Tag Archives: accessibility

What Can I Do? The Makings of an Accessible Playground!

This post was written by  student Cheryl Saccardo.

Playgrounds provide opportunities for children to play in a diverse, safe environment along with allowing them to grow to create and pretend while interacting with their peers. Playgrounds are meant to provide children an exciting, diverse environment to play. Authors; Yantz, Young, & Mckeever (2010) maintain “by providing children the opportunity to play together is an important step in redressing discrimination,  marginalization, and exclusion, inclusive play spaces help to promote and create an inclusive community” (pg.76). The purpose and goal of my community project are to create an accessible play environment that meets the needs both of the children disabilities who attend the school and everyone within the community. My paper focused my narrative, of my journeys as I worked on two projects one being changing the existing playground in making it accessible to everyone within the community. The second project is participating and working with school committees and stakeholders in designing and creating an accessible outdoor play space in the school’s courtyard. My motivation:  As an Educational Assistant I am required to supervise the students I support outside during their morning, lunch and afternoon recesses.  However during this time, I often see the students isolated playing on their devices because there is no equipment or other students to play and or socialize with. The students sit in their wheelchairs alone watching the other children play soccer on a field that is not accessible or safe for them to maneuver their wheelchairs, children building castles, holes, imagining that they are going to China or in the sandbox that has borders that allow able-bodied children in and children in wheelchairs out. I see children playing on the playscapes that has slides and or fireman poles, but no ramps for children in wheelchairs and opportunities to explore, imagine or play.

Children with disabilities are often marginalized and excluded on school playgrounds often because their abilities are unappreciated. I believe one of the effective ways to encourage such a change is to provide opportunities for them to self-advocate and be included in the decision-making process by providing the tools and resources necessary to express their wants and needs.

I held a learning circle including the children I support to provide them a means to express what they felt about the school playground. The students expressed they felt isolated, frustrated, mad, unvalued and sad. Expressed the basketball nets were too high and were afraid of getting hit in the head by a ball. They wanted to play in the sand with their peers, however because the sandbox is sunken in the ground,  has high borders, and not entirely accessible, the students with physical disabilities are unable to gain access to the sandbox.  In other instances, students were unsure of what to do when they wanted to play soccer because they felt they couldn’t ask their friends to stay with them to play. They didn’t want to prevent their peers from doing things they were able to do such as playing in the sandbox, practicing gymnastics on the grass or playing on the playscape. It also assisted in deciding what equipment the children felt was missing from the playground. The students shared that the most accessible equipment such as an elevated sand table and adjustable basketball net to accommodate their wheelchairs would be beneficial. The students expressed they felt comfortable playing with other students in the Intensive Support Program because they didn’t feel they would be judged. They didn’t want to leave other students alone without anyone to play with and because sometimes other students didn’t understand them or have the patience to wait for them to respond whether it is throwing the ball or responding to a question.  I have also found that because of differing maturity levels from that of their grade peers they do not have much in common. For instance; one student is 14 years old, and her favourite television shows are not age or maturity appropriate for younger children. The other children watch television shows that contain content that some other students do not understand or watch.  Having an opportunity to engage in a circle dialogue with the students, allowed me to hear the accounts first- the hand of the students’ experiences firsthand.  It also allowed the students to express their feelings and suggestions regarding what they want and need to be changed, so they feel more comfortable and inclusive with their peers. How those changes and express can be included in the design stage of the Courtyard Revitalization Project is vital and allowed the student an opportunity for them to feel comfortable in a situation and which other students may have felt the same way.      

A photograph of a wooden barrier preventing access to a sandbox
This image illustrates the school sandbox. The high wooden borders prevent access to children who use a wheelchair or walker.

                                                   

A photograph of children playing on a raised sandbox
The elevated sandbox is similar to the elevated sand and water table the school parent committee purchased for the school playground.

I did not include children in the photographs that illustrate barriers children with disabilities face on the playgrounds. I wanted the main focus to be on the barrier not on the child.

I was able to gain funding from the parent council and the principal to purchase an elevated sand table, as well as an adjustable basketball goal. It has been very exciting for both the students and I; the elevated sand table is in the process of being installed. The children love playing with the adjustable basketball goal. The students with the class I support are beginning to enjoy the school playground and are beginning to feel included within the of the school community.  Currently, I am still an active member of the in the school Playground Revitalization Project steering committee. The revitalization project is going well.  We have created our designs and are in the process of working with the board in finalizing our design and develop strategies on how to gain extra funding.  Although this began as my DST 99 final project, I am in the long haul!!

Cineplex Accessibility Issue

This post was written by current student Chantelle Bernardo.

Chantelle Bernardo and her fiancé Shawn Farrugia

On December 16th, my fiancé and I went on a movie date together. We hadn’t been out in a while, so we were both really looking forward to it. We went to the Cineplex on Rathburn in Mississauga. My fiancé is a quadriplegic and when we go to a movie, we typically sit in accessible dedicated spots. He sits in a space for his wheelchair and I sit in the accompaniment seat beside him. On that particular night, the cinema that our movie was in was not nearly full, as there were possibly 20 people inside. Therefore, there were many unattended seats. My fiancé and I usually sit beside one another in the cinema, but today there was not that option.

In this particular cinema there was a designated “wheelchair” area off to the side – which looked like it was caged off – and then “regular” patron seating across the aisle and away from the wheelchair area. I contacted the manager to see if a folding chair could be brought for me, so at least I could sit beside my fiancé on our date. I was told “no, that would be a fire hazard”. Not only was I told “no”, the manager and another worker kept referring to my fiancé as my “friend” – as though it’s not possible for an able bodied individual to be with someone in a wheelchair and be anything more than a friend.

The manager asked if I wanted a refund, I said yes, but that I wanted to escalate my complaint. I asked him to call someone higher up then him. He said no, but he would give me a number to call customer service. I called customer service and spoke to a young woman. I explained the situation and she told me that there is nothing more that can be done at that time. She took down my name, my cell phone number and my email address and told me someone would be in touch within 48 hours. I never heard from anyone.

When I got home that evening, I contacted several news stations and media outlets. I emailed the mayor and a few other influential people to see if they would help. I got a call the following day from City News and they wanted to do an interview to air the story. At 4:00 pm on December 17th, hours before the interview would be aired, I got an email from my contact at City News saying that the contact from Cineplex requested that I phone her to discuss the situation.

I called and spoke with the Vice President, Communications and Investor Relations, and I told her that I was disappointed that it was I that called her – that no one else from Cineplex had contacted me after I had complained. She apologized and said that no one ever told her about it, or had passed along my contact information. She explained the history behind the building and why certain spaces were more accessible than others; she explained that they were a leader in access and accessibility. I explained that as a business it was their responsibility to make sure changes were made to their infrastructure to ensure that it was accessible to all. She asked if I wanted free movies for a year, a private screening and various other things. I said no. I told her all that I wanted was a letter signed by her explaining her commitment and promise to making these changes as soon as possible. She agreed, thanked me for my professionalism and told me she would be sending the letter the next day. That was 12 days ago, and I have not received anything or heard anything from them since. I have called and left messages, and emailed several times, again with no response.

There are major accessibility issues within Cineplex facilities and there are many people from the disabilities population in my community who have reached out to me about other concerns – other barriers that they encounter that prevent them from enjoying the movie experience like anyone else.

I plan on insisting I sit in on an accessibility committee meeting. I have also insisted that they send me a detailed outline of the plans they have to solve these accessibility concerns. I want an outline of when it is to be completed, what is to be done, and by whom.  I have also filed a human rights complaint with the Social Justice Tribunals of Ontario. It has been received and they are currently in the process of reviewing the case. I intend on sticking to this – and ensuring that Cineplex takes a good look at their accessibility policies and address the areas of concern.

I will not back down, and I will not stop speaking out. There is an entire community of people who are experiencing accessibility barriers at these facilities, and if Cineplex and their employees do not feel that this is important enough to act on, then Cineplex will continue to be scrutinized for their discriminatory principals.

To read more about Chantelle and Shawn’s story read the following news articles.

Woman takes on Cineplex after theatre prevents her from sitting with fiancé with disability

More complaints surface about Cineplex’s accessibility shortcomings

 

 

Accessibility in Taiwan

This post was written by alumni Cherish Amanda.

Hello friends, my name is Cherish Amanda and I am a recent disability studies alumni from Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.
I currently teach English at an elementary public school (with inclusive style classrooms) in Jinju, South Korea.

These photos provide a brief glance at my journey as a tourist in Taipei and Hualien, Taiwan encountering disability themes. I wish to open up a dialogue about accessibility and mad studies with the recently developed part of Asia: Taipei, Taiwan.

But first, I left Canada in November, 2014 and moved here…..

A photograph of a cafe. The sign reads, "To The Different, The World Dessert Cafe"
Let me Introduce you to my Neighbourhood (dong) in Jinju….

The Concept of Sharing

A photograph of a table with a variety of communal dishes
At meal times no one uses an individual plate. What’s mine is yours in this collective society. Mmmmm kimchi!

 

My Home town Buddha
A photograph of a Buddha. There is text which reads "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world"
Out of all religions, Korean Buddhism leads in South Korea. Learning about cultural beliefs and ethics rooted in Confucianism.
Peaceful Political Demonstration an hour away
A photograph of a city which sits on the waterfront
Tong Young City
A photograph of a wall in an alley on which is written "Life is very short and there is no time for fussing and fighting my friends"
Recently, artists united in painting this one famous back alley in Tong Young City; they worked together to protest government development projects that would destroy their village homes.

Now, let’s travel to Taiwan.
1st stop: Taipei Fine Arts Museum

As I toured the museum, I am brought back fondly to my Ryerson days spent in Mad studies (challenges dominant understanding of mental health). Numerous art and texts in gallery halls shake up my western conservative thoughts.

black square which reads "ideally here would be someone screaming loud to disturb everything"

A photograph of a wall which houses a TV screen. The screen reads "And the text started to slap"
This media series plays explicit graphics showing oppressed indigenous Taiwanese tribes and texts with disturbing background noises.

Unfinished Journey Exhibition,
by Wei-Hei Hsu (my new favourite artist)

Wei- Hei Hsu is an expressionist/experimental artist who created flowers out of facial masks and stainless steel mirrors to represent the bloom of life.

This exhibition combines woman studies, disability studies, and sociological schools of thought. Wei explores the layers of contraction and vulnerability in defining the evolving role of the modern day woman.

A photograph of a screen which  reads "Unfinished Journey" in English

Who am I?
Feeling rather introspective walking through this exhibit.

A selfie of Amanda Cherish in the art installation "Unfinished Journey"

I wander into a connecting hallway, incidentally, finding Taiwan’s Excellence Pavilion inside Expo Park

Launched in December 2010, this pavilion is dedicated to research efforts, aesthetic designs, and premium quality products for the future.

Help, I Have Trouble Sleeping!

A photograph of a mannequin's head with a mask over top of the nose
A nasal pillow mask anyone?
A photograph of a mannequin wearing a red shirt. A sign reads "S.Cafe P4DRY is a patented technology using coffee ground's special characteristics to make an original fabric that is fast drying, controls odour and helps remove moisture. S.Cafe P4DRY is gentle to the skin and can absorb body moisture quickly. meanwhile the particles of the coffee grounds can control the odour. This technology is unique in the textile industry."
A Sweaty Mess? -S. cafe P4DRY👇

After visiting Taipei’s Fine Art Museum and Expo Park,
back to the Subway.

A photograph of people waiting in line
Amazed by the Organizational Behavior while waiting for the next train.
A photograph of a spacious, well lit walkway
Well-lit halls for low vision and spacious halls for wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Low customer service desks, where being in a wheelchair isn’t an inconvenience.

Getting a sense of cultural attitudes and musing about disability stigmas.

Visible disability(spotted a white cane and mobility devices) on the train and no one was STARING.

A photograph of two empty priority seats
Passengers stand during rush hour to keep priority seating free
A photograph of accessibility signs near an elevator
Ample space and clear instructions written for Accessibility

Thinking about Accessible Destinations as a tourist?

A photograph of a map which features accessibility
Detailed maps and helpful staff available at every subway station exit.

A photograph of a sign which lists accessible stops

No One is Forgotten

A photograph of a pink sign which features pictures of baby panda bears
Designated Breastfeeding areas at subway stations.
A photograph of a sign which features a woman with her electric wheelchair charging
Charging stations for electric wheelchairs.

And now, back outside my story finishes. I’m on my way to Elephant Mountain using Universally Designed sidewalks!

A photograph of two side walks and a sign showing one is for pedestrians and one for cyclists

Alright Let’s Talk

This post was written by current student, Nicole Meehan, for the course Writing for Disability Activism.

photograph of a subway ad which reads " Thinking of suicide. There is help. Let's Talk". Underneath the image of a telephone number pad there are graphics for the sponsors, Bell and the Let's talk campagin

Take One – October 7, 2014 12:34 pm

Let’s start by walking down the hallway together. Nothing too complex, there are posters lining the walls for things like “Hungry for Change?” and “Shop online for all your textbooks.” We are at the school in the midst of the hustle and bustle of classes, papers, and mid terms. I can feel my stomach churning as I open the door.  Let’s walk past all the offices of people with smiling faces, who wave as we go by. I grimace in attempt to smile back, and finally, enter the reception for the centre for student development and counseling.

I would like to book an appointment please

What for?

Counseling

Have you been here before?

No

We have availability two and a half weeks from now for you to meet with our triage person. Does that time work?

I guess so.

Take Two – October 24, 2014 10:00 am

Let’s enter reception once again and see what happens.

Fill out these forms and bring them back to me when you are done.

Answer the following questions and how often you experience them from one to five, one being not very often and five being all the time.

Do you have any feelings of hopelessness, or worthlessness? Do you hear voices? Are there any changes in your sleeping or eating patterns? Do you want to cut yourself? Have you had any panic attacks or times of intense fear?  How much alcohol do you drink? Do you take drugs?

My whole body is shaking while reading these questions. I can’t control the muscle spasms from making a mess of my name as I try to write it down on the page.

Ok, Nicole, come on in. I am the triage counselor, and today we are just going to go through a few things to see what services would be the best fit for you.

Take Three – October 24, 2014 12:30 pm

Let’s visit my accommodation facilitator in the academic accommodation support center, formerly known as the access centre. The lights are dim, the walls are a soft yellow and there is a picture of a beach hanging opposite to me.

I have to fill out a form to get a bursary to cover the expenses of an external counselor. But, guess what? My file is missing, probably in archives, so they can’t actually process the request. Oh and also, I need to call and get a quote from 3 different psychologists and a doctor’s note before we can proceed.

Take Four – November 3, 2014 10:15 am

Let’s walk across campus to the medical center. We need the doctor to fill out this piece of paper, I think. I can’t think straight. I’m exhausted, I don’t know what’s going on, and my head hurts. Enter, the fourth year medical student.

So you are here for a mental health consult?

Yes I think so.

Tell me your story … Ok, thank you for sharing. I think medication would be your best option. Are you ready to have the doctor to come in to discuss this?

Enter, supervising medical doctor.

I don’t want to take meds, my body goes wonky when I take them and I feel worse. I just came to get some counseling services, please.

I respect your decision for denying medication and I feel psychotherapy is a good direction for you to go in. I am going to refer you to the in house psychiatrist to see if there is anything she can do for you.

Why?

Take Five – November 3, 2014 3:00 pm

Let’s go see the psychiatrist maybe she knows what to do. My head feels like it is going to explode and I need to keep my eyes closed to contain it. I’m tired of telling my story over and over again.

So why are you here? I see you saw the medical doctor this morning, so what can I do for you?

Oh, no! Not again. I am just trying to get counseling, and I have been to so many different places, I’m done.

How about you go back to the counseling centre and ask if there is anything that I am supposed to do for you, then come back and let me know.

Take Six – November 3, 2014 4:07 pm

Let’s shuffle back to the counseling centre. As it turns out, all I needed was for the doctor to check “yes” on a simple sheet of stark white printer paper, with the words “recommendation for psychotherapy” in jet black ink.

Take Seven – December 4, 2014 2:00 pm

Let’s talk. Are you ready now?

Dare! A Dance Performance for Social Justice Week

During Social Justice week at Ryerson, Thursday October 9 was jointly hosted by the School of Social Work and the School of Disability Studies. The final performance of the day was a dance piece titled, Dare! Internationally renowned dancer Spirit Synott, who incorporates her wheelchair into dance, had been working all week with Ryerson dance students to create a piece especially for Social Justice week. Here are some images from the performance taken by current student, Nicole Meehan.

DSC_0080Dance performance Dare at Social Justice Week at Ryerson University DSC_0069 DSC_0095 DSC_0084 DSC_0062 DSC_0105 DSC_0119 Dance performance, Dare at Social Justice Week at Ryerson

Towards an Inclusive Ontario: How Ryerson’s Advancing the AODA certificate program can help

This piece was written by Mary Neilans who is currently enrolled in the Advancing the AODA certificate program.

Nearly 2 million Ontarians have one or more disabilities – that’s one in seven people – and it is a number that continues to rise, particularly with an aging population. The goal of becoming a truly inclusive province by providing accessibility for all is not just a nice-to-have pipe dream; it’s the law.

In 2005, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) established standards for accessibility for customer service, information and communication, employment, built environments, and transportation, with the larger goal of making Ontario fully accessible by 2025. Seventy-five percent of people with self-identified disabilities have experienced at least one of the barriers that the AODA intends to prevent and remove.

What is accessibility?

It simply means giving people of all abilities opportunities to participate fully in everyday life. But there are many challenges in making this happen, and much more education, action, and advocacy are still needed.

When most people think of accessibility, they think of wheelchair ramps, automatic doors, and parking at grocery stores. But accessibility is not just a practical, physical thing; it’s also about recognizing “invisible” disabilities, understanding our own biases and attitudes, and incorporating inclusiveness when designing everything from buildings to websites. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act attempts to address all of these areas.

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of the AODA, even though Ontario’s accessibility law affects over 360,000 businesses and organizations throughout the province. Improving accessibility for people with disabilities ultimately creates more opportunities and a better environment for everyone in Ontario. But greater education and awareness about the AODA is needed to ensure compliance and to ensure that steps are taken to meet the goal of an accessible Ontario by 2025.

How can you make a difference?

Ryerson offers a certificate program in Advancing the AODA: Principles and Practices of Accessibility, under the Chang School and the School of Disability Studies, that can help make a difference in the future of Ontario.

The Advancing the AODA certificate is ideal if you want to contribute to policy and organizational change, if you work in Human Resources, or if you’re involved in any field that incorporates design, health care, social services, or customer service.

The six courses in this certificate will provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify barriers, to help prevent or solve accessibility issues, to plan and design effective programs and services, and to educate others in ensuring legal compliance with the AODA.

Most importantly, the Advancing the AODA certificate will give you an understanding of the spirit of the law and the need to work towards true inclusiveness for everyone in Ontario.

For more information on the Advancing the AODA certificate, go to http://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/default.aspx?id=3319.