Sobey’s Hardware/Software Upgrade Denies Access to Visually Impaired Long-Term Employee

The hearing dates in the case of Jones v Sobey’s West Inc., Case #12888, have been confirmed and will proceed as scheduled, January 16 to 18th 2017.

My name is Juanita Jones, and I have been employed by Safeway since July 2001 as a cashier. During this time I have been very successful in my position even though I am partially-sighted. Over the years, I have received many compliments from regular customers, both as a cashier and as a customer service representative, at my local Safeway store in Surrey, BC.

In June 2013 Safeway was purchased by Sobey’s. During the transition, Sobey’s changed the cash registers at each of its newly acquired stores. As a result of the new registers, my right eye became severely strained, it was impossible for me to perform my duties as a cashier. Due to the unwillingness of Sobey’s/Safeway to make changes to their software, that would have allowed me to read text on the new system, I was forced onto medical leave for 18 months.

I contacted my union to express my concern over the installation of the new cash registers at my store. My union, UFCW local 1518, assisted me with the completion of the human rights complaint application and attended two meetings in the summer of 2014. Since the initial meetings, my union has shown very little interest in my case and has not, in my opinion, put enough pressure on Sobey’s/Safeway to resolve the outstanding technical and working conditions. The union has suggested that it is the employer’s responsibility to fix the outstanding issues. The union can no longer be involved in my complaint as it is now a legal matter.

In July of 2014, I filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal regarding this issue.

After two years of delays, Sobey’s added a second larger monitor to one of the cash registers. Due to this addition I returned to work, at which point i discovered the second monitor does not resolve my accessibility issues (FONT SIZE/COLOUR/CONTRAST). I am also unable to see the function buttons on the primary monitor, because of this I am required to count keys in order to find the right functions. Sobey’s has only modified one check-stand and as a result I am no longer able to perform my customer service duties at the service desk, or work at any other check-stand in the store.

As you have read in this release, accessible software is extremely important because it would allow me to prevent eyestrain, in addition to protecting the remaining vision in my right eye.

I am also afraid that without the intervention of the BC human rights tribunal, or the Canadian national Institute for the blind (CNIB), I could become unemployed.

This has been a very complicated legal matter which has lasted over two and a half years, with no resolution in sight to my complaint. My complaint has caused financial hardship due to reduced income and legal expenses. The expected legal fees by the end of this case will be close to $50,000, and that does not include the loss of income while on a medical leave. If I am not successful in my complaint, my husband, who is also visually impaired, will be left with no choice but to sell our home in order to cover outstanding bills. There is also a strong possibility that I may be forced into bankruptcy, which I feel is wrong as I have done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment.

It is my hope that a positive decision by The BC Human Rights Tribunal will ultimately benefit thousands of disabled people and prevent further discrimination of this kind; also, it will prevent employers from discriminating against disabled people by using accessibility as a barrier to employment.

I would greatly appreciate your support in this matter and hope your audience will support me as I face one of the most difficult challenges of my life. The public can support me by sending letters to Sobey’s/Safeway management requesting an accessible workplace and demand that Sobey’s/Safeway do everything to resolve this complaint immediately.

I have set up a GoFundMe page in order to help cover legal expenses which are not covered by any BC Human Rights Tribunal decision, please visit this link if you are able to donate or share my campaign at: