Advocates for Canadians With Disabilities Say the Federal Government Isn’t Doing Enough to Help People Struggling With New Barriers in the Midst of A Pandemic

Kathleen Harris
CBC News. Sept. 18, 2020

More than six months into the global pandemic, the Liberal government is being accused of failing to meet the needs of the Canadians with disabilities who number among those hardest-hit by the public health crisis.

Marie-Claude Landry, chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, said COVID-19 has “expanded the circle of vulnerability” in Canada but people with disabilities still aren’t getting the support they need.

“We urge the government to immediately address the unmet financial needs of people with disabilities in an equitable way,” she said in a media statement.

Opinion: As Employment in Canada Continues to Struggle, It’s Disabled Folks Who Feel It the Worst

K.J. Aiello
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sept. 11, 2020

K.J. Aiello is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Because of my disability, I spent almost two decades trying to find stable, gainful employment. I never found it. Instead, I teetered between employment, underemployment and unemployment. I struggled to pay my bills, sometimes choosing between food, rent or mounting student debt payments.

But here’s the deal: I had little to no ability to cope; my meagre sick days were used up before the end of the first quarter of the year. Oftentimes, I was unable to obtain a doctor’s note or even understand what was wrong with me. I was afraid, and, let’s be honest, I was told more than once that maybe the job just wasn’t for me.

I’ve Been Paralyzed Since I Was 3. Here’s Why Kindness Toward Disabled People Is More Complicated Than You Think

By Rebekah Taussig
TIME, August 31, 2020

I am a magnet for kindness. Like the center of a black hole, my body attracts every good deed from across the universe to the foot of my wheelchair. I move through parking lots and malls, farmers’ markets and airports, bookstores and buffets, and people scramble to my aid.

O.K., so there are plenty of people who don’t seem to notice me, and some people who are actually repelled. They look down, pull their bag or their child closer to them, draw their legs up to their chest as I roll by. (Yeah, it doesn’t feel great.) But it’s the abundance of that gets me all tangled. It’s the fly that won’t stop buzzing, won’t hold still long enough for me to swat it, won’t die.

Medical Practice Sued for Discriminatory Policy That Jeopardizes Patients with Disabilities

August 13, 2020

” Louisville, KY ” Yesterday, following the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Disability Rights Advocates filed a putative class action lawsuit against First Urology, challenging the medical practice’s illegal policy of refusing to help patients with disabilities transfer from wheelchairs or other mobility devices to examination tables and diagnostic equipment, in violation of the ADA and other disability rights laws.

First Urology is a full-service urological medical and imaging practice with roughly twenty locations in Kentucky and Indiana.

Girl From Kenora, Ontario Inspires House of Commons Petition to Promote Accessibility for Visually Impaired

Petition calls on government to require braille or tactile symbols on consumer product warning labels Logan Turner · CBC News · Posted: Aug 31, 2020

Samantha Atchison of Kenora, Ont. remembers the day her daughter Jo-Hannah was diagnosed with optic nerve hypoplasia at four months old.

“I had a little bit of a break down from it. You grieve a dream, but you can only grieve for so long before you wake up and you figure out how life is going to move forward.”

Atchison says her daughter’s diagnosis made her realize just how inaccessible the world is for her daughter, “from infant toys to things such as hazardous materials.”

Advocates Push for Changes to Mental Health Act

By CAMILLE BAINS
THE CANADIAN PRESS, Globe and Mail, Sept. 2, 2020
VANCOUVER – A week after giving birth to her daughter, Shareen Nimmo was forced to enter a psychiatric facility without being informed of her rights or having access to independent legal advice.

Involuntary detention is permitted in Canada but unlike most of the country, British Columbia does not provide patients with legal representation, which the ombudsperson wants changed in the Mental Health Act.

Ms. Nimmo, 38, still feels the sting of the trauma she endured on March 27, 2019, when police officers and paramedics arrived at her home and took her to hospital.

COVID-19 Taking Financial Toll on Canadians With Disabilities: Survey

The Canadian Press – Aug 27, 2020

More than half of Canadians with disabilities who participated in a crowdsourced survey are struggling to make ends meet because of the financial fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, a new report suggests.

Statistics Canada published findings on Thursday gathered from approximately 13,000 Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities who voluntarily filled out an online questionnaire between June 3 and July 23.

Unlike most of the agency’s studies, the survey wasn’t randomly sampled and therefore isn’t statistically representative of the Canadian population.

The responses indicate the pandemic has affected the ability of 61 per cent of participants age 15 to 64 to fulfil at least one financial obligation or essential need, including housing payments, basic utilities and prescription medication.

It Took A Pandemic To Prove What Students With Disabilities Wanted For Years Is Possible

Schools’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic shows online learning is possible – but students with disabilities still need additional support. By Sherina Harris
This story is part of Learning Curve, a HuffPost Canada series that explores the challenges and opportunities for students, faculty and post-secondary institutions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When universities moved online in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it marked the advancement of something students with disabilities have been requesting for years: more accommodations and support.

Deaf Citizens Petition

Deaf Citizens are calling for change at the Canadian Hearing Services (formerly the Canadian Hearing Society). The petition is in ASL, LSQ, and English and it lays out some of the issues taking place in the organization.

Concerns by deaf stakeholders and their allies include:

  • Reducing the number of employees who are Deaf
  • Failing to appoint deaf board members in contravention of CHS bylaws
  • Switching its role from a major voice representing deaf people to working mainly as a provider of audiological services
  • Revising its bylaws to eliminate all memberships except for the board meaning that annual general meetings are now close to the community

Winnipeg Transit Considering Priority Seating for People With Disabilities

City says current first come, first served option doesn’t line up with provincial rules around accessibility CBC News
Posted: Aug 18, 2020

The City of Winnipeg is asking the public to weigh in on whether it should create designated priority seating areas on conventional buses.

The city is doing a review of its transit system and is specifically looking at the needs of riders with disabilities, the city said in a release Tuesday.

It’s launched an online survey and discussion forum to get the public’s opinions. It takes 10 minutes to complete and will be available until Sept. 15 visit https://engage.winnipeg.ca/priorityseating?tool=survey_tool#tool_tab.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities Supports Quebecer, Jonathan Marchand, as he brings his cage in front of the National Assembly in Quebec to obtain his and his friends’ release from long-term care facilities

WINNIPEG The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a national disability rights organization, is expressing its support for 43-year-old Jonathan Marchand as he begins a protest to obtain his and his friends release from long-term care facilities in Quebec.

Marchand, who uses a ventilator, has escaped from his long-term care facility (CHSLD) and is camping out in the public space in front of Quebecs National Assembly. He is requesting an in-person meeting with Premier François Legault in order to discuss his proposal for providing community-based personal care supports for people with disabilities so that they can live dignified and fulfilling lives in the community instead of being warehoused in long-term care facilities.

Accessibility Compliance Not Being Enforced Says City Councillor

Mike Arsenault Video Journalist
Published Friday, August 14, 2020

WINNIPEG — Construction in Winnipeg can be a nuisance for many, but for people with mobility restrictions, it’s more than just inconvenient.

As the city works to repair roads and sidewalks, some have noticed it appears accessibility compliance rules aren’t being followed.

Allen Mankewich has to push his wheelchair through gravel and over curbs just to get into his condo.

Hargrave Street south of Ellice Avenue is getting road work done, and it’s making life for Mankewich very challenging.

“I’ve noticed they’re not necessarily creating accessible alternative pathways around construction zones,” said Mankewich.

eSSENTIAL Accessibility and PixelMEDIA Partner to Improve Web Accessibility for Digital Commerce

News provided by eSSENTIAL Accessibility
Aug 11, 2020, 10:00

TORONTO, Aug. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ – Today, eSSENTIAL Accessibility, the pioneering Accessibility-as-a-Service provider that empowers organizations to offer fully accessible and compliant digital experiences, announced a strategic partnership with PixelMEDIA, a digital commerce agency dedicated to helping lifestyle brands launch, manage, and grow their ecommerce business on Salesforce.

This partnership will allow Pixel to add eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s comprehensive accessibility solution to their suite of digital services, enabling leading lifestyle brands to enhance ecommerce experiences while providing full accessibility to customers of all abilities.

YouTube Is Ending Its Community Captions Feature and Deaf Creators Aren’t Happy about it

The feature, which YouTube says was underutilized, will be discontinued in September By Kim Lyons Jul 31, 2020
The Verge

YouTube plans to discontinue its community captions feature, which allowed viewers to add subtitles to videos, because it was “rarely used and had problems with spam/abuse,” the company announced. It says it’s removing the captions and will “focus on other creator tools.”

The feature will be removed as of September 28th. “You can still use your own captions, automatic captions and third-party tools and services,” YouTube said in an update on its help page.

‘Do our lives count for less?’: COVID-19 exposes cracks in disability aid

Adina Bresge
The Canadian Press, August 6, 2020

Karyn Keith says she isn’t asking for much. All she wants is the same support she’d receive if she was out of a job because of the pandemic, rather than unable to work because of her disabilities.

The 44-year-old mother in Brampton, Ont., said she lives with constant pain and fatigue from multiple chronic conditions, including trigeminal neuralgia, a debilitating nerve disorder characterized by searing spasms through the face.

She was forced to leave her career in supply chain and logistics management in 2013 when her health deteriorated after the birth of her daughter. Since then, she’s received $1,150, plus $250 for her child, every month in federal disability benefits based on her contributions to the Canada Pension Plan.

Delayed COVID-19 Support Another Example of government’s Inequitable Treatment of Disabled Canadians

Hanna Warsame
The Pigeon, Aug. 4, 2020
Editor’s Note: The source interviewed for this piece uses disability-first language to describe herself, and The Pigeon has adapted our language accordingly. We acknowledge that this is not a universal preference.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was announced in March 2020 to support Canadians struggling financially due to COVID-19. Since then, 8.46 million Canadians have applied for the benefit, and 86 per cent of Canadians have agreed the CERB is a necessary and useful aid. However, while the federal government has extended COVID-19 support to countless Canadians, those with disabilities were left in the lurch.

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.