Windsor Resident Petitioning City to Clear Snow From Sidewalks


Essential for individuals with accessibility needs, elderly residents, people with strollers, says Sarah Jones CBC News
Posted: Jan 21, 2020

A Windsor resident living with cerebral palsy has an ongoing petition with the aim of convincing the city ” and residents ” to maintain barrier-free sidewalks.

Sarah Jones said she launched her petition in December, explaining that her goal isn’t just to make sidewalks safer for individuals living with accessibility needs.

“It’s also for elderly and people with young children in strollers,” she said. “When the winter comes, Windsor tends to get inaccessible for them, and people tend to not be able to get around.”

Jones’s Change.org petition currently has almost 430 signatures, with an overall goal of 500.

City ‘working away’ at snow removal

According to Dwane Dawson, executive director of the City of Windsor’s public works department, main roads and all residential roads have been cleared of snow and salted.

“We’re working away at areas that were inaccessible during the plowing event,” he said.

Dawson also estimated on Monday that it would take at least another 12 hours before the city would be able to clear all snow.

He added that snow in some areas has turned into ice, making it harder for city workers to ensure resident safety.

“It’s a pretty slow process not to get those areas chipped away and accessible, so that people that have mobility issues can access the bus stops,” Dawson said.

Downtown BIA clearing sidewalks

In Windsor, property owners are responsible for clearing snow along curbs. Additionally, business owners are responsible for clearing snow in front of their storefronts.

Brian Yeomans, chair of the Downtown Windsor BIA, said his organization has undertaken sidewalk clearing as a means of making sidewalks more accessible for “our members, for our visitors, for our clients.”

Yeomans said the BIA decided to hire a company to clear sidewalks after a major snowstorm that struck southwestern Ontario in November 2019.

The Downtown Windsor BIA budgeted $20,000 for the 2020 winter season.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-resident-city-petition-snow-removal-1.5434202




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Sarnia This Week: Year In Review


Postmedia Staff
Published on: January 16, 2020

A new, accessible playground, the first of its kind in Sarnia, opened at Canatara Park in early December.

More than a playground, the wheelchair-accessible play structure atop a poured-in-place rubber base, also features nearby benches with built-in games tables, a stage area for theatre beside the existing picnic pavilion, and exercise equipment.

“We just wanted to create a space that, whether you’re playing or a caregiver here to watch their kids play, there’s something to do,” said city recreation and planning manager Ryan Chamney.

The project cost roughly $335,000, and was partly funded with $80,000 and $90,000 in total from all three of Sarnia’s Rotary clubs.

“We got a lot for what we spent,” said Chamney.

The Canatara Park ” Rotary Clubs of Sarnia Accessible Playground and Community Hub project is step one of nine in accessibility upgrades eyed for playgrounds in various city parks, he said.

Tecumseh Park is up next. Work is planned to start there later in 2020 and likely wrap up in 2021, Chamney said.

The Sarnia-Lambton Centre Communautaire Francophone unveiled its newly upgraded kitchen facilities on Dec. 6, a project completed thanks to a $133,500 capital grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey joined community centre staff, contractors and a contingent of students from the neighbouring St. Francois Xavier Secondary School to formally open the kitchen during a launch-and-lunch recognition ceremony.

The centre’s newly refurbished and enlarged kitchen, which includes a brand new stove, a state of the art dishwashing station, new cabinets and a special range hood designed to address air circulation issues, will allow far more people to access the wide variety of cooking classes offered at the centre, said community centre president Tanya Tamilio.

After the grant was approved, local contractors got to work in order to make the facility much more accessible for teaching purposes and more amenable for hosting larger community events such as holiday celebrations, baby showers or weddings, Tamilio said.

“Our old kitchen was more of a residential-type kitchen, so we couldn’t really do cooking courses in there ” we had to bring in tables and put them outside of the kitchen just to hold classes,” she said. “This permits everyone to be back inside the kitchen.”

Whether the new kitchen’s users are St. Francois Xavier students simply learning how to make healthy after-school snacks or new mothers learning the ABCs of cooking for their newborns, the refurbished kitchen will definitely serve many needs within Sarnia-Lambton, Tamilio said.

In December, it was announced that transportation company Voyago had been selected for an intercity bus service contract between Sarnia, Strathroy-Caradoc and London which was set to begin in April 2020.

The service, completely funded until 2023 through a $1.45-million Ontario Community Transportation grant, is set to run three round trips daily, five days a week ” and two round trips per day on weekends ” using accessible 20-foot buses with 20 to 25 seats.

The London-founded bus company formerly known as Voyageur ” acquired by Transdev Canada in April” beat out about five other bidders for the route that will also include stops in Komoka and Mt. Brydges.

“It came down to I’d say a combination of experience, and then, within the budget, getting as many round trips as possible at the times we think the service will be utilized,” Makrakos said about Voyago’s selection.

Original at https://www.sarniathisweek.com/news/local-news/year-in-review-december-3




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Accessibility Key Issue in Debate Over Sidewalk Snow Plowing


Megan Stacey
Updated: January 8, 2020

Winter weather is striking London as budget tensions hit city council, a combination that’s left some Londoners demanding better snow clearing, especially on sidewalks.

Residents and politicians are grappling with what it takes to clear the way ” and how fast it should happen ” after snow wallops the city.

Accessibility advocates charge that city hall must improve its sidewalk plowing drastically if it wants London to be safe, in particular for older folks, young children, bus riders and those who use walkers, wheelchairs and other equipment such as strollers that must be pushed through the snow.

But it’s not cheap.

The proposal: Getting plows, salters and sanders out to do their job earlier, before as much snow has fallen. Specifically, council will mull lowering the threshold that triggers snow clearing on sidewalks from eight to five centimetres, and from 10 to eight cm for residential streets.

The case for better snow clearing: Gerry LaHay is a vocal accessibility advocate who’s also a double amputee. He said using a wheelchair helped open his eyes to the perils of snowy, icy sidewalks. Last weekend’s snowfall nearly kept him housebound, he said, unable to get down the street to the pharmacy or across the street to a bus stop.

“I’m a pretty stubborn and self-sufficient guy, and pretty damn strong, too. To get stuck in the snow was humiliating,” LaHay said.

He’s long tweeted about impassable sidewalks and other parts of the city left inaccessible by weather or design. He stresses he’s not fighting with city hall ” he’s trying to find a solution. And he knows the financial pressures in this multi-year budget can complicate the decision.

But for LaHay, it’s pretty clear: “You keep the roads clear, and emergency vehicles can get by, and you keep the buses moving ” but if I can’t get to the bus, what’s the point?”

And he takes issue with the idea that better snow clearing is “enhanced service.” It’s about giving Londoners basic access to their city, he argues.

“Accessibility is an afterthought. We have a long way to go to get to where we need to be. I guess I just don’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much I’m doing for the community or how I’m trying to run my business, (when it snows), ” you’re at home for the next week, buddy.”

The alternative: Some communities have bylaws that require homeowners to clear the sidewalks themselves. London could go that route, too, though it raises questions about how the rule would be enforced.

The decision: A public meeting on the budget will be held Jan. 23 at city hall at 4 p.m. After that, city politicians will debate the case for new investment Jan. 30 and 31 and into February. The 2020-2023 budget is expected to be approved March 2.

Original at https://lfpress.com/news/local-news/accessibility-key-issue-in-debate-over-sidewalk-snow-plowing




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Navigation App Breaks Down Barriers for the Visually Impaired


The AccessiBuild indoor navigation system will be launched in January 2020 By: Colleen Romaniuk
Jan. 7, 2019

Jeff Godfrey is doing his best to ensure a barrier-free Canada.

The general manager of Y4U Technologies in North Bay has created a platform to solve the issue of building accessibility for those who are blind or partially sighted.

He discovered that high unemployment rates and low incomes are persistent problems among this demographic. One of the reasons for this is inaccessible workplaces.

After Bill C-81 was passed in June 2018, Godfrey took a closer look at the accessible building models currently available to the public. He realized that he had the chance to create something, using a sustainable development model, that would address the problem that exists with building navigation.

‘I saw an opportunity to innovate on the existing information and technology that we had to have a positive social impact,’ said Godfrey.

Working with his employer, SRP Building Products, Godfrey and his business partner, Marc Rayner, started to develop AccessiBuild, an indoor navigation system geared towards the visually impaired, in 2019.

The team uses architectural software to create detailed digital maps of physical spaces. The maps are then uploaded onto the platform and made available for download.

Anyone who downloads the mobile app on their phone can access the blueprints.

Although the creators are targeting those with visual impairments right now, anyone can use it.

They hope to continue to adapt the software in the future for other demographics, including people who use wheelchairs or speak other languages.

Distance and bearings measurements can be customized to suit the user’s needs.

For example, the app can tell the user how many steps to take to the next door, and whether they should orient themselves left or right.

Using SRP’s LiDAR technology, which uses light detection and ranging, the company builds 3D models of spaces that are accurate up to three millimetres.

The end product is a streamlined app that makes navigating indoor spaces much easier.

The company’s goal is to practice sustainable development. In other words, they want to create technology that will have a positive impact on the world socially, economically, and environmentally.

AccessiBuild is meant to be less cumbersome and expensive than existing technologies on the market.

3D models of physical spaces produce huge data sets which need to be converted and compressed to be useful to someone without access to architectural software.

Godfrey and Rayner have sought to simplify the process.

AccessiBuild is free to use, which is important for those without much disposable income. Buildings will pay an initial fee to have their layouts mapped.

The company has been working with various organizations and local users to test the platform.

Brian Bibeault, committee chair of the Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee in North Bay, has been acting as the company’s main tester, providing valuable feedback and guidance throughout the development process. CNIB Sudbury’s program lead for accessible technology, Victoria Francis, has also been on board.

Godfrey has built nothing into the software that they haven’t approved first.

‘I can’t imagine the difficulties that they have as a sighted person,’ said Godfrey. ‘We’ve had to make adjustments, but the feedback has been very positive and encouraging.’

The company has also opened up testing to tech trainers in the Canadian Council of the Blind.

The software will be launched on Jan. 10, 2020 at 176 Lakeshore, Co-Working Offices, which also happens to be the first AccessiBuild-enabled building on the platform.

The commercial space is ‘very inclusive and community-oriented, so Godfrey figured it was a great place to develop this kind of software.

Original at https://www.northernontariobusiness.com/industry-news/technology/navigation-app-breaks-down-barriers-for-the-visually-impaired-1996799




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Queens Borough Public Library Sued for Excluding Persons with Disabilities from Full and Equal Access to Hunters Point Library


Disability Rights Advocates calls out shocking disregard for community, seeks to force library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation

NEW YORK (November 26, 2019) – Today, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed a class action lawsuit against Queens Borough Public Library, The Board of Trustees of the Queens Borough Public Library, and the City of New York, challenging the inaccessibility of Queens’ newest library branch, Hunters Point Library. Read the complaint below.

Plaintiffs Tanya Jackson and Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York (CIDNY) are suing to require the library to fix this unjust and discriminatory situation.

Under longstanding disability rights laws, newly constructed buildings must be made fully accessible to people with disabilities. Yet Hunters Point Library, which is an entirely new $41.5 million building constructed after years of in-depth planning, shockingly excludes persons with mobility disabilities from full and equal access to its services through reliance on stairs and other inaccessible features.

The barriers at Hunters Point Library are numerous:

  • There are at least three levels completely inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.
  • The children’s section contains multi-level wooden lounging and small-group meeting space inaccessible to children and caregivers with mobility disabilities.
  • The upper level of the rooftop terrace-which provides with spectacular views of Manhattan’s East River-has no access for persons with mobility disabilities.
  • There are long waits for the heavily-utilized single elevator, which does not even stop at every level.
  • The stunning panoramic views are most visible from inaccessible staircases.
  • The designated stroller “parking” areas block the path of travel from the elevator to some of the Library’s main features.

“It is shocking to me that a brand-new public library would not be fully accessible to people with mobility disabilities like myself. Libraries should welcome everyone, not exclude whole populations of people,” said Tanya Jackson, a plaintiff who resides in Long Island City.

“Twenty-nine years after the ADA promised open doors and equal opportunities for people with disabilities, we find the doors of a brand new library shut to children and adults with disabilities. This should not be allowed to happen. The Queens Borough Public Library and the City of New York must obey the law and make this right,” said Susan M. Dooha, Executive Director of plaintiff Center for Independence of the Disabled – New York.

“The ADA is not a new requirement, and it is not hard to understand. It is baffling that this $41.5 million building is missing these fundamental elements. It’s as though the library didn’t care about these requirements, or worse didn’t even consider the needs of these members of the community. People with disabilities should be able to browse, relax, and enjoy the library just like everyone else,” said Andrea Kozak-Oxnard, a Staff Attorney at DRA.

“Hunters Point Library was meant to be a model, a state-of-the-art institution designed to serve the needs of the community. The Library’s total disregard for adults and children with disabilities must be addressed,” said Michelle Caiola, Managing Director of Litigation at DRA.

DRA’s goal is that the lawsuit will rectify the exclusion of people with disabilities by requiring Defendants to develop and implement a remedial plan to provide equal access to Hunters Point Library. The suit alleges violations of the federal and local civil rights laws designed to eliminate disability-based discrimination.

DRA provides free legal services and takes on complex class-action cases for people with disabilities whose civil rights have been violated. It is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the country and has won nearly all its cases, knocking down barriers for people with all types of disabilities. Rather than delivering monetary rewards, these class-action suits are brought to force reforms to systems and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities.

About Disability Rights Advocates: With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit http://www.dralegal.org.

Contacts

Jennifer Barden
[email protected]
(646) 676-4486

Original at https://dralegal.org/press/hunters-point-library/




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Physically Disabled Employee Sues Apple Inc. for Constructive Dismissal


News provided by
Monkhouse Law

TORONTO, Dec. 17, 2019 /CNW/ – As Apple opens a new ‘flagship’ store in Canada a 33-year-old person with a disability who was employed for more than eight years as an “Apple Genius” working at an Apple Inc. store in Ontario is claiming that he was dismissed by the computer giant because he requires a wheelchair and is suing for lost wages and damages.

Robert Shaw alleges in a Statement of Claim that Apple repeatedly refused to work on an individual accommodation plan with him, opting instead to provide piecemeal solutions to his disability. He claims he was never provided with a legitimate reason for a denial of his request for an individual accommodation plan and his health suffered as a result of, harassment, bullying and a toxic work environment. Allegations made in the Claim must still be proven in court.

The action was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by Toronto employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse, managing partner of Monkhouse Law, who says Apple may well have failed to comply with Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and that the constructive dismissal of Robert constitutes discriminatory conduct under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Monkhouse says, “These actions paint a very different picture than being ranked as one of Canada’s top employers by Forbes and are shocking for one of the world’s most valuable companies.”

Robert has been confined to a wheelchair his entire life and began his career at Apple in March 2011 at the company’s Square One store in Mississauga. He worked there for six years before moving to Apple’s Sherway Gardens store for two years until his constructive dismissal in July 2019.

According to the Claim, Robert requested that accommodations be made so he could work safely and comfortably from his wheelchair at Sherway Gardens. Robert was told that the store would be outfitted with an appropriate table and automatic doors in time for his arrival in 2017, but this never happened. Four months after starting at the store, Robert began experiencing soreness and numbness in his arms and hands due to working long hours on tables that were too high. The Claim states that Robert was never provided with an adequate table.

According to the Claim, only three of seven doors at the store were eventually made automatic and, instead of installing a button to open the door, Apple provided Robert with a remote control that repeatedly failed. Apple formally declined to automate the four remaining doors due to the expense.

The Claim also states that Robert was told by a senior manager at Apple that he wouldn’t be promoted if he continued to be unhappy in his role. The manager further suggested the company might not be the right place for him.

Employment lawyer Andrew Monkhouse says his client was a long-tenured, hard-working and dedicated employee at Apple and the company had a duty under Ontario law to accommodate his disability to the point of undue hardship.

Under provisions in the AODA, Apple was obligated to put in place an individual accommodation plan for Robert as well as to protect the privacy of his personal information.

Remarking on the irony of Apple’s alleged failure to accommodate Robert Shaw, Andrew Monkhouse stated: “On its company website, Apple proudly displays its work on accessibility technology. Apple has also used their work on accessibility in its marketing materials. The company has received awards and a great deal of positive press for its efforts in accessibility technology. Yet, these accusations seem to indicate that the company does not appear to be practicing what it preaches in its own retail stores.”

Toronto-based Monkhouse Law is an employment law firm that specializes in employment law litigation, human rights law, and disability insurance law.

SOURCE Monkhouse Law

Original at https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/physically-disabled-employee-sues-apple-inc-for-constructive-dismissal-805619615.html




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Accessible Homes for Ontarians of All Ages and Abilities


Nearly 2 million Ontarians live with some form of disability that affects their mobility, vision, or hearing – and the country is aging at a faster rate than ever before. That’s why experts are saying we need to embrace universal design By Kevin Spurgaitis- Published on Dec 16, 2019

ST. CATHARINES – Diane Foster doesn’t have it easy coming and going from her modest brick-and-siding bungalow in St. Catharines. The four stairs leading up to the front entrance can’t accommodate her wheelchair; over the years, the lift to the back door has rusted out, seized up, or broken down altogether. And the home’s interior presents its own challenges.

“My house was built in 1919, and, over the years, I’ve required many modifications to my home,” says Foster, 67, who lives alone and has fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, three forms of arthritis, and spinal stenosis – a condition that results in the narrowing of the spinal canal – and has been using a wheelchair for 12 years.

“Originally, I had a clawfoot bathtub in here, which, of course, I couldn’t get in and out of I also removed my bedroom door and lowered the light switches.” But Foster’s house, which is filled with the usual household furnishings and keepsakes – family photos, plush toys – “simply isn’t big enough to accommodate” her power wheelchair, which is easier to manoeuvre than her standard one.

It would be better, she says, if her 750-square-foot house were open-plan – or if it at least had wider passageways and doorways, low thresholds, and rooms large enough for either of her wheelchairs. What’s more, smooth floors, easy-to-operate windows, storage and work surfaces that are easy to see and reach, and stainless-steel handrails (which, she says would mean that she wouldn’t need to “wall and furniture surf” whenever she needs to get up from her wheelchair) would improve her quality of life significantly.

“What about those of us who have owned their own home for a number of years and don’t want to move just because we have a disability?” she asks. “I’d like to be able to afford to improve this house to make it more accessible.”

The kinds of features Foster is talking about form part of an approach known as universal design. The demand for universally designed homes has grown in recent years in Ontario and the rest of Canada, and, partly thanks to the aging baby-boomer demographic, it’s expected only to increase. Although recent federal and provincial legislation has included more provisions for people with disabilities, and updated building codes have provided basic safety standards, disability advocates say that they don’t take into account all the needs that arise from the differences in human characteristics and abilities – and they’re calling for the wider application of universal-design principles.

Architect and educator Ron Mace, who coined the term in the 1980s, has said that the approach involves “designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life” –
allowing more residents to engage easily and intuitively with their environments, even as their abilities and needs change over time. This means doorways at least 36 inches wide and hallways at least 42 inches wide, non-slip flooring, easy-access storage, raised front-loading appliances, low- or no-threshold stall showers, and at least one step-free entrance. Other accessible design features include lever-style door handles and faucets, and easy-to-use rocker light switches.

“[Universal design] is friendly, useable, and caters to just about everybody from the time that they’re an adolescent up to the time that they’re a senior, especially someone living with Alzheimer’s,” says Sandy Faugh, the team lead for AccessAbility Advantage, a proprietary service that consults on accessibility strategy as part of March of Dimes Canada. “That’s not only good for people with disabilities, especially seniors,” she says. “It’s good for the parent that’s pushing their child in a stroller and the person who has just undergone a hip replacement or busted their collarbone – both of whom find out pretty darn fast how non-accessible their home is.”

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the country’s housing agency, has had an eye on accessibility for a number of years. As part of the CMHC’s national housing strategy, organizations can access certain funds if they can show that their projects involve a certain level of accessibility that’s going to help people with disabilities. “Universal design is getting more attention now, as there’s more of a need for it and a lot more examples of it,” says Arlene Etchen, a regional consultant at the CMHC who focuses on accessibility and outreach. “And we know that’s only expected to increase.”

Nearly 2 million Ontarians – or about 15 per cent of the population – live with some form of disability that affects their mobility, vision, or hearing, according to Statistics Canada. Across the country, the number of people with a physical disability is expected to increase from roughly 3 million – or 10 per cent of the population – to nearly 4 million by 2030. And, with one in six Canadians now over the age of 65, the country is aging at a faster rate than ever before, StatsCan says.

On Foster’s bathroom wall hangs a small red and white canvas that reads “Life is a beautiful ride.” She says that she was a healthy, active grandmother who cycled about 5,000 kilometres every summer, walked everywhere all winter, and played several musical instruments. Then, one “devastating morning” in 2009, she couldn’t get out of bed.

Foster says that she didn’t know which was worse when it came to her psoriatic arthritis: the pain from staying in one position or the pain of trying to move at all. She could no longer turn a door handle, hold a pen, lift a book, comb her hair, or brush her teeth. In a way, it felt as if her own body had “betrayed” her, she says.

“I tried to retain my independence but soon realized that I was unable to do the simple tasks required for daily living,” Foster says. “My life changed drastically. I went from being self-sufficient to being totally dependent on others.”

Medication now makes the pain tolerable, Foster says – and she receives help from three personal support workers who visit her twice daily in rotation.

“If my kitchen was more accessible, at least, I’d be able to prepare my own meals and not wait for somebody to prepare them for me,” says Foster, who is co-chair of St. Catharines Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Through the CMHC and March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program, she’s been able to make modifications to her century home that have cost tens of thousands of dollars. But, as her monthly Old Age Security pension payment is about $1,400, she can’t afford to remove the other barriers – and doing so could cost tens of thousands of dollars more. Even if she wanted an affordable, accessible apartment, most would not be large enough for her service dog, a black Labrador retriever named Olla, and mobility equipment. And the wait times for such units are between 10 and 15 years.

“I’d never burden my [two children] with having to look after me, and I’m not old enough to go into a seniors’ residence,” she says. “I’m comfortable in my own home. I’d just like to be able to access it.”

Rebekah Churchyard, acting president of the Toronto Council on Aging, which, as part of the Councils on Aging Network of Ontario, works to address issues facing older adults, says that “it’s an excellent symbol both for our global and national health that we’ve now got unprecedented longevity.” But, she adds, “we’re living in a world where, increasingly and painfully, it’s obvious that people [with age-related disabilities] need to remain in particular spaces – or visit others – and they simply can’t anymore.”

Churchyard points to the concept of “aging in place,” which is about the maintenance of an older adult’s independence and choice to live in their home. “Maybe it’s their matrimonial home, maybe it’s their own home, or maybe it’s their home shared with friends,” she says. “But every single older person who I have ever spoken with has a very strong desire to stay in their home –
and “age in place’ there – as long as possible. We have to start planning for it now.” And, she notes, “What we’re not always considerate of is the cost of their built environment within the home … There isn’t a whole lot of base funding for the increasingly aging population.”

But she says that she’s “enthused and encouraged” by how public systems have supported people with physical differences and intellectual differences in recent years: “In that respect, governments have done a better job than ever before to promote accessible environments.”

Ontario made Canadian history when it passed the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act in 2005. The AODA mandates that the province develop accessibility standards in areas such as built environments and ensure that the public and private sectors meet them by 2025. Still, despite the province’s 2015 accessibility action plan –
called “Path to 2025” – the implementation of the AODA has fallen behind in recent years, according to such consumer-advocacy groups as the AODA Alliance.

In 2015, changes to the Ontario Building Code also came into effect, essentially upping accessibility requirements for multi-unit residential buildings. Fifteen per cent of all new units – and the majority of renovations –
must incorporate basic accessibility features, such as barrier-free entrances. Living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms must be large enough to allow a wheelchair to turn around within them, and feature reinforced walls to accommodate grab bars and other assistive devices. Visual fire alarms are now mandatory, too.

But the province’s building code doesn’t apply to existing houses or to new single-family or semi-detached homes or townhomes. And the rules don’t produce benefits for everyone: kitchen counters remain unreachable for some, while acoustics present challenges for others.

According to Faugh, it costs only 2 per cent more to build an accessible home. “It doesn’t cost you anything to make a four-foot hallway instead of a three-foot hallway,” she says. “You’re just placing the walls in a different spot, right?”

Some municipalities, such as Caledon, have gone ahead and adopted universal-design policies. Developers looking to build there must offer a model or drawings based on universal design, according to the CMHC. And, in 2015, Deep River created the Citizen Housing Advisory Committee to help come up with new policies and procedures that would accurately represent older people’s “needs, wants, and values.”

These are “small steps” in the right direction, Etchen says. And, according to the U.K.-based social-housing provider Habinteg, such steps can pay dividends: its research shows that universal design reduces social isolation, prevents extended hospitalization and long-term unemployment, and facilitates the economic participation of people with disabilities.

Building accessible homes while retrofitting others is about getting the “right players at the table” so that they can actually “drive a doable solution for the residential market,” Faugh says. “We’ve got to show the architects, the engineers, the designers, and the interior designers what universal and accessible design looks like, teach them to do things a little bit differently and make that the new standard right off the bat.”

In the meantime, both March of Dimes Canada and the CMHC recommend that seniors and people with disabilities – and their friends, families, and neighbours – consider various low- to no-cost modifications, including painting thresholds in a contrasting colour to create a visual signal for anyone with impaired vision, removing the storm or screen doors to make entry easier for those with arthritis or limited upper-body strength, using swing-away hinges to allow an extra few inches of clearance for a wheelchair or walker, and merely removing any obstacles, such as area rugs, from hallways and main rooms.

A smile flashes across Foster’s face as she approaches her wheelchair lift after a short outing. She admits that it doesn’t take very long to lower and raise it during the warmer seasons. But it can “feel like an eternity” in the ever-deepening cold.

“Maintaining my independence is part of maintaining my dignity and just being respected as a functioning, contributing member of society,” Foster says.

For her, the question remains whether more governments, businesses, and organizations will get behind people with disabilities – who are already taking active roles in their own communities – and commit to accessibility plans that’ll make universally designed homes more widespread in the years to come. After all, Foster says, universal design “does help everybody.”

Original at https://www.tvo.org/article/wanted-accessible-homes-for-ontarians-of-all-ages-and-abilities




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Wheelchair Seating was Not acceptable


Windsor – On a recent outing for the Windsor film festival we decided to view a film at the Windsor School of Creative Arts Performance Hall inside the former Armouries. The wheelchair seating in this hall is a joke.

There is only a six-foot area for wheelchairs and this was to accommodate three wheelchairs, I was informed. We had one and for us it was difficult.

There is also only one seated chair made available, so I was able to sit next to my husband. But if anyone else was to attend and require the wheelchair space, oh well, can’t sit with your friend or spouse.

If they actually tried to allow three wheelchairs to fit into this designated space it would also lead to blocking the staircase, which is against the fire code.

You would think with $32.6 million spent on the building’s renovations the wheelchair seating arrangements would have been better thought out in the performance hall. Andrew and Stacia Bryan, Windsor

Original at https://windsorstar.com/opinion/letters/reader-letter-wheelchair-seating-in-universitys-performance-hall-not-acceptable




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First Fully Accessible Universal Washroom Opens at Upper Canada


Accessibility advocates say the new facility at Newmarket’s mall should serve as a benchmark for universal washrooms of the future By: Kim Champion
Dec. 3, 2019

Newmarket resident and chairperson of the Town of Newmarket’s accessibility advisory committee, Steve Foglia (left), and Derek Bunn, a special education teacher who also works with Community Living, were the driving force behind the new fully accessible universal washroom at Upper Canada Mall that’s now open.

A Change.org petition that garnered more than 26,000 signatures to get physically disabled children, adults and seniors off the washroom floor at Upper Canada Mall was instrumental in the official opening today of the first fully accessible universal washroom on the premises.

It’s been a two-year long project that saw many in the community working together to make it happen.

York Region District School Board special education teacher Derek Bunn, who started the petition in 2018, said support poured in from across the community and Canada, the United States and around the world.

He describes the situation for supporting people on a trip to the loo as follows:

“Children, adults and seniors who visit the Upper Canada Mall or any mall, and need to use the washroom, must be physically lifted from their wheelchair and be laid on the floor near toilets and the garbage in order to be changed. This type of activity is happening every day. Does this seem fair? Does this bother you? Does it shock you? I’m one of many who does this when I support someone at the mall. It is really unfair, unhygienic, unsafe and not dignified,” Bunn stated in the petition.

He sent the petition to Upper Canada Mall manager Oxford Properties Group, which helped “push the mall in the right direction,” to design its first fully accessible universal washroom, Bunn said.

Everyone involved in bringing the project to fruition was on hand this morning for the official ribbon-cutting of the 238-square-foot private washroom near the mall food court that could serve as the benchmark for universal washrooms of the future, said Steve Foglia, a Newmarket resident and artist who is chairperson of the Town of Newmarket’s accessibility advisory committee.

Foglia said Bunn mentioned to the committee a few years ago that he was having an issue with being forced to change school children on the floor while they were on outings.

“I thought, that’s got to stop,” Foglia said. “We are so grateful and, honestly, they gave us everything we asked for without even questioning it, everything.”

As it turned out, Upper Canada Mall was undertaking a renovation of its washroom facilities in 2019, and the stage was set for the universal washroom.

The area’s councillor, Christina Bisanz, contacted mall management on behalf of the accessibility advisory committee, and Petroff Partnership Architects were brought in to carry out the vision.

“If you build an accessible washroom by the Ontario Building Code, it’s not accessible,” Foglia said. “If you build it by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act standards, it’s better but it’s still not 100 per cent accessible. This universal washroom is doing everything you could possibly need it to.”

To put the features of the new universal washroom into perspective, Foglia said there’s always an issue for people in wheelchairs to get through the door without banging into the sides. Personally, he can’t wash his hands a lot of the time because he can’t fit his chair underneath the sink.

“So we made an extra wide door that’s 40 inches wide so people can go through the door just like an able-bodied person would,” he said. “We also have a sink that you can access with a wheelchair, along with the soap dispenser and water, and hand dryer.”

“We pulled things away from the wall so you can get under it with a chair,” he said. “And a person can use the sling to transfer themselves out of the chair, onto the adjustable change table, over to the toilet, over to the sink and back to the change table, and back to the chair without anybody having to lift somebody out of the chair, that’s very important. And keeping people off the floor, as it should be.”

Here are the features of the fully accessible universal washroom at Upper Canada Mall:

  • An adult change table complete with a lift and sling (600 lb. capacity) that allows an individual to move around the room
  • Waiting area for support workers
  • Privacy curtain
  • Emergency bars to call for help
  • Accessible toilet, sink, soap dispenser, water, and hand dryer
  • Contrasting floor tiles to help those with a visual impairment navigate the facilities
  • Child-sized toilet and child change table
  • Grab bars fastened to walls
  • Security system that includes guests buzzing in to gain access

“This is how it should be done,” Foglia said.

Upper Canada Mall’s general manager, Ryan DaSilva, thanked the Newmarket community for their help and support on the project, and said the universal washroom ensures “everyone feels welcome at the mall”.

Bunn added that Upper Canada Mall has always been the hub of social and shopping experiences, and it is a great atmosphere for people in wheelchairs to spend the day there.

“What a great economic benefit this is to the mall, and a great social outing to everybody in the GTA,” he said.

Oxford Properties Group declined to provide the cost of the new washroom, but said the project was a custom-build and the first of its kind for the group.

Original at https://www.newmarkettoday.ca/local-news/first-fully-accessible-universal-washroom-opens-at-upper-canada-1897800




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Toyota Canada Announces Partnership With StopGap, $100,000 Investment


PRNewswire
November 22, 2019

TORONTO, Nov. 22, 2019 /CNW/ – Last night, StopGap Foundation announced a new national partnership with Toyota Canada at StopGap’s big annual fundraising event. A $100,000 donation from the company will support the development and growth of StopGap’s School Project. The partnership will ultimately contribute to the longevity and livelihood of the Foundation and all its important awareness-raising programs in communities all across Canada.

“StopGap is a visionary organization that, by implementing a simple yet highly effective solution, has opened up hundreds of businesses across the country to people living with a disability or limited mobility,” said Stephen Beatty, Vice President, Corporate, Toyota Canada Inc. “Toyota Canada applauds StopGap’s important leadership in this space, and we look forward to joining them in their mission to make the world more inclusive through physical accessibility.”

The partnership with Toyota Canada is rooted in shared values. Toyota’s vision of becoming a global mobility company is underpinned by their commitment to creating a more inclusive society where everyone has access to mobility.

The support from Toyota Canada will elevate the Foundation’s impact and reach even more communities across Canada. Enabling growth of the School Project will also support the growth of Community Ramp Projects to create more barrier-free spaces, all while sparking an important dialogue to inspire a shift in the way Canadians think about disability and address accessibility challenges.

“We will all experience a shift in the way we move, whether it’s becoming a parent, sustaining an injury, a job requirement, or simply aging,” says Luke Anderson, StopGap Foundation Executive Director and Co-Founder. “At some point in our lives, we will need to rely on a barrier-free amenity, so it’s important that our world is designed and built to accommodate these shifts to maximize independence and spontaneity.”

StopGap Foundation is a registered Canadian charity that is raising awareness about the importance of accessibility and inclusion. The Foundation’s School Project, Community Ramp Project and Corporate Teambuilding program help ensure that our society’s collective understanding, about how barriers to access hold so many people back from reaching their full potential, continues to advance and grow.

StopGap provides brightly coloured ramps to business owners across Canada to help them overcome what Anderson calls the “one-step problem” a single step outside a business that makes the entire building inaccessible to many people who use mobility aids.

The deployable custom wooden ramps – painted in bright colours to attract attention and create awareness – allow easier access for those who use mobility aids and anyone else who finds a stepped entryway challenging, including the elderly, parents with strollers, and couriers. The simple-yet-impactful ramps help highlight the value of having a storefront that everyone can access and get communities thinking about great solutions to accessibility issues affecting so many Canadians.

About StopGap Foundation

StopGap Foundation began its awareness-raising journey in 2011 and has since populated the country with over 2,000 ramps in over 60 Canadian communities. Last summer, the grassroots organization celebrated the launch of its first U.S.-based project with more than a dozen businesses with single-stepped entryways in NYC hopping on the awareness-raising bandwagon. The Foundation has a goal of extending its programs to communities worldwide.

About Toyota Canada

Toyota Canada Inc. (TCI) is the exclusive Canadian distributor of Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Toyota has sold over eight million vehicles in Canada through a national network of 287 Toyota and Lexus dealerships. Toyota is dedicated to bringing safety, quality, dependability and reliability to the vehicles Canadians drive and the service they receive. TCI’s head office is located in Toronto, with regional offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Halifax, and parts distribution centres in Toronto and Vancouver. Toyota operates two manufacturing facilities in Canada. Having produced more than eight million vehicles, popular Canadian models built at these facilities include Toyota RAV4, Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h hybrid. Recent investments at its facilities in Ontario will allow for increased production of the top-selling Toyota RAV4 and RAV4 Hybrid models.

Original at https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/19/11/n14868396/toyota-canada-announces-partnership-with-stopgap-100-000-investment




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