Emergency Procedures in Alternate Formats?

By Donna J. Jodhan

With our attentions being turned towards the ramifications of the swine flu and what procedures we need to be taking in order to stay healthy as members of the public, I would like to ask the following: As a blind person, I am wondering
out loud if Ontario and indeed Canada has given any thought to producing emergency
procedures in alternate formats? Not just for this present situation but in

Up until now, I have had a devil of a time obtaining several pieces of information in alternate formats, and it would really not surprise me if this one has probably fallen through the cracks. To the special needs community this will neither be a shocker nor shaker but to the mainstream Canadian it should certainly be.

What really beats me is this! Special needs persons are Human Beings like everyone else. We pay taxes, we spend money and contribute to the economy’s welfare, we listen to the news, we enjoy things like everyone else but; why
is it that every time we ask and demand that important information be provided in alternate formats, there seems to be a general resistance on the part of those in authority? Why is it so difficult to understand that in order to stay safe and secure we also need to have equal access to information; the same information that is accessible to the mainstream Canadian?

Why is it so difficult for both provincial and federal governments to produce vital information in alternate formats? It really should not be that difficult.

In the general scheme of things, information these days is normally produced electronically
before printing takes place. So why is it that our provincial and federal governments seem to conveniently have a mind block or mental breakdown whenever they are told that special needs persons require the same information in alternate formats?

I am absolutely floored whenever I phone the 1800 ocanada number and request information in alternate formats! I would say that about 95% of the call takers are stunned and/or stymied whenever I make my request for information in alternate
formats. I am even more surprised that these highly paid bureaucrats and officials react in such a surprising manner and I am referring to those who sit on the various panels and committees. Sadly, they continue to miss the boat completely and are often at a loss to justify their feeble excuses for not providing vital information in alternate formats but why should I be
surprised? They don’t even provide elections information in alternate formats so why should I and my special needs friends expect them to do any better when it comes to providing emergency procedures in readable formats?

The mundane excuses that it will take too long or that it would be too costly to produce vital information in alternate formats are wearing thin. In fact, they are beginning to be annoyances and simply reasons for not wanting to deal with it. For the life of me, I cannot believe that supposedly logical-thinking individuals are unable to understand why we as a community need to have our
information in a format that we can read independently. Why is it so difficult
for these bureaucrats to understand that it is our right to have equal access to information; not a nice to have or an after thought.

Is it that these so-called experts are thinking that it is easier for us to depend on others to tell us and help us in cases of emergency? Dare I suggest that in their minds, we should be treated as second class citizens because we really are not
that important to society?

Canada can choose to take either of two paths: Continue to treat us as second class citizens; ignoring our basic rights as Canadians to equal access to information. Or, wake up and smell the coffee; show the rest of the world that
this country does indeed treat all persons equally. For anyone who is listening and who can help to untangle this picture; special needs persons have a right to equal access to information. I urge you to correct this error
now before fate decides to step in some day soon and embarrass you. No country would like to be guilty of having unwittingly placed a group of persons at high risk because they failed to provide them with vital information.

I’m Donna J. Jodhan, your freelance writer and reporter wishing you a terrific day.

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