Landmark Case for Government Websites Good for Canada

Yesterday, the Federal Court of Canada made public its decision in a landmark case of Donna Jodhan in her suit against the Federal Government for inaccessible websites.

It took real courage and a lot of work for one blind woman to take on the status quo and make something happen which had been a matter of law for many years. The Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been in place for decades, which ensures equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination; however, the will to act and move the legislative mandate has been slow in making it into the everyday practices and processes. Consequently, the laws which mandate accessibility may now receive the recognition and focus it deserves.

I remember when I first started my company, I had the opportunity to speak to our government about accessible communications. At the time, the issue came down to budgets and it was viewed as cumbersome project. There has been much progress over the past decade. There are many believers and supporters in our government, who work tirelessly at moving this matter forward, but the leadership required to make the dream of full and active participation a reality for many blind Canadians has faded over time. This court case made it glaringly clear that more is required.

Ensuring that the Canadian public has the ability to access government information independently in our official languages and formats, such as audio, braille, large print, electronic text and accessible PDF is a sign of real progress in a modern and enlightened democracy.

Providing citizens with the information they need to make informed decisions results in good public policy, an engaged constituency, and a fair and humane society. Can you imagine not being able to read your government issued statements and confirm that the amounts are correct, or to read any changes to policy or programs that affect daily living and impact your well being?

An informed public can respond to issues that are personal and financial in nature and offer protection from fraud and identity theft, thus limiting risk to the government and its people, and that is good for Canada!

Sharlyn Ayotte - Nov 30, 2010