ArriveCAN app for cross-border travel includes hurdle for blind Canadians: advocate – National | Globalnews.ca


The federal government’s new ArriveCAN travel app is inaccessible to some Canadians with disabilities, raising questions of fair treatment and practical border-crossing concerns.

Robert Fenton, a board member of the CNIB — formerly known as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind — says he found a major bug when using the Apple VoiceOver screen reader on his iPhone as he tried to access the app, which is playing a pivotal role for those wishing to enter Canada by land, sea or air.

The obstacle arises when would-be users try to add the verification code sent to their email address after starting to set up their account.

“There’s no way to add the number without sighted help,” Fenton said in an interview.

“As people who are blind, we run into this problem frequently with all levels of government when trying to access public services.”

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Travellers to Canada must use the ArriveCAN app or online portal to submit their vaccine information and the results of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before departure.

Trouble accessing an app essential to international travel in the pandemic era could pose a real barrier to entry for Canadians with disabilities.

The federal law enforcement agency responsible for border control acknowledged the problem.

“The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is aware that there is a gap between the addition of new features to the ArriveCAN app and when it is fully accessible, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing for users. We are working hard to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” agency spokeswoman Jacqueline Callin said in an email.


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Minister Bill Blair outlines updated requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers at the border


Minister Bill Blair outlines updated requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers at the border – Jun 21, 2021

Unlike the app, the web-based version of ArriveCAN does meet federal accessibility requirements and can be used via desktop, smartphone and other devices, the agency said. It is encouraging travellers who rely on text-to-voice technology to use the online portal until the app store versions are updated.

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The Accessible Canada Act, passed in 2019, aims to remove barriers in areas under federal jurisdiction, such as transportation and telecommunications as well as federally run programs.

“It’s time now for the federal government at least to live up to its obligations in that legislation, and that includes making their websites and apps and other services they offer to Canadians fully accessible,” Fenton said.

The Canadian Press has confirmed the glitch in the app.

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Fenton says it follows another problem that prevented blind and partially sighted Canadians from moving beyond the privacy screen that pops up when the app is opened, and which he said the Canada Border Services Agency recently fixed.

“We couldn’t get past the first screen,” he said, “so none of us would know about the second problem.”

The latest problem is particularly urgent as athletes gear up to travel to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games this summer.

Fenton is asking the Canada Border Services Agency to make the app accessible by July 23.





© 2021 The Canadian Press





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Changes at Parlee Beach means improved access for people with disabilities


New Brunswick’s largest beach will once again be open to the public starting Friday and visitors to Parlee Beach Provincial Park will notice some changes that include improved access for those with disabilities.

“We have been lobbying for years now to make the entire province accessible,” said Mathieu Stever, the manager of the ParaNB program with Ability New Brunswick

The provincial park is getting a $2-million facelift in advance of its second season in operation amid the pandemic. According to the province, funding for the upgrades is being applied from the capital improvement budgets from 2020 to 2022.

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The work includes upgrades to roads, entrances, the canteen, restaurant bar and patio area as well as improved access to the beach, according to the park’s manager, Michel Mallet, who said they partnered with Ability NB on the project starting in 2019.

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“We call it a comfort station, which is basically an accessible washroom and accessible charging room and shower outside,” said Mallet.

Improved sidewalks and beach-friendly wheelchairs will also be available for visitors, said Mallet.

He said an accessible playground is also being installed in the coming weeks. The hope is to have the upgrades ready by the end of the school year, he said.


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Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work


Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work – Mar 18, 2021

“I think it is great having Parlee Beach set the example of how you can renovate the beach and make it accessible for everyone because our motto is that everyone plays,” said Stever.

Stever said he hopes the initiative will encourage other provincial parks in the province to do similar upgrades.

“It is everyone’s right to be able to access all recreation activities in the province”, he said.

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Parlee Beach opens on Friday with COVID-19 protocols similar to last year, said Mallet.

All washrooms and changing rooms, even the accessible ones, will remain closed for now, he said.

Access to the provincial beach for vacationers from outside of the province will also depend on the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.





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COVID-19: Toronto woman charged after gatherings reportedly held at Innisfil Airbnb


A Toronto woman has been charged in connection with an Airbnb rental in Innisfil, Ont., after gatherings were reported to be taking place at the address amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Ontario’s current emergency orders, short-term rentals are only allowed for people who are in need of housing.

All gatherings are also currently prohibited in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

South Simcoe Police said they received complaints from the community about gatherings at an address in the 25th Sideroad and 9th Line area.

On Wednesday, the Toronto woman and Airbnb renter was served a provincial offences notice under the Reopening Ontario Act.

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Court tosses Ontario vaccine rollout discrimination lawsuit over jurisdiction


TORONTO — A claim that alleges Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout discriminated against the vulnerable raises important issues, Divisional Court said on Wednesday as it nevertheless tossed the case.

In its decision, the court declined to declare the rollout unconstitutional on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction to do so and not because the application was without merit.

“The broader issues raised by the applicant are important and pressing issues,” the court said. “There is nothing frivolous and vexatious about the issue of vaccine equity in the context of a global deadly pandemic.”

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The constitutional challenge, launched in March by David Daneshvar, of Toronto, turned on whether vulnerable people have had fair access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Those include some people with disabilities, homebound seniors, residents of hot spot neighbourhoods and the homeless.

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Daneshvar, 28, who has several disabilities, wanted the government to ensure public health units made equity central to their vaccination plans, and to give them the necessary resources to do so. He also wanted the court to declare the rollout had violated his constitutional rights.

“The applicant’s concerns with accessing a vaccine and with ensuring that he and other Ontarians have equitable access to a vaccine are understandable and likely shared by many people in the province,” the court said. “However, the applicant has not established that the Divisional Court has jurisdiction to grant the broad declaratory relief he seeks.”

In a statement, Daneshvar’s lawyers stood by their assertion that the Ontario government had neglected its duty to provide fair and equitable vaccination access.

“For months, it has been clear the government had the scientific evidence but lacked the will to design a vaccine strategy that prioritized and protected the most vulnerable among us,” David Baker and Chris Holcroft said. “Repeated failures have increased the risk of infection and death for some people.”

The court hearing, they said, had demonstrated the government’s lack of plans to vaccinate people without internet or phone, or who faced language, mobility, or communications challenges.


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Thousands book COVID-19 vaccine appointment within hours of expanded eligibility in Toronto


Thousands book COVID-19 vaccine appointment within hours of expanded eligibility in Toronto

In its legal filings, the province argued the application was premised on a “fundamental factual and legal misunderstanding” of how COVID-19 vaccines are administered in Ontario.

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While the government devised high-level policy directions, it is up to the province’s 34 public health units to administer vaccines and implement a rollout suitable to their local populations, the province argued.

“Neither the minister nor any other provincial official approved or purported to approve the individual vaccination plans prepared by Ontario’s 34 public health units,” the government said. “The applicant has simply sued the wrong respondent.”

A request from the government to bar Daneshvar’s lawyers from getting paid, including by legal aid, for presenting the “ill advised” case drew sharp rebuke from Divisional Court.

“This request is unprecedented and certainly not warranted,” the court said.





© 2021 The Canadian Press





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Mental health report: Vast majority of Ontarians experiencing negative emotions amid pandemic


The Canadian Mental Health Association has launched a report that shows most Ontarians are continuing to deal with negative emotions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report was released in time for Mental Health Week, which launched Monday.

The report, which surveyed roughly 3,000 people across Ontario in January, says 84 per cent of adults said they were feeling worried, anxious, bored, stressed, lonely, isolated or sad.

Data also suggests 76 per cent of Ontarians reported coping at least fairly well with the stress of the pandemic. Sixty per cent of participants also said their screen time increased and 31 per cent reported consuming more food.

“The pandemic is one of those situations where it causes so many different things,” Alec King with CMHA Durham said.

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“It’s not just (the pandemic), it’s also the isolation, the uncertainty, the worry and the concern that people are feeling.”

King says while the data is discouraging, difficult emotions may be an appropriate response to Ontarian’s current circumstances.

“For Mental Health Week we want to talk about how it’s good to give emotions voice,” he said.

“Positive mental health isn’t about always being happy. It’s about being able to express your emotions in a way that’s healthy and good.”

Jamie Andrews was diagnosed with depression in his early 20s. He, along with many others who have struggled with their mental health, are sharing their experiences through a new mental health podcast called ‘Over Thinking.’

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“We have feelings and those feelings are telling us something, but it’s up to us to look inside and see what it is,” he said.

“We need to normalize this conversation, and that’s one of the things that I hope our goal is for the overthinking podcast.”

Other mental health advocates, like Olabiyi Dipeolu, have been working tirelessly to ensure people of all income levels can access mental health services. Dipeolu’s online retail store, Maqoba, donates its net profits to mental health services like the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). It also navigates users towards free, accessible resources for those who are currently struggling.

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“Even though we live in a wonderful country and we have access to mental health, not everyone knows how to find those resources,” he said.

“100 per cent of the net proceeds go to those who can’t afford mental health treatment. This is in the form of get well packages, therapy sessions, and housing opportunities.”

The CMHA encourages those currently facing mental health challenges to contact the organization. Mental health advocates encourage people to turn to friends and loved ones for additional support.





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8 from GTA charged following gathering at Muskoka cottage


Eight people from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) have been charged following a gathering that took place at a cottage in Gravenhurst, Ont., on Saturday night.

Under Ontario’s current stay-at-home order, gatherings with anyone outside of one’s household are prohibited in order to curb the spread of the third wave of COVID-19.

The fine for violating the rule under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act is $750.

At 10:30 p.m. Saturday, police say they responded to a complaint from a member of the public and found eight people who were in violation of the current coronavirus restrictions.

Officers say the individuals were charged accordingly.





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8 charged after trespassing, violating stay-at-home order in Adjala-Tosorontio: police


Three men and five boys have been charged after trespassing at a vacant residence in Adjala-Tosorontio, Ont., and violating the province’s stay-at-home order on Thursday. The order was put in place earlier in the month in an effort to curb the COVID-19 health crisis.

Just before 4 a.m, OPP responded to a report of people trespassing at a property on 20th Sideroad.

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The concerned citizen reported hearing a number of unknown voices and seeing flashlights on the property.

Police attended the scene and found three men and five boys trespassing and in violation of Ontario’s stay-at-home order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the Reopening Ontario Act.

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All eight individuals, who were all from Peel Region, were charged with entering premises when prohibited and failure to comply with an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.


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Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling data is dire, say health experts


Ontario’s latest COVID-19 modelling data is dire, say health experts – Apr 16, 2021





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Ontario’s COVID-19 triage protocol ‘discriminates because of disability,’ advocates say


When Tracy Odell experienced bleeding in her stomach last summer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, she went to hospital but vowed she would not return.

“I don’t feel safe in hospitals and a lot of people with disabilities similar to mine, where you need this much assistance, don’t feel safe in a hospital,” she said.

Odell was born with spinal muscular atrophy and requires assistance to complete many daily tasks.

Now, amid the third wave and with critical care units filling up, Odell said she fears if she ever needed the care, she would not be able to get it.

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“I, personally, wouldn’t go to a hospital. I would feel it would be a waste of time and I’d feel very unsafe to go thereIt’s a real indictment, I think, of our system, that people who have disabilities, have severe needs, don’t feel safe in a place where everyone’s supposed to be safe,” she said.

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Odell is most concerned about a “critical care triage protocol” that could be activated in Ontario.

It would essentially allow health-care providers to decide who gets potentially life-saving care and who doesn’t.

Under the guidelines, as set out in a draft protocol circulating among hospitals, patients would be ranked on their likelihood to survive one year after the onset of critical illness.

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“Patients who have a high likelihood of dying within twelve months from the onset of their episode of critical illness (based on an evaluation of their clinical presentation at the point of triage) would have a lower priority for critical care resources,” states the document.

Odell says it’s tough to predict who will survive an illness.

“They have to guess who’s going to last a year ... As a child with my disability, my projected life expectancy was like a kid … they didn’t think I’d live to be a teenager and here I am retired, so it’s a very hard thing to judge,” said Odell.

Disability advocates have been raising alarm bells over the triage protocol for months.

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David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, sent multiple letters to Minister of Health Christine Elliott demanding transparency, arguing “the Ontario government’s pervasive secrecy over its critical care triage plans has made many people with disabilities terrified, angry and distrustful.”

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“People with disabilities have disproportionately had to suffer for the past year from the most severe aspects of COVID … People with disabilities are disproportionately prone to end up in intensive care units and die from the disease,” said Lepofsky.

“Now we face the double cruelty that we are disproportionately prone to get told, ‘No, you can’t have that life-saving care.’”

Lepofsky said the document that is circulating, while not finalized, is problematic, unethical and discriminatory.

“The rules that have been given to intensive care units for deciding who gets critical care and who doesn’t, if they have to ration, may look fine because they’re full of medical jargon, but they actually explicitly discriminate because of disability,” he said.

“We agree there should be a protocol, but it can’t be one that discriminates because of disability. That’s illegal.”

John Mossa, who is living with muscular dystrophy, has been homebound for more than a year, afraid he would contract COVID-19 if he went outside and not survive it.

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“COVID is a very serious disease for me … if I do get COVID, I would probably become very ill and pass away because of my poor respiratory condition. I have about 30 per cent lung capacity due to my muscular dystrophy so COVID is very serious. It’s been a very scary time,” he said.

Never more frightening than right now, Mossa said, amid a surging third wave with a record number of patients in Ontario’s critical care units and the potential for triaging life-saving care.

“The people that would be affected the most are the least considered to get care … I’m afraid, I’m totally afraid to go to hospital right now,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Mossa said, he had a hip accident but he has avoided the hospital, even though he is suffering and should seek medical help.

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“I should be considering going to hospital, but I’m not going to go to hospital because I know that I won’t get the care I need and if it gets any worse. I know that I wouldn’t be given an ICU bed,” he said.

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On Wednesday, when asked about the triage protocol, Elliott said it has not yet been activated.

That was echoed by Dr. James Downar, a palliative and critical care physician in Ottawa who co-wrote Ontario’s ICU protocol.

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“I don’t think that there’s any plan to initiate a triage process in the next couple of days. I think a lot is going to depend on which way our ICU numbers go. They have been climbing at a fairly alarming rate,” he said.

On concerns by advocates that the protocol discriminates against people with disabilities, Downar said, “The only criterion in the triage plan is mortality risk.”

“We absolutely don’t want to make any judgments about whose life is more valuable, certainly nothing based on ability, disability or need for accommodations … If you value all lives equally, that, I think, is the strongest argument for using an approach that would save as many lives as you can,” he said.


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Ontario to allow hospitals to move patients to long-term care, retirement homes to create room for COVID-19 patients


Ontario to allow hospitals to move patients to long-term care, retirement homes to create room for COVID-19 patients





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Group urges province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians


A Toronto city councillor and a group of health-care professionals are calling on the province to open COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration to all Ontarians in a bid to improve the rollout of shots.

Coun. Josh Matlow and health-care professionals from the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, posted an open letter to Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and the co-chairs of the COVID-19 science advisory table on Wednesday.

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“While the vaccine rollout offers an end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, too many Ontarians who have yet to be eligible for the current phase of the vaccination plan are left feeling anxious about when, and how they’ll learn that their turn will finally come,” the letter said.

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“That is why we recommend the province offer a specific category on their call-in and online booking systems that gives Ontarians an opportunity to pre-register for the vaccine.”

The letter said residents should be able to enter their date of birth, postal code, and contact information and get onto a registration list.

“Once eligible, Ontarians could receive an email and/or text message outlining the next steps on how to officially book their vaccine appointment and applicable location(s),” the letter said.

They said this could improve the management of vaccine supply, offer insight into vaccine hesitancy, and give residents the feeling of being closer to overcoming the pandemic.





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