Articles About Access and Assistive Technologies

The Accessibility Advisory Council Discussion Paper on Accessibility Legislation
The Accessibility Advisory Council was established with the passage of The Accessibility Advisory Council Act (Manitoba) on June 16, 2011. The Council was created to make recommendations to the Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, the Honourable Jennifer Howard, on enacting legislation for the prevention and removal of accessibility barriers, and on other policies and practices the government can undertake to improve accessibility.

The Accessibility Advisory Council is made up of 12 members with diverse backgrounds and experiences, including representatives of organizations of persons with disabilities, business, municipalities and other organizations. The Council has been meeting regularly since November 2011.

The Council’s first task is to provide recommendations to the Minister on the enactment of accessibility legislation, and other policy objectives the Council determined would move the province toward greater accessibility for all Manitobans.

In May 2012, The Accessibility Advisory Council Discussion Paper on Accessibility Legislation was released. The discussion paper outlined options the Accessibility Advisory Council is considering for proposed legislation and the standards that would be established under the Act. It also served as the basis of a broad consultation on May 8, 2012. More than 150 people attended the event (including John and Cathy Cooke who represented CHHA Manitoba Chapter), which was also webcast, allowing individuals not able to attend the meeting in person to view the event and offer their comments.

Robert Richard, on behalf of CHHA Manitoba Chapter submitted the following response concerning this event and to the discussion paper.

A. Access to Live Video Webcast
The Accessibility Advisory Council Public Consultation on Accessibility Legislation Live Video Webcast was NOT ACCESSIBLE to persons with hearing loss who rely on aural-oral communication. The webcast would require good lighting of the presenters faces for speech reading and that the CART transcription be displayed as captions as part of the webcast to have been accessible to persons with hearing loss, but who do not use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.

In addition, having captions as a permanent feature of the archived video of the webcast would have made it possible for persons with hearing loss to fully understand the presentations and discussions which occurred at the consultation. The ASL feature available on the webcast would only be an accessibility feature for use by members of the Deaf community who use ASL to communicate. In general, persons with hearing loss do not use ASL as they are aural-oral communicators.

B. Response to the council’s recent discussion paper
Overall, the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association applauds the Accessibility Advisory Council on the work it has done to-date on the development of accessibility-rights legislation for Manitoba. We would also like to express our support for the guiding principles and the seven essential elements outlined in Barrier-Free Manitoba’s response to the council’s discussion paper.

What follows are a few suggestions for improving the scope, content and process for developing accessibility legislation as outlined in the council’s discussion paper.

Preamble

  • The preamble must use strong language and clearly articulate that the focus of the council’s proposals is on removing all barriers for persons with disabilities and preventing new ones.
  • The preamble should state that the removal of barriers will benefit all Manitobans.

Purpose

  • The purpose must be articulated using stronger language (e.g. the council’s proposed purpose should be more than just to “enhance” accessibility. The purpose of the legislation should be to “ensure” or “guarantee” accessibility.
  • Similar to what is found in the U.S.’s Americans with Disabilities Act there should be a separate section or distinct focus on achieving accessibility with respect to “Communication”. Communication access is a fundamental requirement for all Manitobans to be fully engaged at home, at school, at work, and in their communities.

Application

  • The general public may not know in which jurisdiction a barrier may fall. This fact must be acknowledged somewhere in the legislation and an agreement/mechanism must be established to assist individuals seeking to remove a barrier which is regulated by federal law.

Accessibility Standards

  • The purpose of standards must include the identification, removal and prevention of barriers related to communication. Communication access is a fundamental need for all Manitobans in all aspects of their lives.
  • Even though we agree with the goal of developing made-in-Manitoba accessibility standards to meet the needs of Manitobans we strongly recommend that the council research existing standards which have been established by Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and any other relevant standards that have been established elsewhere. A review and summary of the research of these standards made available to all stakeholders would inform us all of what currently exists and assist us in identifying best practices in preparation for future consultations. Making available this summary of standards to all stakeholders would be of great benefit to groups such as CHHA Manitoba Chapter. We must rely on the time and efforts of volunteers to undertake any activity and may not be able to develop such a resource. It is important that all stakeholders be informed and be sufficiently prepared for future consultations on such an important subject.
  • Our Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association agrees that the standards will need to be regularly reviewed and updated to address technological advances or changing public needs. Persons with hearing loss rely heavily on technology to meet their communication needs and advances in this technology occur very rapidly.

Compliance with Standards

  • We agree that the legislation should set out a focused accountability structure as part of the legislation and that a compliance framework must also be included which establishes an enforcement regime that imposes substantial penalties for willful non-compliance.

Duties of Municipalities

  • We agree that municipalities play an important role in addressing accessibility for persons with disabilities in their communities and that they be required to designate accessibility committees to advise on the identification and removal of barriers in keeping with accessibility standards in their communities.

Transparency and Accountability

  • We agree that consultations with persons with disabilities and other stakeholders will be the key to achieving greater accessibility. We also agree that similar to the processes outlined in the current Accessibility Advisory Council Act a system of consulting and reporting to the public should be required in new legislation dealing with the developing and establishing accessibility standards.

Other

  • We strongly recommend that the council include awareness training and service provision guidelines for employees of all obligated organizations as part of any legislation aimed at preventing and removing barriers faced by persons with disabilities. We believe that the removal of barriers requires more than the provision of the
  • appropriate built environment and technological enhancements. Barrier free organizations require employees who appreciate the significance and impact of barriers to persons with disabilities. These organizations require employees who understand how best to accommodate a particular need using service “protocols” identified by those of us who face barriers and who know best how to remove them.

On June 15, 2012, the Council submitted its initial recommendations to the minister proposing legislation aimed at preventing and removing barriers faced by persons with disabilities. These recommendations can be found at the Manitoba Disabilities Issues Office website: http://www.gov.mb.ca/dio/index.html

CRTC requires access improvements to phone, cellular and TV services.  The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission has set new standards in the coming months.

Included in the new requirements are improvements to captioning services for television programs and  provision of text-to voice and voice-to-text over the Internet.  To read the July 21, 2009 story on CBC’s web site, click this link.

Assistive Listening Devices to the Rescue! A Primer to Help You Get Started

(The Center for Hearing Loss Help (http://www.hearinglosshelp.com/) is directed by Neil Bauman, Ph.D., and is run by and for hard of hearing people.  The introduction to the following article is published with Dr. Bauman’s permission.)

© February 2008 by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

Hard of hearing people often lament, “Hearing aids don’t work well for me, particularly in noisy places such as while driving in the car or talking in noisy restaurants.” They then ask, “What can I do in order to better hear my spouse and friends under such conditions? Being unable to communicate freely is putting a strain on my marriage and my friendships.”

Unfortunately, when most people lose some of their hearing, they are told to get hearing aids, as though hearing aids were the whole answer to hearing loss. The result is they become disillusioned with their hearing aids.

You see, hearing aids are not perfect, and in some listening situations such as in noisy places, or when you are at some distance from the speaker, they can be almost useless!

That’s where Assistive Listening Devices come in.  To read the rest of this excellent article on assistive devices, click here.

Read On Line: The Canadian Hearing Society Position Paper on Accessibility and Accommodation. The society is located in Toronto, and has offices throughout Ontario.

White House Sets Agenda for People with Disabilities “We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination … policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.”  Barack Obama, April 11, 2008.  For President Obama’s full position statement on disability issues published on-line January 26, 2009, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/disabilities/

Developed by a team of US Advocacy Groups – December 11, 2008 Proposal for Leadership and Public Policy to Ensure Equal Access and Equal Opportunity for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened and Deaf-Blind Americans visit http://www.hearingloss.org/advocacy/pdfs/Obama_Recommendations_DeafandHOH.pdf

Statement on Accessibility from the Hearing Loss Association of America – “Accessibility for people with hearing loss means being able to hear and understand communication and an audio signal in whatever form it takes: face to face – one on one and in groups; over the telephone; public address announcements; recorded sound – TV, radio, movies, internet based; amplified sound – theater, public presentations; alerting and emergency notifications.

“Most people with hearing loss use spoken language, and whatever residual hearing they have with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive technology.  They do not use sign language and therefore sign language interpreters are not appropriate accessibility accommodations for them.  There are laws that require that people with hearing loss have access to public, private, federal, state and local government programs and services and telecommunications services and products.  Examples of ways to provide accessibility for people with hearing loss include: assistive listening device, (FM, Infrared, Audioloop) captioning, CART (computer assisted real time transcription), hearing dogs, communication strategies, visual and tactile alarms, oral interpreters, Cued speech transliteration, volume control phones and telecommunications relay services – particularly captioned telephone.”

Additional articles will be published over time – to submit an article or story, email admin@chha-mb.ca.