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November 30, 2010

Court demands improved online accessiblity

Government sites to adapt for the blind

CNIB, Canada's primary source of information and support for people with vision loss, applauds the decision made today by the Federal Court of   Canada  that calls on the government to make its websites fully accessible for blind and partially sighted Canadians.

"We applaud the court's decision today as it makes it clear that equal access to information and services on government websites is a fundamental right, not a privilege, for all Canadians, including people living with vision loss," said Bill McKeown, Vice President, Government Relations, CNIB. "While it's unfortunate that it took a court case to achieve this fundamental right, we believe today's decision will ensure blind and partially sighted Canadians have better access to information including government subsidies and employment opportunities."

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.   Ms. Jodhan  launched a Charter Challenge on the basis that government's 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.

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 inaccessible government websites, these individuals lack access to vital information and services relating to everything from health and social welfare to public security.

"Equal access to information enables blind and partially sighted Canadians to remain independent, productive members of society," said   John Rafferty, president and CEO, CNIB. "And as we live in an age where online access to information is often taken for granted, we encourage all levels of government and private organizations to embrace the latest standards in web accessibility - with the right guidance, it's not as onerous as some might think."

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