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Cerebral Palsy: Beyond the Wheelchair

January 21, 2015 | Marie | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

A tribunal of the Ontario Human Rights Commission  has been hearing a case about vulgar comments and actions targeted at disabled residents of a local Co-operative Housing unit. The victims include a young lad with cerebral palsy, his mother and other residents.

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a historically misunderstood condition which is caused by an injury to the developing brain during pregnancy, labour or in early childhood. There is no one "level" of CP; some have mild conditions, others more severe. Every person with CP is unique. The Ontario Federation of Cerebral Palsy publishes a plain-language guide which includes information on different classifications of CP, adaptive equipment and community living.

The first person with CP many people think of is Irish author Christy Brown, whose memoir My Left Foot became an award winning filmRoger Ebert, in his 1990 "4 star review" gives you an idea of Christy's struggle against the "odds", not a little of which was societal prejudice and disdain. A selection of Brown's work is at TPL, most at the Toronto Reference Library.

The library has several titles about the clinical aspects of cerebral palsy. Here are a few fiction and non-fiction titles from our collections which feature someone with CP as just a part of the story.

Stoner and Spaz

Stoner and Spaz (YA) by Ron Koertge, also available in e-book

Gadget Girl

Suzanne Kamata's Graphic Novel Gadget Girl is about a 14 year old's life-changing trip to Paris

Princess Panda Tea Party

The Princess Panda Tea Party is an Advanced Picture Book about competition and striving for success

People who live with cerebral palsy are active in sports, the arts, and in greater society in general.  They lead incredibly fulfilling lives despite ingrained negative societal attitudes. Have a look at this Huffington Post compendium of posts about issues surrounding CP. British Conservative MP Paul Maynard lives with CP.

The "7-a-side Para Football" at this year's Parapan Am Games debuted in Scotland at 1978's Cerebral Palsy-International Sports and Recreation Games and has been part of the Paralympic Movement since 1984. Here is more info about football and the Parapan Am Games.

Other people with CP who are prominent in sport, arts and culture include comedian Josh Blue ; motor car racer Nicolas Hamilton; artist and motivational speaker Dan Keplinger; activist and performer Lawrence Carter-Long; and actress Geri Jewell.

Geri is an accomplished actress and producer. She broke many barriers in the '80s with her recurring role on NBC's The Facts of Life. She's appeared in The Young and the Restless and Deadwood with Ian McShane and Molly Parker. You can pick up a copy of her candid and inspirational memoir at the library.

Animals at Work: Service Dogs

January 5, 2015 | Soheli | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

It seems like there's a crowd on every corner when you come out during the holidays. You may have even spotted dogs among all the people, but service dogs tend to stand out a bit more.

If you haven't encountered one before, a service dog is a highly trained animal paired specifically with a person with a disability. These dogs are taught to be extremely aware of their surroundings and help their owners get around safely and independently.

Service Dog
Great Pyrenees Service Dog | Courtesy of Jean on a CC license

While service dogs can be friendly and very social, they are different from other dogs. There are always a few good things to keep in mind when interacting with them. The following ideas have been modified from a short list at

Speak with the owner before engaging with the dog - remember, this animal is hard at work! It's probably always a smart idea to ask someone before touching his or her dog anyway, but particularly when it's a service dog. You don't want to get in the way of the dog's work.

Keep in mind that a service dog's behaviour may seem peculiar at times, so it's best to listen to instructions from the dog's owner if you've been allowed to pet or interact with it.

While service dogs have been typically associated with people with visual disabilities, they are frequently being trained for other types of disabilities as well. You may have heard some buzz about a fairly new reality show, Dogs of War. The series follows returning veterans, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, as they train with their service dogs over the course of a year.

Younger readers can learn more about service dogs and what they do too, with the help of some of the titles we have in our branches:

Helping Dogs
Helping Dogs
by Marie-Therese Miller

Dogs EyesThrough a Dog's Eyes (DVD)

Service animals are welcome in all Toronto Public Library branches. If you'd like to learn more about service dogs, what they do, and how we accomodate them at the library, drop by and ask, or call Answerline at 416-393-7131 for more help. 

Canadian thalidomide victims victorious

December 8, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (2) 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 and 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.

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.