Editor's note: This editorial can be applied to most countries in the world; not just a Canadian concern.
There are artificial barriers, attitude barriers, real barriers, challenging barriers, insurmountable barriers, and so on. All of us face a combination of these types, but in my humble opinion, we as sight impaired persons face all of these. Canadians on the whole would probably not be shocked to learn of some of them that we face but on the other hand they would be absolutely mortified if they were to learn about others. Some would definitely be shockers to the mainstream Canadian but others would merely be shakers.
Barriers to employment: over 80% of blind and visually impaired Canadians are unemployed. This statistic has been a thorn in our side for decades and does not seem willing to change because of a lack of action on the part of both government and society. Barriers to a better standard of living - over 70% of disabled Canadians live below the poverty line and the statistic for blind and visually impaired Canadians is even higher. This would be a shock if the rest of the world were to know but it is no shocker to disabled Canadians themselves given the daily challenges that they continue to endure.
Barriers to accessible websites: no shocker and no shaker. The Federal government refuses to do anything for their own reasons and hidden agenda. I would even venture to say that our government simply ignores us because it is easier for them to do so. Almost all of their websites remain a challenge to access, they still refuse to make information accessible in alternate formats, and because of all of this there are real barriers to job opportunities within the Federal government.
Barriers to timely materials at universities: an embarrassment for a developed country such as Canada. There still seems to be many challenges being faced by our blind and visually impaired students at the university level. So often I hear the complaint that a student is unable to obtain their materials on time and more often than not they receive them so late that they are forced to delay the completion of their courses.
Barriers to timely treatment in our health system: a crying shame and unacceptable. My comments here apply to the city of Toronto. It took me over three months after I started complaining of loss of vision before I could see a retinal specialist who told me that my retina was detached and another three months before I could have surgery to repair it.
Barriers to technology: yet another embarrassment and my opinion applies to Ontario. We can only update our technology every five years based on the ADP program. Because most sight impaired persons are financially challenged, they depend on the ADP program to help them update their technology.
Barriers to accessible mobile devices: not very accessible in so many cases. Here I point to such things as accessible cell phones, PDAs, MP3s, and so on. Designers and Developers are still struggling to make these things fully accessible to the sight impaired and even if they are somewhat semi accessible, they are too expensive for most sight impaired persons to afford.
Of course there are more barriers that I can mention but I think that this is enough to paint a very sad and gloomy picture. In addition to these, we face a very real and unhealthy attitude from society as a whole. I am sure that you have the picture by now so I will stop here. Barriers for us to own up to and barriers for us to start breaking down. If we admit to our hang-ups and discomforts then we are definitely on the right track.
I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
Donna Jodhan! Advocating accessibility for all: http://www.donnajodhan.blogspot.com
Weekly Saturday postings on issues of accessibility: http://www.sterlingcreations.ca/blog/blog.html
blogs on various issues and answers to consumers concerns: http://www.sterlingcreations.com/businessdesk.htm