Mentally Disabled Man Anxious About Presto After Transit Card Problems Nearly Left Him Stranded

Community advocates say incident highlights challenges of transitioning to Presto for those with disabilities Farrah Merali
CBC News, Dec 28, 2018

The family of a Toronto man with a developmental disability says he’s now anxious about using his Presto card after an incident where he says he was kicked off a bus because his card didn’t work even though there was money on it.

“I was upset about it,” Grant Koturbash told CBC Toronto.

His sister, Shelley Koturbash, says he’s now constantly nervous about using his card, and calls her repeatedly.

“He has anxiety. Now he’s worried about every time he gets on the bus. Even today before we sat down [for this interview], the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Can you put 10 more dollars on my Presto card because I may be out,”‘ she said.

The TTC said there are instances where Presto passes with money on them are tapped and declined. It says it’s working with Presto and the gate manufacturers to address the issue.

For most transit passengers the glitches in transitioning to Presto are frustrating but for people with developmental disabilities, they represent a challenge to their independence, according to some advocates

“[With Metropasses] it’s sort of a one and done: you go and you pay your monthly fee you know if it’s December and you’ve paid your fee you’re on the bus,” said Brad Saunders, CEO of Community Living Toronto, an organization that offers support for those living with an intellectual disability and works to help them live meaningful lives.

“Presto is more complicated and that sense of not knowing for sure creates anxiety which is never a good thing.”

In the new year, Metropasses will be phased out entirely and replaced with Presto cards that have a monthly pass on them. Community Living Toronto is now working with the TTC and other groups on a training program specifically for those with developmental disabilities on how to use the new cards and the system in general.

Card issue

In November, Grant Koturbash said he was heading home from a coffee shop near Eglinton West and Islington.

“I tapped my Presto card and [the driver] said I have no money on my Presto card,” said Koturbash.

He said the driver told him to get off the bus and to put money on his Presto card. He said he told the driver he was special needs but he said there was no response.

With no cash on him and no ability to load his card, Koturbash said he approached a woman.

“I said, ‘Can you please help me, I have no money, I tapped my Presto card, no money in my wallet and stuff,”‘ said Koturbash.

The woman agreed to pay his fare and when he arrived home he called his sister.

“I was shocked,” said Shelley Koturbash, who said she had just loaded up his card two days prior.

She describes her brother as a mild-mannered and non-aggressive person. She said he’s high functioning in some ways he is able to wash his dishes, pick up bottles for recycling and other tasks but loading a Presto card is too complicated; he relies on a social worker or his family to help him.

She said the incident has left her brother shaken.

“Grant gets very anxious. He keeps asking me, ‘How much money is on my Presto card,’ and, ‘Am I going to be okay? What’s going to happen?”‘

Presto and technology

Community Living Toronto said it often hears of stories about people with developmental disabilities encountering problems with Presto.

“Presto has just added another layer of complication that they need to understand and figure out, and there hasn’t been a lot of communication that’s accessible to people we support,” said Saunders who said he’s heard of TTC enforcement officers ticketing people with mental disabilities in the confusion.

“The challenge with the situations I’ve heard of is it’s just so definitive, you tap your Presto and if that “x” comes out on the gate, you’re not getting in. If there’s no one to talk to, to ask about it, you’re stuck.”

The TTC maintains it’s not its policy to kick anyone let alone someone with a developmental disability off a bus because their card doesn’t tap properly.

“We would never want our operators to ask someone to leave the vehicle,” said Heather Brown, acting manager, customer communications.

Brown said there are glitches with some gates that don’t let a passenger go through, even if there’s money on their card.

“There is continuous improvement in the availability of our fare gates. But there are circumstances where sometimes this is happening. We are working with Presto and our fare gate manufacturers to make sure this issue is being rectified.”

One of the challenges for people with an intellectual disability, advocates say, is not knowing what the balance is on your card when you tap it, but the TTC said that might change in the future.

“We are exploring the option of possibly including the balance on the screen,” said Brown.

In the meantime, the TTC has also partnered with Community Living and other groups to offer a training program called “Discover my Route” for those with developmental disabilities transitioning to Presto.

“It really works with the individuals to make sure they do understand the change, they understand the differences and more importantly they know how to problem solve and how to ask for help,” said Angela Bradley, director of resource development and marketing with Community Living.

The pilot program launched around the time the transition to Presto began includes in-class instruction to teach people how to use transit and what to do in case of an emergency or when their card doesn’t work.

“It’s like anything, it’s new, it’s changed and it needs training.”

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Blind Juror in Toronto Impaired Driving Case Was Almost Rejected

Disability advocates seek removal of courtroom barriers
Betsy Powell Toronto Star
Dec. 29, 2018

A recent criminal trial at Toronto’s downtown Superior Court featured what may be a first in Ontario: a blind juror.

The fact that is, if not a first, an extremely rare occurrence in Ontario underscores that much more needs to be done to remove the barriers to equal treatment in the criminal justice system, disability advocates say.

“Certainly this applies to ensuring adequate representation of persons with disabilities on juries,” says Luke Reid, a lawyer with ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto.

The Criminal Code allows people with vision or hearing disabilities to serve on juries. However, an accused may challenge a juror’s service and the Juries Act deems jurors ineligible if they have “a physical or mental disability that would seriously impair his or her ability to discharge the duties of a juror.”

“However, human rights law would demand that this (or any) requirement not be interpreted in an overbroad way and that persons with disabilities have the right to the necessary accommodations,” Reid wrote in email.

Juror 29743 almost didn’t get picked. While there are likely numerous reasons preventing people with impaired vision from sitting on juries, there is still a “very active debate” around the ability of a “trier of fact” to see a witness’s demeanour in order to assess credibility, Reid noted in an email.

“I think courts tend to err on the side of caution where the right of an accused to a fair trial is potentially at issue.”

This fall, a day before jury selection in an impaired driving causing death trial, prosecutor Marnie Goldenberg told the judge she and defence lawyer Carolyn Kerr had some concerns about a prospective juror, who had shown up at the courthouse with a service dog. Goldenberg told the judge numerous photos would be introduced during the two-week trial.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Rob Goldstein told the lawyers while it was entirely appropriate to raise the issue, he didn’t intend to treat Juror 29743 any differently than other jurors.

“I think it’s something we canvass and we treat her the way we treat any other juror who has a health issue,” Goldstein said. The next day, after Juror 29743 entered the courtroom with her service dog, the judge asked her how she would “deal” with all the photos in the case.

“It would be through description … I cannot see them,” the woman, who works in human resources, told Goldstein.

“OK, all right, so if they are described – you can absorb what’s in them?” the judge asked. She said yes.

The jury selection process continued in the normal course with two already selected jurors, designated as “triers,” deciding whether or not she was an acceptable pick.

Juror 29743 said she had not heard about the case involving a man charged with impaired driving causing death on April 23, 2016, near Jane St. and Humberview Blvd. She also indicated she could consider the evidence without prejudice or bias after being told the accused was a visible minority and Muslim. Nevertheless, the triers immediately rejected her.

Goldstein, however, wasn’t satisfied. He told the triers he was going to reread their instructions and asked them to consult each other again. The test to decide is if a juror would approach jury duty with an open mind and decide the case based solely on the evidence and his legal instructions, the judge told them.

This time, the triers found Juror 29743 acceptable while counsel on both sides said they were “content” with the choice. After a few days of deliberations, the jury returned to court with a guilty verdict. The Star’s attempts to speak to Juror 29743 were unsuccessful.

Lawyer David Lepofsky, a retired Crown attorney who is blind and was not involved in the case, said having a blind juror not only makes the legal system more representative of society, it makes lawyers more effective.

There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a courtroom that is visual and needs to be explained for the transcript, or audio recording, so having a blind juror will help ensure that happens, “so you get a better record, and it’s better for everybody,” Lepofsky said.

But there are some exceptions where a visually impaired juror might have to be excluded, he added. If, for example, the guilt or innocence of an accused is entirely based on whether a jury believes an accused looks like an assailant captured in a surveillance video.

Lepofsky, now a visiting professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall law school, said traditionally, appeal courts said trial judges were in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses, because they, unlike appeal judges, can access demeanour.

That view has evolved, and now appeal courts are increasingly warning “it’s wrong to over emphasize visual demeanour when assessing credibility.” He uses himself as an example to explain how everyone has different ways of doing that.

“Sighted people use eyes. I listen to a voice … and the whole idea of a jury is it’s a bunch of different people … pooling their different ways of assessing credibility and then voting as a group. Well, who’s to say visual is the only way to do it,” he said.

“Those of us who experience the world non visually, have our own experience too.”

While jurors don’t have to be statistically representative of society, there is an expectation that they bring to the courtroom their own life experience, “drawn from different parts of the community, and they pool to form a collective assessment, a very difficult assessment, who to believe about what happened.”

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Public Transportation for Everyone in Ontario

Under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, companies that provide public transportation have to create and implement policies and plans to make their services accessible to passengers with disabilities. Since this law has been enacted, public transit has taken steps to make it easier for everyone to use their services.

Public transportation includes:

  • City buses
  • Trains
  • Streetcars
  • Taxis
  • Ferries

In this article, we outline some of the mandated accessibility features for Ontario public transit. For instance, accessible features includes:

  • Stops, shelters, stations, and platforms
  • Vehicles
  • Audio and visual announcements
  • Transit information

Public Transportation

Accessible Stops, Shelters, Stations, and Platforms

AODA requires that all new and renovated:

  • Bus stops
  • Bus shelters
  • Train platforms
  • Train stations

are level or ramped for use by people with mobility devices.

Shelters, platforms, and stations should be wide enough so that people using mobility devices can turn around.

Also, transit users should find that signs have good colour contrast and have large print. Signs should be found in or at:

  • Shelters
  • Stations
  • Stops
  • Platforms

Accessible Vehicles

Buses should either have level entrances, ramps, or lifts. Emergency response and stop request buttons should be at a height that people using mobility devices can easily reach. There should also be seats near the front of the bus for riders using assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters. Riders may also bring smaller devices, such as canes or walkers.  Service animals are allowed on all buses and taxis. Notably, taxis that store mobility devices cannot charge an extra fee for doing so.

Audio and Visual Announcements

Buses have audio announcements that speak the name of each stop as they approach it. This system allows riders who are blind or visually impaired to know where they are and when they have reached their stop. Audio announcements also identify which bus is coming. Visual display of the same information is equally helpful for riders who are Deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. Blind or visually impaired taxi riders should disclose their disability to dispatch when they call a cab so that drivers will know to identify themselves. If riders are blind or have very low vision, they can ask drivers to describe exactly where they are when they reach their stop or ask drivers to take them to a nearby landmark.

Accessible Transit Information

People with disabilities can go online to find out information, such as:

  • Bus times and routes
  • Delays and detours during winter and construction season

Additionally, any information not on the website should be available in accessible formats, such as Braille or large print, upon request.

Public Transit Benefits Everyone

Accessible public transit allows people with disabilities to get around cities and the province with more ease. Other groups of people will also benefit from accessible services and rides, including:

  • Parents of children in strollers
  • Older adults
  • Newcomers
  • Travellers with luggage
  • Shoppers with carts

Finally, accessible public transit allows people with disabilities to travel to work, to visit loved ones, and to community events. Accessibility ensures that every person can move around their city and throughout the province.


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Individual Transportation Plans for Students with Disabilities

Under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, school boards must create and implement individual transportation plans for students with disabilities.

An individual transportation plan is a written plan detailing how a student will travel from home to school and back again. Individual transportation plans make sure each child gets to and from school in the way that is best and most safe.

Individual Transportation Plans

Who is involved in the plan?

People or organizations involved in carrying out a student’s individual transportation plan include:

  • Students
  • Parents
  • School staff, such as learning support teachers
  • Bus drivers
  • School boards
  • Companies contracted to provide transportation to school boards

Firstly, parents and school staff work together to figure out what the best transport option for each student is before the start of the school year or in the middle of the year if the student’s needs change. Secondly, school boards hire companies to provide transportation for students. Thirdly, companies train drivers on how to transport riders with disabilities. Lastly, drivers are notified about what students’ abilities and needs are and ensure that they reach school or home safely.

Types of Transportation

Like public transit, transportation to and from school can take place on conventional or specialized transportation.

Integrated Transportation

Some students use integrated transportation and travel on a conventional school bus with their peers.

Specialized Transportation

In contrast, some students may use specialized transportation, depending on their abilities and needs. They travel in a smaller vehicle such as an accessible bus, van, or taxi. Some students travel alone while others travel with other students who have disabilities.

Identifying Students’ Needs and How to Meet Them

Before the start of each school year, or during the year if students’ needs change, the school board should consult with parents to identify students who need individual transportation plans. Then, parents and school staff should identify what each student’s needs are and how these needs will be met. For instance, the written plan should describe:

  • How each student will board, be secure while driving, and deboard
  • What assistance students may need while boarding, securing themselves, or deboarding
  • Responsibilities of students, parents, drivers, school staff, school boards, and transportation companies

Just as an individual education plan (IEP) makes classroom learning accessible for students with disabilities, an individual transportation plan helps students get to school in accessible ways. Transportation is a vital part of students’ school experience that should be based on their abilities and needs. An individual transportation plan is a key part of ensuring students’ success in school.

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What is the Transportation Standard?

The Transportation Standard of the AODA requires transportation service providers to make the features and equipment on routes and vehicles accessible to passengers with disabilities.

The Transportation Standard requires transportation companies to inform the public about accessible equipment and features on their vehicles, routes and services. They must provide this information in accessible formats upon request. Furthermore, when accessible equipment is not working, companies must find other ways to accommodate passengers. They must also ensure that the equipment is fixed as soon as possible. Moreover, companies must train workers and volunteers to:

  • Use accessible equipment and features safely
  • Find solutions if accessible features stop working or if routes contain barriers, such as construction
  • Ensure passenger safety during emergencies

Emergency response plans must be accessible to the public.

Furthermore, conventional and specialized transportation companies should transport support persons free of charge.

Conventional Transportation

Conventional transportation includes many types of transportation, such as:

  • Buses
  • Streetcars
  • Subways
  • Trains
  • Ferries

Conventional transportation service providers shall:

  • Deploy lifting devices, ramps, or portable bridge plates upon request
  • Ensure that passengers have time to board, be secured, and deboard
  • Store mobility aids
  • Transport passengers with medical aids

Transit Stops

If a transit stop is not accessible, passengers must be able to board or deboard at the nearest safe accessible location along the vehicle’s route. Drivers must report inaccessible stops and temporary barriers.

Priority Seating

Transportation companies must provide marked priority seats for passengers with disabilities, located near vehicle entrances. Signs should direct non-disabled passengers to vacate the seats if passengers with disabilities need them.


Companies must provide visual and verbal announcements of routes and stops on their vehicles.

Technical Requirements

Additionally, companies must fulfill AODA technical requirements for special features, such as:

  • Lifting devices
  • Steps
  • Grab bars and handrails
  • Floor surfaces
  • Lighting
  • Signage
  • Stop-requests and emergency response controls

Service Disruptions

If a company knows in advance that its services on a route will be disrupted, the company must find an accessible way to transport passengers with disabilities. They must also inform passengers of these changes in accessible formats.


Mobility aids should be stored in passenger compartments where their owners can reach them, whenever possible. Otherwise, they must be placed in storage compartments and returned to their owners immediately. Companies cannot charge for storing mobility aids.

Finally, if people cannot use certain payment options because of their disabilities, others should be available.

Specialized Transportation

Specialized transportation service companies must create an eligibility application process including an independent appeal process. Information about these processes must be made available in accessible formats upon request.

Companies operating both conventional and specialized transportation must:

  • Charge fares less or equal to conventional transportation rates
  • Provide the same fare structure and payment options for both services, and additional payment options if needed
  • Provide the same hours and days of operation for both services
  • If conventional and specialized transportation are offered by different companies in the same location, the specialized transportation company may charge no more than the highest cost of conventional transportation.


Specialized transportation companies requiring advanced booking must allow passengers to book on the day of travel whenever possible, or up to three hours before the end of the day before the day of travel. Passengers must be able to book trips in accessible ways. Companions may travel with passengers if there is space. Dependent children may also travel with a parent who uses the service.

Service Delays

If there are service delays half an hour or more after a scheduled pick-up time, companies must inform passengers about the length of the delays.


Taxi owners and drivers cannot charge a passenger with a disability a higher price than they would charge a non-disabled passenger for the same trip. Likewise, they also cannot charge extra fees for storing mobility aids. Drivers must allow passengers who are blind to ride in taxis with their guide dogs. Taxi owners and drivers must place identification and registration for their taxis on the cars’ rear bumpers. They must also make this information available in accessible formats upon request.

School Transportation

Public school boards must provide integrated accessible school transportation. When that is not possible, or not the best option for a student, school boards must provide appropriate alternative accessible transportation.

School boards, along with parents or guardians, shall develop individual school transportation plans for each student with a disability. Plans should include various types of arrangements. For instance, boarding, securement, and deboarding. Plans must also describe the roles of the transportation provider, the parents or guardians, the student, the driver, and any school staff involved.

Why do we need the Transportation Standard?

Transportation is a vital part of living. We travel to work, on social outings, and to shop for our basic needs. Finally, the Transportation Standard ensures that every person can live fully by moving freely.

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Accessible Performance Management, Career Advancement, and Redeployment

The Employment Standard of the AODA states that all organizations with performance management processes must make those processes accessible to workers with disabilities. In addition, employers must accommodate workers with disabilities advancing their careers by gaining new responsibilities or transferring to higher positions. Likewise, if organizations redeploy workers to other positions, they must accommodate redeployed workers with disabilities.

Accessible Performance Management

Performance management is a way for employers to help workers succeed by assessing their effectiveness and productivity. Employers who have performance management processes in place must accommodate the needs of workers with disabilities when they implement their processes.

Performance management development

Each employer develops its own performance management process differently. For instance, small employers may have conversations with each worker. On the other hand, large employers with human resources departments may create written questionnaires. Therefore, the accommodations each employer makes will depend on the tasks their process involves.

Moreover, the employer should approach each worker to find out how to make the process accessible. In addition, employers of fifty or more workers in the private sector and all employers in the public sector, should consult a worker’s individual accommodation plan to learn how that worker will access the process. For example, a worker who is visually impaired and uses accommodations for job tasks involving reading and writing, such as large print or emails, will likely need written elements of the performance management process in an accessible format. The same worker may not need an accommodation if the employer’s process involves a verbal conversation.

In contrast, a worker who usually receives accommodations for tasks involving verbal information, such as writing or a communication board, would likely need the same communication supports during a verbal performance management process. This worker might not use any accommodations for a written process.

Furthermore, employers should also consider whether a worker might become more successful with a different accommodation. For example, a worker currently using a hearing aid at meetings could try using Real-Time Captioning (RTC) instead. Moreover, if the employer offers the worker any feedback about their performance, that feedback must be offered in a way that accommodates the worker’s disability. Kinds of accessible feedback may include:

  • Writing down or recording instructions
  • Using plain language
  • Demonstrating tasks

Accessible Career Advancement

Similarly, employers and workers must take a worker’s accommodations into account when a worker acquires new responsibilities. Workers might be performing new tasks while remaining in their current position or might advance to a higher position in the company. The worker and employer should re-examine what the worker’s accommodations are and what tasks those accommodations are used for. A worker’s accommodations may remain the same even if the worker gains new responsibilities. For instance, a worker supervising more colleagues, with brain-injury-induced memory loss, may use similar accommodations in their new role.

However, if the worker’s new position involves different kinds of tasks or locations, the worker may use more accommodations. For example, if a worker now attending management meetings uses a wheelchair, the employer may need to hold meetings elsewhere. Alternately, a worker may require fewer accommodations if there are tasks the worker will no longer be performing. For instance, a worker with a mental illness and promotion to a private office may no longer need sound-absorption panels.

Accessible Redeployment

Likewise, when workers are:

  • Redeployed,
  • Transferred to other jobs
  • Transferred to other departments

because their current positions no longer exist, employers must take into account what accommodations workers will need in their new positions. Like advanced workers, redeployed workers may use similar accommodations, use new accommodations, or no longer need certain accommodations.

Why do we Need Accessible Performance Management, Career Advancement, and Redeployment?

Accessible performance management processes, career advancement, and redeployment allow every worker to remain as effective as possible. Workers accommodated as they make the most of their current or future positions will accomplish more for the whole organization.

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Airline Fined for Separate Disabled-Accessible Website

Advertising Law
December 13, 2018
Jesse M. Brody

Offering a separate website for those with disabilities does not comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) website accessibility requirements, the agency made clear with a $200,000 fine to the Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS).

The DOT established website accessibility requirements that require any U.S. or foreign air carrier that has a website and that operates at least one aircraft seating more than 60 passengers to ensure that its public-facing webpages on its primary website are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Set forth at 14 CFR Part 382, the rule had two phases of implementation.

By December 12, 2015, covered entities needed to ensure that core travel information and services on the airline’s primary website met the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA Standard. Airlines had until December 12, 2016, to achieve compliance for all remaining webpages on the primary site.

But in February 2017, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings discovered that SAS’ primary website was not accessible to persons with disabilities. Instead, the airline created an “assistive version” of its primary website at a separate and distinct URL.

This separate site violated the DOT rule, the agency said.

“In the preamble to the rule the Department explained that to create a separate accessible website would ‘likely perpetuate the problem of unequal access as carriers allot fewer resources than needed over time to properly maintain the second site,’” according to the DOT consent order with SAS. “The Department also stated that it is a ‘well-established principle of disability non-discrimination law that separate or different aids, benefits or services can only be provided to individuals with disabilities (or a class of such individuals) when necessary to provide aids, benefits or service that are as effective as those provided to others.’”

SAS’ failure to comply also constituted unfair and deceptive practices and an unfair method of competition, the agency said.

In response, SAS argued it “held a good faith belief” that the assistive version of its website was a conforming alternate version that brought its primary site into compliance, pointing the finger at a third-party vendor that “assured” the airline the alternative site met the requirements of the DOT rule. SAS no longer has an alternative separate website designed for individuals with disabilities, and its primary website is accessible.

The DOT Enforcement Office and SAS reached an agreement over the charges. While the airline did not admit to the violations asserted by the agency, it agreed to cease and desist from future similar violations and pay a compromise civil penalty of $200,000. Of the total amount, $100,000 was due immediately, with the remaining $100,000 due and payable if SAS violates the consent order within one year.

“This compromise assessment is appropriate considering the nature and extent of the violations described herein and serves the public interest,” according to the consent order. “It represents a strong deterrent to future similar unlawful practices by SAS and other carriers.”

To read the DOT’s consent order, visit .

Why it matters

Website operators have struggled over the years with accessibility requirements, but the DOT consent order makes one thing very clear: A separate accessible website designed for individuals with disabilities is not an option

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Accessible Information at Work

Under the Employment Standard of the AODA, employers must provide accessible information to workers with disabilities through accessible formats or communication supports upon request.

Accessible information should include:

  • Documents or announcements available to every worker in an organization, such as:
    • Company newsletters
    • Health and safety information
    • Announcements of policy updates
    • Memos or word-of-mouth details about workplace social activities
  • What a worker needs to do their job, such as:
    • Presentations or videos
    • Handouts or discussions at meetings
    • Manuals or guidelines

The employer needs to consult with each worker to learn what format(s) or support(s) would be most helpful. In addition, grants may help workplaces purchase hardware, software, or services for certain formats or supports.

Accessible Formats

Accessible formats are ways of presenting printed, written, or visual material so that people who do not read print can access it.

Types of Accessible Formats


Braille is a way of writing the alphabet using a system of raised dots that readers feel with their fingers. Workers can print documents in Braille using a Braille printer or read digital information using a Braille display. Buildings may install Braille signs for different structural features, such as elevator buttons, washrooms, and room numbers.

Large Print

Large print is 18-point font or larger with good colour contrast. For example, workers may read large-print documents as hard copies, from large monitors, with magnification devices or software, or from websites offering the option to enlarge text and images.

Screen Readers

Workers can read digital text using screen readers, software programs that read aloud most text on the screen of a computer or mobile device. For instance, screen reader users can read information in Microsoft Word or HTML files, texts, emails, and text on websites complying with WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Moreover, organizations should ensure that screen reader users can access online or emailed versions of print information, such as:

  • Pay statements
  • Memos
  • Forms

Verbal Description

Colleagues may need to create accessible information by describing visual details in videos and presentations.

Communication Supports

In contrast, communication supports are ways for people to visually access verbal or audio information or ways for people who are non-verbal to communicate with people who speak.

Types of Communication Supports

Sign Language

English-Canadians who are Deaf often use American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complete visual language with its own grammar. Signers convey meaning through many methods, such as:

  • Handshapes
  • Movements
  • Facial expressions

Workers who sign may communicate with non-signers in different ways, such as speaking, gesturing, writing, emailing, or texting.

In addition, signers can communicate with non-signers through Sign language interpretation.  A professionally trained interpreter relays information between signers and non-signers. Interpretation for training or meetings is available through organizations such as Ontario Interpreter Services (OIS). Workers or employers should arrange interpretation in advance of events. The interpreter is often physically present. However, video relay service (VRS) technology now connects people to interpreters remotely through the Internet.


Other workers may communicate by speaking and speechreading. People who speechread understand speech through non-verbal communicative ways, such as facial movements and expressions, body language, and context. Speakers should ensure that speechreaders can see them clearly.

Captions and Text Transcripts

Captions are displays of text that reproduces or describes audio elements of videos or presentations. Video producers can caption content when they make it, or add captions later. For live events, such as meetings, workers may need Real-Time Captioning (RTC). A trained captioner records speech and it appears almost right away on a large screen. However, if RTC is not available, a typist can summarize key points. This process is called computerized note-taking.

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive listening devices transmit one speaker’s voice straight to a person’s ear and bypass background noise. Workers use them in group situations when concentrating on one speaker or area.


Some workers may use telephones with hearing aids or cochlear implants, while others may use telephone amplifiers that interact with certain hearing aids to lower background noise and increase ringing and conversation volume. Furthermore, telephones can have lights or vibrations that signal when the telephone rings. Some workers may use TTYs (teletypewriters). TTYs are devices that carry typed conversation over telephone lines. Users can contact someone who does not use TTY through a telephone relay operator. Furthermore, video relay service (VRS) allows users to communicate with signers or non-signers. Some workers may prefer communicating by text or email instead of the telephone.

Communication Devices

Workers who are non-verbal may use devices with speech output, word prediction, or word processing software. While some workers may use Augmentative or Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, which allow users to communicate by typing or through pre-programmed words, phrases, or pictorial symbols, others may use communication boards, which display letters, words, phrases, or symbols the user can point to.

Why do we Need Accessible Information in the Workplace?

Accessible information gives all workers the knowledge they need to do their jobs well and offer their diverse talents to workplace activities and culture.


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Students Are Exposing The University Of Guelph For Abandoning Students Dealing With Mental Health Issues

Students claim the school offers the worst mental health support in all of Ontario. Casey Aonso
Dec. 9, 2018

There isn’t a more stressful time for students than exam season as they attempt to wrap up their semester on a high note. Unfortunately, many students who struggle with mental illness can find this time of year especially hard as they attempt to study while dealing with their own personal problems. Usually, campuses will offer spaces and resources where students can alleviate their worries but when it comes to the University of Guelph, students are saying the reality on their campus is otherwise.

The discussion surrounding the lack of mental health resources at the University of Guelph started a few days ago when a student currently studying at the university named Victoria Raymond started a Twitter thread. Claiming that the school has “the worst mental health support of all the universities in Ontario.”

The student outlined that the school has dealt with four suicides in one year yet continue to market the school as a tight-knit community that cares about each other which she believes is untrue. One of the first issues Victoria explained through her experience at Guelph was that the school only has one psychiatrist. Meaning that struggling students are subjected to ridiculously long waiting lists that even apply to walk-in hours:

It’s worth noting that the University of Guelph is one of the only schools in Ontario that doesn’t offer a Fall reading week.

While one might whittle down a student’s complaint on this to claiming “students just want time off to party,” Victoria, as well as another student who joined in the thread, made a good point:

If the University of Guelph did have a reading week during the Fall semester, that would allow students who need to get their prescriptions filled the time they need to go back home and meet with their doctor. The break in between the semester would also allow students time to catch up with their studies and take some time to breathe instead of going through 12 straight weeks of courses.

Unfortunately, the lack of a reading week isn’t the only issue. According to Victoria, students on campus have even been turned away in crisis situations:

Several other students chimed in on the thread with similar experiences showing this isn’t an isolated incident:

It’s clear that the University of Guelph has a serious issue with the way they are running their mental health resources on campus. Considering that the Twitter thread as of now has 211 retweets and 539 likes, it’s fair to say a lot of people on campus feel the same way.

Considering that students began tagging the University of Guelph’s Twitter account on the thread, one can only hope the school takes the criticism into account and makes some serious changes for next semester. Especially since students are now planning to make prospective students at the school aware of the issue if they don’t make any changes soon.

*The opinions expressed in this article are those of the students mentioned and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author or Narcity Media. To view the Twitter thread visit the link below.

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Return to Work Plans for Ontario Workplaces

The Employment Standard under the AODA states that all public sector organizations, and private or non-profit organizations with fifty or more workers, must develop and document a process for writing return to work plans.

Return to work plans are written documents that provide support for workers who have been absent from work because of a disability and who need disability-related accommodations when they return to work. Workers can have return to work plans if their illness or injury is not covered by the return to work process under a different law, such as the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Return to Work Plans

Starting the Return to Work Plan

Firstly, workers with disabilities and their managers write return to work plans together and sign the finished plans. Other people involved in developing return to work plans may include:

  • A worker’s health care provider[s]
  • Volunteer[s] from the workplace, or from the union if there is one
  • health and safety professional[s]

A worker will approach the employer, either through a manager or human resources personnel, and request a leave of absence. If the worker agrees, the employer and worker should stay in contact during the worker’s absence so that the employer can be aware of any changes in:

  • When the worker will be returning
  • What job tasks the worker may need to perform differently after returning
  • What kinds of accommodations the worker may need

When the worker is ready to return, the manager and worker should continue to share information.

The worker has the most knowledge about their own needs and what accommodations will best meet those needs. At other times, the employer may ask the worker whether accommodation would help them perform job tasks.

Discussing Accommodation

Next, after the worker and employer have talked about the need for accommodation, they should discuss what the worker’s needs are. During this discussion, the worker and employer do not need to talk about exactly what the worker’s disability is. Instead, they should talk about what functions are part of a worker’s job and what accommodations a worker may need to perform those functions. In some cases, the worker may return to their previous job with few or no accommodations. In other cases, the worker might remain in their previous job but exchange some job tasks with colleagues.

A third option is for the worker to transfer to a different role or department. The option best for each worker will depend on what the job functions are and how the worker’s disability affects these functions. For example, if a worker could no longer lift heavy objects but that worker’s job rarely involved lifting, the worker could continue the job and sometimes use the accommodation of a cart for lifting boxes. If the worker’s job involved sometimes lifting heavy objects up and down stairs, a colleague could perform this function while the worker took on a different small task. If the same worker’s job involved lifting frequently, the worker might need a job that included less lifting.

The employer must keep a worker’s personal and medical information secure and confidential, and disclose it only to people involved in that worker’s accommodation process.

Details in the Return to Work Plan

The worker and employer should then create the return to work plan, which should state:

  • The worker’s name and title or department
  • The manager or supervisor’s name, and title or department
  • When the return to work process should start and end

The plan should also list:

  • Any limitations the worker now experiences
  • All job functions involving those tasks
  • Accommodations that would allow the worker to perform each function, such as:
    • Modified schedule or location
    • Modified job requirements or tasks exchanged with colleagues
    • Any assistive device(s) the worker uses
  • Any arrangements that will ensure the worker’s safety
  • Start and end dates if any of these arrangements are temporary

New Position

If a worker is re-assigned to a new position, the plan should include the title and description of this position, as well as its probable length, if temporary, and any training or safety accommodations the worker will need.

Other information

Lastly, the following other information may also be included in the plan:

  • The worker’s schedule
  • The budget code for any cost of accommodations

The return to work plan should be attached to the worker’s individual accommodation plan.

Reviewing the Plan

Finally, the worker and employer must observe how successful the plan is. They should review the plan and make any needed changes on pre-scheduled dates, as well as if an accommodation is not working correctly.

Why do we need return to work plans?

Return to work plans ensure that workers have the tools and support they need to re-enter their previous jobs and work well after they gain disabilities. In addition, plans help employers retain talented, competent, and creative workers.


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