The first review of the AODA’s Information and communications Standards became public in 2020. In this review, the AODA Information and Communications Standards Development Committee outlines improvements to make information and communications accessible for people with disabilities by 2025. The Committee recommends changes to the Information and Communications Standards, to identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers in information. In addition, the Committee recommends an alternative system for developing, updating, and enforcing AODA standards. This new system would affect the Information and Communications Standards, as well as other existing and future standards. This article will discuss the Committee’s recommendations for on-demand accessible government communication.
On-demand Accessible Government Communication
Under the Information and Communications Standards, the government must provide accessible documents and communication, when people request them. Like other organizations, the government must be prepared to provide material in accessible formats, or with communication supports, upon request. Moreover, technology makes these formats and supports easier to produce than ever before. For example, people can use Video Relay Service (VRS) to work with a Sign language interpreter remotely in real-time. Likewise, people can create digital documents in Word or HTML that are readable online using accessible hardware and software.
These digital document formats are called conversion-ready formats, because people can quickly convert them into other formats. For example, someone might request a document in Braille from an organization not equipped to provide that format. However, the organization could provide the person a conversion-ready Word file that they could read in Braille by:
- Printing a copy on their Braille embosser
- Reading the digital version on their Braille display
Alternatively, a person needing large print could enlarge the document digitally or by printing a large hard copy. In short, technology and conversion-ready formats reduce the reasons for any delays in providing accessible government communication.
Nevertheless, the Committee reports regular delays when people request accessible versions of government communications that should be available to the public. In other words, the government currently creates inaccessible documents, releases those versions to the public, and creates accessible versions only upon request. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the government and the Legislative Assembly should create conversion-ready versions of all public-facing documents. As a result, all government documents would be accessible on-demand, without delay.
On-demand Sign Language Translations
Similarly, the Committee recognizes that public-facing government communication should also be available in Sign Language. However, producing every communication on-demand in both American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Signes Québécoise (LSQ) may not be possible. Nevertheless, some government communication should be available in ASL and LSQ. Therefore, the Committee recommends that the government should consult with a group of people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind. This group would prioritize which types of communication should be available in ASL and LSQ on-demand. After this consultation, the government should provide ASL and LSQ translations of all communication in those prioritized categories.