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Customer Service Standard Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On!

By Geof Collis
December 14, 2010

City of Kawartha Lakes cowardly hides behind the Provincial Government in its decision not to grant my request in the article
Access Watchdog Blasts City For PDFs of Minutes

Over a 12 business day span I had a one way email correspondence with my City for a simple request of documentation, the first one being part of the above article. Everyone was ignored, until the 16 th business day, coincidentally after the Article broke, the Mayor asked Staff to look into it.

I want to clarify a few mistakes Ms. Stonehouse has made in her statement in the article “Access Watchdog Blasts City For PDFs of Minutes”.

First off she is mistaken when she states:

“Collis is asking for a ‘tagged PDF’ which the city currently does not have.”

After speaking with Adam Spencer of Accessibilit-IT Inc. he informs me that some of the documents he checked on the City’s website are actually “Tagged”. 

The coding is not the quality his Company can achieve but they are tagged.

As I had written in my third correspondence to the City:

“Many of your documents such as By-Laws and Accessibility Plans  are already in an Accessible format that I am requesting, yet you ignore my request to have the same done to the Minutes and Agendas.” 

While they aren’t as good as they could be, I am willing to accept them until such time as they can make them fully accessible.

She also states:

“providing tagged PDFs could have a “significant financial impact” over the course of a year.”

Again after speaking with Mr Spencer this is not necessarily true and if they were to actually speak with his company they would find out that the cost is not that significant and might actually be cheaper than their current  process.

She finishes off by stating:

“She added that the city would have to go through the procurement process to select a company to do it.”

This summer I contacted the City with regards to their Community Brochure not being accessible and was informed that they contracted Accessibil-IT Inc. to make it accessible, if tendering it out is the process then why dont they go ahead? Accessibil-IT Inc. told me they would be all to happy to Bid.

I forwarded Accessibil-IT Inc.’s info to Jane Reynolds during the summer which she informed me she passed along to other departments.

I also wrote Ms. Stonehouse on September 15 of this year and copied Jane Reynolds and Judy Currins speaking to the inaccessibility of some of their documents using the term “like reading a roll of toilet paper” which prompted my article at “Your PDF’s are like Rolls of Toilet Paper!

Ms. Stonehouse also states:

“The city is asking for direction from the Ministry of Community and Social Services as to requirements under customer service standards”

Why do they need to do that” Making documents fully accessible is the goal of the AODA and just the right thing to do now!

The Government is also the last place to ask about PDF accessibility, they’re notorious for putting inaccessible PDFs on their websites.

However I did follow up with the Minister for Community and Social Services and asked them to give direction. They never bothered to respond by this writing to my query but 3 days later, 16 business days, the City finally responded

“The City has made contact with the Ministry of Community and Social Services regarding your request and most recently we are in receipt of the Ministry’s response quoting the Accessible Customer Service Standard, 429/07, regulated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.  The legislation reads; “If a provider of goods or services is required by this Regulation to give a copy of a document to a person with a disability, the provider shall give the person the document, or the information contained in the document, in a format that takes into account the person’s disability. O. Reg. 429/07, s. 9 (1).    

The Ministry noted that the standard does not prescribe what format to communicate in with a person with a disability but instead, it requires that an individual’s needs and circumstances are considered when communicating.  By providing the varied alternates the City already  provides, we have confirmed with the Ministry that we are fulfilling the requirement and are compliant with section 9 (1) of the Accessible Customer Service Standard.”

Cute!

They very conveniently left out part 2:

“(2) The provider of goods or services and the person with a disability may agree upon the format to be used for the document or information. O. Reg. 429/07,
s. 9 (2).”

So even though we’ve never had any conversation as to what format to “Agree upon” they are allowed to put up “Alternate” inaccessible formats and the Government says it is ok.
The City also goes on to say:

After careful review and giving consideration to provide as much assistance to the public as feasibly possible while being fiscally responsible, we are
informing you that at this time, the City is not in a position to provide information in an “accessible” PDF format, as an alternate means of communication
(and as described/suggested within your e-mail dated November 17, 2010).  We understand that the City has provided you with a previously acceptable format by providing Word document files and we will continue to do so.  Pursuing the provision of all documents in an “accessible” PDF format would involve substantial costs which are not required in light of the alternative already provided.  As you know, we have provided documents in an accessible PDF  format (currently the Community Services Guide is our only document), but this is only when a Word document option is not available to us.  We will continue to be responsive in these situations should they occur in the future. Additionally, we can provide you with another alternate such as large print copy or a voice recording. 
 
What it boils down to is the City of Kawartha Lakes is allowed to selectively discriminate, they are already putting up some documents in the accessible format that I was requesting but with the backing of the Provincial Government they wont do the same for the ones I am requesting and as Adam Spencer stated above, unless you actually do a cost analysis you cant hide behind “Fiscal responsibility” and they aren’t even aware that they have more than just the Accessible document they spoke of.

It appears that it is the City’s attitude that they wont do the right thing until they are forced to and will just hide behind the Government decision

So much for the Customer Service Standard, it isn’t what 2 parties “Mutually agree upon as the alternate format” it is what they “Want to give you” and they have the full backing of the Government.

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