Identifying the gaps

Help us identify where accessibility falls short for you

To many, accessibility means ramps, elevators, and parking spots. However, whether you are a person with a disability, a father pushing a baby stroller, or a senior pulling a grocery cart, it is often the smaller details of accessibility that get overlooked. Help us identify the gaps in accessibility for you.

  • What are the accessibility challenges you face when interacting with business?
  • What challenges do you feel businesses face in being more accessible?
  • What types of accessibility features make a business attractive to you?

Submit your answers below and we’ll share the best ones on social media with the hashtag #AccessGaps 

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Jennifer Young 's avatar

Here at the Abilities Centre, we have made substantial effort to ensure that our facility is barrier-free and inclusive. Our attitude towards community/inclusion is what makes us who we are. Through outreach to local businesses, Abilities Centre has attempted to unpack what the best approach is in getting local businesses to understand the accessibility challenges of our members. We have found that it is hard to get past the stigma of "accessibility means spending money" for business owners. Of course, there are certain features of making a space more accessible that can cost money- but the amount of customers who would then be able to enjoy the facility because of these investments would be substantial. There is a business case for accessibility, and we are working on how to communicate that to business owners so that they will listen! This is the biggest challenge for us when interacting with businesses- the pre existing attitude towards people with disabilities and the perceived cost associated with accommodating them. We work to promote simple, low cost solutions as a start.

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Archie's avatar
Nov 19, 2015 - 14:48

Variety Village has assisted with numerous schools, community groups and organizations to increase awareness of inclusive planning, implementation and evaluation. As one of the first accessible facilities in North America, we are often consulted for feedback to develop effective ways to create programs and services that welcome people of all abilities. We have discovered there is a lack of awareness of how to be inclusive and accessible. Collaboratively, we can share the message and create awareness of the importance of recognizing barriers and initiating provisions. We are excited to share our expertise and solutions to engage people of all abilities.
www.varietyvillage.ca

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ReliAble Living's avatar

Are you inclined to go along with what's safe rather than what's conventional? Who says what’s practical isn’t fashionable? I think all staircases with 1-4 steps should have a ramp next to them so that all people have the option of using a safer method to access changes in level. Ramps most certainly give people using mobility aides such as walkers, canes, wheelchairs and scooters the ability to access the same entrances and level as everyone else. For staircases with more then 4 steps, the most practical solution for universal access is a wheelchair lift or an elevator. These options are costly, but considering the high rate of injuries on stairs the cost can be justified.

I’ve been to many places where staircases were replaced by ramps. Some people think that's absurd, but why? Consider the growing number of individuals who are aging and living with a disability who don't negotiate stairs comfortably. It's less likely for a serious injury to occur if a footing or balance is compromised on a ramp or grade level surface in comparison to falling on a staircase, stair free buildings begin to make more sense. Investigation time, how many unnecessary injuries and deaths have been caused by stairs? When moving a piece of furniture, is wheeling it up a ramp or lifting it up stairs safer? Can fitness be achieved by walking a ramp?

How often do injuries or death occur by walking up or down a safe ramp? Traffic on ramps instead of stairs may be compared to a driving a gradual hill instead of motoring off a steep cliff.

If buildings had level or gradual sloped entry, ramps, lifts and elevators instead of just stairs as a standard this would help buildings accomplish meeting AODA standards and bring positive change.

I’m looking forward to living in a safer barrier free world!

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Louise's avatar

The length of some ramps are getting ridiculous. Elevators and lifts must be invested in in some cases.

As a person who uses a power wheelchair, I don't care if the ramp is long. It's annoying, but totally usable.

However, I really worry when:

- I see a person using a walker or a cane, getting exhausted as they wind their way up a ramp with 3 switch backs,
- I see a person using a large scooter having to do 3, 4, or 5 point turns at every bend so they can get around the corner.
- I see a person using a manual wheelchair struggling as they try to wheel uphill for that long a stretch.
- I see a person walking without a physical aide, but who is clearly having difficulty walking on the slope because of a bad knee or hip.

Ramps make sense if they're short, but if they have too many switchbacks, it gets ridiculous. If the ramp is outside and needs to be shovelled, it's even more dangerous.

In one case I heard of a post office banning scooters from using the ramp because of safety concerns in the winter. See: http://www.northbaynipissing.com/news-story/5260784-scooter-tumble-down-....

There must be a way to find a balance.... more food for thought.

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Texthelp's avatar

Most organizations embrace the need to make buildings accessible for people with disabilities. But just as public buildings have disabled access, websites too must be accessible to all. Websites are the often the first point of access to organizations today. Yet 15 million Canadians have print disabilities or literacy challenges which mean they can’t understand the information on your website.
Innovative support software, Browsealoud, adds speech, reading and translation support to websites, making them accessible to people with …

Cognitive and learning disabilities, like dyslexia
Low Literacy
English / French as a second language
Mild Visual impairments

All features are free to the user and are accessed from an easy-to-use toolbar launched from your website. Browsealoud can help your organisation comply with AODA. If you want to know more leave a comment or visit www.texthelp.com

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MC's avatar
Nov 25, 2015 - 18:44

It will help businesses if a more accessible and bilingual Web CMS existed (right now the only think that can be done must be created from scratch). Voice recognition software on YouTube should also be available in French (not just translating English to French). Real effort has to be made to help businesses in their accessible purchase as well, for example, offer criterion to add in a RFP (a little bit like the American VPAT but with the bilingualism component and adjusted to the AODA standards). A standardize bilingual training to create accessible documents from MS Word, Excel, PPT and Adobe PDF with a quick quiz would be great as well.

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Miles Nadal JCC's avatar

At the Miles Nadal JCC, we’ve emphasized community and staff engagement around access issues. Community Advisory Committees help us identify, remove and prevent barriers. Staff training has helped us increase capacity. We’ve worked with many community partners to find no- and low-cost solutions to bridging gaps. We do share the experience of the challenges of retrofitting an older facility. We are renovating our pool to make it more accessible. We embrace both the values of inclusion and the business case, but there are larger items with larger costs that are hard for a non-profit to meet.

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20 States on Wheels's avatar

The point of having accessibility laws is to integrate people with disabilities (PWD) as active participants in the community. But if the law does not communicate well which buildings have been made accessible, PWD may not know to use the accessible services. No matter how many buildings the law makes accessible, if the law fails to communicate accessibility effectively, it will fail in its goal.

We wrote a travel guide for wheelchair users to the U.S. and found that information about accessibility is not at all well communicated. We really believe in the potential of a certification model because such a model could not only incentivize businesses to become accessible, it could, most importantly, communicate clearly to PWD which businesses are accessible, so that they actually know that they can use those services.

The law's goal is to make people with disabilities active participants, but it cannot work alone; a certification model can close the gap between simply making a place accessible and having people actually go there. In our opinion, a certification model working in conjunction with accessibility laws may be necessary to achieve the goal of fully integrating of PWD as active participants in society.

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Jennifer Young 's avatar
Dec 8, 2015 - 11:55

To address commonly faced attitudinal barriers- we developed a Learning Lab. The learning lab focuses on educating business owners on the various types of disabilities and how they can educate their staff. It also includes information on people-first language. We offer this as a tool to anyone who wants to address attitudinal barriers with businesses:

http://accessingwhitby.com/first-steps/learning-lab

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DeafBlind Ontario Services's avatar

The aim of our Accessibility Guidelines for Sensory Loss is to provide solutions to creating spaces that promote independence, functionality, and safety for individuals who are deafblind /with a sensory loss in a residential environment. DeafBlind Ontario Services’ Accessibility Guidelines may also be considered for use in the wider context of the built environment when designing inclusive spaces. The accessible design approaches provided, emphasize the inclusion of efficient design, space maneuverability, the importance of illumination, and the use of colour, texture and specialized products.

Contrary to popular belief, accessible design does not need to be expensive and may esthetically enhance a space. Many of the solutions provided in our Accessibility Guidelines require some simple techniques and adaptations to make spaces within a residential environment more accessible.

To download a free copy of the guide, go to http://deafblindontario.com

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Matthew Abas's avatar

The York Catholic School Board has an accessibility policy that excludes students. Since they exclude students, accessibility issues are common place in my school where 25% of the students have I.E.P's ( Individual Education Plans). As part of the certification process I would expect that the Accessibility Policy is reviewed, and not considered compliant just because it exists. I also recommend that YCDSB be a test for the certification process since it is so easy to find violations. When accommodation is done using laptops ( as accessibility devices) that need network connectivity to work, all portables need to have WiFi. Training of the teachers of disability law as it pertains to human rights is lacking in my high school ( I am making video). Access to services is not always physical access. While a person in a wheel chair would not be put in a portable without a ramp, a person with a non-visible or mental disability can be treated with discrimination and be assigned to a portable where they can not access the service provided when no WiFi exists.

YCDSB suggests their Policy 208 covers students with disabilities but it does not meet the requirements of AODA. It also defines a student as "5.3 Student The term student when used with parent/guardian refers to a student over 18 years of age. " Since most students are 18 or less while in high school, Policy 208 does not cover most students.

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Matthew Abas's avatar

Are you tall? If you can't access a service because you are tall then discrimination exists and your height is a disability. Finding driving lessons in York Region was near impossible for me as the small cars used do not accommodate tall people.

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LK81's avatar
Jan 10, 2016 - 11:03

It is personally shocking to see how many businesses do not have an ramp, and often even a handrail. Without a handrail it is extremely difficult for me to get up (or down) any number of steps - and this isn't a difficult accessibility option to implement for any business.

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Louise's avatar
Jan 13, 2016 - 22:17

POS (Point of Sale) Terminal (or PIN Pad for debit card transactions):

A simple and cheap fix for a store owner, that will accommodate their customers, is to refuse to buy a device that must be mounted on a fixed unmovable mount.

By purchasing a terminal that can be immediately incapacitated if it is stolen, or that can be locked down in such a way as to be height adjustable and usable by customers of all heights and abilities, the business will be accommodating.

The bank that supplies these devices will quickly update their design to one that will accommodate if all businesses and service providers stopped buying the ones that are less secure if they're not locked down.

Cost to business owner - virtually free.

There might be a higher cost to buy the more sophisticated POS Terminal, but the savings will come by avoiding fines for NOT being AODA compliant.

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Louise's avatar

Did you know that heavy door closer devices are often in violation of the fire code? Some of them make the doors too heavy. If you read this Blog, complete with links to government safety memos, it will help to explain this point: http://wheelchairdemon-fixit.blogspot.ca/2015/10/heavy-door-closer-hardw...

The blog also gives some examples of door closing hardware that is lighter and cheaper, and will achieve the fire code goal of closing the door if the occupant runs out during an alarm.

The Fire Code can also help in determining a safe width of aisles in stores. Some aisles are still too narrow to navigate a wheelchair through. To read more, visit: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.ca/2012/01/compliance-with-regulation-42...

Finally, find a better way to prevent grocery carts from being stolen. Some stores install posts that block people from stealing the carts. The posts also block a person using a wheelchair from going in.

To accommodate for this, some of these businesses have installed a door bell so the customer can alert an employee to help them get in. The thing is, once the customer gets into the store, the employee reinstalls the blocking device.

The danger here is - what will happen in an emergency? Will the employee think to stay back and ensure the person using a wheelchair gets out of the store before they evacuate the store themselves? I wouldn't count on it. Panic does funny things to people.

The safer thing to do is find another way to prevent customers from stealing the shopping carts.

By thinking about the fire code and perhaps inviting the fire inspector in to give advice, it might help to eliminate a lot of needless barriers - ones that don't often get thought about.

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C Johnson's avatar

Barriers within the built environment or public services:
-new buildings or renovated buildings still being built without accessibility features (understood that not all buildings can be retrofit, but why are new/renovated buildings still allowed to be inaccessible?)
-many curb cuts and sidewalks are too narrow or blocked by signage
-crosswalk buttons are often placed where they cannot be reached (thus a safety risk when a disabled person has to cross against the light)
-cluttered aisles that are thus rendered impassible by mobility aid users
-inaccessible pay phones (too high, difficult to insert payment)
-service counters that are too high, or service queue areas that are too narrow (segregating abled vs. disabled service areas frequently do not work, esp. at busy times)
-inaccessible ATM or interac machines (often mounted too high where it is difficult to read the buttons and because of the angle everyone can see what you are typing)
-inaccessible hospitals and clinics, medical equipment (door knobs that are difficult to grasp, imaging equipment that does not accommodate people who cannot stand up)
-broken/missing door openers (very common)
-inaccessible restaurant patios (patios not only block sidewalks, but are often themselves not accessible)
-insufficient accessible public bathrooms (often there is only one accessible stall per bathroom, and is often a multi-use stall, i.e. used also for baby-changing, etc.), or supposedly accessible bathrooms that are not (e.g. grab bar installed too far from toilet)
-businesses sometimes refuse entrance or refuse service to certain patrons, wheelchair users (this should be illegal and considered discrimination)
-transportation companies (e.g. taxis) that are allowed to charge exorbitant rates for disabled customers (e.g. charging $40 for wheelchair user to travel a few blocks)

Technology barriers:
-software and websites are often not WCAG-compliant (e.g. more businesses should consider using the Governance of Canada Web Experience Toolkit for their websites)
-online reservation systems often lack options to request accessible goods/services (concerts, trains, hotels)
-accessibility policies on websites should be in accessible formats (i.e. not inaccessible PDFs)
-accessibility policies on websites should not be simply generic notices about accessibility, but specify exactly how that business is accessible

Simply having published standards or best practices regarding the height/placement/use of objects and guidelines on how to implement accessibility features into new or renovated buildings or websites could go a long way towards certification.

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