Submitted by Chris Stark on Tue, 11/15/2016 - 20:41

 

November 6 2016

 

Inclusion by Design accessible by Default: The Role of Federal Government of Canada Departments and Agencies to be incorporated in the Accessible Canada Act

By Chris Stark and Marie Stark

 

Answers to Question broad areas for Accessible Canada act

 

 INTRODUCTION

In this submission, we want to focus on the leadership role of the Federal Government in an Accessible Canada Act, which we view as critical for the full participation of persons with disabilities in Canada. The Federal Government must lead by example!

This submission also illustrates many examples of how the will of parliament has been defied and thwarted by federal departments, agencies, tribunals and boards.

 

***  The Government of Canada MUST put its internal house in order as Job One.

 

A good summary of the actions of Parliament is contained in

Overview of Studies Related to Persons with Disabilities, House of Commons 1981–2012

Chantal Collin, Social Affairs Division
2 October 2012

http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/ResearchPublications/2012-84-e.htm

 

EMPLOYMENT

Another important report that should be reviewed is the final report of the Interdepartmental Task Force on the Integration of Employees with Disabilities Through Information and Communications Technnology entitled “Access for All Through Technology: Towards an Accessible and Inclusive Information Technology Environment”, commonly referred to as the Lyrette Report. It is a thorough review of the accessibility of work tools in the federal workplace produced several years ago. Most of its recommendations were not implemented but do have the same level of urgency and applicability to the work environment today. It is suggested that the lack of younger  employees who cannot see, among many others with disabilities, starting careers in the federal workplace, as well as career development, stems from the failure to implement this report.

 

Following the Obstacles report of 1981, the Federal Government initiated a number of proactive measures to support the independence and participation of people who have disabilities in the workplace of the Government of Canada, including the Access Program, which provided staff to help recruit persons with disabilities and funding to encourage managers to hire them.

 

In the early 2000s, the Federal Government began to dismantle these initiatives, as economy measures.  This included, in 2001, the sunset of the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program, which had provided funding for the previous five years to improve the representation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the fedral workplace. Even though it was acknowledged that much work was left to do before the government’s objectives were completed, the federal government began to abandon their employees and contractors with disabilities.

 

In May 2011, the Public Service Commission published a research study entitled “Recruitment of persons with Disabilities - A Literature Review” http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/plcy-pltq/eead-eeed/rprt/pwd-ph/index-eng.htm

It focused on the lack of recruitment of Persons with disabilities in the federal Public Service, provided examples of initiatives in Canada and other countries that are focused on improving recruitment and retention of PWDs, and included recommendations for improvement in this area. 

 

*** As a general set of Recommendations from two retired public servants who are proud and blind, we offer these practical measures.

 

The Government of Canada should once again become a leading innovator and advocate for the inclusion of persons with disabilities by taking direct action.

The merit system is often used to discourage the hiring of new Public Servants with disabilities, as new hires reports show. “Hiring the best and the brightest” is in the eye of the beholder and has nothing to do with actual work effectiveness. The best and the  brightest has been used as a marketing tool in the recruitment and hiring processes, thus the continued exclusion of persons with severe disabilities by the Government of Canada in its workplace. The government has only been paying lip service to the inclusion of persons with severe disabilities in the federal government workplace.

The lack of leadership as an inclusive workplace for persons with disabilities can be seen by the situation of citizens with disabilities in Canada today.

 

Quote begins

Canadians with disabilities: By the numbers

 

                  The Toronto Star

<http://newspapers.web.ca/news/nr/en/The%20Toronto%20Star>  , Aug. 28, 2016

 

14 Percentage of Canadians aged 15 and older with a disability that limits their daily activities.

 

411,600 People aged 15 to 64 not employed, whose disability does not prevent them from working.

 

127,700 Unemployed people with disabilities who have post-secondary educations.

 

50 Percentage of Canadian human rights complaints related to disabilities between 2011 and 2015.

 

6 Percentage of Canadian human rights complaints related to inaccessible services.

 

2.1 million Canadians 15 or older at risk of facing physical or communication barriers.

 

Quote Ends

 

Inclusion is more than money. It is acceptance too. The Government of Canada must stop victimizing people with disabilitys by lack of leadership and start walking the talk.

 

*** The new Act should require that the Federal Government reinstate the Public Service Commission’s Access Program to help place persons with severe disabilities in jobs within the Federal Government. This program hired persons with disabilities to work directly with department managers with openings to facilitate the inclusion of people with severe disabilities (the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Functioning,  Disability and Health framework of disability as used by Statistics Canada). Despite being extremely successful in a practical way, this program was closed in the early 90s.

 

*** The new Act should designate certain functions as dedicated to persons with a cognitive disability. This program was also shut down, and many people who enjoyed the opportunity to come to work to care for plants, shred paper, and many other jobs were abandoned by the Federal Government and their tasks were contracted out to the private sector without any protection for inclusion of persons with disabilities.

 

*** The new Act should require all internal facing web sites, electronic systems like time reporting, leave tracking, pay and benefits, file management and other work tools to be fully accessible and usable by people who are blind, including employees who are blind,  before they are rolled out.

 

The Phoenix pay system is the latest of a long list of electronic work tools which are not usable by employees who are blind. The active exclusion of people who are blind from functioning effectively and efficiently in the federal work place is a reality today.

 

*** The new Act should require that the Assistive Devices Program and the Technical Aids Loan Bank be reinstated as a central service, like Shared Services Canada, as core activity with dedicated realistic funding.

As part of decentralization, these services were first delegated to individual organizations, and subsequently line managers without a dedicated envelope of money. Thus managers now try to avoid hiring people with disabilities, particularly those who cannot see, because of their budget squeeze. This is one of the main reasons for the new hires statistics for persons with disabilities are so low and abysmal, when they should be much higher than the employment equity minimums.

Another side effect of this funding of adaptive equipment barrier  is that part time, casual, temporary, and term employment opportunities are routinely denied to persons with disabilities because of the adaptive equipment cost issue and the lack of accessibility in the federal workplace, particularly for persons who cannot see.

 

*** The new Act should require that entry level and all forms of casual employment opportunities be made available to persons who are disabled, particularly those who cannot see, as a matter of legislated obligation.

 

*** The new Act should require all federal purchases of goods and services to  be fully usable by persons with disabilities as a contractual condition of signing every contract from drone pilot to computer help desk staff contracts .  This requirement has been in place for a decade and as a matter of routine reduced from a manditory requirement to a nice to have option, for administrative convenience of Public Works Canada.

 

*** The Federal Government should require that annually 5% of new hires be persons with disabilities.

 

*** The new Act should require that all programs targeted towards persons with disabilities be required to have at least 33% of their staff dealing with the general public be persons with disabilities. This is nothing new, as many other programs like Aboriginal Affairs, Women’s Bureau, etc have had to walk the talk.

 

*** All funding of projects and grants to provincial governments, municipalities and the private sector have a disability usability non discretionary contractual obligation.

 

*** The new Act require ALL federal Government service centers for the public and ALL federal buildings have tactile wayfinding from the nearest street to permit persons who cannot see to find, enter and travel throughout these  buildings independently with the same level of independence as other Canadians

 

GOVERNMENT SERVICES

 

***Canada Post privatised postal outlets should be accessible. A case in point is the outlet at our Shoppers Drugstore which is barricaded by displays in the aisle that makes the aisle to narrow to walk with a service animal.

 

The new Act should require Canada Post to have tactile markings on all super mailboxes and keys. We have used a super mail box for 15 years and the identification of  which of the two parcel doors has our parsel when the key is left in our box is always a problem, particularly in the winter. Also a super mail box should have a wind shelter like a buss stop for use in the winter.

 

The new Act should require that Canada Post tracking mobile aps for smart phones and web sites should be usable by people who cannot see.

 

As elderly Retired Persons, we answer your general questions from that perspective.

 

YOUR QUESTION BEGINS

The  Government of Canada is seeking your ideas for this new legislation, including:

  • feedback on the overall goal and approach;  whom it should cover
  •  
  • YOUR QUESTION ENDS

 

 

  • ***Answer ;

All entities covered by federal jurisdiction, all entities doing business with the federal government, all entities of federal grants and funding including the provinces and territories, all foreign entities doing business in Canada such as tourist boards, landing rights, service providers, etc, Parliament of Canada, Federal Courts.

  The U.S., U.K., Australia have already adopted similar coverage for their citizens who are disabled.

 

YOUR QUESTION BEGINS

what accessibility issues and barriers it should address;

YOUR QUESTION ENDS

***Answer

 

First and foremost, it should address service barriers erected by the Federal Government. There needs to be an inclusion lens  with teeth  that meets user needs, independent of the service delivery system.

Some examples of the problems are listed below from our experience as citizens who are blind:

VOTING

Election processes that do not allow people who are blind to verify their vote choice

**** Solution - Mandate an on line secure usable voting system for people with disabilities, and all Canadians, for that matter. .

CRA

 

The Canada Revenue Agency constantly auditing us year after year because we claim medical expenses for our guide dogs. This forces persons who are blind to deal with print receipts we cannot read. CRA routinly processes returns, provides refunds to look good, and then months later reassesses the same returns and takes the money back. Medical deductions are not dollar for dollar but a part of a complex tax   system designed to provide the alusion of relief. The medical deduction is very complex, restrictive and open to different interpretations by CRA folks each year. In reality less than 15 cents of every medical dollar spent results in any tax reduction as designed by CRA for the Government of Canada.   Other persons like quadraplegics  have similar discrimination because we all have to pay for help to deal with CRA predictable audits. CRA bullies vulnerable Canadians, thus most of the benefits claimed by the Government of Canada to help people with disabilities are nothing more than make work projects for government officials.

 

A couple of examples from this year’s CRA bullying are described below:

 

Even though guide dog costs are explicitly allowed as a medical expense, dog biscuits, rubber Kongs and other dog toys were disallowed for the first time this year. Braille books and talking books purchases were disallowed this year too. A print food receipt apparently was lost by CRA after we sent it in, and thus was disallowed. They can not even read the receipts we sent them to us to determine which ones are missing, and they do not return copies of receipts, so we can not even figure out what is missing. CRA has a duty to accommodate short of undue hardship under the Canadian Human Rights Act which they ignore on a consistent basis particularly when trying to figure out what they  have done.  When we talk to CRA they say these expenses are not reasonable, etc.

While the financial help is small, every little bit helps people who are retired and use guide dogs. There has to be a better way for the Parliament of Canada to help vulnerable Canadians like old people who cannot see live independently in the community for as long as possible!

 

One further point about CRA’s abusive treatment of vulnerable Canadians like Seniors who cannot see is that it encourages fraudsters to pretend they are CRA and try to extract money through intimidation. CRA could substantially reduce this harassment and fraud by changing its approach towards vulnerable Canadians who cannot see in particular, from one of exploitation to an approach of support and assistance.  

 

*** Solution - Give a Federal  cost of disability allowance to all and tax it back for the less than ten percent  of people who are blind living above the poverty line.

*** Make disability related deductions and Medical deductions count dollar for dollar for deduction from calculation of income.

*** The Federal Government should recognize the cost of disability and require Statistics Canada to annually determine and publically announce this figure.

INFORMATION SERVICES AND CONSULTATIONS

 

*** Federal program developers should be obligated to analyze their proposals through a disability inclusion lens, and include that information in background public documents that are easy to find for persons who cannot see, released when Budget and other  announcements are made by the Federal Government.

Many web sites and government consultations while accessible are not usable by the majority of severely disabled Canadians (a term defined by Statistics Canada

As a result of this interest by the Minister of Sport and People with Disabilities in this act as mandated in her mandate letter, there are at least 27 consultations and requests for comment that we know about started in 2016 as departments and programs scramble to position themselves in the new reality of citizens with a disability are included too, once again, in what matters to them.

).

***The Government of Canada should provide funding for individuals wishing to participate in consultations that would enable them to get a reader/writer to prepare their submission.

 

CRTC

Some ongoing consultations like those of the CRTC are so complex and complicated that it is not possible to easily participate as a person with a disability.

 

*** There should be a requirement for the CRTC and similar regulatory bodies to consult people with disabilities and not just the same old half a dozen organizations time after time, year after year! This consultation should be mandatory for all license renewals.

CRTC processes are a good example of complexity which makes it virtually impossible for persons with severe disabilities and thus with the greatest need, to be able to participate.  The CRTC exploits the information deprivation of people who are blind, thus we keep being left out.

COMPLAINT RESOLUTION

 

 CRTC do not even acknowledge receipts of complaints “The Commission will not formally acknowledge submissions.” The CRTC is a fine example of shirking its human rights obligations by shifting complaint resolution to an industry run process called Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. Without exception, no broadcasting entity or phone company has done anything for people who are blind without being required to do so by the CRTC. So the current telecommunications exclusions for people who are blind will continue to be perpetuated.

While some people who cannot see can use smartphones, others cannot, and in addition to the affordability issue there is also an ongoing accessibility issue for people who cannot see and have other challenges like essential tremors. The CRTC has been requested to address this problem and has refused!

The success of submissions from people who cannot see will continue to be dependent on how well we can accommodate people who can see through submission requirements such as visual formatting.

FEES FOR SERVICE

*** Federal Fees for persons with disabilities associated with services should be eliminated. The example which frustrates us is the $20 charge by the CFIA to certify a international health certificate required for travel with a dog being applied to guide dogs by the CFIA  when it is illegal in all service envirements such as air services to charge for the guide dog. It is discrimination like charging for a wheelchair when traveling.  

 

HEALTH CANADA AND ITS AGENCIES

 

*** All health Canada promotional material and health warnings should be available in a usable format by persons who are blind and not  be constantly refused by the Department and its Agencies, when requested!

 

Another important example of exclusion of people who cannot see is health and nutrition information, in particular product warnings, labeling and ingrediants.

An example of this exclusion is the answer received from  Health Canada.

Quote begins As you can see most of these considerations pertain to provisions relating to labelling for visually impaired individuals. The Canadian National Institute of the Blind could perhaps assist you further in the area of provisions for blind individuals.

Quote Ends

 

***Recommendation

The new Act through Omnibus provisions amend All Acts and Regulations designed to provide product information to Canadians to review their existing programs and report to Parliament on how people who cannot see access this information mandated by the Government of Canada in the marketplace, and

All new information provisions of the Federal Government for the health, education, well-being an safety of Canadians have a manditory criteria for approval that outlines how people who cannot see will receive equal access and benefit from these federal program initiatives.  

 

YOUR QUESTION BEGINS

 

  • how it could be monitored and enforced;

*** Answer

 

At present, enforcement  of  all federal protections for persons with disabilities  are complaint driven. Examples of this fact are the processes used by The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), The Canadian Radio and  Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), etc.

 

Federal complaint driven enforcement processes have several things in common. They all try to avoid their legislative responsibility by diverting complaints to the service provider, Informal confidential processes like mediation, or engaging in the jurisdiction  shuffle between departments and levels of government, etc. In all cases enforcement is dependent on complaints being lodged by vulnerable Canadians. These citizens are not even provided with legal aid in coping with General Rules and other judicial barriers to help them cope.  The intentional power imbalance between people who are among the most disadvantaged, undereducated, under employed and  poverty stricken Canadians and service providers  including federal departments, airlines and broadcasters  is bullying of the worst  kind. This intentional exploitation is worsened by the adjudicators like CTA and CRTC claiming that they are neutral third parties despite the legislative expectation that they will protect the human rights of persons with disabilities as the subject expertise. It is worth noting the lack of involvement of people with severe disabilities beyond tokenism  in all these organizations.

The only appeal of this abuse is  to the federal court which is not a practical option for most persons with disabilities.

 

*** It is recommended that:

A real time problem resolution mechanism be mandated to be operated by all tribunals    like CTA, CHRC and CRTC,

An automatic appeal process for persons with disabilities to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal be mandated after thirty days, and

The Tribunal be required to provide legal aid to all persons with disabilities to help with barrier removal.

The new Act should have an omnibus section  amending regulatory body’s acts like The Canada Transportation Act to shift the obligation for enforcement from the individual complaint consumer reality to a transparent  mandatory legislative obligation for these organizations who protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

YOUR QUESTION BEGINS  

 

  • when or how often it should be reviewed;

*** Answer

  • Every 4years by the Auditor General which has a social program review team. 
  • This review should be in parallel with a Ministerial consultation with Canadians with disabilities
  • YOUR QUESTION BEGINS
  •  
  • how and when to report to Canadians on its implementation;

***Answer

 

Public reports by the Auditor General every 5 years followed by a Parliamentary Committee hearing including an appearance by the Minister and subsequent recommendations to parliament for enhancements.

 

YOUR QUESTION BEGINS

 

  • how to more generally raise accessibility awareness and support organizations in improving accessibility.

***Answer

Generally, as outlined above, the Government of Canada should itself walk the talk by setting a visible and positive example as a role model for Canadian society.

*** The new Act should require all video advertising to include descriptive narration and closed captioning, as well as all news releases, publications, and the like routinely reference and depict persons with disabilities, as is already done for other designated groups, so that we can recognize that these materials apply to us

The federal government must resist the easy way out by passing the buck to the private sector. The federal government must actively avoid promoting the charitable medical model approach to disability.

 

*** The new act should establish a national Assistive Devices Funding Program. Some provinces have modest and out of date programs while other provinces and territories have none.

Since 1981, if not well before, awareness programs, special days, awareness training  and the like have been tried over and over without measurable evidence based success.

 

*** The new Act should require the creation of a disability promotion Champions group with a budget to raise the profile of people with disabilities in Canadian society. The objective should be the portrayal of the reality of disability in Canada today, not just the super disabled, the pitiable disabled, etc. but rather how Canadians with disabilities survive in Canadian society today.

Few know about the residential experiences of many people who cannot see or the poverty of those working age persons with disabilities who have given up any hope of participating in the labour force. Yes it is important to be positive but it is equally important to be honest in our discussions of what it means to be a Canadian with a disability.

 

We conclude this submission with some examples of very real barriers in the federal workplace for employees who cannot see.

Accessible path of travel from nearest bus stop

Building exterior signage

Finding entrance doors

Location of information desks/help desk/Commissionaires

Internal tactile way-finding

Exclusion of commercial areas in federal buildings from having to meet accessibility obligations

Security screening points including passage of electric wheelchairs, guide dogs, inconsistent design

Security staff lacks of awareness/training such as at l’Esplanade Laurier (T.B., PSHRMAC, PSC), Terrasses de la Chaudiere, Place du Portage etc.

Lack of elevator audio announcements and inconsistency of design (call button locations, floor numbering, tones etc.)

Corridor widths and free from clutter

Walls in paths of travel with clutter, impeding safety

Printers etc in path of travel

Inaccessible fax machines, photo copiers, shredders etc.

Lack of tactile (raised and braille) door numbers and meeting room signage, employee name plates etc.

Inaccessible floor directories, and non-standard location and use of phones and instructions on floors at elevator areas

Lack of appropriate procedures regarding persons with disabilities in emergency plans and evacuation

Lack of provisions for persons with disabilities working after hours

Identification of waste receptacles for environmental –green program

Inaccessibility of telecommunications phone/cell phone/blackberry/government tie line

Remote network access for telework etc.

Inaccessible government information, particularly web sites

Inaccessible employee information such as pay stubs which have been requested since 1991, employee benefits statements and books etc.

Medical claim forms, medical and dental web sites, coverage issues etc.

Inaccessible management forms OPS, financial management, budgeting, PREA/employee appraisal, RDIMS (new program), AP info, leave tracker, project management application, etc.

PDF and document management i.e. conversion of MS Word to wordPerfect or vice versa, GroupWise, Lotus and other applications that do not follow Windows keyboard conventions etc.

Computer equipment, assistive devices (maintenance, functioning and adequacy)

Training and training materials (declining accessibility)

Inadequate provision of meeting documents (i.e. PowerPoint, spreadsheets, etc.)

Improper document formatting (mixing of both official languages in same document, side by side text in both official languages etc.)

Inaccessibility of meeting equipment, microphones, descriptive narration audio with simultaneous translation feeds, processes during meeting etc.

Lack of attendant services in workplace and for meetings

Processing of reader assistants contracts, selection process etc.

 

 

 

End of Submission !