enough.

Heather Walkus, first vice chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, says the legislation only applies to people who currently receive a disability tax credit, which she says is only about 40 per cent of Canadians living with disability.

New Coordinated Accessibility Strategy Guides Carleton’s Commitment on Campus

By Tyrone Burke

More than a quarter of first-year students at Carleton self-identify as having a disability, and about 11 per cent have registered with the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities. An additional six per cent of university staff report having some type of disability.

Ensuring that all of our students, staff, and faculty fully participate in Carleton’s life, work, and community means building on a longstanding culture of accessibility and inclusiveness.

“Accessibility is one of Carleton’s core values,” says Boris Vukovic, director of the Research, Education, Accessibility, and Design (READ) Initiative, which aims to establish Carleton as a Centre of Excellence in Accessibility.

New Student Group Seeks Mandatory Accessibility Classes for Lecturers

The group, known as the ‘Ability Co_op’, aims to promote awareness of students with disabilities on campus. Cormac Watson
Deputy Editor

The group has released a video, produced by student filmmaker Niamh Barry, with students discussing online learning and exams.

Trinity students, alongside the Disability Service, have launched a new co-operative with the aim of introducing mandatory accessibility classes for lecturers and promoting awareness of students with disabilities on campus.

The group, called the Trinity Ability Co_Op, hopes to introduce classes that would be developed by the group alongside the Disability Service, with the aim of educating lecturers on how to deal with students with disabilities.

COVID-19 and Blindness: Why the New Touchless, Physically-Distant World Sucks for People with Visual Impairment

Nicholas A. Giudice, Ph.D.
Jun 3

As a congenitally blind person, it has become obvious to me that my reliance on touch as a primary mode of experiencing the world puts me at odds with current best practices for avoiding the coronavirus. The principle guidance for safeguarding against COVID-19 is to (1) curtail physical contact with those around us (or the things they touch), (2) limit touching of our body (especially of the face), and (3) maintain a minimum proximity bubble during social interactions (ideally of 6-feet or more). In this essay, I discuss how an unanticipated consequence of following this tri-part guidance for staying ‘safe’ is the effective demonization of touch, which has led to many unforeseen challenges for more than 12 million people in the U.S. (and over 285 million people worldwide) who are blind or visually impaired (BVI).

Council of Canadians with Disabilities Response to COVID-19 Funding Falling Through Cracks

For Immediate Release | June 11, 2020

June 10, 2020 marked a disappointing day for Canadians with disabilities. Finally, government put forward financial relief for Canadians with disabilities only to have the bill fail on the floor. Once again, Canadians with disabilities have been further marginalized in receiving necessary COVID-19 financial relief support.

When attempting to separate the bill to ensure some Canadians, at least those with the disability tax credit certificate, would receive immediate support, the opposition opposed and blocked any discussion, using this moment to push for the entire house to be called back before further discussion. The result is that Canadians with disabilities have fallen through the cracks, once again.

Blind Student Files Federal Discrimination Lawsuit Against Duke University

By Melissa Boughton
June 5, 2020

Before Mary Fernandez enrolled at Duke University, she was assured she would be provided the accommodations for an equal education to her peers who aren’t blind.

Despite that assurance, Fernandez experienced barriers that permeated every aspect of her educational experience at Duke, according to a news release about a new federal lawsuit against the university.

Masks a Concern for Hearing-Impaired Travellers

By SUZANNE MORPHET
Globe and Mail, June 3, 2020

Even now, three months into COVID-19, the picture shocks. Five uniformed airport employees wear black helmets with dark visors that shield their eyes and blue medical masks covering their mouths.

Their faces are completely hidden. The photo is from Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, where staff now wear helmets with infrared thermal imaging to take people’s temperatures without making contact.

If security around travel used to be merely annoying, it’s become almost frightening.

Province Offering Grants to Improve Accessibility

Valerie Leung / Richmond News
May 31, 2020

The B.C. government is once again making a call for grant proposals for community projects aimed to improve accessibility.

B.C.’s third annual AccessAbility Week, from May 31 to June 6, recognizes people and organizations that help provide those with disabilities an opportunity to succeed.

This year the province is again distributing a total of $500,000 in grants for community projects focusing on improving accessibility.

“AccessAbility Week is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate diversity and inclusion, and to highlight the importance of accessibility,” said Shane Simpson, B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

United Nations Urged to Lead Action to End Discrimination Against People With Disabilities in the Response to COVID-19

By IDA
May 18, 2020

New campaign by disability rights groups calls for more leadership from the United Nations to ensure COVID-19 measures include people with disabilities.

Lack of concerted action from governments and health authorities is putting the lives of people with disabilities at greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC).

The two leading disability rights bodies have launched a campaign to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities and call for public health information and communications around COVID19 to be fully accessible.

Global Mental Health Crisis Looming Due to coronavirus Pandemic, UN Warns

Kate Kelland Reuters
May 14, 2020

While countries around the world continue to mobilize to contain the spread of COVID-19, mental health experts say we can’t lose sight of an equally alarming issue: The long-term mental health impact the coronavirus pandemic is going to leave on society.

A mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the pandemic of COVID-19, United Nations health experts said on Thursday.

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department.