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Canadian thalidomide victims victorious

December 8, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In a rare act of unanimity, Canadian MPs recently voted to provide "full support" for those living with the effects of the drug thalidomide. It's recently been in the news, but thalidomide victims have been struggling to be heard for decades now.

Dark RemedyMost of these survivors were born in the early 60s, around the time that pregnant women were often offered thalidomide as a means to control morning sickness and insomnia.

It was a federally approved drug that didn't display its serious effects until later. The children born of many of these women suffered severe physical impairments, including missing or incompletely formed limbs.

Thalidomide has a chilling history, bringing up important questions about the kinds of drugs that are regulated and what we use to treat various conditions. You can read more about it in Dark Remedy by Trent Stephens.

Now, almost fifty years later, with more financial support from the country, many of these now-grown children can finally breathe a little easier. The War Amps, an organization that works with amputees, urged the Canadian government to look specifically at what the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada (TVAC) have outlined when considering what kind of support their members need. As many of the survivors are now reaching their fifties, they will require additional help as they start to face some of the disabilities that come with age. You can find out more about this debate in this article at the Globe and Mail.

About Canada: Disability RightsAlthough it's still a little too early to predict exactly how the promise of 'full support' will pan out, it's a huge moment in Canadian history.

In her book, About Canada: Disability Rights, Deborah Stienstra describes how small changes can help transform Canadian society into something that is truly supportive of those living with disability.

The focus, as she says, must not remain on 'fixing' bodies but instead enhancing the support structures around us. Hopefully, with this latest victory, those with disabilities due to thalidomide will be finally getting the support they deserve.


IBBY Selections & Other Picks for Kids

December 1, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

When you hear 'ibby', what does it mean to you? 

A) A small, spotted dog

B) A nonsensical word made up by Dr. Seuss

C) the International Board on Books for Young People

D) the itch you get in that exact spot on your back you can't reach

If you answered C - pat yourself on the back! (And maybe try to get that itch, too).

If you answered B, you're still close: after all, IBBY collections will certainly include a Dr. Seuss book or two!

IBBY's Outstanding BooksThe IBBY collection housed at the North York Central Branch is a world hub of books specifically selected for children and youth with disabilities. These books range from simple picture books that explore diversity to intricate titles in Braille, American Sign Language and more. 

The collection is international , so you'll find books in many languages and formats. The North York Central Blog has a great introduction to the IBBY collection; be sure to check it out to see more. The Toronto Star also recently posted an article about this unique collection.

If you're not able to see those books in person just yet, there is a handy PDF document online outlining some of IBBY's outstanding recent books.

You can also see a librarian in your local branch to get  some great books showing children of all needs and abilities in many kinds of situations. Here are just a few that come to mind:

Brian's Bird by Patricia Davis

Eight-year-old Brian, who is blind, learns how to take care of his new parakeet and comes to realize that his older brother, while sometimes careless, is not so bad after all.

Lemon the Duck by Laura Backman

Lemon, who lives in a classroom full of children, acts like a duck and quacks like a duck, but she just can't quite walk like a duck. With the help of her friends, however, Lemon will do lots of things to become one happy duck!

Just Because by Rebecca Elliot

A younger brother describes all the fun he has with the big sister he adores even if she can't do some of the things he can.

Happy Reading!



Autism Spectrum Disorder: Increase Your Awareness With the Help of the Library

November 13, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Autism is affecting more and more lives. The Toronto Public Library can help you increase your awareness of this very complex disorder.


Find many full text, current articles in the library's databases. Here are some examples:

In the Health Reference Centre Academic database, you can find the full text of an article published in  the Townsend Letter in Oct. 2013. It begins: "Autism is the fastest-growing developmental
disability in the United States--more children are now diagnosed with Autism
Spectrum Disorders (ASD) than with cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. The rate
of ASD has increased from 1 in 100,000 births to 1 in 54 male births, as
reported by the Centers for Disease Control in 2012."  

Another example: "Asperger syndrome", from the Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013. This can be found in the "Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine" database.

Or check out the Teen Health and Wellness database. It has articles on Autism Spectrum Disorder under the following subjects:

  • What is Autism?
  • Myths and facts about autism
  • Ten great questions to ask when a sibling or friends is Diagnosed with autism
  • The problems that come with autism
  • How autism is diagnosed
  • Treatment options
  • Other autism spectrum disorders
  • How can having an autistic sibling or friend affect my life?

To locate these databases, go to to the A-Z list of databases on the Articles & Online Research page of the Toronto Public Library's website.

Need help using databases? Some  of the library's user education classes include information on how to search databases. Or you can always ask a librarian at your local branch to show you. You'll be amazed at how easy it is! You'll need your Toronto Public Library card to access the databases.

Library Programs

The Library is offering a program called "Science in History: The History of Autism" at both the Runnymede and Brentwood branches this month.

The theme of Leaside's Monday Afternoon Book Club for October is Autism.


Of course the Library also has many current books on the subject. Examples include the three below. There are many more.


The reason i jump

Understanding Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

  Living independently on the autism spectrum

The Reason I Jump

Also available as an eBook

Understanding Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders


Living Independently on the Autism Spectrum

Using the Library's Health and Medicine Databases to Find Information About Acquired Brain Injury

August 12, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

People often come to the library asking for information about acquired brain injury, for themselves or for a loved one, or as students or professionals working in the health field. Their information needs range from the very basic to the extremely in-depth.

What is acquired brain injury? According to the Toronto ABI Network, acquired brain injury is caused either by a trauma or by a medical problem or disease process that causes damage to the brain, including "anoxia, non-progressive tumour, aneurysm, infection or stroke".

These injuries can cause disabilities that are anywhere from mild to severe.

The library's health and medicine databases are rich sources of information on this important topic. Databases such as Consumer Health Complete, Health and Wellness Resource Center, and Health Reference Center Academic all will have informative journal and magazine articles, book reviews, news, videos, and more. 

The library pays for these databases, and makes them available FREE to members of the Toronto Public Library - like you!

To access the databases, go to the home page of the library, and click on "Articles and Online Research". Then, from the "Databases by Category" list, choose Health and Medicine. You will be asked to fill in your library card number and your PIN before you continue.

As examples, here are few articles (of many) that I found on this topic, and the database each can be found in:

"The Experience of Living With a Family Member With Challenging Behavior Post Acquired Brain Injury", by Mary E. Braine. Available full-text in the Health and Wellness Resource Centre database.

"The Adaptation Process Following Acute Onset Disability: An Interactive Two-dimensional Approach Applied to Acquired Brain Injury", by Ingrid HM Brands et al. Located full-text in the Consumer Health Complete database.

"Neurotrauma and Repair Research: Traumatic Brain Injury and Its Treatments", by Hanna Algattas and Jason H. Huang. Full text in the Health Reference Centre Academic database.

This is only a small taste of what's available. Have a look.


From The Guardian: The Top Ten Books About Disabilities?

July 23, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

In the Books Blog of the British national newspaper The Guardian, Paul Wilson states that "despite literature's fervour to explore the far reaches of human experience, disability is for the most part disregarded, or at least pushed to the margins. Disabled protagonists are few and far between".

In his post he presents his choices for the top ten books on disability (including non-fiction). All are available at TPL; many are available in multiple formats.

Here are his top three picks:

Cover of To Kill A Mockingbird
Of Mice and Men

  The Sound and the Furyjpg

To Kill a Mockingbird

Of Mice and Men

The Sound and the Fury

Other books he recommends are:

Moby-Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The First Man by Albert Camus

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken

A Son of the Circus by John Irving

Far From the Tree (non-fiction) by Andrew Solomon


Here's a later post on the Books Blog in which the blogger, this time playwrite Kaite O'Reilly, calls Wilson's list "a missed opportunity". 

She notes that "one of the slogans of the disability rights movement is "Nothing About Us Without Us" - and there was very little "us" in last week's selection". She suggests a number of books that should have been included.

Some of the books she mentions are also at TPL. Here they are:

Scapegoat: How We Are Failing Disabled People by Katharine Quarmby

Poppy Shakespeare by Clare Allan

Look Me In the Eye: My Life With Asperger's by John Elder Robison

Born On A Blue Day: A Memoir of Asperger's And An Extraordinary Mind by Daniel Tammet

Animals In Translation by Temple Grandin

Dam-burst Of Dreams by Christopher Nolan

Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir by Terry Galloway

Beauty Is A Verb: The New Poetry Of Disability edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Michael Northen and Sheila Black


What books would you include?










June Is Deaf-Blind Awareness Month

June 11, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Helen Keller, c. 1904. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (LC-USZ62- 112513)
June is Deaf-Blind Awareness Month, designated to celebrate both the achievements of deaf-blind persons and the birth month of Helen Keller.

Helen Keller was born June 27th, 1880, and became both blind and deaf at the age of two due to an illness. With her teacher Annie Sullivan at her side, she accomplished in her life what to many seemed to be utterly impossible - including graduating with honours from Radcliffe College in 1900. Writer and humanitarian, Helen Keller has become an inspiration to many people throughout the world. She died in 1968.

The Library has many children's books about Helen Keller's extraordinary life. Here is just a sampling:

Annie and Helen

Helen Keller's Big World

Helen Keller The World In Her Heart

Annie and Helen
Helen Keller's Big World
Helen Keller: The World In Her Heart

The Library also has many books for adults about Helen Keller and her world.


The Miracle Worker

The Story of My Life

The Radical Lives of Helen Keller
The "Miracle Worker" and the Transcendentalist: Annie Sullivan, Franklin Sanborn and the Education of Helen Keller

The Story of My Life

 (The Library also has this title as an eBook and an eAudiobook)

The Radical Lives of Helen Keller

Have a look.

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." -Helen Keller


ARCH Disability Law Centre Library

May 14, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

ARCH Disability Law Centre is a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario.

Recently, ARCH opened a library that is accessible to the public.

The ARCH Public Library holds a browsing general collection of current material on disability rights, policy and services together with practical information for independent living. It also carries accounts of personal experiences.

As well, the ARCH library houses a historical/archival collection of materials that would be of interest to researchers on disability rights and policy in Canada. The material covers a broad range of topics addressed by ARCH in over 33 years of law reform. Among them: equality rights, employment discrimination, education rights, legal capacity and income security.

All materials are for use in the ARCH Disability Law Centre Library, but if you find something you would like to take home, they will help you locate a copy and direct you to TPL if we have one. Their online catalogue also includes additional electronic resources.

There are two computers with adaptive technology available for library users.

Their catalogue is also available remotely, and online tip sheets show you how to make the most of your catalogue search.

The ARCH Public Library is open 9:30am-4:30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays it is open 12:30pm to 4:30pm.

It is located at 425 Bloor St. East, Suite 110, Toronto.

(It is important to note that the collection is intended for information only, not a substitute for advice on a specific legal matter.)

This new resource sounds fabulous and is well worth a look.




Finding Descriptive Videos In The Catalogue

May 2, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Toronto Public Library carries many descriptive videos, and now it's easier to find these in our catalogue.

What are descriptive videos? They are DVDs or videos "which have been augmented with special narration which describes the action for people who have visual impairments.

As a descriptive video plays, it describes the visual elements of action, characters, locations, costumes and sets to the viewer without interfering with the movie's dialogue or sound effects." (Definition from the Free Library of Philadelphia, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped)

Up until now, descriptive videos were found by typing in the subject heading "Video Recordings for People with Visual Disabilities".

However, often people were unaware of the subject heading, and in this instance even a search by keywords doesn't help. Without the exact heading, the items are hard to locate.

Thanks to a customer's suggestion, now you can use easy-to-remember web addresses to get right to the page that will give you the list of descriptive videos and DVDs.

Just begin with the Toronto Public Library web address and then add any one of the following:





Here's an example:

You can also use a shortened version of the address. Simply type 

Of course, you can still use the subject heading if you like!

There are more improvements coming to descriptive video and DVD searching. We'll keep you posted.

About Canada: Disability Rights

February 19, 2013 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Library has recently received a book entitled About Canada: Disability Rights, by Deborah Stienstra.

Picture of the cover of the book About Canada Disability Rights and a link to the catalogue recordDeborah Stienstra is Professor in Disability Studies at the University of Manitoba. She held the Royal Bank Research Chair in Disability Studies from 2000-2003 at the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies. She has worked with national organizations including the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. (This information is from the University of Manitoba website.)

The book's sections include:

  • What are disability rights?
  • People and policies in search of disabilities
  • When people with disabilities fall through the cracks
  • Disability rights and key areas of Canadian society
  • How can people with disabilities claim their rights?
  • Learning from ordinary lives, changing social attitudes                         

If you click on the link in the first paragraph of this blog posting, you will find a list of all the libraries which contain a copy of this book. Have a look!

Adult Fiction books featuring characters with a disability

February 10, 2012 | Sara | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Everyone likes to read books with complex and compelling characters that they can relate to, including people who are in some way affected by physical or intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and/ or hearing and vision impairments.  The following list is a sample of some of the adult fiction books available at the Toronto Public Library that feature a diverse range of characters.    


Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (Physical Disability)

Animal’s People tells the story of a 19-year old orphan of Khaufpur who was horribly injured in the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster.  The effects of chemical exposure caused his bones to become severely twisted, forcing him to walk on all fours resulting in the nickname of Animal.  Despite his severe disability, Animal takes charge of his life rejecting sympathy and continually looking to improve conditions for himself, his pet dog Jara, and the crazy old French nun he lives with named Ma Franci. 


I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (Mental Illness)

Dominick Birdsey is a 40-year old emotionally unavailable housepainter with an identical twin brother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. After a horrific incident of self-mutilation by his brother Thomas, Dominick is forced to take charge of his life and deal with his complicated past involving domestic violence, abuse, and his brother’s mental illness.   


House Rules by Jodi Picuolt (Autism/ Aspergers)

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome.  He is hopelessly unable to understand social cues or express his feelings and thoughts to others, including his devoted mother and troubled brother.  Jacob’s special interest and in-depth knowledge of Forensic Science puts him in the spotlight following the disappearance of his social skills tutor, and threatens to tear his life apart. 

The First Man by Albert Camus (Deaf-Mute)

The First Man is a partly autobiographical novel of Camus’ own life growing up in Algeria.  The novel was discovered amidst the wreckage of the car accident that took Camus’ life, and was later transcribed and published by his daughter Catherine.  The novel describes the childhood and experiences of Jacques Cormery, a young boy who develops a strong attachment to his deaf-mute mother, following the death of his father. 


Blindness by Jose Saramago (Blind)

A man is sitting in his car waiting for the traffic light to change when he is suddenly struck blind.  What at first seems to be an isolated case turns into an epidemic when a day later everyone who had contact with the man also suddenly becomes blind.  As the epidemic continues to spread, government officials panic by locking those who have become blind in a mental institution.  


Handle with Care by Jodi Picuolt (Physical Disability)

Charlotte and her husband are struggling to come up with the money needed to pay for their daughter’s mounting medical expenses.  After much deliberation, Charlotte thinks she has found a solution to their problems.  She will file a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not disclosing the fact that her child would be born with a severe disability.  The payout will cover all of Willow’s medical expenses, but it means that Charlotte will have to stand up in a court and say in front of everyone, including the daughter she loves more than anything, that she would have terminated her pregnancy had she known about the disability beforehand.      


If you have any questions about these books or other materials available at the Toronto Public Library, contact your local branch or call Answerline at 416-393-7131 (TTY 416-393-7030).

The Accessibility Services Blog provides information and updates on current and upcoming library trends, programs, collections, and services to existing and potential TPL customers with disabilities, along with their friends and family. The blog offers a forum through which library customers can interact with TPL and share feedback and ideas, and communicate with staff. Features of the blog include highlights on special collections and assistive technologies available through the library, opportunities to get involved, and staff recommendations for programs, books and other materials.

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