StatsCan Accused of Not Accommodating Blind Man

Deaf couple complained earlier about federal agency’s survey procedures
CBC News Posted: Feb 7, 2012 9:43 PM AT Last Updated: Feb 7, 2012 11:40 PM AT Read 16 comments16

Deaf couple turned away from Statistics Canada surveyStatistics Canada is facing more criticism over its ability to survey people with disabilities with two complaints in as many days.

Earlier this week, a Fredericton woman was seeking an apology from the federal agency after her profoundly deaf parents were told no signing services were available to help them complete a survey.

Now, a blind Fredericton man is questioning why Statistics Canada’s surveys aren’t more accessible.

Fikru Gebrekidan told CBC News he received a call a couple of weeks ago that he had been randomly selected to fill out a two-hour survey.

Fikru Gebrekidan says a Statistics Canada surveyor was stymied when she realized he’s blind. (National Federation of the Blind)When the surveyor realized he was blind, she was stymied, he said.

Gebrekidan, a professor at St. Thomas University, suggested the surveyor email him the survey because he has the technology that reads text aloud.

But he was told that wasn’t possible, he said, noting the irony that the survey was about technology.

Gebrekidan told the woman a website would also work, as would a survey in Braille.

“She eventually apologized, and then she left, and she said she was going to talk to her boss and get back to me,” he said.

Last Sunday, an official from Statistics Canada told Gebrekidan that Ottawa was working on a solution.

Deaf couple gets apology
That was two days after the organization was first contacted about Joyce Wilson and her husband, who were told they were being dropped from the same technology survey because there were no signing services available.

The Wilsons’ daughter, Melissa Hinds, shared their story with CBC News on Monday.

Statistics Canada has since apologized to the couple by phone. Officials say they are in the process of hiring an interpreter and investigating why procedures were not originally followed.

Martine Lamontagne, the assistant director for Statistics Canada’s eastern region, has said the federal agency tries to accommodate all potential survey participants.

Still, Gebrekidan felt compelled to come forward with his story.

“As a blind person, or other person with a disability, you’re used to being left out, so it doesn’t really surprise you,” he said.

“But eventually when, after that program was aired on the CBC, I thought about it, and there is a difference between the type of program by the federal government, and the type of inconveniences you encounter at a convenience store.”

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