December 5, 2016
The Parliamentary Committee released its report “Strengthening Democracy in Canada : Principles, Process and Public Engagement for Electoral Reform” last Thursday only in pdf which it knew was unreadable by blind electors.
“It is ironic and very disturbing that the same day Ministers Qualtrough and Dion announced that Canada was moving to sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities that a report of importance to all electors was released in a format that Canadians who are blind could not read,” says John Rae, a long time disability rights advocate.
“I just want to be able to read the Report at the same time as my sighted counterparts,” said Rae, “And I believe it is reasonable for me to expect access to government reports at the same time as sighted Canadians,” he added.
“Being forced to wait a few days for an accessible version puts me in a second class position, which amounts to discrimination, and I am tired of being treated in this way” said Rae.
Access to information is vital to citizen participation, including Canadians who have any kind of disability.
“Too often I receive documents in an unreadable pdf format,” said Rae, “and with today’s technology, there is no excuse for not issuing reports in an accessible format that is easy for all to read.” This can include an accessible pdf format, and “I do receive many items in pdf that I can read, so there is no reason why the Government of Canada can’t provide its reports that are fully accessible,” added Rae.
“The Government of Canada must lead the way in removing old and existing barriers and, at the same time, it must ensure that no new barriers are put in our place,” said Rae.
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons With Disabilities, is working hard to create Federal accessibility Legislation which we all hope will ensure full participation in all activities under federal jurisdiction, like telecommunications, transportation, and the federal public service. “Why then is the same government releasing a Report that excludes people who are blind from a fundamental right to read and participate equally in the discourse about something that is considered so vital in any democracy the right to vote,” asks Rae?
I will be discussing the possibility of filing a complaint of discrimination through the Canadian Human Rights Commission.