A blind Toronto woman faces off against the Government of Canada later this
month, launching a Charter Challenge in Federal Court in Toronto to seek
improved government website access for blind and partially-sighted

Donna Jodhan has urged the Federal Government to live up to commitments to
make all of its websites fully accessible to Canadians with sight loss, for
four years.  “The Canadian Government knows the necessary standards, and
exactly what to do to meet them,” Ms. Jodhan states.  “No special equipment
is needed to bring web pages to W3C international standards.  But, because
they haven’t bothered – I feel forced to launch this Charter case.”

Ms. Jodhan is supported in her challenge by the Alliance for Equality of
Blind Canadians, a national organization of blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted Canadians.  “The Canadian Government took a great step forward this
March by ratifying the United Nations Treaty on the Rights of Persons With
Disabilities,” Alliance President Robin East of Saskatoon says, “but they
still have not made their websites and related information fully accessible
to blind and partially sighted Canadians as the Convention requires.  Even
more outrageous, they’re spending taxpayer’s money fighting blind Canadians
through the courts!”

Ms. Jodhan explains that most web pages are designed with fully visual
orientation, for the vast majority of users.  The problem for blind
Canadians, Ms. Jodhan says, is that web pages written without “tags” or
“labels” – extra notations embedded in PDF forms and other online
documents – are not useful to users with sight loss, even with their own
adaptive computer screen readers.  “Because of this, we as blind Canadians
often have to wait for months before receiving information in a format that
we can read, or we must get sighted assistance to help us complete online
forms.  That means our right to the equality guaranteed under the Canadian
Charter of Rights, is trampled upon.”

Ms. Jodhan says that with properly coded websites, people with sight loss or
blindness would benefit professionally and personally just as much from
using the internet as sighted Canadians do.  “It’s simply one extra step in
writing pages.  Web developers don’t need additional software or hardware.
They should simply use accessibility experts and blind testers for their
projects, to ensure that every Government website can be accessed by all
Canadians in a meaningful manner”.

AEBC President Robin East cautions the Federal Government not to take Ms.
Jodhan’s court challenge lightly.  “It’s not the David versus Goliath fight
some people might think,” East comments.  “Ms. Jodhan won cases against Air
Canada at the Canadian Transport Agency, and Statistics Canada at the
Canadian Human Rights Commission.  She could come out of this battle with a
hat trick.  We want Donna to win this fight for full government website
access, because accessible and useable websites are vitally important to
Blind Canadians.”

Ms. Jodhan’s court challenge will be heard September 21 – 23, at 180 Queen
Street West in Toronto, from 9:30 a.m.

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