Girl and Her Dog Share Life-Altering Bond

By Darren Lum

Words do little to express the bond shared by Minden teen Emma Gillam and her Doberman, Biggie, who wouldn’t be one without the other. They’re pretty much inseparable.

Emma gave Biggie a permanent home and he has givenher back her life, which was robbed of its joy by mental health challenges. They’ve been each other’s life saver since he came home withher last June.

“Before, I couldn’t walk down the street without my insides feeling like they were shrinking and just, I’ve never been so confident, I guess. He just makes me be me,” Emma said, adding there’s no judgment. “It’s unconditional love. Like, I decide when he comes in and out of my life. He’s … I don’t know. He’s amazing. He’s my best friend. I can’t sleep without him.” She accepts him for all his quirks. Their relationship works for them.

Biggie is Emma’s service dog, helping her with anxiety and the post-traumatic stress disorder she has endured since Grade 4.

For years, Emma had tried different things. A service dog was about the last thing she hadn’t tried.
Before Biggie, anxiety-related “temper tantrums” were common, her mother Tracy Jordan said.
“Whenher anxiety gets so bad that’s kind of the only way it comes out for her not being able to handle it. And she was having those quite frequently, which was getting harder and harder to control. Since having the dog, I can probably only count three, maybe, of those temper tantrums, and they’re nowhere near as bad since,” Jordan said, before correcting herself that there were likely even fewer than three.

She acknowledges parenting a teenager comes with its share of challenges, but the emotional outburst prevented any type of dialogue.

“It is definitely much easier to come to a resolution [with] because it doesn’t get blown out of proportion the way it used to,” she said.

Even before Emma and her mother trained Biggie, they knew he possessed great qualities. His helpful and caring nature calmed Emma’s anxieties, allowing her to visit the fish hatchery despite her aversion to new experiences.

“That was when we decided that maybe we should look into him being a service dog,” Emma said.

Jordan said Biggie helps in many ways, one specific action known as “deep pressure therapy.”
“Sowhen he senses her having an anxiety attack, he’ll get her attention. Like, either, kind of climb on her or pull her attention away from the anxiety and bringing her attention to him to calm her down,” Jordan said. “If she’s standing, he’ll come up and boop her leg with her nose, or do circles around her or something to get her attention and then when she takes her attention to him, depending on the situation, then it calms her down. If she happens to be sitting on the couch, for example, he’ll climb on the couch and get on her lap. So, depending on what position she’s in he gets her attention in one way or another and kind of pulls her away from what’s going on in her mind.”

Jordan and Emma hope their story will raise awareness about the benefits of service dogsfor people with disabilities and how financially accessible they are inOntario, as well as educate the public about being around service dogs.

“When he’s in his [service dog] vest and he’s working, he shouldn’t be touched. He’s doing a job. He’s not a pet at that point and just going into stores. Sometimes you get funny looks,” Emma said. “A grocery storefor example. He’s allowed to be in a grocery store because he’s a service dog. You get people like, “Why is there a dog in the grocery store.”

Another important point is when Biggie has his vest on he is trained to not defecate and urinate.

The idea of the service dog came from Morgan Fisher, a registered veterinary technician at the Minden Animal Hospital, who is a friend of Kristyn Begbie of Snowflake Meadows, where Biggie came from. Emma was a volunteer at Snowflake Meadows for a while before she got Biggie. The teen believes their relationship was meant to be after an adoption for him fell through. It was nearly a month before she convinced her parents to take in another dog to live at their household.
Biggie serves as an important distraction for Emma, whose confidence has grown as a result of his enduring presence, Jordan said.

“It’s put her in a routine, which is good and it gets her out and knowing that an animal can’t survive without the help of their human they’re kind of dependent on each other,” she said.

Jordan, who referenced the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, characterized the process of having a dog identified as a service dog as being like filling a prescription.
“Soa doctor or a psychiatrist has to write a note, stating that you require a service dog to mitigate your disability. The note doesn’t have to be specific because it’s for privacy reasons. It depends on the disability,” she said.

There are two areas of law that support the use of service animals in Ontario: AODA and the Ontario Human Rights Code. AODA states that service animals are not to be treated like pets and that people who require a service animal for their disability not be excluded from services or from a provider of services premises. The service animal should be easily identified and the owner can present a note from a regulated health professional that the animal is required for a disability.

Emma always has a note with her on her mobile phone from her psychiatrist, who made the diagnosis that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
InOntario, service dogs can be trained by their owner. There are no set guidelines for training in Ontario, Jordan said. Much of it is common sense, such as the dog needs to take instruction, be well-behaved and not aggressive. It helped that Jordan and her daughter were experienced dog owners. During Biggie’s training period, they would periodically ask a friend who owned a pre-trained service dog about what it was trained to do. A seeing eye dog is a different type of service dog, which requires specific training. There are pre-trained service dogs for a variety of disabilities, which are quite expensive.

When Emma first started at the Haliburton Highlands Adult and Alternate Education Centrelast year in March, it was difficult due to her propensity to procrastinate. This past year she found focusing was far easier with Biggie.
She has three credits this year and admits she’s still behind in her year, but recognizes the progress that wouldn’t have been possible without Biggie. Some of her peers have shown a real affection for her dog, including one who makes a point of bringing in treats for him.

Minden Hills-based therapist and social worker Dianne Mathes knows the benefits of an animal in therapy. She said her purebred goldenretriever, Shilo, is a “therapy assistant” and was trained by her from when he was a puppy, following her other dogs, Sierra and Jasper. Although her dogs were never formally trained, they’ve been helpful for young and old patients alike.

“I started building with eye contact with [Shilo]. Showing him my emotions and showing him that when he puts his paw on me, you know, [he] learns how that feels good. And so you teach him to be really attuned with people,” she said.

Mathes said depending on the person, this can be helpful because the dog shows what happens if they’re stressed and what happens if they can breathe and relax a bit.
“Obviously, people and children in particular can be much more responsive to having a dog come over and do something with them than having another person, right? So, therapy dogs, because I’ve done all this background work with him, around helping him know different emotions through me, if a person breathes and let’s say they start to cry, his response is to go and put his head on their lap. If they start to get frightened, he’ll take a paw and gently put the paw ontheir leg or stand beside them and give them a bit of comfort. And I say, “Shilo is showing you that he’s trying to calm you down, or he’s trying to soothe you or trying to comfort you.’”

When Shilo feels the person is calmer, he exhibits a clear indication of the change.

“You’ll see him take a big, deep breath and [he] sort of goes, “Aaaa,’ and thenhe goes over and lies down. It’s like his job is done,” she said.

She gives part of the credit for Shilo to her breeder Kaitlin Luck, who runs Minden-based Cedar Grove Golden Retrievers where dogs are trained with attention to being emotionally sensitive to their needs, including lots of touch and stroking.

From her experience, owning animals and seeing them in action with patients, she is amazed by their abilities.
“I’ve learned animals want to help us in so many ways. They want to soothe us and help us and support us. They are so willing to try so many different things to make that connection with us and get our approval and have a relationship with us. It’s taught me so much how animals communicate and how I can communicate without necessarily always doing as much work as I think I have to,” she said.

Her advice for others looking to train a dog for service or for companionship is about making an emotional connection. The rest just falls into place.

“If you’re really focused on being in an attuned, connected relationship on an emotional level with an animal and you’re very gentle and quiet with him, he will just start to naturally respond to you,” she said.

Emma admits her relationship with her dog isn’t perfect, but she wouldn’t have it any other way, particularly during the pandemic that has been a source of stress for everyone.

She cannot begin to imagine her life without Biggie.

“Not a chance. I keep thinking that,” she said. “Like anybody, when you spend too much time with a person or whatever, you do butt heads eventually. We do have our moments and bits of anger where he does things, spiteful things that make me mad, but we get over it. I just look at all the positive things that he does for me. I definitely wouldn’t be laughing as much as I do and he keeps me sane.”

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Sign Language Interpreters at Media Briefs Should Be Normal: Accessibility advocates

Provincial and federal government didn’t include interpreters from day one, says accessibility advocate Liny Lamberink, CBC News
Posted: Apr 05, 2020

Sign language interpreters are being lauded for communicating critical information from the provincial and federal governments about COVID-19, but a pair of accessibility advocates say their presence at media briefings should be normalized.

Premier Doug Ford heaped praise on Christopher Desloges during an address last Wednesday, calling him a “champion” and a commending him for playing an important role for the deaf community.

While it’s “okay” that Ford drew attention to the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter’s work, the executive director of the Ontario Association of the Deaf, Donald Prong, said the focus should be on media briefing instead.

“Say for example, you see an individual who has a guide dog or a service dog. You wouldn’t allow people to pet the service animal, because it’s a working dog. I think that should be a parallel to a working interpreter,” Prong explained.

Donald Prong, executive director of Ontario Association of the Deaf, says the deaf community had to lobby the provincial and federal government to get sign language interpreters at media briefings.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which is supposed to be fully implemented by 2025, says emergency information presented orally should be made accessible through real time captioning, a transcript and interpreters.

But, according to Prong, the deaf community had to lobby the province for more than a week before an ASL interpreter appeared alongside the premier during pandemic media briefs, and it took days for the federal government to do the same.

“This is a very serious time that we’re in, and we deserve to have equal access to that message in our language to ensure we’re receiving the appropriate information,” he said. “Without interpreters, how can we participate in the effort to fight this virus?”

Robert Gaunt is the executive director for the Ontario North and Ontario West branches of The CNIB Foundation, a charitable organization that enables people who are blind or have vision loss. He too advocates that information be equally accessible to those who have disabilities, and said the foundation is ramping up virtual programming.

That includes training on software that turns text into speech, which Gaunt said has become an “essential service” enabling people who have vision loss to access critical health and safety information and stay connected.

“We’re very quickly seeing a very high response rate to the programs that we’re offering,” he said.

When it comes to the praise sign language interpreters are receiving amid the pandemic, Gaunt has a reminder.

“It’s always wonderful to celebrate accessibility and inclusion,” he explained. “The thing we need to remember is that should be the norm. As much as it stands out in this point in time, that really should be the standard and where we’re already at.”

Barriers facing deaf community

Meanwhile, members of the deaf community are still encountering barriers related to the pandemic.

Prong said people can connect to Ontario’s COVID-19 hotline using Canada’s video relay service (VRS), which enables those with hearing or speech disabilities that use sign language to communicate over the phone. But some people also need a deaf interpreter to make the system work, and there isn’t always one available, said Prong.

And although VRS enables people to call 911, Prong said there are no interpreters to help communicate when emergency personnel arrive on scene.

“Interpreters are very difficult to find, and especially during this time, they’re fewer and far between.”

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Sign-Language Interpreter Takes On Premier Ford’s ‘angry Dad’ Approach as He Pushes for Accessibility

Laura Stone, Queen’s Park Reporter
Published April 1, 2020

As Ontario Premier Doug Ford stood at Queen’s Park and admonished a high-end Toronto grocery store for inflating their prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, another man appeared beside him, his expression a perfect mixture of disdain and disappointment.

Christopher Desloges, an American sign language (ASL) interpreter, has become a fixture at Mr. Ford’s news conferences, where he translates the Premier’s message live on television for tens of thousands of deaf people in Ontario and across Canada.

So when Mr. Ford recently criticized grocer Pusateri’s for increasing prices on Lysol wipes (the company has since apologized, calling it a mistake), Mr. Desloges captivated audiences as he encapsulated the Premier’s emotional state.

“Doug Ford over the last few days has been kind of taking the angry dad approach,” Mr. Desloges said in an interview this week.

“He held back, and then he let out. And to me that was the feeling that I was trying to capture to someone who can’t hear.”

Across the country, politicians and health officials are holding daily news conferences on COVID-19, updating the public with crucial advice and the latest developments.

Increasingly, those news conferences ” from Newfoundland to British Columbia ” feature sign language and deaf interpreters, something accessibility advocates say is a new and exciting development. Mr. Desloges is not deaf, but some interpreters are; they take their cues from a second sign language interpreter, who stands behind the camera. In 2019, Ottawa passed the Accessible Canada Act, which requires that information from the federal government and from regulated industries be made fully accessible to people with disabilities.

According to the Canadian Association of the Deaf, about 375,000 Canadians are deaf, but there is a lack of census information.

Mr. Desloges, who says he is the only mixed-race black male in Canada who is a professional sign language interpreter, first learned sign language when he was about nine years old from his aunt, who is deaf. “I really wanted to be a ninja. And being able to speak with my hands silently really worked,” he said.

Born and raised in Toronto’s west end, he graduated from George Brown College with a degree from the deaf studies program. He now helms a company, Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service, which provides services for broadcasters and others.

While he stresses that interpreters should remain impartial about their subjects, Mr. Desloges said he channels his own experience during the coronavirus pandemic while signing for Mr. Ford.

“When I go to Shoppers Drug Mart, there’s no toilet paper and a lineup down the street. That’s frustrating,” he said. “I have people who are seniors in my family, who aren’t getting what they need.”

What has touched him the most about his experience, he said, has been the Premier’s focus on people working together to combat COVID-19.

“When he talks about the Ontario spirit, that’s really, really hitting home for me,” he said. “I think he’s doing a fantastic job of leading the province during this crisis.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Ford called Mr. Desloges to the podium at the end of his news conference, saying he’s received countless calls about his interpreter.

“My friend, you’re a champion, you’re a rock star, helping people in the deaf community,” Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Desloges will soon be replaced by a deaf interpreter, who he said is able to reach the broader deaf community because they are better understood in their first language.

But he hopes his time in the spotlight will help shine a light on accessibility issues across the country.

“If it means that everybody is getting exposure to sign language and saying that it’s cool ” great, I”ll take it,” he said.

“People are going to start to come together for inclusion, because they saw the sign language interpreter with the Premier.”

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Accessibility = Inclusion and Belonging for Kids with Physical Disabilities

TORONTO: Kids with physical disabilities are often left out because a building isn’t accessible, there is no accessible transportation or a program won’t accommodate someone in a wheelchair.

Easter Seals Ontario has been an advocate for improving accessibility for children with disabilities in the community for 98 years.

Accessibility means more than just ramps, elevators and electric door openers. It is also being able to join a group and play together, enabling a child with a disability to be included and have a sense of belonging.

Having an accessible building or offering an accessible program sends a very positive message to child with a physical disability, says Jennifer Green, an Easter Seals parent. It says ‘Yes, you can’ instead of ‘No, you can’t.’ At Easter Seals camp, when asked ‘Who wants to …..?’ my son, Cameron, always raises his hand and shouts ‘Yah.’ He always knows he will be able to participate in anything being offered at camp whether it’s sailing, crafts, cooking or swimming.

We have heard from the kids we serve that the feeling of being different and excluded leads to tremendous stress and anxiety. Easter Seals’ services are so important because they enable kids to get out into the community or attend Easter Seals camp and experience a sense of belonging, says Kevin Collins, President and CEO, Easter Seals Ontario. Last summer, a mother had tears in her eyes when she picked up her teenage daughter from Easter Seals camp and learned that she had made her very first friend. It’s not easy for kids with disabilities to make friends or have a social life. Through the support of our donors, Easter Seals helps kids with physical disabilities get essential mobility and accessibility equipment and offers opportunities for inclusion and participation at our fully accessible camps.

March kicks off Easter Seals annual campaign to raise funds and bring awareness to the challenges and needs of kids with physical disabilities.

Initiatives include

The Easter Seals annual giving campaign containing the traditional seals arrives in homes across the province.
The launch of Easter Seals Ontario’s new Services website, https//, featuring information on our programs and services as well as resources for parents and caregivers.
Easter Seals segments air on the CKWS Morning Show in South Eastern Ontario throughout the month
The Easter Seals Paper Egg Campaign takes place March 20 to April 12 in retailers across Ontario, including Sobeys, Foodland, FreshCo, Avondale, Highland Farms, Giant Tiger and Booster Juice, where shoppers can lend their support by purchasing a $2 paper egg.
Annual Easter Seals Telethons air on Sunday, March 22 in Sudbury and on Sunday, March 29 in Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto and Windsor-Essex. For more information, visit

Easter Seals Ontario has been a champion for children and youth with physical disabilities from all ethnic and religious backgrounds for the past 98 years. Programs include funding for essential mobility and accessibility equipment, fully accessible summer camp opportunities at its two properties, Camp Merrywood and Camp Woodeden, public awareness and information resources. Easter Seals is only able to provide its programs and services with the generous support of its donors and sponsors. For more information, visit

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Local Artist Hopes to Help Improve Accessibility of Art Staff
Published Friday, January 31, 2020 6:14PM EST

BARRIE –Orillia’s Robyn Rennie has found an alternative way to create art.

After losing most of her vision, the artist turned to technology.

âsix days, I was completely blind. It just shut down my optic nerve,â Rennie said.

She was able to gain back some of her vision by doing an experimental treatment, but itâs still a challenge.

Rennie was forced to change the way she painted.

She now uses a variety of materials, textures, and finishes to make her abstract 3D and interactive.

âstarted to paint in a way that I see the world now, and itâs working,â she said.

The artist has made it her mission to help those with no vision or low vision experience art in a way they never thought possible.

âhad an app created that people can download onto their phones. They can come into the gallery, point at the QR code, and then there will be a description that they can listen to,ââ she said.

Her art gallery is taking place in Toronto from Feb. 1 to Feb. 13 at the Cedar Ridge Creative Centre.

Rennie says itâs open to the public, and people are welcome to give the app a try.

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Local Artist Hopes to Help Improve Accessibility of Art Staff
Published Friday, January 31, 2020 6:14PM EST

BARRIE –Orillia’s Robyn Rennie has found an alternative way to create art.

After losing most of her vision, the artist turned to technology.

“Within six days, I was completely blind. It just shut down my optic nerve,” Rennie said.

She was able to gain back some of her vision by doing an experimental treatment, but it’s still a challenge.

Rennie was forced to change the way she painted.

She now uses a variety of materials, textures, and finishes to make her abstract 3D and interactive.

“I started to paint in a way that I see the world now, and it’s working,” she said.

The artist has made it her mission to help those with no vision or low vision experience art in a way they never thought possible.

“I had an app created that people can download onto their phones. They can come into the gallery, point at the QR code, and then there will be a description that they can listen to,‘‘ she said.

Her art gallery is taking place in Toronto from Feb. 1 to Feb. 13 at the Cedar Ridge Creative Centre.

Rennie says it’s open to the public, and people are welcome to give the app a try.

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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

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Harvard to Caption Online Video Content Following Lawsuit Settlement

By Lucy Liu, Crimson Staff Writer
Dec. 2, 2019

Harvard reached a settlement with the National Association of the Deaf Wednesday in a 2015 lawsuit alleging that the University failed to adequately close caption its publicly accessible online video and audio content.

According to the February 2015 complaint in federal court, much of Harvard’s free online content, which includes podcasts and recorded lectures, either lacked closed captioning or such captions were “unintelligible.” The complaint argued that this deprives deaf and hard of hearing individuals of “benefits” afforded to those without disabilities. It also alleged that Harvard violated obligation of universities receiving federal funding to “provide people with disabilities equal access to their programs and activities” under the 1973 United States Rehabilitation Act.

Per the settlement reached last week, the University must take steps to improve the accessibility of content posted to its official website and associated media platforms. Harvard agreed to caption Harvard-produced content posted on or after Dec. 1, 2019 to University websites or to associated video websites. For pieces of content posted earlier, Harvard will provide captions within five business days of a specific request for captions from an individual wishing to access that content. Harvard will also provide captions for livestreams of University-wide events.

Harvard will also be expected to pay attorneys fees for the plaintiffs, which total more than $1.5 million.

Howard A. Rosenblum, NAD’s chief executive officer, said in a press release that providing closed captions is a vital part of making learning accessible for the deaf and hard of hearing.

“As Harvard learned through this lawsuit, universities and colleges are on notice that all aspects of their campus including their websites must be accessible to everyone,” he said. “Captioning video content is a basic form of access that opens up academic learning to not only deaf and hard of hearing people but the world.”

Following NAD’s initial lawsuit, Harvard filed a motion to dismiss which was denied in 2016. In 2018, Harvard filed a motion for judgment, portions of which including an argument that Harvard websites were not “places of public accommodation” were again denied in April 2019. Harvard and NAD engaged in settlement discussions during the months following the ruling.

University spokesperson Nate Herpich wrote in an emailed statement that the settlement aligns with other digital accessibility initiatives at Harvard, namely, the captioning previously provided for HarvardX online courses and the school’s Digital Accessibility Policy introduced in April. The Digital Accessibility Policy addressed captioning for content posted to Harvard websites.

“Harvard is pleased to confirm the amicable resolution of the lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Deaf (NAD) regarding online captioning for video and audio content. The settlement is grounded in Harvard’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and belonging,” Herpich wrote.

“Our websites provide a wealth of opportunities for our community members to communicate and to share ideas, and we want these websites to be available to everyone who wishes to access them. This agreement with the NAD builds on the University’s longstanding work toward ensuring a campus that is accessible and welcoming,” he added.

Staff writer Lucy Liu can be reached at [email protected]

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What’s Up With the Rules Around Emotional Support Animals on Campus?

November 26, 2019 By Farah Khan

Juvi Gardner, a student in the general arts and science, music industry arts program, was asked earlier this fall not to bring his emotional support dog, Zeke, with him while he played for Thunders varsity basketball team.

Martha Peak, the Student Associations athletics administrator, delivered the news to Gardner in an email on Sept. 10, stating its for the safety of the dog and the students.

Gardner still has questions surrounding emotional support animals on campus. And he is not alone.

I was confused as to why youre telling me no, because Im asking for the rules, said Gardner. I just want to know what the rules are.

Though many people believe that an emotional support animal classifies as a service animal – it doesnt.

An emotional support animal is not defined nor protected by the law unlike a service animal.

According to Lending a Helping Paw: An Overview of the Law of Service Animals in Ontario, emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform a task-such as guiding a person with a visual or physical impairment. However, they do provide comfort and support to the owner.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has clearly stated that emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals thus, it is up to colleges to decide whether the animal is permitted on the premises.

So, at anytime, students with emotional support animals can be denied having their support animal on certain premises.

It turns out the increase in the number of students with emotional service animals across Ontario is starting to gain attention.

For example, George Brown Colleges AODA policy classifies an emotional support animal as a service animal and allows students to bring them on campus.

George Brown has already implemented it in their policies, said Gardner. Theres other schools that are already adhering to the emotional support dog laws.

At present, Algonquin has not yet done this. But this is now changing.

This is starting to come up that Im aware of, said Claude Brulé, president of Algonquin College. We need to pay attention to this. Under our vice president of student services, were looking at the policies and were looking at it as well provincially.

For the moment, Gardner still has no clear answers about his emotional support dog.

But for Algonquin students with emotional support animals in general, the hope is that this will soon change.

Were aware that we need to have better policies so that everyone is aware of what they can do, or they shouldnt do but were not there yet, said Brulé. Its a work in progress.

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Toronto Looks Into Cost of Disability Accommodation

City has avoided hiring people with restrictions because of budget constraints, analyst said Laurie Monsebraaten
The Toronto Star Oct. 1, 2019

Louis Manno worked in the city’s old “Access Toronto” call centre for a dozen years until the current 311 information service was introduced in 2009 and forced him into early retirement.

Manno is blind, and the 311 technology was not compatible with his computer screen reader, which transcribed web pages into braille or speech so he could respond to callers’ queries.

“City staff knew I needed this technology to continue working there and they said they were building a new system from the ground-up to accommodate me,” Manno said in an interview.

“But at the end of the day, it didn’t work.”

To his knowledge, he is the last blind person to work for the service. The city refused to say if 311 currently employs any blind staff “due to privacy” concerns.

Manno isn’t sure what happened, but now 65 and “happily retired,” he wonders if money might have been a factor.

A motion before Toronto council this week from the city’s accessibility advisory committee is aimed at addressing the cost of accommodating current and future employees with disabilities.

If approved, the city’s chief financial officer and treasurer will report back to council as part of the 2020 budget process on the feasibility of exempting all operating and capital costs related to accommodating employees with disabilities from any proposed fiscal belt-tightening.

Council is also being asked to direct staff to look into creating a central fund for all accessibility-related accommodations and initiatives so that individual city departments aren’t forced to absorb the costs themselves.

City council turned down a similar request in 2017, a decision advisory committee members say breached Ontario’s Human Rights Code and needs to be corrected.

According to the code, “the costs of accommodation must be distributed as widely as possible within the organization so that no single department, employee, customer or subsidiary is burdened with the expense.”

If each department had to cover the cost of maternity benefits, none would ever hire a woman of child-bearing age, said Zeljko Razumic, a design technologist with the city who is deaf.

“People would be up in arms, as it would create a cost bias against hiring women,” he wrote in an email to the advisory committee last spring.

In April 2018, Razumic launched an Ontario Human Rights case against the city for installing a new phone system in 2012 without ensuring it was equipped to allow people with a hearing or speech disability to use text with the assistance of a relay operator.

It took three years – and much pushing by Razumic and allies at city hall – before a text/relay service was installed.

Razumic, whose human rights complaint claims the city did no outreach to other deaf staff to inform them of the service, says the experience left him feeling “isolated, excluded, emotionally hurt and not appreciated.”

The case was settled in March through mediation.

Huy Luong, a senior technology analyst with the city’s information and technology division, said he is often asked to provide technical support to staff with disabilities and has seen first-hand the financial crunch.

“Due to budget constraints, many city businesses often take shortcuts and cut corners. Business tools are acquired or developed without accessibility in mind. Since these tools tend to be in use for quite some time, a city business with inaccessible tools will – and do – avoid hiring persons with disabilities,” he said.

“As the City of Toronto is the largest municipality in Canada, they could set a precedent for others to follow,” he said.

Former advisory committee member Monica Winkler, an information technology administrator for the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work, got the ball rolling when she introduced the original motion that was defeated at city council in 2017.

“I’m really glad it’s going forward again. Maybe this time it will actually pass,” she said.

Winkler said the committee heard from people who had applied for jobs and felt they weren’t successful because of their disability.

“We also heard from staff (that) people with disabilities had trouble getting accommodation because there wasn’t enough money in the budget of their department,” she said.

“Other corporations and other places handle accommodations from a pool of funds,” Winkler said. “That way, no one department is trapped and unable to hire or accommodate somebody.”

Ultimately, a centralized fund might even save the city money through bulk purchases of accessible technology, she added.

“It would also raise the profile of workplace accommodations and make them more widely accepted,” she added.

“It was a long fight to get curb cuts in sidewalks installed for people with wheelchairs,” she noted. “But if you talk to a mother with a carriage or a senior with a shopping cart, they help everyone.”
Jason Mitschele, a federal Crown prosecutor and advisory committee member who is blind, reintroduced the motion in July.

“It seems common sense to me that there should be a special fund for accommodating people,” he said.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, chair of the 12-member advisory committee, said she became aware of the issue from city staff who raised it several years ago.

“City divisions have to draw from their own budgets when they are making accommodations for staff. And so it discourages divisions from hiring people with disabilities because it reduces the budget they get to spend on other things,” she said.

“So there is built-in discrimination,” she said. “To me, it is an issue of equity.”

Ironically, there is a global accessibility budget for city councillors who have used it for sign language interpretation or personal support workers at public meetings and other events, she noted. “It’s always under-drawn,” she added.

Wong-Tam said she was disappointed the motion failed in 2017, but is working to “make councillors more aware of the issue” this time.

Councillor Gary Crawford, city budget chief and among those who defeated the motion two years ago, said he is reconsidering his earlier vote.

“We just have to make sure it goes through the proper budget process,” he said last week after the city’s executive committee backed the motion. “I am supportive.”

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