Statistics Canada is still missing the target

Talk about a department that still seems to be struggling when it comes to fully understanding the meaning of the word accessibility and its implications and you have the perfect recipe.  None other than Statistics Canada.

In 2005, I brought a Human Rights action against said department because of its unwillingness to make its job application process accessible to Blind Canadians.

In this case, Statistics Canada had refused to allow me to write an examination as part of the job application process in the same way that others were being allowed to.  Choosing instead to examine my credentials first before allowing me to write the exam whereas under normal circumstances it was allowing all other applicants to write the exam first and then examine their credentials.

Just imagine!  This high profile Canadian Federal Government Department proffered as one of its reasons/excuses that it would be too costly to provide me my exams in Braille and more shocking is that they had no idea as to where or how to obtain services that would enable them to provide me with exams in Braille.

In short, Statistics Canada had no idea when it came to the whole gambit of access technology and the meaning and implications of said technology.

Three years later in 2008, I won my case at the Human Rights Commission but this has done very little to place Statistics Canada on the path to progress.

In 2006, Statistics Canada again showed its inability to fully understand the meaning of accessibility as during the 2006 Canadian census its forms were only available to those using a specific screen reader.

Fast forward to 2016 and here is the picture.

During the month of May 2016 this department ran multiple TV ads urging Canadians to complete the census forms but guess what?  For whereas in the TV ads it stated that if you had any questions you could call the number on your screen there were no audio equivalents to tell someone with a vision disability where to call.

Then the forms showed up in our mail boxes and as someone who does not have anyone close at hand who is sighted to help me, I was left with a dilemma.

Question:  Where could I find someone who I trusted to read this to me?  Sure!  I could ask anyone of my friends but you know what?  They each told me how ashamed they were of our system that I had to depend on sighted assistance to help me out and above all; they each to a person expressed their dismay at how my privacy and independence were being violated.

So I decided to go hunting on the Internet for said phone number as outlined in the TV ad.

After some digging I found it with the assistance of a friend and I called it.  So as not to prolong this entire affair, I’ll outline the rest of my story in point form.

I called the number.

Said to the call taker that I was visually impaired and that I needed help.

When asked for my code that was sent to me in the form as mentioned above, told them that I could not read it because I was visually impaired.

Call taker then asked me if I would be willing to receive a Braille form which I could complete and return to Statistics Canada.

I told them that Braille forms could not be filled out and as someone who has been visually impaired all my life I felt that I was in a position to make this comment.

The call taker then checked with their supervisor who told them that I was not correct.

We discussed for the next five minutes and at the end I persisted in having them assist me to complete said form over the phone.

As I sit writing this editorial I still cannot believe that Statistics Canada continues to linger in the dark when it comes to how it interacts with Canadians who are blind and visually impaired.  This is an embarrassment at best.  It is unacceptable and is yet another example of how Canada continues to ignore the rights of Canadians who are blind and visually impaired.

True it is that this new government has mandated the passage of a Canadians with disabilities Act and I believe that it is the first time that any Canadian government has gone out of its way to pay attention to disabilities issues through the appointment of a specific minister to look after these issues.  However, something needs to be done when it comes to all governmental departments getting the message.

I truly commend the Trudeau Government for taking a step long overdue.  Now we need to ensure that it is carried out!

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