Internet now more difficult to access

All three levels of government are working to meet the requirements of the Disabilities Act, and they all should be applauded for their efforts.
The act was designed to remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. The legislation probably never thought about financial disabilities, or technology disabilities or infrastructure issues.
I’ll offer up one example of how the system works. All three levels of government now are using the web to store forms and information to assist residents in their everyday life.
Ontario, for more than two decades, has been funding libraries across the province to provide Internet connection and at least one computer for local residents to use to access the web.
Shoring up costs, the province is choosing to do away with that library subsidy.
If you are a senior or a person who cannot afford a computer with a printer, you could go to your local library and with the assistance of a librarian, use the computer and print the forms or information you require.
In the future, that accessibility will be denied.
Ontario, in its haste to control budgets, is reducing the number of assistance offices across the province where people used to be able to go to get help. The Ontario government today believes most Ontarians no longer require that personal help.
The Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre has a computer lab and terminals throughout the building for members to use. The staff is ready to teach people how to use the computers and provide skills to search the web and print off documents.
For many residents, the cost of the Internet comes to $600 per year. And to have the Internet, they may have to choose to not pay their taxes, or fall behind in their utilities bills, or reduce their weekly grocery bill by $12 per week.
The price of computers has dropped dramatically but access to the web is very expensive.
Fort Frances council is looking to reduce the accessibility of residents to the library by reducing library hours. That, in turn, reduces their access to all the federal, provincial, and municipal information Internet services, as well as forms and applications for CPP, OAC, and immigration documents.
One might argue that the Internet is always available at Tim Hortons or McDonald’s or other locations in the Fort. But if you can’t afford a computer or an Internet connection, you probably can’t afford the taxi to one of those locations.
And those locations do not supply teaching assistance or computers. You have to bring your own computer. And hopefully you have a printer at home to output the documents.
And even if you e-mail a form to a government department, you probably won’t receive an acknowledgement before you leave the coffee shop or restaurant.
We agree that the federal government, provincial government, and the municipal government are making all the information more accessible to the public.
But at the same time, by closing offices and reducing hours, accessibility to the government is growing more difficult for many of our citizens.