Videos pulled from city website, YouTube channel over accessibility issues

An error message is displayed when trying to access removed videos on YouTube.

Video records of council sessions, committee meetings, and other political debates have been pulled from the city’s website and YouTube channel over a failure to comply with accessibility rules.

The videos violate the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act because they don’t have closed captioning for the hearing impaired.

“This is something that they’ve known since 2014,” Councillor Mo Salih explains, “I recently discovered it myself and have been working aggressively to have this situation rectified.”

The matter was brought forward to council on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning all of the videos had been pulled.

But Dr. Jeffrey Preston, Fanshawe College professor and disability rights advocate, says taking down all of the videos is not in the spirit of the AODA.

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According to Preston, the city would only have to caption the videos upon request with no need to remove all of the videos. He also expressed concern that the reaction from the city could perpetuate misconceptions that complying with the AODA is too expensive and difficult.

“I was worried that it was going to contribute to this sort of AODA boogeyman. This fear that the AODA is going to come in and destroy everything which really isn’t intention at all,” he explains.

“I don’t think that we need to shake our fists or wag our fingers at city hall for necessarily over-reacting but the real question is going to be now: are they prepared now to step up and do the right thing? That would be to commit to being accessible going forward and providing access for people who need it.”

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Councillor Salih is committed to rectifying the situation and has asked the chair to call for a special council meeting on Friday.

“Really anything is possible at that stage,” Salih tells AM980.

“This is a huge disappointment and should’ve never happened, and should’ve been brought immediately to council’s attention.”

At this point it’s not known how long it will take or how much it will cost to rectify the situation, though Preston notes that the AODA isn’t even capable of issuing a fine for non-compliance.

With files from Scott Monich.

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