A New Map Shows Which Metrolinx Stations are Accessible. Advocates Say They’d Rather Have Accessible Transit

Agency partners with AccessNow app to identify accessibility gaps, help people with disabilities plan trips Ethan Lang, CBC News
Posted: Jan 27, 2024

Metrolinx has introduced a map showing accessibility features at it stations to make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate transit across Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area – but some advocates say that does nothing to remove barriers.

The digital map was created in partnership with AccessNow, an app that allows users to rate and share information about public places based on how accessible they are.

Under the new partnership, Metrolinx is providing information about GO Transit and UP Express stations, like whether there are elevators, audio aids, or PRESTO machines with Braille, so that users can plan transit rides based on their needs.

AccessNow founder Maayan Ziv says while Metrolinx will keep that information updated, the map will also rely on the input of the people who use it.

“It’s actually a collaboration between people with lived experience of disabilities, who were directly involved in assessing the experiences that they have at Metrolinx stations,” she said.

Feedback from users is then shared with Metrolinx, she says, which gives the agency a better idea of what accessibility gaps need to be addressed.

‘We should have fully accessible transit’

But those gaps are still there, and some advocates say a map isn’t enough.

“It’s helpful to know if there are accessibility features,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “But this is all symptomatic of a huge problem. We should have fully accessible transit stations in all locations.”

Aside from that, Lepofsky says, even if the map says there’s a feature like an elevator at a station, there’s no guarantee that elevator will be working.

Lepofsky, who is blind, says transit in the GTHA is currently a two-tiered system with a far worse quality of service available to people with disabilities. He says gaps in service don’t need to be identified so people can work around them – they should be fixed.

“So that we don’t need this information at all.”

Ontario Disabilities Coalition spokesperson Anthony Frisina says the map is a step in the right direction, but like Lepofsky, he says there’s far more work to be done, especially in light of the province’s 19-year-old commitment to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025.

He says an accessibility map may make commutes easier to plan, but he’d like to see a transit system accessible enough that people with disabilities don’t have to plan around anything at all.

“The biggest challenge for commuters that require accessible transit is really the time management: having to book in advance, not being able to really do anything spot, spontaneously,” Frisina said. “We need to get from point A to point B when we need to, not when the system allows us to.”

Metrolinx says app just one part of accessibility work

Metrolinx declined to provide an interview for this story. But in an email, spokesperson Andrea Ernesaks says the agency is working to improve accessibility in its service in other ways. That includes the use of braille in stations and more space on buses for service animals.

Metrolinx also consults with people with disabilities, Ernesaks says, and has a standing accessibility advisory committee that has helped implement a universal design standard for all Metrolinx projects since 2019.

“The app will improve the customer experience by providing up-to-date trip planning information,” Ernesaks wrote, “while also allowing us to receive direct feedback from customers through accessibility reviews of our GO and UP stations.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ethan Lang is a reporter for CBC Toronto. Ethan has also worked in Whitehorse, where he covered the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and Halifax, where he wrote on housing and forestry for the Halifax Examiner.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/metrolinx-accessibility-map-1.7093846

Windsor Entrepreneur Hopes App can Make a Difference for People Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing

App launched in 2022, already has 13,000 users
CBC News
Posted: Jan 25, 2024

Windsor entrepreneur Saamer Mansoor hopes the transcription app he’s created can break barriers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The 31-year-old was recently accepted to showcase his app, BeAware Deaf Assistant, at the Consumers Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month – a show that brings together the latest technological breakthroughs and innovators.

The app’s main purpose is to provide a real-time transcription of what is being said so that a person who is hard of hearing or deaf can read the screen and know what is being said aloud. This feature can be used without internet and transcribes multiple languages.

There’s also a setting that allows the app to pick up on loud sounds in a person’s environment and alert them by flashing their phone’s light to signal that there is a loud noise.

Both of these uses are free for people to use.

“People who are unemployed because of disability have disabilities that we can enable, if you provide a solution, you can essentially bring them into the workforce,” he said.

“It has been a really gratifying journey.”

Mansoor, who was born in Saudi Arabia, went to university in the U.S. and moved to Windsor four years ago. He had been working in app development and in 2021, he and a few friends brainstormed the idea. The following year the app launched.

“A lot of us had either family that is deaf and hard of hearing, we had friends who are in the Deaf community, we had taken sign language classes before, and so we had a lot of friends who were close to the community and that really helped us do our research essentially,” said Mansoor.

In the last year, Mansoor has also added a conference captioning app, through which he charges institutions or businesses to use the service for lectures or large events.

This allows people in the audience who are hard of hearing to scan a QR code and get a transcription of what is being said, right to their phone.

Most recently, he says Michigan State University used his app for a graduation ceremony.

He says this feature of his app is what makes it different from other transcription services.

As of last month, Mansoor says they have 13,000 people across the world who are using the app.

A few months ago, he says he also launched a health scribe app, which can be used to transcribe for people in medical settings.

Each of his apps can also provide a translation into different languages if needed.

Mansoor says that at the CES he also took part in a Shark Tank casting call and anticipates he’ll know whether he’ll be part of the show by the end of January.

Tech advancements and accessibility

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, is not familiar with BeAware, but he uses technology to help him navigate his everyday life as someone who is blind.

He says there have been huge advancements in technology that have made every day life for people with disabilities more accessible.

In the early 1980s, he remembers using one of the first devices used to scan a book and read it out loud. He says it cost $50,000 US. And yet today, he uses an iPhone with free apps.

“The experience of living with vision loss has been completely redefined through emerging technology through my life,” says Lepofsky who is also a visiting research professor of disability rights at the faculty of law at Western University.

But Lepofsky says that technology can also create barriers, which entrepreneurs need to be mindful of.

“So if someone releases a new iPhone app or web application, which is not designed to work with and interact with our access technology, not designed to be used with our screen reader on our phone or on a website, then what it amounts to is a series of new barriers, making things actually worse,” he said.

Lepofsky says the solution to this is to “require by law and enforce the law that new technologies need to effectively accommodate the needs of all users, including users with disabilities.”

Clarifications
This story has been updated to clarify that some of the services developed by Saamer Mansoor are available through separate apps. Jan 25, 2024 5:07 PM ET

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/accessibility-hearing-impairments-app-1.7093367

Canadian Paralympic Athletes Will Receive Financial Recognition for Podium Performances

“We have made significant advancements in support of Paralympic sport in recent years, and a performance recognition program was the next major priority to ensure athletes receive both the resources they need to continue competing, and the recognition they deserve for their dedication and accomplishments on the world stage.”

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/canadian-paralympic-athletes-will-receive-financial-recognition-for-podium-performances/

Hurry! Sign Up to Tell the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee THIS MONDAY to Strongly Oppose Toronto Allowing Electric Scooters That Endanger Vulnerable People with Disabilities, Seniors, and Others

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

February 2, 2024

Act fast! Email the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee now! Ask for a chance to tell the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee that they should continue to strongly oppose Toronto allowing electric scooters (“e-scooters”). The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee has this topic on its agenda for its meeting this Monday, February 5, 2024, starting in the morning, so you need to act fast. You can present virtually. They only give you five minutes to speak, so it is easy to do.

If you want to get a chance to speak to the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee at this meeting, write taac@toronto.ca If you prefer, you can just email written comments to that email address. However, speaking at the meeting this Monday is more effective.

The agenda item you would be addressing is Item D15.1 Micromobility.

The AODA Alliance is calling for Toronto to keep in place the ban on riding e-scooters in public. We also call on Toronto to start to effectively enforce that ban.

E-scooters, a silent menace, endanger public safety in places allowing them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.

Blind people don’t know when silent e-scooters rocket at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted, fun-seeking joyriders. Often left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are dangerous tripping hazards for blind people and accessibility nightmares for wheelchair users.

Making this worse, Toronto is continuing to build bike paths on sidewalks. This too endangers people with disabilities. If e-scooters were allowed on bike paths, that means Toronto would be allowing them on those terrible sidewalk bike paths. Check out the widely viewed AODA Alliance video that shows why it is so dangerous for people with disabilities to have bike paths built on sidewalks, available at: https://youtu.be/tJuF8-EbOME

We support the idea of micromobility, but this does not mean that we need to allow e-scooters. Bicycles are a form of micromobility. They fully meet our needs. E-scooters add no additional benefit, beyond the benefit of having bikes.

In 2020 and 2021, the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee has twice passed strong motions, calling for Toronto not to allow e-scooters in public places. We need it to continue to stand firm in this position, and to stand up for people with disabilities in Toronto. On May 5, 2021, Toronto City Council voted unanimously against allowing e-scooters, after hearing about their dangers for people with disabilities, seniors and others.

Last fall, an impressive list of disability and community organizations sent Toronto City Council a strong open letter, insisting that e-scooters should continue to be banned in Toronto. This shows there is overwhelming opposition from the organized disability community to being endangered by e-scooters.

Learn more by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s e-scooter page.

A Half Decade Ago Today, Former Lieutenant Governor David Onley Delivered the Blistering Final Report of His Government-Appointed Independent Review of Ontario’s Disabilities Act – We’re Still Waiting for the Ford Government to Implement It

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

January 31, 2024

SUMMARY

A half decade ago today, on January 31, 2019, former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley delivered the final report of the landmark 3rd Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A long five years later, the Ford Government has still not implemented its key recommendations. As a result, 2.9 million Ontarians with disabilities continue to suffer from far too many accessibility barriers when they try to get a job, ride public transit, use our health care system, shop for goods and services, and enjoy everything else that the public takes for granted.

The ground-breaking Onley Report is the crowning achievement in David Onley’s lifetime of promoting accessibility for people with disabilities. We take this opportunity to, again, honour the memory of David Onley by calling on Premier Doug Ford to at long last fully implement the Onley Report.

In the intervening five years, Ontario has seen too many new disability barriers created. For example, we suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, where people with disabilities were too often left out of the Government’s emergency response. We have seen recommendations by committees of Government-appointed experts languish, which show how to tear down barriers impeding people with disabilities in Ontario’s education system and health care system. Last year, we saw the Onley Report’s findings echoed in the final report of the 4th AODA Independent Review which the Ford Government appointed Rich Donovan to conduct.
Below, we set out the AODA Alliance’s news release which we issued on March 8, 2019, once the Ford Government made public the Onley Report. It summarizes the Onley Report’s findings and recommendations.

How can you help? Write your MPP. Tell them its high time the Onley Report was fully implemented. Publicize this to your local news reporters, with examples of disability barriers in your community.

Let us know what you do. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

Text of the AODA Alliances March 8, 2019 News Release

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ground-Breaking Report by Former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, Tabled in the Legislature Yesterday, Blasts Poor Provincial Government Implementation and Enforcement of Ontario’s 2005 Disabilities Act and Calls for Major Reforms to Tackle Persisting Barriers Impeding 1.9 Million Ontarians with Disabilities

March 8, 2019 Toronto: At least 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities need the Ontario Government to take strong new action now to tear down the many disability barriers they still face when trying to get a job or education, or use public transit or shop for goods or services, according to a blistering Government-appointed report by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley that the Ford Government made public yesterday. In 2005, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). It requires the Ontario Government to lead Ontario to become disability-accessible by 2025 by enacting and enforcing regulations (called accessibility standards) that spell out what employers and the providers of goods and services must do to tear down and prevent disability barriers.

In February 2018, the Ontario Government appointed Mr. Onley to conduct a mandatory Independent Review of the AODA’s implementation and enforcement and to recommend any reforms needed to ensure that Ontario becomes accessible by 2025. Based on public feedback, Onley’s report finds that the pace of change since 2005 for people with disabilities has been “glacial.” With under six years left before 2025, the report found that “the promised accessible Ontario is nowhere in sight.” Progress on accessibility under this law has been “highly selective and barely detectable.”

Mr. Onley found “this province is mostly inaccessible.” The Onley report correctly concluded:

“For most disabled persons, Ontario is not a place of opportunity but one of countless, dispiriting, soul-crushing barriers.”

The Onley report had damning things to say about years of the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the AODA. He in effect found that there has been a protracted, troubling lack of Government leadership on this issue, even though two prior Government-appointed AODA Independent Reviews called for renewed, strengthened leadership:

“The Premier of Ontario could establish accessibility as a government-wide priority with the stroke of a pen. Our previous two Premiers did not listen to repeated pleas to do this.”

The Onley report makes concrete, practical top-to-bottom recommendations to substantially strengthen the Government’s weak, flagging AODA implementation and enforcement. Set out at the end of this news release is the Onley report’s summary of its recommendations. Many if not most of them echo the findings and recommendations that the AODA Alliance submitted in its detailed January 15, 2019 brief to the Onley Review. Among other things, Mr. Onley calls for the Government to substantially strengthen AODA enforcement, create new accessibility standards including for barriers in the built environment, strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards, and reform the Government’s use of public money to ensure it is never used to create disability barriers.

“The Onley report recommends desperately needed major new action to substantially strengthen and reform the Ontario Government’s implementation and enforcement of the Disabilities Act. We strongly endorse the Onley report’s findings and almost all of his recommendations. Any with which we disagree are secondary and should not distract from the report’s core thrust,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which spearheads the campaign for accessibility in Ontario for people with disabilities. We call on the Ford Government to act now to implement this report. Premier Ford has the opportunity to do a much better job of implementing this law than did his predecessor.”

It is good but long overdue that when releasing the Onley report, the Ford Government also lifted its 258-day long freeze on the important work of two Government-appointed advisory committees. These committees were mandated under the AODA to recommend what regulations should be enacted to tear down disability barriers in Ontario’s education system impeding students with disabilities, and in Ontario’s health care system obstructing patients with disabilities. The AODA Alliance led the fight for the past nine months to get the Ford Government to lift that freeze.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance
All the news on the AODA Alliance’s campaign for accessibility in Ontario is available at: www.aodaalliance.org

David Onley AODA Independent Review Report SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Renew government leadership in implementing the AODA.
Take an all-of-government approach by making accessibility the responsibility of every ministry.
Ensure that public money is never used to create or maintain accessibility barriers. Lead by example.
Coordinate Ontario’s accessibility efforts with those of the federal government and other provinces.

2. Reduce the uncertainty surrounding basic concepts in the AODA. Define accessibility.
Clarify the AODA’s relationship with the Human Rights Code.
Update the definition of disability.

3. Foster cultural change to instill accessibility into the everyday thinking of Ontarians.
Conduct a sustained multi-faceted public education campaign on accessibility with a focus on its economic and social benefits in an aging society.
Build accessibility into the curriculum at every level of the educational system, from elementary school through college and university.
Include accessibility in professional training for architects and other design fields.

4. Direct the standards development committees for K-12 and Post-Secondary Education and for Health Care to resume work as soon as possible.

5. Revamp the Information and Communications standards to keep up with rapidly changing technology.

6. Assess the need for further standards and review the general provisions of the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation.

7. Ensure that accessibility standards respond to the needs of people with environmental sensitivities.

8. Develop new comprehensive Built Environment accessibility standards through a process to:
Review and revise the 2013 Building Code amendments for new construction and major renovations Review and revise the Design of Public Spaces standards
Create new standards for retrofitting buildings.

9. Provide tax incentives for accessibility retrofits to buildings.

10. Introduce financial incentives to improve accessibility in residential housing.
Offer substantial grants for home renovations to improve accessibility and make similar funds available to improve rental units. Offer tax breaks to boost accessibility in new residential housing.

11. Reform the way public sector infrastructure projects are managed by Infrastructure Ontario to promote accessibility and prevent new barriers.

12. Enforce the AODA.
Establish a complaint mechanism for reporting AODA violations. Raise the profile of AODA enforcement.

13. Deliver more responsive, authoritative and comprehensive support for AODA implementation. Issue clear, in-depth guidelines interpreting accessibility standards.
Establish a provincewide centre or network of regional centres offering information, guidance, training and specialized advice on accessibility.
Create a comprehensive website that organizes and provides links to trusted resources on accessibility.

14. Confirm that expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities remains a top government priority and take action to support this goal.

15. Fix a series of everyday problems that offend the dignity of people with disabilities or obstruct their participation in society.

AODA Alliance: The Media Coverage on Accessibility Issues Just Keeps on Coming!

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Ontario for All People with Disabilities Website: https://www.aodaalliance.org
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Twitter: @aodaalliance
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/aodaalliance

The Media Coverage on Accessibility Issues Just Keeps on Coming!

January 30, 2024

Three news reports we set out here give you a good snapshot of how so many different accessibility issues keep cropping up in the media.

* The January 25, 2024 City News Toronto report highlights the serious dangers that electric scooters pose for people with disabilities and seniors.

* The January 25, 2024 CBC News report addresses a new app that promises ways to help deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing people address communication barriers.

* The January 27, 2024 CBC News report talks about another app that can help people with disabilities find out what accessibility features are available at Metrolinx transit stations.

In the case of the latter two of these three news reports, the media brought the story to the AODA Alliance for its comment. We did not initiate those two stories. The first of these three stories was published in response to the AODA Alliances January 24, 2024 news release.

Regarding the third story, we emphasize that we are huge fans of the Access Now app. It is good that it will be used to let people know about accessibility features at Metrolinx stations.

However, Metrolinx has no excuses for continuing to have any accessibility barriers at any transit stations. It has had 19 years since the AODA was passed, 39 years since the disability equality provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms went into effect, and 42 years since the Ontario Human Rights Code was amended to include equality for people with disabilities. Check out the AODA Alliance’s widely viewed 2018 video that shows serious disability problems at new and recently-renovated Toronto area transit stations, including at least some that were built or renovated under Metrolinx.

How can you help? Contact the media with stories about specific disability barriers you face. Invite them to contact the AODA Alliance to comment! Help us get the public spotlight to illuminate these barriers and how to fix them.

There are now only 337 days left until 2025, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s deadline for the Ontario Government to lead this province to become accessible to Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government has still not announced any comprehensive plan to effectively address the inaccessibility crisis which the Government-appointed Rich Donovan AODA Independent Review declared last year. The Ford Government has not even agreed that Ontarians with disabilities face an inaccessibility crisis.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

MORE DETAILS

City News Toronto January 25, 2524

Originally posted at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2024/01/25/toronto-e-scooter-ban-disability-advocates/

‘A silent menace’: Disability advocates urge Toronto to enforce e-scooter ban

Disability advocates raise alarm over e-scooters

Advocates are calling on the city of Toronto to maintain and enforce the e-scooter ban, arguing it poses a danger to disabled and senior residents. Michelle Mackey reports on why the issue is being raised now.

By Michael Ranger and Michelle Mackey

Despite not being allowed on streets, sidewalks, or bike lanes in Toronto, disability advocates say e-scooters are everywhere and they are urging the city to start imposing the rules preventing their use.

Arguing the two-wheel micro-mobility vehicles pose a danger to disabled and senior residents, advocates want the city to maintain and enforce the ban on the vehicles, saying they are still being widely used across the city.

A virtual public meeting on Tuesday evening, hosted by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, focused on the e-scooters and growing concerns the city will reconsider the ban on them.

“Because they are a silent menace, someone like me who is blind can’t tell if they are coming up in front of me or behind me,” says David Lepofsky, who spoke at the public forum.

“Too often in cities they are left lying around the sidewalk,” he says. “For blind people they are a tripping hazard. For people in wheelchairs they are an accessibility barrier.”

E-scooters could be making a comeback in Toronto
Micro mobility revolution races ahead, as policymakers and police try to keep up
The meeting comes ahead of a city staff report on micro-mobility set to be delivered to the Infrastructure and Environment committee next month. The report is expected to include future plans for the electric vehicles.

In a statement to CityNews, the city says they are currently developing a new micro-mobility strategy which will consider how other cities are managing e-scooters by “engaging a wide range of interested parties,” including members of the accessibility community.

Those in favour of e-scooters say there are steps the city could take to make them safer, arguing they are environmentally friendly and help reduce congestion in the city.

Recommendations for safer use include barrier preventing technology and audible sound emission for people with low-vision.

“My difficulty as a blind person is I can’t jump out of the way,” says Ian, who took part in Tuesday’s meeting. “I have no idea what direction to move in.”

Currently, e-scooters, considered standing electric kick-scooters, are not allowed to be operated, left, stored or parked on any public street in Toronto. This includes bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, trails, paths, sidewalks or parks under multiple Municipal Code Chapters.

Toronto city council voted to opt out of the province’s e-scooter pilot in May 2021. The program allows municipalities to choose where and how the vehicles can be used.

CBC News January 25, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/accessibility-hearing-impairments-app-1.7093367

Windsor entrepreneur hopes app can make a difference for people who are deaf, hard of hearing

App launched in 2022, already has 13,000 users

A man holds a phone while smiling.

Saamer Mansoor, 31, is the creator of the BeAware app, which transcribes conversations for people who are hearing impaired. He also charges businesses and institutions to provide this service for larger events or talks. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Windsor entrepreneur Saamer Mansoor hopes the transcription app he’s created can break barriers for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The 31-year-old was recently accepted to showcase his app, BeAware Deaf Assistant, at the Consumers Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month a show that brings together the latest technological breakthroughs and innovators.

The app’s main purpose is to provide a real-time transcription of what is being so that a person who is hard of hearing or deaf can read the screen and know what is being said aloud. This feature can be used without internet and transcribes multiple languages.

There’s also a setting that allows the app to pick up on loud sounds in a person’s environment and alert them by flashing their phone’s light to signal that there is a loud noise.

A screen shows a microphone and text above that reads, ‘I can’t hear you clearly. I use this tool to understand what people are saying. Please speak into the mic.’
This is a screenshot of the app, BeAware Deaf Assistant. (BeAware Deaf Assistant app) Both of these uses are free for people to use.

“People who are unemployed because of disability have disabilities that we can enable, if you provide a solution, you can essentially bring them into the workforce,” he said.

“It has been a really gratifying journey.”

Mansoor, who was born in Saudi Arabia, went to university in the U.S. and moved to Windsor four years ago. He had been working in app development and in 2021, he and a few friends brainstormed the idea. The following year the app launched.

“A lot of us had either family that is deaf and hard of hearing, we had friends who are in the Deaf community, we had taken sign language classes before, and so we had a lot of friends who were close to the community and that really helped us do our research essentially,” said Mansoor.

In the last year, Mansoor has also added a conference captioning app, through which he charges institutions or businesses to use the service for lectures or large events.

This allows people in the audience who are hard of hearing to scan a QR code and get a transcription of what is being said, right to their phone.

Most recently, he says Michigan State University used his app for a graduation ceremony.

He says this feature of his app is what makes it different from other transcription services.

As of last month, Mansoor says they have 13,000 people across the world who are using the app.

A few months ago, he says he also launched a health scribe app, which can be used to transcribe for people in medical settings.

Each of his apps can also provide a translation into different languages if needed.

Mansoor says that at the CES he also took part in a Shark Tank casting call and anticipates he’ll know whether he’ll be part of the show by the end of January.

Tech advancements and accessibility

David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, is not familiar with BeAware, but he uses technology to help him navigate his everyday life as someone who is blind.

He says there have been huge advancements in technology that have made everyday life for people with disabilities more accessible.

David Lepofsky

David Lepofsky chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. (Paul Smith/CBC)

In the early 1980s, he remembers using one of the first devices used to scan a book and read it out loud. He says it cost $50,000 US. And yet today, he uses an iPhone with free apps.

“The experience of living with vision loss has been completely redefined through emerging technology through my life,” says Lepofsky who is also a visiting research professor of disability rights at the faculty of law at Western University.

But Lepofsky says that technology can also create barriers, which entrepreneurs need to be mindful of.

“So if someone releases a new iPhone app or web application, which is not designed to work with and interact with our access technology, not designed to be used with our screen reader on our phone or on a website, then what it amounts to is a series of new barriers, making things actually worse,” he said.

Lepofsky says the solution to this is to “require by law and enforce the law that new technologies need to effectively accommodate the needs of all users, including users with disabilities.”

Clarifications

This story has been updated to clarify that some of the services developed by Saamer Mansoor are available through separate apps.

CBC News January 27, 2024

Originally posted at https://www.cbc.ca/lite/story/1.7093846

A new map shows which Metrolinx stations are accessible. Advocates say they’d rather have accessible transit

Ethan Lang | CBC News | Posted: Saturday, January 27th, 2024 5:00 AM | Last Updated: January 27th

Agency partners with AccessNow app to identify accessibility gaps, help people with disabilities plan trips

Caption: A new app will map accessibility features at Metrolinx operated transit stations. Metrolinx says the app is just part of its work to make transit more accessible for everyone. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

Metrolinx has introduced a map showing accessibility features at it stations to make it easier for people with disabilities to navigate transit across Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area but some advocates say that does nothing to remove barriers.

The digital map was created in partnership with AccessNow, an app that allows users to rate and share information about public places based on how accessible they are.

Under the new partnership, Metrolinx is providing information about GO Transit and UP Express stations, like whether there are elevators, audio aids, or PRESTO machines with Braille, so that users can plan transit rides based on their needs.

AccessNow founder Maayan Ziv says while Metrolinx will keep that information updated, the map will also rely on the input of the people who use it.

“It’s actually a collaboration between people with lived experience of disabilities, who were directly involved in assessing the experiences that they have at Metrolinx stations,” she said.

Image | AccessNow Metrolinx app
Caption: On the map, Metrolinx stations with a blue check mark have accessibility information deemed up to date and accurate by AccessNow and Metrolinx. (AccessNow)

Feedback from users is then shared with Metrolinx, she says, which gives the agency a better idea of what accessibility gaps need to be addressed.

‘We should have fully accessible transit’

But those gaps are still there, and some advocates say a map isn’t enough.

“It’s helpful to know if there are accessibility features,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. “But this is all symptomatic of a huge problem. We should have fully accessible transit stations in all locations.”

Image | David Lepofsky
Caption: David Lepofsky is Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

Aside from that, Lepofsky says, even if the map says there’s a feature like an elevator at a station, there’s no guarantee that elevator will be working.
Lepofsky, who is blind, says transit in the GTHA is currently a two-tiered system with a far worse quality of service available to people with disabilities. He says gaps in service don’t need to be identified so people can work around them they should be fixed.

“So that we don’t need this information at all.”

App won’t help meet accessibility target: advocate

Ontario Disabilities Coalition spokesperson Anthony Frisina says the map is a step in the right direction, but like Lepofsky, he says there’s far more work to be done, especially in light of the province’s 19-year-old commitment to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025.

He says an accessibility map may make commutes easier to plan, but he’d like to see a transit system accessible enough that people with disabilities don’t have to plan around anything at all. “The biggest challenge for commuters that require accessible transit is really the time management: having to book in advance, not being able to really do anything spot, spontaneously,” Frisina said. “We need to get from point A to point B when we need to, not when the system allows us to.”

Metrolinx says app just one part of accessibility work

Metrolinx declined to provide an interview for this story. But in an email, spokesperson Andrea Ernesaks says the agency is working to improve accessibility in its service in other ways. That includes the use of braille in stations and more space on buses for service animals.

Metrolinx also consults with people with disabilities, Ernesaks says, and has a standing accessibility advisory committee that has helped implement a universal design standard for all Metrolinx projects since 2019.

“The app will improve the customer experience by providing up-to-date trip planning information,” Ernesaks wrote, “while also allowing us to receive direct feedback from customers through accessibility reviews of our GO and UP stations.”

Two Year Anniversary of Inaction – Ford Government Has Still Not Enacted Promised New Regulations to Tear Down the Many Barriers Hurting One Third of a Million Students with Disabilities in Ontario Schools, Two Years After Receiving a Landmark Report by Government-Appointed Experts Calling for Major Reform

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 29, 2024 Toronto: This week marks a disturbing anniversary of Ford Government inaction when it comes to giving some of Ontario’s most vulnerable students a fair chance. Two years ago yesterday, the Ford Government received a comprehensive report by a committee of Government-appointed experts that revealed the many disability barriers permeating Ontario’s publicly funded schools, which hurt at least one third of a million students with disabilities. These accessibility barriers impede students with disabilities from fully participating in, being fully included in, and fully benefitting from all that our K-12 school system has to offer.

The report was prepared by the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, mandated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“In opposition, the Tories blasted the Kathleen Wynne Government for not enacting a much-needed Education Accessibility Standard under the Disabilities Act, but now that they’re in power, they’ve dragged their feet on this for years and left our kids to languish,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the nonpartisan grass roots AODA Alliance, which has led the fight since 2009 to get Ontario to enact the Education Accessibility Standard. “Premier Ford has been told what disability barriers are hurting students with disabilities and what he needs to enact to tear those barriers down. There’s no excuse for his failing to pass this long-overdue regulation for two full years.”

The final report of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee gave the Ford Government and Ontario’s 72 school boards a practical roadmap for how to remove those barriers and how to prevent new ones from being created in the future. Among the many barriers in Ontario’s schools, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report found:

* Many school buildings are not physically accessible, impeding students, teachers, staff and parents with physical disabilities.

* Digital learning technology used in schools too often lacks digital accessibility to ensure that students with disabilities can fully use and benefit from these learning tools.

* The school system too often does a poor job of letting parents of students with disabilities know what programs, services and supports are available for their children and how to access them.

* The education system is replete with rigid bureaucratic and administrative barriers that make it harder for schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities and create roadblocks for parents trying to advocate for the needs of their children in school.

* Teachers and other educational staff have too often not been sufficiently trained, if at all, in how to effectively teach all learners, including students with disabilities.

This week also marks a second cruel anniversary for Ontario’s K-12 students with disabilities. Five years ago this week, on January 30, 2019, the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition held a joint news conference at Queen’s Park to press for immediate action by the Ford Government to address an especially serious barrier hurting K-12 students with disabilities a barrier that the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee later highlighted. They demanded that the Ford Government rein in the sweeping, unmonitored power of school principals to exclude a student from school under Section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act.
It is an especially unfair barrier for students with disabilities who are too often forced to stay home because their school fails to provide appropriate disability supports.

In over 5,000 Ontario schools, each principal is allowed to be a law unto themselves. They are not required to keep track of how many students they exclude, how long they are excluded, or why they are excluded, nor are they required to report this information to anyone. They don’t have to tell the student and their family the reason for their exclusion from school nor advise them of their right to appeal.

“The persistent unfair barriers facing so many Ontario students with disabilities are one part of the larger crisis of inaccessibility in Ontario that was declared in the Government-appointed Independent Review of the AODA conducted by Rich Donovan a crisis that the Ford Government has never acknowledged,” said Lepofsky. “We predict that the Ford Government will boast about how much money it spends on special education, without acknowledging that that money is far less helpful for these students when it is poured into an education system that is so riddled with disability barriers.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, aodafeedback@gmail.com Twitter: @aodaalliance

For more background, check out:

* The final report and recommendations of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee.

* AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s captioned video describing the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee final report.

* Recording of the January 30, 2019 Queen’s Park news conference by the AODA Alliance and the Ontario Autism Coalition.

* David Lepofsky’s captioned video presentation providing tips for parents of students with disabilities on how to advocate for their child’s needs at school.

* The AODA Alliance website’s education page.

Accessibility News January 27,2024 Update

Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/acnewsca

The AODA Clock is Ticking
There are 48 weeks, 3 days until a fully Accessible Ontario! Will you be compliant?

In this Issue

*Despite Legislative Progress, Accessible Cities Remain Elusive
*’A Silent Menace’: Disability Advocates Urge Toronto to Enforce e-Scooter Ban
*Six Flags Faces Lawsuit Over Disability Policies
*New, Accessible Art Exhibit at OMAH has Visitors ‘Seeing Beyond’
*Patients Benefit When Medical Schools Remove Barriers for Students With Disabilities, Study Says
*Dunne: Everyone Knows Paratransit is Bad, Yet Nothing Changes
*The New Year Should Bring in a New Focus on Accessibility

ARTICLES:

Despite Legislative Progress, Accessible Cities Remain Elusive

Amid a complex web of disability civil rights legislation in Canada and the United States, one could easily be lulled into thinking that the work is done. Some of this legislation is now several decades old; more recent additions include accessible design standards and guidelines and barrier-free elements of building codes.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/despite-legislative-progress-accessible-cities-remain-elusive/

‘A Silent Menace’: Disability Advocates Urge Toronto to Enforce e-Scooter Ban

Advocates are calling on the city of Toronto to maintain and enforce the e-scooter ban, arguing it poses a danger to disabled and senior residents. Michelle Mackey reports on why the issue is being raised now.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/a-silent-menace-disability-advocates-urge-toronto-to-enforce-e-scooter-ban/

Six Flags Faces Lawsuit Over Disability Policies

A California resident is suing Six Flags over its disability access policy. The plaintiff in the case, which has been filed in federal court, is seeking class action status for the case, which ultimately could affect how people with disabilities are accommodated not just at Six Flags but also at Universal and other theme parks that use the same system.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/six-flags-faces-lawsuit-over-disability-policies/

New, Accessible Art Exhibit at OMAH has Visitors ‘Seeing Beyond’

Artist Robyn Rennie was at the Orillia Museum of Art and History on Saturday afternoon to unveil her fully accessible, 27-piece exhibition called Seeing Beyond.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/new-accessible-art-exhibit-at-omah-has-visitors-seeing-beyond/

Patients Benefit When Medical Schools Remove Barriers for Students With Disabilities, Study Says

She had the highest grade point average (GPA) at the University of Ottawa and a perfect score on her medical exams, but Shira Gertsman had little chance of getting into numerous medical schools across Canada – because of a disability.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/patients-benefit-when-medical-schools-remove-barriers-for-students-with-disabilities-study-says/

Dunne: Everyone Knows Paratransit is Bad, Yet Nothing Changes

As the city moves toward its budget planning for the 2024/25 fiscal year, now is the time to ensure city leaders hear and truly understand the urgency of the situation, and take appropriate action on the “serious problem” they already have acknowledged exists.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynews.ca/dunne-everyone-knows-paratransit-is-bad-yet-nothing-changes/

The New Year Should Bring in a New Focus on Accessibility

Accessibility has become an increasingly prominent topic over the last few years.

It is one of the leading issues in community design, and cities, provinces and organizations tout their accessibility strategies as evidence of their commitments to inclusion.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/the-new-year-should-bring-in-a-new-focus-on-accessibility/

Past Newsletters

View past issues of the Newsletter at http://www.accessibilitynews.ca/category/accessibility-news-weekly-newsletter/

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Accessibility News, since November 8, 2006

Despite Legislative Progress, Accessible Cities Remain Elusive

Amid a complex web of disability civil rights legislation in Canada and the United States, one could easily be lulled into thinking that the work is done. Some of this legislation is now several decades old; more recent additions include accessible design standards and guidelines and barrier-free elements of building codes.

Read more at
https://www.accessibilitynewsinternational.com/despite-legislative-progress-accessible-cities-remain-elusive/

‘A Silent Menace’: Disability Advocates Urge Toronto to Enforce e-Scooter Ban

Advocates are calling on the city of Toronto to maintain and enforce the e-scooter ban, arguing it poses a danger to disabled and senior residents. Michelle Mackey reports on why the issue is being raised now. By Michael Ranger and Michelle Mackey
Posted January 25, 2024

Despite not being allowed on streets, sidewalks, or bike lanes in Toronto, disability advocates say e-scooters are everywhere and they are urging the city to start imposing the rules preventing their use.

Arguing the two-wheel micro-mobility vehicles pose a danger to disabled and senior residents, advocates want the city to maintain and enforce the ban on the vehicles, saying they are are still being widely used across the city.

A virtual public meeting on Tuesday evening, hosted by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, focused on the e-scooters and growing concerns the city will reconsider the ban on them.

“Because they are a silent menace, someone like me who is blind can’t tell if they are coming up in front of me or behind me,” says David Lepofsky, who spoke at the public forum.

“Too often in cities they are left lying around the sidewalk,” he says. “For blind people they are a tripping hazard. For people in wheelchairs they are an accessibility barrier.”

The meeting comes ahead of a city staff report on micro-mobility set to be delivered to the Infrastructure and Environment committee next month. The report is expected to include future plans for the electric vehicles.

In a statement to CityNews, the city says they are currently developing a new micro-mobility strategy which will consider how other cities are managing e-scooters by “engaging a wide range of interested parties,” including members of the accessibility community.

Those in favour of e-scooters say there are steps the city could take to make them safer, arguing they are environmentally friendly and help reduce congestion in the city.

Recommendations for safer use include barrier preventing technology and audible sound emission for people with low-vision.

“My difficulty as a blind person is I can’t jump out of the way,” says Ian, who took part in Tuesday’s meeting. “I have no idea what direction to move in.”

Currently, e-scooters, considered standing electric kick-scooters, are not allowed to be operated, left, stored or parked on any public street in Toronto. This includes bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, trails, paths, sidewalks or parks under multiple Municipal Code Chapters.

Toronto city council voted unanimously to opt out of the province’s e-scooter pilot in May 2021. The program allows municipalities to choose where and how the vehicles can be used.

Original at https://toronto.citynews.ca/2024/01/25/toronto-e-scooter-ban-disability-advocates/