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Amazing Responses to, Including More Media Coverage of our New Video on Serious Accessibility Problems at Ryerson University’s New Student Learning Centre

The Wynne Government Is Taking Longer Just to Appoint a Standards Development Committee on Education Barriers Facing Students with Disabilities Than It Took the Government to Create Ontario’s Entire Disabilities Act

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Twitter: @aodaalliance

November 17, 2017


1. Amazing Response to the AODA Alliance’s New Online Video Showing Serious Accessibility Problems at Ryerson University’s New Student Learning Centre

There has been an amazing response to the AODA Alliance’s new online video, exceeding our hopes and expectations. This video that shows serious accessibility problems at the new Ryerson Student Learning Centre, over the two and a half weeks since we launched this video. The 12 minute and 30 minute versions have been viewed over 3,900 times!

The Toronto Star’s website includes a shorter two and a half minute version that the Star edited down. The Star’s version has been seen over 5,600 times. That means that in one form or another, our video has been viewed over 9,500 times in two and a half weeks!

We’ve even gotten feedback on our video from places outside Canada. That shows that this message has spread internationally. As well, an architecture firm has approached us, as a result of this video, asking how to avoid these problems.

To watch the 12 minute version of our Ryerson Student Learning Centre accessibility problems video, visit

To watch the 30 minute version of our Ryerson Student Learning Centre accessibility problems video, visit

To watch the Toronto Star’s edited 2 minute version of our Ryerson Student Centre accessibility problems video, visit

No doubt as a result of this new video, the views have also quickly increased for our 6 minute version and our 18 minute version of our earlier video, launched one year ago, that shows serious accessibility problems at the new Centennial College Culinary Arts Centre. Together, that video has now been seen over 2,800 times, an increase of some 400 views in under three weeks.

In addition to earlier coverage on CITY TV and in the Toronto Star, our video also got great coverage on Global TV news on November 3, 2017. Below is the text of the Global report. You can watch it, with captioning, by visiting

Of interest, CBC has not given this video any coverage so far. This is ironic since last year, CBC TV broadcast an item on the Ryerson Student Learning Centre in its program called “Disrupting Design”, hosted by Matt Galloway. That report gushed about Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre as a wonderful design. It said nothing about its serious accessibility problems. In that report, Matt Galloway, who is also the host of CBC Radio Toronto’s flagship Metro Morning program, described the Student Learning Centre as:

“slick, smart design of a student center that puts students’ needs first.”

The disconnect between that report and the reality which people with disabilities can face in that building is palpable.

We set out the text of that CBC TV report below.

Here is an amazing irony. If you click to watch the Toronto Star’s 2-minute edited version of our video on the Ryerson Student Learning Centre, you will likely have a Youtube advertisement come up first, before our video. No doubt this is because that version of our video got so many views in such a short time.

The cruel irony is that when AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky first watched the Toronto Star version of our video on Youtube, the advertisement that came up was from the Ontario Government. It promoted all the great infrastructure the Ontario Government has built. It talked about how that infrastructure is green in its orientation. It said nothing about its accessibility. Yet the Ryerson Student Learning Centre is a striking example of provincially subsidized new infrastructure that lacks proper accessibility. In 2011, the Ontario Government committed that new infrastructure would have accessibility for people with disabilities.

Please urge as many people as possible to watch our video on accessibility problems at the Ryerson Student Learning Centre. Re-tweet our tweets about this video. We’re tweeting members of the Ontario Legislature as follows:

3900 PPL have seen our new #accessibility video long or short version on serious access problems at #Ryerson Student Learning Centre. Have you? ies%20act%20resolution.docx?dl=0 #AODAfail

2. Still Waiting for the Wynne Government to Appoint the Promised Education Standards Development Committee

There have now been 345 days since Premier Wynne committed to create an Education Accessibility Standard. Yet the Wynne Government has still not taken the preliminary step of appointing an Education Standards Development Committee to make recommendations on what that accessibility standard should include.

The Government is taking as long, just to appoint this committee, as it took in 2003-2004 to undertake the much larger task of designing the entire Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and introducing it into the Legislature for debate. This painfully illustrates how progress in Ontario on accessibility has too often slowed to a snail’s pace.

On Thursday, October 26, 2017, The Ontario Autism Coalition held a very successful news conference and gathering at Queen’s Park to protest the serious problems that students with autism face in Ontario’s education system. We were honoured when that grassroots coalition, which is a strong supporter of the AODA Alliance, invited us to take part in this event. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky was invited to speak at the Queen’s Park news conference and at the gathering afterwards, outside, by the steps of the Legislature.

The joint message from the Ontario Autism Coalition and the AODA Alliance addressed the needs of all students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system. Together we made it clear that working together, we aim to make education for students with disabilities an issue in the upcoming 2018 Ontario election, as always, as a non-partisan effort. Stay tuned for more news and tips on this, over the next weeks and months.

Below we set out:

* Questions the NDP asked the Government in Question Period in the Legislature on October 26. This included pressing the Government on the need to get to work on the promised Education Accessibility Standard. The Government’s response did not say when the promised Education Standards Development Committee would be appointed.

* The October 26, 2017 NDP news release arising from this exchange during Question Period.


Global News Toronto November 3, 2017
Originally posted at: ‘One design flaw after another’: Accessibility advocate calls out new Ryerson building By Caryn Lieberman, Reporter
Global News

Fri, Nov 3: Ontario is promising to be fully accessible by 2025 but as Caryn Lieberman found out, there are barriers in brand new buildings that are causing frustration for some people living with disabilities.

TORONTO “It’s one design flaw after another.”

David Lepofsky is a Toronto lawyer with a passion for fighting accessibility inequality.

Blind most of his life, he recently created a video highlighting deficiencies he said he discovered at a publicly-funded building in downtown Toronto.

Ryerson University’s Student Learning Centre is an eight-storey, 155-thousand square foot state of the art building with a modern design that has won multiple awards for architecture.

But Lepofsky, who first visited in 2015 when he was asked to chair an all-candidates debate on disabilities issues, noted the building has a number of “accessibility barriers that essentially leave out people.

“We didn’t just invent people with disabilities, we’ve been around as long as there have been people around,” he remarked.

“This building is an example of the kind of problems people with disabilities should not be facing in the year 2017 in the province of Ontario.”

Lepofsky brought Global News on a tour to show just how difficult it is for a blind man to navigate the entrance and main floor stairs in the building.

“There’s no handrail which is bad for somebody with balance issues or a person with vision loss, we routinely use a railing to help guide us especially up a maze-like ramp like this.”

In a statement, Ryerson University wrote “The Student Learning Centre meets the requirement of the current applicable Ontario Building Code and meets the best practices of Ryerson’s Accessibility standards, to ensure that the building is inclusive to all abilities. In the spirit of inclusivity, on-going improvements are being integrated into the programming and physical operations of the building.”

The Accessibility Directorate of Ontario also responded, noting “There is still a long way to go to reach our goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025. We will need to keep working together to achieve that goal so that people of all abilities can participate and contribute at their full potential.”

Meantime, David Lepofsky will keep fighting for a more accessible Ontario.

“Both our laws and our design professionals who serve us are both letting us down,” he said.

CBC TV Disrupting Design
Episode 1

Originally posted at

Matt Galloway: Let me show you one University and how it disrupted out of class student time with a slick, smart design of a student center that’s puts students needs first.

This is unlike any student Library I’ve ever seen. What were you trying to disrupt?

Vaidila Banelis, Zeidler Architects: When you think disruption, it’s breaking from the norm. It’s trying to challenge people how to occupy space quite differently.

Matt: It’s not your typical Student Center. What to you is disruptive about this? What is groundbreaking about the design of this building?

Student: The SLC is definitely designed for the students, with the students in mind. We wanted the students experience to be something that thrives in the building. There are spaces for individual study, for group study, and each floor has a different environment.

Matt: Walk me to the front doors. Walk me through the building. What am I going to see floor by floor?

Architect: You’re going to walk to the front door into what we call the valley. It’s a multi-use space. It’s equipped with media presentation technology, lighting grids, speakers. It’s surrounded by wood seating so comfortable, warm.

The lower three levels are looking down at each other which is why we call it “the valley” because it’s a big tall volume and it’s probably the loudest part of the building. As you go up the building it’s orally zoned. We start really loud and as we go up we get quieter and quieter and quieter until we get to the top floor.

From there you had up a grand flight of stairs to the third level where the DME, the digital media experience and the DMZ, the digital media zone, are located.

The 4th floor is called the garden. It’s probably the most shocking colored floor in the building. It’s really a bright green. It’s got an amazing feel to it and people are gravitating to it. One of the biggest challenges here was how to make that kind of community where everything is visible, work in a vertical way where you are really quite separated heavily between those spaces, so making them visually distinct was extremely important. Fairly small moves have created fairly distinct feelings.

Next level up is “the Sun”.

Student: Personally, for me, the sun floor isn’t really my favorite. Everything is red and I can’t study very well there but it’s still really popular. There’s rooms you can rent out. I’ve done that a lot of times with my friends where we book a study space and the entire room is a whiteboard.

Architect: There is a blue floor a white floor and a red floor and those are wayfinding ways so that people understand where they are in the building. They’re not saying, “meet me on level 4”, they’re saying, “meet me on the red floor”.

The top floor is the sky. You may want to sit in the full sunshine while reading a book, but you don’t want that when you’re in front of your computer screen. That kind of variety in spaces, light is important for and I’d say the entire facade of the building is designed specifically to create variety in that, but also to make it just incredibly bright.

The signature space is “the Beach”. There are some traditional tables, but predominantly it’s a space with comfy seating – cushions, bean bags, some really low-slung furniture and students occupy it however they want to.

Matt: What is your favorite space in this building?

Student: My favorite space would be the Beach. It is a beach in the city. Like you can’t really argue with that. This floor is really open-ended, is really comfy, is really inviting and we love it. We love hanging out here.

Matt: You see people now and everywhere throughout the building. They want to be here. They’re sitting around, they’re working, they’re hanging out. How do you create a space where people want to be?

Architect: We’ve done a lot of academic buildings and I don’t think we’ve had this kind of reaction of, “we love to be in your building”. It’s just opened up my life. My friends live here.

Matt: what is it about this space that works for you?

Student: This space it’s for students to learn, collaborate and invent. It’s definitely something that is pushing the idea of what a student space is.

Matt: What were you trying to disrupt when you were creating this?

Architect: Predominantly, we were trying to get people out of their norm but really also to make the time out of the classroom be as important and as productive as the time inside the classroom.

I’m Vaidila Banelis, and this design disrupted academic architecture.

Ontario Hansard October 26, 2017
Question Period
Miss Monique Taylor: My question is for the Premier. Parents of children with autism and developmental disabilities are here once again to fight for the services that their children desperately need. When the government announced their new autism program, they knew it would put added pressure onto our school system, a system already struggling to cope with decades of chronic underfunding and cuts begun by the Conservatives and continued through 14 years of Liberal governments, particularly to special education.
But nothing has been done to prepare for that, and children with autism, yet again, are paying the price. Will the government commit to a comprehensive autism strategy that ensures children with autism get the services they need in an inclusive classroom setting? Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Minister of Education.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: It’s such an honour to rise in this House today. I just want to welcome all of the family members, the students who are here today, the educators who are here today on behalf of the 20,000 students with autism in our school system. I know how hard the Ontario Autism Coalition has been working. I know that I have been working with them, along with the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
We’re very committed, as a government, to providing for the appropriate supports in our schools for students who have autism. It’s something that we know is needed, and we’ve been doing that work. In fact, I just recently announced that we are beginning our pilot program that will see applied behaviour therapists being able to come right into schools to ease the transition and to create a more seamless and integrated day for students who have autism.
Of course, there is more work that we need to do, and that is exactly what we’re doing to provide better supports for students who need them in our schools. The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary. Member from London West.
Ms. Peggy Sattler: Again to the Premier: Almost one year later, this Liberal government has failed to deliver on its promise to create an education accessibility standard and has failed to provide the special education resources needed by students with autism.
The chronic underfunding of special education that was started by the Conservatives has continued under the Liberals. Instead of increasing special education funding to actually meet the needs of students, this Liberal government has cut special education budgets even more, leading to an ongoing shortage of EAs, developmental service workers and other specialized staff in schools. Speaker, it’s not ABA training for EAs that is just needed; it’s more trained EAs.
Will the Premier move forward immediately to develop an education accessibility standard, and will she commit to an inclusive autism strategy in schools that addresses the educational, as well as therapeutic, needs of students with autism? Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you. Minister?
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: The third party is asking for areas to improve education in Ontario that we are doing right now. We have, in fact, trained 30,000 principals, teachers, education workers in applied behaviour therapy. What we’ve just announced is in addition to that specific customized Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Finish, please.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: specific customized training for education assistants who work with students with autism.
As it relates to accessibility standards in our schools, that is something that we are already doing. The Premier has committed to that. We’re working on that. The minister responsible for Interjections.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Answer.
Hon. Mitzie Hunter: Our government has provided a 76% increase to students who need special education services in our schools and The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.
New question.

Ontario New Democratic Party October 26, 2017 News Release

October 26, 2017

Children with autism left waiting as Liberals stall on autism strategy NDP says students and families need more EAs in classrooms not more cuts

QUEEN’S PARK As hundreds of parents, educators, children and caregivers rallied outside the legislature to call for better access to autism services, NDP MPPs demanded in question period Thursday morning that the Wynne Liberals expedite the creation of a comprehensive autism strategy.

“Parents of children with autism and developmental disabilities are here once again to fight for the services that their children desperately need,” said NDP Accessibility and Persons with Disabilities critic Monique Taylor.

“When the government announced their new autism program, they knew it would put added pressure onto our school system, a system already struggling to cope with decades of chronic underfunding and cuts begun by the Conservatives and continued through 14 years of Liberal governments, particularly to special education. But nothing has been done to prepare for that, and children with autism, yet again, are paying the price.”

While nearly a year has passed since Wynne promised to act, “this Liberal government has failed to deliver on its promise to create an education accessibility standard and has failed to provide the special education resources needed by students with autism,” said NDP Education critic Peggy Sattler.

“The chronic underfunding of special education that was started by the Conservatives has continued under the Liberals,” continued Sattler.

“Instead of increasing special education funding to actually meet the needs of students, this Liberal government has cut special education budgets even more, leading to an ongoing shortage of EAs, developmental service workers and other specialized staff in schools.”

Each MPP called on the government to act.

“Will the government commit to a comprehensive autism strategy that ensures children with autism get the services they need in an inclusive classroom setting?” asked Taylor.

“Will the premier move forward immediately to develop an education accessibility standard, and will she commit to an inclusive autism strategy in schools that addresses the educational, as well as therapeutic, needs of students with autism?” asked Sattler.


For More Background

You can always send your feedback to us on any AODA and accessibility issue at

Have you taken part in our “Picture Our Barriers campaign? If not, please join in! You can get all the information you need about our “Picture Our Barriers” campaign by visiting

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to:

We encourage you to use the Government’s toll-free number for reporting AODA violations. We fought long and hard to get the Government to promise this, and later to deliver on that promise. If you encounter any accessibility problems at any large retail establishments, it will be especially important to report them to the Government via that toll-free number. Call 1-866-515-2025.

Please pass on our email Updates to your family and friends.

Why not subscribe to the AODA Alliance’s YouTube channel, so you can get immediate alerts when we post new videos on our accessibility campaign.

Please “like” our Facebook page and share our updates:

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario by visiting

Pedestrian Travel for Persons With Disabilities Can Be Difficult and Occasionally Risky

by the Ottawa Disability Coalition (ODC).
November 17, 2017

After conducting accessibility audits in 3 Ottawa areas, the ODC reports the lack of sidewalks in some areas, poor sidewalk conditions and poor or no curb cuts allowing access to sidewalks may force some with mobility disabilities to travel on the road.

Further, If Canada is similar to the U.S., wheelchair users are at particular risk an American study reports “persons in wheelchairs are a third more likely to be killed in a road accident than the general public is”.

Winter conditions pose additional risk

Snow or ice blocked sidewalks, unreachable crosswalk buttons and snow windrows at intersections and bus shelters may mean those with disabilities may choose to be housebound if they cannot secure ParaTranspo. This last item is particularly likely as the service is over subscribed.

How can persons with disabilities get much needed infrastructure improvements and maintenance made?

Some situations, such as cracked or broken sidewalks, debris or vegetation problems or snow blocked curb cuts can be addressed through 3-1-1 in Ottawa. Conditions that cannot be remedied in this way may require more community involvement.

Steps to organizing an accessibility audit are located at .

To access the full report, go to:

Santa Claus Parade Adds Accessibility Spaces

By Julia McKay, Kingston Whig-Standard
Wednesday, November 15, 2017 4:53:02 EST PM

Santa Claus wishes the crowds Merry Christmas while he waves from his sleigh during the 2014 Kingston Nighttime Santa Claus parade route on Saturday November 22, 2014.

New to Kingston’s Nighttime Santa Claus Parade this year is the addition of three dedicated, accessible spaces for families and those with disabilities, the Rotary Comfort Zones.

The parade takes place this Saturday, Nov. 18 and will leave from Innovation Park at 5 p.m. and head down Princess Street to Ontario Street.

In partnership with Downtown Kingston, the City of Kingston, Easter Seals Ontario, Southeastern Ontario and Rotary Clubs of Kingston this new spaces will provide ‘conditions needed to bring a family with accessibility needs to the parade’.

The purpose of the Rotary Comfort Zones is to ensure the parade is a safe and accessible event for all.

Offered at a first come, first serve basis the Rotary Comfort Zones are designed for ‘people with accessibility issues with a focus on children’.

With not all disabilities being visible to those around and with families with accessibility needs may struggle with a variety of issues like; vision problems, mobility issues, toileting issues, sensitivity or allergy to cold, low muscle tone and complex medical issues.

Each Comfort Zone will:

  • Have a minimum of 2 well-informed volunteers on site to advise parade goers and help maintain the area.
  • Be cordoned off with stanchions to ensure only families in need use the space provided.
  • Be located as close as possible to a public parking lot that will have additional accessibility spaces available for the evening.
  • Be located as close as possible to an accessible bathroom.

The three Rotary Comfort Zones along the parade route are:

  • Giant Tiger, located in front of the Giant Tiger at 811 Princess Street. Please arrive by 5 p.m.
  • Windmills Café, located in front of Windmills at 184 Princess St. Please arrive by 5:15 p.m.
  • Milestones Grill and Bar, located in front of Milestones at 27 Princess St. Please arrive by 5:30 p.m.

Once the parade gets underway, any unused space within these three zones will be opened up to the general public.

For more information, go online to

Original at

Children With Disabilities are Being Denied Equal Opportunities for A Quality Education Across the World, Including in the UK

Researchers from the Faculty of Education have produced a new report on the current state of education for children with disabilities in both England and India. Here, Dr Nidhi Singal, one of the report’s authors, outlines some of the key statistics, and argues that teachers need better training and more support “underpinned by principles of inclusion”.

We need to invest in inclusive teaching and learning processes and not just changes to school infrastructure Nidhi Singal

Countries, with both developed and developing economies, need to do more to ensure that children with disabilities not only access education, but also benefit from quality education.

In England, while children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) access school, multiple concerns have been raised in relation to their learning and quality of life in school. The educational attainments of these children are significantly lower than for those without SEND at every level of the national curriculum.

In 2017 the Department for Education reported that, at Key Stage 2 level, only 14% of children with SEND reached the expected level for reading, writing and maths (in contrast to 62% of children without SEND).

Socially, there has been an increase in incidents of bullying and hate crime in relation to children with SEND and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children highlights that they are significantly more likely to face abuse. Official statistics note that children with social, emotional, mental health needs are nine times more likely to face permanent exclusion from school.

The World Health Organisation in collaboration with the World Bank recently emphasised that 15% of the world’s population, approximately one billion, live with some form of disability. Estimates for the number of children under the age of 14 living with disabilities range between 93m and 150m.

Across the world, people with disabilities have poorer health outcomes, lower educational achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is partly because people with disabilities experience significant barriers in accessing basic services, including health, education and employment.

Amongst these, education is paramount as it has significant economic, social and individual returns. Education has the potential to lift people out of chronic poverty. Accessing quality education can improve learning outcomes which leads to positive economic growth. The Global Monitoring Report calculates that if all students living in low income countries were to leave school with basic reading skills there would be a 12% reduction in world poverty.

Additionally, education has the potential to create more equitable and healthy societies. For example, evidence shows educating mothers reduces early births, lowers infant mortality rates and improves child nutrition.

Furthermore, inclusive education is integral to creating societies that are interconnected, based on values of social justice, equity of opportunities and freedom. The Sustainable Development Goals have given a considerable boost to this vision of “inclusive and equitable quality education” with significant international proclamations and national legislations being drawn up. Nevertheless, children with disabilities continue to remain the most difficult to reach.

Including children with disabilities in education systems, and ensuring quality education, is a moral and ethical commitment with considerable benefits both at the individual and national level. The International Labour Organisation estimates that the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the work force costs nations up to 7% of the national GDP. Other estimates from China suggest that every additional year of schooling in rural areas means a 5-8% wage increase for the person with disabilities.

While there is a long way to go, there is little question that educational access is on an upward trajectory in many low and middle income countries. According to official data from India over the last five years there has been approximately 16% increase in the numbers of children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream primary schools.

Nonetheless, children who are most like to be excluded, even in states with high enrolment rates are those with disabilities. They are also most likely to drop out before completing five years of primary schooling and are least likely to transition to secondary school or higher education.

Across the globe, learning for children with disabilities remains a significant challenge. In order to address this, we need to invest in inclusive teaching and learning processes and not just changes to school infrastructure. Teachers need better training and support underpinned by principles of inclusion. Significantly, children with disabilities must be respected as important partners in creating better schools for all.

The report has been produced for the World Innovation Summit for Education and will be presented this week at the summit in Doha and can be found at the link below.

Original at

Almost Half of Ontario Youth Miss School Because of Anxiety, Study Suggests

A survey commissioned by Children’s Mental Health Ontario suggests that children and parents miss school and work to cope with mental illness. By Samantha BeattieStaff Reporter
Tues., Nov. 14, 2017

Shannon Nagy, 20, at the Children’s Mental Health Ontario conference. The group released findings from a study that shows one in four Ontario parents have missed work to care for their child experiencing mental health issues and anxiety.

At five years old, Shannon Nagy told her mother she wanted to die. In Grade 6, she missed almost the entire school year because more often than not, she couldn’t get out of bed.

Nagy, now 20, was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and borderline personality disorder and was never able to finish high school. She spent most of her childhood immersed in a mental health care system that she said “did more harm than good.”

Her struggle to get help and the impact that struggle had on her education is a trend captured in a new survey commissioned by Children’s Mental Health Ontario, released Tuesday.

It found of the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed across the province:

  • 46 per cent had missed school due to issues related to anxiety.
  • 40 per cent had sought mental health help.
  • Of those, 50 per cent found the experience of getting help challenging.
  • 42 per cent did not get the help they needed or are still waiting.

Parents are also impacted when their child has to wait as long as 18 months for mental health care, said Kimberly Moran, CEO of CMHO, the association that represents Ontario’s publicly funded Mental Health Centres and advocates for government policies and programs.

“Parents miss work and certainly myself as a parent, I have to take time to look after my daughter,” Moran said.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ministry of Children and Youth Services did not respond to requests from the Star for comment, with Monday being a holiday.

The study, conducted by research firm Ipsos, surveyed 806 people in October and suggests that a quarter of parents have had to miss work to care for their child due to issues related to anxiety.

When her 11-year-old daughter tried to die by suicide while on a year-long wait list for mental health care, Moran took a four-month leave of absence and then worked part-time. Six years later, she still takes about 10 per cent of the year off to help her daughter.

Half of the parents surveyed found getting their child mental health help was challenging because wait times are long, they don’t know where to go, or service providers don’t offer what their child needs, don’t exist in their community, are too far away or aren’t available at convenient times.

Anxiety is one of the “big front-runners” when it comes to mental illness in youth, said Lydia Sai-Chew, CEO of Skylark Children, Youth and Families, which offers free counselling and mental health services in Toronto. Wait times at Skylark for in-patient programs can be up to six months.

“The difficulty with wait times is that the youth gets more stressed, but so does the family,” Sai-Chew said. “Anxieties build up. They don’t have the strategies and it just gets worse.”

For 13 years, Michele Sparling of Oakville has juggled owning a business and taking care of her son who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when he was 10 years old.

“If your child is home from school, you’re not leaving them alone,” Sparling said. “You’re worried when you have to step out for a moment. When a fire truck goes through your neighbourhood, you think ‘not my kid, not my kid.’

“That worry is constant.”

She said her family struggled to get her son the help he needed. In between driving him to and from appointments in Toronto, she got used to telling clients she might have to end a meeting at a moment’s notice if a crisis occurred. She watched as her son had to miss school, and continues to care for him now as he struggles with mental illness in university.

“This is not just about this one person, it’s about the bigger picture, the lost potential,” Sparling said. “I think we’re doing young people such a disservice.”

CMHO is asking the province to invest $125 million in community-based mental health centres, staffing and services for children and youth.

Original at

Ontario Woman Calls for Better Accessibility at Toronto Coach Terminal

By David Shum
Web Producer Global News

One escalator is broken, the other only moves one direction at a time, and now the elevator is out of service.

A St. Catharines, Ont., woman who suffers from thyroid myalgia and travels to Toronto by bus to receive medical treatment is sounding the alarm about the continual accessibility issues plaguing the Toronto Coach Terminal.

The transit hub currently has one of only two escalators in working order with the other permanently out of service. Meanwhile, the building’s elevator is also under repair and the fix won’t be complete until the end of the year.

“I tried to call the city councillor for this area, didn’t get a call back,” Amy Romeo said. “So I don’t know who else I can appeal to for help with this.”

Global News first covered this issue in 2016 and again in February of this year, but little has been done to solve the terminal’s accessibility woes.

The city-owned building located at Bay Street and Dundas Street West was operated by the Toronto Transit Commission until 2012 when a lease agreement was reached with Coach Canada and Greyhound Canada.

A spokesperson from Greyhound told Global News one escalator is irreparable and the other is working, but can only move in one direction.

Officials are advising members of the public to ask staff for assistance if accessibility is an issue.

As for the one-way only escalator, the Greyhound spokesperson told Global News employees can easily switch the direction it is moving.

However, that does little for people like Amy Romeo who needs the station to be accessible on a regular basis.

“If there going to shut down the elevator, think about what people like me are supposed to do,” Romeo said.

To view videos visit the link below.
Original at

TTC to Retrofit Almost All Subway Stations to Fix Platform Gaps

Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit has warned passengers with mobility devices can get caught between the train and platform. By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter
Sun., Nov. 12, 2017

Debbie Gillespie, who heads the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, called the planned retrofits a godsend.

The TTC is planning to make modifications to almost all of its subway stations in order to make train platforms safer for passengers with mobility issues.

According to a report going before the transit agencys board on Monday, 62 of the networks 69 stations likely require retrofits to narrow the gaps between trains and platforms.

Large spaces between trains and platform edges, or vertical misalignments between the vehicle floor and the platform surface, pose a potential hazard for riders using mobility devices or strollers, as well as those with impaired vision.

The Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) has warned the TTC that passengers can get the wheels of mobility devices caught in the gaps, causing panic, unnecessary wear/damageand system delays which ultimately undermine confidence that the subway is truly accessible.

In an interview, ACAT chair Debbie Gillespie called the planned retrofits a godsend.

The size of the gaps varies from station to station, and even from different locations on the same platform. That kind of variation in the physical environment can cause stress and pose safety hazards for people with accessibility challenges.

The biggest thing is not knowing, said Gillespie, who is visually impaired.

Consistency is key when you talk about accessibility.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) doesnt set acceptable gap sizes for public transit agencies, but after consulting with ACAT, TTC staff are recommending a standard of 89 mm or less for the horizontal gaps between trains and platforms, and 38 mm for the difference between the height of the train floor and the platform.

Jim Ross, deputy chief operating officers for the TTC, said there are multiple reasons why the agency is planning the retrofits.

The AODA has mandated that the transit network be fully accessible by 2025, and the TTC has already started the process of shifting some Wheel-Trans customers onto its conventional system as part of what it calls its Family of Services model. In eight years, half of the customers who currently qualify for Wheel-Trans are expected to use the conventional transit network.

On top of the legal and policy reasons, Ross said, its just the right thing to do.

We have a long standing commitment to accessibility and making sure that our system is accessibleWherever we can make it better, were committed to doing that.

The TTC used a train-mounted laser system called LiDAR (light detection and ranging) to measure the gaps at all its stations over several months, and determined 81 per cent of the portion of the platforms that lines up with trains when theyre stopped already meets the proposed standards.

However, to ensure that at least 90 per cent of the platform length at every station meets the standard, retrofits will be required at almost all stops. Some of the work will be minor and localized to small sections of platforms, while in other cases more extensive reconstructions could be required.

Options to address the gaps include using rubber gap fillers and building ramps. The TTC has already built a ramp at one end of Eglinton station, where the platform was constructed unusually low. The agency also lowered its entire fleet of new Toronto Rocket trains after it discovered they were too high.

The report asks the TTC board to endorse the new gap standards, and to carry out further study to design a platform retrofitting plan.

Less complex work to address the gaps could be performed starting next year, with Davisville, St. Clair, Union, and Dundas identified as the priorities. More complex work would begin in 2020. Some of the retrofits could require temporary station closures.

Its not yet known how much all of the work will cost, but a comprehensive study of the problem is estimated at $500,000.

Ross cautioned that the TTC will never be able to address some of the gaps, and wont always be able to narrow the spaces as much as it would like. Thats because many different factors contribute to how large the gaps are, including the model of subway car, how many people are on board, and even the age of train wheels.

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Accommodations for Students and Employees With Disabilities Can Take Many Forms

November 10 2017

The Office of Disability Resources and Services fields a lot of calls from faculty, asking about their responsibilities when it comes to accommodating students with disabilities. Office director Leigh Culley understands why.

Zach Crighton, a 17-year-old high school student with cerebral palsy, meets with students in the Compassionate Design course taught by lecturer John Moalli. The students are hoping they can make improvements to Crighton’s wheelchair and communication tools. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“We have a notion as to what ‘disability’ is and it’s typically a disability you can see,” Culley said. “The majority of students who are registered with our office have a hidden disability” 97 percent, in fact. “And ‘disability’ is a very broad term.” It may be an information processing disorder, involve sensory disability or stem from the effects of medication. It may be caused by a chronic illness, a psychiatric or learning disability or a traumatic brain injury.

“When there’s an obvious impairment, there seems to be a clear understanding of what that student might need,” she added. “There’s a challenge students have when they don’t appear to be disabled to demonstrate that they do in fact have a need.”

Culley has directed the office since 2014, after working there since 2002 as a disability specialist. She and her staffers determine student needs, ensuring they have equal access to the academic environment.

While the office is part of the Division of Student Affairs, staff and faculty members also request accommodations through the Office of Disability Resources and Services, although it is much less common, Culley said. Designing the accommodation involves employees and their supervisors assessing the unique tasks involved in each job.

Typical employee workplace accommodations include acquiring or modifying office equipment, software or devices; shifting work schedules; and adjusting or modifying training materials and work stations.

The greatest challenge for Culley’s office is ensuring the latest technology is accessible to those with disabilities, from applications to websites, including CourseWeb (Blackboard Learn), the University’s web-based learning management system.

Extensive course reading also may require that printed materials be made available to the student in other formats; lectures may need to be captured using the latest computer tools. For instance, a Livescribe “smartpen” can capture audio from a lecture alongside a student’s handwritten notes, synching them into a digital record, which allows students to review these classroom materials at their own pace afterwards. Culley’s office also can equip students with Sonocent software that pairs lecture audio with PowerPoint slides and other current multimedia presentations commonly employed in the classroom.

For other students, the accommodation may be as simple as having a volunteer peer provide copies of his or her notes from class.

But the most commonly requested student accommodation is extended time on exams.

Allowing for different course attendance standards is among the most difficult accommodations for faculty to implement, Culley said. Some students’ disability symptoms may flare up and subside unpredictably, affecting their ability to come to class. “We want to respect the fundamental requirements of the course,” she said, while still coming to a workable solution.

Faculty respond well to accommodation requests for the most part, she reported: “Reluctance is typically due to lack of understanding. We see that as an opportunity to provide some education around that disability, and that generally leads to a positive outcome.”

Creating a useful and usable campus environment for those with disabilities “is a campus-wide responsibility,” she concluded. “It’s being aware, asking questions, getting information and challenging our understanding of what disability means.”

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Yellowknife’s Transit Leaves Disabled Residents Unable to Attend Public Meetings, Says Advocate

City’s bus service ends at 7:10 p.m., while city council meetings, public consultations often begin later By Kayla Rosen, CBC News
Posted: Nov 06, 2017

An advocate for disability services is calling attention to shortcomings in Yellowknife’s transit service, saying that current offerings are making it impossible for people with disabilities to attend public meetings even ones that directly affect them.

Many city council meetings and events happen in the evening, but the Yellowknife Accessible Transit Service (YATS) ends at 7:10 p.m., leaving people with disabilities limited options on how to get to and from events.

“I don’t even really look at city events anymore, because I know I can’t attend,” said Elizabeth Portman, who has multiple sclerosis, limiting her mobility and strength.

Portman previously filed a human rights complaint related to YATS, which ultimately led to the city getting its wrist slapped for charging more to people using the service than those using regular transit.

Most recently, the City of Yellowknife held a public consultation on waste management to get the public’s “imaginative ideas and thoughts,” according to the poster. The meeting started at 7:30 p.m., 20 minutes after YATS had finished for the day.

Portman said she would have liked to raise accessibility concerns at this meeting, including the fact that the lid on the garbage bin at her apartment is too heavy to lift.

“I could have told them that people with disabilities who live in houses and who have to take their bins out to the curb… well, how do you do that if you have one good arm and you have to use a wheelchair?”

Portman also said she reached out to the city because she wanted to attend city council meetings, which take place at 7 p.m. Instead of being offered alternate transportation options, Portman said she was told she could watch a live webcast at home.

“That’s not inclusion and that’s not equality and it’s also not very nice,” she said.

Schedule based on budget

It’s not just the city’s events that are hard for people with disabilities to get to, Portman said. Other events, including a yoga class for people with multiple sclerosis, happen after 7:10 p.m.

“Once transportation ends, many of us, myself included, are very limited in how we can participate in the community,” she said.

Portman added that people with disabilities don’t necessarily have many other transportation options, such as biking or driving a car.

Dennis Kefalas, Yellowknife’s director of public works and engineering, said in an email that city meetings “are usually scheduled for the evening to allow for residents to have a chance to get home after work and/or school, have a bite to eat.”

“Our transit system works on a specific schedule based on our budget, which only allows us to operate until 7:00 p.m.,” he said.

“We are always open for input and have provided contact information for residents who can’t make the meetings to allow them a chance to give us their thoughts and opinions.”

Portman has suggested a possible compromise could be to offer half-priced cab fare when accessibility transit is not available in the evening hours.

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eSSENTIAL Accessibility Bridges the Digital Divide for People with Disabilities With a New Android Application

Groundbreaking Technology Gives People with Physical Disabilities a Barrier-Free Mobile Experience TORONTO, Nov. 2, 2017 /PRNewswire

eSSENTIAL Accessibility, a digital accessibility solutions provider, today launched an Android application that makes it easier for individuals with physical disabilities to navigate the digital world.

Many people with disabilities have difficulty using their handheld devices. To address these limitations, eSSENTIAL Accessibility has developed an application for Android devices that allows people with limited dexterity to overcome barriers through hands-free technology, touch-replacement tools, and voice recognition capabilities. This technology will greatly benefit those with quadriplegia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and other conditions that make it challenging to use touchscreen smartphones and tablets.

“Many people take for granted the fact that they can use handheld devices to communicate with others, complete transactions, and research information online,” says Simon Dermer, managing director of eSSENTIAL Accessibility. “However, there is still a significant percentage of the population who face barriers when using mobile devices. In fact, people with disabilities represent the largest minority group in the world. Our Android application opens up the digital world to millions of people by giving them an opportunity to use devices otherwise inaccessible to them.”

This technology is available on a no-cost-to-user basis through eSSENTIAL Accessibility’s brand partners. With the app, customers can use Android devices to engage with their favorite brands without incurring additional costs to make mobile phones functional. Moreover, organizations that feature assistive technology send a clear message to customers with disabilities: We value your business.

Assistive technology, such as the Android application, is an essential component of web accessibility. By integrating assistive technology with digital accessibility evaluation and remediation services, eSSENTIAL Accessibility helps brands enhance their customer experience and ensure that their digital properties comply with standards, regulations, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 technical requirements.

For more information and to see all of the application’s features, visit

About eSSENTIAL Accessibility

eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY is a digital accessibility solutions provider. We help organizations create accessible digital platforms through the integration of an assistive technology app with web accessibility evaluation and remediation services. By implementing our comprehensive solution, clients enhance the digital customer experience for people with disabilities, comply with requisite regulations and standards, and project an inclusive and disability-friendly digital presence.

For more information, visit

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