Student Withdraws Complaint to Human Rights Commission

Daily gleaner, April 1st, 2009

A University of New Brunswick law student has withdrawn his complaint to the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission about lack of access to the city’s Dial-a-Bus service.

Everett Zufelt and the city reached a mediated settlement in which CNIB would be drawn into the consultation process on granting access to the service.

Zufelt filed his protest in May because he wanted to travel to his workplace on the bus service for individuals with mobility impairments, but was denied access because blindness was excluded from the program definitions.

Although Zufelt had a temporary pass for the service – granted for a limited period of time to a newcomer with a disability – it was due to expire.

He argued that a blanket ban on the regular use of the service by blind and visually impaired people was discriminatory.

“He withdrew based on some modifications we made to the registration policy,” said transit manager Sandy MacNeill.

Blindness won’t be an automatic qualification for registration, but there’s recognition in the policy that it may qualify an individual to use the service under certain circumstances, MacNeill said.

Easter Seals New Brunswick does the client registration on behalf of the city, but CNIB will now be consulted in the process.

“It brings a better sensitivity to that demographic,” MacNeill said.

While Zufelt said it’s wonderful that the problem has been resolved, he’s disappointed that no one has seen fit to publicize the change.

“No one is actually very eager to advertise or promote the fact that they’ve come to a solution on the Dial-a-Bus issue. We’ve solved the problem, but we don’t want to tell anybody. That’s my only concern,” Zufelt said.

“To me, it seems to be a good solution. They’re going to accept people with vision loss.”

Zufelt said he has one other outstanding issue with transit service in Fredericton.

He said he raised the issue of transit schedules not being accessible to the visually impaired.

“It’s been 10 months and they (Fredericton Transit) still haven’t solved the
problem,” he said.

MacNeill said that’s being worked on by the city’s information technology division and with CNIB.

“We’re looking at what other places do and working with CNIB mainly … to bring something the population can use,” MacNeill said.

Zufelt said there’s been one attempt at modifying the online transit schedule, but it falls short.

“The simple solution to the problem, which I suggested last summer, is to place the schedule information in an HTML table with properly tagged headers. This would ensure that the same schedule is accessible to both
sighted and visually impaired passengers alike,” Zufelt said.

“I know that the city has been putting some effort into the process … However, the problem is yet to be solved.”

Meantime, Zufelt said the city’s website, in general, doesn’t completely conform to the web content accessibility guidelines set out by the World Wide Web Consortium, an international organization that works to develop Web standards.

Comments (1)

It’s been more than 10 months that the city has been aware of how difficult the PDF documents are to read using screen access technology.

Unfortunately, because there aren’t large numbers of blind people riding the bus, it’s not a hot burning issue.

CNIB, may at one point in time have been the deffinitive athority on blindness related issues, but that’s no longer the case. They’ve built a great relationship with the City of Fredericton, so much so that input from tax payers who happen to be blind or visually impaired is almost completely disregarded if CNIB doesn’t sanction it.

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