It has been nearly two years since CNIB first alerted the Government of Ontario that Ontarians who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind are currently unable to renew their Ontario Health Card online through the Government of Ontario website because the renewal form requires a driver’s license number.
Recently, our most significant discussions have been with the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services around transforming the online health card renewal services to ensure they are accessible and available to Ontarians who are blind, partially sighted, and Deafblind.
The requirement that an Ontarian hold a valid driver's license disproportionately affects Ontarians with sight loss because people who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind are not legally permitted to drive or possess a driver's license. The Ministry also indicated that they have heard from many other communities that are impacted by this policy.
With the closure or restriction of in-person services across the province during the pandemic, this has also meant that Ontarians who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind have had no recourse to renew this important government document either in person or online. As in-person services resume, this still puts Ontarians with sight loss at an unfair disadvantage of having to visit a government office during a global pandemic.
Through our discussions, the Ministry has told us they are working on making it easier to renew health cards online. It is also looking into expanding the ways that customers can confirm their identity and Ontario residency, including determining whether it is possible to use an Ontario Photo Card, utility bill, or bank statement. However, there are some concerns that the upcoming provincial election next year may further delay this work into 2023.
In early 2022, CNIB will be commissioning a research project to look at the accessibility barriers that currently exist across all ServiceOntario services, including in-person, telephone, and online. We hope to use this data to inform ServiceOntario of the barriers that exist in all areas of their services, and provide recommendations to remedy these issues. CNIB will publish additional details about this project in early 2022.
As information becomes available, we will share with the community.