We Count Recount
A Message from Our Director
Lately I’ve come to wonder: if our human endeavour on this planet is a vehicle, does it have a brake, warning lights, a reverse gear or even a steering wheel that isn’t stuck on forward?
I don’t think I’m a luddite and I don’t think it is just my age. I’m seeing the prescient warnings of wise women like Ursula Franklin playing out. She warned us about the harms of prescriptive technologies. I argued that the benefits for people with disabilities of emerging technologies outweighed the harms. I think that balance has been tipping in the wrong direction of late. Beyond the direct harms of things like automated decision systems, the most liberating technologies are not financially accessible or usable by the people that need them the most. The existence of these technologies gives the false impression that the barriers can be dismissed or ignored (for example, see How Innovation Sets Me Backwards).
It isn’t only people who are marginalized who are harmed by the lack of a safe and humanely controllable vehicle to navigate the increasingly unpredictable terrain in our future. It ultimately harms our human endeavour as a whole. To illustrate this with another analogy, I’ve turned to complexity theory to illustrate my concern. Complexity theory offers the hill climbing model to demonstrate the dilemma we face as a civilization. Think of our collective human journey through history as navigating a complex, unpredictable, changing terrain of mountains and valleys that is shrouded by fog (see figure below). One of the dangers we face is flooding and the water level is rising. To survive as a species, we need to find a generous high place that has room for all of us.
Unfortunately, we are stuck on a small, steep, spiky mountain. In our attempt to get to the top of this small mountain we are eroding the slope, making it harder for many people to climb out of danger and destroying everything we need to survive in the long term. Because the hill is steep and space is scarce, we think we need to compete. We believe that if one of us makes it up, others must come down, and when others win, we lose. The popular and respected message is that safety and success is to go higher up. We are told that to succeed we need to do what we have been doing more effectively, efficiently, accurately and consistently.
The tragedy is that within the same terrain there is a large, generous mountain that could fit all of us and that won’t be submerged. However, to get to it we need to reverse direction and go against much of what we have been taught, all the formula we think will lead to our success. Rather than going up our local steep mountain, we need to go down to find the more generous higher plateau where we can collectively survive and thrive. We have been taught that going down is failing, dangerous and shameful.
To reach our destination we also need to collaborate rather than compete and seek our collective success because to make it we need as many diverse views as possible. We need to listen to the people who are currently at the bottom; they are closest to the place we need to go, collectively they have the best sense of the most promising terrain, and they also have the best view of where the rising water is. This is hard for most people to do because the people at the bottom have been denigrated and labelled as failures. Our systems of communication, navigation, education, transportation, reward and valuation have been designed to exclude them. Our respected systems of knowledge and evidence don’t support them. We have broken their trust. We have sacrificed them in the rush to progress up our steep hill. In the process we have chosen to create systems that won’t work for us when we are vulnerable, and we will all be vulnerable.
At the IDRC we are working to increase the safety and choices available in our adoption of new innovations such as artificial intelligence. We are drafting possible AI Accessibility and Equity requirements. We welcome your input and ideas.
All my best,
The Honourable David C. Onley, Former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario
The IDRC community is mourning the loss of former Lieutenant-Governor David Onley, who passed away in January. David was a passionate advocate for disability rights and accessibility who made a difference in the lives of so many Ontarians, both as a journalist and as the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.
A survivor of childhood polio, David was the first Canadian broadcaster with a visible disability, and his career spanned two decades. He was also an accessibility consultant for the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre and the inaugural chair of the Ontario Accessibility Standards Advisory Council. In 2018, David lead a review of the AODA and wrote a report that was highly critical of the current progress that was being made toward achieving the AODA's 2025 accessibility goals. His meaningful and accurate report highlighted particular problem areas, including physical barriers, the high unemployment rate for people with disabilities, and ableism.
David was always a good friend to the IDRC and made the time to come to campus last year to speak to our students. He will be missed by the entire IDRC community.
A Clusive Success Story
Clusive is a free, flexible, adaptive and customizable learning environment. It is a web application for students and teachers that addresses access and learning barriers present in digital and open learning materials. Teachers can create classes of students, upload and assign ebooks to those classes, and monitor students' progress. Students can upload books as well and create their own virtual library. They can use built-in tools to alter the display of the contents of a book in terms of text size, line spacing, letter spacing, colour contrast themes and font, including a font developed for reading with dyslexia. The Reader component provides read-aloud and can be configured with different voices and reading speeds. When activated, read-aloud speaks the text and highlights individual words as they are spoken. There are also supports for notetaking, word definition lookup and text simplification.\ \ Clusive was developed by the Center on Inclusive Software for Learning (CISL). \\[Learn more about Clusive](https://clusive.cast.org/).\ \ Read about a \\[real-life Clusive success story](https://wecount.inclusivedesign.ca/views/a-clusive-success-story/).
Blind, deafblind and partially sighted individuals face many barriers while accessing healthcare services including inaccessible healthcare resources, difficult interactions with providers, and inaccessible physical and digital spaces. At the root of these issues is the lack of practitioner knowledge and competency in topics related to low vision and blindness.
The Floe project is working with researchers and educators at Queen’s University to bring together people with low vision and blindness, healthcare providers and curriculum creators to codesign and create educational materials that all healthcare providers can use to address these issues.
Learning to Be Human Together is a favourite Pressbook of 2022
We are proud to announce that Learning to Be Human Together was included in the favourite Pressbooks of 2022 list!
In March 2022, the IDRC released a new resource that explores the importance of, and processes for, humanizing education, starting with an exploration of what humanizing teaching and learning means. Humanizing Learning, the result of a year-long exploration into how education can be transformed, aims to make learning inclusive, with connection, access and meaning-making at its core.
Broken down into four modules, this book highlights the importance of twelve core super themes, such as trust, vulnerability, re-framing failure, and friction. These super themes are multi-layered ideas that intersect and weave together across the humanizing learning spectrum.
Read Humanizing Learning
What is a We Count Challenge?
In this video, discover how we're helping to create an inclusive and balanced data ecosystem for persons with disabilities through our ongoing call for challenges and challenge workshops.
Visit our YouTube channel to see past webinar recordings. New videos are released regularly, so be sure to subscribe.
We Count Badges
Want to earn We Count badges? Find out more about our badges and how you can earn them in this video.
AI and Disability Learner Badge
Wendy Chisholm (Microsoft) and Jutta Treviranus (IDRC, OCAD University) discuss the complex relationship between innovative technology and disability, with a focus on AI.
You will learn:
- The risks and rewards of AI for people with disabilities
- How future developments in different industries may impact the disability community Apply for your Learner badge
Earn badges with We Count! Our badges enable earners to showcase their proficiency in AI, data systems and inclusive data practices. To find out more about the types of badges we offer and which badges are currently available, visit our website.
Accessibility in Action Co-Design
Accessibility in Action sets out to create a platform that will bring disability communities together with the thousands of entities regulated under the Accessible Canada Act of 2019. The initiative aims to facilitate effective engagement of people with disabilities and federally regulated entities in creating an accessible and inclusive Canada that fully respects and protects the human rights of people with disabilities.
The IDRC team worked with the disability and Deaf community, disability organizations, and federally regulated entities to understand what a meaningful consultation means to them through the completion of discovery co-design workshops.
To summarize the workshop results, the team has created documents that address accessible design guidelines, best practices for entities before engagement, recommended topics for training and resources, and website technical features. These documents will be available in the coming weeks on the project's Accessibility in Action Co-Design website.
One of the main outcomes of the discovery co-design workshops was the outlining of a consultation process, which describes the nine main steps of the consultation process, including outreach and preparation and training.
After building rough versions of the project website based on what the team learned from the discovery co-design workshops, the team is now running brainstorming co-design workshops, working in small groups that are a mix of individuals, disability organizations and federally regulated entities.
AccessArt Project for 2021–2022 Year of Public Art
After wrapping up four workshops in July 2021, with the support of We Count, AccessArt continues its co-design process with Deaf, Disabled, and Neurodiverse Artists and Arts Workers with disabilities and friends. This fall, virtual drop-in co-development sessions have continued to refine the assessment criteria and playtest and research the accessibility of public art spaces. Work also continues on creative access and improving the institutions and processes that shape our shared spaces.
Recent co-development guests include Accessibility Specialist Anika Abdullah from DesignAble, assisting on refining standards, Kat Germain, sharing her expertise in the field of audio and visual descriptions, and Melanie Marsden, sharing insights and benefits of effective visual descriptions when experiencing art as someone with lived experience of disability.
Download posters from July’s workshops. Access visual descriptions for posters and workshop session notes.
If you’re interested in contributing to the mapping and casebuilding process, AccessArt invites you to sign up for paid roles! Please register to the Access Art Alliance, and a member of our team will contact you with more information.
Discover how We Count is addressing bias and developing new machine learning strategies that recognize and serve people with disabilities in this video.
Visit our website and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with We Count initiatives and developments in the data science, disability and AI communities.
We Count acknowledges the support of:
- The Inclusive Design Research Centre
- OCAD University
- Innovation Science and Economic Development, Canada's Accessible Technology Program
- The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation