Blind woman takes feds to court over web access

A blind woman in Toronto is taking the federal government to court because she is unable to apply for a government job online.

'I had to seek sighted assistance,' Donna Jodhan says

A blind woman is taking the federal government to court because she is unable to apply online for a government job.

Donna Jodhan of Toronto has certified skills with Microsoft and Novell programs, and holds a master's degree in international business and finance from McGill University.

"I have a computer that is outfitted with special access technology, with a screen reader. I use my screen reader to surf the internet," Jodhan said.

But when it came to applying online for a job with the federal government, that technology wasn't enough. "I found out the forms were not accessible," she said. "I had to seek sighted assistance to do so."

After much deliberation, she said, she called lawyer David Baker. Her case will be heard in Federal Court in Toronto starting Tuesday.

"We hoped the government would respond positively by committing to make their websites accessible, bring them up to standard as is the case in the United States," she said.

The American White House website is outfitted with transcriptions, audio clips and captions. Jodhan said the Canadian government should do the same with its web pages.

"One of the saddest things is that government has spent a lot of money fighting this case," she said. "Why are you fighting me on this? Why are you spending taxpayers' money?"

An email from the Treasury Board said Ottawa has complied with the web accessibility standards in the government's own Common Look and Feels Standards for the Internet.

But Jodhan said that's not good enough if she can't even apply for a job online.


  • An earlier version of this story said Donna Jodhan was suing the federal government in Superior Court. In fact, she is launching a constitutional challenge in Federal Court and is not seeking compensation.
    Sep 21, 2010 7:35 PM ET