A Voice of Our Own: October 2009

Volume 27, Issue 4

On the CCD Agenda

CCD Member Group Updates

On the CCD Agenda

The Value of the Canadian Human Rights Commission to People with Disabilities

(This piece was originally sent to all Members of Parliament as an Open Letter.)

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD), a human rights organization of people with disabilities working in support of an inclusive and accessible Canada, believes that the time has come for organizations such as ours to present public testimonials regarding the benefits provided by Human Rights Commissions to our community; because there is a vocal, biased and high-profile attack against the Commission underway. For example, Mark Steyn, a Maclean's columnist, has become a vitriolic critic of the CHRC's disposition of cases under Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Indeed, Mr. Steyn, in his Thursday, September 17, 2009 blog, made the following statement,

In that long ago spring of 2008, the rules were very simple: under the Canadian "Human Rights" Tribunal, to be accused of a Section 13 thought crime was to be convicted. In the entire history of Section 13, every defendant brought before the CHRT had been found guilty. It would be unfair to compare this to the justice systems of Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot, since even those eminent jurists felt obliged to let someone off once in a while just for appearances' sake. Only in Canada was a 100 per cent conviction rate merely reassuring proof of the Dominion's progressive commitment to "human rights".

As the critical reader will discern, Mr. Steyn purposefully employs terminology in an inaccurate manner to create in the reader's mind the image of unfairness. The CHRC is being portrayed as a tribunal which breaches the very ideals and principles which it is mandated to uphold—fairness, equality and nondiscrimination. If this portrayal goes unchallenged, it threatens to damage Canadians' confidence in an extremely important national institution established to ensure that Canadians in vulnerable economic and social circumstances have access to justice.

There is no question that Mark Steyn and others have every right to challenge laws and practices that they believe offend rights guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. CCD's concern is that in the media storm that has arisen around the Commission's hate speech work, many Canadians may be losing sight of a larger issue—the important role that the Commission has played in ensuring that Canada is a place where people with disabilities, women, people of color, Aboriginals, gays and lesbians and other members of disadvantaged communities "have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have," as is promised in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

As some journalists are presenting a caricature of the CHRC to the general public, you, as a Member of Parliament, may be hearing from Canadians who are indignant about the CHRC's mandate and how this role is being fulfilled by the Commission and its staff and adjudicators. CCD is sharing its perspective on the value of Canada's human rights system with you, so that you are aware of how the CHRC has made Canada a more inclusive and accessible society for persons living with disabilities.

People with disabilities are disproportionately disadvantaged in Canada.

  • Many Canadians with disabilities are too likely to live in poverty.
  • Over two million Canadian adults with disabilities lack one or more of the educational, workplace, aids, home modification or other supports they need to participate fully in their communities.
  • Over 56% of working-age adults with disabilities are currently unemployed or out of the labor market. For women with disabilities the rate is almost 60%.
  • According to the International Labor Organization, the annual loss of global GDP due to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labor market is between US$1.37 trillion and US$1.94 trillion.
  • More than 10,000 persons with intellectual disabilities remain warehoused in institutions, including group homes and congregate care facilities, across this country.
  • Slightly more than half of Canadian children with disabilities who need aids and devices need more than what they receive.
  • Rates of violence and abuse against people with disabilities, in particular women with disabilities, are among the highest for any group in Canadian society. (End Exclusion)

This disadvantage exists because of the barriers that remain in Canadian society which prevent people with disabilities from using services, getting jobs and participating in community life. Forty percent of the complaints received by the CHRC are from people with disabilities seeking redress for discrimination on the ground of disability. While many obstacles to full and equal participation remain for people with disabilities, the Commission is playing a vital role in assisting Canada move toward the achievement of a barrier-free society.

Some examples drawn from the public record provide a real life demonstration of how Canada's federal human rights system has assisted individuals with disabilities surmount obstacles which keep this group of Canadians disadvantaged, marginalized and on the sidelines of community life.

Like other Canadians, deaf people enjoy television but broadcasters have been reluctant to caption all their programming. Following a complaint by Henry Vlug, a Deaf Canadian, against CBC, the CHRC ordered 100% captioning of television programming. (Falardeau-Ramsay)

The CHRC also helps people with disabilities convince their employers to accommodate them in the workplace. For example, in the case Dawson v. Canada Post Corporation, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Canada Post to "work with the Canadian Human Rights Commission to modify existing policies and to conduct workplace equity, accommodation and sensitivity training for managers and staff, notably in relation to autism and autistic individuals." This decision was the result of a complaint filed by Canada Post employee Michelle Dawson, a woman with autism, who "had been discriminated against by Canada Post when coworkers spread rumors about her self-injury and about an alleged propensity to violence, and her employer ordered her to undergo a medical evaluation when she took a leave of absence because of the rumors." (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 2008. Annual Report.)

In Audet v. Canadian National Railway 2006 CHRT 25, the CHRT found that CNR discriminated against Mr. Audet, who had been working as a brakeman, when he had a seizure. While CNR did not dismiss Mr. Audet, it stopped giving him shifts. The CHRT found that Mr. Audet had been discriminated against on the basis of disability and was ordered to return Mr. Audet to service as soon as possible. (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 2006. Annual Report.)

In Green v. Public Service Commission of Canada, Treasury Board and Human Resources Development Canada, the CHRT found that Ms. Green, a person with a learning disability, had been discriminated against on the ground of disability because the respondents followed practices that deprived people with learning disabilities of employment opportunities. In summary, as a result of this decision, Ms Green got the job she had been seeking as well as some compensation for lost wages and hurt feelings, and the departments were ordered to ensure their staff follow federal policies aimed at preventing discrimination and that the departments train their staff in support of nondiscrimination in employment practices. (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 1998. Annual Report.)

As these examples demonstrate, with the assistance of Human Rights Commissions, individual Canadians with a disability are able to cause major Canadian corporations and Federal government departments to change their discriminatory practices in favor of equality. In some instances, the benefit extends beyond the individual complainant when a respondent is ordered to reform their policies and practices. Systemic solutions affect change that has a transformative affect on Canada, creating policies, practices and services that function in a manner respectful of the needs and varying abilities of a wide range of Canadians.

Canadians with disabilities believe there is an on-going need for Human Rights Commissions. For people with disabilities the barrier creation process is on-going as new technologies and products continue to be developed without consideration of how these services and products interface with various disabilities. As computer technology becomes more pervasive many people with disabilities are encountering new barriers, where previously none existed. For example, the entertainment units on airplanes which require the user to make selections from a screen presenting information in a visual format are a new barrier for travelers with a vision impairment. In coming months, the Commission will be addressing this issue and, we hope, removing another barrier.

CCD asks, that as Canadians discuss the work of the CHRC and other provincial commissions, they remember the long standing contribution Commissions have made to the creation of an accessible and inclusive Canada. Canadians with disabilities need Commissions to proactively remove barriers that prohibit our full and equal participation in Canadian society. CCD urges all governments to support and resource Commissions, for they are a key player in making Canada more inclusive and accessible.


  • Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 1998. Annual Report.
  • Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 2006. Annual Report.
  • Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 2008. Annual Report.
  • Falardeau-Ramsay, Michelle. 2001 "Last Word". The Canadian Association of Journalists.
  • End Exclusion Web Site.
  • Lynch, Jennifer. 2009. "The Federal Human Rights System: Modern Approaches, Modern Challenges." Speaking notes for Jennifer Lynch, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission for Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) 2009 Annual Conference. Monday, June 15, 2009.
  • Steyn, Mark. 2009. "It took a while but Section 13 is dead. Macleans.ca.
  • Steyn, Mark. 2009. The fat cats vs. Blazing Cat Fur. Macleans. July 6, 2009.
  • Worthington, Peter. 2009. "Rein in the human rights bureaucracy" Toronto Sun.

Current Transportation Issues: A CCD Perspective

(In recent correspondence, CCD has made all Canada's Ministers of Transport aware of barriers facing travelers with disabilities in Canada.)

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is well known for its long history of advocacy regarding accessible transportation for Canadians with disabilities. In fact, access to Canada's transportation systems was a foundational issue for the creation of our organization over 30 years ago. Certainly, improvements have been made but many barriers still exist and sadly, new ones are being created. In this article, CCD highlights current transportation barriers creating access problems for Canadians with disabilities, reports on the recommendations it has made to Canada's Ministers of Transport, shares information on approaches being taken in other countries and presents recommendations it has made to the Federal Minister of Transport, the Hon. John Baird, MP.

Greyhound bus service

Greyhound had announced suspension of their services in Manitoba and part of Ontario. For many persons with disabilities, accessible bus service is the only means of travel both across this country and within provinces. Bus services are particularly critical for rural and remote regions of the country. It is CCD's understanding that a short-term solution has been worked out. CCD has urged Canada's Ministers of Transport to find a long-term solution that is fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

Regulation for accessibility

In the past, CCD has not found the federal Department of Transportation to be open to discussions of regulating modes of transportation under federal jurisdiction for access. Since there has been no dialogue on creating an action plan to improve accessibility at Transport Canada, CCD has found itself left only with the option of bringing forward complaints or litigation to ensure that national transportation systems become accessible. CCD's seven year battle with VIA Rail regarding their purchase of inaccessible passenger rail cars ultimately ended at the Supreme Court of Canada and VIA was ordered to retrofit the cars they purchased. That decision clearly stated that transportation providers are not to create new barriers to access. Equally challenging for us was the battle with Air Canada and WestJet regarding what is known as "one person/one fare". This case ensured that people with disabilities requiring attendants for services not provided in flight by airline personnel do not have to buy two tickets. Again while the complaint was successful, this was a long battle which could have been resolved through policy and law reform.

Canadians with disabilities have concluded from past experience and from the fact that new barriers continue to be created that access will only be assured if regulations are developed so that carriers are required to comply with access standards. In Ontario, this need is being addressed through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

It is CCD's analysis that market forces have not, and will not, ensure access and that only through the creation of regulations will Canadians with disabilities be assured the same access to public transportation that nondisabled persons take for granted. CCD does not believe we need "disability legislation" at the national level to create regulations, in that existing legislation governing federal transportation has the capacity for the creation of regulations.

Other countries regulate for access

CCD's call for regulation is not an unusual approach to the problem of inaccessible transportation. Other developed countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, regulate their transportation industries for access. Canadians with disabilities expect Canada to keep pace with the best practices adopted in other countries, which are similar to ours.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A Transportation Success Story—US trains are compliant with ADA access regulations. American airports and airplanes are world leaders in accessibility, and because of their influence on world markets, American standards of aircraft design are becoming international standards.

Title II: Public Transportation of the ADA required the provision of accessible public transport. Regulations passed pursuant to the ADA govern the purchase of new or used vehicles and the reconditioning of old ones. In addition to very detailed regulations, there are legally mandated Manuals on Transportation Design produced by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Board that describe an accessible vehicle. The Public Transportation sections of Title II are enforceable either through private law suits or by registering a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Federal Transit Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Privately operated transportation [e.g. trains and intercity bus] is covered under Title III. Complaints of Title III violations may be filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division. The Department is authorized to bring a law suit where there is a pattern of discrimination. Private actions are rare. This reflects well on the ability of counsel at DOT and DOJ to represent the interests of people with disabilities effectively. Due to their regulatory framework, America has better access than Canada.

UK's Disability Discrimination Act (1995)—The Mobility and Inclusion Unit of the UK Department of Transport oversees regulation for access. Before vehicles go into service in the UK, they require a license from the Inclusion Unit.

The inaccessible passenger cars purchased by VIA Rail in 2000 were originally destined for the UK. When the manufacturer sought a license to operate the trains on British rails, it was refused because they did not meet access standards.

Canadian travelers with disabilities wish that Canada had a body with the power to refuse to license inaccessible transportation equipment that carriers seek to put into service. For years, CCD has been urging the regulation of Canadian passenger carriers for access.

Put access on the country's transportation agenda

CCD has urged all of Canada's transportation ministers to put access on their agenda. To that end, CCD shared with them the following short overview of current transportation access issues that have been identified at both the national and provincial/territorial levels.

Barriers in the federal transportation system

  1. Air Canada's smaller CRJ planes are in many instances not accessible to persons with disabilities in that standard sized wheelchairs do not fit in the cargo hold. Boarding of these smaller planes now at some airports occurs on the runway because there are insufficient gates able to accommodate these planes and with some gates stairs must be used to board the plane. This recreates a barrier of 30 years ago.
  2. Airports continue to expand their electronic ticketing processes. These "ticket spitters" are not accessible to persons with vision impairments or to some people with mobility impairments.
  3. The VIA Rail case did require the retrofit of 33 coach cars but the sleeper cars remain inaccessible.
  4. An individual who is deaf/blind was required to fly with an attendant. There was no individual assessment of his capacity to travel independently. The case remains before the Courts.
  5. The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has been unable to institute systemic or system wide solutions to complaints thus the same complaint must be filed again and again.
  6. Federal carriers rely upon Voluntary Codes of Practice. The recent experience of Canadians with disabilities is that these voluntary codes do not result in full access, regulations are required to ensure access.

Barriers in the provincial/territorial transportation systems

  1. Repeatedly across this country people with disabilities have had to be aggressive to ensure bus and subways stops are audibly announced. Individual human rights complaints have been filed to rectify this but there has been no systemic change.
  2. Paratransit systems created some years ago have experienced significant increase in demand from persons with disabilities and from elderly persons, yet there has not been a similar increase in supply. With an aging population demand will continue to rise. Service in many instances is being withdrawn or becoming more limited.
  3. Audible pedestrian signals are being installed but progress is slow and in some centers not provided. There is no local, provincial or national government indication that this is a priority.
  4. Even though 48 hour notice is provided to book an accessible intercity or interprovincial bus, persons with disabilities report buses that are not lift equipped or whose lift is broken arrive at depots.
  5. In some instances, even though ordered, an accessible bus was not provided and the carrier had to provide taxi service for the individual. (ex. Winnipeg to Brandon)
  6. Certainly more accessible taxis are being put on the road but as yet some major centers provide very limited or no accessible taxi service.
  7. Accessible transportation services and stations in rural areas remain a problem.

CCD's Recommendations for Building An Inclusive and Accessible Federal Transportation System

CCD has presented the following recommendations to the Minister of Transport the Hon. John Baird, MP.

The Minister of Transport Canada must immediately develop accessibility regulations similar to the United States regulatory model for all federally regulated modes of transportation.

The Minister of Transport must immediately develop a Disability Organizations Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation that is resourced to undertake research and provide advice to the Minister for advancing access and inclusion for persons with disabilities to all federally regulated modes.

The Minister of Transport must rebuild the capacity of the Accessibility Unit within Transport Canada to develop a national action plan, research success in other jurisdictions, report annually on achievement of stated goals, monitor type and focus of complaints made to CTA, and ensure appropriate consultation with the disability community.

The Government of Canada must attach a strong access standard principle to all infrastructure initiatives.

The Transport Canada Accessibility Unit must make public an action plan for creating an Inclusive and Accessible National Transportation System and report annually on its goals and achievements.

The Canadian Transportation Agency must develop an action plan for addressing systemic barriers encountered by persons with disabilities.

If you are concerned about the lack of access in federal modes of transportation, you may want to share your concerns with the Hon. John Baird, Minister of Transport.

Inclusion: More than Mere Access

By: John Rae, CCD Vice Chairperson and Past Chairperson of AEBC

A presentation at the Collections, Connections and Communities Conference, Ottawa, Ontario, October 4, 2009

Whenever you hear the words "access" or "accessibility," what thoughts immediately come into your mind? Most people think of a sloping ramp or accessible washroom. This is understandable, since the International Symbol of Access is a stylized wheelchair.

However, a more inclusive concept of access requires much more.

Some of us look different, talk differently, learn in different ways, move around differently, or use adaptive equipment to communicate or perform our jobs.

True access involves understanding and valuing differences. The disabled community in Canada is diverse and growing. It includes individuals who have both visible and invisible disabilities. It currently comprises about one in seven persons in our population, and that percentage is rising as our population ages. This figure does not include our friends and family members, all of whom are potential patrons of your facility.

The sequence of learning about access and inclusion is an example of moving from the "medical model" of disability to a "social model" approach. It started with the relatively simple idea of enabling people using wheelchairs to enter buildings, and unfortunately some institutions have never gone beyond this.

The next crucial stage was the transition from seeing the person using the wheelchair as an access problem to seeing the individual as a visitor with an impairment for whom the museum or art gallery posed an access problem. Service providers had to learn to take responsibility for the problems created by steps even if the physical environment dated back many decades.

From this starting point, many museums, art galleries, wilderness facilities and heritage properties began to learn about other disabilities, including much less visible disabilities— learning disabilities and mental health problems. This was part of a wider process of learning about, and responding to, audiences in all their variety and complexity, a process which once begun can never end.

Looking back on this process can teach us many lessons about how museums, art galleries, wilderness facilities and heritage properties do and do not learn.

Accessibility definitely does include access to premises, but it also covers all aspects of your organization, its programs and what it offers. True inclusion must provide access to collections, to educational programs, to employment and volunteer opportunities, and to information about what's on display and what's happening in your facility.

Museums and art galleries come in different settings and sizes. While the focus of this presentation is more on major art galleries and museums, many of the same principles apply to smaller heritage properties and wilderness trails in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Access to Premises

Getting in is key to taking part in what's happening. Gaining access to and being able to easily move around a facility—the entire facility—is paramount. Providing parking spots close to the entrance, level entrances and walkways, adequate lighting, non-slip floors, elevators, accessible washrooms, clear signage, minimizing surface glare, providing that occasional bench for a quick rest, and accommodating staff will make your facility more "inclusive" and inviting to a larger number of patrons.

Today, a great deal of material on making buildings physically and attitudinally accessible exists, including check lists that you can use to review accessibility in your facility and develop a plan for making needed improvements. However, a better approach to accomplishing this is to consult with a number of visitors with different disabilities, invite them to come through your facility, and ask for their input. This direct involvement is much better than a check list and this direct contact will give staff the chance to interact with the "real experts" on disability—persons with disabilities ourselves, and to develop useful links with individuals and organizations in your community.

Publicizing Your Programs

How do you promote your programs? Are they only advertised by print flyers at the entrance to your facility? Or do you also have a TTY with staff who check it regularly, provide brochures in plain language and multiple formats or put a message on your phone line, especially at night?

Most museums, art galleries, and heritage properties now operate a website. Is your organization's website fully accessible? Does it conform to WC3 standards? Are videos captioned? Do links on your website include alt tabs so a blind person will not have to guess what the link contains? Are there text descriptions of photos, and are these descriptions in plain language?

Accessible design provides information to people with a range of disabilities, and it also provides websites that are more usable by all, and available through a wider array of technology.


How are staff and volunteers recruited? Do you rely solely on word of mouth, or does your organization have a plan in place to reach out to various groups in your community to ensure a more diverse work force and pool of volunteers? Do you train your staff on diversity issues, and do staff members know about the duty to accommodate short of undue hardship?

Representation of Persons with Disabilities

What material exists in your collection that pertains to disabled people's lives and history? Persons with disabilities do have a history, though it may not be as well documented as it should be! At a time when museums are increasingly concerned to research and present "hidden histories," why is disability rarely, if ever, considered?

A UK project, "Rethinking Disability Representation in Museums and Galleries," identified a wealth of material in museum and art gallery collections. However, much of this was in storage, and not on display. Where objects and artworks were displayed, their connection with disability was rarely made explicit or interpreted to visitors. Representations of people with disabilities in displays and exhibitions, when presented, most often conformed to prevalent stereotypes found in other media—in film, literature, television and charity advertising. These stereotypes included people with disabilities as freaks, as passive and dependent recipients of charity, Biblical miracle cures; and as heroes who somehow transcend their disability by overcoming the challenges presented by their impairments. Depictions of people with disabilities in everyday life were practically non-existent.

Interviews conducted with curators helped to explain this situation. Many who were interviewed were open to including representations of people with disabilities in exhibitions and displays but were concerned how this might be achieved. Many expressed a fear of causing offence, of making mistakes. Curators were anxious not to promote freak-show approaches through displaying "difference" in ways which might encourage staring or other inappropriate forms of looking.

Other display dilemmas emerged during the research. Should we tell (and if so how should we tell) the difficult stories surrounding disability history—of asylums, industrial and war injury, holocaust, freak-show history, people's personal experiences of pain, discrimination and marginalization?

In what circumstances should an object's link with disability be made explicit where it might not otherwise be obvious to the audience? How can the material in collections be presented in ways which incorporate perspectives and insights from disabled people themselves?

The social model of disability provides a powerful lens to challenge and revise such negative representations by highlighting the environmental, attitudinal and social barriers that people with various disabilities face in struggles for equality and basic human rights.

"Out From Under"

Last year, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted "Out from Under: Disability, History and Things to Remember," a powerful exhibit that briefly explored Canadian disability history. This exhibition of 13 diverse objects was produced in collaboration with students and alumni from Ryerson University.

Participants were invited to identify an object representing a particular era or moment in Canadian disability history, and explore its significance.

Each of the pieces unfolds from a one word title, for example:

  • Laboring draws attention to the unpaid labors of three women inmates at the Toronto Hospital for the Insane during the early 1900s.
  • Dressing features 16 identical sweat suits that were typically worn by inmates in Ontario's 16 residential institutions and brings attention to the thousands of Canadians with intellectual disabilities currently living in conditions equally drab and formless.
  • Packing presents a trunk sent with a seven year old boy to the Orillia Asylum for Idiots in the early 1950s. Between 1876 and 1950, almost 10,000 lives were crammed into trunks as people with intellectual disabilities were institutionalized.

Access to Programs

Do you offer public lectures? Are they held in fully accessible rooms? Do you ever provide sign language interpreters, and are these accessibility features mentioned when these events are publicized?

Do movies or films ever include descriptive narration? Descriptive Video Service (DVS) provides information on an additional audio track through a head set to fill in gaps in narrative content. Again, while this approach was developed to assist movie goers who are blind, sighted viewers often feel they also gain more from a movie when DVS is added.

Are your lecturers adept at describing what is on the slides they are using to supplement their presentation, or do they spend most of their time talking to their slides?

Do you offer special programs for school groups? Do you have some items that students can examine by touch?

Access to Information

Is information about items on display presented only by notes in tiny print on a display case? Or does your facility provide audio guides, tactile drawings, or information sheets in multiple formats, including large print and braille?

Access to Collections

How is your collection displayed? Are items only presented in glass cases, or is it possible to touch some or most of what is on display?

Do you provide educational programs, where a patron can participate in classes, or interact with staff and ask questions about what's on display? Will these staff members be willing to take a little extra time to provide more detailed descriptions of the items and answer questions?

When you are negotiating for visiting or special exhibitions, is access ever discussed with the artist or the facility providing the exhibition?

No Substitute to Tactile Access

I have traveled extensively, both in Canada and abroad. My feet have walked through many marvelous places from the past. I have visited many museums, art galleries, castles, maritime facilities, nature reserves and historic homes and properties. I have roamed around many pioneer villages throughout Canada, and touched many implements that were used to build this country. I was particularly impressed by how much could be touched at Fort William.

While there are a variety of ways to convey information about items on display, for a blind visitor, there is simply no substitute to tactile access to your regular collection, no substitute whatsoever!

As Maya Jonas of Toronto observed recently: "Touch misses nothing, whereas vision can sometimes miss or misinterpret what is there. By touching you can feel the reality of the piece."

Replicas, however, can assist.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada's only museum dedicated exclusively to the science of paleontology, houses one of the world's largest displays of dinosaurs. I suggest any visitor start in its Gift Shop, where you can examine dinosaurs in various forms, from stuffed animals to key chains, and gain a better appreciation of what you are about to see in the collection itself.

The Larco Museum in Lima, Peru, established July 28, 1926, is housed in an 18th century vice-royal mansion built over a 7th century pre-Columbian pyramid. It boasts one of the world's largest collections of pre-Columbian art including Moche, Nazca, Chimú, and Inca. It also is well known for its gallery of pre-Columbian erotic pottery, and was one of the first museums in the world to put its entire 45,000 piece collection in an electronic catalogue.

The Museum's Gift Shop contains many replicas that were cast from pre-Incan vessels from their collection. During my recent visit, as part of a specialized tour with Traveleyes of the UK, Museum staff organized an opportunity for us to touch about 20 examples of these vessels, and they even gave each of us one to take home.

At the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, I had the pleasure of examining their collection, which consists mainly of replicas of artifacts from ancient times. Begun in 1974, the collection began as a small group of replicas purchased from the Louvre, but grew to include replicas from other museums and workshops, as well as some original artifacts.

These replicas are created directly from, and are practically indistinguishable from, the originals. Most are not crafted from the same material as the original. Most are casts made of plaster or resin, not marble or bronze, for the obvious reasons of expense and weight. The replicas by large workshops—such as those at the Louvre, Paris, the British Museum, London, and the Gipsformerei der Staatlichen Museen, Berlin—are created from moulds taken directly from the original pieces. They therefore replicate exactly any damage in the original. After the plaster cast is unmoulded, it is painted and given a surface finish which matches the original.

Special tours can also help.

After a special tour of the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin, I had the opportunity to touch many items they did not have room to put on display.

At the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec, I have had special tours, especially during the summertime when their staff is augmented by archaeology and anthropology students, and touched much from their extensive First Nations exhibition.

But tactile access to items in the regular collection is paramount.

At Nelson Mandela's former house in the Soweto district of Johannesburg, South Africa, I could touch much of what was on display, including Tommy "Hit Man" Hernes World Championship boxing belt, which was a great thrill for me.

While in Copenhagen, I was asked to put on a pair of thin cotton gloves to prevent the oils from my hands from damaging any of the irreplaceable collection from ancient times that I was touching at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Their collection includes artifacts from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, the Ancient Mediterranean, and Imperial Rome. The Egypt portion of this collection alone contains more than 1800 works, including statues, reliefs, paintings, decorated mummies, painted mummy coffins and a wealth of tomb treasures. The oldest is the hippopotamus from around 3000 BCE.

Access can also be provided by taking down existing barriers.

During a tour on board Admiral Nelson's flagship, they took down the rope and allowed me to wander his quarter deck at will.

While at the Museo Inca in Cusko, Peru, the security guard took down the barrier and allowed me to examine models of two Incan cities, including Machu Picchu, which I had visited the previous day. This experience gave me an even better idea of the so called "lost city of the Incas."

Over the past several months, I have had the great pleasure of working with the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is in the process of developing its first Accessibility Plan under the Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act (AODA).

This work has included the opportunity to touch a growing number of items on display. I have been ably assisted by Jen Rinaldi, a graduate student at York University, who is as passionate about visiting museums and art galleries as I am!

When I asked for her reaction to our first "touch tour" at the AGO, she commented:

I also had the opportunity to touch art while on the tactile tour. While I am not blind, I like to experience the world through touch. For this reason, the tour was almost mystical for me. Being able to reach out and gently run my fingertips along Henry Moore's Reclining Woman was a very intimate, beautiful moment for me, a memory akin to my memories of touching the pillars of Chichen Itza and the Pantheon in Rome. It was as if I crossed a chasm that has always separated me from that statue that I have admired from afar for years, every time I have visited the AGO. Through touch I was able to connect with the woman, and the artist. I will never forget that experience, and I am so grateful to the AGO for providing me with this opportunity.

If she was so moved by her experience, can you possibly imagine how much more important the opportunity to touch objects on display is to a history buff who is blind like me! Being able to run my fingers over a shiny surface, feel the material that was used, examine the contours of a statue, and feel the face and clothing, this is what makes history real for me! Again, let me emphasize that while there are various ways of conveying information about your collections, there is simply no substitute to tactile access, no substitute whatsoever!

But the ultimate experience might be going down into the pit to touch the Terracotta Warriors outside of Xian, China. Andrew Spridgens from the UK, my room mate on my recent Peru tour, had such an experience in 1996.

"Going down into the pit to touch the Terracotta Warriors was a very special moment and one I shall never forget. It was very special because not many people have had the privilege to do this.

It was great touching something so old. They felt dustier than I imagined they would. Quite a few of them had parts missing. I would say it was one of the two great moments of the holiday, the other being walking on the Great Wall of China."

If tactile access can be provided in such diverse places as Peru, South Africa, the UK, Turkey, Xian and beyond, tactile access can be provided in museums and art galleries across Canada!


Many of you are concerned about potential damage that touching items can cause, and I assure you that I am as concerned about preserving the irreplaceable remains from the past as you are. Having these items on display at all, exposed to light, air, and flash photography, can pose some damage. However, we take these minor risks, because while preservation is a priority, these works are on display so we can all appreciate and enjoy them.

While some other members of the blind community are as interested as I am to enjoy and fully participate in all that an art gallery or museum has to offer, you are unlikely to be deluged by hordes of blind patrons wanting to touch your collections.

The more objects that you have available in your collection that can be touched, the less each individual sculpture will get handled. Elizabeth Sweeney reports: "At the National Gallery we have about 15 touchable sculptures. We at most do a tactile tour once every 2 months—so each work gets touched maybe once or at most twice a year."

Serving Your Various Publics

To be able to imagine that other people's life experiences are different from yours is an essential trait of anyone providing a public service. Recognizing that other people may experience the world differently and speculating and imagining what that might be like is, however, only the first step. No one can imagine another's life well enough to develop services for them without involving them directly.

This fundamental principle, embodied in the axiom, "nothing about us without us," may appear obvious, but when this issue is raised, staff at all levels—curators, conservators, educators and front of house staff—often feel somewhat threatened. However, the opportunity to learn more about an artist, an object, or to gain new skills to better serve a particular target audience should not be seen as a threat, but rather, as an exciting opportunity.

Looking to the Future

As we move beyond the idea that disability equals wheelchairs and access equals ramps, and engage with groups of visitors that are not so visible (and who do not give the illusion of being easy to understand) your work may become somewhat more complex. It may require a more in-depth exploration of how your programs are delivered, experienced and how they need to be modified to be genuinely inclusive for all visitors.

The need for awareness and the complexity of issues multiply when the question of representation of disabled people's lives within museums and art galleries is addressed. In a society pervaded by stereotypes and unrepresentative images, it is difficult to avoid absorbing the prevailing attitudes in our wider society. To date, it has generally been far easier to not deal with us at all, and where representation has occurred, the depictions have too often been stereotyped or clichéd.

Changing this understandably involves anxieties about "getting it wrong." But anyone who has engaged with disability seriously over recent decades has found that service improvements put in place for people with disabilities improve programs for all visitors!

What is a Museum, heritage property or art gallery? What is its real purpose?

Do museums really want to leave out a sizeable portion of society as history has attempted? Or, do museums of today want to have all patrons explore and learn from the past and help society forge new attitudes of true inclusion by opening your doors to all members of your community and encouraging all to come, explore, learn, participate and grow?

I believe these are places of learning, information and entertainment that should be enjoyed by more members of our communities, including persons with various disabilities. They are designed to provide a window on the past, and offer valuable insights on the present and the future. As such, all members of our communities can and should be encouraged to come in, participate, and benefit from what art galleries, heritage properties, wilderness facilities and museums offer.

I have walked through many impressive historic sites both in Canada and abroad, marveled at the accomplishments of many societies, and touched the remains of many cultures. And I want to visit many more places, experience more civilizations, and explore more artifacts from the past, and do so in the best way I know, by touch.

Creativity, ingenuity and reaching out to various organizations in your community can go a long way to making your collections more "truly inclusive" to a much larger number of patrons, who want to experience what the past has left us to learn from and enjoy what you have on display.

Remember the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world: indeed it's the only thing that ever has!"

I believe that "access for all" in experiencing the past through our many senses is our shared desire. We in the disabled community look forward to working collaboratively with you to make this goal a reality in all our communities across Canada.


Member Group Updates

BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD)

Community Update

Our office has been very busy over the past few months with a continuing strong demand for our one-on-one advocacy. We have also provided a number of community workshops for advocates on applying for and appealing the denial of disability benefits.

As the economy has weakened there is a sense of uncertainty on the part of our clients and within the broader community. But we continue to do our best in these challenging times and our dedicated staff and volunteers always go the extra mile for our clients. We are indeed fortunate to have such a great team.

Since May 2009, the BCCPD has actively called for legislation banning people from using cell phones and other handheld devices when they drive. Our membership and Board includes individuals who have been severely disabled in traffic accidents and are lifetime wheelchair users as a result. There are numerous examples of the tragic consequences of using these devices while operating an automobile. For example in May, the media reported yet another tragic story: a young man was killed when he lost control of his car while texting on his phone.

We wrote to the provincial government asking for the implementation of a ban on the use of handheld communication devices by people when they drive. We also wrote to Mayors and Councils across BC, our community partners and the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

We are pleased that the August 25th Throne Speech included a commitment from the government that it would "introduce legislation to restrict cell phone use while driving a vehicle to create a safer driving and pedestrian environment for all." The timely introduction of this legislation will surely work towards reducing the number of British Columbians who are disabled or killed because of drivers being distracted at the wheel.

On July 23rd 2009, the provincial government announced its intention to harmonize BC's 7% provincial sales tax (PST) with the 5% federal goods and services tax (GST). The new 12% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will come into effect on July 1st 2010. As a result many goods and services will be subject to a 7% increase.

We are concerned the HST will have a negative impact on our community. People with disabilities will see an increase to the cost of goods and services, such as Registered Massage Therapy, that they depend on for their health and independence. Over the upcoming months we will be focusing on this issue and on possible exemptions for people with disabilities.

Alberta Committee of Citizens with Disabilities

ACCD's New Accessibility Audits

CCD began offering accessibility audit services in the mid 1990s. At that time, barrier-free design was an afterthought to many developers. Thanks to the efforts of various stakeholder groups, awareness regarding barrier-free design has continually been raised. These days, accessibility in public spaces (parks, sidewalks, parking lots, public buildings) has undergone significant improvements, but much work still needs to be done. Our staff members have seen first-hand that heightened accessibility awareness has given rise to many barrier-free design efforts; unfortunately, many of these efforts, although well-intentioned, are insufficient. Seeking to understand this, we asked the following questions: are there builders, designers, and architects who lack the perspective to properly build an accessible space, and is it possible the barrier-free section of Alberta's building code (section 3.8) is inadequate?

This past April, we began analyzing section 3.8 of the Alberta building code. After much careful study, ACCD developed an audit tool that rephrases code criteria as yes-or-no questions and arranges them in an order that reflects the experience of visiting a public building. The tool begins with an audit of exterior built spaces, such as the parking lot, sidewalks, and ramps. Next, the tool focuses on a building's interior space, measuring washrooms, stair wells, door weights, and all other features that, if improperly designed, could pose a barrier. The audits conducted with our new tool yielded startling results.

Audits done with our new tool more than answered our questions about the state of accessibility in Alberta. The first twenty properties assessed had a collective overall compliance of eighty percent. This is significantly short of the one hundred percent compliance that is legally required. In post-audit conversations, building owners and managers, all of whom were supportive of accessible design, were often surprised their buildings fell short of code requirements. When simple, code-based improvements were recommended, like insulating exposed pipes under lavatories or installing lever door handles, most owners and managers admitted to not knowing there was a need for these small, yet important, design features. This, at least, confirms that many building owners and managers lack the education and awareness required to understand the full scope of barrier-free design.

We also discovered that section 3.8 of Alberta's building code, although imperfect, is not altogether inadequate—the biggest problem is that it's under-enforced. Many of section 3.8's criteria are actually examples of international best practices in barrier-free design. However, section 3.8 does fail to cover some important built features, like hotel rooms. This is of considerable concern to travelers with disabilities. The code could also be improved by giving more attention to people with hearing and visual disabilities. Still, if all of the code's barrier-free criteria were followed, Alberta would be considerably more accessible than it currently is. If compliance is met while a building is still being designed, the need for costly future renovations will be avoided altogether, and we will be that much closer to realizing our goal of full participation in society.

The launch of a new look for ACCD's Accessibility Audits

As phase one of ACCD's Hotel Accessibility Project came to a close this past April, interest in our accessibility audits began to grow. Since then, ACCD has been approached by schools, hospitals, and private business owners to audit buildings and consult on barrier-free design ideas. ACCD recently entered into an agreement with Edmonton's Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital to assess the facility's washrooms. In the coming months, ACCD staff members will assess over one hundred washrooms and make recommendations to the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital's accessibility committee. To suit the importance of this agreement and the growing demand for our accessibility audits, ACCD has branded our audit services with a new logo. When you think accessibility, think ACCD.

Alberta Disabilities Forum's Respite Care Project: an Update

At the end of September, 2009, ADF submitted the Respite Care Demonstration Project's final report to Alberta Health and Wellness. The report shows that a large majority of participants (86.6%) agreed ongoing respite would help sustain at-home care. The analysis also showed a large percentage of agreement (80%) that flexible respite supports alleviated or improved a variety of factors, such as relationship strain between caregivers and those who receive care. These statements and others strongly support respite's role in sustainable community-based care and confirm that sustaining caregivers through respite supports is not dependent on any single factor.

ADF derived several conclusions from the Demonstration Project:

  • Respite funding should be self-directed
  • Respite funding should be highly flexible
  • Assessment of caregiver needs should be simple and straightforward
  • Respite services should be defined broadly
  • Respite supports should promote innovation
  • Funding levels should be sufficient to meet caregivers' needs
  • Methods of distributing funding for respite should promote flexibility
  • Funding support for respite should emphasize accountability and transparency
  • Community Partnerships

The Respite Care Demonstration Project represents a first step toward meeting the needs of family caregivers in Alberta. The Demonstration Project is informed by the findings of rigorous research and is adapted to the unique challenges facing caregivers in Alberta. The conclusions described above attest to the opportunity to develop responsive respite supports in today's Alberta.

This opportunity is strengthened by an active and engaged disability community. The Demonstration Project was led by ADF, and represents collaboration between government, numerous disability organizations and hundreds of individual caregivers across the province. The Demonstration Project generated expertise and momentum throughout this community, and the Government of Alberta has an opportunity to involve community partners to further develop and implement respite supports.

If there is a single lesson to be taken from the Demonstration Project, though, it is this: there is a way ahead for respite supports in Alberta. ADF's Demonstration Project modeled a flexible, community-driven respite program that benefited caregivers and fostered collaboration across the province, and this progress can and should continue.

The Demonstration Project gave recognition to family caregivers as important participants in the health system. Family caregivers need support. They are not passive recipients—they play an essential role in community-based care, and an investment in respite is an investment in a health system that is more supportive, inclusive, and sustainable.

Setting the Direction for Special Education: Phase 3

On June 8 and 9, the Minister of Education, Dave Hancock, held the Setting the Direction Minister's Forum at the Shaw Conference Centre, in Edmonton. Based on information gathered at forty consultation sessions held across the province, the steering committee, chaired by Edmonton-Ellerslie MLA, Maresh Bhardwaj, recommended a framework of revised and improved services and supports for students who have a disability and/or are gifted. The following list outlines a few of the key recommended changes to the education system:

  • Rather than focus on deficits, the focus should be on strengths and assets.
  • The individual learning needs of each student should be considered and, in an effort to account for diverse learning needs, each student's personal achievement should be measured.
  • Assistive technologies should be provided to students who need them.
  • Gifted students should have their special needs recognized.
  • There should be greater flexibility, diversity, and choice in education.
  • Classrooms should be made truly "inclusive" and students' right to be included in regular classrooms should be recognized. (It must be noted that the word "inclusion" was the source of much debate in which ACCD played a central role. The definition that was finally agreed upon describes the word's meaning in the following way: "Inclusion is a way of thinking and acting that demonstrates universal acceptance of, and belonging for, all students. Inclusive education in Alberta means a value-based approach to accepting responsibility for all students. It also means that all students will have equitable opportunity to be included in the typical learning environment or program of choice.")

Although these recommendations are positive and groundbreaking, concerns have been raised regarding the challenges of implementing these changes. Some of the challenges that were identified at the Minister's forum regarded the allocation of funds, which, to date, has been unclear; whether or not initial implementation of the framework by 2010 is an achievable goal; and how rural areas would be provided with adequate resources.

There is also considerable concern over what will replace coding as a system for identifying disabilities and the corresponding needs. Although there is broad support for eliminating the coding system, there is a general sense of anxiety surrounding what system will replace it, an unknown at this point in time.

Finally, threats to the framework and its implementation, such as current budget constraints and potential cabinet shuffles, posed major concerns for many. Since the June 8 and 9 Minister's forum, concerns regarding budget constraints have been validated. Dave Hancock recently announced that $80 million will be cut from this year's education budget and warned more drastic cuts were on the horizon. In light of this announcement, implementation of the framework's proposed changes seem unlikely, an unfortunate setback to students, parents, and teachers alike.

Bev Matthiessen, ACCD's executive director sits on the stakeholder working group for Setting the Direction for Special Education in Alberta. ACCD will continue to report on this initiative as the implementation phase of the project unfolds.

The City of Edmonton's New Assisted Waste Program

The City of Edmonton has a new plan to help senior citizens and people with disabilities take out the trash. As of August 28th, 2009, collection workers will haul garbage and recycling to the curb or back alley for people who are unable to do so because of age, short- or long-term disability. All participants have to do is leave their garbage at the front or back door of their homes.

The city's usual garbage pick-up rules apply. Workers will collect materials accepted from all households. Garbage can be placed in black bags or containers no bigger than 100 litres, and recycling must be placed in blue bags. For the sake of city workers, each bag or container should weigh no more than 20 kg.

Assisted waste collection is a free service, and it will be provided to participants for a minimum of three months. Seniors and people with long-term disabilities will receive this service continuously, and people with short-term disabilities will receive it for six months, after which they must reapply for the service.

Applications will be swiftly processed. One week after the city receives an application form, the applicant will be contacted by telephone and arrangements will be made for a home visit with a collections services representative. During this visit, specific details regarding the service, such as the intended start date, will be discussed. If people wish to discontinue the service at any time, it is their responsibility to contact the city's Waste Management Branch at 780-496-5698.

Applicants may be required to provide documentation from their health care provider to confirm eligibility in the program. If you have questions regarding this program, please call the city's Waste Management Branch at 780-496-5698 or send an email to wasteman@edmonton.ca. Online applications are available on the City of Edmonton's website (www.edmonton.ca). Printer-friendly applications are also available.

Saskatchewan Voice of Persons with Disabilities

More Girl Power Camps

The Voice received funding to provide an additional 10 Girl Power Camps. The first four are now scheduled and will be held in Saskatoon and Regina prior to Christmas.

First Nations/Metis Women with Disabilities Program

The Dene and Salteaux translations of "Living in Harmony" booklet are now completed, just waiting for the completion of Cree translation. Distribution of these materials will take place in the New Year.

Silent Voices

The Organizing Committee for "Silent Voices", the 2010 Conference on abuse of persons with disabilities has been struck. The Committee is planning a series of workshops. The conference will take place in Saskatoon, October 13—15, 2010 at the Radisson Hotel.

Saskatchewan Assured Income for the Disabled (SAID)

The SAID program has been announced by the government. The first people being invited to participate are persons from private approved homes and residential care. There are approximately 3200 people who qualify at this time. A team of individuals from community and government has been set up by the Minister to develop the criteria and assessment. The program is still housed in Social Assistance, however, it is the hope of the community to see it as a stand alone program. For more information on the program go to the Government of Saskatchewan Website.

Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities

Council Update

Since the spring, the MLPD has been very active in the community advocating on behalf of its members on a number of issues. One of those issues is Bill C-384 which would legalize euthanasia in Canada. The MLPD has joined with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities in its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia because of the adverse impact it would have on persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities would bear the negative social consequences of any legislation that allows the killing of people perceived to be suffering.

We are also very concerned over the recent announcement made by Greyhound Bus Lines to cancel passenger bus service in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. If the company decision is not reversed it will result in persons with a disability having fewer transportation options and thus having a more difficult time in getting around the province. We find this totally unacceptable! The MLPD will continue to monitor the situation and will respond in the best interests of all Manitobans with a disability.

The MLPD continues to play an active role on the Social Planning Council's Poverty Advisory Committee. We recently took in a forum on poverty which was hosted by the City of Winnipeg. Our city is currently in the process of developing a brand new 25 year plan and has been consulting with interested groups and citizens.

Finally, the MLPD continues to implement the strategic plan which it unveiled almost a year ago and is looking to its future with great optimism.

Thumbs Up Program

The Thumbs Up program originated in St. Thomas, Ontario several years ago. The program recognizes stores that are accessible to customers with mobility barriers. Stores voluntarily participate in the program and if they meet a list of criteria, the store is provided with a Thumbs Up decal to display and is given a certificate. This summer, the MLPD initiated a similar pilot project with Dan Halechko and Derek Legge as joint coordinators.

The project runs from July to mid October, 2009. The objectives set were:

  1. To pilot the program focusing on the downtown business community,
  2. Develop materials for the project and
  3. Develop a blueprint for future campaigns elsewhere in the city or in the province.

A letter of introduction was distributed with the support of the Downtown Biz to over 3000 businesses. A small advisory committee was also created to provide input.

The toughest question in this project was setting the accessibility criteria for issuing the Thumbs Up for Access decal and certificate. There are so many aspects to accessibility, access and safety that if there were too many requirements, there would be next to no stores qualifying. The Thumbs Up project is aimed at retail stores, most of which are small. The Thumbs Up decal will not indicate that a store is universally accessible and useable, but will only be issued to those businesses that have basic access and no clear barriers or safety hazards. In addition, the project will be distributing a "helpful hints of accessibility ideas" handout to all downtown businesses. It will also be available after the project from the MLPD office. The ideas list will make suggestions for retail stores, services, churches and restaurants. Things like large print menus or church service bulletins, benches in large lobbies for people waiting for pickups, better contrast on stairs and lower counter levels are some examples. If anyone reading this has suggestions for our handout, please contact the MLPD office. It is not clear if the pilot project will turn into an ongoing program, but the MLPD will certainly share its experience with anyone looking to promote accessibility elsewhere.

Nova Scotia League for Equal Opportunities (NSLEO)

NSLEO Brings Disability Groups Together to Collectively Advocate for a Disability Strategy

In July of 2009, NSLEO hosted a facilitated planning session which involved 17 disability groups with a Provincial mandate. The purpose of this initial meeting was to articulate the strengths and weaknesses in current disability policy and to create a document that would state the essential components of a disability strategy for Nova Scotia. NSLEO took the lead in synthesizing all the information from the day and drafting the document to be presented to government in the fall. This process has brought disability groups together with a common purpose and has facilitated interaction that has increased awareness across the spectrum of disability.

Nova Scotia has just elected its first NDP government, and their priorities speak to leadership in social change and inclusion. Our challenge, as a community, is to ensure that the language of social change and inclusion does not leave out persons with disabilities. It is our goal to work a holistic disability strategy into the priorities for this government's agenda in the next four years. NSLEO is pleased to be taking a leadership role in this process and looks forward to an increased capacity in the disability community to work collaboratively with government on developing and implementing this strategy.

Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia Hosts Successful Week of Events

Partnership for Access Awareness Nova Scotia (PAANS) is a committee of NSLEO whose work focuses on raising awareness of disability issues in Nova Scotia. The events of Access Awareness also celebrate the success made in improving accessibility for all in our province.

Events this year focused on increasing the awareness and availability of accessible housing. Guest speakers at the Breakfast of Inclusion discussed government initiatives around accessible/affordable housing, progress that has been made in the construction industry, and the difference appropriate accessible housing makes in the lives of Nova Scotia families. The Mel Hebb Hour Glass Action Awards were presented to four people who have made significant contributions to inclusion through service provision, public service, volunteer work, and community action.

As part of the week's celebrations, PAANS held a scholarship awards luncheon. Students with disabilities from across Nova Scotia were presented with scholarships to help them go on to post secondary education and training. PAANS has been fortunate to be able to partner with Scotiabank, RBC Financial Group, Casino Nova Scotia, and Casino Halifax to present a total of $11,000.00 in scholarships to 8 deserving students. We are very much looking forward to continuing and expanding our partnerships to enable even more students to be scholarship recipients.

Coalition of Persons with Disabilities—NFLD and Labrador (COD)

Response on Para-Transit Review

The St. John's Para-Transit review is an ongoing issue for persons within the disability community. The review was conducted to determine accurate data on the response of the current status of the para-transit system, anticipate future demand, estimate costs, and identify possible future strategies. Recently, the Executive Director of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities, Mark Lane, discussed the draft review and its pros and cons with The Telegram. For the most part, it provides optimism that the city is taking the steps it needs to improve the para-transit system which is desperately needed. On the other hand, there are a few concerns which have been expressed regarding the proposal of reviewing a user's eligibility. That the city should implement a trip-by-trip eligibility determination, that's appalling to the consumers, to the disability community. It's insulting to have to go, and re-prove that you have a disability. COD had also expressed its concern over the idea of supplementing the program with a 2.5-cent surcharge on gas, due to the suggestion that it would be charity, and may foster hostility from the larger population. Chairperson of the COD Board of Directors, Michelle Murdoch expressed these concerns on August 14 during CBC's The Morning Show, saying that the intent of this review is to afford persons with disabilities a form of transportation, however some suggestions from the review seem to be making this goal even more complicated. Ultimately, this review is encouraging to individuals within the disability community, due to the willingness of all sides of this issue, to cooperate and work towards providing a more effective and accessible service for everyone.

UN Convention on Disability Rights

The purpose of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as stated by the UN website is "to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity". This past June, the Government of Canada hosted a roundtable discussion which asked pertinent questions, such as what it would take for Canada to sanction this international agreement. Although this was only the first step in a series of meetings which need to be held in order for this vision to be realized, it offers the disability community, and the larger population in general, a sense of optimism with regards to reaching a level of equality for persons with disabilities. Recently, on August 27th, the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities held a Public Forum and Dialog regarding the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the Capital Hotel on Kenmount Road. Guest speakers included Steve Estey, who is an international consultant on the Convention, Marie White, Chairperson for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Susan Ralph, Chairperson of the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities-NL, and Mary Reid, Director of the Disability Policy Office. The Public Forum demonstrated an impressive response from the public, with 75 consumers in attendance to show their support. COD also expresses gratitude for the support provided by the Honourable Shawn Skinner, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development and Siobhan Coady, MP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, for attending the event. To get involved and encourage the ratification of this convention, contact your MP and Prime Minister Harper.

COD's Annual General Meeting

On June 26-27, the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (COD)—NL hosted its Annual General Meeting at the Longside Club, St. Johns. Throughout the weekend members participated in strategic planning sessions and discussed issues surrounding such topics as: Human Rights; HST on Home Care; Bill C-384—An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (right to die with dignity); Poverty Reduction and Homelessness; Para-transit; and Consultation on the Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Air Show Accessible for All

The St. John's International Airport recently presented its widely popular air show for the public's enjoyment, featuring the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. While there was no parking for the public at the airport itself (buses were provided for pick-up and drop-off between the airport and confederation building), the St. John's Airport Authority ensured the event was accessible for persons with disabilities, by allowing those with a Blue Pass to have access to parking near the show site, as well as offering accessible washroom facilities in a building near the site. COD's treasurer, Karen Westcott, took the initiative to make the airport aware of this issue. After performing some research into the upcoming show, Westcott and Executive Director of COD, Mark Lane, met with Nicole Scaplen and other staff who were coordinating the event to discuss the issue of transportation for persons with disabilities. Karen commented that, "It was a great learning experience working with the airport authority regarding wheelchair accessibility. The air show was a great success." The accessibility of the show speaks to the fact that with a little advocating and awareness to the public, persons with disabilities are able to achieve the rights and freedoms that the larger population is able to enjoy. Through the airport's cooperation and the knowledge of Karen, the event proved to be successful. COD extends its gratitude to the event coordinators of the show and the St. John's Airport Authority.

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

Library Access

During the past few months, the AEBC has been very busy dealing with issues of library access and the Bill to Amend Canada's Copyright Act.

The CNIB has indicated its intention to get out of the business of providing library services directly to Canadians who are blind, partly due to financial reasons, and also due to a growing belief these services should no longer be provided by a charity. The AEBC agrees that it is time for a change.

Discussions are now underway involving a number of organizations in the blindness field, along with CCD and Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, to develop a new model.

Access to Museums and Art Galleries

John Rae, AEBC's 1st Vice President, and 1st Vice Chair of CCD delivered a major presentation on access for Canadians with various disabilities at the first national Conference on access to museums and art galleries, entitled "Collections, Connections and Communities: Making Museums and Galleries in Canada Inclusive," held at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa on October 4, 2009. His paper is re-printed elsewhere in this issue. John will be making a similar presentation for the Ontario Historical Society in Barrie, Ontario on November 8, 2009, and he is working on developing additional opportunities to speak on this topic which he describes as "a real passion" in his life.


John Rae, AEBC's 1st Vice President, was elected to the Board of ARCH Disability Law Centre for a two-year term at its Annual General meeting on Thursday, October 8, 2009.

AEBC Continues Work on Making Elections Truly Accessible

(The following article appeared in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on October 13, 2009.)

New Terminals Allow Blind to Vote Independently

Rory MacLean
Saskatoon StarPhoenix, October 13, 2009

Visually impaired Saskatoon residents will have an opportunity to vote privately for the first time ever in a civic election thanks to two new electronic terminals.

The words 'secret ballot' have always been used loosely for the visually impaired.

Blind voters often require a witness to read them the options and to verify that they mark the ballot correctly, but the City of Saskatoon's new AutoMARK system should change all that.

"I have experimented with magnifiers, I have experimented with having the people there," said Monique Lalonde, a computer specialist at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, during a test of the AutoMARK terminal.

"Before this, for the civic election, what they'd do is have a tape recorder there with a set of headphones," said Lalonde, who is visually impaired, with some pinhole vision in her left eye. "The tape would tell you 'No. 1 is this person, No. 2 is that person,' so you'd have to have a feel of the ballot, know where the numbers are versus where the holes are and pray you land the pencil or pen correctly."

The AutoMARK system uses the same paper ballots used by all voters, which are fed into a slot in the front. It has a touch screen with an assortment of display and contrast options, so those with some vision can choose the display that works best for them. It also has Braille buttons and an audio feature, so a voter's selection can be read back to them by the machine for verification, instead of by an election officer.

There will be an election officer nearby to provide assistance if the voter so desires, but users have the option of turning the screen off, providing an added bit of privacy.

The system cost $15,000, but city clerk Janice Mann says the most costly aspect was the software, so the second unit purchased was much cheaper.

"My goal is to get one of these in each ward," she said." The new system even has the critics buzzing.

Robin East, president of the Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians, said he is "really quite excited." Last year, he lodged a complaint against Sask. Elections with the provincial human rights commission, arguing the election process violated his right to vote in private.

"I want to be able to vote on my own," he said." Compared to the provincial and federal governments, East says Saskatoon is ahead of the curve.

"They're being proactive, which is appropriate and expected. It's something I've been pushing for in Saskatoon for a long time," he said. "It will be the first time that I will actually be able to vote without any assistance at all. I won't have to have someone read me the names."

He gives much credit to Mann for getting the new machines. "Each election I have spoken with her has been more and more accessible."

East brought a representative from the human rights commission with him to examine the machine when it was on display at city hall.

He is confident that Mann will be able to acquire eight more machines by the next civic election, providing enough to have one in each ward.

East feels the system is useful not just for the blind, but also for people who may have other physical disabilities that would prevent them from marking a ballot in the traditional way, including seniors.

But Lalonde is worried some people may not take advantage of the machine because they are unwilling to learn the new technology.

"My concern is, for this first election, the machines won't get used as much as they should be. Whether it's fear of change, people just not knowing or people refusing to learn a new thing," she said.

Lalonde has made it her mission to make the city's purchase worthwhile.

"I want to make sure as many people as I know are savvy enough to use it, are. I don't want them all of a sudden being critical down the road because we spent all this money and now people aren't using it."

The machines will be available for advance polls in committee Room E at City Hall from Oct. 19 to Oct. 23, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and in Midtown Plaza on Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A machine will be located at Market Mall for a longer period because of the high number of seniors in the area. It will be there Oct. 17 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 21-23 from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On election day the machine will be available at Poll 105 in the downtown branch of the Saskatoon Public Library, but it is only available on that day to people who live in Poll 105.

DisAbled Women's Network Canada

DAWN-RAFH Participates in Consultation on Breast Cancer

On behalf of DAWN Canada, Diane Driedger participated in a consultation meeting held by the Canadian Breast Cancer Stakeholders Network in Ottawa, Ontario on October 17 and 18, 2009. The Network invited DAWN Canada to participate in this important event. At this meeting, participants looked at needed future work in the area of breast cancer. During the two day session, DAWN Canada raised awareness about the issues of women with disabilities, barriers that women with disabilities encounter and the need for inclusive strategies regarding breast cancer that encompass the needs and perspectives of women with disabilities.

National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)

NEADS and BMO Capital Markets Equity through Education Student Awards: A Call for Applications

OTTAWA, September 30, 2009—The National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) is now accepting applications for the NEADS Equity through Education Student Awards Program. These awards are being offered to encourage full access to post-secondary education for persons with disabilities enrolled in undergraduate, graduate or professional degree programs at recognized Canadian universities, or in certified diploma programs at Canadian colleges. Up to 20 outstanding applicants, who meet the criteria of the program, will be receiving an award in the amount of $3,000 to support the costs of their tuition and student fees.

Funding for these awards is provided by BMO Capital Markets' Equity Through Education Program, a charitable initiative aimed at creating a more diverse workplace by offering educational opportunities to people who are most in need of support. In May 2006 NEADS became one of four Canadian recipients of donations from the second Equity Through Education trading day. At that time, NEADS announced the Equity Through Education Student Awards program.

"We at NEADS are very proud of the Equity Through Education Student Awards Program, and our 21 recipients over its first three years," said Mahadeo Sukhai, NEADS' Past-President. "This program is the first of its kind in Canada, and was created to celebrate overall excellence among students with disabilities in all aspects of post-secondary education. Our winners to date all embody the very best qualities of academic and community involvement. We hope that the program continues to grow, and we look forward to this year's crop of outstanding applicants."

For more information on the program please contact the NEADS office: National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS), Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, tel. (613) 380-8065, or go directly to our Equity Through Education Student Awards website: http://www.neads.ca/en/about/projects/ete2/scholarship/students.php

About Equity Through Education

The Equity Through Education charitable program was launched by BMO Capital Markets in 2005 to support the notion that gaining an education is a means of improving lives. Funds raised through Equity Through Education are donated to charitable organizations whose mission includes improving access to education and training for bright, deserving people who otherwise might not have the opportunity. To date, Equity Through Education has raised $6.6 million.

Call for Submissions: NEADS Science and Technology Project

We are consultants for NEADS, working on the project "Enhancing Opportunities for Post-Secondary Students and Graduates with Disabilities in Science and Technology Related Fields." The goal of this project, funded by the Imperial Oil Foundation, is to contribute to the inclusion of students with disabilities in science and technology-related programs and employment. We are developing a guidebook for persons with disabilities to provide them with the tools and resources to succeed in science and technology fields of study and careers after graduation.

We are currently requesting submissions of information on programs, relevant organizations, mentorship or internship initiatives and/or relevant articles pertaining to individuals with disabilities in the science and technology sectors that we can include in the guide. We will publish original articles and content that has been previously published, with proper attribution and credit to the author and source. Additionally, if you are within this field (for example: student, employee, employer, service provider) and would like to share your experience and be interviewed for the guidebook please contact us.

All submissions and enquiries should be sent by email to: melissa.bolton@neads.ca or wade.brown@neads.ca or phone: (613) 380-8065 ext. 205 or (613) 380-8065 ext. 207

If you'd like further information on the project, a more detailed description of our science and technology initiative is available on the NEADS website: http://www.neads.ca/en/about/media/2008_imperial.php

Hope to hear from some of you soon.

All the best,

Melissa Bolton and Wade Brown
Science and Technology Project Consultants Rm. 426 Unicentre, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 tel. (613) 380-8065 www.neads.ca.