Disability Awareness Consultants Blog

Walls, Floors, Doors and Windows

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Many people ask for ideas on accessibility in their homes and offices. It’s not really difficult, most of the time.

We like walls that are clearly separated from the floors, doors and windows. That means DON’T make everything the same colour! There should be different, contrasting colours on baseboards, window and door frames, and door handles. The handles should always be levers, or else opened by automatic eyes or electric buttons. The bottom edge of windows should never be higher than 30 inches, to allow all of us who are seated or very short to see the outside. Also, opening windows should be easy, and not require pushing up or pulling down on a frame. The old-fashioned winding casement style works for those of us with arm strength, as long as they window is low enough to reach it. People without the use of their arms, or without strength, may have to accept help to open the windows, unless they have the type that are easily pushed across. Those might be opened by people without arm strength, if they can use their feet to push the window.

Wills, insurance, investments – Oh My!

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We did our wills recently, and discussed our investments and what we’ll have to retire on, if anything! The good news is: We won’t have to retire to a cardboard box on the Danforth. The bad news: I may have to work until I’m 100 to afford to eat! 🙁 My husband will retire from his terrific job when he’s 65, but since I’m self-employed and have no employer-sponsored pension, I better keep on working for a long time.

We re-wrote the wills to benefit the family members who we thing will need the most help, but this could change over time, I suppose. We dearly love our nieces and nephews, but some of them are better off than we are, and others will probably always struggle, so we wrote the wills to reflect that. It’s not easy to think of being gone, and I’m especially mushy when I think of the (remote) possibility that I could outlive my husband. He’s usually in much better health than I am, so I don’t think I’ll ever be alone, but the thought of it makes me feel sick!

The ‘accessible Red Rocket’ isn’t really!

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Jordan Lavoie was excited to ride one of the new Toronto Rocket trains recently, but was disappointed to find out he couldn’t wheel his chair onto the train.
Jordan demonstrates his problem for Star reporter Amy Dempsey.
The TTC is apologizing to riders with disabilities who are struggling to roll their wheelchairs onto the city’s new Toronto Rocket subway trains.
The Rockets, which cost about $1 billion in total and are being paid for by all three levels of government, include many new accessibility features, including three flip-up seats to accommodate wheelchairs, mobility devices and strollers. Decals and blue lights on the train exterior indicate the doors closest to those designated accessible areas. But, depending on the station and the passenger loads they’re carrying, the new trains sometimes sit too high above the platform for wheelchair users to
board.
The first time a Toronto Rocket pulled up in front of Jordan Lavoie, 22, at Eglinton, he couldn’t get his motorized wheelchair up over the threshold. “It’s a nice train, but if you can’t get on it, the interior doesn’t matter,” he said.
Lavoie, a freelance graphic designer who has muscular dystrophy, rode the Toronto Rocket with the Toronto Star last week from Eglinton station to York Mills. His first attempt to roll his chair onto the train failed. The front wheel went sideways when it couldn’t make the jump of about 5 centimetres (2 inches) up to the door.
But Lavoie reversed his wheelchair and took a run at the train and managed to board. At York Mills, the train was much closer to the platform height and he had no difficulty getting off.
Lavoie plays wheelchair hockey and says he’s heard complaints from friends, including a similar problem at the Dundas station. TTC spokesman Brad Ross confirmed the Toronto Rocket’s door threshold is not parallel with the platform, causing some problems for people with wheelchairs and mobility devices.
“When large numbers of people disembark (the Toronto Rocket) reacts much more quickly than the (older) T1 or H cars and pumps the air suspension up … . It’s compensating to the floor height much more quickly,” said Ross.
The old T1 subways have worn wheels and tracks so they ride lower than the new trains, he said. The TTC’s engineers are looking for solutions. “We need to do some more work with the train to try and compensate for those height differentials based on loads,” said Ross.
The issue didn’t emerge in the months spent testing the trains and it’s not predictable in terms of where and when in the system it will happen, he said. “It’s safe to say, when we’re testing the trains we’re not testing them with 1,000 people on a train. It’s a new vehicle, brand-new technology. This is a minor kink we are aware of and we can resolve fairly quickly,” Ross said. He would not speculate, however, on how long it will take to fix the problem, saying only that, “By the time the entire Yonge-University subway is running with Toronto Rockets we will have resolved this issue.”
There are four Toronto Rockets in service now on the line, which requires about 47 trains to serve rush-hour crowds. The TTC has ordered 70 of the six-car trains. But it will be two years more before they’re all in service. Rider response to the new trains has been overwhelmingly positive, Ross said. If someone can’t board a Rocket train, he advises waiting for the next, most likely an older train that will accommodate the rider’s needs.
Lavoie says the TTC’s explanation sounds “plausible.” However, he says, “It seems silly that I can’t get on unless it’s busy.”
Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/news/transportation/article/1059486–wheelchair-users-can-t-always-roll-onto-the-rocket?bn=1
This article was copied from the weekly e-broadcast of the Accessibility News, published by Geof Collis of ‘badeyes’.

Accessibility in New York

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It wasn’t too bad, all things considered, but I’m sure glad I’m not using a wheelchair anymore! They have a LOT of broken up sidewalks and cobblestones in the older parts of the city. There is an area known as the “Meat-Packing District”. I know it’s very old, and it’s all been renovated and turned into fancy stores – no more meat-packing factories, that’s for sure. Anyway, we walked around it a little, but the stuff they were showing was way too fancy for me, and the sidewalks were so broken and pot-holed, plus old cobblestones were still in lots of places, we gave up and left.

Visual Accessiblity on Google

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The following link will help anyone who is trying to use Google with a screen-reader or other visual accessibility tool. I’m just back from vacation in New york City. I’ll have a comment about access in the “Big Apple” tomorrow.

http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/improved-accessibility-for-google.html

On Being ‘Inspirational’

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I saw someone else’s blog about being called ‘inspiring’, and it prompted me to tell my story too. I was at a big charity dinner, for free, because I was representing another charity who bought the ticket. There was a former police chief there, though at the time he was still in his post. I spoke to him about a mutual friend we had who had died, and afterward this man asked me about myself.

I told him about my business and he asked why I was using a wheelchair. I explained my arthritis, after which he said I was an inspiration to him. I was astounded and asked how on earth could I be possibly be an inspiration to him. He said that it was because I was so cheerful despite all my ‘adversity’.

Keep control of your work!

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Just a cautionary tale here: I’ve recently learned that a major advocacy organization, that does disability awareness training, has been illegally using my text books for ELEVEN years!

There’s nothing I can do to stop them; I surely can’t afford to sue them, and they know it, so they keep on going.

I am trying to look at it from a positive light. My work must be pretty terrific if huge, multi-national, heavily funded, organizations steal my work. They charge for it, too, and make money off of it. That’s what really bugs me, but all I can do about it is write my Blog! 🙁

Sinks

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Today’s rant is about sinks. There are so many problems with sinks – it’s obvious that the people who design them, don’t use them, at least not from wheelchairs or scooters! Whoever was the genius who designed those ridiculous, high, curved faucets; I hope he gets soaked every time he washes his hands! They splatter water all over any unsuspecting victim who is sitting down, of short stature, or who has limited reach. The only thing they are good for is washing big pots or bathing the dog!

Then there are the tap-handles. They’re usually too small, or they’re round balls or little egg-shaped knobs. Even when they are long enough, they are often assembled so that the ends of the handles are turned away from the edge of the sink. This means the handles are unreachable for people who can’t stretch across the sink or counter top. If the water isn’t operated by an electric-eye, then those of us who can not reach the handles must wait like little children, for some ‘grown-up’ to come along and turn on the water for us!

“Why do we have to do our ‘business’ in public?”

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My hands work pretty well these days, but there was a time when I could not use my fingers. They were so inflamed, my wedding band had to be cut off my finger so I could have physio to bring down the swelling and ease the pain. Door locks were a real ‘pain’ in those days, because I often could not ‘pinch and twist’ to open or shut a door.

The use of those old-fashioned little buttons, that must be pushed or turned is getting less, but still exists in many washrooms. Of course, stall doors don’t usually stay shut if the lock isn’t used. Other women find it very puzzling and strange, or scary and really weird, for someone to be using a stall without shutting the door. Of course, once I said that I couldn’t manage the latch, then everything was o.k. I did get some very suspicious looks and one time a lecture about my lack of modesty before I got the chance to explain.

The AODA

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I was on the committee for the Employment Standards of the AODA. I wasn’t actually accepted, but got kind-of ‘parachuted’ in when someone who was on got over-committed, and had to quit. When she did, she nominated me to take her place, so that’s how I came to be on the committee.

I know I was a bit of a pain to the people running it. We had different men in charge, paid by the province, a couple of whom I disliked – as did many of the other members. They didn’t listen, and couldn’t control the ‘floor-hoggers’. (Those few who Never knew when to shut up. No, I wasn’t one of them.)

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