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Disabled Canadians Face Uphill Struggle for Regular Care as COVID-19 Drains Resources

Emily Fagan
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published March 22, 2021

There’s a lot Heather Morgan has figured out on her own to ensure her family’s well-being. She spends 10 to 30 hours a week as a caregiver for her Ontario-based family of four, helping manage their multiple disabilities in addition to looking after her own health.

Her husband is autistic, while she and her two young adult children have an undiagnosed muscular condition that requires them to use power wheelchairs.

With what little time remains, she’s pursuing her master’s degree. It’s an uphill battle.

People With Disabilities Say This AI Tool Is Making the Web Worse for Them

AccessiBe aims to make the internet fully accessible to the visually impaired by 2025-but activists say the company’s AI is making things worse. by Todd Feathers

In October, disability rights activist Holly Scott-Gardner was conducting a study examining how many tweets promoting blind awareness month were actually accessible to blind users when she came across a post from AccessiBe.

The company makes artificial intelligence-powered web overlays-pieces of code that are supposed to run over websites and automatically reformat how browsers display the pages so that people who use screen readers and other assistive technologies can access them. But AccessiBe’s blind awareness tweet contained an image with no alternative text, meaning that people like Scott-Gardner, who is blind, could have no idea what it said. It was her first, unpleasant interaction with the company, and wouldn’t be her last.

You Can’t Solve Accessibility with 1 Line of Code

March 14, 2021 – Joseph C. Dolson

Accessibility overlays are third-party web scripts that alter the user experience. Providers, which include AccessiBe, Userway, AudioEye, and EqualWeb, sometimes claim that installing their script will prevent lawsuits in the U.S. under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Let me be blunt: These products will not protect you from lawsuits. They may not even help visitors with accessibility needs.

Overlays attempt to address accessibility issues in two ways. First, they analyze the content of the page for accessibility and make automated changes to fix problems. Second, they allow users to make manual changes, such as increased font sizes, higher color contrasts, or removing animations.

Court Certifies Class of People With Disabilities Excluded From NYC Subway System Due To Lack of Stair-Free Access In Violation of NYC Human Rights Law

February 23, 2021

New York, NYYesterday the New York Supreme Court certified a class of all people with disabilities for whom the use of stairs is difficult or impossible and who are therefore unable to access over 75% of the New York City subway.

Fewer than 25% of the New York City subway’s 472 stations provide stair-free access, meaning the MTA excludes hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with mobility disabilities each day from this vital system.

Blind Fans Outraged By Decision to Simulcast Blue Jays Games This Season!

For Immediate Release, March 8, 2021

A number of long-time blind baseball fans are outraged over the recent announcement that Toronto Blue Jays games will be simulcast this season, a move they say represents nothing more than a “callous, cost-cutting move that will make both radio and TV fans very unsatisfied and that will have impact on their enjoyment of their favourite team’s games.”

While the Blue Jays have great announcers, the needs and expectations of radio listeners and TV viewers are very different.

Advocates Urge Liberals to Cancel ‘Devastating’ Cut to Services for Canadians With Print Reading Disabilities

$4 million cut comes as shock to those who rely on services to curb isolation during pandemic Richard Raycraft, CBC News
Posted: Mar 07, 2021

Advocates for Canadians with disabilities related to reading printed text have launched a protest campaign after the federal government abruptly announced it would cut their funding – a surprise move they say will be “devastating” in the middle of a pandemic.

Print disabilities include any condition which negatively affects someone’s ability to read traditional print materials. Such conditions include blindness, dyslexia, Parkinson’s and cerebral palsy.

Restoring Funding for Accessible Books: We Need Your Help!

Sustained funding that we can rely on is crucial to our ability to plan and maintain the services we provide to our users. In its Fall Economic Statement, the federal government has indicated that its funding for CELA and NNELS will be reduced by 25% per year in the coming 4 years, down to no federal funding by the year 2024-25.

Kids With Physical Disabilities Struggling Through the Pandemic

News provided by
Easter Seals Ontario
Mar 01, 2021

TORONTO, March 1, 2021 /CNW/ – Easter Seals Ontario, now in its 99th year of operation, kicks off its annual campaign, March is Easter Seals Month, with a goal of bringing heightened awareness of the increased challenges faced by children and youth with physical disabilities and their families particularly during the pandemic.

“It has been almost a year that children with physical disabilities and their families have been without services like therapy, personal care and respite support, and it’s taking its toll,” says Kevin Collins, President and CEO, Easter Seals Ontario. “The kids have been isolated at home with very little social interaction, and many parents have had to quit their jobs to provide around the clock care. They are emotionally and physically exhausted.”

Advocacy Group for Visually Impaired Canadians Says Ottawa’s Funding Application was Inaccessible

Globe and Mail, Mar. 3, 2021

OTTAWA – An advocacy group for blind Canadians is accusing the federal government of negligence after the organization applied for a funding program to support people living with disabilities through an online process it says was not accessible to those with visual impairments.

The Alliance for Equality for Blind Canadians (AEBC), a national charitable organization that advocates for the inclusion of individuals who are blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted, tried to apply for funding to help build capacity for their organization, Ottawa-based lawyer Anne Levesque said.

COVID-19 Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind

By Lauren Weber, Hannah Recht
Feb. 25, 2021

Many COVID vaccination registration and information websites at the federal, state and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine, a Kaiser Health News investigation has found.

Across the country, people who use special software to make the web accessible have been unable to sign up for the vaccines or obtain vital information about COVID”19 because many government websites lack required accessibility features. At least 7.6 million people in the U.S. over age 16 have a visual disability.