TORONTO, May 31, 2012 /CNW/ - Yesterday, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government has a constitutional obligation to ensure its websites are fully accessible for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. CNIB, Canada's primary provider of rehabilitation and support services for people with vision loss, is urging the government to take this obligation seriously by being transparent and accountable in the way it implements the court-required accessibility standards.
The ruling follows an appeal by the federal government of a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge first brought to the courts in 2007 by Ms. Donna Jodhan. Ms. Jodhan, a Toronto-based accessibility consultant who is blind, encountered significant difficulties using adaptive technology to access sections of federal government websites to apply for jobs and complete online census forms.
"It's unfortunate that someone had to go to these ends to attain what is a fundamental right. However, we are pleased by the court ruling that upholds the constitutional obligation of the government to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have equal access to information, enabling them to be independent, productive members of society," said John Rafferty, President and CEO, CNIB.
Ms. Jodhan launched her Charter challenge on the basis that some government websites violated the rights of Canadians with vision loss to equal benefit of the law guaranteed under Section 15, the equality provision, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Without question, equitable access to government information and services needs to be a priority. Canadians who are blind or partially sighted need to be able to access government information and services just like every other Canadian," said Rob Sleath, CNIB volunteer and the founder, president and chair of Access for Sight Impaired Consumers.
More than three million Canadians are unable to read print because of a disability such as blindness or partial sight, and every 12 minutes someone in Canada begins to lose their vision. Due to government websites that are not inclusively designed and which do not meet globally-accepted accessibility standards, these individuals lack access to vital information and services relating to everything from health and social welfare to public security.
"We commend Ms. Jodhan for taking this critical issue forward," adds Rafferty. "The government must act quickly and diligently on this court ruling so that Canadians who are blind or partially sighted are not denied their right to information any longer."
CNIB is a registered charity, passionately providing community-based support, knowledge and a national voice to ensure Canadians who are blind or partially sighted have the confidence, skills and opportunities to fully participate in life. To learn more, visit cnib.ca or call the toll-free CNIB Helpline at 1-800-563-2642.
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