Trudeau’s ‘accessible Canada’ includes unpaid work

Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March
Marchers holding signs at the Toronto Disability Pride March. Featuring Beverly Smith.

Back in 2015, before the Canadian federal election, a movement of disabled people was building across the country. The call for a barrier-free Canada was built in that time by a small, dedicated group of people who reinforced their message daily through social media and on the ground action. Their methods were so effective, that what began as a grassroots call for national solidarity grew into a campaign promise by Trudeau….

Instead of reaching out to offer paid work to disabled people, they paid consulting firms to find disabled people to consult with. They are doing market research rather than accepting the expertise of disabled people in designing policies or programs.

Read the full article I wrote for Socialist.ca.

Have your say on the future of the Canadians with Disabilities Act

The Federal Government will be hosting a public forum to get input from the public on what the promised Canadians with Disabilities Act should include.

where and when this takes place:

When: Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Time: 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: Chelsea Hotel Toronto – Churchill Ballroom, 33 Gerrard Street West, Toronto, ON

If you would like to attend this event, you will need to contact the Office for Disability Issues in advance so they can send you a short form with your contact information and accessibility needs.

Pro-Tip: Go with a group and plan the questions you want answered.

Would you like some suggestions of what you might say to the Federal Government at these consultations?

Here are a few starting points from the AODA Alliance.

Here are a few points that I’ve made regarding an Accessible Canada for All.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing. People can’t be expected to find decent work without decent housing that meets their access needs.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare and all stages of education.
  • Including Indigenous Peoples and refugees in the discussion, and allowing them the same or greater accessibility as the rest of Canada.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

This is an opportunity for disabled Canadians to have equitable status as citizens and residents of this country. We need effective enforceable legislation that works for all of us.

Disabled Canadians are more than consumers and potential employees. The Federal legislation must have a broader scope to create equitable rights for disabled people with effective enforcement.

Other ways to Participate:

  • Write to your MP
  • Submit your thoughts to be gathered by SCI Ontario.
  • Participate in the online questionnaire until February 28th, 2017. The questionnaire is also available in an accessible PDF version.
  • Submit your feedback in the language of your choice (English, French, American Sign Language or Langue des signes québécoise) and preferred format such as online, handwritten, video or audio submissions. You can provide your input to the Office for Disability Issues via:

Phone: 1-844-836-8126

TTY: 819-934-6649

Fax: 819-953-4797

Email: accessible-canada@hrsdc.gc.ca

Mail:
Consultation – Accessibility Legislation
c/o Office for Disability Issues
Employment and Social Development Canada
105 Hotel-de-ville St., 1st floor, Bag 62
Gatineau QC K1A 0J9

All of the feedback we receive will be incorporated into reports that will be made available on the consultation website and in alternate formats, on request.

You can also consult the Discussion Guide for more information.

 

Keep Affordable Housing in the Federal Budget

Let’s not let affordable housing be another broken promise from Trudeau.

  • 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year.
  • 1 in 5 renters spend more than half their income on housing.
  • 1.5 million households can’t find decent housing they can afford.
  • The affordability of housing for low-income families living in social and co‑operative housing is uncertain, as federal funding agreements will expire. In the absence of a new federal commitment, by 2020, 175,000 fewer low-income households will be assisted compared to 2010.
  • Indigenous households living in cities and communities experience higher rates of homelessness and are more likely to be living in precarious housing than non-Indigenous Canadians.

In an effort to keep housing on the agenda, Acorn Canada has come up with the following template email that you can copy and paste and send to your Member of Parliament.

How to Find Your MP.

Sample Email:

Subject: We need affordable and livable housing now!

Dear Honorable [YOUR MP],

As a resident of [YOUR CITY] we need the federal government to make affordable and livable housing a major priority in the upcoming budget. The housing situation across the country is a crisis, with hundreds and thousands of people living in sub-standard housing. CMHC reports that about 3.3 million Canadians (about 1.5 million households) are in core housing need at any given time.

Please ensure that resources from every ministry are added to the lump some of money being given to housing. Poor and unaffordable housing affects every aspect of people’s lives from physical to mental health and more.

Thank you,

[YOUR NAME]

Did you email your Member of Parliament? Let us know in the comments below.

Changing the Accessibility Conversation #IDPD 2016

Last night I was out for dinner with my Mom. It was a small space, and it took some time getting a table, so we chatted for a while waiting, and then came in and sat down. It was at this point that something unexpected happened. The young waitress came out with only one menu, hands it to my Mom, and asks if she’ll be ordering for me. There was a split second of stunned silence while my Mom and I processed what just happened before I could say “Excuse me?!”.

The young waitress quickly apologized, and handed me a menu. Later after we ordered our meals, my Mom called the waitress over, and asked her to apologize to her daughter. As inherited as this trait might be, it’s still embarrassing for me when my Mom calls someone out on my behalf, though perhaps not nearly as embarrassing as it was for the waitress.

She did apologize, and explained that she hadn’t interacted with disabled people before. I felt a little empathy towards her at this point, perhaps because I too have been on the receiving end of a Mom Rant, and left her with some disability pointers that I hope she’ll remember. Someone else will be getting an email with the Accessible Customer Service Standard.

If this seems at all shocking for 2016, know that it will likely continue into 2017 as well. Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPD. Disabled people across the world have been bringing attention to issues like this all day, and for decades. I’m protected with a certain amount of privilege that keeps situations like this away from me most of the time, but many people are not.

Fellow blogger Dave Hingsburger recently posted about a disabled man who was finally given agency and the power to make a major decision about his own life at the age of sixty. This is a must read, beautiful post, bring tissue.

As a disabled person, sometimes it seems like this loss of agency is something we have to live with, but it’s not. Loss of agency has much more to do with the system we live in then it does with us as disabled people. I think this is particularly important when we talk about employment, which happens to be part of the theme for this year’s #IDPD.

Let’s face facts, employers would still prefer to hire an able-bodied, neuro-normative person most of the time, especially when that potential employee is white. These are hard times to find jobs for many people, but white, educated, non-disabled people seem a little more entitled to those jobs, and we need to start talking about that with them.

Like this waitress, when you’re just doing your job, sometimes it’s hard to see the people who’ve become invisible in the process. Not unlike the indigenous peoples in Canada whose rights and traditions suddenly become invisible so our Prime Minister can approve a pipeline, create some temporary work for other people, and leave progressing our economy and environment to somebody else.

The bottom line: if we don’t talk about our agency and our rights, and making those things visible, they will be lost to someone else who is louder and more visible then we are.

So please speak out when you can, if not for you, then do it for the many of us who are still not in the conversation today. Start with writing to your MP. Talk about accessibility, talk about a Canadians with Disabilities Act, talk about pipelines. It’s time the conversation shifted.

Accessible Apartment elevators down 3 times this week in Etobicoke

I’ve lived in the same co-op apartment building since the spring of 2010. There have been times over the years when I’ve been frustrated with where I live, but nothing quite like this past week.

I live in a co-op in Ward 6 in Toronto. I’m fortunate to live in a wheelchair accessible apartment that I can afford, although I think the idea that someone should feel fortunate to live in a space that they can afford and access contributes to the kind of complacency leading to the situation that I’m now in.

As I write this, both elevators in my building are down for the third time this week. I live on the eleventh floor, and I have no idea when they’ll be up and running again. To clarify that, one elevator has been down for the entire week, and within this week the other elevator has broken down three times.

The first time was Tuesday, November 22nd, at around 10:30pm. I had just come into the building after visiting my friend in hospital on the other side of the city, so it was already a long day. I was just about to enter the elevator when the fire alarm went off. I waited downstairs for the fire department, and the fire situation was quickly resolved, someone was smoking in the stairwell. That should’ve been the end of it, but it wasn’t.

The firemen couldn’t get the elevator to go back in service. They couldn’t even get inside. They tried everything they could think of to get the elevator running again, even setting the alarm off to try to get it to reset, but it wouldn’t.

At this point I should explain that the building has some security, but they check on a range of building in the area. There is paid maintenance during the weekday, and the rest of the time we rely on volunteer maintenance. It’s well known in my building that the volunteer rarely answers his phone, and you have better luck banging on his door, but he was on vacation. My building manager was also on vacation.

There are a lot of seniors, and people with disabilities living in my building, thankfully I was the only one stuck downstairs. Security contacted my building manager, who contacted the daytime maintenance and the elevator repair company. It was about 11:30-12am when the maintenance guy came, he was not able to fix the elevator. He and security stayed with me until 1 am when my partner could get there. My partner and I decided to leave for an accessible hotel, the closest an hour away. My power chair was nearly dead, my cell phone was dead, and I had just the clothes on my back and my purse.

At 2 am, the fire department, thankfully nearby, saw us waiting for the night bus, and told us elevator repair company had shown up, and we went home. They knew because one of my neighbours got fed up and called 911. My local fire department is actually pretty great.

Since then, it was down Friday November 25th from before 6:30am to 10:30am, and again today, which is Sunday November 27th, I do not expect the elevator to work until Monday. I only found out about this because the person who came to assist me in the morning climbed 11 flights of stairs to get to me.

For me, I work full-time, and this impact my job and well-being. I’m trapped in my own home today, but it’s also a major safety concern for the seniors and people with disabilities that live here. What if an ambulance was called?

I recognize that sometimes things happen, but what really is most upsetting is the lack of preventative measures or concern.

When I called the building office on Friday, they acknowledged the problem, but offered no solutions or preventative measures. She offered to call me when the elevators were up, but I was already downstairs by the time she thought to call.

At the very least, we need full-time maintenance staff, and someone to check on vulnerable people when the elevators are down for more than an hour. Co-op members should be informed of expected repair times, and be given the option to switch companies if that’s what’s needed. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I’m writing to my Councillor Mark Grimes and my building manager Gary McMayo. I welcome other suggestions.

Toronto Area Community Consultations on Electoral Reform

Let’s make sure disabled voices are heard on this important issue!

  • The following is a list of community consultations on electoral reform happening in the Toronto area, please find the consultation closest to you if you wish to attend.
  • There are consultations happening across Canada. Please contact your MP for more information on these consultations.
  • Please Note: Some locations require RSVP.
  • Please also note: At time of writing, no accessibility information is readily available regarding these consultations. I will update as more information is available (all the more reason to make sure disabled people are heard on this issue).

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall, Hosted by the Hon. Kirsty Duncan and MP James Maloney. 7 – 9 pm, Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Willowdale Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Ali Ehsassi, 7pm – 9pm, North York Civic Centre Council Chambers, North York, ON RSVP

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Salma Zahid, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Scarborough Centre Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Rooms 1-2, 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Bill Blair, 6 – 8pm, Warden Hilltop Community Centre 25 Mendelssohn St, Toronto, ON

Sunday September 11th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with Hon. Carolyn Bennett, 3 – 5 pm, Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour with Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, time and location to be confirmed, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MPs Jane Philpott and John McCallum, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Markham Village Library Fireside Lounge, 6031 Highway 7, Markham, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Community Consultation at 6:30pm at the Calvary Church to discuss and share ideas about the future of Canada’s democratic principles, and to identify and study other voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post. Toronto-Danforth, ON

Sunday September 18th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Rob Oliphant, (Special Guest to be announced), 2 – 4 pm, Don Valley West at Temple Emanu-El, 120 Old Colony Rd., Toronto, ON, RSVP

Sunday September 25th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Francesco Sorbara, 3 – 6 pm, Vellore Village Community Center, Open to all residents of Vaughan-Woodbridge, Woodbridge, ON

Come out for TTC Accessibility for All!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor Station, Toronto, Ontario


D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.

Click to listen to audio announcement.

The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail

Air Canada Discriminates Against Wheelchair User

Disability advocate Tim Rose is attempting to fly to Cleveland to deliver a presentation on the importance of accessibility. But, ironically, he can’t get there because a major airline is refusing to accommodate – or even brainstorm possible ways to meet – his needs. Although Air Canada is the only airline to fly there direct (and thus Tim’s only reasonable option), they are refusing to transport his wheelchair because it is too difficult for them. Despite the fact that he has flown this exact route with Air Canada on a similar plane before (not to mention flown many times around the world). Despite the fact that their own accessibility policy commits to transporting mobility aids that do not fit on smaller planes by another method. and despite the fact that they have almost two months to come up with a solution. They are saying Tim wanting to fly with his wheelchair is the same thing as trying to bring an oversized bag. Tim and his wheelchair are not baggage.

This is hardly the first time people with disabilities have received inequitable treatment by Air Canada, see this article from 2009, and this article from 2015 for just a couple examples.

A while back I also started a petition related to this issue.

See Tim’s video below. Apologies this video is not yet captioned. I will post a captioned video when it becomes available.

 

 

Disabled People have better stories to tell

My proposed line-up of disability-themed movies:

  • A group of crip sisters sharing stories of their struggles through the years, and how their crip sisterhood helped them through it.
  • Maybe those crip sisters are on a spaceship, as part of a rebellion.
  • Two young disabled people from divided houses fall in love. In an act of rebellion against family pressure, they don’t kill themselves, but instead start a family of their own.
  • A disability activist searches for meaning in their own life while fighting for safeguards in assisted suicide laws.
  • A group of disabled/Mad friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the next morning to discover one of their friends is missing, and encounter various shenanigans while looking for them.

Ok so maybe I should stick with writing blogs, but I still think these films would be better than what’s on the table.  See this review of Me Before You if you’re not sure what I’m referring to here.

We know why ableist films and messages continue to spread, as do sexism, racism, and homophobia.

We have a responsibility to call out these stories, so that their toxic messages do not spread.

I’ve been seeing posts and messages that “it’s just one story” or “they don’t mean you”, but I think those posts miss the point.

I grew up in an area without many other disabled people. I had no disabled role models until I left home. Despite the privileges of being a white, middle class kid, I grew up with a lot of discrimination, but I didn’t know that’s what it was. I thought it was me, that I was broken. I was surrounded by sometimes well-meaning able-bodied people who saw my disabledness as something to mourn, or to mould into something more acceptable. They didn’t have better stories either.

Ableist stories were all I had until my twenties. Yes, I’m still here, but they’re woven into my formation, that’s just how it is.

Growing up in that environment still impacts me, some days I still feel broken. Some days ableist attitudes from others convince me for a time that I don’t belong, that I am less of a person.

I am fortunate now, that I have a strong community of disabled folks around me, but not everyone does.

Ableist stories and messages might not impact all of us equally, but they do cause harm.

We need to tell our own stories. We need less suicide and more solidarity.

Preferably with rebel forces on space cruisers.

Wheelchairs are Not Suitcases: a great opportunity for some #RealChange

Sign the Petition.

Every time I fly I make a silent apology to my wheelchair. I leave the chair at the gate, fingers crossed, as I’m transported to the cushy seat on the plain with a small screen in front to distract me from what’s happening to my wheelchair in the cargo hold.

For my wheelchair this journey will be far more hazardous. Once it leaves my sight, this machine that provides me with daily independence, freedom, and mobility, gets thrown on the carts and on to the loading machines with the similar respect that passengers suitcases would expect.

Imagine watching you 600 pound chair get tossed on its side and just hoping your chair isn’t melted, broken, or taken apart by the time you reach your destination. Yes, these things actually happen to people.

I’ve looked up the standards and regulations, it turns out Transport Canada is really concerned about wheelchair batteries, as they should be. They are also rightly concerned about the accessibility of the aircraft, there are also Training Regulations for Employees and Contractors Who Handle Mobility Aids. These were written in 1994.

They state:

Every carrier shall ensure that, consistent with its type of operation, all employees and contractors of the carrier who may be required to handle mobility aids receive the training described in section 4 (Employees and Contractors who interact with the Public) and a level of training appropriate to the requirements of their function in the following areas:

(a) different types of mobility aids;

(b) requirements, limitations and procedures for securing, carrying and stowing mobility aids in the passenger compartment of a vehicle; and

(c) proper methods of carrying and stowing mobility aids in the baggage compartment of a vehicle, including the disassembling, packaging, unpackaging and assembling of the mobility aids.

Were you expecting more details? Me too.

So here’s my point:

Power wheelchairs cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. I hate to make that argument, but it’s true. It’s also a good thing because that independence allows the people who need the devices to do great things that give back to the economy.

People who use mobility devices do a lot of flying, I don’t have statistics, but I’m fairly certain it has increased since 1994 when that training was put in place.

I think it’s time we treated mobility devices and the people who use them with a little more respect. When Canadians voted in their government last fall Prime Minister Trudeau promised a Canadians with Disabilities Act, and it seems like it’s been forgotten ever since.

I’m hoping he proves me wrong.

Canada makes changes to the way Canadians fly for all kinds of reasons, but changing the way we transport mobility aids would benefit Canadians, save us money in replacing these devices, and boost the economy by encouraging travel.

We can do this! Sign the Petition.