Accessibility in Action
Accessibility in Action
By Chris Kenopic, President and CEO, Canadian Hearing Society
Accessibility for culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people has improved significantly over the years thanks to many individuals and agencies including the Canadian Hearing Society which has always been at the forefront of promoting a barrier-free country and paving the way for consumers to excel in life.
The enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) in 2005, has unquestionably spearheaded many improvements for people with disabilities. The commitment of this Act is to improve accessibility in five major areas: customer service; employment; information and communication; transportation; and, the design of public spaces.
Ontario is the only province in Canada with an Act explicitly committed to shaping a barrier-free society. We can only hope that other provinces will follow Ontario’s example for their citizens.
Today, the focus is not so much on educating society about what is accessibility as it is about changing attitudes. How many of us have felt confident enough to discuss access when we know that the automatic response will be: “how much is this going to cost?” or “there’s never been a problem before so why do we need access now?” or “why are we responsible for accommodations – people with disabilities should take care of themselves?” The list goes on.
As consumers we also need to adjust how we present the importance of accessibility. In the past, we were always thinking ahead, knowing that the response would mainly be about society being forced to making changes to accommodate us. Now, there’s no need to debate the importance of access (challenging, I know that from my own experience) because we’ve got the law – the AODA – on our side.
Now, CHS can focus on what we do best: offering accessibility solutions to assist the business world and society to become accessible to people who are culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing. We demonstrate daily that it is not hard to make changes when you have the right attitude and passion to do it!
When you think about it, there are lots of benefits to removing society’s barriers for people with disabilities: it clears the path for society to move towards equal opportunities – both personal and professional – for all its citizens, which no doubt improves our economy and our quality of life. We are moving closer to our ultimate goal of a barrier-free society for all people.