16:56 GMT +320 October 2019
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    Blind Spot: Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman Gets Reported for Discrimination

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    For most of the world, Sweden is almost synonymous with the unremitting protection of human rights. This makes the irony of the country's Discrimination Ombudsman's Office being reported to the Discrimination Ombudsman for discrimination all the more pungent.

    The Discrimination Ombudman's Office (DO) invited censure when it sent an ordinary letter to a blind woman.

    Last year, Anna Bergholtz reported Swedish Railways (SJ) to the DO for lack of accessibility. When the investigation was completed, the administrator asked Bergholtz in what format she would like to get the ruling. Anna Bergholtz is blind, but is able to read Braille or even access emails, PDF-files and other documents using her computer via speech synthesis. Therefore, she replied that the ruling would be acceptable in either of the formats.

    However, despite all the previous negotiations, Anna Bergholtz received a plain letter via snail-mail, which caused her temper to boil over.

    "Asking someone else to read aloud a text about a very important decision is not the same as reading it oneself. I believe everyone can understand that," a dismayed Anna Bergholtz told Swedish Radio.

    Due to being involved in similar situations several times before, Anna Bergholtz finally chose to report the DO to the DO itself for lack of accessibility.
    "This is a recurrent problem with the authorities, but you may think that Discrimination Ombudsman's Office should know better and be able to set a good example," Anna Bergholtz said.

    In the 2015 amendment of the Swedish Discrimination Act, the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities became a form of discrimination.
    Recently, the first verdict was handed out under the new law. A school in Vara Municipality was sentenced to pay a fine to a student for failing to provide wheelchair access. At present, the DO is investigating a case against the Social Insurance Fund after a visually impaired woman complained that their website hadn't been adapted for people with visual disabilities.

    Anna Bergholtz's case, though, is unique in that she actually accused the DO of being guilty of violating the law it itself was meant to oversee.
    In order to maintain its impartiality, the DO won't investigate the complaints against itself. Instead, the case will be referred to the country's Justice Ombudsman. DO press officer Clas Lundstedt declined to comment on the individual case, but suggested that the DO was doing its best to provide a high level of accessibility.

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