Ontario’s improved vaccination certificate system not accessible to marginalized people, advocates say
Advocates say Ontario’s improved COVID-19 vaccine certificate system is not accessible to marginalized groups.
The new system, announced Friday, assumes people have smartphones, computers, printers, Internet access, a data plan and the ability to browse the provincial website, defenders told CBC News on Saturday.
According to representatives from three organizations, the Ontario government has failed to consider the needs of people with disabilities, including those with cognitive impairments, mobility issues or legally blind, as well as the elderly to fixed income, low income and homeless people. people.
David Lepofsky, chair of the Alliance for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, said the government had failed to properly test its improved system to ensure it met the requirements of accessibility. Lepofsky, who is completely blind, is a visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. The alliance is an advocacy group for consumers with disabilities.
“Again, unfortunately, the Ford government has shown that accessibility for people with disabilities, during COVID and more generally, is just not a priority for them,” Lepofsky said on Saturday.
Lepofsky said he found the announcement, website and press release confusing because he believed there would be an app for individuals that people could load on their phones that would show their COVID vaccine certificates. -19. However, the app, Verify Ontario, turns out to be aimed at businesses.
The business app also doesn’t meet the need for medical exemptions, he added.
Then, when Lepofsky started filling out the required fields on the provincial COVID-19 vaccination portal, he found out he had to ask his wife to read the number on the back of his green health card. She had to use a magnifying glass because the color contrast is not good and the print is smaller on the back than on the front, he said.
Lepofsky said it’s not difficult to make provincial public health requirements, such as vaccination certificates, accessible, but there needs to be a commitment to do so.
“At the end of the day, there is no consideration of the needs of people who do not own a smartphone, who are not connected to the Internet, who are tech-savvy, who are sighted and who are not. not disabled, ”he said.
“It just creates a two-class society,” he added. “There are people with various disabilities who live independently and want to live independently, and they deserve the same access as people without disabilities.”
Ford announced a new improved system on Friday
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Friday that Ontarians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can start uploading new QR codes this week, which officials say will allow faster entry into settings that require proof of vaccination.
The improved system officially goes into effect on October 22, but Ontarians can get their new scannable vaccine certificates before that date, and businesses can already start using a new app to scan those codes.
On Friday, residents whose birthdays fall between January and April were able to download the enhanced vaccination certificate through the province’s COVID-19 website. On Saturday, those born between May and August will be able to download it, while on Sunday, those born between September and December will have their chance.
Seniors face hurdles to upload certificates, group says
Elizabeth Macnab, executive director of the Ontario Society of Senior Citizens Organizations, said the government should have consulted with senior advocacy groups and the provincial Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility before launching the enhanced certificate system. vaccination.
Macnab noted that at least 20 percent of Ontario’s population is over 65, but the people who designed the software are likely in their 40s, 30s or 20s. “There is a very deep divide in understanding technology and intuitiveness, how to use it, how to access it, etc.,” Macnab said.
“When you’re a senior, it becomes an affordability issue in terms of technology,” Macnab said. “It becomes basic necessities. The high cost of gasoline. I can’t drive to the grocery store, I can’t socialize, let alone buy the technology too.”
Mobility and cognitive impairment also pose challenges. “If you’re a person with a mobility issue, you’re in a walker and walking around. Your hands are full. You have to get all that stuff out. It’s a lot easier for someone without the level challenges. mobility and cognitive impairment. ”
Angie Peters, president and CEO of the Yonge Street Mission, said homeless youth or youth without stable housing don’t always have an income, leaving them without access to technology. The process is complicated because their contact details can constantly change.
“There are times when they don’t have a phone, so if they had loaded it on a device and they no longer have that device, now they don’t have it and they have to pick it up at new, ”Peters mentioned.
Province says it knows access to technology is a problem
Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health, said in an email Saturday that the government has worked to make the process accessible to all Ontarians.
“We understand that not everyone has access to technology, which is why we have worked to make vaccine certificates as accessible as possible,” said Hilkene.
Those unable to download the certificate themselves can contact the Provincial Contact Center for Vaccines to mail or email it to them. The center can be reached at 1-833-943-3900 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
She said people who do not have an Ontario health card can contact their public health unit to have their identity verified and obtain a COVID ID, which is a unique number assigned by a public health unit in the purpose of obtaining a copy of a vaccination certificate. .
The province says people can print a copy of their enhanced vaccine certificate by visiting a local library, going to a ServiceOntario store, or asking a friend or trusted organization.
Enhanced certificates are not required and Ontarians can continue to use their current vaccine receipt if they wish.