[nfbmi-talk] oh canada

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Wed Dec 1 11:42:06 CST 2010


Judge orders federal government to make websites accessible to the blind

Published On Mon Nov 29 2010

Donna Jodhan, a special-needs business consultant with an MBA, won a constitutional challenge to grant visually impaired people equal access to services

and information on federal government websites.

 

Donna Jodhan, a special-needs business consultant with an MBA, won a constitutional challenge to grant visually impaired people equal access to services

and information on federal government websites.

Darren Calabrese/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Nicki Thomas Staff Reporter

 

A federal court judge has ordered Ottawa to make all of government websites accessible to the blind within 15 months.

 

In a ruling issued Monday, Justice Michael Kelen found the federal government had discriminated against a blind Toronto woman and other visually impaired

people through its lax or even obsolete online accessibility standards.

 

Donna Jodhan, an accessibility consultant and one of the first blind people in Canada to earn an MBA, launched a constitutional court challenge three years

ago after she was unable to apply for government jobs or complete the 2006 Census online.

 

She argued that her equality rights were being violated.

 

Government lawyers fought back, arguing that the visually impaired people were “reasonably accommodated” because they could access the same information

available online, in person, by telephone and by mail.

 

But Kelen sided with Jodhan, stating that her Charter rights were infringed upon when she was denied access to government services and information on the

basis of her physical disability.

 

“I’m delighted,” Jodhan told the Star Monday afternoon, adding that she hopes the decision will motivate other visually impaired Canadians.

 

“We need to feel like we can stand up for what is rightly ours, that we should not be afraid to do so,” she said.

 

There are about three million Canadians who have visual or other impairments that make it difficult to access the Internet. Blind people can access websites

using software like “screen readers,” which read content aloud, and devices that convert content to Braille.

 

Accessibility standards updated by the government in 2007 were not being enforced or implemented and some were obsolete, Kelen wrote in his judgment.

 

Jodhan’s inability to access departmental websites represents “a system wide failure by many of the 146 government departments and agencies to make their

websites accessible,” the judge wrote.

 

Jay Denning, a spokesman for the Treasury Board of Canada, said the government is still reviewing the decision. He was not aware of any plans to appeal.

 

John Rafferty, CEO of the Canadian Institute of the Blind, said that while the judgment is “phenomenally encouraging,” the legal battle shouldn’t have been

necessary.

 

“We shouldn’t have had to fight,” he said.

 

Toronto Star    

 

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/898704--judge-orders-federal-government-to-make-websites-accessible-to-the-blind



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