Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Using Online Technology - A Basic Activity of Daily Living

I recently heard that Canada Revenue Agency will no longer be mailing out the basic tax forms. I guess this is one way that the Harper government has decided to save money. I guess they assume that most people will file online, or will be able to obtain the forms online.

It will be a great money-saver for more than one reason. The obvious reason is that it will save on mailing costs and the employees involved.

The less obvious reason has to do with who has access to the online filing and forms. The people who will be accessing these more are those who have higher incomes and therefore pay taxes. The people who cannot afford computers and internet access are also the people who receive refunds and benefits from the government. It is in the government's best financial interest if these people to do not manage to file their taxes.

This makes me so angry!

Using online technology is quickly becoming a basic activity of daily living. It is needed for applying for jobs, filing taxes, finding good prices, joining clubs, and connecting with others. Many groups function mostly online now. I would not have heard about my high school reunion if I were not on facebook.

How many of us could perform our current jobs without using computers? How many emails do you have in your inbox? What apps do you use on a daily basis? When you need information, where is the first place that you go?

Where does this leave people who do not have access to computers or the internet? It leaves them disadvantaged. It is a way the the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

This is an important consideration when working with clients. The majority of my clients were unable to work, and were therefore unable to afford computers and internet access. They were therefore having more and more difficulty in a world that is moving in the direction that our world is moving.

There are some public computers available in libraries, and some other public places. These often have a complex system of reserving them, as well as restrictions on what they are used for, and for how long. They can be intimidating for someone who has never used a computer before. There are some classes on how to use them, but they are often taught in a way that do not take any cognitive deficits into consideration.

I think we need to recognize the importance of using online technology, and ensure that it is part of our treatment plans. We need to take the extra steps to ensure our clients are included in the future of online technology.

I think we also need to advocate for more and better public internet access sites. If the government is going to cut the mailing of forms, they should at least provide support so that all people can have equal access to the forms electronically.

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