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Communicating with People with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

As Ontarians continue physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they rely on the media for news of the outside world. Access to information keeps all people safe and knowledgeable. To ensure that all people have the benefit of media access at this time, the government and other creators of media must make their programming and media releases accessible. Communicating with people with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic means that everyone has access to crucial information.

Communicating with People with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

TV, radio, and websites keep us informed about the status of the COVID-19 pandemic locally and around the world. Moreover, these sources also make us aware of the precautions our government recommends to maximize our safety. For instance, the media reminds us of safety procedures like hand-washing. Likewise, it alerts us to new advice as it is given, such as wearing masks in public. Furthermore, TV, movies and YouTube keep us entertained with family and friends, both in-person and remotely. Finally, the media publicizes uplifting events, such as neighbours and community organizations offering support to isolated people.

Under the Information and Communications Standards of the AODA, organizations must create, provide, and receive information and communications that people with disabilities can access. For instance, when the government creates a public service announcement or the Premier gives a speech, everyone should have access to that information. Similarly, everyone should have access to information that the government and other organizations publish on websites. Likewise, all people should be able to enjoy TV shows and movies. Organizations ensure this access when they  provide all their information in accessible formats and with communication supports.

Formats and Supports

For instance, according to a recent article, the Premier’s speeches now include American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. The article suggests that the addition of Real-Time Captioning (RTC) could allow more people to access these media releases. Similarly, online news sources reach more people when they post on websites that comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. Likewise, more people can access TV shows and movies when they include described video and closed captions.

These formats and supports make information accessible to more people. Therefore, organizations should ensure that the crucial information they present to the public can reach all citizens who need it.