AODA Alliance Submits A Short Brief to the Senate of Canada, Calling for Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

March 29, 2019

SUMMARY

The Senate of Canada is about to embark on public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. We want the Senate to strengthen this weak bill. The AODA Alliance has applied to make a presentation at those hearings, and has submitted a 6-page brief to the Senate. We set that brief out below.

In our brief we again endorse the Open Letter which 95 disability organizations from across Canada sent to the House of Commons last fall. It seeks nine key amendments to Bill C-81.

Different disability organizations may of course emphasize different issues in that Open Letter. For our part, our brief reiterates our endorsement of that Open Letter, and addresses the need to amend the bill to:

1. Impose clear duties and deadlines on the Federal Government when implementing this law.

2. Set a deadline for Canada to become accessible.

3 Unsplinter the bill So that only the Federal Cabinet makes all the accessibility regulations and only one agency enforces the bill.

4. Ensure federal public money is never used To create or perpetuate disability barriers, and

5. Ensure that the Federal Government won’t be able to exempt itself from any of its accessibility obligations under the bill.

Please email the committee of the senate that will be holding hearings on Bill C-81. Tell them if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81. You can write the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee by emailing [email protected]

Please contact any senators in Canada that you can. Send them our brief. Tell them to support the amendments to Bill C-81 that we are seeking. You can find the names, email addresses and other contact information for all senators on the Senate of Canada website.

You can get tons of background on the campaign to get Bill C-81 strengthened, of which the AODA Alliance is a proud participant, by visiting our website.

Ever wondered what steps a bill must go through in Canada’s Parliament in order to become a law? Check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on passing federal laws.

MORE DETAILS
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Vital Changes Needed to Make the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”, Into a Good Law

A Brief to the Senate of Canada
March 29, 2019
Submitted To: [email protected]

Introduction

We call on the Senate of Canada to strengthen the weak Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the House of Commons passed last fall. The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada. Over five million people with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

We thank the Federal Government for committing in the 2015 election to enact national accessibility legislation, for widely consulting the public on it in 2016-2017, and for bringing a bill to Parliament in June 2018. We thank the opposition Conservative, New Democratic and Green Parties for supporting the need for strong national accessibility legislation, and for bringing forward much-needed amendments to this bill in the House of Commons last fall to fix the bill’s serious problems, identified by many people with disabilities.

We deeply regret that last fall, in the House of Commons, the Federal Government defeated many of the necessary amendments we sought. The Senate now has the opportunity to give this bill sober second thought, as is its constitutional role, and to substantially strengthen the bill so that it is worthy of people with disabilities.

It is commendable that Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, aims to eradicate the many barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Federal Government can address such things as air travel, banking, the post office, TV and radio broadcasts, telecommunications (like telephone and cell phone services), Federal Government Services, and anything that anyone does using money they get from the Federal Government.

When Bill C-81 was debated in the House of Commons last fall, many disability organizations and advocates called for it to be substantially strengthened. Last fall, fully 95 disability organizations (including the AODA Alliance ) co-signed an Open Letter to the Federal Government. It called for nine essential amendments to the bill. The Federal Government rejected those amendments, but supported other helpful but less important ones. In this brief, we focus on some of the nine amendments in that Open Letter, while reaffirming our support for the entire Open Letter.

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Good Ingredients in the Bill

The bill creates several important new federal officials and agencies to promote accessibility. This includes a new federal Accessibility Commissioner to enforce the bill in part, a new federal Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization to create model voluntary accessibility standards that the Federal Government can choose to enact as enforceable regulations, a new federal Chief Accessibility Officer to advise and report on progress and needed improvements, and a minister to be responsible for some key functions under the bill.

The bill permits the development of non-binding federal accessibility standards. These are meant to guide organizations across Canada in what they need to do to tear down accessibility barriers, and to avoid creating new barriers. The bill allows for the enactment of these standards as federal laws, called regulations. If enacted as regulations, these become enforceable, not voluntary.

The bill requires federally-regulated organizations to create multi-year accessibility plans and to update these over a period of years. The bill aims to provide enforcement, including a complaint process. The bill also means to provide some degree of public accountability for organizations that must obey it.

Some Key Amendments Needed to Make this Bill Become a Good Law

1. Impose Clear Duties and Deadlines on the Federal Government When Implementing this Law

The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.

We ask that the bill be amended to impose duties on the Federal Government and its accessibility officials and agencies to use the bill’s key powers, such as these. The bill should also be amended to set time lines within which the Government must use these powers. It is not good enough for the bill to say that the Government “may” take action. It should be amended to require that the Government shall take those required actions, and to set deadlines for the Government to act.

2. Set a Deadline for Canada to Become Accessible

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, this bill does not set a deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

We ask for the bill to be amended to set a deadline for Canada to become accessible. We have urged the Federal Government without success to work with us and others to arrive at a workable and achievable deadline to enshrine in the bill.

3. Unsplinter the Bill So that Only the Federal Cabinet Sets All the Accessibility Rules and Only One Agency Enforces the Bill

The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.

4. Ensure Federal Public Money Is Never Used To Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The bill does not require that the Federal Government use its readily-available levers of power to promote accessibility across Canada. For example, it does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under it, the Federal Government can continue to sit idly by when those who receive federal money use that money to create new disability barriers.

The bill lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

Moreover, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

This all allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. We request an amendment to the bill that would require the Federal Government to attach and enforce accessibility strings to any federal public money that it spends or transfers, e.g. for procurement of goods, services or facilities, for new infrastructure anywhere in Canada, or for business development loans or grants. For example, when the Federal Government provides funds for the construction of a hospital, public transit line, or university building, the recipient should no longer be free to use that money to build a building or facility that has accessibility barriers.

5. Don’t Let the Federal Government Exempt Itself from Any of Its Accessibility Obligations

The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.

Final Thoughts

People with disabilities are a highly vulnerable and disadvantaged minority. They need the Senate to strengthen this bill.

The Senate should not simply defer to the Federal Government and accept the bill “as is”, no matter how weak it is. This bears directly on the equality rights and human rights of over five million people with disabilities.

In defence of this weak bill, the Federal Government says this is enabling legislation. That is no excuse. We need strong enabling legislation, not this weak enabling bill.

It would be wrong to think that the bill’s serious weaknesses can later be corrected by passing strong regulations. The bill does not give the Federal Government the power to enact the regulations that would remove all these serious problems.

For example, the bill does not permit the Federal Government to pass regulations that would unsplinter this bill’s implementation and enforcement. Regulations cannot direct that only the Accessibility Commissioner will enforce this bill and only the Federal Cabinet will pass regulations under this bill. Only an amendment to the bill can achieve this.

Our concerns are amply reinforced by the recent blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the stronger Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. For example, our years of grassroots experience prove that when a Government lacks the political will to make a bill strong and effective, it can’t be expected to later have the political will to pass strong regulations.

To ensure a barrier-free Canada, Bill C-81 must be strong, clear and easy to navigate, not complex and confusing. The Government’s duties to act must be mandatory not optional.

It would be wrong to give up any effort here, and just accept this bill “as is”, no matter how deficient, because it might not otherwise be passed before the fall federal election. We will press all federal parties to commit that if this bill dies before the election, or is not amended to fix these serious problems, they will bring the bill back before Parliament after the 2019 election, and will correct these major flaws. That should not be difficult, since all parties supported this bill. In the House of Commons, the national opposition parties echoed the core concerns with the bill that we here outline.

Years of experience have also taught us never to settle for the palpably inadequate, without pressing for better, simply because that is all a government has offered. This is not a charitable hand-out to be gratefully accepted, no matter how inadequate. This bill is about the fundamental equality and human rights of people with disabilities.

Contact the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance care of its chair David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Visit our website: http://www.aodaalliance.org



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AODA Alliance Submits A Short Brief to the Senate of Canada, Calling for Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

AODA Alliance Submits A Short Brief to the Senate of Canada, Calling for Amendments to Strengthen the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”

March 29, 2019

          SUMMARY

The Senate of Canada is about to embark on public hearings on Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act. We want the Senate to strengthen this weak bill. The AODA Alliance has applied to make a presentation at those hearings, and has submitted a 6-page brief to the Senate. We set that brief out below.

In our brief we again endorse the Open Letter which 95 disability organizations from across Canada sent to the House of Commons last fall. It seeks nine key amendments to Bill C-81.

Different disability organizations may of course emphasize different issues in that Open Letter. For our part, our brief reiterates our endorsement of that Open Letter, and addresses the need to amend the bill to:

  1. Impose clear duties and deadlines on the Federal Government when implementing this law.
  1. Set a deadline for Canada to become accessible.

3 Unsplinter the bill So that only the Federal Cabinet makes all the accessibility regulations and only one agency enforces the bill.

  1. Ensure federal public money is never used To create or perpetuate disability barriers, and
  1. Ensure that the Federal Government won’t be able to exempt itself from any of its accessibility obligations under the bill.

Please email the committee of the senate that will be holding hearings on Bill C-81. Tell them if you support the AODA Alliance’s brief on Bill C-81. You can write the Senate’s Social Affairs Committee by emailing [email protected]

Please contact any senators in Canada that you can. Send them our brief. Tell them to support the amendments to Bill C-81 that we are seeking. You can find the names, email addresses and other contact information for all senators on the Senate of Canada website.

You can get tons of background on the campaign to get Bill C-81 strengthened, of which the AODA Alliance is a proud participant, by visiting our website.

Ever wondered what steps a bill must go through in Canada’s Parliament in order to become a law? Check out the AODA Alliance’s introductory guide on passing federal laws.

          MORE DETAILS

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org  Email: [email protected]  Twitter: @aodaalliance

Vital Changes Needed to Make the Weak Bill C-81, the Proposed “Accessible Canada Act”, Into a Good Law

A Brief to the Senate of Canada

March 29, 2019

Submitted To: [email protected]

Introduction

We call on the Senate of Canada to strengthen the weak Bill C-81 (the proposed Accessible Canada Act) that the House of Commons passed last fall. The bill is called “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” for people with disabilities. Yet, it does not require a single disability barrier to ever be removed or prevented anywhere in Canada. Over five million people with disabilities in Canada deserve better.

We thank the Federal Government for committing in the 2015 election to enact national accessibility legislation, for widely consulting the public on it in 2016-2017, and for bringing a bill to Parliament in June 2018. We thank the opposition Conservative, New Democratic and Green Parties for supporting the need for strong national accessibility legislation, and for bringing forward much-needed amendments to this bill in the House of Commons last fall to fix the bill’s serious problems, identified by many people with disabilities.

We deeply regret that last fall, in the House of Commons, the Federal Government defeated many of the necessary amendments we sought. The Senate now has the opportunity to give this bill sober second thought, as is its constitutional role, and to substantially strengthen the bill so that it is worthy of people with disabilities.

It is commendable that Bill C-81, the proposed Accessible Canada Act, aims to eradicate the many barriers that impede accessibility for people with disabilities. The Federal Government can address such things as air travel, banking, the post office, TV and radio broadcasts, telecommunications (like telephone and cell phone services), Federal Government Services, and anything that anyone does using money they get from the Federal Government.

When Bill C-81 was debated in the House of Commons last fall, many disability organizations and advocates called for it to be substantially strengthened. Last fall, fully 95 disability organizations (including the AODA Alliance ) co-signed an Open Letter to the Federal Government. It called for nine essential amendments to the bill. The Federal Government rejected those amendments, but supported other helpful but less important ones. In this brief, we focus on some of the nine amendments in that Open Letter, while reaffirming our support for the entire Open Letter.

Who Are We?

The AODA Alliance is a non-partisan community coalition that has advocated in Ontario since 2005 for the effective implementation and enforcement of Canada’s first comprehensive provincial accessibility law, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005. We are the successor to the community coalition that successfully campaigned from 1994 to 2005 for the AODA’s enactment. We have advised many, including several provinces, a United Nations conference, the European Union, Israel and New Zealand.

Good Ingredients in the Bill

The bill creates several important new federal officials and agencies to promote accessibility. This includes a new federal Accessibility Commissioner to enforce the bill in part, a new federal Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization to create model voluntary accessibility standards that the Federal Government can choose to enact as enforceable regulations, a new federal Chief Accessibility Officer to advise and report on progress and needed improvements, and a minister to be responsible for some key functions under the bill.

The bill permits the development of non-binding federal accessibility standards. These are meant to guide organizations across Canada in what they need to do to tear down accessibility barriers, and to avoid creating new barriers. The bill allows for the enactment of these standards as federal laws, called regulations. If enacted as regulations, these become enforceable, not voluntary.

The bill requires federally-regulated organizations to create multi-year accessibility plans and to update these over a period of years. The bill aims to provide enforcement, including a complaint process. The bill also means to provide some degree of public accountability for organizations that must obey it.

Some Key Amendments Needed to Make this Bill Become a Good Law

1. Impose Clear Duties and Deadlines on the Federal Government When Implementing this Law

The bill gives the Federal Government and federal accessibility agencies/officials helpful powers to promote accessibility. However, the bill imposes no duty on them to ever use those powers, with one inconsequential exception.

The bill also sets no deadlines for taking many of the major implementation steps that the Government must take to implement this bill. The Government could drag its feet for years if not indefinitely.

For example, the bill lets the Government enact accessibility standards as enforceable regulations. However, the bill does not require the Government to ever enact any. Without them, the bill is a hollow shell.

The bill gives the Federal Government enforcement powers. However it doesn’t require the bill to be effectively enforced.

During the first five years after this bill goes into effect, the Federal Government’s only mandatory duty under the bill is for Cabinet, the CRTC and Canada Transportation agency to enact one regulation within two years after the bill comes into force. However that regulation could be an inconsequential one on minor procedural matters, without ever requiring that any disability barriers be removed or prevented.

We ask that the bill be amended to impose duties on the Federal Government and its accessibility officials and agencies to use the bill’s key powers, such as these. The bill should also be amended to set time lines within which the Government must use these powers. It is not good enough for the bill to say that the Government “may” take action. It should be amended to require that the Government shall take those required actions, and to set deadlines for the Government to act.

2. Set a Deadline for Canada to Become Accessible

Unlike Ontario’s 2005 accessibility legislation, this bill does not set a deadline for Canada to become accessible to people with disabilities. Under Bill C-81, Canada may not become accessible to people with disabilities for hundreds of years, if ever.

We ask for the bill to be amended to set a deadline for Canada to become accessible. We have urged the Federal Government without success to work with us and others to arrive at a workable and achievable deadline to enshrine in the bill.

3. Unsplinter the Bill So that Only the Federal Cabinet Sets All the Accessibility Rules and Only One Agency Enforces the Bill

The 105-page bill is far too complicated and confusing. It will be hard for people with disabilities and others to navigate it. This is because the bill splinters the power to make accessibility standard regulations and the power to enforce the bill among a number of federal agencies, such as the new federal Accessibility Commissioner, the Canada Transportation Agency (CTA) and the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

This makes the bill’s implementation and enforcement less effective, more confusing, more complicated and more costly. It will take longer to get accessibility regulations enacted. It risks weak, contradictory or unnecessarily complex regulations.

This splintering makes it much harder for people with disabilities to navigate the system, to find out what rights they have, and to get violations fixed. People with disabilities are burdened to learn to navigate as many as three or four different sets of accessibility rules, enforcement agencies, procedures, forms and time lines for presenting an accessibility complaint. That weakens the rights and voices of people with disabilities.

This splintering only helps existing federal bureaucracies that want more power, and any large obligated organizations that want to dodge taking action on accessibility. Those organizations will relish exploiting the bill’s confusing complexity to delay and impede its implementation and enforcement.

It is wrong for the bill to give almost exclusive powers over accessibility to federally-regulated transportation organizations (like airlines) to the CTA, and almost exclusive powers over broadcasters and telecommunication companies (like Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to the CRTC. The CTA and CRTC have had powers in this area for years. Their record on accessibility is not good.

The CTA and CRTC are too close to the industries they regulate. They lack expertise in disability accessibility. The industries the CTA and CRTC regulate would love to have those agencies stay largely in control of their accessibility obligations, given their inadequate regulatory track records on accessibility.

We ask for the bill to be simplified, to get rid of its harmful splintering of federal accessibility oversight responsibilities. Only the Federal Cabinet should make accessibility regulations. Only the new federal Accessibility Commissioner should enforce the bill. This ensures clearer, smoother, lower-cost, easier-to-access one-stop-shopping for people with disabilities, and easier implementation for the Federal Government and obligated organizations.

Under the bill, transportation organizations, broadcasters and telecommunication companies must make two concurrent accessibility plans, one supervised by the Accessibility Commissioner and the other supervised either by the CTA or CRTC. That also makes compliance and enforcement more costly and confusing. We ask for the bill to be amended so that all obligated organizations will only have to make one accessibility plan, not two, all supervised by the new federal Accessibility Commissioner.

It is no solution to the bill’s “splintering” problem for the Federal Government to say that there will be “no wrong door” for a person to file a complaint. The problem is not just the four different doors that a person with a disability must choose to enter. There are also as many as three or four different procedures they must figure out, even after they enter the right door. That is a formula for confusion, and for tripping up people with disabilities.

4. Ensure Federal Public Money Is Never Used To Create or Perpetuate Disability Barriers

The bill does not require that the Federal Government use its readily-available levers of power to promote accessibility across Canada. For example, it does not require the Federal Government to ensure that federal money is never used by any recipient of those funds, to create or perpetuate disability barriers. Under it, the Federal Government can continue to sit idly by when those who receive federal money use that money to create new disability barriers.

The bill lets the Federal Government impose accessibility requirements when it buys goods or services. However it doesn’t require the Federal Government to ever do so.

Moreover, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach accessibility strings when it gives money to a municipality, college, university, local transit authority or other organization to build new infrastructure. Those recipients of federal money are left free to design and build new infrastructure without ensuring that it is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Also, the bill doesn’t require the Federal Government to attach any federal accessibility strings when it gives business development loans or grants to private businesses.

This all allows for a wasteful and harmful use of public money. We request an amendment to the bill that would require the Federal Government to attach and enforce accessibility strings to any federal public money that it spends or transfers, e.g. for procurement of goods, services or facilities, for new infrastructure anywhere in Canada, or for business development loans or grants. For example, when the Federal Government provides funds for the construction of a hospital, public transit line, or university building, the recipient should no longer be free to use that money to build a building or facility that has accessibility barriers.

5. Don’t Let the Federal Government Exempt Itself from Any of Its Accessibility Obligations

The bill has too many loopholes. As one example, the bill gives the Federal Government the power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill. The Government should not be able to exempt itself. We request an amendment to close the bill’s loopholes, such as the Federal Government’s power to exempt itself from some of its duties under the bill.

Final Thoughts

People with disabilities are a highly vulnerable and disadvantaged minority. They need the Senate to strengthen this bill.

The Senate should not simply defer to the Federal Government and accept the bill “as is”, no matter how weak it is. This bears directly on the equality rights and human rights of over five million people with disabilities.

In defence of this weak bill, the Federal Government says this is enabling legislation. That is no excuse. We need strong enabling legislation, not this weak enabling bill.

It would be wrong to think that the bill’s serious weaknesses can later be corrected by passing strong regulations. The bill does not give the Federal Government the power to enact the regulations that would remove all these serious problems.

For example, the bill does not permit the Federal Government to pass regulations that would unsplinter this bill’s implementation and enforcement. Regulations cannot direct that only the Accessibility Commissioner will enforce this bill and only the Federal Cabinet will pass regulations under this bill. Only an amendment to the bill can achieve this.

Our concerns are amply reinforced by the recent blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the stronger Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. For example, our years of grassroots experience prove that when a Government lacks the political will to make a bill strong and effective, it can’t be expected to later have the political will to pass strong regulations.

To ensure a barrier-free Canada, Bill C-81 must be strong, clear and easy to navigate, not complex and confusing. The Government’s duties to act must be mandatory not optional.

It would be wrong to give up any effort here, and just accept this bill “as is”, no matter how deficient, because it might not otherwise be passed before the fall federal election. We will press all federal parties to commit that if this bill dies before the election, or is not amended to fix these serious problems, they will bring the bill back before Parliament after the 2019 election, and will correct these major flaws. That should not be difficult, since all parties supported this bill. In the House of Commons, the national opposition parties echoed the core concerns with the bill that we here outline.

Years of experience have also taught us never to settle for the palpably inadequate, without pressing for better, simply because that is all a government has offered. This is not a charitable hand-out to  be gratefully accepted, no matter how inadequate. This bill is about the fundamental equality and human rights of people with disabilities.

Contact the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance care of its chair David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont. Email:  [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Visit our website: www.aodaalliance.org



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Best Practices for Serving Customers with Assistive Devices


Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers’ policies must state that they welcome customers using assistive devices. In our last article, we described different types of assistive devices. In this article, we offer some best practices for serving customers with assistive devices.

Best Practices for Serving Customers with Assistive Devices

Providers should speak to a customer with an assistive device directly instead of addressing a companion or support person.

Furthermore, a provider should not assume that a customer needs help simply because the provider notices the customer’s disability. Instead, the provider should approach the customer and say that they are willing to offer assistance in the same way they would greet any customer. The customer can then request assistance or explain the best way for the provider to help.

Some people may use different devices at different times or for different activities. For instance, some people might use a power wheelchair for longer distances and a manual wheelchair for shorter ones. In another example, people might bring their wheelchairs to accessible places and their walkers to less accessible ones.

It is acceptable to use language or figures of speech related to walking, seeing, or grasping things, or to offer to shake hands.

Wheelchairs and other assistive devices help people move freely. Therefore, phrases like “wheelchair-bound” or “confined to a wheelchair” are inappropriate.

An assistive device is part of its owner’s personal space. Therefore, providers should only touch someone’s device when that person has given them permission.

If a customer gives permission for a provider to move their canes or crutches, the provider must keep them within the customer’s reach.

If a provider is talking to a customer in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, the provider should ask the customer whether or not they should sit down to be at eye level.

Service providers who follow these best practices for welcoming customers who use assistive devices, will truly welcome all customers.



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NTEC Awards Business Champions Who Strive for Inclusivity, Accessibility


Hiring the disabled is not only the right choice ethically speaking its the smart choice, says Mike Bradley, long-time Mayor of Sarnia-Lambton
by Cathy Pelletier

At a gala banquet in Niagara Falls last week, N-Tec awarded its Business Champions for hiring the disabled. Joining N-Tec staff Jodi Delage and Kathleen Kelly were: Darla Bell, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark; Wilma Olive-Mills, Chocolate F/X; Norm Kraft, Niagara Recyling; Ryan Wills, Fallsview Casino Resort; Chris DiRaddo, Sassafrass Farms; Rob Welch, Lancaster Brooks & Welch; Bruce Vandersluys, Dobbie’s Florist; Mike DiRaddo, Plant’s Choice; Craig Maguire, Oh Canada, Eh; Sylvia McCormick, Third Space Café; Meghan Grove, Future Waste Recycling; Kayleigh Sexton, The Powerhouse Project; Dan Bouwman, Heartland Forest; Gary Beynon, Doc Magilligan’s Irish Pub.

Gary Beynon needed help in his kitchen at Doc Magilligans Irish Pub.

We needed a dishwasher and someone to butter toast, explained the executive chef, reflecting on his relationship with NTEC (Niagara Training and Employment Agency).

Within a week, I had two great employees, said the Niagara Falls business leader. Job coaches come in and work with the employee the first couple hours of the shift. When Brett came in, he was very shy. He started buttering toast and now hes a line cook. He cooks and helps out with every aspect of the breakfast. Hes a key player. Everybody loves him. Hes so much more confident than when we hired him. You just have to be willing to take a chance, so I encourage everyone to go out and find their own Brett.

NTEC hosted a gala awards ceremony last week to celebrate Beynon and other local Niagara entrepreneurs for being business champions, and including disabled people among their work force.

Agencies such as Community Living, March of Dimes Niagara, Start Me Up Niagara, the NRP Diversity and Inclusive Program, the Niagara Parks Commission, and Venture Niagara, were also recognized for their inclusiveness.

NTEC has committed to finding the best fit for those individuals we support and the businesses, said John Fast, interim CEO and CFO. “Tonights about celebrating success. It is very satisfying to see the growtha 400 per cent increase in just the past two yearsfor individuals placed in competitive employment.

Revealing the agencys new Work Now logo, NTECs manager of employment Jodi Delage stated, Business champions are accessible and inclusive, and from the top down, develop innovation to suit their objectives.

Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia-Lambton appeared as guest speaker at the banquet. In 2012, Sarnia was nationally recognized for its accessibility and inclusiveness, and in 2014, Bradley received the Lieutenant Governors award for his personal contributions as an advocate for the disabled, both on the physical and mental spectrum.

Bradley, who has acquired countless additional awards for his inclusive philosophy and activism in his 30 years as mayor of Sarnia, issued a challenge to his fellow Ontario mayors.

The mayors challenge started in 2010, he explained, and it was to hire the intellectually-challenged and disabled. In 2016, we changed it from Do the right thing to do the smart thing. At some point, youve got to find something else besides being elected. You need something within your soul as an elected person to inspire you while advancing your community.

When it comes to accessibility, most communities are doing the minimum, stated Bradley.

In my own community, were building a new sports complex. We did the maximum number of (disabled) parking spots. Its about creating a culture of inclusiveness in your community; to bring people into your business. You can do much more at the grassroots level than at the provincial or federal.

Bradley said he struggles with the language of disability and its related issues.

I dont like intellectually-challenged, he said. To me, this is not about charity. Its just about human rights. I hope you wont just think about one day a year, but think about being a part of the population thats disenfranchised as a citizen. The unemployment rate for those who are disabled is incredible. The barriers of employment are soul-crushing barriers. Our government said its going to change by 2025. Its not even close. If it were any other segment of society, people would fight back.

According to Bradley, Im not just appealing to peoples good nature. Its time. We are all full citizens of the community. Some people see employment and accessibility as a medical issue. Its not. There are 17 million Ontarians who are not included right now, and its not right.

Original at https://www.thoroldnews.com/local-news/ntec-awards-business-champions-who-strive-for-inclusivity-accessibility-1341392



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Debbie Kirwin Honoured With Huntsville Town Hall Flag in Credit to Service


Mayor and council recognize efforts of accessibility advocate and Huntsville resident by Alison Brownlee
Huntsville Forester

Debbie Kirwin has spent years advocating for accessibility in Huntsville. She sees the impending downtown redesign as a chance to make more improvements.

HUNTSVILLE It was the first flag presented by the mayor to a member of the public.

Huntsville mayor Scott Aitchison, during a town council meeting on March 25, presented accessibility advocate Debbie Kirwin with a Canadian flag retired from atop the Huntsville town hall clock tower.

“I, personally, have always been in awe at Deb,” said the mayor. “From the very first moment I met Deb 15 years ago, I knew that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with in this community. And she most certainly has been.”

Kirwin served tirelessly as the chair for the town’s accessibility advisory committee from 2006 to 2018.

Aitchison said the former chair’s committee role was “just the tip of the iceberg” when it came to her advocacy and policy development efforts in the community, region and province.

“Not only has she changed the attitudes and ideas about accessibility and the importance of accessibility in this community, but she has been a transformative voice on the issue of accessibility across Ontario.”

He noted Kirwin would likely focus on the work still left to be done.

“But on a day like today I want you to know that council and, certainly, all of Huntsville celebrate the tremendous progress that you have brought to Huntsville,” said Aitchison.

He thanked her for her years of service and presented her with the flag, a new gesture reserved for honoured citizens. Though the first flag went to former Coun. Det Schumacher, the flag Kirwin received was the first presented to a member of the public.

Kirwin said her position as chair had provided her with many opportunities to promote accessibility in Huntsville and beyond.

She noted that, when Huntsville first held the Ontario ParaSport Winter Games in 2006, the town was recognized for its accessibility initiatives.

“At that time, the initiative that stood out was the Yellow Ramp program and was instrumental in securing the Main Street Accessibility Award for the Town of Huntsville,” said Kirwin. “The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario continued to monitor the progress of accessibility in our town and it’s put Huntsville on the provincial map as a hot spot for accessibility.”

And she noted she had made many presentations throughout the province on the successes of the town’s accessibility advisory committee.

“I believe the icing on the cake was the relationship the (committee) developed with council and staff,” she said. “I want to thank this council, and the four preceding councils, and staff who have come and gone, and those who have hung in to work with us. Together, we have made Huntsville a better place to live.”

Kirwin has also served on the District of Muskoka accessibility advisory committee, the province’s accessibility standards advisory committee, and the 2006 and 2012 Ontario ParaSport Winter Games organizing committees.

Her advocacy areas of focus have included accessible transit and affordable housing, employment for people with disabilities, accessible public spaces and barrier-free community inclusion.

Alison Brownlee is the regional government and health-care reporter for muskokaregion.com. She also writes about people and issues across Muskoka. Reach her at: [email protected] . Follow her on Twitter and Facebook Email: [email protected]

Original at https://www.muskokaregion.com/ews-story/9239777-debbie-kirwin-honoured-with-huntsville-town-hall-flag-in-credit-to-service/



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Welcoming Customers with Assistive Devices


Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers’ policies must state that they welcome customers using assistive devices. In this article, we describe what a few assistive devices are.

Assistive Devices

Wheelchairs

A wheelchair is one of the most well-known symbols of accessibility worldwide. Some people use manual wheelchairs which they wheel with their arms. Other people steer power wheelchairs that have batteries and motors. In addition to the wheelchairs people use every day, there are also wheelchairs for specific activities, such as:

  • The beach
  • Sports, including wheelchair:

Moreover, wheelchairs come in a variety of colours and styles. Some wheelchairs fold up while others do not. Furthermore, some people may use a wheelchair all the time. Others may sometimes use other mobility devices or walk short distances without devices. People may also transfer from their wheelchairs to other seats.

Walkers

Other people use walkers for stability. Some people use smaller walkers that they push in front of them. In contrast, others use larger ones which they stand in and pull behind them.

Support Canes

Other people may use canes for support and balance. Some people use one cane if one side of their body is stronger than the other. They hold the cane on the stronger side and move it when they take a step with their other foot. For instance, someone with a stronger left side holds their cane in their left hand. As they step with their right foot, they move their cane forward, then step with their left foot. Other people use two canes by holding one in each hand.

Support canes come in a variety of colours and styles. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, support canes are short and often curved. Some canes have one tip that touches the ground, while others can have three or four tips.

White Canes

Many blind and visually impaired people use white canes to travel. People do not use their canes at home or in other familiar environments because they know exactly where everything is. However, when they travel outside their homes, people will almost always use their canes. Someone walking with a white cane moves it from side to side in front of them. The feel and sound of the cane on the ground or floor gives them information about what is ahead, including:

  • Steps or curbs
  • Obstacles, such as furniture
  • The texture of the ground (pavement, grass, snow, puddles, etc.) or floor (tile, carpet, etc.)

Canes are white so that they are visible to other travellers. Some canes fold up while others do not. Moreover, they are long and straight, rather than curved. This difference makes it easy to tell whether someone is using a cane for support or for mobility. In other words, someone using a mobility cane can usually balance easily. Likewise, someone using a support cane usually has average vision.

Service providers may still have questions about what to do when a customer comes in with an assistive device. Our next article will offer some best practices for serving customers with assistive devices.



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Computer Accessibility in Customer Service


The Customer Service Standards of the AODA gives service providers guidelines on making their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Some of these services will involve computer accessibility. For instance, service providers need to make their websites accessible. They can do so by ensuring that their webpages are compatible with the hardware and software people use on their personal devices, such as computers or phones. In addition, some organizations, such as libraries, schools, restaurants, or retailers, may have computers or tablets with accessible hardware or software on-site for patrons to use. In this article, we describe some ways that customers with disabilities use technology.

Computer Accessibility 

Hardware

Accessible hardware devices connect to computers or phones and allow people to input and receive information in different ways. People may use different kinds of keyboards, such as one-handed or large-key keyboards. Key guards are frames that fit over a keyboard with a hole for each key. This set-up ensures that users type only one key at a time. The following allows users to type in comfortable positions or change positions when they need to:

  • Ergonomic keyboards
  • Wrist supports
  • Adjustable keyboard trays
  • Other positioning devices 

Some people use different kinds of pointing devices, instead of traditional mice. Trackballs are larger than traditional mice, and people can operate them with their thumbs, palms, or feet as well as their fingers. Other alternative mice include touch pads or screens, light pens, joysticks, head pointers, or mouth sticks. Some people may also use these devices, or eye-tracking systems, as alternatives for keyboards as well as mice. In contrast, other people may use certain keys on their keyboards to perform tasks usually completed by clicking a mouse.

Large monitors allow people who read large print to access more information at a time. In contrast, Braille displays present the screen’s contents in Braille. People may also print in Braille using Braille embossers.

Accessible Software

Accessible software programs also affect how people can input and receive information. On-screen keyboards allow users to type by selecting letters, numbers, or symbols with their pointing devices. Speech recognition software allows users to control the computer or phone with their voices. Predictive software helps users input words by displaying word options they can choose from after they have typed the first few letters.

People may use screen magnification software to enlarge information on their screens, or use screen reader software that reads information aloud.

These types of software are often available through various programs. Many programs are built for different types of computers, such as Windows or Mac. Some programs are built into operating systems or browsers, while others are third-party software that users purchase from companies specializing in accessible hardware and software. Programs sometimes offer different levels of accessibility. For instance, some programs that read aloud read more information than others. Therefore, different people will find certain programs more valuable or necessary than others, depending on what their needs are.

When individuals or organizations want to invest in accessible computer equipment, they should consult people with disabilities. They will be able to advise them about what devices or programs they might find most useful. Moreover, organizations should also consult some venders, who can tell them about other devices and programs that their clientele has not had the chance to work with before but might find useful. Funding may be available to help organizations offset the cost of some equipment.

Training Staff

Finally, organizations must ensure that their staff have training on how to use accessible computers and the hardware and software that goes along with it. Staff may need to troubleshoot if hardware or software malfunction. Moreover, if people are using a device or program for the first time, staff may need to help them learn the basics.

Computer accessibility gives everyone an equal chance to take part in a world that is becoming more and more digital.



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Funding for Customer Service Accessibility in Ontario


The Customer Service Standards of the AODA give service providers guidelines on making their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Some of the standards’ regulations involve accessible building features or equipment. For instance, providers must train workers to use any devices or equipment the provider may have that help customers with disabilities access goods and services.  Likewise, providers must notify the public when services that customers with disabilities rely on are temporarily unavailable. Therefore, this article will look at different types of funding for customer service accessibility.

Some providers may feel that installing accessible features or equipment would be too costly. However, this assumption is not true. Moreover, the standards do not mandate that providers must retrofit their buildings to be accessible unless parts of those buildings are being redeveloped. Similarly, the Standards do not require providers to have equipment or features on-site that would increase their accessibility. However, providers can serve more customers and receive more positive feedback if they install accessible building features or equipment.

Funding for Customer Service Accessibility

Features to Fund

Providers can offer many different features, equipment, or services to make their locations more welcoming to customers with disabilities. For instance, some features, equipment, or services that providers can offer are:

Accessible building features, such as:

  • Ramps
  • Automatic doors
  • Widened doorways or pathways
  • Elevators
  • Accessible washrooms
  • Visual fire alarms
  • Accessible counters

Computer equipment, such as:

  • Large monitors
  • Different kinds of accessible keyboards
  • Track balls or joysticks
  • Braille displays or embossers
  • Screen reading software or magnification software
  • Speech recognition software

Communication services or equipment, such as:

  • Sign language interpretation and captioning for events
  • Video description
  • Assistive listening systems
  • Teletypewriters
  • Communication boards
  • Augmentative or alternative communication devices

Providers can improve their accessibility by applying for funding from several agencies. Different agencies have specific criteria. For instance:

  • What kinds of equipment or projects are funded
  • Who is or is not eligible
  • When or how often applications are accepted
  • What percentage of cost is covered
  • The process of applying and receiving the grant or equipment

For more information about a specific funding source, visit its website.

Federal Funding

The Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) offers frequent opportunities for organizations to apply for grants. These grants fund capital projects that make a workplace or community more accessible for workers or citizens with disabilities. Furthermore, the small projects component of the program offers grants of up to $100,000 per project. Based on criteria of individual grants offered, organizations may apply for funding to construct, renovate or retrofit buildings, or to install technology.

Provincial Funding

Likewise, the Ontario Trillium Foundation also provides capital grants to help citizens be fully involved in their communities. Grants are between $5,000 and $150,000, for the term of one year. In addition to larger community projects like buying land and renovating community spaces, funding can support smaller, organization-specific projects, such as:

  • Buying equipment
  • Construction, renovation, or repair, including developing plans, legal fees, or survey costs

Organizations must apply for funding and later report on how they use it. The Foundation gives applicants the final ten percent of their grants when they submit their reports.

Local Funding

Finally, individual cities may also provide funding.

The above sources of funding for customer service accessibility allow providers to improve their premises or the equipment they offer. As the number of Ontarians with disabilities rises, providers with more accessible features will attract more and more customers.



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Must Condos Making Renovations Implement Accessibility Measures?


by: Graeme Macpherson | March 20, 2019

Staying on top of accessibility issues can be a challenging task. There are many factors to juggle and many important rights to balance against one another. On top of all of this are the obvious financial and logistical concerns that can accompany making a building accessible.

One worry that some corporations may have is, if they implement some sort of accessibility device or modification to one section of the building, must they then do this everywhere?

Take a ramp as an example. If you install one somewhere, must you make the rest of the building accessible?

The short answer to this question is, no.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [“AODA”] is a piece of Ontario Legislation that aims to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. After it came into force , it helped spark the new accessibility requirements of the Ontario Building Code [“OBC”].

These new accessibility requirements for buildings are contained in section 3.8 of the Building Code. Amongst these requirements are barrier-free paths of travel.

According to section 3.8.2.1(1)(b) of the OBC, a barrier-free path of travel is required to and throughout all normally occupied floor areas and rooftop amenity spaces. Barrier-free paths of travel include ramps, passenger elevators, or other platform equipped passenger elevating devices, and stair lifts. What this means, is that according to the OBC, such paths of travel must be available to each and every regularly occupied area of a condominium.

This can cause some pause. Many buildings are not fully equipped with such systems. To implement them to every normally occupied floor area is likely not in the budget.

The OBC anticipates this, and as such, the requirements of section 3.8 do not have retroactive effect. In other words, existing buildings do not have to be fitted with the new accessibility features.

These new features are only statutorily required in new buildings or where an older building undergoes an “extensive renovation”, which is defined exhaustively at section 11.3.3.2. Without providing the comprehensive definition, these renovations include: removing the interior walls, ceilings or floors and replacing them with new ones: heavy duty stuff.

This is in contrast to “basic renovations” which are also defined in the OBC. A basic renovation is construction that is carried out to maintain an existing performance level of the building by using materials already inplace or using similar materials. The renovation must retain the existing character, structure, heritage value or appearance of the building.

Section 11.3.1.2 of the OBC goes on to clarify that these basic renovations are an exception to the requirement that buildings conform to all parts of the Code. Stated otherwise, a basic renovation does not trigger the need to comply with the OBC.

In any event, in most cases, a simple installation does not even qualify as a basic renovation. Accordingly, installing a ramp to one floor because one owner requires it, will not trigger the requirement to make the rest of the building accessible.

Of course, residents and occupants can always raise human rights concerns about accessibility, which must be dealt with accordingly on a case-by-case basis. However, there is no statutory obligation to install some sort of accessible throughout the entire building that is triggered by installing one in a single location.

Original at http://condoadviser.ca/2019/03/condos-accessibility-and-the-ontario-building-code/condo-law-blog-Ontario



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Online Customer Service Accessibility


The Customer Service Standards of the AODA gives service providers guidelines on how to start making their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. While some guidelines in the Standard apply to service in-person, other guidelines apply to both in-person and remote service. Moreover, one of the most popular kinds of remote service takes place online. More and more organizations now give customers the option to do business over the Internet. Consequently, a provider’s website can be as important as its storefront. However, many organizations’ websites are not accessible for customers with disabilities. Providers can expand their consumer market and gain loyal customers when they ensure online customer service accessibility.

Online Customer Service Accessibility

Service providers have another reason to make their online presences accessible. The Information and Communications Standards of the AODA mandates that all Ontario public sector organizations, and all private sector organizations with fifty or more workers, must make their websites accessible by 2021. To do so, organizations must comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities.

Highlights of WCAG 2.0

WCAG 2.0 guidelines describe how customers should be able to:

  • Perceive and navigate web content, such as with:
    • Text, instead of images of text
    • Information that can be enlarged up to 200 per cent without losing site functionality
    • Good colour contrast between text and background
    • Buttons labeled with words, not just with pictures, shapes, or colours
    • Captions available for all audio
    • Audio descriptions and captions available for all videos
  • Operate websites, such as with:
    • Keyboard commands instead of mouse clicking
    • Options to extend time limits
    • No elements that might induce seizures, such as flashing lights
    • Titles and headings that help customers know where they are
  • Understand website information and layout, such as with:
    • Simple, linear layouts that are the same for each page of a website
    • Clear language, instead of figures of speech
    • Clear instructions for completing tasks, such as purchasing items or filling in forms
    • Text descriptions of customer errors when inputting information
    • Sign language interpretation
    • Definitions of unusual words and abbreviations
  • Visit websites using a variety of assistive technology, such as:
    • Screen readers and Braille displays
    • Screen magnifiers
    • Speech recognition programs

The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance for website owners and developers on how to implement them.

Online customer service accessibility should be available for customers of all abilities. There are many web-based things service providers can do to give every customer a fulfilling service experience.



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