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.