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McGuinty Government Should Lead by Example

By Geof Collis
November 12, 2010

It’s bad enough that the McGuinty Government is dragging its feet and watering down the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) but in the interim, shouldn’t they be leading by example?

Many Screen Reader users are probably aware but the Government has a bad habit of putting up inaccessible Portable Document Formats (PDF) on their website even to the point of putting out notices on the AODA in this inaccessible documentation.

One major concern for Screen Reader users with inaccessible PDFs is never knowing if you’ve read the entire document. If it is tagged incorrectly then it’s possible for the Screen Reader to miss parts of it altogether.

As an example I looked at a PDF document from the Ontario Public Service(OPS) and while it appeared to be accessible, there was something wrong with the way my Screen Reader was reading it so I sent it off to Accessibil-IT Inc. for their professional opinion and sure enough they responded with:

“Their tables are not tables so they are completely unnavigable.”

I have noticed that many of our Major Cities put up their “Accessibility Plans” in an inaccessible PDF . What incentive do they have in following the AODA if the McGuinty Government itself doesn’t comply?

These Municipalities put up documents that are supposed to speak to steps they will be undertaking to address Accessibility yet the medium they deliver it in isn’t accessible and more often than not, neither is the website

I also have to wonder where the Accessibility Advisory Committees (AAC) are in this process, have they not been consulted on this matter or are they not paying attention? How do they let this get by them given they are supposed to review them and advise their respective Municipalities.

Why does the Government and Municipalities make me “Request” an “Alternate Format” when the Format I want is an Accessible PDF” in the first place?

This is a simple question so I asked Adam Spencer, Document Specialist at Accessibil-IT Inc. why it appears to be so difficult for some to create Accessible PDFs.

He responded:

“Our experience suggests two main issues; budgets are tight and there is limited awareness that PDFs can cost effectively be made fully accessible. There
are suppliers and software that do the basics but don’t achieve a fully accessible and navigable PDF, which ultimately frustrates users. We are able to make a PDF fully accessible and we work with clients to develop a document accessibility strategy that enables them to work within budget limitations.”

Seems reasonable enough. Rather than paying Employees to put up an inaccessible document on the website then paying again to make the “Alternate Format” accessible, it makes sense to do the job right the first time.
Governments save money and I get “Equal Access” to documentation in a timely manner, not “Upon Request”.

Accessibil-IT Inc. has the solution so there’s no excuses, time for the Government to lead by example and Municipalities to follow suit, not “Upon Request”or by 2025, Today!

Even if the issue doesn’t affect you on an Accessibility level, wasting Taxpayers dollars will.