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Telehealth May Worsen Digital Divide for People With Disabilities(PWDs)

A recently published JAMIA paper argues that design, implementation and policy considerations must be taken into account when developing virtual care technology. By Kat Jercich
November 23, 2020

Much has been made of telehealth’s potential to bridge the accessibility gap for those who may be otherwise underserved by the healthcare systems.

But, experts said in a new paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association this past week, telehealth may also exacerbate inequities faced by the disability community.

“There remains a pressing need to explicitly consider how changes in the prevalence and ubiquity of telehealth impact people with disabilities,” wrote the authors.

Access and Engagement to Education Survey

Note: This is from the American Foundation for the Blind but Canadians are also encouraged to take it.

We know that families of blind and low vision children are still facing major challenges as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced many schools to move to online education.

As a person with low vision who received my elementary education before the first version of the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) was passed in 1975, I think of the changes my own mother created for me to receive an equitable education to my sighted peers. My mother let the school administration and teachers know what her visually impaired child needed to succeed, and amazingly, they listened.

Saskatoon’s Council Chambers Sees Significant Renovation

CTV News Saskatoon Staff
Published Monday, November 16, 2020

When Saskatoon’s new city council sits for the first time, it will be in an upgraded council chambers.

This past fall, council chambers underwent renovations to improve its function and accessibility, the city said in a news release.

Improvements include audio visual upgrades to improve video and audio of council meetings; changes to room configuration to improve accessibility and enable physical distancing; a new space for media; new paint, carpeting and gallery seating.

Council chambers has not seen this level of renovation since 1981, the city said.

BC Human Rights Tribunal Upholds Complaint That Victoria Bike Lanes Discriminate Against the Blind

Adam Chan
CTV News, November 13, 2020

VICTORIA — The BC Human Rights Tribunal says a complaint filed against the City of Victoria arguing that bike lanes that separate sidewalks from “floating bus stops” create unsafe conditions for blind pedestrians is justified.

The dispute began in 2018, after the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) submitted a complaint centred around the perceived dangers of crossing the bike lanes to access floating bus stops along Pandora Street, between Cook Street and Store Street, and on Wharf Street.

The CFB said that blind people felt unsafe crossing the marked crosswalk along the bike lane to access the transit stops because they were unable to hear approaching bicycles, which sometimes would not stop for pedestrians.

Disability Advocates Say Assisted Dying Bill Fails to Protect Vulnerable Canadians

Man suffering from neurological disorder says MAID easier to access than supports for disabled Canadians Kathleen Harris, CBC News
Posted: Nov 10, 2020

The House of Commons justice committee heard today from opponents of the federal government’s plan to change the rules for medical assistance in dying.

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities are sounding the alarm over a bill to expand medical assistance in dying, warning that it will devalue the lives of vulnerable people.

Speaking to MPs on the justice committee via Zoom from his hospital bed in London, Ont., Roger Foley pleaded with policymakers to focus on providing more assistance and home care to Canadians with disabilities. He said he has been denied proper care and was “coerced” into choosing MAID because his acute care needs were too much for hospital staff to handle.

NotAWitch Calls Out ‘The Witches’ Movie for Portrayal of Disability

The film, which stars Anne Hathaway, associates physical impairment with witches By IPC
Nov. 3, 2020

WarnerBros’ latest movie ‘The Witches’ has triggered a stir among the disability community with its negative portrayal of limb deficiencies. The film, featuring actress Anne Hathaway, heavily portrays evil witches with distinct physical impairments in their hands and feet.

With a star-studded cast that also includes Octavia Spencer, some Para athletes raised concerns that the film could further the stigma around disability.

One of the movie trailer shows the star-studded cast giving a tutorial on ‘How to Identify Witches’, highlighting claws and lack of toes as prime characteristics of the witches. The film was released on 26 October in Great Britain, and shortly afterward, the hashtag #NotAWitch began trending on social media.

Words Matter, And It’s Time To Explore The Meaning Of “Ableism.”

Andrew Pulrang
Forbes Magazine, Oct. 25, 2020

If you read more than one or two articles on disability issues, or talk to just about any disability rights activist, you will run across the word “ableism.” The word does a lot of work for disability culture. It carries the weight of the worst of what plagues disabled people the most, but can be so hard to express.

But for that reason, “ableism” can also seem like an overworked term. It often adds as much confusion and dissension to disability discourse as it does clarity and purpose. While it gives voice and substance to very real beliefs and experiences, the word “ableism” can also feel like a rhetorical weapon meant to discredit people at a stroke for an offensiveness that many people simply don’t see or agree exists.

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.