LIFE IN A PROVINCE FULL OF BARRIERS
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For more than three years representatives of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee have reached out to people with disabilities, as well as those close to them, across Ontario, both directly and via community organizations involved with disability issues, to find out what barriers they face, and what impact these barriers have on their lives. This brief reflects the experiences reported back.
To reach out, the ODA Committee has convened a series of one or more public forums in ten communities across Ontario. These included Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Kingston, Parry Sound, York Region and Peel Region and its surrounding communities. It also spent months widely circulating a comprehensive questionnaire both to its members and to others who were interested. As well, the ODA Committee has worked at the provincial and local levels on an ongoing basis informally soliciting feedback from all corners of the disability community.
As a result, a great deal of feedback was received from right across Ontario, from people of all ages, both sexes, and a diversity of disabilities, ethnicities, cultural origins and political beliefs. Yet no matter how diverse were those who responded, their message resounded with incredible harmony and unanimity. They reported that they regularly face serious disability-related barriers which all too often impede them from fully and equally participating in the wide range of life's opportunities in Ontario that all others take for granted. Many of these barriers recur in area after area of daily life. Beyond the broad strokes of exclusion of persons with disabilities which consistently emerged via these meetings, discussions and questionnaires, there are the personal stories of hardship.
What follows is a compilation of those disability-related stories and experiences, as reported to the ODA Committee. It reveals a multitude of barriers, some obvious others obscure, faced by our fellow Ontarians. It plainly depicts the impact of these barriers on these individuals. As important, it reveals in stark yet all- too-human terms what life is like for Ontarians with disabilities who live in a province full of barriers.
Undoubtedly there are many more barriers than are listed here, and many more individual experiences at least as compelling as those listed here. However, the voices reflected in these pages are especially resounding because, at least as far as the ODA Committee is aware, there has been no previous, comparable effort to reach out to the grass-roots of Ontarians with disabilities, to find out what they experience in their daily lives when encountering both old and new barriers.
Those who have disabilities know these stories only too well. Those who do not yet have a disability will likely get one some day. They can here get a glimpse of what is in store for them if a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act is not promptly enacted.
As you read you will see that some barriers and experiences seem to come up again and again in most, if not all areas of life. We have left these barriers in each section as a way of reminding people that this is the recurring reality for people with disabilities. If you get frustrated because you think you are reading the same comment more than once, think about the frustration a person with a disability must feel when they actually have to confront the same barriers everywhere they go and in many of the activities they choose to pursue. Consider how the removal of these barriers will assist not only those who now have a disability, but everyone, including the store, government office, business or other organization that now has barriers like those encountered through the experiences related below.
A word of explanation is in order. First, the matters described here are not listed in any order of priority. We have tried to group responses along the lines of common themes. Second, our membership often reported the same experiences over and over again. In consolidating and organizing this feedback, we have not attempted to keep score of the frequency with which any one matter was repeated. Third, we have not investigated the information provided to us, as is reflected on these pages. This is the bringing together of the voices of individuals, explaining their own life experiences. Finally, the fact that certain disabilities are referred to more than others here, or are referred to more frequently than others here is not intended as delimiting the number of disabilities for which there are barriers in Ontario, or to suggest that any priority exists among them. Rather it is simply a result of the feedback that we happened to receive, and nothing more. This is not intended as a quantitative assessment of one disability as opposed to another.
Employment is an area in which many serious barriers are encountered by people with a wide range of different disabilities. Barriers create difficulties such as being unable to enter a building, to use the computers in the workplace, to communicate with other employees and customers. Problems also arise in employment practices. Many of the barriers reflect the overall ignorance and misconception about people with disabilities and their abilities in the employment market. All of these barriers, whether physical, attitudinal or bureaucratic all prevent persons with disabilities from participating to their full potential in the workforce.
It is symbolic of how few job opportunities there are for persons with disabilities that there are situations where able-bodied actors play the roles of persons with disabilities in movies, television shows and commercials, denying obvious employment opportunities to persons with disabilities.
Physical barriers in the workplace create numerous obstacles to employment for persons with disabilities. Because many places of employment are totally or partially inaccessible in the physical sense, the job market is more limited for persons with disabilities than it is for others.
Many of the physical barriers found in workplaces are the same as those found in buildings of all types, and are therefore encountered in all aspects of the lives of people with disabilities. These will be described in detail in the section below dealing with housing issues. Very briefly, they can include a lack of accessible elevators in buildings that have stairs; inaccessible washrooms; lack of TTY and sign language interpretation; and many others.
Many other barriers are also all too frequently found in the workplace.
* In places that have accessible washrooms, these washrooms are sometimes located at a distance from the actual work station.
* Office designs and hallways that do not have enough room for a person using a wheelchair or scooter.
Communication barriers limit the ability of people to fully participate in their place of employment. For example:
* Meeting rooms often have poor acoustics.
* A lack of visual text limits access to information by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
* Sign language interpretation is typically not provided for employment interviews, at the job or at meetings and conferences required as part of employment.
* Limited availability of Braille and other alternate formats for print information creates barriers for people who are blind or who have visual impairments or other print disabilities. This includes information as basic as circulars about job postings which are rarely provided in alternative formats.
* TTY, enhanced volume telephones and other needed equipment are often not available.
* Employees who are Deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to participate in or attend meetings, conferences, workshops, seminars, and office conversations where FM systems, note- takers, captioning interpreters and communication coaches are not available. People therefore do not have access to the information that is essential for other employees.
* Voice mail systems are not usable for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. They may be difficult for someone with limited dexterity because of a disability such as cerebral palsy to use.
Various types of workplace supports and accommodations are needed to deal with existing barriers. The absence of these supports can make it impossible for a well-qualified person with a disability to carry out their job properly. This can occur because there is not enough funding for the accommodation or assistive device, or because employers are not aware of their obligations to accommodate people with disabilities, or simply are unwilling to fulfil these obligations. Some common problems are:
* Attendant care not being provided on the job, and a lack of funding for attendants.
* Failure to provide adapted equipment and technology.
* Employers may be unwilling to pay for accommodations even when the law requires them to do so.
* There are no meaningful incentives for employers to hire and accommodate persons with disabilities.
* The decision about what accommodation is required is often determined by managers or professionals rather than directed by the person with the disability, who is more familiar with his or her own needs.
* There is generally felt to be a widespread lack of recognition and accommodation of the needs of people with invisible disabilities, especially those people whose disabilities affect cognitive functioning.
* Many employment opportunities require hand writing or other physical duties for which the necessary technical aids may not be available or may not be provided.
* Technical aids provided at one work setting may not be allowed to be taken to another setting if the person changes jobs. The funding system should allow this type of transfer.
* Many public service job competitions are for short term contracts, which could exclude many people with disabilities because it takes the bureaucracy so long to set up accommodation of their needs.
Computers and related technology have opened doors for people with disabilities by providing the tools to overcome barriers in the workplace. However, if not used carefully and with appropriate adaptations, technology can create as many new barriers as it can overcome. For example:
* People with low vision need a larger screen to accommodate large print. They may also need a more powerful computer capable of running screen magnification software.
* Important job and work-related information may be on web sites on the Internet which are not designed to be accessible, leaving many people unable to access important job-related information as well as new job listings.
* Jobs that require travel too often do not provide accommodation for special needs, possibly limiting career advancement opportunities.
* Once an employee is provided with adaptive technology and software, the employer may decide to upgrade the software without taking into account whether it can be used by the employee with a disability or if their computer has the capacity to run the new software.
* Where specialized computer equipment or software is provided, technical support is too often not available.
There are many barriers which exist in work environments that can prevent people with disabilities from getting a job or, if they have a job, from performing it to their full potential. For example:
* Employees with certain learning disabilities can find the noises of the work place distracting, and may need to have their offices located in a quiet setting.
* Work hours are not always flexible to accommodate the fluctuating energy levels and strength of people with some disabilities, as well as the needs of those whose disability requires regular medical treatments.
* Flex time may also be necessary to accommodate an employee who relies on paratransit systems to get to work, especially since the cutbacks to some systems.
* While away on sick leave or long term disability benefits, people with disabilities have been laid off or down-sized.
* Many jobs for young people, and especially entry-level jobs, require long hours and physical labour, limiting opportunities for many young people with disabilities.
* There are barriers to employment for the parents of children with disabilities as well. A lack of flexibility in their jobs to accommodate for their children's health needs, hospitalizations and multiple medical appointments can impede their job opportunities.
Existing income support programs make it difficult for people with disabilities to move from support programs to employment. One reason is that employee benefit plans may exclude people with pre-existing conditions. As a result, people with disabilities may not be able to afford to lose the benefits available through income support programs. Some barriers to employment that were identified are:
* When a person starts to work they can lose the drug, dental and other benefits that were provided through social assistance.
* Employee benefits, such as drug plans and long term disability are sometimes denied or available only at a much higher cost if the person has a "pre-existing health problem."
* People on social assistance and disability pensions are sometimes told that their benefits will be lost if they take part time employment, do community service volunteer work, or work occasionally.
* People have encountered barriers to regaining income support if they are unable to work for periods of time, due to chronic and cyclical disabilities such as multiple sclerosis or mental health disabilities.
* People may not qualify for retraining because they were not able to go to work at least twenty hours a week, even though they were able to work at home.
* People are too frequently given the impression that part time work is not a legitimate goal.
* Employment programs do not always seem to answer the needs of their consumers.
* There is felt to be insufficient advice for career planning for persons with disabilities. There are too few employment counsellors who are skilled in working with persons with disabilities, and programs that can effectively help persons with disabilities develop the skills and competence needed to secure employment.
* People with disabilities are not sufficiently made aware of agencies that serve coordinating roles in facilitating employment, nor are they always given sufficient information about job descriptions, and their essential duties.
* Sheltered workshops and segregated training have proved to be a barrier for some people with disabilities.
Without comprehensive and effective legislation, attitudes of employers and the public have been allowed to create barriers that discriminate against people with disabilities and keep them from fulfilling their full potential. Attitudinal barriers presented by employers are seen as an important obstacle.
* A lack of public awareness and knowledge about disability is felt to lead to many of the employment barriers. Employers are generally not educated about disabilities.
* Business improvement organizations have not taken the full opportunity to educate their members. Even where education has taken place, action does not always follow, so that barriers frequently persist in the workplace.
* Too many employers still seem to fear hiring people with disabilities, apparently because of an inaccurate belief that they cannot work effectively, or a belief that meeting their needs costs a great deal.
* Some places of work have no employment equity requirement. The repeal of Ontario's Employment Equity legislation has created a new barrier.
* Too frequently there is discrimination, with workers with disabilities being treated inequitably. There is less opportunity for promotion and training. Employees with disabilities are too frequently overlooked despite their skills and experience.
* Employees have been dismissed after having seizures.
* People have suffered reprisals for disclosing invisible disabilities.
* When employees have been dismissed unfairly, there have often been long delays in Human Rights Commission proceedings.
* Persons with disabilities are too often underemployed and do not get enough encouragement to train for a variety of jobs.
* People perceive a focus on their disability rather than on their abilities.
* Supervisors and co-workers can harass workers due to their disabilities. This can get so bad that it drives an employee with a disability from a job.
* Organizations of consumers with disabilities do not get sufficient funding to be able to provide awareness and sensitivity training for employers, or to provide support to their consumers on the job.
* Employees are not always helped to learn the most effective ways to advocate for their disability-related needs.
Housing is another very basic need in which people with disabilities face numerous barriers. Many people with disabilities encounter problems in finding affordable, accessible housing to live in. Even buildings that are intended to be accessible have barriers.
Even where someone has found adequate housing, the barriers may prevent them from visiting friends and family because the apartments they live in have barriers.
Many of the physical barriers described in this section are found not only in housing, but all too often in other buildings as well. Thus people with disabilities encounter the same difficulties when they leave their homes to go to such locations as their places of employment, to school, to stores, to health care facilities, to recreation facilities, to government buildings and programs, to child care centres, and on vacations. While these physical barriers are described in detail in this section and only briefly in others, it is important to keep in mind that people with disabilities face these barriers in everything that they do.
Some of the barriers make access to the building itself difficult. For example, someone looking for an apartment or house to rent or going to visit family and friends may find:
* Buildings with stairs at the front entrance.
* Buildings that have ramps that are too steep, or that have small landings with very sharp turns that are difficult for larger wheelchairs and scooters to negotiate.
* Buildings that do not have automatic door openers. Heavy doors are impossible for some people with disabilities to open, and very difficult for people in wheelchairs, on crutches, or with other mobility challenges.
* Automatic doors that shut too quickly, making it hard for someone who walks slowly or has to manoeuver equipment to get inside.
* Some doors have knobs, which are more difficult to use for people who have motor weakness than are lever handles.
* People sometimes encounter doors are too heavy to handle. Even "accessible housing" designed for people using wheelchairs requires that people have upper-body strength, which means that people with neuromuscular diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy, may be sitting out in the cold until someone comes along to help them open the door.
* Too many outside doors are too narrow for large wheelchairs or scooters.
* Buzzer and security systems that are inaccessible to people with various disabilities. For example, it may be too high for someone in a wheelchair to use. Systems using phones and directory boards are difficult, if not impossible for someone who is blind, visually impaired or unable to read text to use. Entry systems depending on voice interaction which can't be used by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Getting from the front door of the apartment building to the apartment itself can be difficult:
* Inside buildings, there are too often stairs but no elevators or ramps.
* Elevators are often not equipped with Braille or auditory floor announcements to make them usable by blind tenants and visitors.
* Some elevators are not large enough to accommodate large motorized wheelchairs or scooters, or to allow them manoeuvring room.
* Some elevator doors close too quickly for people whose disabilities cause them to move slowly.
* Elevator buttons may be too small for easy use by people with motor difficulties.
* There is too often poor lighting in the elevators, lobbies, and corridors of housing complexes, as well as in other public areas, presenting a barrier for people with limited vision.
* There is a need for hand railings. Too often stairways are not safe enough.
* Stairs are not always marked for the benefit of persons with low vision.
* In homes for seniors, the washrooms in the lobby may not be accessible, particularly for people in scooters.
Often the interior of the building also has a number of barriers. For example:
* Interior doors that are too narrow making it difficult for someone using a wheelchair to move between rooms, even in their own apartment.
* Some hallways are narrow, leaving insufficient space for a person using a wheelchair or scooter or other large equipment.
* Kitchens are too rarely completely accessible. Cupboards, shelves, sinks and counters can be too high for people who use wheelchairs.
* Washrooms are another problem area. Many washrooms in apartments and houses, as in all other kinds of buildings, are not accessible. Some are too small to accommodate people who use wheelchairs or scooters, and some are designed in a way that makes it very difficult for persons with disabilities to use.
* Showers may not have adaptable plumbing to enable them to be economically converted by the resident to roll-in showers, without difficulties with landlords. For example, in one apartment which was advertised as having an accessible shower, there were only grab bars at the tub. The tenant had to pay to have the tub taken out and converted to a wheelchair shower.
* Handles on water faucets and other controls are too often difficult to manipulate for people with motor impairments.
* Washroom equipment and controls are frequently too high for little people to manage.
* Too often there are not enough grab bars in washrooms, or there are grab bars that are not slip-resistant.
* Windows are not always easy to open.
* There is too often a step leading to balconies or elsewhere in an apartment unit.
* It is difficult to obtain modified equipment and devices for the home.
* It can be difficult for tenants to make renovations to rental units to make them more accessible.
Services and amenities that are supposed to be provided to all tenants are quite often inaccessible to tenants with disabilities.
* There is a need for more accessible laundry rooms.
* Too many apartments do not have visual alerting systems. Deaf tenants in those buildings cannot detect doorbells, smoke alarms, security systems, phones, and buzzers.
* Garbage facilities and recycling boxes can be difficult to reach.
* Recreation facilities in buildings are too often not accessible. They too infrequently have such things as accessible change rooms, washrooms, or pools with ramps or chair lifts.
Once the person has found an apartment that is accessible, there are still barriers to be faced:
* Sign language interpreters are typically not available when leasing or making financial arrangements.
* Reading and understanding the lease can be very difficult for people with learning disabilities.
* Leases are typically not available in alternative formats for people with visual and print disabilities.
Numerous financial barriers face people who require accessible housing.
* Accessible housing is costly; there is not enough housing that is both accessible and affordable.
* There is not enough incentive to ensure adequate design and the availability of public housing.
* Renovations and modifications to make homes accessible are expensive. For example, one family spent $5,000 just to make the front entrance to their home accessible.
* Some types of retrofits are very difficult. For example, it is difficult to install grab bars in a washroom because the walls can lack blocking between the studs.
* Specialized equipment such as flashing smoke alarms, telephones and door bells can cost more than the standard types of equipment. Therefore, Deaf people must pay more for smoke alarms, for example, than other people do.
* The cost of adapted appliances such as stoves and refrigerators can also be significant, and funding may not be available.
* Chair lifts for stairs in the home are very expensive for an individual to purchase.
* The provincial-municipal downloading process has threatened some accessible living options such as co-ops.
* There is discrimination against people on financial assistance; people have seen advertisements for rental units stating "Working Persons Only." Though previously illegal, the Ontario Government introduced new legislation to legalize and thus facilitate this conduct.
In general, attitudinal barriers are significant in the area of housing.
* Some landlords refuse to rent to persons with disabilities. One person tried for months to find an apartment, and everyone claimed that they were not renting. When the person's father went, two apartments were offered within minutes.
* People with dysarthric speech find that potential landlords do not return their telephone calls.
* Landlords are often not aware of how to interact appropriately with visually impaired tenants or others with print disabilities. They may post notices for tenants in print only, including announcements about water shut-downs, the landlord's need to enter the apartment, and other important matters, without notifying the visually impaired tenant in an accessible way, despite repeated requests from the tenant for direct notification eg. by voice mail.
* In some municipalities, most of the available housing is in subsidized housing complexes and co-ops. Waiting lists for these can be very long.
* There is not enough appropriate housing near bus routes.
* There is sometimes a lack of choices close to amenities.
* There are not enough supported housing programs. There are limitations in the number of, and locations of, attendant care apartments. One person reported that they would lose their accessible home if their spouse was not there as a caregiver.
* There is a need for supported housing for some people with limited vision.
* The housing needs of people with psychiatric disabilities are not being adequately dealt with.
* Persons with developmental disabilities tend too frequently to be restricted to group homes.
There is a general sense that people with disabilities often have access to less and inferior education than people without disabilities, because of many types of barriers. The experiences set out here can apply to all levels of educational programming from pre-school to post-secondary programs, and to job training and retraining.
To have equal educational opportunity, it is vital that people with disabilities have the right to choose between the options of integrated schooling in the mainstream, and education in specialized classes and schools. In either case, they must have the appropriate supports to accommodate their disability. Certain segments of the disability community, such as the Deaf community, have emphasized the importance of protecting and preserving specialized educational programs, and emphasize the needs for schools for the deaf, as well as appropriate support services that come from organizations such as the Canadian Hearing Society.
Many physical barriers have been encountered in education. School buildings, at all levels of the education system, are frequently inaccessible. Many of the physical barriers outlined in the Housing section and the Communications section arise in school buildings, such as stairs, doors that are difficult to open, inaccessible washrooms, absence of TTY and enhanced volume telephones, lack of sign language interpretation, and too little written information provided in alternative format. Such barriers deny accessibility not only to students with disabilities, but also to parents and staff who have disabilities.
* Classrooms can be arranged in ways that make it difficult for a student in a wheelchair to move around.
* Desks are not always appropriate for wheelchair users and students with other kinds of disabilities.
* In some schools, there are no facilities in the building for people who have special needs such as catheterization, resting, or space for students to recover after a seizure. There are not always safe places to store medication.
* School playgrounds are too often inaccessible for children with mobility impairments, making recess difficult. This deprives the children with disabilities, as well as the children without disabilities, of important opportunities for social interaction. Many schools have no accessible facilities for sports or other extracurricular activities. They do not always ensure that off-site activities are in accessible locations.
The learning environment too frequently does not include the necessary supports for students with disabilities.
* There is too often no adaptive equipment, and insufficient support in learning how to use the assistive devices that are available.
* There is a particular problem with a lack of sufficient computer accommodations for students with disabilities. This is especially serious given the growing importance of computers for education and employment.
* Because of a lack of qualified sign language interpreters, which is covered in a later section, some students who are Deaf have had to rely on unqualified, untrained interpreters, such as family members and friends, when they are at school.
* There are also too often no auxiliary aids for Deaf and hard of hearing students, such as assistive listening devices, captioned videotapes, notetakers, FM systems, and transcription of audio tapes.
* Teachers are given insufficient training on how to meet the needs of students with disabilities. For example, teachers with students who are hard of hearing have been reported to talk while facing the blackboard or walking around the room, making it impossible for those students to hear what is being said.
* There is no standard for adequate equivalent education for Deaf and hard of hearing students. They are too often not taught the same curriculum as hearing students. For example, at one secondary school Deaf and hard of hearing students were not taught Shakespeare.
* Students who are blind and visually impaired report ongoing difficulty obtaining reading materials in Braille, large print or on tape. Even when these are provided, they are not necessarily made available in a timely fashion, to be available when the materials are needed for class. They also find insufficient access to Braille instruction.
* Blackboard notes and overheads cannot be read by students with vision and print disabilities, and there is too often no alternative format material provided such as enlarged photocopies to compensate for this.
* Information provided from schools for the parents is not always available in alternative formats, creating a barrier for parents with visual disabilities or other inability to read printed matter.
* Fatigue is a significant barrier for some students with disabilities, which may not be taken into account in developing the students' schedules.
* There is a great need to educate the peers of students with disabilities about disabilities, to avoid harassment in class and in the school yard, and to promote a welcoming environment for all.
* Teachers need to be educated about the possibilities for accommodation. In physical education programs, for example, some students with disabilities have been told not to go to gym class because the program cannot accommodate them. Parents can be told to keep their child at home on days when the class is going on a field trip.
Educational programs do not always adequately meet the needs of students with special needs.
* Physical education programs are frequently not modified to accommodate students with disabilities.
* Learning disabilities are hidden disabilities which are not always recognized by school personnel. Students with learning disabilities are still too often categorized as unmotivated, when in fact they need modifications to their educational program to accommodate their disability. Often their self esteem as well as their education suffers as a result.
* It can be very difficult to obtain the support of an Educational Assistant or other specialized assistance for students with a range of disabilities including learning disabilities.
* When support is available, there are often long delays before the process of implementing it is complete and the support is in place, leaving the student to fall further behind in classes.
* Students with specific learning needs are too often given inappropriate school placements. For example, one parent reported that their child with a physical disability was placed in a class with students with intellectual disabilities.
* The classroom experience of some such children has been described as "babysitting."
* There have been cutbacks to special education and some of the special needs services actually being delivered to students with disabilities.
Attititudes of educators and school administrators are reported to pose significant barriers in the education system.
* Students are not always allowed to take exams and tests in alternative ways where needed, and are not always given extra time in which to write exams where needed.
* Students with motor difficulties who have difficulty with written work are commonly given as much to write as their classmates, and, when they are unable to complete it, some children are given hours of homework each night and are made to miss recess.
* Teachers are still sometimes reluctant to modify unnecessary and inappropriate expectations for a student with a disability because of the perceived "unfairness" of treating them differently from the rest of the class.
* Needs such as self-awareness, social skills and self- advocacy skills are perceived to have been neglected in the education of children with disabilities.
* There is felt to be little and certainly insufficient career counselling for students with disabilities.
* The education system often works on the basis of a choice between "normal" versus "special" education, rather than a continuum between these artificial extremes.
* Students and parents do not always have a choice available to them about whether the children should be educated in an integrated or a segregated setting.
* Funding and accommodation issues are felt to lead in some cases to segregation of students with disabilities. Children with disabilities are sometimes relegated to one or two schools in a region that have "handicapped classes". Integration where possible and where desired by the student must begin with children if it is to succeed in society.
* The supports necessary to make integration successful are not always provided.
* Students seeking accommodations in all levels of the education system sometimes encounter bureaucratic barriers and runarounds when trying to get their needs met. It can be difficult to find out who is actually responsible to fulfil their needs, and who will be willing to take on this task.
* Students have encountered difficulty addressing specific needs because accommodation can be made dependent on medical documentation.
* Students are too often not given any credit or appropriate acknowledgement for the time and work put into developing techniques for accommodating their disabilities.
* Not enough funds are available for accommodations in schools and other educational programs. School boards have been reported to be claiming undue hardship when expected to accommodate some students with special needs.
A number of barriers have been identified that are specific to post-secondary education, beyond those listed above.
* The existing post-secondary specialized programs for people who are Deaf must be preserved and expanded. There are no post-secondary programs in Ontario for students who are Deaf that provide a comprehensive environment reflecting Deaf culture.
* Universities and colleges vary in the amount and quality of support and accommodation available to students with physical disabilities and with learning disabilities.
* Barriers have been experienced in the admission process.
* The post-secondary education needs of persons with developmental disabilities are not being adequately met.
* There are not many Deaf instructors, leaving Deaf and hard of hearing students with few role models. This is also true of faculty members with other disabilities.
* Some faculty members oppose needed accommodations for students in the evaluation process (such as more time for writing an exam, or use of alternative evaluation techniques) under the pretext that this violates the academic freedom of the professor.
* Extra-curricular activities may be advertised only in print, impeding access by students with print disabilities. They can be held in inaccessible locations, preventing access by students with mobility disabilities.
* The increasing cost of post-secondary education is seen as a barrier for people with disabilities, who are disproportionately over-represented among the poor and unemployed.
* Student bursaries that are available to full time students are not available to students whose disabilities necessitate part time attendance.
Special programs are difficult to access for persons with disabilities.
* There is a need for more literacy programs for people with communicative disabilities, as well as other disabilities.
* Cuts are closing programs such as a night class for English as a Second Language for people who are Deaf.
Numerous barriers have been experienced in accessing retraining and upgrading programs.
* There are not enough such programs for adults with learning disabilities.
* Schools do not always have the proper equipment for retraining of adults with disabilities.
* Some adults with disabilities have been told that they are too old for retraining.
* In one region, there is said to be no adult upgrading available for blind people.
* The available skills training for employment for Deaf and hard of hearing people has been found to be insufficient.
* There is limited information for Deaf people about job- related training.
* Courses offered by private firms typically do not provide sign language interpreters and alternative format materials.
* There is limited funding available for retraining or for higher education. The Ontario Government's Vocational Rehabilitation Services school funding has been cut, and their counselling services are expected to end. The Ontario Student Assistance Plan is not felt to be a sufficient alternative.
* There can be waiting lists as long as 2 to 3 years for retraining programs.
* Continuing education programs tend not to allocate sufficient funds to ensure that they are accessible.
* Retraining programs and educational upgrading are expensive, and many people cannot afford the training they require.
* People on fixed incomes may not receive support for education, and can be penalized if they do wish to continue their studies.
Transportation is an integral part of almost every activity from attending school to going to work or going out for a social evening. People with disabilities face numerous and substantial barriers to transportation, which in turn have effects on all aspects of their lives. Barriers exist both in the regular public transportation systems within cities and between cities, and in the paratransit systems. In addition to the many physical barriers and barriers to communication of information that have been listed elsewhere, which frequently apply to access to transportation, there are many barriers that are unique to transportation systems. Some of the barriers are:
* Many people with disabilities are not eligible for use of paratransit systems, and yet face many barriers on the regular systems.
* It is very difficult for people with mobility impairments to get onto the Toronto subway system. Many subway stations have long flights of stairs, which cannot be used by people with mobility disabilities, people with fatiguing conditions and people with lung disease.
* In subway stations that have elevators, the elevators are too frequently out of service or the elevators are sometimes too small for use by people with scooters.
* Route maps and schedules have generally not been made available for people with visual impairments and print disabilities. They can be confusing for people with learning disabilities because of their style of presentation.
* People who are unable to use stairs are often forced to use taxis, which are much more expensive. The cost of owning an automobile and of gas is also prohibitive for many. Moreover, various disabilities preclude driving.
* Too few buses and streetcars have been made accessible; transit systems still are permitted to purchase buses that are not low-floor, and do purchase these inaccessible vehicles, thus creating new barriers in instances when a barrier-free vehicle could have been acquired.
* Numbers and signs on buses indicating routes are commonly not supplemented by information in alternate formats for people who are blind, visually impaired, or who otherwise have a print disability.
* Bus and streetcar drivers too frequently do not call out the names of stops for visually impaired passengers and those with print disabilities. Even when a passenger with a disability asks the driver to announce a specific stop, the driver sometimes forgets to announce the stop. This requires the passenger with a disability to leave the bus, and try to find their way back.
* Buses that are supposed to be accessible may not have sufficient accessible seating.
* Buses sometimes do not have enough space for guide dogs.
* The areas around bus stops are not always cleared of snow.
* There is too often a lack of safe transfer points.
* Transit workers too often lack sensitivity towards the needs of persons with disabilities and refuse to provide assistance.
* Bus and subway stations are typically not designed with accessibility in mind. Queuing areas can be poorly located and designed. Furniture and floor-signs can be placed haphazardly.
* Not all subway and train platforms have a tactile floor warning to help visually impaired people avoid accidentally falling off the platform.
* On tour and intercity buses, people have encountered drivers who do not know how to operate the lifts, in those cases where there is a lift.
* The washrooms on such buses need to be accessible.
* Bus companies operating between cities are not required to guarantee accessible coaches.
* The cost of transportation is a concern for many people with disabilities, particularly given added needs. Some subsidies that were previously available have been decreased.
* Accessible transport products such as car and van modifications can be difficult to find and very expensive.
Parallel transit services present many challenges for people with disabilities.
* Many people who are not able to use the regular public transportation system, and who cannot drive, are not allowed to use paratransit. For example, people with chronic lung disease cannot manage the regular transit system, but often are deemed ineligible for paratransit services. With recent cutbacks, this situation is getting worse. Eligibility criteria have been changing, becoming narrower than they were previously.
* The system is not consistently available to people who are blind, and cannot be used by people who are developmentally delayed.
* Criteria for eligibility for alternate transit systems are different in different cities, resulting in a public system that is inequitable.
* Those who are eligible for paratransit services are subject to rules that do not apply to people who use regular public transportation. For example, there are rules stating that if they cancel their rides a certain number of times, their eligibility is cancelled.
* There are penalties such as suspension for cancelling at late notice.
* For rulings thought to be unfair, there may be no unbiased appeal process.
* Rides must be booked in advance. People must therefore know well in advance what they want to do and where they want to go. Such rules make impossible any spontaneity in people's lives, and present problems for unexpected needs such as funerals.
* Regular trips cannot be pre-booked for anything less than an eight-week program, causing uncertainty for people participating in short term programs.
* Scheduling is seen as inflexible.
* Trips are prioritized.
* Limited access to rides results in long waits.
* There is far less service available than is available to transit riders without disabilities, with fewer hours of operation.
* Vehicles too often arrive late. Sometimes they are so late that appointments or important meetings are missed. This can jeopardize jobs.
* People have been told that they can get a ride to their destination, but that there is no ride available to take them back home.
* On week days, only one escort is allowed to accompany a registered rider, meaning that families cannot go out together. The mother of a child with a disability, for example, cannot take all her children to their doctor.
* Some paratransit systems require registration fees, a cost not imposed on the general public for public transportation. Others are free; there is no consistency across the province.
* In many jurisdictions, the fare is not equal to that of the regular system. In some systems, users are required to pay for ten trips in advance.
* Drivers may not offer assistance to their passengers to make it in to their destinations. There is no one to assist passengers when they reach new and unfamiliar destinations.
* The quality of the ride on paratransit buses is too often poor, causing discomfort to people with conditions causing fragility, such as osteoporosis.
* Translation services are not available, so that some people are unable to call for service because of language barriers.
* In some small towns and rural areas, there is no accessible transportation at all.
* People have described their interaction with the paratransit system as "humiliating and degrading." Overall, the way the paratransit system runs is perceived to give it tremendous control over people's lives. As one rider said, it "takes away my freedom....I am given very little opportunity to make choices on my own."
There is no seamless system across municipal boundaries, making intercity travel very difficult if not almost impossible. The same occurs with travel from a big city to major nearby suburban communities. Because many people have jobs or education programs that are outside their municipality of residence, this issue poses continuous and very serious difficulties. To date, the Ministry of Transportation has refused to resolve the issue of cross-boundary travel, and municipalities have not been required to resolve the difficulties.
* Schedules differ from town to town.
* Cross-boundary travel must be booked well in advance.
* It can be difficult to transfer between services. There is sometimes a gap between the place where one service drops the rider off and the place where the next service picks up.
* There are not always places for shelter while waiting for the next ride.
Additional barriers also exist in airline, train, and intercity bus travel.
* The design of airplanes and trains is not fully accessible.
* GO bus service is inaccessible to users of wheelchairs and scooters; there are no accessible buses.
* Airports are sometimes designed in ways that require long walks.
* There are too few wheelchairs available at airports.
* Some airlines demand that passengers give up their own wheelchair during their flight and use an airline-approved alternate.
* People who use oxygen may not be allowed to bring their own oxygen tanks on board a plane, but can be required to pay the airline to supply oxygen, adding an extra expense. Delivery methods for oxygen vary internationally.
* The lack of consistency in policies and procedures for travel for persons with disabilities among different airlines and bus companies makes it very complicated to make travel arrangements. A great deal of advance planning and coordination is required for any trip.
* Trains may not be sufficiently accessible.
* Guide dogs and their blind users may not be allowed to get off trains at non-passenger stops for the dog to relieve himself or herself, making travel with a dog difficult.
* Too often a request for a device to lift a passenger off a plane is not communicated to the destination point.
* There are too few accessible taxis. There are long waits to get an accessible taxi. In one small town where there is no public transportation or paratransit service, there is only one accessible taxi for the whole town, and that taxi does not go far beyond the town borders.
* Some taxi drivers refuse to carry guide dogs, even though this has been against the law for decades. It can take months or years to enforce existing laws which forbid such treatment. For some guide dog users, this delay and hassle is not worth it. Some blind people are dissuaded from even getting a guide dog, in part because of the fact that they may be denied such services.
* Some taxi drivers refuse a ride if the person has a wheelchair. Generally, many people have encountered inappropriate behaviour by taxi drivers toward persons with disabilities.
Barriers encountered in communications are of a wide variety of types, from communication tools that are difficult to use, to difficulties in gaining access to public information, to encountering barriers when simply seeking an opportunity to express oneself. They occur in all areas of life. They are described in detail here, but they create barriers for people in all of the areas dealt with in other sections of this appendix. They prevent effective communication and access to information in the workplace, in school, when accessing services, when using transportation systems, when accessing housing, when seeking health care, when dealing with governments and in recreational activities.
Sign language interpretation is not available in many places and for many services, creating barriers to effective communication and preventing access to important information in all areas of life for Deaf and hard of hearing persons.
* Too often, sign language interpretation is not available where essential services are provided, such as in provision of health care, educational programs, employment settings, making housing arrangements and financial arrangements, and others.
* Sign language interpreters are expensive, and difficult to find. They are not available for communication in most public settings and events.
* There are no universal and enforced standards for sign interpretation.
* Funding is not readily available for sign interpretation. Communities often face long struggles to receive funding for sign language interpreters; the bureaucratic process is long.
* The services of real time captioners can also be difficult to obtain.
* There are no standardized captioning symbols.
* There are not enough intervenors for Deaf/blind persons, and there is a limit on how many can be obtained.
* Assistive listening devices are not routinely available at meeting places or public venues. Poor acoustics in many buildings, including entertainment venues, tend to amplify background noise, making it very difficult for people who are hard of hearing.
* A lack of visual text and closed captioned videos can also limit access to information for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
* Fans used for heating or cooling rooms or equipment often interfere with speakers used by people who are hard of hearing.
* The cost of hearing access devices can be beyond the reach of many.
* Information presented on public address and intercom systems is not available to people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Much important information is imparted in this way, including school announcements, departure and arrival times in airports, bus and train stations, and other important public announcements. Too frequently there are no moving message signs or other visual alternatives.
TTY and enhanced volume telephones are not available everywhere that there are telephones. This means that in many locations, Deaf and hard of hearing persons do not have the ready access to communication available to others.
* TTY service and enhanced volume telephones too often are not available in locations such as schools, public buildings, health care facilities, transportation venues, and the like.
* TTYs are not answered by some companies. Some companies have TTY but leave on answering machines which cannot be used by Deaf callers.
* There is insufficient access to 911 using TTY; sometimes the call is not answered.
* Bell Relay Service can be cumbersome, time-inefficient, and inaccurate in the relaying of information.
* Bell assistive devices must be purchased; they cannot be rented as other telephone features can.
* Voice mail systems are not usable for Deaf and hard of hearing individuals. They may also be difficult for someone with limited dexterity because of a disability such as cerebral palsy to use. Programs that have voice mail and recorded announcements present a barrier to many consumers.
* Not all telephones are compatible with hearing aids; a high pitched squeak can occur when the telephone receiver is pressed against a hearing aid.
* Not enough public areas have amplified telephones for hard of hearing people.
* Cellular telephones are difficult for people who are hard of hearing to use. These mobile phones also are increasingly designed with the requirement that one be able to read the screen and work with a menu, which forms a barrier for persons with print and visual disabilities.
* Some television stations or programs do not have closed captioning.
* There is a great reliance on radio for much of our information, such as weather and traffic reports, school closings and road conditions, and there is no alternate system by which all of this information can be regularly obtained by Deaf and hard of hearing persons.
* Deaf and hard of hearing people also face barriers of misunderstanding about the forms of communication that they can understand; some people assume that all hard of hearing people can understand sign language and all Deaf people can read lips.
Limited availability of Braille and other alternative formats for print information creates barriers for people who are blind or who have visual impairments, or who have other difficulties with print, in many areas.
* Print publications are often not available in Braille, raised print, large print, with readable colour contrast, or on tape.
* Government documents, including those routinely distributed to the public, can be difficult to obtain in alternate formats in a timely manner, if at all.
* Public notices and important information such as safety procedures are often posted in print form without alternative formats being made available.
* There is a significant lack of access to information in the marketplace. Flyers and advertisements, for example, are too often not available to people who are blind, visually impaired, or have print disabilities.
* Bills for public services such as Hydro are sent in print format.
* User manuals are not provided frequently enough in alternative format. Such information is also too frequently written in difficult language for people with learning disabilities.
* Contracts and other important documents are too frequently not presented in alternative formats.
* People with visual impairments and other print disabilities are unable to get access to the newspapers of their choice in an accessible format.
* Television guides and other media publications are often not available in formats that are usable by everybody.
* Newspapers, magazines and journals that are available in alternative formats are not always available in a timely manner. They are not always available at comparable prices to those paid by the general public.
* There are not enough books on tape. Those that are available are often not available until years after they are available to the public in printed format.
* There is insufficient access to library materials for blind and visually impaired persons. Libraries do not always have scanning devices, complete talking books, and descriptive videos.
* Computers in libraries are often not accessible; for example, there is usually no auditory output.
* There are often stairs in libraries. One person found that they could get into the building, but could not get up to where the books were shelved, or to the level where books were checked out.
* The cost of computer scanning devices for electronically reading printed materials aloud is prohibitive for many persons with print disabilities, even if they qualify for assistance under the Ministry of Health's Assistive Devices Program subsidies for part of that cost.
* Equipment with function control settings and LED displays for accessing public information at libraries and elsewhere are not designed for universal use by persons with disabilities.
* Video terminals do not address the needs of blind and visually impaired people. Touch screens are not usable by everyone, especially those with visual or motor disabilities.
* On television, information is too frequently only shown on the screen and not spoken for the benefit of blind and visually impaired viewers, as well as those with other print disabilities.
* There is virtually no descriptive video service (verbal narration of visual scenes) available on Canadian television to assist visually impaired viewers. In contrast, viewers of United States PBS channels can receive several hours of D.V.S. narrative per week. As indicated above, computers present barriers to many people with disabilities. There is some adaptive technology to overcome some of these barriers. However, it is often quite expensive.
* Access to the internet is difficult for people who are blind, visually impaired, or who have a print disability. This creates a major barrier to accessing information, so much of which is increasingly available via the internet.
* Braille is still too often not found around public buildings, such as on door signs.
Many other barriers to effective communication have been noted, creating difficulties for people with various disabilities.
* Conventional computer keyboards can be hard to use for people who have difficulties with motor control and dexterity. The keys are small and very close to each other. Where adaptations are invented, they can become quickly out of date due to changes in mainstream computer design.
* Pay telephones are not always accessible for people who use wheelchairs and for little people; they are too often difficult to reach.
* Holding telephone receivers can be painful for some people. New telephone services are delivered on a video screen which may present a barrier to people whose disability precludes them from reading print.
* Telephones with large push-buttons for easier use by people with motor impairments are too often not available in locations where there are telephones for public use.
* For people who have difficulty with spoken communication, there is a shortage of services available, such as speech and language programs.
* Attitudinal barriers and prejudice are a major problem for people with speech problems. Often others have difficulty understanding them, and do not make the effort to try. As a result they are ignored.
* People with speech impairments find that an important barrier is a lack of time to get their message across. It is difficult for many people to communicate as quickly as needed. This problem becomes more pressing as more companies use voice-response technology over the phone.
* People are not always willing to use a person's word board to communicate, or to listen to a voice output device.
* The perception of persons with disabilities is that people tend too often to discount what they have to say.
* When a person with a disability is with another person without a disability, it is commonly found that people talk to the person without a disability and ignore the person with a disability, thereby creating a communication barrier in everyday life.
Among the numerous barriers encountered in the delivery of health services are physical access issues, funding and insurance issues, and attitudinal and system issues. All of the barriers to physical access that have been described elsewhere apply to the health care field, as do communications barriers also discussed in other sections. These can have serious implications for the quality of health care that is available to persons with disabilities.
Just getting into the office of a doctor or other health care provider is too often a very serious problem. Physical accessibility for people with mobility impairments is a barrier at some doctors' offices, clinics and other facilities where health services are delivered. This can be a particular problem for people in small communities, where there are fewer doctors and therefore less choice.
One hospital clinic, for example, was noted to have approximately 17 stairs leading into it, and despite years of requests for renovations, nothing has been done.
Other barriers include:
* Hospital parking lots that are too often located a far walk from the doors. Parking or taxi charges can be prohibitive, especially for those whose disability requires frequent medical visits, and where accessible transit services are not available to enable easy transit.
* Some hospitals have long corridors with no place to rest.
* Waiting rooms sometimes have chairs that are ill-suited for people with muscle weakness and other disabilities.
* Hospital rooms too frequently do not have wheel-in showers or lowered sinks.
* Examining tables and X-ray tables are too often not at wheelchair level, or height adjustable, to allow transfers from a wheelchair to the table.
* Hospitals and nursing homes are not always properly equipped for transfers of paraplegic patients.
* Attendants are too rarely available to assist during medical examinations.
* Hospital emergency rooms do not have sign language interpreters available as a rule.
* Sign language interpreters and note-takers are usually not available during doctors' appointments, clinic visits, hospitalization and therapy sessions, or dental care.
* Rehabilitation programs, for example for substance abuse, are generally not accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing clients.
* Health forms and drug information, like other print information, are not always provided in alternative formats for people with visual impairments and print disabilities.
* In clinics, waiting systems are sometimes organized using numbered tickets and a display screen, which is not usable by visually impaired patients.
* There is a need for talking glucometers and other instruments and scales.
* Transportation, physical accessibility and communication issues discussed above can apply equally in accessing medically-needed drugs and other supplies.
The amount and distribution of health care services presents barriers to quality health care.
* There are far too few comprehensive community-based clinics that serve a range of disabilities.
* Hospitals and nursing homes tend not to have enough staff. Their staff may be ill-equipped to deal with a range of different disabilities.
* Not enough hours are available for personal supports.
* People are finding that services are being rationed; only those with needs considered "significant" may get assistance. For example, persons with early or mild stages of multiple sclerosis are too often denied homemaking services because they do not require personal care.
* There is a need for more community-based nursing and other services as an alternative to health services offered in locations which are inaccessible, due to physical barriers at the site and/or barriers to access to the site via public transit.
* There is not enough "one stop shopping" for hearing devices.
* There can be long delays to get many medically-necessary health services. This can lead to an unnecessary exacerbation of disabling conditions.
* Too often there can be long waits to get a wheelchair or other assistive device.
* The criteria for assistive devices may be so narrow that people with real needs cannot get them even if it will help prevent their disability from getting worse.
* There is a need for greater access to a wide range of services, including occupational and physiotherapy, among many other examples. For example, cutbacks to physiotherapy services are reported to have been so substantial that it is feared that people's disabilities may become more severe.
Funding and insurance issues create barriers as well.
* The cost of medications is a real concern for many people with disabilities, particularly for drugs not covered by provincial drug plans.
* User fees for drugs can present difficulty if the medications have to be taken on a regular basis.
* User fees have increased for long term care.
* Not all drugs are provided under the provincial drug card and other public or private drug plans.
* In cases of dispute, there can be a waiting period for medication coverage appeals to be processed.
* Specialized equipment for people with disabilities is often very expensive, and not fully covered. For example, only a proportion of the cost of wheelchairs, hearing aids, and glasses, to name a few, is covered. The out of pocket expense is too high for many people to manage.
* Other supplies are not covered and are often very costly. For example, there are extra expenses for products that are necessary for outpatient tests such as X-rays and ultrasounds.
* The expenses are frequently high for repairs, batteries, or replacements for health care equipment.
* Cutbacks to ADP, VRS and social assistance have made it harder for many people to afford hearing aids and other devices.
* ADP does not provide sufficient coverage for people with life long disabilities. There can be unacceptable waiting periods for approval for funding by ADP.
* More funding is needed for equipment that would enable people to remain at home.
* There is insufficient access to resources for costs not covered by OHIP.
* Limits on funding for health travel has created real anxiety.
* OHIP may not cover needed assessments for learning disabilities.
* Much of the available psychological services is not covered by OHIP, thereby excluding many people with disabilities from needed health care.
* Some services have been removed from OHIP coverage even where they may be needed by a person with a disability. Private insurance which would cover these services can be very difficult to get or to afford.
* Insurance companies are inconsistent in their policies, and too often discriminate against persons with disabilities. People with epilepsy, for example, are too often refused life and health insurance.
* Drug benefit plans do not cover hearing aid batteries.
* Supplies for the care of artificial eyes may not be covered by drug benefit plans.
The quality of service provided to persons with disabilities can at times create a barrier to adequate health care, due in part to the lack of training for many health care providers in the needs of persons with disabilities.
* People too often experience long hours of waiting, which is burdensome for all, but which can present a particularly serious barrier for people whose disability causes fatiguing.
* Too few staff with not enough time can result in a lack of needed assistance and decreasing quality of care.
* There are too few beds for emergency psychiatric hospitalization.
* Long term care facilities have been described as "warehouses" with low standards that provide poor care.
* There are few places that treat the whole person.
* There is currently not a seamless system for passing from services for children to adult services.
* Services are seen to be inconsistent across disabilities; people with certain disabilities are finding it more difficult to access services than others.
The bureaucracy of the health care system presents barriers. For example, people with disabilities too frequently find that they are being reassessed, producing much red tape and wasted time.
The attitudes of health care workers are often seen as a barrier to quality care.
* People too frequently find that health care providers speak to the people who accompany them to their appointments, rather than to the patient with a disability directly.
* People with disabilities have felt that they are given low priority for receiving diagnostic services.
* A parent of a child with a disability has noticed a "complacency" on the part of health care providers that would not be tolerated if the child had no disability.
* Physicians have discounted unrelated symptoms as being part of the disability.
* When entering emergency departments, people with disabilities have been asked about their "do not resuscitate" status even when their complaints are not life threatening.
Privacy is not always respected during the provision of care.
* For example, a blind person may be asked to give their personal and private health information aloud in a doctor's public waiting room, with others able to overhear, to aid the staff in filling out a form.
* Children in clinics are too often examined with some of their clothing removed in public areas, with no curtain drawn around them.
Consumers of health care services with disabilities express the concern that they feel they do not have enough say in the direction of their care.
* Too much power is often felt to be given to professionals in relation to assessing rights and competency.
* In many circumstances, therapists are seen as having too much power in determining needs. Clients and their families often feel that their input is not seen as important.
* Consumers have been told that they cannot come to appointments in their choice of clothing, because the staff found certain items of clothing to be difficult or time consuming.
* Health care professionals do not always provide full information, particularly to children.
* People feel they too often are labelled rather than supported by the providers caring for them.
* Blind people have had consent forms handed to them and been asked to sign, without having the form read to them or having any explanation of what they are signing for.
* Professionals in the medical field are sometimes found to be poor communicators, and in particular, do not communicate well with Deaf and hard of hearing patients.
Tourism and Recreation
Many aspects of tourism and recreation present barriers to persons with disabilities. People face all of the physical and communications barriers that have already been mentioned when they attempt to enjoy many recreational opportunities. These include stairs, inaccessible washrooms, lack of communication accommodations for Deaf and hard of hearing persons, print information, heavy doors, and many more.
* There are no consistent standards of accessibility.
* Children's playgrounds are too often inaccessible to children with mobility impairments.
* Some local parks have curbs around them.
* Recreation programs are sometimes held in inaccessible buildings. For example, in one small town all the children's recreational programming is held in the library, which has a set of stairs leading to the entrance. One registration office which claimed to be accessible nevertheless had steps.
* There is limited space for wheelchairs at too many sporting events and theatres.
* There is a need for theatres to have headsets available which would offer descriptive video for people with visual impairments.
* In museums, too many displays are behind glass, making them inaccessible to people with visual impairments.
* Many entertainment facilities do not have sign language interpretation, and yet Deaf people are required to pay full admission.
* Many rental videocassettes do not have closed captioning or descriptive video.
Restaurants present many barriers to persons with disabilities.
* Very few restaurants have Braille menus, even though these are readily available for restaurants to acquire.
* Many restaurants are inaccessible for people who use wheelchairs and scooters. Too often restaurants claim to be accessible but when people arrive in wheelchairs they find that they are not in fact accessible.
* Dim lighting in some restaurants can make it difficult for people who are visually impaired to read menus, see their food, and walk safely to their tables or washrooms.
* Cafeteria self service lines can be difficult for some persons with disabilities. Too frequently there is no one in attendance who can assist people. The food in cafeterias is not always located along the tray line, and gaps in the tray rails make it difficult for persons with disabilities to handle their trays.
* Restaurants are often noisy, and hard of hearing individuals cannot always ask that the music volume be turned down without fear of being refused service.
* Drive-through restaurants are not accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing customers; there is too often no push-button method for ordering.
* Vending machines are typically unusable for blind and visually impaired people.
Recreation centres are another venue where persons with disabilities encounter many barriers.
* There are too few fully accessible change rooms in recreation centres. In addition to all of the physical barriers common in all types of buildings, the benches are frequently bolted to the floor and difficult to get around, and there can be insufficient manoeuvring space for scooters. There are not always lowered mirrors.
* Care givers of the opposite sex too frequently cannot enter the change rooms. Family change rooms are often not available, in which parents could accompany children with disabilities, or attendants could accompany adults.
* Access to the pool area can be difficult. Too often there are no automatic doors.
* The passage to the pool area sometimes contains narrow turns that are difficult for scooters or large wheelchairs to manoeuvre.
* People are required to go through the shower to pass through, which cannot be done by people in electric wheelchairs.
* There tends to be a lack of programming for visually impaired users of recreation centres.
* The equipment is not always clearly marked for easy use by people with visual impairments.
In the area of tourism, people with disabilities are faced with many barriers.
* Too many tourist sites are very difficult to access by people who use wheelchairs.
* Accessible transportation to and from the sites is also often a problem.
* One family reported that when they travel, they go to the United States, because tourist sites in Canada are often inaccessible, but in the U.S., because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, far more sites are accessible.
* Cruises are too often not accessible. One family was told that the cruise they booked was wheelchair accessible, but they found out after purchasing their tickets that the washrooms were not accessible.
* Some travel agencies are not accessible. Travel agents too frequently know little about the travel needs of clients with disabilities, and where these needs can be met.
* It is difficult to find wheelchair accessible cottages and beaches.
Hotel accommodations also present barriers. In addition to all of the physical barriers previously noted with regard to other types of buildings, including washrooms and restaurants, the following barriers have been noted.
* There are too few accessible hotel rooms.
* Too often rooms that are claimed to be accessible are, on inspection, found not to be.
* Guide dogs are not always allowed in hotel rooms or in hotel restaurants.
* Room numbers and labels on doors within hotels are rarely if ever usable by people with visual impairments.
* Hotel staff are not trained to place visually impaired patrons in rooms that are located near the facilities they will need, such as elevators and restaurants.
* Furniture is not located in a way that would make hotel rooms easily manoeuvrable. Rooms do not have clear travel patterns. Hotel rooms do not always have light switches that are easy to operate for people with motor difficulties.
* There is a need for emergency procedures for people with hearing or visual impairments.
* Tour organizers may not be prepared to make provisions for persons with disabilities.
* Despite the fact that Deaf and hard of hearing tourists too often are provided no interpreters during guided tours and at tourist attractions, and therefore have no access to the information on the tour, they may not be given discounts.
* Persons with disabilities can face extra insurance costs when they travel; insurance costs can be higher if one has a disability or a chronic condition.
* Government tourism offices may lack information specific to the needs of persons with disabilities.
As in other areas of their lives, persons with disabilities face attitudinal barriers in the areas of recreation and tourism.
* Customer service personnel too frequently speak to the care giver instead of to the person with a disability.
* Some sports clubs do not accept people with disabilities as members.
* Tour guides may not wait for people with mobility impairments to take alternative routes.
* Disability consumer groups are typically not consulted by tourism associations.
* Bingo halls may discriminate against people with visual impairments.
* Skiers with disabilities can have to fight to be included in mainstream lessons.
* Attendant services are too often not available in recreational activities.Products
Many products present physical, technological, and informational barriers to people with disabilities who need to use them. Specially-adapted products, designed specifically for persons with disabilities, can present barriers of cost and availability.
Some products are designed or packaged in ways that make it difficult for people with disabilities to use them. For example:
* Plastic seals on drug containers and childproof pill bottles can be very difficult to open.
* Tin cans can be dangerous to open for people with motor impairments.
* Telephones are difficult to handle for some people with motor disabilities.
* There is a need for more products that can be used with one hand.
* Some switches, dials, and buttons can be difficult to manage for people with motor weaknesses.
* Too frequently, appliances such as stoves do not come with tactile markings on the dials for people with visual impairments.
The way in which product information and instructions are presented can too frequently create barriers for persons with disabilities.
* There is too often no access to product information for people with visual impairments and print disabilities.
* Household appliances and equipment do not always come with instructions in alternative format.
* Like other print information, pricing and sales information is not always available in alternative formats.
* Some products are poorly labelled. For example, the print on medications and health products is sometimes too small for visually impaired people to read.
* Expiry dates on food products are too often too small, or imprinted.
* Latex products do not always come clearly marked and with allergy warnings.
Household appliances can present difficulties for many persons with disabilities.
* Consumer electronic products that require a video menu system for operation or programming cannot generally be used by people with visual impairments, or certain motor limitations.
* Some refrigerators are inaccessible for wheelchair users; the shelves may be too high and reach too far back.
* Washers and driers can be difficult to load for people who use wheelchairs.
Specialized products, designed specifically for persons with disabilities, are too often difficult to obtain. Typically, they are sold only in specialty stores. To import them into Canada may involve the cost of a private customs broker even though such products are supposed to enter the country duty-free.
* It can be hard to find clothing that has fasteners that are easily used by people with motor difficulties.
* It is too often hard to find stores that carry products for specialized needs.
* Too often, drug stores do not have information about the range of special needs products that customers require.
* There seems to be little incentive for research into new adaptive products, or for manufacturers to produce special products.
* It can be difficult to find information about available specialized products.
There are too frequently financial difficulties in obtaining necessary adapted products.
* Adaptive equipment and specialized products tend to be expensive to buy, and there can be extra costs involved. For example, motorized wheelchairs and scooters each have their own battery box and charger which cannot be used with other chairs; because there is no standardized energy system people sometimes have to buy more than one battery and charger. This is prohibitive for people with little disposable income.
* Repairs to specialized equipment also can be expensive.
Services and Facilities Provided by the Private Sector
Numerous barriers are encountered by people who try to use private sector facilities and services. All of the physical barriers previously described confront them when they try to enter many of the buildings in which the services are provided. All of the barriers to communication that have been discussed interfere all too frequently with the nature of the services they can access. Other barriers have been reported as well.
* There are no consistent standards for barrier-free goods and services.
* The change rooms in clothing stores are sometimes too small for wheelchairs and scooters, and sharp turns are sometimes required to get into them. Change rooms too often do not have grab bars to facilitate dressing for people with motor impairments.
Washrooms in malls, stores and other public buildings are too frequently not accessible. In addition to the previously described barriers found in washrooms, some have been found that are unique to public washrooms.
* Washrooms too often do not have automatic doors. The doors can be heavy, and sometimes there is more than one door to get through.
* The locks on the cubicle doors are sometimes of a type that is difficult to manipulate for people with motor impairments or weakness.
* The equipment is usually placed too high for little people.
* People have encountered supposedly-accessible washrooms that do not have handles on the inside of the stall doors, so they could not close the doors.
* Some accessible washrooms have been found to be used for storage.
* Accessible washrooms are not always clearly indicated.
* There are too few unisex washrooms, and washrooms that allow attendant care.
Many barriers have been noted in stores.
* Store aisles are too often narrow, making it difficult to manoeuvre in a wheelchair.
* Too frequently, aisles are cluttered with displays.
* Too many store shelves are too high for people in wheelchairs to access the products.
* Stores have too few cash register aisles that are wide enough to accommodate a person in a wheelchair or a scooter, or with a guide dog.
* The security railings in stores mean that a person using a wheelchair must be specially let in and out of the store.
* The railings around grocery stores that are meant to prevent the theft of shopping carts do not have enough space for wheelchairs to pass through.
* Some department stores supply scooters for their customers' use, but too often the scooters are run down and do not work well.
* Some stores, as well as other buildings, have poor acoustics, making it difficult for people who are hard of hearing to make their way around.
* Stores too often do not have staff who can help people shop.
* Directories in malls are too frequently not accessible to those who have difficulty with print information.
* Cash register tapes are sometimes difficult to read.
* Price scanners cannot be checked by blind shoppers, leaving them susceptible to victimization.
* Store clerks typically lack training in serving customers with disabilities.
Other barriers experienced in private sector services include:
* Bank machines, including those provided by provincially- regulated trust companies, too often are not accessible for many people. Most bank machines are not designed to be usable independently by blind and visually impaired people. Some newer designs are even worse than the older bank machines. Too many cannot be easily accessed by people in wheelchairs, or operated by people with motor and coordination challenges. One bank recently installed two newly-designed, talking bank machines in Toronto. Unfortunately, they chose to install one of these at an uptown hospital, an out-of-the-way location which is not readily useful for most possible users with disabilities.
* Self service gas stations cannot be used by people with many types of motor disabilities, requiring people to pay premium price for full service.
Availability of services that are accessible to persons with disabilities is a problem. As a result, spaces are limited.
* For example, there are not enough spots available for respite care, home care, day programs, and recreational facilities.
* When people do get in, too often they have no choice about the amount of service they get and the schedule. Services provided tend not to be sufficiently flexible.
* The cost of such services and facilities is often very high.
* Alternatively, when services are free, some people feel they are expected to accept poor service.
* Attendant services are not always available when needed.
As in other areas of their experience, persons with disabilities sometimes perceive the attitudes of those providing the services as presenting a barrier.
* People utilizing private services can encounter paternalistic attitudes on the part of the service providers.
* Demeaning and degrading treatment is too often experienced. People speak of being "reduced to open begging."
Consumers of private sector services with disabilities often feel that they have too little control over the types of services they receive.
* People report that there has been too little accountability, and too little consumer input. The consumers of nonprofit services, for example, have typically felt they had little control or input over the services they receive, including disability-specific services.
* In service organizations, there is thought to be a need for more recognition of the expertise of consumers. Too few people with disabilities have leadership roles in such organizations.
Other reported difficulties include:
* Governments relegate the delivery of many important services for persons with disabilities to private agencies.
* There has been too little support from the private sector for enhancing accessibility of services.
* There is a need for AA programs for Deaf and hard of hearing persons.
* Legal services are not always easily accessible, due to issues such as a lack of training of lawyers to meet the needs of clients with disabilities, and inaccessible law offices.
* Alternative types of identification are not always accepted from people with disabilities who do not drive. CNIB cards, for example, are too frequently refused.
An issue closely related to education that is equally fraught with barriers is the area of child care.
* Day care staff are not always accepting of children that represent "problems" or "extra work" to them.
* Some parents have been told by child care centres that they cannot take their children who have special needs such as catheterization.
Public Sector and Government Services
Barriers are encountered in all areas of the public sector and government services. Once again, people too frequently encounter the barriers to physical access that were enumerated mainly in the Housing section when they go to the locations in which public sector services are offered. The many communications barriers reported elsewhere are found in this area too, affecting the services that people receive.
* Streets and sidewalks tend not to be designed for easy use by persons with disabilities. They are not always kept in good condition; textured surfaces can make use by persons with mobility impairments dangerous.
* Too often, signs and garbage obstruct sidewalks.
* Curb cuts are not yet present everywhere. Where there are curb cuts, they can be too steep. They do not always have tactile markings or bright edges to warn people with visual impairments.
* Where a sidewalk ramps down to the road with no edge at all, this poses a danger to blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
* Snow and ice are not always removed from sidewalks and from the walkways at buildings, making walking especially treacherous for people with mobility or visual disabilities.
Street crossings can present many dangers to pedestrians who have disabilities.
* Too many traffic lights do not allow sufficient time for people who walk slowly, or who use crutches or wheelchairs to cross the street.
* Islands in the middle of streets too often lack curb cuts, requiring people with wheelchairs to go out into traffic to get around them.
* There are very few audible traffic signals for visually impaired pedestrians.
* In some areas, street signs are placed very high, which can present difficulties for people with various disabilities such as low vision.
Parking can be a particularly problematic issue for drivers who have disabilities.
* There are too few parking spaces that are designated for persons with disabilities. Restriction of use of specially designated parking spaces too frequently is not monitored and strictly enforced, and they are much too often used by other drivers.
* Parking spaces for drivers with disabilities are not always wide enough.
* Snowplows do not always keep specially designated parking spaces clear.
* Not all municipalities allow persons with disabilities to park in "no parking" spaces.
* Coin insertion in parking lot machines is difficult for people with fine motor challenges.
Other physical barriers preventing access to public services have been noted.
* Mail boxes are too often placed too high.
* Superboxes can be difficult for persons with disabilities to access, and it is very difficult to get door delivery in areas that have superboxes.
Access to government services is too frequently found to be limited.
* Access to government departments and services through touchtone selection routines can be difficult and confusing.
* People find that they can spend many hours on the telephone trying to access the services that they need, only to find out finally that they have to go to the office in person, which then often means having to book specialized transit.
* It can be difficult for immigrants with disabilities to access social services support, and financial support.
* Ontario Interpreter Services for sign language interpretation are available only for certain types of appointments, and with a problematic time limit.
* Bookings of interpreter referral services are not always coordinated.
Police and other emergency services pose difficulties for many persons with disabilities.
* Police personnel do not always seem to be sensitive to the needs of Deaf citizens, as well as those with other disabilities. When Deaf persons who use sign language are handcuffed behind their backs, they cannot communicate. If a Deaf person seeks to use their hands to communicate, this might be perceived by a police officer as a hostile move.
* Emergency services such as poison control need to provide sign language interpretation and TTY.
* Police, fire, and ambulance personnel also do not seem sufficiently to be aware of the needs of blind persons.
* Police and other emergency personnel may not be aware of how to respond to someone who has had a seizure, or has a disability that makes them appear to be intoxicated.
Information from government and public services is not always felt to be readily available.
* Parents sometimes do not find out for years what government services and supports are available for their children and other family members with disabilities.
* It has been suggested that a lack of networking between various community service agencies results in consumers not receiving complete information.
The judicial system also has barriers affecting people with disabilities.
* There is a need for skilled sign language interpreters in courts.
* Judges and other court officials need training on meeting the needs of people with disabilities in their courtrooms.
The political process is not always completely accessible.
* It is difficult for many voters who have disabilities to speak to elected politicians. Deaf voters, for example, cannot always speak to their elected representatives or candidates because too often there are no interpreters available in their offices. Persons with mobility impairments may have limited access to politicians because constituency offices too often have stairs at their entrances.
* Municipal voters with disabilities may still be required to swear demeaning oaths of incapacity before they can get assistance with marking their ballot.
* The Ontario Legislature's public gallery remains largely inaccessible to people using wheelchairs.
* Politicians are often felt to be unaware of disability issues, and of the impact of government decisions such as cutbacks on persons with disabilities. There seems to be a lack of awareness on the part of politicians about invisible disabilities.
There are many funding issues regarding government services for persons with disabilities.
* Too often, it is difficult to acquire sufficient funding for attendant care services, to enable independent living.
* Family Benefits have been cut to the extent that people report they are unable to obtain the necessities of life, and must pay more for medications. This disproportionately hurts social assistance recipients with disabilities who may have added disability-related expenses to cover.
* People with breathing issues have reported that they have not been able to get air conditioners because of cutbacks.
* There have been cuts in government funding for hearing aids and other assistive devices.
* Too often, people need new wheelchairs more frequently than funding allows.
* People with disabilities expressed feelings of vulnerability, pressuring them to accept inadequate offers of government services despite their greater unmet needs.
* While government at times offers assistance to people starting new businesses, it was felt that there is a need for such assistance that would meet the needs of persons with disabilities who try to start a business.
Procedural barriers have been identified in the provision of government services.
* For example, problems have been identified with the procedure for assessing persons who have lost their licenses because of seizures; too often there are long delays past the time that the seizures have become controlled by medication.
People have reported significant attitudinal barriers in dealing with government programs.
* People report that they can be made to feel uncomfortable about making complaints. They too frequently encounter paternalistic attitudes.
* Municipal officers have been felt to be slow to recognize the needs of persons with disabilities.
* In government services generally, there is felt to be much too little meaningful consultation with consumers with disabilities.
An important area of public and government services concerns the protection of people from abuse and neglect.
* There is a great need for attention to issues of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities. It is felt that currently, the system, the court system, and the police are not able to sufficiently address these issues.
* Shelters for people who have suffered abuse are not always accessible.
There is a feeling that current standards of accessibility are not sufficiently clear, consistent, and enforced.
* Too frequently there is inadequate inspection to ensure that accessibility standards are met.
* There are currently practices in existence that can impede efforts to improve accessibility. For example, there was a concern that a municipality prevented or impeded stores and other establishments from installing ramps at their front entrances because they would infringe on sidewalk space.
* Retrofits may not be able to be made to buildings that have been deemed historical sites even where those buildings are used to provide public services.
* Current building codes are not comprehensive enough. They cover only new construction, whether in a new building, or only the part of an old building that is renovated. issues are not sufficiently addressed in other circumstances.
* Inconsistencies exist within single locations; for example, there may be designated parking spaces for persons with disabilities in a parking garage, yet buttons in the elevator that are too high for a person in a wheelchair to reach.
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