How Much Should Accommodation at the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC) Provide to Those with Low Vision or Blindness?

By Geof Collis
May 31, 2011
This topic was recently brought to my attention by Axel Krueger, a member of a Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC), an issue I was quite familiar with during my term on an MAAC.

Perhaps you have seen this as well or actually experienced it at your meeting.

Axel explains the Scenario for me below:

  • A week before a MAAC is prepared to meet, members receive either a hard copy or electronic copy to familiarize themselves with the agenda and any other additional pertinent information.
  • All members are sighted, but one. This individual has a significant vision impairment [ low partial vision ]. This individual only reads electronically, where Braille and large print are not an advantage. This individual uses a desktop computer at home for reading and note taking.
  • One other member is deaf or significantly hard of hearing, where 2 signing interpreters have been supplied by the Town or City to allow that person to communicate with other members, staff and thereby contribute at a
    significant cost.
  • At the MAAC meeting, all members are given hard copies again to have at a glance, to make notes and have to prepare for more direct and detailed questions
  • The low vision member is given nothing more than a hard copy of agenda and associated materials to be able to contribute on the same playing field as others. This individual must rely on their recollection of all agenda items in detail and additional information they read on their computer at home, to provide accurate comment on the items on hand.

As Axel rightly asks:

“What should be provided to this low vision person to accommodate them during this MAAC meeting and allow them to effectively “participate with all members during this meeting?

A very good question but what is the answer?

Should the Municipality offer a laptop or other similar device with a screen reader program and headphones if the Member is capable of using it, with the relevant information provided in accessible documentation?

Should they provide a person to assist the Member so they can speak to them discreetly as topics are brought up, much like an Interpreter?

Whether it is one of the above options or some other form of assistance should Municipalities provide accommodation to this particular Disability?

I’m not sure about Axel but I felt that as a person with Low Vision there wasn’t much my Municipality were going to do for me and I was going to have to rely on my memory in order to participate in any dialogue, like the way I’m treated when it comes to Accessible Documentation, as long as it isn’t legislated by the Province or covered under the Human Rights Code then I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

What if the person also has a cognitive/learning disability as well as Low Vision or Blindness?

If the rumours are true about the Integrated Accessibility Regulation not being any better than the last Draft then the future doesn’t look very bright for Ontarians with Disabilities, especially when it comes to accessible documentation.