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October 19, 2010

Breaking down barriers to online accessibility

eSSENTIAL Accessibility like virtual wheelchair

More than 100,000 Toronto residents have trouble typing, moving a mouse or reading a screen.  They can't access the Toronto.ca portal, or any other e-government services for that matter, without expensive assistive technology.

"The disability community wants to elect a mayor who understands and responds to their unmet online needs," says Spiro Papathanasakis, Director eSSENTIAL Accessibility Inc.  " The two leading candidates [Rob Ford and George Smitherman] have demonstrated their commitment to digital inclusion and e-participation in the election process, which means Toronto will soon see the elimination of barriers to online government services that many disabled residents face."

eSSENTIAL Accessibility is an application that makes online environments instantly accessible to individuals with physical limitations. It is effectively a virtual wheelchair for any website.  Anyone with a physical disability an easily access any website that carries the eSSENTIAL Accessibility icon - the blue wheelchair and keyboard symbol.

George Smitherman and Rob Ford have reinforced their messages of citizen engagement by featuring eSSENTIAL Accessibilityâ„¢ on their campaign websites.

"I am the only candidate with an accessibility plan that's fully funded in my balanced budget blueprint," says George Smitherman. " Toronto needs to be accessible and work for everyone and I would continue to press for every measure possible under my $65-million plan to make Toronto e-accessible."

"The City of Toronto needs to do a better job of making all of its resources more accessible," says Rob Ford. " I've done this on my website to show my support for this cause, and if I'm fortunate enough to be elected Mayor on October 25th, I will always be looking for ways to improve accessibility to all the city's resources."

As the first mayoral candidates in the world to embrace this technology, Ford and Smitherman are participating in an Online Social ResponsAbility initiative sponsored by March of Dimes Canada.  Their Toronto will be an e-City that institutionalizes these practices to achieve top rank on the global stage. 

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