Come To Your Census

Another mark of passing time has come. It’s census time! Well…it was 5 days ago. I guess it wouldn’t be a VC post if it wasn’t at least a little bit late. But I figured I’d write about this because a. it might be useful to anyone who hasn’t done their census yet and is worried about accessibility, and b. in five years when it’s census time again, this will be here to look back on.

I’m quite impressed. The census website and form were super accessible, and they had even thought of blind folks who don’t have ready access to a set of eyeballs. That scenario is often neglected. Steve and I filld out our census, we even got the long form one, and did it ourselves, with a smidge of help from the Census help line.

Here’s how it works. Everyone is supposed to get a paper form in the mail. I don’t know where ours ended up but we never got it. On that paper form is a pin number. If you can see it, you just go to the census website, enter your pin, and up comes either the long or short form census, whatever you have been randomly selected to fill out. But if you’re blind and can’t read the pin, you just call the census help line, give them your address and postal code, and they’ll give you your pin. Pretty friggin slick.

I’m happy to know that you don’t have to do the long form census in one go. It’s a small beast. We did it in one go simply because the weekend was busy and we wanted to get it over with and not run the risk of screwing up logging in to do it later, but that is an option for you. There’s a “stop and finish later” button. If you hit that, you will be asked to make a login and password. So no, if you start it, you’re not obligated to sit there and keep going until the thing is done. I can imagine it being quite long if you have more than a two-person household.

I find it interesting that the census help line operators consistently ask if I’m sure I can complete it myself. I’m not sure if they’re just giving me every opportunity to get all the help I need, or they legitimately haven’t been informed that the site is pretty accessible, but I have talked to 3 people who were asked that question. So if the operator asks you that question, don’t let that be an indication of trouble ahead. The site is very very good. There are a couple of quirky things where fields appear after you’ve answered a question in a particular way, and sometimes NVDA would miss the additional field, but they make damn sure you fill in any fields you miss. The only field that went really weird on me was the monthly rent field. Somehow I made a typo and couldn’t get it out by the usual backspacing. I had to go pretend I didn’t pay rent and then set it back to I pay rent, and then re-enter from scratch. I don’t know what’s up with that. At least for the most part, it was good.

So, if you haven’t done it already, go fill out the census. If you need any help, I would think the help line would still be working but I’m not sure. If they’ve shut it down, they probably have a message on there directing you where to go. The number is 1-855-700-2016. They have some pretty good hours.

Happy census-completing. At least this time, that isn’t really a sarcastic remark. For me, at least, it was a pretty trouble-free experience.

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