“Everything is made so difficult”: illiterate, he struggles to fill out his online forms

A 60-year-old who only recently learned to read and write is experiencing “continuous stress” since having to fill out paperwork online rather than speak to someone to obtain essential daily life services.

Making an appointment to consult his doctor became an obstacle course for Claude Blain, who decided to confront his illiteracy at 47, after dropping out of school at 13.

“It’s complicated, everything has become so difficult,” said the 60-year-old man. It’s continuous stress. I can’t fill it out myself because if I’m wrong, I’m afraid of the consequences that may follow.”

If he can still count on his cousin or his popular literacy group who help him in his efforts, this does not take away the feeling of helplessness which seizes him as soon as he finds himself confronted with online forms.

“I tried to call a few times, but I hit a wall. When I called, I got voicemail boxes with choices. It’s too complicated for me,” he stressed during a speech given on Monday to challenge governments.

Claude Blain alongside Cécile Retg, responsible for the collective defense of rights of the RGPAQ and Martine Fillion, president of the RGPAQ.


Not the only one

The Saint-Hyacinthe resident is not the only one to find himself in this situation. Many people with low literacy have difficulty requesting the services they need.

“We have people who no longer see their doctor since appointments were made on Clic Santé,” illustrated Cécile Retg, responsible for the collective defense of rights at the Regroupement des groupe populaire en literacy.

In Quebec, one in five adults aged 16 to 65 is considered “poorly literate,” a subject that remains taboo even though many people still hide from it.

For Mr. Blain, the realization came when he had a document to sign for his cycling club.

“My manager told me: “make an X to know that it was you who put your name”. That hurt me. A lot,” admitted the man who was declared disabled at work at the age of 20.

Digital, but not at all costs

Claude Blain only wants one thing: that the shift towards digital technology be simplified for people like him.

“The forms are a lot of administrative jargon,” explained M.me Retg. The form itself is not simple, then there are annexes, you have to provide identity documents, supporting documents, it is not necessarily easy.

She is one of the voices that have been raised to demand that governments maintain alternatives to digital technology.

“No matter how much we train people, the digital shift is moving so quickly that people are always a little behind, so we have to maintain in-person services,” she insisted.

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