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City of Kawartha Lakes Uses AODA as Defense Against Disabled

Geof Collis
Sept 19, 2011

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a Law that aims to make Ontario fully accessible by the year 2025, unfortunately it will take that long if not longer if the kind of attitude I encountered recently becomes the norm.

While visiting my City’s website a few days ago I noticed a announcement that caught my interest, I followed it and clicked on a link to a pdf document that initially crashed my screen reader, I’m partially sighted and use a software program that allows me to access information on the web, providing it is “Accessible”.

As happens far to often with the City of Kawartha Lakes the document was not accessible, just a scanned image of a text document, or as my screen reader tells me, “Alert, Empty document”, no real surprise given the Citys’ record.

I contacted the Citys’ Communication Officer by email, the person responsible for their website and reported that the pdf documents I tried to access were not accessible and when does this discrimination stop.

She answered “Unfortunately each one of those pdf’s is a map and it is not available in another format.”

I responded by telling that was not an acceptable answer and to put it in a format I can understand.

She replied, “We include the maps as an added benefit, they are not required under legislation.
What format of a map can you understand?”

An addeded benefit? Really for who? Certainly not the Blind! Besides, it is on their website and as such is covered under the AODA.

All I wanted was a document that I could access with information such as lot size and location, how many different ways are there currently to present maps on the Web? Even Google offers text directions with their maps, I dont expect much more than that given today’s technology.

I had been carbon copying the Citys’ Accessibility Coordinator who took up the issue on the Communications Officers’ behalf.

There was nothing really difficult about my request, just common sense I would think however the Coordinator quoted the Integrated Accessibility Standards which in essence said that my accessibility issue did not need to be addressed by Law until 2014.

In a previous incident with the City they informed me that they wouldn’t accomodate my request because it wasn’t Law at that time and now they wont because of the generous timeline given by the McGuinty Government.

Surely that wasn’t the intent of the AODA?

What really infuriated me was later that evening when I had my Wife look at one of the documents in question, it wasn’t just a Map, it was a 7 page document complete with an image of the property with an ‘X’ marking the lot, as well as other relevant information related to possible purchase.

Unfortunately I dont have a leg to stand on, they’ve used the Law as a defense against me rather than its intended goal, to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025.