The "Public Eye"

Noun. public eyepublic eye - a focus of public attention; "he enjoyed being in the limelight"; "when Congress investigates it brings the full glare of publicity to the agency"

Say what you will the news is what counts when it is information you need.


Why I launched my Charter challenge regarding Federal Government Websites
– a right to information
by Donna Jodhan

ARCH would like to thank Donna Jodhan for her contribution to this edition of ARCH Alert

We are living in an information society and a knowledge-based economy where in order to survive, we need information to help us make vital and timely decisions.

Just imagine not being able to obtain information in a readable format. Just imagine having to wait for months to receive important information that you have requested through a Federal Government phone line. Just imagine not being able to access Federal Government websites to apply for jobs or request certain confidential information because you are unable to read them. This is why I, as a Blind Canadian, launched my Charter Challenge against the Federal Government in mid 2007. I am not seeking any personal or monetary compensation. All I seek is for our Government to honour and protect the rights of Blind, vision impaired, and Deaf/Blind Canadians. I go in the name of over three million print disabled, Blind, vision impaired, and Deaf/Blind Canadians and in the name of those kids of the future who as innocent victims are counting on us to ensure that their legitimate rights are protected.

In late 2006, my lawyers at Bakerlaw wrote to the Honourable. John Baird, who was then President of the Treasury Board, requesting that he make all Federal Government websites accessible to all Canadians so that everyone would have equal access to information and related web content. Regretfully, Mr. Baird refused and in June of 2007 and with assistance from the now defunct Court Challenges Program, Bakerlaw filed court documents outlining my claim that the Federal Government was violating my rights under the Charter.

The Federal Government's attempt to have my case stayed failed and for the next two years settlement discussions ensued but unfortunately they ended in failure. On September 21, 2010 my team and I will be attending Federal Court in Toronto in an attempt to force our Government to stop wasting precious taxpayer's funds in defending its actions in this case and use these funds instead to make their websites, and related information and web content accessible to all Blind, vision impaired, and Deaf/Blind Canadians.

If we are unable to stop the Government from continuing to trample on our rights, then I am afraid that much sooner than later, print disabled Canadians including those mentioned thus far, will find themselves in a world of total darkness with nowhere to turn. We are not asking for a handout; we are demanding that our Government legitimize our rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights.

We are demanding that like every sighted Canadian, we be given equal access to all Federal Government websites along with equal access to related information and web content. We are asking that we receive information in a format that we can read; in Braille, large print, and in electronic formats so that we do not have to wait for a sighted friend or family member to read it to us. We demand that the Government take steps to have their forms created in a manner that can be read by the access technology software used by Blind, vision impaired, and Deaf/Blind persons so that we can complete them with independence and dignity.

At the present time, the majority of Federal Government websites contain forms with fields that are not well labeled. In other words, the fields that need to be filled in or those that are mandatory are not highlighted and as a result the access technology software mentioned above is unable to decipher them. As it stands today, Blind, vision impaired, and Deaf/Blind Canadians are unable to make important decisions for themselves and need sighted assistance to do so. These can be decisions that directly pertain to their health, their social and financial well beings, and decisions that affect their security and public safety.

We ask that you come out and support us by attending Federal Court on any of the days;
September 21 to 23, 2010
Location; 180 Queen Street West, Toronto.
Time; 9:30 am.

If you are unable to attend Court then why not send an email to Rob Nicholson, our esteemed minister responsible at nichor@parl.gc.ca expressing your support for this matter.

To contact me, please send an email to djodhan@blindcanadians.ca and I will respond as soon as I can.
I wish to thank my lawyers at Bakerlaw; David Baker and Meryl Gary. Jutta Treviranus and Jan Richards; my accessibility experts and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC).