Physically Disabled Employee Sues Apple Inc. for Constructive Dismissal

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Monkhouse Law

TORONTO, Dec. 17, 2019 /CNW/ – As Apple opens a new ‘flagship’ store in Canada a 33-year-old person with a disability who was employed for more than eight years as an “Apple Genius” working at an Apple Inc. store in Ontario is claiming that he was dismissed by the computer giant because he requires a wheelchair and is suing for lost wages and damages.

Robert Shaw alleges in a Statement of Claim that Apple repeatedly refused to work on an individual accommodation plan with him, opting instead to provide piecemeal solutions to his disability. He claims he was never provided with a legitimate reason for a denial of his request for an individual accommodation plan and his health suffered as a result of, harassment, bullying and a toxic work environment. Allegations made in the Claim must still be proven in court.

The action was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by Toronto employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse, managing partner of Monkhouse Law, who says Apple may well have failed to comply with Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and that the constructive dismissal of Robert constitutes discriminatory conduct under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Monkhouse says, “These actions paint a very different picture than being ranked as one of Canada’s top employers by Forbes and are shocking for one of the world’s most valuable companies.”

Robert has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life and began his career at Apple in March 2011 at the company’s Square One store in Mississauga. He worked there for six years before moving to Apple’s Sherway Gardens store for two years until his constructive dismissal in July 2019.

According to the Claim, Robert requested that accommodations be made so he could work safely and comfortably from his wheelchair at Sherway Gardens. Robert was told that the store would be outfitted with an appropriate table and automatic doors in time for his arrival in 2017, but this never happened. Four months after starting at the store, Robert began experiencing soreness and numbness in his arms and hands due to working long hours on tables that were too high. The Claim states that Robert was never provided with an adequate table.

According to the Claim, only three of seven doors at the store were eventually made automatic and, instead of installing a button to open the door, Apple provided Robert with a remote control that repeatedly failed. Apple formally declined to automate the four remaining doors due to the expense.

The Claim also states that Robert was told by a senior manager at Apple that he wouldn’t be promoted if he continued to be unhappy in his role. The manager further suggested the company might not be the right place for him.

Employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse says his client was a long-tenured, hard-working and dedicated employee at Apple and the company had a duty under Ontario law to accommodate his disability to the point of undue hardship.

Under provisions in the AODA, Apple was obligated to put in place an individual accommodation plan for Robert as well as to protect the privacy of his personal information.

Remarking on the irony of Apple’s alleged failure to accommodate Robert Shaw, Andrew Monkhouse stated: “On its company website, Apple proudly displays its work on accessibility technology. Apple has also used their work on accessibility in its marketing materials. The company has received awards and a great deal of positive press for its efforts in accessibility technology. Yet, these accusations seem to indicate that the company does not appear to be practicing what it preaches in its own retail stores.”

Toronto-based Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm that specializes in employment law litigation, human rights law, and disability insurance law.

SOURCE Monkhouse Law

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Harvard to Caption Online Video Content Following Lawsuit Settlement

By Lucy Liu, Crimson Staff Writer
Dec. 2, 2019

Harvard reached a settlement with the National Association of the Deaf Wednesday in a 2015 lawsuit alleging that the University failed to adequately close caption its publicly accessible online video and audio content.

According to the February 2015 complaint in federal court, much of Harvard’s free online content, which includes podcasts and recorded lectures, either lacked closed captioning or such captions were “unintelligible.” The complaint argued that this deprives deaf and hard of hearing individuals of “benefits” afforded to those without disabilities. It also alleged that Harvard violated obligation of universities receiving federal funding to “provide people with disabilities equal access to their programs and activities” under the 1973 United States Rehabilitation Act.

Per the settlement reached last week, the University must take steps to improve the accessibility of content posted to its official website and associated media platforms. Harvard agreed to caption Harvard-produced content posted on or after Dec. 1, 2019 to University websites or to associated video websites. For pieces of content posted earlier, Harvard will provide captions within five business days of a specific request for captions from an individual wishing to access that content. Harvard will also provide captions for livestreams of University-wide events.

Harvard will also be expected to pay attorneys fees for the plaintiffs, which total more than $1.5 million.

Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD’s chief executive officer, said in a press release that providing closed captions is a vital part of making learning accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“As Harvard learned through this lawsuit, universities and colleges are on notice that all aspects of their campus including their websites must be accessible to everyone,” he said. “Captioning video content is a basic form of access that opens up academic learning to not only deaf and hard of hearing people but the world.”

Following NAD’s initial lawsuit, Harvard filed a motion to dismiss which was denied in 2016. In 2018, Harvard filed a motion for judgment, portions of which including an argument that Harvard websites were not “places of public accommodation” were again denied in April 2019. Harvard and NAD engaged in settlement discussions during the months following the ruling.

University spokesperson Nate Herpich wrote in an emailed statement that the settlement aligns with other digital accessibility initiatives at Harvard, namely, the captioning previously provided for HarvardX online courses and the school’s Digital Accessibility Policy introduced in April. The Digital Accessibility Policy addressed captioning for content posted to Harvard websites.

“Harvard is pleased to confirm the amicable resolution of the lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) regarding online captioning for video and audio content. The settlement is grounded in Harvard’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” Herpich wrote.

“Our websites provide a wealth of opportunities for our community members to communicate and to share ideas, and we want these websites to be available to everyone who wishes to access them. This agreement with the NAD builds on the University’s longstanding work toward ensuring a campus that is accessible and welcoming,” he added.

Staff writer Lucy Liu can be reached at [email protected]

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What’s Up With the Rules Around Emotional Support Animals on Campus?

November 26, 2019 By Farah Khan

Juvi Gardner, a student in the general arts and science, music industry arts program, was asked earlier this fall not to bring his emotional support dog, Zeke, with him while he played for Thunders varsity basketball team.

Martha Peak, the Student Associations athletics administrator, delivered the news to Gardner in an email on Sept. 10, stating its for the safety of the dog and the students.

Gardner still has questions surrounding emotional support animals on campus. And he is not alone.

I was confused as to why youre telling me no, because Im asking for the rules, said Gardner. I just want to know what the rules are.

Though many people believe that an emotional support animal classifies as a service animal – it doesnt.

An emotional support animal is not defined nor protected by the law unlike a service animal.

According to Lending a Helping Paw: An Overview of the Law of Service Animals in Ontario, emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform a task-such as guiding a person with a visual or physical impairment. However, they do provide comfort and support to the owner.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has clearly stated that emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals thus, it is up to colleges to decide whether the animal is permitted on the premises.

So, at anytime, students with emotional support animals can be denied having their support animal on certain premises.

It turns out the increase in the number of students with emotional service animals across Ontario is starting to gain attention.

For example, George Brown Colleges AODA policy classifies an emotional support animal as a service animal and allows students to bring them on campus.

George Brown has already implemented it in their policies, said Gardner. Theres other schools that are already adhering to the emotional support dog laws.

At present, Algonquin has not yet done this. But this is now changing.

This is starting to come up that Im aware of, said Claude Brulé, president of Algonquin College. We need to pay attention to this. Under our vice president of student services, were looking at the policies and were looking at it as well provincially.

For the moment, Gardner still has no clear answers about his emotional support dog.

But for Algonquin students with emotional support animals in general, the hope is that this will soon change.

Were aware that we need to have better policies so that everyone is aware of what they can do, or they shouldnt do but were not there yet, said Brulé. Its a work in progress.

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Toronto Looks Into Cost of Disability Accommodation

City has avoided hiring people with restrictions because of budget constraints, analyst said Laurie Monsebraaten
The Toronto Star Oct. 1, 2019

Louis Manno worked in the city’s old “Access Toronto” call centre for a dozen years until the current 311 information service was introduced in 2009 and forced him into early retirement.

Manno is blind, and the 311 technology was not compatible with his computer screen reader, which transcribed web pages into braille or speech so he could respond to callers’ queries.

“City staff knew I needed this technology to continue working there and they said they were building a new system from the ground-up to accommodate me,” Manno said in an interview.

“But at the end of the day, it didn’t work.”

To his knowledge, he is the last blind person to work for the service. The city refused to say if 311 currently employs any blind staff “due to privacy” concerns.

Manno isn’t sure what happened, but now 65 and “happily retired,” he wonders if money might have been a factor.

A motion before Toronto council this week from the city’s accessibility advisory committee is aimed at addressing the cost of accommodating current and future employees with disabilities.

If approved, the city’s chief financial officer and treasurer will report back to council as part of the 2020 budget process on the feasibility of exempting all operating and capital costs related to accommodating employees with disabilities from any proposed fiscal belt-tightening.

Council is also being asked to direct staff to look into creating a central fund for all accessibility-related accommodations and initiatives so that individual city departments aren’t forced to absorb the costs themselves.

City council turned down a similar request in 2017, a decision advisory committee members say breached Ontario’s Human Rights Code and needs to be corrected.

According to the code, “the costs of accommodation must be distributed as widely as possible within the organization so that no single department, employee, customer or subsidiary is burdened with the expense.”

If each department had to cover the cost of maternity benefits, none would ever hire a woman of child-bearing age, said Zeljko Razumic, a design technologist with the city who is deaf.

“People would be up in arms, as it would create a cost bias against hiring women,” he wrote in an email to the advisory committee last spring.

In April 2018, Razumic launched an Ontario Human Rights case against the city for installing a new phone system in 2012 without ensuring it was equipped to allow people with a hearing or speech disability to use text with the assistance of a relay operator.

It took three years – and much pushing by Razumic and allies at city hall – before a text/relay service was installed.

Razumic, whose human rights complaint claims the city did no outreach to other deaf staff to inform them of the service, says the experience left him feeling “isolated, excluded, emotionally hurt and not appreciated.”

The case was settled in March through mediation.

Huy Luong, a senior technology analyst with the city’s information and technology division, said he is often asked to provide technical support to staff with disabilities and has seen first-hand the financial crunch.

“Due to budget constraints, many city businesses often take shortcuts and cut corners. Business tools are acquired or developed without accessibility in mind. Since these tools tend to be in use for quite some time, a city business with inaccessible tools will – and do – avoid hiring persons with disabilities,” he said.

“As the City of Toronto is the largest municipality in Canada, they could set a precedent for others to follow,” he said.

Former advisory committee member Monica Winkler, an information technology administrator for the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, got the ball rolling when she introduced the original motion that was defeated at city council in 2017.

“I’m really glad it’s going forward again. Maybe this time it will actually pass,” she said.

Winkler said the committee heard from people who had applied for jobs and felt they weren’t successful because of their disability.

“We also heard from staff (that) people with disabilities had trouble getting accommodation because there wasn’t enough money in the budget of their department,” she said.

“Other corporations and other places handle accommodations from a pool of funds,” Winkler said. “That way, no one department is trapped and unable to hire or accommodate somebody.”

Ultimately, a centralized fund might even save the city money through bulk purchases of accessible technology, she added.

“It would also raise the profile of workplace accommodations and make them more widely accepted,” she added.

“It was a long fight to get curb cuts in sidewalks installed for people with wheelchairs,” she noted. “But if you talk to a mother with a carriage or a senior with a shopping cart, they help everyone.”
Jason Mitschele, a federal Crown prosecutor and advisory committee member who is blind, reintroduced the motion in July.

“It seems common sense to me that there should be a special fund for accommodating people,” he said.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, chair of the 12-member advisory committee, said she became aware of the issue from city staff who raised it several years ago.

“City divisions have to draw from their own budgets when they are making accommodations for staff. And so it discourages divisions from hiring people with disabilities because it reduces the budget they get to spend on other things,” she said.

“So there is built-in discrimination,” she said. “To me, it is an issue of equity.”

Ironically, there is a global accessibility budget for city councillors who have used it for sign language interpretation or personal support workers at public meetings and other events, she noted. “It’s always under-drawn,” she added.

Wong-Tam said she was disappointed the motion failed in 2017, but is working to “make councillors more aware of the issue” this time.

Councillor Gary Crawford, city budget chief and among those who defeated the motion two years ago, said he is reconsidering his earlier vote.

“We just have to make sure it goes through the proper budget process,” he said last week after the city’s executive committee backed the motion. “I am supportive.”

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Timmins Transit Brings High-Tech Wheelchair Safety to Buses

Timmins transit unveils new technology that will give riders in wheelchairs a safer and more comfortable ride. Sergio Arangio, CTV News Northern Ontario Videojournalist
Published Friday, September 27, 2019

TIMMINS — Timmins Transit officially revealed the addition of new wheelchair securement technology to one of its buses.

The Q’Straint Quantum system looks to give commuters in wheelchairs a safer and more independent ride, and Timmins Transit is one of the first in Ontario to use it.

“It allows the individual to not have to feel like you have to interrupt or disturb the driver or also it might be embarrassing to ask a question to be secured in front of all the other people on board,” said Jamie Millions, operations manager of Timmins Transit.

The system works by having the rider centre his or her wheelchair with its back to the system’s headrest, pressing the green-flashing button to the rider’s left to lower a securement arm, then squeezes the wheelchair in place, and actively adjusts pressure during the trip.

(Quantum wheelchair securement technology increases the independence and safety of passengers in wheelchairs. Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

When ready to disembark, riders simply press the green button again to exit.

Millions said it’s a much faster procedure than having the driver manually secure the wheelchair and can make the rider more comfortable.

“It’s fully automatic and that person has full independence,” said Millions.

The technology costs $15,000 per unit and can come pre-installed with new buses or retrofitted with existing ones.

Millions hopes to purchase a new bus with this system every year, as old buses get phased out, until the city’s entire 19-bus fleet has a unit installed.

David Rivard works with the Timmins Accessibility Advisory Committee and uses a motorized wheelchair. He got to give the new system a test drive and said he was impressed.

“I think it’s going to be very useful … not just for the people in the wheelchair, but for everybody else on the bus,” said Rivard.

Studies from the Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development suggest up to 94% of injuries wheelchair passengers face occur from tipping over during regular operations. Other studies also report up to 58% of wheelchair passenger injuries occurred from improper securement.

Rivard said many transit riders in wheelchairs will avoid asking to be manually secured out of embarrassment for holding up everyone’s commute. He says the Quantum system could be encouraging for riders.

“You don’t want a big wheelchair sliding around, so I think it’s going to be a lot safer for everybody and a lot more convenient,” said Rivard.

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Online Booking Coming to Para Transpo

Service improvement ‘long overdue,’ advocate says
Krystalle Ramlakhan · CBC News · Posted: Sep 13, 2019

Para Transpo users will soon be able to book trips online, something advocates have been calling for for years.

Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the city’s transit commission, and Coun. Jean Cloutier, the committee’s vice-chair, announced the proposed service improvement Friday morning at Ottawa City Hall. The full proposal will be detailed in a report to the transit commission on Nov. 20.

They’re proposing rolling out the service in two stages: initially, customers would be able to book a Para Transpo trip using an online web form, which would be available by the end of 2019.

The second stage of the project would see OC Transpo working with its software supplier to develop a full suite of online services that would, among other things, allow customers to book, confirm or cancel trips using a computer, laptop or mobile app on a smart phone. They’d also be able to track their ride as it’s arriving.

That full suite of online services would be in place by the end of 2020.

‘This is long overdue’

Para Transpo customers have long complained about long waits on the phone when they call to book a trip.

The online service is expected to reduce call volumes and therefore wait times for those who continue to call, according to a news release from the city.

“This is long overdue, and the sad thing is is that people are having to book their rides and wait on hold for sometimes an hour, sometimes two hours because there’s not enough people answering the phones in the OC Transpo call centre,” said Trevor Haché, a board member with the Healthy Transportation Coalition, which advocates for transportation equity.

Haché noted Toronto has had online booking for its accessible transit service since 2010.

“You can imagine if your daily experience means that you have to wait on hold for two hours every day to book a trip somewhere. It’s very inconvenient, and so it’s a real injustice,” he said.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson welcomed the news Friday.

”I am delighted that action is being taken by the Transit Commission and OC Transpo to provide online services for Para Transpo customers starting this year,” Watson said in the news release.

“Using online technology will give people a more convenient option for booking their trips, while freeing up capacity on the phone system for those who wish to continue using it,” Hubley said in the release.

About the Author

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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New ‘Dynamic’ Accessibility Symbol in Cambridge a Long Time Coming: Advocates

Old ‘giant wheelchair’ was outdated and not as inclusive, says city rep

Tayo Bero · CBC News · Posted: Sep 06, 2019

The Dynamic Accessibility Symbol is being rolled out in Cambridge this month. Developed by accessibility advocacy group The Forward Movement, the symbol emphasizes the person in motion, not the wheelchair. (The Forward Movement)

The traditional accessibility symbol in Cambridge is getting a facelift, thanks to a recent push from accessibility advocates in the city.

This week, Cambridge city council voted unanimously to approve a new accessibility logo for use on public property.

The change has been a long time coming, said Sheri Roberts, chair of the city’s accessibility advisory committee who pushed for the change.

The new logo is more dynamic and inclusive of people with disabilities, she said.

“It’s more about the message that it’s sending that people with disabilities are moving through our communities and are active and very engaged in the community,” she told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

Roberts said residents can soon see the new symbol on the painted portion of accessible parking spots, in change rooms without a washroom, at service counters and anywhere with accessible seating.

Going forward, any new projects in the city will also bear the new signage.

They will have to keep using the old, officially legislated symbol in washrooms and on poles in front of parking spots.

Cambridge hopes other municipalities will join them and cities like Mississauga, Hamilton and Toronto in using the new signs.

“I’m just hopeful that we can set a nice precedent, and other municipalities will follow suit,” Roberts said.

The city hopes to put in the first one right by city hall, in a painting party planned for September 20.

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Niagara Business Campaign Encourages Accessibility

by Sarah Ferguson
Niagara This Week – Welland|

Rhys Evans looks at the world much differently than most people do.

The 27-year-old Pelham man, who has cerebral palsy, relies on a wheelchair to get around.

“That’s been my mode of transportation my whole life,” the Niagara College student said.

There’s a lot of planning that goes into leaving the house. When he goes out for weekly shopping trips, or out for a bite to eat with friends, or even just to stop for a coffee, Evans must first consider if he can even get his wheelchair into a business, if the door has an accessible button to open it for him, or whether he’ll be able to wheel his chair into a bathroom.

“One of the biggest things is going into a restaurant is if my knees can clear the table while sitting in my wheelchair. I’d say it happens one in three restaurants where I can’t.”

When he was approached by former Pelham mayor Dave Augustyn last year and asked to join Niagara’s joint accessibility advisory committee (JAAC), it was a no-brainer for Evans.

“I wanted to do something to help so 27 years from now when today’s babies have grown up, they don’t have to go through the things that I have gone through.”

The committee consists of representatives from Grimsby, Lincoln, West Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham and Thorold and its goal to is identify and break down barriers for people with disabilities in their communities.

One of the initiatives the committee has taken on is the We Are Accessible campaign Evans said will be launched in September, to encourage businesses to identify themselves as accessible.

“This campaign is perfect in terms of timing because of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) legislation, which requires businesses to be fully accessible by 2025.”

Evans said businesses should already be working toward becoming more accessible.

As per the campaign, residents can nominate local businesses, and business owners are welcome to nominate their own establishments.

Evans said a committee member will assess a business using a checklist of items. If a nominee is successful, he or she will receive a We Are Accessible sticker to place in the window of their businesses.

“We’ll look at a lot of things, but the biggest question to answer is if I can use your facility and use your services just as an able-bodied person would be able to do.”

The review will provide business owners with feedback with things they can improve and if they aren’t successful the first time, employers can reapply for the campaign.

For more information about the campaign Evans encourages people to send an email to [email protected] or call 905-380-4782.

Evans said he and other people living with a disability wants what everyone wants; a base level of humanity and dignity.

“There’s a common misconception that just because I am in a wheelchair, I can’t do the same things other people can do,” Evans said, and added that it isn’t true.

“No politician has ever put accessibility in their platform,” he said.

Port Colborne’s Bryan Ingram agrees and said he would like to see the provincial and federal government offering a similar program.

“I’d love to see more government involvement on this. It’s great to have something like the AODA but it has no teeth. There’s no compliance unless a complaint is lodged,” Ingram said.

He thinks the We Are Accessible campaign is a good start, but it’s one step on what he said is a long journey toward raising awareness and promoting accessibility for all Niagara residents.

“I’d love for this to be the biggest success on the planet,” he said.

Ingram reaffirmed the JAAC is doing great work and he hopes more businesses will catch onto the campaign.

A staunch advocate for people living with disabilities, Ingram relies on the use of a wheelchair to get around.

He sits on Port Colborne’s accessibility advisory committee and prior to that, ran a consulting business to help employers become compliant with the AODA.

He said there are many benefits to creating an environment that is accessible for everyone.

Both men said there is a difference between accessibility guidelines under Ontario’s regulations and functional accessibility.

“A business that offer level access to a person with a disability doesn’t have to do anything other than have a bar in the bathroom to be accessible,” Ingram said.

What makes a difference is whether there’s enough space to easily manoeuvre a chair in and out of the bathroom, and if there are obstacles in the way, which might be business supplies.

“Having an accessibly bathroom is great but if you can’t get into it, what good is it?” Ingram said.

“Being accessibility doesn’t just serve people with a disability, it also serves aging people, mothers with strollers, an athlete with injuries on crutches for six to eight weeks,” he said.

Sarah Ferguson

Sarah Ferguson is a reporter and photographer covering the communities of south Niagara for Niagara This Week in addition to contributing to Niagara Life Magazine. She’s a lifelong Niagara resident and a graduate of Niagara College’s Journalism-Print program. Find her on Twitter @@s_ferguson25. Email: [email protected]

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Ensuring Accessible Content for All Students

By Steven M. Baule
June 24th, 2019

There are four major areas educators can check to ensure digital materials include accessible content for all students

This summer, many faculty will work on developing or revising curricular content for their courses. One of the keys in developing new digital materials is verifying that those materials offer accessible content for all students.

Today, most learning management systems (LMS) and software programs offer some level of accessibility compliance checking. However, they are not always thorough or error-free.

For instance, some PowerPoint templates show less-than-ideal contrast between text and background colors. Many YouTube videos include closed captioning, but the automatic captioning often leaves something to be desired. Taking the time to review accessibility of materials makes sense to ensure all students can experience success instead of frustration.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are a checklist of items to consider in developing accessible websites or other digital documents. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines were published in 2008, so they are well established. Unfortunately, they are not well implemented. WCAG 2.0 has three levels of compliance from least to most restrictive: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA. Level AAA is considered to be difficult for some new technologies to embrace immediately, so Level AA is considered an acceptable standard for digital resources. W3C, which is the entity responsible for issuing the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, maintains a listing of compliance tools for evaluating websites. The list also includes tools to check the compliance against the federal Access Board’s Section 508 standards and those of several other nations. Google provides a web development tool called Lighthouse that offers performance and accessibility audits.

WebAIM did an analysis of the top 1 million websites earlier this year. They used WCAG 2.0 Level A/AAthe lower two levels of complianceand estimated that less than 1 percent or so of commonly accessed websites conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA. They found on average 59.6 average accessibility errors per page. According to WebAIM, users with disabilities should expect to encounter an error on 1 of every 13 HTML elements with which they interact. A complete summary of the results is available at

Four common barriers to accessible content for all students

The four most prevalent issues identified by WebAIM’s study were items lacking contrast, missing alternative text tags for images, empty or broken links, and missing form labels. Eighty-five percent of homepages have issues with presenting low contrast text. Nearly 68 percent of pages were missing alternative text for images. More than half of the websites included empty links or missing form labels.

Two great tools for checking the contrast ratio of text and its background are WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker and As a reminder, WCAG 2.0 Level AA asks for a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for regular text and 3:1 for large text. Level AAA asks for 7:1 of higher ratio for regular text and 4.5:1 for large text. Muzli has an excellent in-depth article on the science of color design. If you don’t want to stay with black text on a white background, stay with the tried and true color combinations used on informational road signs, white on blue and black on yellow. The reverse of those schemes are equally effective.

Ensuring the alt text tags are not missing is another important topic both for websites and documents included informational images. SEO Site Checkup has a simple Image Alt Test scanner for any URL. Screamingfrog has a good article on how identify those missing alt text tags. Adobe has excellent help resources to help users create and verify PDF accessibility. Microsoft Office provides similar help to create accessible MS Office documents.


Always compliant, always AbleDocs
AbleDocs makes document accessibility fast, easy, secure, and cost-effective. With best-in-class technology and deep category expertise, Abledocs offers solutions that are compliant every single time visit

Most LMSs and other web tools include link verification tools to assist in ensuring there are no broken or empty links on a website. However, with the fluid nature of the web, links break constantly. Additionally, some links created by Java script are difficult for those with disabilities to access. Links to other formats, like pdfs and docx files should include those identifications within the link text, so users except that file type. WebAIM includes a detailed article on links and hypertext. As an example, CANVAS’s support for error checking is linked. Brightspace/D2L has a process for resolving broken links as well.

Ensuring form labels is not a consideration for most digital documents, but it is for web documents and some Adobe Acrobat documents as well. Google provides four ways to provide labels to every element in a web-based from. Adobe support for labeling forms is available as well.

Although there are other potential accessibility issues with websites and digital documents, addressing the four most common issues identified above will go a long way towards improving accessible content for all students.

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Even with Success, Disability Advocates and Allies Face a Long Hard Road

Keenan Wellar
June 6, 2019

Editors note: While this wire is about protecting the rights of citizens with disabilities in Canada, it pertains also to this country where, despite the existence of the Americans with Disabilities Act, advocates have recently been forced to fight regressions in funding that would force many people into institutions. As we know, in this as in other efforts to achieve equity, the fight by no means ends with the passage of a law.

According to Statistics Canadas 2017 Survey on Disability, some 22 percent of Canadians over the age of 15 have at least one disability that limits their everyday activities. Canada has various existing frameworks for protecting the rights of citizens with disabilities (including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act), as do the provinces. (Some even have their own accessibility legislation, such as the AODA in Ontario.) But fundamental issues of accessibility and exclusion are, to varying degrees, a daily challenge for more than six million Canadians.

Witness the recent situation of a couple reportedly left abandoned in their wheelchairs at Vancouver International Airport for 12 hours, with two different airlines disputing their responsibility and accountability in the matter. This example is seen as a case in point by advocates like David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, who points to the lack of standards to ensure the safety and security of citizens with disabilities.

It is appalling treatment, Lepofsky says. The regulator should make it clear that airlines cant pass the buck to each other. I dread entering Canadian airspace if Im travelling alonenot because the service is always bad, but because its not reliably and consistently good.

According to Lepofsky, current avenues for recourse have proven less than satisfying to those who make the effort. The Canadian Transportation Agency, where youre often kicked to, does not, from the perspective of people with disabilities, have a good track record in this area.

For answers to these and other accessibility grievances, disability advocates in Canada have looked south for decades, where the Americans with Disabilities Act has been in place since 1990, signed into law under President George H.W. Bush. The history of ADA enforcement is a fascinating read, featuring everything from an accessible Riverwalk in Milwaukee to a $6.2 million judgement against Sears for failing to properly accommodate employees with disabilities.

Writing in NPQ in 2013 on the acts 23rd anniversary, Rick Cohen summarized progress and challenges related to the ADA, noting that this important legislation didnt solve problems in one fell swoop. Rather, it is a tool that the nonprofit sector can use to address the needs of persons with disabilities.

Last week, after numerous delays in the senate and the adoption of a number of amendments, on the evening of May 29, 2019, MPs voted unanimous consent for Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada (ACA), which is now awaiting royal assent before it becomes law.

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility and a former Paralympic athlete, has in many ways been the public face of Bill C-81 and its three-year journey to the May 29th vote.

I am extremely proud of the work we have done in creating this transformative piece of legislation that will improve the lives of millions of persons with disabilities, said Qualtrough.

As with the ADA experience, supporters of the ACA understand that change will not come overnight, that is has limited reach (primarily the federal government itself and the industries it regulates), and that there will continue to be issues with regulation and enforcement. But after years (and for some, decades) of work, they are nevertheless celebrating an outcome that is evidence of progress towards the ultimate goal of a barrier-free society.

ARCH Disability Law Centre is one of the charitable organizations that has been actively promoting the strengthening of Bill C-81 and for many years prior also worked closely with Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), AODA Alliance, and over 90 national, provincial, and local disability groups.

Advocating to strengthen Bill C-81 has provided opportunities for disability communities to work together, says Kerri Joffe, ARCH Staff Lawyer. It has been a privilege to work closely with so many dedicated advocates. The Accessible Canada Act is stronger because of their tireless work.

Along with their allies, ARCH also pointed to a weakness in ACA that was never addressed, noting in their press release response to the Bills passage:

The use of permissive language may rather than directive language shall or must in the Accessible Canada Actgives government, the Canadian Transportation Agency, the CRTC and other bodies power to make and enforce the new accessibility requirements, but does not actually require them to use these powers.

The opposition parties supporting the bill also engaged in a combination of praise and concern. Conservative MP Luc Berthold made a lengthy and at times very personal speech prior to the final vote, discussing his involvement in supporting causes related to cerebral palsy and how this changed his perspective. Everywhere I go, every organization or public building I visit, anytime I play a sport or recreational activity, I always take some time to ask myself whether the space is accessible by all, said Berthold, before expressing a series of concerns: Even with the [Senate] amendments, the bill uses permissive language, as I already mentioned. If possible, I hope that the ministers who will be implementing the bill will change may to must. If they make this personal, they will be able to do it. The bill says that they may do it, and I hope that they will. Cheryl Hardcastle, New Democratic Party (NDP) Critic for Persons Living with Disabilities noted that C-81 confusingly splinters enforcement and implementation over four different public agencies, rather than providing people with disabilities with the simple one-stop-shopping they need.

Taking these concerns in light of the example of stranded couple at the Vancouver airport, there might still be unacceptable bureaucratic barriers to registering and resolving a complaint. However, the ACA certainly offers the possibility of significant incentives for the cooperation of federally regulated industries, with possible fines as high as $250,000 for travel providers (including airlines). The ACA should serve as a tool to force needed improvements to situations that currently can only be potentially addressed through lengthy human rights processes.

Not to be overlooked, the ACA will have a significant impact on the more than 250,000 employees of the federal public service. The Public Service Alliance of Canada, a union representing more than 180,000 of these workers, welcomed the Accessible Canada Act and its accompanying Accessibility Strategy for the Federal Public Service as important first steps. Chris Aylward, PSAC National President, cautions, we must make sure that these are not just documents that sit on a shelfthey must be implemented and make a real difference in the day-to-day lives of people with disabilities.

The ACA passed the House during National AccessAbility Week, which offered opportunities for celebrating some of what is possible when principles of accessibility and inclusion are indeed put into action. This included a ceremony to celebrate a partnership with Ottawa-based charity LiveWorkPlay for a historic result of hiring of more than 70 persons with intellectual disabilities and/or autism in 25 different federal government agencies and departments.

With the proposed legislation our government is transforming how we think about accessibility and work towards a Canada without barriers, we know this is an important culture change and LiveWorkPlay is helping us achieve that vision, said MP Kate Young, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Qualtrough.

Despite the passage of Bill C-81 and a week-long celebration of meaningful results related to accessibility, its unlikely that everyday citizens are aware of the ACA, its importance, or the issues it hopes to address. Mainstream media coverage was unbelievably scant, and this did not go unnoticed by those who have been toiling in the trenches. A final word from Greg Thomson of the AODA Alliance:

This is a newsworthy subject. This bill directly affects the needs of over five million people with disabilities in Canada. It ultimately addresses the needs of all in Canada, since everyone is bound to get a disability as they age. The media should reflect on this. It is profoundly regrettable that the medias preoccupation with certain scandals and perceived headline-grabbing issues has left far too many Canadians unaware that there even was a Bill C-81 or a campaign to get it strengthened.

Keenan Wellar

Disclosure: Keenan Wellar works for LiveWorkPlay and was a part of the ceremony.

Original at

Accessibility News

“The Premier Online Magazine for Disability Accessibility”


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