By: Tim Alamenciak News reporter, Published on Mon Aug 26 2013
Disability advocate David Lepofsky says an email incompatible with screen-reading software underlines how Ontario is lagging on accessibility.
The Pan Am/Parapan Am Games organizers invited accessibility advocate David Lepofsky to a press conference. But the blind lawyer couldn’t read the email they sent – he uses software that reads text and their invitation was in an inaccessible image not compatible with his software.
The 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games organizers have run afoul of disability advocates with an email invitation that isn’t readable by programs commonly used by the blind.
David Lepofsky, a lawyer and chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said the games secretariat sent the email in a format not compatible with his screen-reading software.
“The government wants to showcase for the world how we’re doing, including how we’re doing on accessibility, and this is a pretty bad way to start,” said Lepofsky.
The invitation to an event announcing province-wide plans for the games was emailed on Aug. 22 to 534 recipients as an image attachment, rather than as plain text in the email body. That format can’t be read by software used by blind people such as Lepofsky.
In this instance, the secretariat was using a new email system to send out the invitations and an error was made in setting up the email delivery options in the application,” explained Padma de Souza, spokeswoman for the provincial body overseeing Ontario’s financial commitment to the games.
“I don’t think anybody is being malicious; they never are,” Lepofsky said. “People don’t say, ‘Let’s create an inaccessible document so blind people can’t read it.’ That’s not what we’re fighting against. We’re fighting against people who do exactly this — they don’t think about it and they get it wrong.”
Lepofsky, who is well-known for leading the charge to have TTC vehicles routinely announce stops, replied to the email immediately but, as of Monday afternoon, still had not heard from government officials.
De Souza said the ministry will reissue the invitation in an accessible format and take steps to avoid the problem in the future.
“This is just an illustration of a simple thing they can do. And it’s in relation to an initiative that relates in part to accessibility, namely the Pan and Parapan Games, and it’s being done with government money. If they can’t get the little things straight, how can we be confident on the bigger things?” said Lepofsky.
The government set a deadline, when it passed the 2005 Disabilities Act, to become fully accessible by 2025.
The act is supposed to be reviewed every three years. The last independent report was tabled May 31, 2010, meaning the deadline for the latest report was May 31, 2013. The government is still in the process of appointing a reviewer.
“They still have missed the deadline. It’s 12 weeks later and they’re still in breach of their own law, and the first thing we’d want to tell the independent review is: Hey, they can’t even ensure their own emails are accessible,” said Lepofsky