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App Spots Objects for the Visually Impaired

A new iPhone app uses machine learning to identify objects for people with poor eyesight, and it doesn’t need an Internet connection. by Rachel Metz
Originally posted March 25, 2016

As I walked around my office on a recent morning, a female voice on my iPhone narrated the objects I passed. “Brick,” “wall,” “telephone,” she said matter-of-factly. The voice paused when I came upon a bike hung on a wall-mounted rack, then intoned, “bicycle.”

The voice is part of a free image-recognition app called Aipoly that’s trying to make it easier for those with vision impairments to recognize their surroundings. To use it, you point the phone’s rear camera at whatever you want it to identify, and Aipoly will speak what it sees (or, at least, what it thinks it sees) and show the object’s name on the phone’s display. Aipoly runs directly on your phone, so it doesn’t need Internet access to work, and it can identify one object after another as you move the phone around, without requiring you to snap a photo of each thing.

The creators of Aipoly hope the app can be helpful for people with severe vision impairmentsand perhaps for those trying to learn a new language. They also hope it will be faster than other image-recognition-related apps that rely on the aid of other humans, like Be My Eyes, or that require the Internet, such as TapTapSee.
The app was rolled out for the iPhone early this year by a Melbourne-based startup of the same name. Aipoly cofounder Simon Edwardsson says it recognizes images by using deep learning, which is a machine-learning technique inspired by studies of the brain. It’s the same technology used by Facebook for recognizing faces and Google for searching images.

The app figures out what something is by breaking an image down into different characteristics, like curves, lines, and patterns (such as stripes), then uses those features to determine the likelihood that the image is a specific object.

Aipoly was able to tell me what plenty of the things are that I can find around my office, though it still needs a lot of work. It can only recognize about 1,000 objects so far; Edwardsson says the company is trying to ramp that up to 5,000, though that would still not be all that many if you consider how many distinct things you come across every day.

And while the app was frequently correct when spotting an object, even when partly occluded (such as headphones slung around my colleague’s neck), there were plenty of misfires, too.

For example, its female voice said “Chevrolet,” then “wheel,” and, finally, “mouse” while the phone was focused on my computer mouse. And the app kept misidentifying a microwave as “AC.”

Aipoly’s iPhone app uses artificial intelligence to identify objects as you move your phone around.

Users can train Aipoly by typing a correct word or phrase to identify an object that it gets wrong; this data will then be uploaded to Aipoly’s servers and the startup will add descriptions to Aipoly every few weeks or so as it releases new versions of the app, Edwardsson says.

Jeff Bigham, an associate professor in human computer interaction at Carnegie Mellon University who studies assistive technologies, says that Aipoly seems to work pretty well, and it could be used to get a sense of your surroundings by moving the phone around you. But he questions how useful some of its object-identifying skills are, since people tend to be good at determining what something is by touching it.

“What’s a lot more useful is telling things apart that are otherwise indistinguishable,” he says, like cans or boxes of food that feel about the same.

Note: Before you download make sure you have the right operating system to be able to use this App.

Original at

BlindSquare and BlindWays, Connecting the Dots for Travelers in Boston, Then and Now.

By Ile, April 24, 2017

Discovery and recollection.

Discovery and recollection are two necessary elements for travel for our friends who are blind. This presents a difficult task in a city the size of Boston, with its nearly 8,000 bus stops.


It is necessary for all to move from point A to point B, whether home to work, work to play or home to “the necessaries” such as groceries, doctors’ offices, visiting friends or journeys to study. Public transit is a wonderful and beneficial asset. The physical movement of vehicles, coupled with information to support choices for travel, is an important service to the community at large. Still, for a person who is blind, partially-sighted or deafblind the “last few feet” can be a great void.

BlindSquare supports its adventurers with great guidance, based on information available from many sources, but the fact is that “B” (as a destination) is often approximate, leading its adventurers “quite close” but precision is elusive. Perkins School for the Blind took on the challenge to fill this information void.


Let’s consider a bus stop as a “dot” on the map. The focus of BlindWays is to describe “what’s inside the dot” yielding clear descriptions, using consistent language, providing a trustworthy resource for transit riders.

Travel, for a person who is blind, requires a lot of planning, discovery and recollection. That’s a lot to ask of a traveler in Boston, with nearly 8000 bus stops especially for an adventurer interested in exploring!

Perkins has created an iOS application called BlindWays that provides a means to collect the information from “thousands of discoveries,” from the contribution of hundreds of blind and sighted volunteers, into an application purposely crafted to provide the “micro-navigation” information necessary to lead the traveler closer and closer to the bus stop. The “discovery” is recorded using BlindWays and then is available to the entire community. The “recollection” is at the traveler’s fingertips, sensitive and responsive to their current location. Now, on approach, the adventurer can discover important information on the location of a trash container on the right, the location of a bus shelter on the left, the fact that the stop is “right across from the Fairmont Hotel” or other known points. All adding convenience and confidence for the traveler. All ensuring that when the bus arrives, the traveler is standing in the right spot, without the need to ask for assistance, and no longer “missing the bus.” Wonderful.


Known to support travel globally, whether live “right now” or to support discovery by simulating travel “to future destinations” provides a yeoman-service daily, “connecting the dots” and presenting information of value and choices for its adventurers.

A vision was shared, between the people behind BlindSquare and BlindWays, to create a perfect case for blind travelers. We posed the question, “What would travel look” like if we could include BlindWays’ detailed descriptions with BlindSquare? The virus of the idea spread quickly and the partnering of the information was completed and announced at CSUN 2017 to great applause.

In Boston, and in many other communities, BlindSquare connects transit information and associates with “the dot,” known as the bus stop. We automatically identify the bus stop “dot” and supply information such as the stop number, expected arrival information about future buses and even interruptions of service often not available to sighted travelers. This is now much better in Boston, today!


In Boston, augmenting the transit system information, we now connect to BlindWays’ crowdsourced descriptions of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) bus stops expanding the information about the “bus-stop-dot” with a simple gesture.

This information is readily available, freely, but on request, to accommodate the “frequent or first” traveler equally well. A frequent traveler is not interrupted with familiar information; a first-time traveler can readily unlock abundant information to support their journey.

Joann Becker, a Boston Transit rider, pictured above:

“I love the convenience of using one app which offers invaluable GPS information coupled with the micro navigation that BlindWays provides its users. I am able to look around with BlindSquare to choose a destination and then use BlindWays clues to help me get within a canes length of the bus stop! I feel empowered using these apps for independent travel around Boston!”

Can I try it myself? Of course!

  • What does this all sound like? An audio demonstration by Ilkka Pirttimaa, simulating a Boston bus stop can be found at the link below.
  • Try from home! One advantage that BlindSquare brings is the ability to simulate travel. From across the city, or around the globe, it’s easy to place yourself in a simulated location (such as Boston) and “look around”.
    Let’s simulate a location in Boston! Follow this link on your iPhone with BlindSquare installed and it will simulate a bus stop in Boston and prompt you to “shake your iPhone to hear BlindWays information”. Select “OK” then shake your phone and listen! You can advance to secondary information by shaking your phone again. You can, of course, pick a destination of your own! Have some fun as you adventure around Boston.
  • What if I don’t have BlindSquare? BlindSquare has provided a “free use” area covering all of Boston with BlindSquare Event, until July 1st. BlindSquare Event can be downloaded from the app store.

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Canadian Federation of the Blind Letter and Background Information Mailed to Librarians and Legislators

Please circulate widely.
April 13, 2017

Dear legislators and librarians interested in services to blind Canadians:

Canada currently has two library services for blind people and others with print disabilities. The publicly owned system is called National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS). The privately owned system is the old CNIB library, now called Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA).

Having two library systems is an unreasonable duplication of effort and a tragic waste of resources. The Canadian Federation of the Blind urges governments and libraries to put an end to this nonsense and once and for all make our library service truly public. We believe NNELS is fully
capable of managing distribution of books in alternate formats and should become Canada’s resource for libraries as they integrate service to people with print disabilities.

We urge government to cut all funding to CNIB/CELA and fund the public NNELS system instead.

Although the public has already paid to produce digital versions of the material in the CNIB library, we would support a one-time payment to CNIB for the transfer of ownership of that collection to NNELS.

Mary Ellen Gabias, President
Canadian Federation of the Blind


The National Network for Equitable Library Service ( ) is paid for by several, but not all, provincial libraries. It’s publicly owned, and has developed an infrastructure for delivering books to eligible borrowers through its website and through public libraries.

The Center for Equitable Library Access (CELA) is the CNIB library under a new name. It’s paid for by some, but not all, provincial libraries, and
some public libraries in non-participating jurisdictions. It is privately owned and its collection is licensed to libraries that pay for access.

Until now, legally blind CNIB clients throughout the country who had become clients before 2011 could use CELA. That may soon change. CNIB/CELA is making it known that access may soon be cut off to blind people in localities that don’t pay CELA’s licensing fees.

The books in the CNIB/CELA collection were paid for with public funds, yet they’re being treated like the private property of CNIB.

The NNELS public library service is completely capable of managing both its collection and the books held by CNIB/CELA. Canadian public policy should focus on making sure that public libraries own the alternate format books in both collections, since the public has already paid to create them.

CNIB should be informed that public money will no longer go to support its private, proprietary, redundant, and more expensive infrastructure now that public libraries have an adequate means of getting books to the people who require them, and doing so more affordably.

In the interest of integration, government should negotiate a one-time payment to CNIB to transfer digital copies of its collection to public ownership through NNELS.

Continuing to pay CNIB for segregated library service is degrading and flies in the face of the new spirit of inclusion of people with disabilities into the mainstream. It also places libraries and governments in danger of
repeated moves by CNIB to withhold books from borrowers as has been done in the past and is currently being threatened.

Technology has created the possibility for truly integrated mainstream library service for people with print disabilities. Canada should embrace that possibility. CNIB is familiar and traditional, but it is neither mainstream nor integrated into the public library system. Familiarity and
tradition do not make CNIB an appropriate choice for providing library service in the twenty-first century.

end of letter.

Persuading your older parents to take the smart home leap

by Ashlee Clark Thompson
April 11, 2017 5:00 AM PDT

This is part of CNET’s “Tech Enabled” series about the role technology plays in helping the disability community.

First, Sophie Godek tried to read books with a magnifying glass. Then, she turned to a tablet to make the words on her e-books larger. Eventually, she couldn’t even see that. The 95-year-old was losing her sight, and with it, one of her favorite hobbies.

“She wasn’t able to read anymore, and that was a big loss,” said her son Jim Godek.

Last year, the younger Godek had an idea: What if he could get his mom a device that could read books to her without the need to navigate a control screen that she had a hard time seeing?

That device turned out to be the Amazon Echo, an internet-connected smart speaker that responds to voice commands. Jim Godek figured that he could buy his mother audiobooks from Audible, then teach her to use voice prompts to have the Echo play the audiobook.

At first, Sophie Godek was a little wary.

“It took a little while to convince her of it,” Jim Godek said. “Her thought was that we’re going to have wires everywhere.”

Eventually, she agreed to try it. It’s been nearly a year, and she’s listened to 178 books.

Smart home gadgets like the Amazon Echo can provide an extra layer of comfort and protection for older adults who want to stay in their own homes as they age. They can also give caregivers or adult children like Jim Godek a means to monitor them, especially if they don’t live close to one another.

Sophie Godek isn’t alone. Roughly 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current home for the next five to 10 years, according to a survey taken by the AARP in 2012. But change — in the form of new technology — can be scary and intimidating. How do you tell your parents you want them to use a smart home device to help them live independently?

“Starting any kind of conversation with the elderly can be tricky,” said Barbara McVickers, an eldercare expert and author. “Mom and Dad sometimes don’t want to talk about this. They see this as a role reversal. They still want to be in charge. It becomes a tug-of-war with the parents wanting to be autonomous and the child caring about the well-being of their parents.”

It’s important to include senior adults in conversations about adding smart home technology to their lives.

Here are some tips about how to start a conversation with your parents about upgrading to smart home tech for their benefit — and yours:

  • Include them in the conversation instead of telling them what to do. “If we just go blaring in there as adult children, they’re going to really dig their heels in,” McVickers said. Listen to their own concerns, and share your own, too.
  • Learn about all the options. Do a little research about what devices are available that could help your parents continue to live on their own. Visit people or facilities who have tried out those technologies. These types of products are worth consideration:
  • Smart speakers. The Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers are both voice-activated, which can help folks who can’t see. The speakers can also connect to other smart home devices so you can give voice commands to shut off things like lights if mobility is an issue.
  • Smart smoke/carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors like the Nest Protect will send alerts to your phone if they detect smoke or carbon monoxide so you will know what’s going on at your parents’ home even when you’re away.
  • Security systems. Wi-Fi-enabled cameras like the Nest Cam or complete systems like the Scout Home Security System can help keep your parents and their home safe by providing remote monitoring.
  • Automatic shut-off devices. Products like the IGuardStove Intelligent shut off your stove if your parent is away from the cook top for too long, which could help prevent house fires.
  • A whole-home system. Service providers like AT&T and Comcast can install a set of devices that will work together from one platform. One Nashville-based company called HoneyCo even focuses on the specific needs of older adults by installing devices such as a video intercom so you don’t have to get up to see who’s at the door.
  • Call a family meeting to talk about how you want to help your parents. Bring in your siblings or other family members who provide care for your parents so “everyone is deciding together what is best for mom and dad,” McVickers said. Consider bringing in a third party your parents trust so they can provide some perspective, too, such as their physician, insurance agent or a family friend.
  • Provide a real-life example of how a gadget could help. Do you have a friend whose parents’ home got broken into who could have benefited from a security system? Use stories like that to illustrate the need to add some devices to their homes. And discuss how a device could help make your life easier, especially if you are the primary caregiver. McVickers suggests that you make a statement like this: “I’m doing this out of love and safety, but we need to know how we can help you age the way you wish.”
  • If your parents are on board with adding a smart home gadget to their routine, pick something that’s simple and requires little interaction. New technology is intimidating, and something too difficult to learn can turn off aging parents. For your parents to successfully make a new device a part of their lives, “it almost has to work flawlessly without their interaction,” McVickers said. (Check out these smart home devices that are easier to use.)
  • Install new devices for your parents and write down step-by-step instructions for how to use them. “If Mom and Dad can’t use it, it’s not helpful at all,” McVickers said.
  • Make sure your parents have a reliable internet connection and Wi-Fi network if the devices you choose rely on Wi-Fi. Here are some Wi-Fi systems that will help make sure your parents and their devices stay online.
  • Reevaluate how your parents are doing with the new device. Check in regularly to see if the device is helping them. Stay on top of your parents’ needs since they could change and require new and different technology.
  • Know when to accept defeat. Your parents might be adamant against changes to their routine. “There’s a certain point you can’t do anything else,” McVickers said. “They’re adults. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything in place.”

For Sophie Godek, the introduction of the Amazon Echo into her home has had a huge impact, according to her son.

“She has made the comment that she can look forward to something brand new every day when she gets up,” he said.

They’ve added a smart thermostat to Sophie Godek’s home that she can voice-control, too. But all of the additions have to be on her terms.

“It’s still her life,” Jim Godek said. “I can have all the input I want, but it’s her choice.”

Original at

Lyft and the National Federation of the Blind Announce Comprehensive Accessibility Improvements for Lyft Riders Who Travel with Service Animals

Lyft and the National Federation of the Blind today announced a collaborative effort to ensure reliable and equal service to individuals who are blind and use service animals.

Lyft’s affirmative and proactive efforts will help ensure its convenient and affordable transportation services are available to riders who are blind and use service animals across the United States.

As part of that effort, Lyft today kicked off the company’s first Service Animal Month, which is part of a multi-pronged initiative to ensure that all individuals with disabilities who travel with service animals on the Lyft platform can fully enjoy the benefits of connecting with drivers through the Lyft app.

Lyft has also announced a new policy which clarifies that every Lyft rider who has a service animal must be accommodated, regardless of a driver’s preferences or circumstances. Lyft drivers who don’t comply with the new policy may face immediate and permanent deactivation from the platform. Lyft is also committing to a number of driver education initiatives that are aimed squarely at raising awareness of the new service animal policy amongst its driver community. Drivers will be educated about the new service animal policy through videos, announcements, and other outreach, that will begin as soon as a driver is approved to perform rides, and will continue throughout the driver’s business relationship with Lyft.

Lyft is also working to improve customer service for blind riders.

Lucy Greco, Accessibility Evangelist for UC Berkeley said “I am so pleased that Lyft was willing to work with us to improve access for riders with service animals. I look forward to using Lyft once the changes are in place.”

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Companies like Lyft are empowering blind people to live the lives we want by providing fast, convenient and affordable transportation. This empowerment can only be real and complete, however, if all blind people, including those who use guide dogs, are able to access the service when and where they need it, without fear that they will be refused service. My wife Melissa uses a guide dog, and consequently our family has occasionally experienced the refusal of transportation services, which violates the legal and civil rights of the blind and people with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind applauds Lyft’s commitment to improve its service to guide dog users, and we look forward to working with Lyft to ensure that its efforts to do so are meaningful and effective.”

Laura Copeland, Lyft’s Head of Community said, “Lyft is excited to partner with the NFB to confirm its commitment that everyone who requests a ride through the Lyft app is provided with equal service, regardless of whether the rider is accompanied by a service animal. At Lyft, we are committed to creating a community where everyone feels welcome, comfortable, and respected. Drivers should always say yes when it comes to transporting riders with service animals.”

Lyft is implementing these changes pursuant to an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and Lucy Greco and Lynda Johnson, who both travel with guide dogs. NFB, Ms. Greco, and Ms. Johnson were represented by Michael Bien, Gay C. Grunfeld and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, Mary-Lee K. Smith and Julia Marks of Disability Rights Advocates, and Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice, in the negotiations that led to these changes.

About the National Federation of the Blind:

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. For more information, visit

About Lyft:

Lyft was founded in June 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. Lyft is the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S and is available in more than 300 cities. Lyft is preferred by drivers and passengers for its safe and friendly experience, and its commitment to effecting positive change for the future of our cities.

About the TRE Legal Practice:

TRE Legal is a law firm specializing in the rights of blind people, including the right to independently access technology-based services. For more information, visit

About Disability Rights Advocates:

DRA is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center advancing equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. For more information, visit, or contact Julia Marks,

About Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP:

Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP is a law firm that has extensive experience representing people with disabilities in litigation against public and private entities. For more information, visit, or contact Michael Nunez,


Chris Danielsen
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 262-1281

Scott Coriell
(802) 353-1449

Original at

Toyota Develops WelWalk Robotic Brace to Aid in Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients

Anna Domanska , April 13, 2017

On Wednesday, Toyota launched a new robotic leg brace called the WelWalk WW-1000. The robotic exoframe is designed to help patients with partial paralysis walk again. The device is worn on the affected leg, with a large motor component at the knee joint that helps with functions such as supporting body weights and assisting with movements such as swinging the leg forward.

The WelWalk WW-1000 system will be made available to medical institutions in Japan later this year, with a rental model that charges a one-time fee of $9,000 and later $3,200 after that on a monthly basis.

The WelWalk robotic leg brace could dramatically reduce recovery time for patients overcoming partial paralysis. The robotic exoframe has sensitivity levels that can be fine-tuned to a physiotherapist’s prescription.

Toyota has been working on robotics for decades now. Its R&D wing Toyota Research Institute is dedicated to creating technology that increases independence and improves the quality of life for an aging population.

Last year, Hyundai showed off a slew of personal support robotic wearables that can supplement the mobility of the wearer. An increasing number of automakers are turning their attention towards overall mobility, i.e. beyond the everyday means of transportation.

In 2016, Honda unveiled ASIMO, a helper robot for the fast-aging population. The humanoid robot can perform tasks without the need for a human controlling its movements. In addition, it also created the Stride Management Assist device, which helps the elderly increase their stride as they walk, which eventually and helps them walk.

Japan’s aging population is large and continues to grow at a fast pace. Around 26 percent of its population is 65 or older compared to the global average of 8.5 percent. This calls for much-needed advancements in automated services industry to help in mobility and care for the aging population.

The field of robotic aids for rehabilitation is growing at a faster rate. Israeli manufacturer ReWalk Robotic created a battery-powered wearable exoskeleton to enable disabled people to stand upright and walk.

Toshiyuki Isobe, Toyota’s chief officer for research, said WelWalk WW-1000 reflects the company’s desire to apply robotics to increase independence. The company has also developed an R2-D2-like machine, called the Human Support Robot, whose mechanical arm can help bed-ridden people pick things up.

“Our vision is about trying to deliver mobility for everybody,” said Isobe. “We have been developing industrial robotics for auto manufacturing, and we are trying to figure out how we can use that technology to fill social needs and help people more.”

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MP Hardcastle Introduces Bill to Help Persons With Disabilities Access Programs

Tom Morrison
Our Windsor, Apr. 11, 2017

The MP for Windsor-Tecumseh’s first private members bill seeks to provide a “one-stop shop” for federal programs available to persons with disabilities.

NDP member Cheryl Hardcastle introduced Bill C-348An Act to Amend the Department of Employment and Social Development Act in the House of Commons Monday.

She said the issue is the federal government has several programs for which persons with disabilities can apply, but they have to prove their condition separately for every application.

“They have to respond to questions about diagnosis and their limitations and are required to provide the supporting documentation for each one of these,” she said “National groups have said this is not only burdensome, but it also can seem very punitive.”

If the bill passes, a person who applies for multiple programs only goes through the process once. Hardcastle said this makes common sense and would also be a better use of federal resources.

Further to the issue, there are different federal departments which offer assistance but there are different eligibility criteria for each program. The bill looks to introduce a single application process without changing the unique qualifications needed to access the programs.

The Canada Pension Plan Disability, Disability Tax Credit, Registered Disability Savings Program, Veterans Disability Pensions and the Opportunities Fund are standalone programs currently with separate application processes.

According to Hardcastle’s staff, these programs have an estimated $6.2 billion in federal expenses in 2016-17.

As the NDP’s critic for persons living with disabilities, Hardcastle said she has been paying attention to an upcoming review the federal government is conducting regarding accessibility legislation.

She said the review is not covering the issue, so she chose to try to address it with her only private members bill of her first term.

“I wanted to bring this kind of one-stop shop that allows individuals to do everything at once at the private level anyway,” she said.

“Because the scope of private members’ bills is fairly constrained, they can’t cost any money, they have to be something practical and I wanted it to have an immediate effect.”

Hardcastle said she has heard about the issue from local constituents as well as activist groups while she is in Ottawa. She said during periods when she is in meetings every day the issue comes up at least three times a week.

The House of Commons has a lottery system to choose the order members will introduce their private bill. Hardcastle had number 74.

Windsor West MP Brian Masse was ahead of Hardcastle in the draw. His bill to allow single-event sports betting was voted down in September.

Essex MP Tracey Ramsey picked 167 in the draw.

Hardcastle’s bill will need to go through two more readings before it becomes law.

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Tokyo 2020 Publish Accessibility Guidelines


The guidelines aim to provide an enhanced environment that will secure more opportunities for access to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. By IPC

“The new Guidelines very much compliment the IPC’s own standards and hopefully can act as a blueprint for other Japanese organisations to further their accessibility too.”

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has published its Accessibility Guidelines which aim to ensure the Olympic and Paralympic Games in three years’ time are fully inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Developed by working closely with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), relevant government organisations, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, relevant municipal authorities and several disability groups, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has formulated its Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guidelines.

The Guidelines will be used by Tokyo 2020 to ensure that all venues, facilities, infrastructure and services provided for the Games are accessible and inclusive for all.

Xavier Gonzalez, IPC CEO, said: “The publication of the Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guidelines is one of a whole host of excellent measures that the Organising Committee is undertaking to ensure a fully inclusive Games

“The new Guidelines very much compliment the IPC’s own standards and hopefully can act as a blueprint for other Japanese organisations to further their accessibility too.

“In addition to the excellent measures Tokyo 2020 is undertaking, the Japanese government is also looking to also implement its Universal Design 2020 Action Plan which will further accessibility across the country.

“All these measures highlight, how hosting a Paralympic Games can act as a catalyst to improving social inclusion.”

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will take place between 25 August and 6 September.

Original at

Blind Windsor Woman Denied Help Filling Out Passport Docs

Windsor – CBC News
April 03, 2017

Rebecca Blaevoet, holds up ‘tactile vision’ labels for seeds being borrowed from Windsor Public Library. The Windsor woman said a recent experience at the passport office shows the need for better government accessibility in Canada.

An Ontario woman says the federal government is letting down residents with disabilities by forbidding staff at Passport Canada from helping applicants fill out their forms.

Rebecca Blaevoet of Windsor, Ont., says she learned of the policy last month when she went to have her passport renewed.

Blaevoet, who is completely blind, asked Passport Canada staff to fill out her form according to the responses she provided, but they refused, saying that would violate official guidelines.

Staff offered her a braille form, which would only have allowed her to read the application rather than complete it. Passport Canada quickly had to retract the offer upon realizing they did not have any braille forms in stock.

Another staff member asked Blaevoet’s husband if he could fill out the forms for her, but that question offended her even further.

“That’s a reasonable question, but it’s really wrong on several levels,” she said about the principle of not having the services available for blind citizens
who might not be fortunate enough to have someone there with them. “It was my issue, I had to handle it. My husband might not have even been there.”

In the end, Blaevoet says she was asked to handwrite the form as a staff member placed a writing guide an aid to show her where to write on each individual line. Blaevoet said this option would not be helpful for people whose disabilities prevented them from holding a pen or writing in print.

Official complaint filed

Passport Canada says the rule barring staff from filling in forms on behalf of others is applied across the country. There is no exemption in place for Canadians with disabilities.

Blaevoet, who has filed an official complaint about her experience with Passport Canada, said the policy represents a complete failure to accommodate those with disabilities.

“I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is outrageous,”‘

“There is no excuse for such ethical laxity in providing decent services for all Canadians, regardless of disability, race, ethnic origin, whatever,” she said in an interview. “I just think it’s reprehensible that they have such a gap.”

The incident occurred March 22 when Blaevoet and her husband went to renew their passports. Unaware of the existing policy, Blaevoet said she thought having a Passport Canada employee complete the one-page, double-sided form would be the most efficient way of processing her application.

Upon arrival, however, a clerk informed her he could not fulfil her request, saying doing so was “not his job,” Blaevoet recalled.

She then asked to speak to a supervisor, who said Passport Canada staff could not complete the form for fear of “leading the applicant” to provide inaccurate
answers. When Blaevoet offered to sign a document authorizing staff to assist her, she said no such accommodation could be granted.

No braille forms at branch

Blaevoet was offered a braille form, which would have allowed her to read the application, but would not provide a means of filling in answers. Staff then discovered they had no braille forms in stock.

Blaevoet was ultimately told she could handwrite the form, an option she said she accepted to illustrate what she called the absurdity of the policy.

“I said, ‘fine. I’m going to stand here and handwrite it, it’s going to take me a long time, and good luck to anybody who can read my handwriting. This is
outrageous,”‘ she said, adding the majority of visually impaired people do not have sufficient handwriting skills to make use of that option. The same would hold true for those with physical disabilities limiting their movements.

Blaevoet said a staff member placed a handwriting guide on each line of the form to ensure the proper fields were being filled out. To Blaevoet’s surprise, however, the staff member volunteered to take over once they reached the “references” section of the form, willingly filling in fields and even offering to look up addresses online.

During this time, Blaevoet said staff approached her husband asking if he would complete the application on her behalf. He declined on principle, saying it was
not appropriate for staff to assume a person accompanying a disabled applicant could be trusted to complete the task.

“He could have been a taxi driver who just helped me find the office and I just paid to wait for me. Or he might have been my husband, but completely dyslexic.”

The government said staff are barred from helping applicants fill out forms as a security measure to protect against forgery.

“Generally, any addition, modification or deletion of information on an application form must be completed by the applicant and initialled,” reads a
statement from Service Canada, the agency that oversees the administration of passports.

“Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,”

“Although the policy in place speaks to amendments to the application form and does not reference providing assistance to visually impaired applicants, it is
understood that any annotations on the application form should be completed by the applicant themselves, when possible.”

The statement said visually impaired Canadians can designate a friend or family member to complete the form for them.

Legislation needed to ensure accessible service

The Passport Canada site also offers an accessible online form that can be completed in advance. Service Canada said, however, that there are no accessible terminals for those with disabilities at passport offices meaningg those
without an Internet connection or appropriate technology would have issues. Blaevoet noted that in her case, staff at the Passport Canada office did not point her to an online form.

Michael Prince, professor of social policy and disability studies at the University of Victoria, said the proposed solutions are typical of too many
customer service experiences across Canada that limit a person’s ability to take independent action on their own affairs.

He said Blaevoet’s case exemplifies the need for federal legislation to ensure accessible customer service standards across all services provided by government, adding the ideal scenario would result in universal access in everything from banks to stores to voting booths.

“Many people with disabilities will find the existing limited set of options demeaning and insulting,” Prince said. “As a country committed to equality and to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we can do much better.”

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UN Calls for Recognizing the Rights of People with Autism to Make Their Own Decisions

31 March 2017

Ahead of World Autism Awareness Day, the United Nations today called for recognizing the rights of people with the spectrum neurological condition, which is believed to affect 70 million people around the world.

Let us ensure that we make available the necessary accommodations and support to persons with autism, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the Day.

With access to the support they need and choose, they will be empowered to face the key milestones in every person’s life, he added, making decisions such as where and with whom to live, what type of work to pursue and how to manage their personal finances.

One in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates by the UN World Health Organization (WHO). Around the world, one per cent of the entire population possibly two per cent is on the spectrum.

In a special event in New York ahead of the Day, marked annually on 2 April, the UN and the international community gathered to renew their commitment to raising awareness about autism and the need for people with the disorder to have equal opportunity and full participation in society on equal basis with other citizens.

Cristina Gallach, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, which co-organized the event along with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said in her opening remarks that to achieve an inclusive society, we must ensure that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are known and respected.

The Convention entered into force in 2008, to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people with disabilities, and to promote their dignity.

In his statement, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson said that awareness events, such as the one being held today, are important to helping people and their families lead more enjoyable lives.

A lack of understanding of the causes, symptoms and effects of autism has in many cases led to a proliferation of misinformation, anxiety and confusion, Mr. Thomson said in a statement delivered by Masud Bin Momen, Assembly Vice-President.

He called for early intervention programmes, health programmes and support services to ensure that people with autism can access education, training and jobs. So that ultimately autism does not define them, Mr. Thomson said, and they are seen as who they are, people with ideas, capacities and contributions to make.

Autism is mainly characterized by its unique social interactions, non-standard ways of learning, keen interests in specific subjects, inclination to routines, challenges in typical communications and particular ways of processing sensory information.

The stigmatization and discrimination associated with neurological differences remain substantial obstacles to diagnosis and therapies.

‘We are failing to protect the rights of people with autism’ Keynote address

Autonomy and self-determination for people with autism cannot be separated from a discussion of their human rights, said Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, in his keynote address.

Having studied autism for decades, Dr. Baron-Cohen said that many people on the spectrum have excellent attention to detail and the ability to spot patterns, for example, but need safeguarding because they trust people’s words as facts and have a hard time fitting in socially.

Referencing statistics, such as that half of people with autism are too afraid to leave their homes for fear that they will be taken advantage of, Dr. Baron-Cohen chided the international community.

On the first human right, the right to dignity, as civilized nations, we are failing to protect the rights of people with autism.

He defined autism as an example of neurodiversity, saying that differently wired brains lead to different profiles of strengths and challenges, and should not be judges as better or worse. They’re just different. People with autism are asking for acceptance and respect.

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