In light of yesterday's posting on the perceptual disabilities exception, which I argue creates a huge barrier for Canadians with disabilities since they will be unable to legally access devices that can be used to circumvent, it is worth considering whether Bill C-61 violates the spirit and letter of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (or will at a minimum necessitate a DRM accessibility standard). The AODA was enacted in 2005 with the goal of "developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025." The Act will set out policy, practices, and other requirements that remove barriers with respect to goods and services. It defines barriers as:
"anything that prevents a person with a disability from fully participating in all aspects of society because of his or her disability, including a physical barrier, an architectural barrier, an information or communications barrier, an attitudinal barrier, a technological barrier, a policy or a practice"
That definition would likely capture DRM and it definitely captures the combination of DRM and Bill C-61's anti-circumvention provisions.
The Act already includes an accessibility standard for customer service that takes effect for the private sector by January 2012. That standard includes a requirement that providers of goods and services:
"shall use reasonable efforts to ensure that its policies, practices and procedures are consistent with the following principles:
Persons with disabilities must be given an opportunity equal to that given to others to obtain, use and benefit from the goods or services."
Bill C-61 arguably violates this standard. Persons with disabilities will not have an equal opportunity to use and benefit from many goods and services that use DRM since that DRM may limit or eliminate the use of technologies to read text aloud and the bill stops the circumvention of such limitations. The bill will also open the door to the Ontario government working toward a DRM accessibility standard that may mandate the kind of access that (unlike many other countries) Bill C-61 does not consider.