Concerns raised over accessibility ahead of digital vaccine passport rollout in Ontario

As the Ontario government gets ready to roll out a digital vaccine passport system next month, some are wondering how they'll be able to access the QR code and verification app.

Penny Frankland, 75, has a phone with no internet access on it, and is feeling forgotten after hearing about the vaccine passport plan.

“What does one do if you do not have internet on your phone?” she said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’re going to have to do something else so that we’re all included in this.”

The province has split its vaccine passport rollout into two stages. Starting on Sept. 22, fully vaccinated residents will need to print off their vaccination receipts as a PDF or save it to their phone. This will be used as proof of vaccination in non-essential settings.

On Oct. 22, the QR code and verification app will come into effect.

“We have no assurance, since we haven’t seen the app, that the app they create will be accessible for people with disabilities that do have a smart phone,” said David Lepofsky, the chair of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

In a statement, the government of Ontario says they will provide additional support in the coming weeks for people who don’t have an email, health card or ID. The province also says the QR code can be printed out and will be accepted in paper form.

“That presupposes that you have a computer and a printer, that you have access to technology to be able to use it, and that their website for delivering all this will also be accessible,” said Lepofsky.

Advocates aren’t sure what the passport system will look like for marginalized groups, but are asking for equal and accessible options.

Places like Quebec rolled out their own vaccine passport system this week, where iPhone users were able to download the app right away, but Android users had to wait several days.

The Ontario government says it will be watching closely to make sure those same mistakes don’t happen here.