Information & Communications
Having the right information at the right time can remove accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. This month our focus is accessibility in communications and information. Technology continues to remove barriers for people with disabilities, especially barriers to information online.
Organizations across Ontario are working to comply with the Information & Communications Standard. Libraries are looking at new ways to provide an accessible experience, and accessible materials. Innovators are using apps and other technologies to break down accessibility barriers.
Ontarians can move this process forward by learning more about accessibility features in technologies we use every day. Many word processors and desktop publishing programs have had accessibility features for years. Popular social media platforms are pushing the accessibility envelope with new accessibility features. Greater awareness of these trends empowers everyone; and helps remove barriers for people with disabilities.
Apps Improving Accessibility
With advances in technology, there are more and more opportunities to improve accessibility for all.
Here are apps that are designed to remove barriers for people with disabilities in their everyday lives:
1. WaveLink VRI App by the Canadian Hearing Society
WaveLink is a video remote interpreting services by the Canadian Hearing Society. WaveLink delivers sign language interpreting services to your tablet or smartphone by connecting with a Canadian Hearing Society interpreter through live video conferencing.
2. GoHere: Washroom Locator App by Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
The GoHere Washroom Locator App helps people map out washrooms along a route and locate the closest available washroom anywhere in Canada. The app improves access to public washrooms, specifically in the hopes of improving the lives of those with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis which often causes frequent and urgent washroom trips.
3. Google Maps
Google Maps has over 220 countries and territories mapped and hundreds of millions of businesses and places on the map. Google is working to include “wheelchair accessible” routes to transit navigation in Google Maps. When you activate this feature the maps will alter its recommended routes accessibility of key locations such as transit stations. This feature is not yet available in all cities, but Google has been working with local guides around the world to improve and include this function for all.
Skype and PowerPoint Accessibility Enhancements
In honour of the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Microsoft announced some new features in PowerPoint and Skype. Both programs will support live captions and subtitles when used for presentations.
With these new features, users of PowerPoint have the ability to display their presentations online and have these live presentations subtitled as the presentation is delivered. The captions and subtitles have the option to be displayed in the same language or in a different one, allowing non-native speakers to get a translation of a presentation in real time.
Skype’s live captions & subtitles will also let you read the words that are spoken during one-on-one and group calls. Skype will support subtitles in over 20 languages There are also plans to implement a side window showing all translations in the future.
Microsoft announced these features would commence rolling out early in 2019. For more information please visit the Microsoft Website.
Inclusive & Accessible Library Collection for Young People with Disabilities
Libraries are often important inclusive and accessible community spaces which help broaden our knowledge. They introduce people of all ages to new learning and creative experiences. Developing inclusive environments is often possible through collaborations. An excellent example is the one between the Toronto Public Library and the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) which is an international non-profit organization with a section in Canada. IBBY’s goals include promoting international understanding through children’s books, and giving children the opportunity to access to books with high literary and artistic standards.
The IBBY collection for Young People with Disabilities is located in North York Central Library Branch and contains 4000 fiction and non-fiction books in over 40 languages which are both for and about children with disabilities. As well, there are books for adults with developmental disabilities or who experience reading difficulties. The titles include formats in Braille, sign language as well as tactile and textile books. The collection can be accessed online through the Toronto Public Library website.
Are you a teacher, caregiver, parent or librarian? Interested in creating inclusive learning experiences and promoting positive images about young people living with disabilities? The IBBY collection also offers booklists and ideas that you can use. Its offerings continue to grow. Every two years, 50 new outstanding entries are added to the collection ensuring young people with disabilities have access to diverse books which represent their experiences.
Libraries for all Ontarians
The Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA) launched as a public library service in 2014 to ensure Canadians with print disabilities have access to the same breadth of materials as their neighbors.
Through its member public libraries, CELA serves all Ontarians with print disabilities offering a comprehensive collection of more than 650,000 titles for all ages in French and English, including fiction, non-fiction, bestsellers, award winners, newspapers and magazines. Library patrons access materials for free by downloading their selections from the website or by requesting physical copies that are sent by mail. Educators, therapists and other professionals who directly support Ontarians with print disabilities can also access the collection on behalf of their patrons. A wide range of accessible formats are available to provide appropriate options for Canadians with vision loss, learning disabilities or physical disabilities that make it difficult to use traditional print.
For more information about CELA services, visit your public library or celalibrary.ca
Communication Disabilities Access Canada
Communication Disabilities Access Canada (CDAC) is a national and provincial non-profit organization that focuses on accessibility for people who have speech and language disabilities that are not caused primarily by hearing loss. CDAC offers resources to organizations to help make services accessible. These resources are focused on helping people who have disabilities that affect their speech, or their understanding of speech.
A perfect lunch and learn activity! People who have disabilities that affect their communication describe what organizations can do to make their services accessible for them. In 40 minutes, learn about communication supports that people might need when accessing your services in-person, over the phone, at meetings and public events or through print communications. Take the webinar anytime until April 30, 2019 and get a certificate of attendance.
If you can’t take the webinar, download CDAC’s guidelines for making services accessible for people who have disabilities that affect their communication. Download the guidelines here.
Communication Assistance Database:
Looking for someone who can support an individual communicating when using your services? CDAC has two categories of communication assistance on its database. Communication assistants have taken CDAC training and may be engaged by an organization to assist people communicating at a non-critical meeting or appointment.
Communication intermediaries are qualified Speech-Language Pathologists with additional training from CDAC to assist with communication in justice settings. They are typically hired by police, legal and justice services. All assistants on the database work independently and are not accredited, endorsed or paid by CDAC. Learn more about the database and how to use it by going to http://www.cdacanada.com/communication-assistance-database/
For more resources, check out the CDAC website at http://www.cdacanada.com/
Canadian Mental Health Association Guide – Mental Health in the Workplace: An accommodation guide for managers and staff.
Conference Board of Canada Guide – Making Your Business Accessible for People with Disabilities: Guide for Small Business: a guide to help your small business employ and serve people with disabilities.
New Feature! Spotlight on Business
The Spotlight on Business is a new feature of the AODA Toolbox that recognizes Ontario businesses as accessibility champions. Every month in 2019, the AODA Toolbox will feature a business that demonstrates bold, innovative practices with positive results that are collaborative and impactful for the surround community, particularly people with disabilities.
In the Spotlight this month is Magnusmode, a company that has developed a mobile app, MagnusCards®, that supports independent living and increases accessibility for customers with cognitive special needs.
Magnusmode works with companies and local organizations around the world to transform the customer service experience for people with autism and other cognitive special needs. Through the app, Magnus provides branded digital Card Decks that enable people and their support networks to better access and engage with their local community. Magnus helps to focus and manage activities with decreased stress and greater independence.
For example, Magnus has partnered with the Milton Public Library to create unique card decks that help patrons with cognitive disabilities independently navigate the library. The MagnusCards app provides guidance on how to register for a library card, use the library catalogue, find library items, use self-check-out to borrow library items, and return a library item at the Milton Public Library specifically.
Through their app and partnering organizations, Magnusmode is helping remove barriers to information for people with disabilities.
Do you know an Ontario business that deserves to be spotlighted as an accessibility champion? Submit the business name and a brief description of why they are an accessibility champion to AODAoutreach@ontario.ca.
3D Printing and Accessibility
3D printing technology is offering new solutions to accessibility barriers. “Makers” are individuals who use their skills with electronics, robotics, and 3-D printing, to brainstorm, or “hack” creative solutions to problems. Tikkun Olam Makers is a global group of makers using 3D printing help remove accessibility barriers. Some examples include:
- a 3D printed device that helps to people to carry things while using crutches
- a mechanism that assists a wheelchair user with kicking a ball
- pill grinding machines
Museums are using 3D printing to create tactile versions of exhibits that allow someone with a visual impairment to experience artwork. Some museums are able to replicate full pieces of art. Replicas can also be put on display in different areas or sent out of the museum, for example, to a hospital, giving the public more access to collections.
From custom prosthetics, to quickly being able to develop braille text for signage, the possibilities of 3D printing are endless.
A Case Study in Accessible Libraries: Milton Public Library
The Milton Public Library has taken steps beyond what is required by the AODA to create a space that is accessible to all members of the community. Milton Public Library serves as an excellent example for other libraries looking to make their services more accessible to members of their community.
Two branches of Milton Public Library have been built using the Facility Accessibility Design Standards, a guide featuring design standards that enhance the accessibility of public spaces beyond the requirements of the Ontario Building Code. Some accessible features of these library branches include:
- Computer stations that are installed in a range of heights
- Book drops that are placed at an accessible height and operable with one hand
- Spaces between book stacks that are wide enough to allow a wheelchair or scooter to pass through
Milton Public Library also provides a number of resources that allow patrons of various abilities access materials:
- E-audiobooks and e-books as well as books with large print.
- Many databases provided by the library have text-to-speech capability.
- Equipment such as enhanced readers, large type keyboards, and handheld portable readers to assist patrons with low vision.
- A text telephone (TTY) is available for those with a hearing or speech impairment.
The Milton Public Library website includes accessible features that allow visitors of all abilities to navigate the site more easily. These features include the ability for visitors to zoom in and out and adjust the colour contrast to view the site in a way that best suits them. Images on the website have descriptive text to accommodate those using a screen reader. The site also allows visitors to navigate the site by using only a mouse or a keyboard.
Milton Public Library has gone above and beyond their requirements to create public spaces that are welcoming to all visitors. To read more about Milton Public Library’s accessibility features please visit their website: https://www.mpl.on.ca/accessibility.
Resources for Libraries
The Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 has specific requirements for both public and school libraries. These requirements involve providing accessible versions of certain materials and resources to patrons when requested.
There are resources available to libraries to help them meet their accessibility obligations:
Accessible Content ePortal (ACE)
ACE is an online collection of books that have been digitized and made available online in accessible formats for universities participating in the service. ACE gives staff and students access to over 15,000 texts in five accessible formats. Users with verified print disabilities are given access to browse, search and download texts through their home institutions.
Alternative Education Resources for Ontario (AERO)
AERO is web-based digital repository that provides alternate format text to students with perceptual disabilities who attend publicly funded educational institutions in Ontario. The repository produces and provides alterative format materials to publicly funded elementary and secondary schools. AERO also assists postsecondary institutions in providing their students with high quality course materials and resources in the alternative format they need faster. Top publishers participate in AERO including Pearson Canada Inc., Oxford University Press, Harper Collins Canada, and Scholastic.
Centre for Equitable Library Access (CELA)
CELA makes it possible for all public libraries in Canada to provide reading materials in accessible formats to patrons with print disabilities. All Ontario public libraries are members of CELA with access to over 500,000 titles, including newspapers and magazines. CELA also provides training and support to help libraries deliver their accessible services effectively. Public libraries can sign up eligible patrons or patrons can self-register.
CELA also offers an educator access program. Educators who work with students with print disabilities in an elementary, secondary or post-secondary institution are eligible for this program. This includes teacher librarians.
International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY)
The IBBY collection of books for young people with disabilities is an excellent resource for accessible books. The collection features books for and about young people with disabilities and includes 4,000 titles in over 40 languages. The collection features specialized formats such as Braille, PCS and Sign Language as well as Tactile and textile books. The collection is housed on the main floor in the Children’s Department at the North York Central Library in Toronto. Circulating copies of many of the recent IBBY books are available for check out at a Toronto Public Library or by interlibrary loan.
It is important to emphasize that creative and helpful solutions are sometimes the solution when problems arise. If a library is unable to provide the content in an accessible or conversion-ready format, staff must explain to their patrons why the library cannot convert the information and provide a summary of the information.
Free Accessibility Webinars for Creative Spaces
The Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility is partnering with ArtsBuild Ontario to host webinars on how to make creative spaces more accessible and inclusive to individuals of different abilities. A creative space is a space that is actively serving creative industries such as art galleries, museums, theatres, libraries, media studios, sacred spaces and creative hubs.
These webinars will focus on accessibility and creative spaces based on the Design for Public Spaces Standard, as part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act. The webinars will explain how creative spaces need to meet accessible building standards and explore ways creative spaces can go beyond the standards. These sessions will provide tools, best practices, and feature guest speakers from the arts sector.
March 12– Design for Public Spaces Advanced: How Can Creative Spaces Go Beyond the Standard?
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Dave Hollands, Head, ROM Creative & Lorene Casiez, Accessibility and Wellness Practice Lead with Human Space
March 26 – Best Practices for Architects, Designers and Creative Spaces on Accessibility
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Amy Potier, Accessibility and Building Code Specialist with Gensler as well as Corey Timpson, Principal at Corey Timpson Design Inc and former Vice President of Exhibitions at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
April 23 – Safety, Fire Codes and Accessibility for Creative Spaces
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Martin Day, President of Safety Media Inc. and Marnie Peters, Accessibility Specialist
May 14 – Invisible Disabilities and Creative Spaces
Host: Thea Kurdi, Vice President with DesignABLE Environments
Presenters: Alex Bulmer, Accessibility Consultant & Actor, Writer and Director as well as Andrew Gurza, Disability Awareness Consultant
To register for a webinar, you can visit Arts Build’s website here.