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January 18, 2011

Government to appeal website accessibility ruling

CNIB appalled, calls decision "ridiculous"

CNIB, Canada's primary source of information and support for people with vision loss, is appalled at the federal government's decision to appeal a court ruling that ordered it to upgrade its websites to make them fully accessible for blind and partially sighted Canadians.

"Unbelievable. Ridiculous. There are no other words to describe this turn of events," said   John Rafferty , president and CEO, CNIB. "The fact that it took a court case to plead for full web accessibility in the first place is bad enough, but to learn that the government plans to spend more time and taxpayer money fighting the court's ruling is just appalling."

The case was first brought to the courts in 2007 by Donna Jodhan, a blind Toronto-based accessibility consultant who encountered significant difficulties in accessing sections of federal government websites to apply for jobs and complete online Census forms. In November 2010 ,   Ms. Jodhan   won a Charter Challenge on the basis that some government websites denied 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. The Federal Government has since filed a motion to appeal that ruling.

More than three million Canadians are unable to read print because of a disability such as blindness or partial sight. Due to inaccessible government websites, these individuals lack access to vital information and services relating to everything from health and social welfare to public security.

"All this energy being spent appealing the court's ruling could be put to better use by getting to work on embracing the latest web accessibility standards," said Rafferty. "However, the fight for equal access rights isn't over. We will continue to support   Ms. Jodhan   as the next phase of this case unfolds in hopes an agreement can be reached so accessibility standards for Canadians with vision loss can move forward - not backward."

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