Remembering Veterans with Disabilities

Today is Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day, celebrated on November 11th every year, honours the sacrifice of soldiers who have fought to protect Canada. Canadians pause in a moment of silence at 11:00 A.M. to remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada in times of war. In this moment of silence, people often remember soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for their country. In addition to these brave men and women, we should also spend some moments remembering veterans with disabilities.

Remembering Veterans with Disabilities

Of the soldiers who return home to their loved ones, many return with disabilities they have gained during their service. Some of these disabilities are physical, such as amputations or blindness. Others are neurological, such as brain injury, or involve changes to mental health, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These veterans may need to learn new ways to do every-day things such as walking, talking, or reading. They may have difficulty as they navigate social events or stressful situations, and need to learn coping mechanisms in order to do things they used to enjoy or do without effort. They may find that loved ones treat them differently. They or their loved ones may fear that their quality of life as people with disabilities will be low.

Once home and accepting the changes in their daily lives, veterans likely wish to continue serving their country. First, they need to decide what career they might like to pursue in civilian life. Next, they must navigate education and the job search as people with disabilities. Employers may respect their service but believe that they are less capable of working than non-disabled people are. Veterans may struggle to prove themselves because they are new to disability. They may have grown up believing that the people who reject them are right.

The myth that people with disabilities always need help, and can never be the helpers, is widespread. This myth is likely especially damaging for veterans, whose lives have been changed forever because of their service. One way to remember and honour their sacrifice is to respect the capabilities of people with disabilities. Another way is to make our country’s businesses and buildings welcoming to all people. When we design structures and services that are open to people who move, learn, or communicate in different ways, we show that we are thankful for the sacrifices of veterans with disabilities.

This Remembrance Day, we will take time to remember the men and women who fought and died for Canada. We can also spare some moments to think about veterans with disabilities. We should show our gratitude by giving them the help they need to navigate changes in their lives. Lastly, we can also show gratitude by recognizing that they have the strength to serve society in new ways.

Source link

Improving School Residence Accessibility

In our last article, we covered how new and renovated school buildings need to be accessible to students, educators, parents, and visitors with disabilities. We also outlined why an education standard should mandate more accessibility in older school buildings. In this article, we focus on residence accessibility.

Residence Accessibility

Like other school spaces, school residences must follow the rules in the Design of Public Spaces Standards and the Ontario Building Code. Under the Design of Public Spaces Standards, new and redeveloped residence spaces must have accessible features. For instance, all new or reconstructed residences must have accessible:

Moreover, all residences of schools in the public sector, and all residences of private-sector schools with fifty or more workers, must have accessible:

Similarly, under the Ontario Building Code, all new and redeveloped buildings open to the public, including school residences, must follow accessibility standards. These standards include:

  • Ramps, lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Automatic doors
  • Wide doorways at entrances to buildings and common areas
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Barrier-free paths of travel into and through buildings
  • Visual and audible fire alarms
  • Accessible seating in auditoriums
  • Assistive listening systems in meeting rooms and auditoriums designed to hold at least seventy-five people

Stronger Standard Needed

Currently, the Code and Standard do not have guidelines specifically for residence accessibility. For example, there are no guidelines to help designers create accessible residence rooms. However, the Ontario Building Code offers regulations mandating accessibility for other organizations. For instance, the Code has a section on accessible hotel rooms. Many of these guidelines, such as how many rooms to build per floor, could also apply to residences. A new section of the Code that addressed educational institutions could make new schools accessible for more students.

More Accessible Features

Other best practices can help residence accessibility. For instance, good lighting will help residents or visitors who are Deaf communicate visually. Lighting is also important for residents or guests who are visually impaired. Moreover, Braille and large-print room numbers allow residents or visitors who are blind or visually impaired to find their way.

Furthermore, residence dining areas should make their menus and services accessible to all students. Finally, residences should provide accessible-format copies of operation instructions for:

  • Phones or TVs on-site
  • Connecting to WIFI
    • Other devices on-site, such as fitness and laundry equipment

A growing number of students with disabilities are going to college and university. Therefore, residence accessibility gives schools the chance to welcome more students.

Source link

Ontario Needs to Make More School Spaces Accessible

The AODA does not yet have an education standard. Two committees are making recommendations about what an education standard should include. In the meantime, the Design of Public Spaces Standard and the Ontario Building Code both have rules that apply to educational institutions. These rules make school spaces more accessible for students, educators, parents, and visitors with disabilities. Accessible school spaces can include:

  • Public and private schools
  • School board offices
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • School libraries
  • Producers of educational or training materials, such as textbook publishers

Accessible School Spaces

Under the Design of Public Spaces Standards, educational institutions must make new and redeveloped public spaces accessible. For instance, all new or reconstructed schools and school boards must have accessible:

Moreover, all schools and school boards in the public sector, and all private-sector schools with fifty or more workers, must have accessible:

Similarly, under the Ontario Building Code, all new and redeveloped buildings open to the public, including schools, must follow accessibility standards. These standards include:

  • Ramps, lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Automatic doors
  • Wide doorways at entrances to buildings and common areas
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Barrier-free paths of travel into and through buildings
  • Visual and audible fire alarms
  • Accessible seating in auditoriums
  • Assistive listening systems in classrooms, meeting rooms, and auditoriums designed to hold at least seventy-five people

More Accessible School Spaces are Needed

Currently, the Code and Standard do not have guidelines specifically for schools, universities, colleges, or other educational spaces. For example, there are no guidelines to help designers create accessible classrooms, gymnasiums, or outdoor sports facilities. A new section of the Code that addressed educational institutions could make new schools fully accessible for a growing number of students with disabilities.

In addition, the Code and Standard only mandate accessibility in buildings and spaces that are new or redeveloped. These legal limitations mean that older buildings and spaces are closed or unwelcoming to people with certain disabilities, including people who:

Why do we Need Accessible School Spaces?

Educators may feel that they do not need to worry about making older spaces accessible because the standard does not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, some changes are easier and less costly to put in place. In addition, grants for structural accessibility may offset costs for larger-scale renovations.

While renovating for accessibility may take time and construction is inconvenient, inaccessibility is just as time-consuming and inconvenient for students, teachers, parents, and visitors with disabilities. For instance, students who use wheelchairs may never go to their neighbourhood schools with their siblings and friends. Similarly, some parents may not be able to volunteer at their child’s school or attend events there, like parent-teacher interviews. Therefore, the new education standard should include recommendations to start making older school buildings more accessible.

Furthermore, more and more students with disabilities are enrolling in higher education. These students can choose which university or college they want to attend. As a result, colleges and universities with accessible campuses can attract more students than inaccessible colleges and universities.

Many college and university students not only go to school on campus, but also live there. Our next article will explore accessibility in school residences.

Source link

Healthcare Transportation Services: Making Medical Services Accessible

Currently, the AODA does not have a healthcare standard. A committee is making recommendations about what a healthcare standard should include. In the meantime, however, there are still AODA requirements for healthcare providers to follow. The Transportation Standards have regulations that apply to healthcare providers. Healthcare transportation services make medical services more accessible to patients, workers, and visitors with disabilities.

Healthcare Transportation Services

Several sections of the Transportation Standards apply to healthcare providers. Public hospitals that transport patients between their campuses must make this service accessible. They may do so by using accessible vehicles when they transport all patients. Alternatively, if they cannot provide integrated service on conventional vehicles, they must have equivalent services on specialized vehicles.

Moreover, all regulations that apply to other conventional and specialized transportation providers also apply to public hospitals that offer these services. For instance, all public hospital transportation services must have:

In addition, conventional transportation services of public hospitals must have:

Stronger Transportation Standards in Healthcare are Needed

The Transportation Standards’ mandates concerning healthcare ensure minimal accessibility for patients with disabilities. However, vital healthcare services are still inaccessible to patients. New criteria in the Transportation Standards targeting healthcare settings could benefit both patients and healthcare workers.

While public hospital transportation ensures that patients can travel reliably between hospital campuses, patients must use other modes of transportation for all other healthcare needs. For instance, patients must find their own ways of travelling to:

  • Doctor’s appointments
  • Walk-in clinics
  • Hospital emergency rooms
  • Labs
  • Pharmacies

Some patients can travel to all these places by driving or using conventional public transportation. For example, when someone starts to feel sick suddenly one evening, that person can take the bus to a walk-in clinic. Similarly, if someone’s doctor tells them that they need bloodwork or a prescription, they can take the bus, a cab, or their car to their lab or pharmacy. However, options like driving, cabbing, or taking the bus do not work for everyone. Instead, some patients use specialized transit to travel around their area.

Our next article will explore how stronger transportation standards in healthcare are needed to make medical settings more accessible for patients using specialized transit.

Source link

Ontario Sledge Hockey Association (OSHA)

The Ontario Sledge Hockey Association (OSHA) organizes sledge hockey clubs and teams at all levels across Ontario. Sledge hockey, also called Para ice hockey, gives Ontarians of all abilities the chance to play one of Canada’s most beloved sports.

Ontario Sledge Hockey Association

Teams from all over Ontario are part of the OSHA. Most areas have teams for both children and adults. Moreover, the OSHA organizes competitive leagues at the junior, intermediate, and premier levels. Athletes of all ages travel around the province to compete in tournaments. Furthermore, OSHA teams participate in both the Ontario Winter Games (OWG) and the Ontario Parasport Winter Games (OPWG). The OSHA also hosts two international tournaments per year. Teams from across Canada and the United States come to compete in Mississauga every November and in London every January. In addition, the OSHA oversees Sledge Team Ontario, a group of elite athletes preparing to try out for international teams, including Canada’s Paralympic team.

The Game

Sledge hockey is an adapted version of traditional hockey. Most players have lower-body mobility disabilities. They play seated on sleds, or sledges, that have skate blades under them. They move around the ice using their sticks, which have picks on one end. Sledge hockey sticks are about one-third as long as traditional hockey sticks. Since benches and penalty boxes are not accessible for all players, the athletes sit on the ice in front of the bench or box.

Training and Community Outreach

OSHA provides training opportunities for its coaches and referees. It also reaches out to communities across Canada in order to help them develop sledge hockey programs.

The Ontario Sledge Hockey Association provides opportunities for hockey players of all levels and abilities. Clubs throughout the province teach young children how to start playing the sport, help older players stay active, and train their strongest players to represent their country in international competition.

Source link

Ontario Track 3 Ski Association

People with disabilities that love the outdoors, especially in the winter can enjoy skiing and snowboarding. The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people with disabilities across Ontario the chance to learn and participate in skiing and snowboarding.

Ontario Track 3 Ski Association

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association teaches people with disabilities how to ski or snowboard. It began as a small organization in Collingwood where youth amputees learned to ski. These skiers use one ski and two outriggers, so that they make three tracks in the snow as they travel down a hill.

The organization has expanded and now serves people with a wide variety of disabilities across Ontario. For instance, the cities of London and Waterloo have their own regional affiliate organizations. In addition to amputees, programs also serve skiers and snowboarders with:

  • Physical disabilities, including wheelchair users
  • Visual disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities

Training and Equipment

The organization trains volunteer instructors who work with each skier or snowboarder individually. Instructors receive training on how best to teach skiers or snowboarders with particular disabilities. When athletes are first learning to ski or snowboard, they are tethered to their instructors for additional support. As the students gain skill, they no longer need the tethers.

Athletes who are wheelchair users ski using sit-skis, which they steer with their upper bodies. Athletes who are blind ski ahead of their instructors, who tell them when they need to turn or slow down. They often use two-way radio headsets to communicate over the noise of wind and snow.

Some skiers and snowboarders have their own equipment, but if athletes do not have their own equipment, the organization provides:

  • Skis
  • Sit-skis
  • Boots
  • Poles
  • Snowboards
  • Two-way radio headsets

However, all athletes must bring their own helmets.

The Ontario Track 3 Ski Association gives people the chance to learn new sports in a safe but challenging environment. Every athlete learns to use their abilities, has fun, and stays active within their communities.

Source link

Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities

Artistic swimming, formerly called synchronized swimming, is a dynamic sport that requires not only physical fitness but also grace, poise, and confidence. This unique sport has team, duet, and solo events, allowing athletes of all abilities to take part. In this article, we feature a Toronto club that offers programs for athletes with disabilities. The Toronto Synchro Athletes with Disabilities Program gives swimmers with disabilities the chance to discover artistic swimming and develop their skill in the sport.

Artistic Swimming for Athletes with Disabilities

Toronto Synchronized Swimming Club: Athletes with Disabilities Program

Toronto Synchro, also called the Toronto Synchronized Swimming Club, offers programs at pools across the city for beginning, recreational, and competitive synchronized swimmers. Among these opportunities are programs for swimmers with physical and intellectual disabilities at all levels.

Coaching and Training

Coach training programs ensure that coaches can support athletes in small groups. In addition, coaches can offer one-on-one support for athletes who need it. Moreover, coaches work closely with each new swimmer to determine what kinds of support they will need and what level of program they should choose.


Toronto Synchro has programming for novice, or beginner, swimmers who meet once a week during the fall, winter, and spring. They learn basic swimming and synchro techniques and perform routines at water shows. Programming for recreational swimmers is similar, although swimmers register for fall, winter, and spring programs separately. Novice swimmers can also compete at the beginner level if they choose to do so. Both novice and recreational swimmers can work to achieve various synchro swim levels of expertise.

Competitive artistic swimmers meet from two to four times per week. The season lasts throughout the fall to spring. Swimmers in this program hone more advanced skills and compete in four to six meets a season with their teams.

Toronto Synchro’s Athletes with Disabilities Program gives swimmers with physical and intellectual disabilities the opportunity to enjoy artistic swimming. The club introduces artistic swimming to new swimmers, supports swimmers who want to enjoy the sport while maintaining an active lifestyle, and provides opportunities for more advanced athletes to compete. 

Click here to find an artistic swimming club near you.

Source link

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation for Para Cycling Athletes

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation helps Ontarians with disabilities stay active in their communities through para cycling.

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation

The foundation is named for its honorary chairperson, Paralympic athlete Shelley Gautier. Gautier, a globally renowned Para cyclist, competed in the 2012 and 2016 Paralympic games. Her foundation gives people with disabilities across and beyond Ontario the chance to be involved in recreational sports. Participants can enjoy a healthy lifestyle, travel around their communities, and meet new people while they learn a new sport or rediscover an old one.

Community Para Cycling

The foundation loans para cycling equipment to communities around Ontario, so that those communities can create para cycling programs. Currently, there are programs in Brantford, Kitchener-Waterloo, Whitby, and the Niagara region of Ontario, as well as in Bromont, Quebec.

People who participate in the programs may ride handcycles or tandem bicycles. Handcycles usually have three wheels, two small ones at the back and one large one at the front for steering. Riders with physical disabilities move and steer using hand controls. Tandem bicycles have two seats and two sets of peddles. A rider with a visual impairment peddles from the rear seat, while a sighted rider steers and peddles at the front.

The Shelley Gautier Para-Sport Foundation works with its partnership communities to create programs. It helps to train coaches and volunteers who steer tandem bikes and support participants as they ride. Some participants may be riding for the first time. Others may have ridden standard bikes before and are now learning to ride adaptive bikes. Others may have handcycled or tandem-biked before and can now enjoy doing so on a long-term basis, through regular access to equipment. Some riders may choose to seek out further training and consider entering athletic competitions which might eventually lead to the Paralympics. Other riders choose to remain at the recreational level and enjoy being active within their communities.

Source link

Rowing for Athletes with Disabilities

Para Rowing gives athletes with disabilities the chance to enjoy the sport of rowing. Here we feature a club in Toronto, the Argonaut Rowing Club (ARC), where athletes can participate recreationally or competitively.

What is Para Rowing?

Rowing is the act of propelling a boat through the water with the use of oars. Para rowing is an adaptive form of rowing. In para rowing, some athletes perform full rowing strokes using their arms, trunks, and legs. Others row using their trunks and arms while sitting on a fixed seat. Another class of rowers use their shoulders and arms while seated with support for their backs.

Argonaut Rowing Club

The Argonaut Rowing Club offers programs for rowers of all abilities and all skill levels. Programs serve rowers with disabilities, such as:

  • Blindness or visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disabilities, such as Down Syndrome
  • Physical disabilities, such as:
    • Paraplegia
    • Quadriplegia
    • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Spina bifida
    • Amputations


The club offers a learn to row program for new rowers on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, with the option for extra private lessons when coaches and equipment are available. When athletes have learned the basics, they can form rowing crews with other athletes at the club and continue the sport recreationally. A recreational coordinator helps to arrange crews. This arrangement makes it possible for club members to row with athletes who have similar levels of skill. Crews who row recreationally often include athletes both with and without disabilities.

Moreover, the club also trains rowers for provincial, national, and international competitions. Coaches bring athletes together to form crews who train for regattas, series of races. Crews are often made up of athletes who have different disabilities.

The Argonaut Rowing Club creates opportunities for Torontonians of all abilities to discover the sport of rowing. Athletes who develop a love for the sport can row for fun or enter competitions at various levels. Rowers can form teams with other rowers who have disabilities or can form integrated crews that include athletes of all abilities.

Source link

Baseball for Athletes with Disabilities: Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball

The Challenger Baseball program gives players of all abilities across Canada the chance to learn the sport of baseball. Players enjoy being part of a team while gaining individual skills. Here, we highlight a league in London, Ontario, the Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program.

Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball program is a league for players with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities in London, Ontario. Six teams play at the Byron Optimist Sports Complex on Sunday evenings from mid-May until the end of July every year. Players range in age from six-year-olds to adults. A non-disabled “buddy”, often a friend or family member, accompanies each player onto the field.


The league provides most of the equipment players need, including:

  • Traditional baseballs
  • Beeping baseballs
  • Bats
  • Helmets for players up to bat
  • Team shirts and baseball caps

However, players and buddies bring their own baseball gloves. In addition, players may choose to bring their own bats and helmets.

The Game

Pitchers quickly learn about each player’s abilities and batting style at the beginning of each season. Some players hit a traditional baseball while others hit a large baseball that beeps so that players can hear where it is. Some players wheel themselves around the bases while their buddies run beside them. Others run with their buddies, who provide sighted guide. Players and buddies stand together in the outfield. Buddies catch balls when players cannot reach or hear them, then toss them to the players. Players call out to tell each other where to aim the ball or let each other know that the ball is coming toward them.

Players cheer for their teammates and gather for a team cheer at the end of every game. They also cheer for the other team and shake hands with that team’s players. The league does not keep score.

The Byron Optimist Challenge Baseball Program allows every player to enjoy learning the sport and be physically active with friends.

Source link