Article in the Public Sector Digest

Photo of a ramp with text "Why Organizations Need to be Proactive on Accessibility"

This month’s edition of the Public Sector Digest features an article I wrote about the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and why it is so important for both the public and private sector to embrace a culture of accessibility. You can check it out in the November print edition of the magazine or view it online with a membership here.

Speaking Engagements

Aurora Accessibility Celebration

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of delivering a presentation at the Aurora City Hall as part of an accessibility celebration happening in the city. A small but engaged crowd of citizens and city councillors heard my presentation before offering up their own opinions and advice on how to make Aurora a more accessible city. This event was particularly memorable for me because it was a group of people (including the Mayor) getting together to make Aurora as accessible as possible, not just meet the baseline of access as required by the AODA. We need more progressive cities like Aurora!


Hey London, I’m kind of mad at you right now

Disability protest with famous MLK quote

Hey London, we need to have a little chat. More specifically, social justice and advocate community of London. You know what? I’m going to come right out and say it: You guys have kind of pissed me off…

Speaking Engagements

Free Screening of “Idling: A Transit Story” @ Ryerson University

This week I had the chance to screen “Idling: A Transit Story” at Ryerson University and deliver a short presentation about my trip to Ottawa in ’08. After the presentation I accompanied some students around campus for some good ol’ fashion stairbombing before calling it a day. Huge thank you to Ryerson for being so supportive and I look forward to seeing you in the new year at the RyeACCESS conference.


Western Fair Access Program

Ensuring the Western Fair is accessible for people with disabilities has been a big problem, specifically a decision made last year to begin charging individuals with disabilities entry (which you can read about here). While I fully endorse PWDs paying full fare for entry, I do believe it’s unfair to ask the same of their support workers. As it turns out, Western Fair is taking steps to overcome this barrier by developing an “access card” which will allow people with disabilities to bring a support worker with them to the Fair for free.

Check out a recent visit to the London Accessibility Advisory Committee for more information about the Western Fair Access Program, courtesy of Greg Fowler from From My Bottom Step:



Accessing Democracy

Accessible voting sign telling people how to provide Elections Canada feedback on voting booth accessibility
Clara and I love the "interpretive" wheelchair guy at the bottom. Totally vanguard art.

Over the past few years, much has been made about the lack of accessible polling stations across the country. While a bulk of the publicized concerns surround the use (or the lack) of technology to allow people with visual impairments to vote independently, the problems stretch much further. For instance, I will never forget reading about the polling station in Toronto that was located downstairs. Is it sick that my first thought was “Man, I wish that happened to me”?

Dreams of rabble-rousing aside, this little incident served as a bit of a wake-up call to Elections Canada, who are now actively working to make sure future elections will be accessible to all Canadians, regardless of their ability.

Articles Interventions

Operation: Stairbomb London

Caution tape with a sign attached reading "Sorry, no access. Stairs Out of Order"
Let's shut'um all down!

To celebrate the 1-year anniversary of Cripz: A Webcomic going online, we’re asking everyone to grab their caution tape and shut down as many stairways as possible.

What is Stairbombing?
Stairbombing was invented to help people understand (and empathize) with why accessibility is important, by “closing down” stairways with caution tape and a snarky “Out of Service” sign commenting on how annoying it must be to not be able to access a place they really want to go.

Why are we stairbombing?
Because, quite frankly, we’re tired of not being able to go anywhere! One of the biggest challenges for someone with a physical disability is the lack of accessible public spaces. From restaurants to schools, London is woefully inaccessible. The result is that people with disabilities are one of the most marginalized populations in our community simply because they can’t go to the same places as everyone else.

How can you help?

  1. Check out the Facebook event here.
  2. Invite all of your friends to the event and give us a few shout-outs on your social media (facebook, twitter, friendster, icq, etc)!
  3. Write a blog about the event and why you feel accessibility is important.
  4. Form a team of friends, bring a camera and meet us at the band shell in Victoria Park at 7pm on the 30th! We’ll provide you with all the supplies you need.
  5. Head out into that big bold world and shut down as many stairs as possible!

If we all work together, we can shut down a critical mass of stairs and show the people of London just how inaccessible this city is!


Stairs and Pornography: Unlikely Bedfellows

A creative staircase

Clara recently found this very cool post (with hilarious title) on Tumblr and knew I would love it (she was right, obviously). While the concept is pretty good and the photos are quite cool it’s actually the title of the post that caught my eye. No, not just because it has the word “porn” in it. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that stairs and pornography actually have something in common–you just have to consider the origin of stairs. Please note that there isn’t any pornographic content in this blog so if you came here looking for that, we’re sorry to disappoint.


Police Accessibility Fail

"I saw the signs and it opened up my eyes. I saw the sign."
“I saw the signs and it opened up my eyes. I saw the sign.”

I snapped this classic photo yesterday on my way home from campus. Apologies for the low quality image, I took it with my iPhone and when the police officer saw that she was busted, she peeled out of the spot, never to be seen again. Still, I wonder how long she would have sat there in the wheelchair parking if someone hadn’t started snapping photos.

(Click on the image to enlarge.)


Adapted Ability

Two years ago, I wrote my Masters thesis entitled “Augmented Ability, Integrated Identity: Understanding Sapienism, Adaptive Technology, and the Construction of Disability,” which compares the language used to describe disability with the language that anti-technologists, like the Luddites, use to talk about technology. What I found was a startling similarity, specifically that both depended on words describing or insinuating losing “control” or “autonomy” when relying on technology. Ultimately, I postulated that perhaps our lack of comfort with disability actually stems from our inherent distrust of technology: that we feel uneasy about the equipment rather than the person who uses it. Editors note, yes I did make up the word “Sapienism.” Whatever, I’m an academic…it’s my job to make up words. If you don’t like it, you better hope I don’t make up a new word to call you because it will be fiercetastic…ferociotical…beastimal…badtastic?

Anyway, that was two years ago and, as we all know, times they be a changin’. I feel our society is slowly getting over our collective distrust of gadgets, especially younger people, when it comes to social technology, like smart phones, that have become an essential tool in our day-to-day private and public lives. Whether this is a good or bad thing for society remains to be seen, but one definite positive to our unrelenting demand for smaller, faster and cheaper smart phones is the incredible accessibility opportunity these portable processors provide. A recently released report by Mobile Future entitled “Mobile Ability: The Transformational Impact of Wireless Innovation for People with Disabilities,” explains how, through mobile technology, individuals with visual and auditory limitations are being “liberated” through apps that will convert text to speech and provide turn-by-turn GPS navigation, meaning the “guide dog” is about to go the way of the dodo. This bodes poorly for my current service dog Kurzweil, as it looks like his lack of 3G connectivity could be a huge limitation going forward. Having said that, I think he’s safe until the iPhone comes with a furry case.


I think what’s truly great about this smart phone technology for individuals with disabilities is that it allows us to use consumer products that are both universally used and competitively priced (I’m looking at you Shoppers Home Healthcare…). This means rather than using the “weird” wheelchair or the “strange” cane, we’re moving to a point in our society that accessibility is finally being incorporated into mainstream products rather than being supplied only as a specialty order. This is the true spirit of inclusive design that we should all be striving for!

PS: If I ever launch a rap career, “Strange Cane” is going to be my first break-out jam. Ya huuuurd.