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Letter to Minister of Public Works and Government Services about accessibility as a mandatory requirement of all new ICT Procurement
February 25th, 2013
Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Dear Minister Rona Ambrose,
Blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted rights holders are seeking important systemic change to ensure that information, communications and technology (ICT) benefits are available to meet our needs, as well as those of the general public. The Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians recommends the Government of Canada take action to develop an appropriate policy that includes accessibility as a mandatory requirement of all new ICT Procurement to benefit all Canadians.
Our Government must lead the way and have the vision to create a future in which all our individual abilities and shared values are acknowledged, accommodated and celebrated. All citizens have the right to be informed and have access to information in usable formats to aid in the decision making processes pertaining to their personal and professional lives. This means the systems, applications, information formats, (audio, Braille, large print and accessible PDF) and the channels used by Government (Internet, Intranet, public points of inquiry, telephone, conferences and consultations) reflect the diverse needs of the public in a secure and timely fashion.
Information is currently made available to Canadians primarily through conventional print, via broadcast and through the Internet. However, there is a significant portion of the population unable to access information through these methods because accessibility has not been appropriately considered in the design, planning, development and implementation of programs, services and other national initiatives. Increasingly, there is a growing dependence by our Government to deliver this information on the Internet only; however, not everyone has the ability to access information online to confirm whether pension or childcare benefits are correct, and to alert someone in authority that there may be anomalies that need to be addressed. Failure to address this matter in financial systems introduces risks for our Government and individual members of the public. We all need to know whether financial summaries are correct in order to detect fraud, identity theft and other inconsistencies which may put us at risk. Factors such as education, experience, training, and financial realities also determine whether or not a person has access to the Internet, which means
that some people may need formats, such as Braille or large print to stay informed.
In the past, disability strategies have translated into the development of special products and services for special needs. Universal Design Principles reflect a dynamic approach to accessibility, not separate planning for separate needs. The focus is accessibility, not disability. If Universal Design Principles are applied and considered during the creative process of the development cycle, the needs of our diverse population can be served more effectively. Take for example, Apple Corporation, who viewed accessibility as an opportunity and who built accessibility into their operating systems as standard design features. This eliminated the need for customers to purchase costly adaptive technologies, while at the same time expanded their market penetration. In the United States, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Apple leverages the accessibility features of its products as a market advantage at all levels of Government, health care, education, telecommunications, banking, and more.
In Canada, legislation has been enacted to ensure that all citizens are provided with equal opportunities to participate and contribute in the democratic process. The Government of Canada publicly endorses the rights of all citizens to have equal access to Federal Government information, as well as programs and services, as delineated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Act.
The necessary actions required to fulfill the mandate provided in law, and in official policy have further to go to achieve consistent and systemic change. It is essential that our leaders act appropriately to end the continued marginalization and exclusion of millions of talented, creative, educated, and experienced blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted individuals from the workforce, social and economic mainstream. Accessibility needs to be consistently considered and integrated in the design, development and implementation of ICT supporting programs and services to the public by Governments and their partners.
Based on a recent survey of departmental spending (via ATI requests), the only department with an appreciable emphasis on this important area is the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). While tax collection is important to the Canadian economy, information access at all levels is an even more vital initiative in the spirit of inclusion, fairness and justice.
As an organization of individuals with vision loss from across Canada, the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians makes this critical recommendation which should become Government policy as soon as possible.
Include accessibility as a mandatory requirement of all new ICT procurement
by the Government of Canada.
Providing information, communications and technology accessibility is an important challenge for Governments and industry around the world. The Government of Canada must continue to provide leadership by facilitating the full and active participation and contribution of all members of the public to more accurately reflect the realities of legislation, statistics and demographics. It is feasible, possible and essential for the Government of Canada to demonstrate leadership and ensure delivery of accessible information, communications, technology and systems in support of programs and services as a mandatory requirement of funding approval.
Innovative technologies can enable the Government to provide accessible programs, services and information efficiently and cost-effectively within current budget levels and serve all Canadians more equitably. Importantly, this simple action has the potential to unleash the innovation and dynamism in all sectors of the Canadian economy and assist in building our reputation as technology leaders and as a knowledge-based society.
The AEBC urges the Government of Canada to act now to include accessibility as a mandatory requirement of all new information, communications and technology (ICT) Procurement to benefit all Canadians.
We would appreciate a response to this letter so that AEBC members will be aware of the Government of Canada's intention regarding this important matter. Further, when the Government creates a Procurement Policy with accessible procurement taken into account, we would appreciate receiving a copy to post to our web site, www.blindcanadians.ca.
On behalf of the AEBC Procurement committee
Donna J. Jodhan
Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board Secretariat
Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development
This letter, #2619 was sent February 25, 2013 to Rona Ambrose Minister of Public Works and Government Services: Letter to Minister of Public Works and Government Services about accessibility as a mandatory requirement of all new ICT Procurement