Accessible and Inclusive Information Communication Technology in Canada
Submitted by London School of Economics, York University (Osgoode Hall Law School)
2010–05–10 13:55:10 EDT
Theme(s): Digital Infrastructure, Innovation Using Digital Technologies
This submission provides a right based approach in which to think about and build Canada's digital economy. It also addresses the issue of accessibility and cost as necessary drivers that prevent full inclusion.
Summary and submission
Viewing the issue of digital access and inclusion as a right, just as we do for education and health in Canada lays the foundation as a stepping stone.
The rights based approach draws on the human rights model. For instance, companies that could help persons with disabilities access the internet with greater ease would be able to compete in the multibillion disability industry such as Ray Kurzweil, who brought text to speech to the blind. Even having persons with disabilities on your Industry Canada Consultation is imperative to building credible and robust policy recommendations that reflect the needs of all segments of Canadian society including the poor and those with disabilities.
The internet unlike a sovereign country with boarders should aim to formulate policies that increase greater access for all. The internet and access to the digital world, such as government's services is a public good and a public utility that we must all strive to have access to.
In the spirit of closing the digital divide, the issue of accessibility must be addressed. Millions of Canadian websites are not accessible and user–friendly for those with learning disabilities, dyslexia, blindness and much more. Ensuring that best practices in accessible web design is imperative and necessary… For instance, the World Wide Web Consortium or the W3C have set guidelines in designing accessible websites for persons with disabilities. If you get a moment, do check out: Getting Started with Web Accessibility
Framing this issue within a rights based approach can yield positive benefits that can achieve two important objectives, namely greater digital access and commercialization of new innovation in digital accessibility. Please refer back to the point about Ray Kurzewil.
Providing free or low cost access to the internet for persons with disabilities and low income families is necessary to ensure inclusion and full participation in the digital economy. For the ~10% of Canadians with disabilities and millions of low income families, the issue of accessibility and affordability of access continue to hinder the goal of digital inclusion. According to the OECD, having more consumers online creates greater competition in the market.— OECD 2009 Executive Summary (PDF).
In terms of cost, Canada ranks in ninth place in terms of internet affordability. Analysts such as Michael Geist , suggests that the ranking is actually composed of several metrics, including speed and price. When you put those two measurements together, Geist claims, Canada's ranking comes in to something like third from last. Geist's critical argument centers on how much we pay, and what we get for it, claiming that combining price with speed puts Canada at 28 out of 30 in affordability, or as the OECD had it in August, we are paying $26.11 per Mbps. These costs are far too high.
Azim Lila & Natasha Walji