Summary

Here is a summary of the problems with this process and the application forms, and all the inherent bad ideas.  The w3.org guidelines for pdfs are also on this page.

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    1. There were no public notifications in the mainstream media or on the site saying that the bill had been enacted or the act implemented. No progress updates either. There were debates on user forums and groups but nothing from the CIC. I had an RSS link to the actual debate topic in parliament set up which alerted me to the progress of the bill becoming an act. So that’s how I knew. Pity the other folks who didn’t. This stuff really matters to actual human beings, you know.
    1. It is just plain bad practice that an old version of an important form – which this is – cannot be honoured or accepted. Does this mean that the government no longer recognizes the validity of the information they had previously required? Or the validity of the questions they had asked? One thinks of this document (and the other versions of this document for other applicant age groups and categories), which contains a dizzying degree of disclosure of personal information, as a contract that has not yet been concluded. It has all the elements of a contract (offer, acceptance, consideration, and a mutual intent to be bound) but a government official has not yet signed and stamped the front page.
      Canadian author and former politician Michael Ignatieff says: “A contract of citizenship defines the duties of care that public officials owe to the people of a democratic society. The Constitution defines some parts of this contract, and statutes define other parts, but much of it is a tacit understanding that citizens have about what to expect from their government.” Well, in this case, the contact of citizenship is decidedly one-sided, with the government of Canada having the advantage over the applicant.
    2. It is bad IT practice that the associated documents, such as the guidelines, in earlier and different formats like .doc, .ppt or .pdf, are no longer available or readable.
    3. It is bad IT practice to force users to use one particular sort of software to access and use a document that needs to be universally readable and writeable. If they haven’t got it or can’t get it or can’t work it out, then essentially, they’re out.
    4. It is bad IT practice to tie users into the product of one huge and very high-end software company (Adobe Systems) which will put them into a cycle of endless upgrades, etc. etc. Adobe isn’t the be-all and end-all of pdf readers and writers. The conglomerate has had instances of anti-competitive practices, data breaches and security hacks. Yes, Adobe actually gave birth to many of the standard software tools we use every day, but tying users to one supplier is anti-competitive – even if it’s nominally free.
    5. It is especially bad IT and web design practice to make this info not universally accessible. There is no voice-over option, there is no text enlargement, no audio files, there is nothing to help those who have disabilities or limitations in their access – not the least of which is poor English. In fact, even the “help” option is not made to help. It’s like advertising services for the blind in a print magazine. Are you blind? Come to our courses and learn braille! Yeah!
      According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that sets the global standard for web design, for all people, including people with access difficulties: “The Web must be accessible to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities. Indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the Web, as a basic human right. Accessibility supports social inclusion for people with disabilities as well as older people, people in rural areas, and people in developing countries.”
    6. It is very, very bad IT practice to make this process so complicated. Just make the simplest, most reader-friendly free formats and print options available. The idea of pdfs is that they are the most secure, most user-friendly and democratic of formats. But especially that they are simple, and software-agnostic even when fillable. The Portable Document Format (PDF) file format was developed precisely to present documents, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of computer application software, hardware or operating systems. I use a variety of software to open and use pdfs but I prefer the standalone, efficient and once-off cost of Nuance Pdf Converter. So much for that…
    7. It is seriously bad IT practice to assume that users:
      1. have access to networks that will allow for heavy software downloads (500.2 Mb for Adobe Acrobat Reader DC!! In South Africa that would take days – if it doesn’t time out long before!)
      2. work on OS’s compatible with Adobe products and upgrades
      3. would know enough about software to be able to figure out how to use this software and these documents. It is SO BAD in terms of the user experience that words fail me. What in the name of sanity was the CIC thinking?

How to create a proper pdf

Below are the checkpoints for an acceptable standard of pdf document according to W3.org. It is the very basic stuff. And this painful exercise proves that the website and form designers of the CIC disregarded quite a few of these checkpoints, as well as most of the common-sense practices of information design.

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