#Egypt passed on the Dragon-flavored Kool-Aid

On Monday night I went to an excellent talk by George Galloway here in Toronto. Listening to him reminded me that I am lucky to live in a time of revolution after so long a silence. I grew up in a time when people thought women had enough rights, and people with disabilities were told that not being institutionalized should be enough as well.

I think in some ways the western world has been pacified by the silence, hypnotized by a false notion of peace. Like prisoners whose minds have numbed to the routine and boundaries that surround them, and unable to see any other possibilities beyond those walls.

Within these boundaries the strange and ridiculous become acceptable. Democracy becomes a commodity to be bought and sold, with human rights losses as collateral damage. The economy has become an idol worshiped by the rich and the powerful, but this idol is as false as a tyrant’s concern for the people he rules. It was human beings who created the economy. We seem to have forgotten that we have the power to change what makes an economy, and question it’s purpose. We fear it like those before us who feared monsters and dragons. Personally I think dragons were a much better use of human creativity, at least in some ways they offer inspiration. Dragons have existed throughout the world, but at least they consume fairly indiscriminately.

While the powerful of the western world struggle to maintain their notion of reality, the lines blurring to the point that “they don’t know which dictator to back, and which to sack”, as Galloway said. The revolution in Egypt proved that the world is not entirely dependent on western flavoured democracy. Meanwhile, the oppressed peoples of the world can find hope in the true reality that “all tyrants must pass, all it takes is a single spark”.

To see Galloway’s latest project, check out Viva Palestina Canada

To the people of Japan, my heart goes out to you as well.



Proposed US Law Would Force Product Accessibility

Manufacturers and suppliers of consumer technology devices in the US could
be forced to make all their products accessible to blind consumers, if
proposed legislation is passed by Congress.

Introduced by Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic House of Representatives member
from Illinois, the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind Act 2010 (
http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h4533/text ) is based around creating
accessible alternatives to what it calls “increasingly complex user
interfaces” found in consumer electronics.

Many of these devices, from televisions and dishwashers to office equipment
such as photocopiers and fax machines, are operated by touch-screen
technology or other visual displays that are not accessible to blind people,
the bill says. “This growing threat to the independence and productivity of
blind people is unnecessary because electronic devices can easily be
constructed with user interfaces that are not exclusively visual”, it says.

The draft law builds on guidelines set out in Section 508 of the
Rehabilitation Act, which requires US Government bodies to engage in
accessible IT and electronics procurement ( See:(
http://www.section508.gov ).

The bill is divided into three parts: first, to commission study to
determine non-visual control methods for consumer electronics; second, to
create a set of “minimum non-visual access standards” to which devices
should conform; and third, to establish an “office of non-visual 

compliance” to carry out the study and enforce the access standards.

Peter Abrahams, accessibility and usability practice leader at IT research
organisation Bloor Research ( http://www.bloorresearch.com/
), told E-Access Bulletin that as well as being a significant step for
accessible manufacturing of consumer electronics, the bill could, in theory,
also be used to enforce website accessibility. “I can imagine you could say
that [a website] is the interface to a product or service, and therefore it
has to be accessible and be covered by the same bill. My view is that in the
future it could be used to push [the web accessibility] agenda as well.”

However, it may take some time for manufacturers and website owners to be
affected by the technology bill, even if it is passed, warned Abrahams. The
bill needs to pass both houses of the Congress by a majority vote, before
being examined and signed by President Obama. This process, combined with
setting up the office of non-visual access compliance and carrying out the
study and report as set out in the bill, means it could be several years
before the proposed legislation comes into effect.

Finally someone`s doing something about #inaccessible debit card checkers!

Retailers’ use of fixed devices faces challenge by handicapped groups

Retailers’ use of fixed devices faces challenge by handicapped groups
By ALLISON LAMPERT, The GazetteFebruary 19, 2010

Quebec associations for the handicapped are challenging retailers’ use of immovable debit-card readers.

They say the practice of attaching bank-card readers to store checkout counters discriminates against certain handicapped customers – such as those in wheelchairs – who can’t easily reach the counter.

The Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec is campaigning to bring a group complaint on debit-card readers to the Quebec Human Rights Commission in May.

Their efforts are pitting the rights of thousands of handicapped Quebecers against retailers’ security and cost concerns.

Last year, Quebec police urged retailers – especially dépanneurs, restaurants and gas stations – to replace movable debit-card readers, which were being
unhooked and stolen. Criminals were using the devices to access bank-card data and customers’ PIN numbers.

Julie Weber, an organizer for the handicapped, acknowledged the need for retailers to protect their clients from theft, but said they must also accommodate their handicapped customers.

Retailers now have the option of using immovable readers that are attached to the counter in a sleeve, but can be removed with a key for use by handicapped clients.

“We want them (handicapped customers) to have the same rights as everyone else,” Weber said.

In December, a Montrealer brought a similar complaint to the Human Rights Commission against Pharmaprix and parent company Shoppers Drug Mart Corp.

The complaint, filed by Linda Gauthier, 53, has not been heard by the commission.

A spokesperson for Ontario-based Shoppers couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

Gauthier, who uses a wheelchair after losing the use of her legs to multiple sclerosis, said the immovable readers make it very difficult for her to pay
by debit card.

During the incident that provoked her complaint, Gauthier said the only way she could use the reader was by punching in her PIN number in front of other

“It’s discrimination. My money is as good as anyone else’s,” the former amateur ballroom dancer turned activist said. “We aren’t second-class citizens.”

A retired bank customer service agent, Gauthier said some retailers are making an effort to be more accessible to the handicapped. Gauthier said she has approached Dollarama LP and accessories retailer Ardène Holdings Inc. with some success.

In Gauthier’s Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, a Jean Coutu drugstore offers accessible bank card readers at all of its eight cash registers.

Valérie Marcouiller, pharmacist owner of the store on Mount Royal St. E., said converting to the immovable bank-card readers that unlock with a key wasn’t prohibitively expensive.

“It’s a small gesture that doesn’t take that much effort to do,” Marcouiller said.


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

Reproduced from http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Card+readers+draw+complaint/2584458/story.html

The Eco-friendly Earth Destroyer

Last Thursday started like any other afternoon. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and I was meeting a friend for coffee. I turned off all the lights in my apartment, went out the door, and walked to the market to meet my friend. I’d forgotten my mug, but figured that wasn’t a big deal, I could borrow one. After few minutes I was picking my delicious cup of coffee of the counter, and a split second later, half that coffee was in my lap. Despite the graciousness of everyone around me, and the fact that I wasn’t scalded, I was still left with soaked pants and a sour mood. In that moment I found my self wishing for the worst of all possible things…a PAPER CUP!!!!

Before you start cursing me in rants about carbon footprints and trash build up, be advised that I know what you’re going to tell me, or the general basis of it anyway. I know that coffee cups are not recyclable, and that 1 million coffee cups are thrown in the trash everyday in Toronto alone (Globe and Mail, 2009), but I also know that I would’ve liked to have dry pants that day. (A little digression for those that don’t know me, I have a disability that effects the way I grasp things, as well as my reflexes, and some mugs are just hard to grab on to.)

I didn’t use a paper cup that day, though I did use some paper towel to dry up my pants. I could argue that I had a really good excuse that day to destroy the planet just the tiniest bit for the sake of my own comfort, but instead I feel guilt. It’s not just about the coffee cup, but the way I run my life. To give you an idea, here are a few examples of my crimes against the planet.

  • I’m guilty of leaving lights on in my apartment when I’m running late.
  • I buy granola bars, because I like them…despite their packaging.
  • I flush the toilet every time I use it.
  • And I’m genuinely upset about banning plastic bags because I use them to clean up cat litter.

I try to do good things for the environment. I recycle, I don’t buy bottled water, I bring a backpack for my groceries, I don’t turn the heat on unless I absolutely need to, and I’m even becoming a vegetarian. I’m not alone in my guilt though, in a recent editorial printed by Chatelaine spoke to this subject and the overwhelming pressure she was under to be kind to the environment, despite already having made huge life changes. Though I don’t usually equate this magazine with pearls of wisdom, I couldn’t help but agree that “any movement that doesn’t take into account the vast contradictions of human existence is alienating at best, doomed at worst…with the same rigid, unyielding self-righteousness that got us here in the first place” (Chatelaine, 2009).

For me the question has become, how do we make environmentalism inclusive and practical? Perhaps it’s time to stop telling people what to do, and start making it easier to incorporate into our daily lives. Support biodegradable bags, instead of banning them altogether, and other people-friendly solutions. According to the CBC, 10.8 percent of Canadians lived in poverty in 2005; with our current economic situation those numbers are likely to climb. For these people, buying Earth friendly products is not always an option, let alone solar panels and Earthships.

I didn’t write this to give answers, but I think it’s time we worked toward them.