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Fewer Veterans Have Applied for Disability During COVID-19, Sparking Accessibility Concerns

By Staff, The Canadian Press
Posted October 25, 2020

The federal government is being criticized for not doing enough to help disabled veterans as new figures appear to confirm fears COVID-19 is making it more difficult for them to apply for assistance.

The figures from Veterans Affairs Canada show about 8,000 veterans applied for disability benefits during the first three full months of the pandemic, which was about half the normal number.

The sharp drop in the number of applications helped the department make a dent in the backlog of more than 40,000 requests for federal assistance waiting to be processed.

Ottawa Inventor Sees Rising Interest in Hands-Free Elevator-hailing App

By: David Sali
Published: Oct 23, 2020

Before the pandemic struck, Ke Wang had devoted the better part of the last two years to developing a smartphone app that would allow people with disabilities like himself to open doors and call elevators without touching any handles or buttons.

Little did he know his invention targeted at a niche market would capture the attention of Canadas largest airport and a global hotel chain before 2020 was out.

Once we got it done, all of a sudden COVID happened and then people realized that we can use this to avoid touching buttons, says Wang, founder of Ottawa-based ProtoDev Canada, the five-person company that created the new Contactless Access app. He adds that the company received a flood of interest from customers interested in the product for uses that extend beyond accessibility.

Voters With Disabilities Disappointed, Frustrated By B.C. Election Campaign

Accessibility legislation, poverty and children with special needs among hot-button issues largely ignored Cathy Browne , CBC News
Posted: Oct 23, 2020

Albert Ruel is tired.

The blind advocate has been fighting for improved access, inclusion and human rights protection for people with disabilities for the past 30 years. And he’s frustrated that the B.C. election campaign hasn’t shone a light on many of the issues that matter to voters with disabilities.

“There’s not a lot of appetite to actually do something meaningful about the immense discrimination that we face every day in our lives,” Ruel said.

Former Lawyers File Human Rights Complaints, Allege Accessibility Issues in Manitoba Courts

‘I’ve had multiple judges apologize to me for how inaccessible the courtroom is,’ says Mike Reimer CBC News
Posted: Oct 20, 2020

Two former lawyers have filed human rights complaints against the province, saying Manitoba’s law courts are not fully accessible for people living with disabilities.

Mike Reimer and Peter Tonge left the profession in part because they said they faced ongoing challenges getting into and out of courts.

In a joint news release Tuesday, the two former lawyers said they have each filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, alleging accessibility issues and “an attitude of indifference ” within the Manitoba justice system” to correcting “historic and ongoing issues.”

Report Highlights Issues With Sask. Assured Income for Disabilities Program

Report raises 6 main concerns, from money to supports
Heidi Atter, CBC News
Posted: Oct 20, 2020

A new report is highlighting issues with the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disabilities program (SAID).

The Saskatchewan Disability Income Support Coalition (DISC) interviewed 11 people on their personal experiences and had 432 respond to an online survey. The respondents included 188 people on SAID and 244 people representing organizations that help people on the program.

It issued the report a few weeks after holding an event calling for the SAID program to become an election issue.

NDP Leader Singh Accuses Liberals Of Failing to Support Canadians Living with Disabilities During Pandemic

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s “The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz”, Singh said the Liberal government, in its effort to keep benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) from being accessed by people who don’t need the help, designed a program that excludes the most vulnerable.

“One of the things we found during this pandemic is we’re up against a massive inertia of a Liberal government that is trying to design programs to exclude people,” Singh said. “They’re willing to miss out people who desperately need help so that they can avoid helping those who don’t need it. They want to make sure that someone who doesn’t need the help doesn’t get it but they’re willing to miss the people who are most desperate. That’s what we’re up against.”

Free Rides Offered to Winnipeg COVID-19 Test Sites, but Many Unaware of Service

Advocates for people with low incomes, disabilities say many could benefit from service if they knew about it Cameron MacLean, CBC News
Posted: Oct 15, 2020

Getting to one of the six COVID-19 testing site in Winnipeg can be a daunting task for people without access to a vehicle. Anyone who is sick is told to avoid taking public transportation, and cab fare may be too expensive for many.

For months, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has offered a free ride service to help people with “very unique needs” get to a site –
but many COVID-19 test patients, as well as advocates for people with disabilities and low-incomes, told CBC News they had never heard of the service.

COVID-19 Information Accessibility Lacking for Blind and Low Vision Australians

Posted October 12, 2020

A Monash University study has found that graphical information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic regularly presented in mainstream media is inaccessible to blind and low vision people (BLV).

Researchers from Monash University’s Faculty of Information Technology (IT) found nearly half of BLV people surveyed wanted improved access to information about daily COVID-safe living practices.

The dissemination of information has been a critical component of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With much of this information presented as visual graphics, a team of researchers from the Faculty of IT examined the nature and accessibility of the information being shared through various media outlets.

New Restaurants, Cafes in N.S. Must Be Accessible to Meet Food Safety Requirements

Changes set to come into effect Oct. 31
Brooklyn Currie
CBC News
Posted: Oct 02, 2020

Any new sit-down restaurants and cafes starting up in Nova Scotia will need an accessible washroom, entrances and pathways to meet food safety requirements.

It’s part of the province’s commitment to being fully accessible by 2030, according to a news release.

In 2018, a group of wheelchair users argued equal access to restaurants and restaurant washrooms is a human rights issue.

A human rights board of inquiry ruled in their favour, saying the province discriminated against wheelchair users by not enforcing a regulation requiring restaurants to have accessible washrooms.

Disability Advocates Applaud Federal Pandemic Aid, But Say Payment Should Be Higher

A one time payment of up to $600 will be sent to those who are eligible, at the end of October Kate Letterick
CBC News
Posted: Oct 07, 2020

As a disabled person, Murielle Pitre has dealt with extra costs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have like increased fees, deliveries and deliveries for food, the price of food is going up. I mean you’re not going out so you can’t seek out the bargains as much as you used to,” she said.

Pitre is also the director of communications for the New Brunswick Coalition of People with Disabilities.

She’s heard from many people who are paying more for everything from transportation to personal care.

MPI Compensation ‘Laughable,’ Senior Says – Not Offering Enough to Replace Electric Wheelchair

By: Ben Waldman
Winnipeg Free Press, Sept. 30, 2020

Three months ago, Arthur Ray was crossing Main Street in his motorized wheelchair when a vehicle hit him and damaged the wheelchair significantly, leaving the 76-year-old without a way to safely get around.

“A lady was looking in a different direction, and she drove into me,” he said. “My wheels stopped working, the machine broke, and now, it’s basically useless.”

In his condition, he could use a walker, but only for a few metres before running out of breath. So he contacted Manitoba Public Insurance to see whether he could get compensation to purchase a replacement chair, which he said would cost about $3,000.

Disability Rights Group Sues San Diego Over Scooters On Sidewalks

March 4, 2019

Electric scooters have taken cities across the country by surprise, sometimes causing conflicts with city authorities and pedestrians. In San Diego, the scooters have led to a federal lawsuit claiming the new devices cause discrimination against people with disabilities.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal district court in January and seeks to be a class action, claims the city and scooter rental companies Lime, Bird and Razor have failed to prevent people from riding or parking scooters on sidewalks.

Scooters have blocked people with disabilities from accessing the public right-of-way, the plaintiffs claim, and have turned sidewalks into a “vehicle highway” where pedestrians are at risk of injury.

Promised Funds for Disabled Still Haven’t Arrived

Pandemic has laid bare systemic issues for people with disabilities Kieran Leavitt
Toronto Star, Oct. 3, 2020

Lene Andersen says it’s hard to feel optimistic about Ottawa’s plans for Canadians living with a disability after waiting months for emergency funding that was promised, but never came. That’s something Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough takes personally.

“It’s so unacceptable and it’s been so frustrating because of how quickly we identified this need,” said Qualtrough, adding that the government is only “weeks away” from having the money being dispensed.

“It has taken way too long, and it will not happen again,” she said during an interview with the Star this week.

Twitter Will Add Transcriptions for Voice Tweets to Promote Accessibility

The company was criticized for rolling out the test feature without support for people with disabilities. Abrar Al-Heeti
Sept. 30, 2020

Twitter said it’s working on adding transcriptions to voice tweets in order to make the feature, which it began testing in the summer, more accessible. This comes after many criticized the social media platform for not taking all users’ needs into consideration before the release.

“We’re rolling out voice Tweets to more of you on iOS so we can keep learning about how people use audio,” the company said in a tweet on Tuesday. “Since introducing the feature in June, we’ve taken your feedback seriously and are working to have transcription available to make voice Tweets more accessible.”

A New Canadian Disability Benefit Modelled After the GIS? What Does That Mean?

John Stapleton
Open Policy Ontario, SEP 2020

The 2020 Speech from the Throne contained the following passage:

“COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities, and highlighted long-standing challenges. The Government will bring forward a Disability Inclusion Plan, which will have:

A new Canadian Disability Benefit modelled after the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors[1].”

At best, I believe that a Canadian Disability Benefit (CDB) can place a new floor underneath current programs of every sort except for social assistance programs. Social assistance programs have always successfully installed themselves as last payer.

Unless, of course, the new benefit replaces social assistance.

Deaf Politician – The Gary Malkowski Story

CWDO is pleased to present this webinar about Gary Malkowski’s life.

The biography, Deaf Politician – The Gary Malkowski Story follows Gary from being born deaf into an immigrant, working-class family in Hamilton, Ontario through his education at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC to his community activism and political career in Toronto.

Gary’s accomplishments will inspire not only the Deaf community, disability rights advocates, Ontario political junkies, and Canadians, but also everyone who is an underdog- or roots for one. Come to this webinar and learn the secrets to his success.

Presenters: Gary Malkowski and Richard Medugno, the author of Deaf Politician

Websites Still Don’t Provide Equal Access in 2020 – and Lawsuits are Increasing

Adam Akinyemi, Whois Accessible
September 26, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak caused a shift in the usage of digital devices.

As people worldwide become heavily dependent on the internet for essential information, work, school, entertainment, and basic needs such as medication and groceries, it’s clearer than ever that digital inclusion is crucial. Yet people with disabilities have struggled to stay informed, shop, and access critical services online due to text with low contrast and the confusion of filling out lengthy forms without labels – as well as a number of other barriers that make the web impossible for some people to use.

Zoom Adds Accessibility Features for Video Meetings

by Jefferson Graham, Usa Today

Zoom, which has become one of the most popular video meeting services, added new features Wednesday aimed at improving accessibility for those who are differently abled.

A highlight for the hearing impaired is the ability to drag and drop the video windows around in Zoom’s Gallery View, and to “pin” the ones you want to be spotlighted.

Before the update, the participants’ and hosts’ videos were fixed

Before the update, the Zoom chat windows were fixed, and you couldn’t change the layout. Instead, every time a different speaker spoke, they would get prominent position, and the windows would shift automatically.

How Blind Nova Scotians Are Navigating the Strange World of COVID-19

Vernon Ramesar
CBC News, Sept. 16, 2020

Carrying on a normal life during the pandemic can be difficult for everyone, but some people with vision loss say it can be a minefield.

Darlene Wournell is blind and treasures her independence, but she says some of the measures put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have proven to be especially challenging.

“Of course, not having any vision whatsoever, it’s hard to tell if people are within your six foot bubble,” said Wournell, a resident of Lake Echo, N.S., and the national secretary of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal orders nanaimo strata to take action on barriers that trapped woman in condo

Bethany Lindsay
CBC News
Posted: Sep 17, 2020

A Nanaimo woman who has fought for accessibility improvements that would allow her to go to and from her home without help has won her human rights complaint.

A Vancouver Island wheelchair user who has spent years asking her strata for changes to make it possible to go to and from her condo safely and without help from friends has won $35,000 in damages and an order for action on her complaints.

Last week, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal ordered the owners at the Eagle Point Bayview complex in Nanaimo to begin the process of making their building wheelchair accessible, and to pay a penalty to 76-year-old Ada Jacobsen for injury to her dignity, feelings and selfârespect.