Online Frustrations! Equality and Accessibility Continue To Be Distant Dreams!

3 Sep

This week has shown me more clearly then ever before how discriminatory the online world continues to be for those of us who are dependant on screen reading software. Recently it was brought to my attention that you can join companies known for their marketing and/or political research, surveys and poles. After years of expressing my opinions at great length (to mainly uninterested audiences) I adored the idea of actually being able to give them when and where they might be able to make a difference. Its been an education. So many sites continue to insist on the use of the “Captcha image” box. I’ve yet to find a sighted person who can tolerate them, but there is no way for a screen reader to deal with them. And while some (like the Google based version) provide a very difficult and irritating audio that can be used, others cling to an outdated programme that provides the listener with gibberish. It’s ridiculous to think anyone could pick A word out of that noise. In addition these boxes are usually case sensitive and very exact. Most sites do not share such trivia as how many words, are they upper or lower case (or a mixture), is there or isn’t there a space. If the person who cannot see the screen miraculously manages to pick appropriate sounds out of the jumble they have no way of knowing what is the correct way to type them. When I mentioned to a friend recently that I wished to sign up to her blog but could not thanks to the Captcha image and requested her help , she not only signed me up but wrote back saying that she wanted to remove that box at the earliest opportunity. She said she’d clicked on the audio link provided and had no idea what it had been trying to say.

At this point in time it is bad enough that such an exclusionary device is being widely used online. What was far worse was the rampant ignorance and prejudice I encountered when writing to request assistance in over coming this obstacle. Out of close to a dozen sites (this became a quest) I got three prompt helpful replies. When I wrote to a fourth site for a second time a different agent caught my note and she was as helpful as the other three mentioned, but it took three E-mails to get her. Three of these kind souls simply set up accounts with token passwords, sent me the confirmation E-mail and wish me luck. The fourth had me phone their company and give my information over the phone to a representative who did the same thing. It worked, their sites should be updated (there really are excellent alternatives to Captcha, there is NO excuse for using this!) but the people with whom I dealt were fabulous. Responses from other sites ranged from “is your internet browser compatible, please check the following list”, to “you need to enter the two words that appear in the text box I can’t help you unless you register your account”. That last one is a particular favourite of mine since that site deals with its rude little box by writing just above it that if you are visually impaired please send and E-mail, and gives an address link. So I didn’t expect any problems with that one. It did get done on that site in the end, but it took several notes passed back and forth and one of my last ones had to be explicit and somewhat abrasive before I got a result. I’ve had a well established Canadian survey company (a name that is nationally recognized) share the exceptionally bigoted attitude that they can’t help, and some of their surveys use drag and drop and visual symbols so it really doesn’t matter if I don’t join since I couldn’t fill in all the surveys anyway. (I thought the point of surveys was to select relevant groups of people to question. Since when did not qualifying for some mean you are unwanted for all?!) They passed my last reply up the line, but I will be phoning them on Tuesday morning and if I’m not a member shortly there after I will be following up here in detail (with names) and in other places. I have our entire correspondence. considering this is 2012 it really makes for impressive reading.

Second place in the discrimination awards goes to our own CBC. They’ve outdone themselves!, not for them a mere image box, their entire sign up process is a graphic! (So are their surveys!) For those of you unfamiliar with the details of screen reading software it can only read text. A graphic (picture, photo, jpeg etc.) is a graphic no matter what the graphic shows. The picture can be of text but it is still a picture and so a screen reader does not see it. Ten twelve years ago when so much less was known about accessibility it might have been understandable why many of these companies would have built inaccessible websites. I don’t think that goes for a government site, or an organization owned by a government, … they always have a much higher responsibility to be available and accessible to all their citizens and should be held to a higher standard. But then as I wrote to CBC, considering they only answer to the government of Canada who is happy to spend our tax dollars in fighting a court case to keep its websites inaccessible what can you expect? This is a great and wonderful country with much to love and admire in it. But there are moments when I am unable to help being ashamed of my government. What possible excuse can they offer in their defence, nothing can justify both the flagrant abuse of their own commitments to accessibility, or their spending our money in defending the indefensible. No website changes could come close to the cost of taking this case to, and appealing it in the Supreme Court. But with that as an example is it any wonder that others continue to pursue policies that exclude. These companies I was attempting to join claim to want the views and opinions of people to help marketers and governments make their decisions. It is very unpleasant to realize that the narrow mindedness of this society goes so deep that because I do not have physical sight my opinion not only doesn’t count, it is not even wanted. I and every other adult blind Canadian function in most ways as sighted Canadians do. We do groceries, cook meals and eat at restaurants, own pets, live in houses and apartments alone and with others, raise children, have grand children, go on trips, vote, pay taxes, bank on and off line, have credit cards (and doubtless some have debts), go to work, celebrate family occasions and special holidays. In short, we are customers employees and even employers, we spend our money and pay our utilities, and do all the things that entitle the sighted world to an opinion worth hearing. But so deeply engrained is this attitude toward us that large companies feel able to allow their representatives to tell us we weren’t wanted anyway.

I don’t suffer from a high opinion of human nature, but this past week has made even me feel that I still over rate the progress we some times appear to have made.


By most of soci…

12 Jul

By most of society’s definition of “disability” I qualify as such a person. This being the case the author of the article I have pasted below expresses my feelings clearly and calmly, but without the passion they deserve.

Grey Dove

Assisted-suicide ruling is discriminatory


By Amy E. Hasbrouck, Times Colonist July 11, 2012


It has taken me a long time to read through the nearly 400 pages of the June

15 decision of the B.C. Supreme Court on the issue of assisted suicide. I

found reading it to be like a journey to a dark place, full of raw emotions.

The long and the short of the reasons for judgment issued by Justice Lynn

Smith is that legal provisions in Canada prohibiting assisted suicide law

are unconstitutional because they impede disabled people’s rights to life,

liberty and security of the person.

The judge believes that having a disability or degenerative illness is a

rational reason to want to die, and that those of us with disabilities

should be helped to die if we can’t do it neatly or efficiently ourselves.

Smith doesn’t appear to believe that people with disabilities and terminal

illness are ever coerced, persuaded, bullied, tricked or otherwise induced

to end our lives prematurely. She believes those researchers who contend

there have been no problems in jurisdictions where assisted suicide is

legal, and she rejects evidence suggesting there have been problems.

She writes: “It is unethical to refuse to relieve the suffering of a patient

who requests and requires such relief, simply in order to protect other

hypothetical patients from hypothetical harm.”

I’ll have to mention that to some of my hypothetical friends who say they

have been pressured by doctors, nurses and social workers to hypothetically

“pull the plug.”

The same goes for all those folks who succumbed to the pressure; I guess

they’re only hypothetically dead.

Reading the B.C. court decision is hard as a person with a disability

because it’s unpleasant to discover underlying assumptions about people with


It’s one thing when a random guy walks up to you on the street and says,

“I’d rather be dead than be like you.”

It’s quite another, though, when a Canadian judge says of individuals who

may experience such suffering (physical or existential), unrelievable by

palliative care, “that it is in their best interests to assist them in

hastened death.” Same message, only the judge uses bigger words.

So what of the “suffering” she describes?

Well, a lot of physical pain can be managed by effective palliative care;

and sedation is available for the most severe pain. “Existential suffering”

is when someone has not come to terms with a disability or terminal

diagnosis; that takes counselling, peer support and a desire to get on with

one’s life. Of course, coming to terms would be a lot easier if people

weren’t telling us we’d be better off dead.

The B.C. Supreme Court has chosen not to listen closely to disabilityrights

advocates with more than 20 years of experience battling discrimination;

instead, the court relied on the stories of people who have accepted the

view that disability is undignified, and that people with disabilities

should be given a streamlined path to death whenever they want it and

however they want it.

Smith assumes that, because it’s no longer illegal, suicide is somehow an

affirmative right; and if you can’t do it the way you want to do it, then

you should have the right to have someone do it for you.

But she forgot about the “right to fail,” that more than 90 per cent of

suicide attempts are unsuccessful. What about the right to “cry for help”?

The judge also seems to have forgotten about the billions of dollars spent

each year on suicide-prevention programs and mental-health care.

Nor does she mention that a nondisabled person who says he wants to kill

himself can be committed to a psychiatric hospital against his will.

To put it simply, if a non-disabled person wants to commit suicide, that

person is considered irrational and mentally ill, and is treated for

depression, or maybe even locked up to prevent self-inflicted harm.

But if a disabled person wants to kill herself, she’s told she’s making a

reasonable choice, and not only has the right to do so, but is even helped

to complete the act so her death is guaranteed where most other suicide

attempts fail. That sounds like discrimination to me.

Perhaps the most bizarre part of the decision is the judge’s finding that

outlawing assisted suicide somehow deprives people of the right to life.

Sure, she has a logical argument to make her point, but using basic common

sense, it doesn’t pass the sniff test.

It’s hard enough for those of us with disabilities to deal with

architectural and communication barriers, discrimination, inadequate support

services and public policies that limit our integration and equality, let

alone contending with people who grease the skids to the River Styx.

Amy E. Hasbrouck is chairwoman of Not Dead Yet, an international

organization of people with disabilities who oppose the legalization of

euthanasia and assisted suicide. She wrote this for the Montreal Gazette.

The Victoria Times Colonist




Fatal Day For The Internet?!

10 Jul

So here we are, near the close of July the ninth.  The day the barriers to the spread of the DNS Virus came down.  And I’d like to  say that the past several days news coverage of this topic is yet one more tribute to a media who no longer wishes to inform and/or instruct the public; but is intent on spin, and the spin is inevitably negative.  If you visit the link below and read the facts you can see for yourself that there was no need for them to cause this last upset.  Experts have spent the past seven months working so that there would be no serious after effects.  What could have and should have been reported as a good news story, complimenting the efforts of the experts involved and highlighting  the  conscientious concern for those potentially infected was turned upside down.  Just one more deplorable example of our media twisting the facts and focusing on profit.  How many hapless people were phoning computer technicians today, or will lug their machines into stores and repair centres tomorrow.  Now, when the bulk of the danger is past.  November 2011 was when a minimal ripple of concern would have been justified. 
Since our media/press seems unable to impose ethical restrictions on themselves,; since they can no longer report a story in North America without giving it a very heavy slant; since honesty is now viewed as an optional extra, not necessary if it is going to spoil the doom and gloom of a story; it is past time that something is done to bring them under control.  I in no way favour a censored press!  But it is time that some Real standards were created and imposed on the community that reports our “News”.  Bias should only  rarely appear and should be clearly defined as a view point, not as the topic under discussion.  and the facts should be an essential in Every item covered!
Grey Dove




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