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December 2014

Getting Around Toronto

December 15, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (0)

There are lots of ways to travel around our city, but is everything accessible? 

There are options for those in wheelchairs or requiring mobility support, but it's important to know what they are and where they are located.

Toronto skylineThe TTC has a number of accessible stations, for example, that have escalators and elevators to assist those that may not be able to use stairs. Although not every station is fully accessible just yet, just under half of them have elevators. To see if your local station has an elevator, check the full list of accessible locations on the TTC website. To travel around outside of stations, those that qualify can also request wheel-trans service.

There are also some concessions available for those requiring a support person when travelling. This past year, the TTC launched the Support Person Assistance Card program. This card - available by application only - allows a support person to ride free when accompanying someone with a temporary or permanent disability. 

If you prefer to travel privately, there are some opportunities to book an accessible taxi, although these are not always readily available. Services will vary significantly from company to company, so it can be a challenge. It has become a big issue, however, particularly as Toronto gears up for the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games next year. Hopefully, there will be more improvements to report soon.

PATH logo

The PATH - the underground walkway linking much of downtown Toronto - is also another (mostly) accessible way to navigate parts of the city. Not all spots on the PATH have elevators, but there is signage indicating when stairways are ahead, and alternate routes, where available.

AirplaneIf you're thinking of travelling outside of Toronto by air, accessibility guidelines may vary from place to place, but there are a number of things that can be done at Pearson Airport.

These include curbside assistance for drop-off and pickup, as well as reserving porter service and a wheelchair for easier mobility.  This can be useful for Torontonians at the airport, as well as for visitors.

Rob Wasdell, a traveller from the UK, described his time in Toronto while in a wheelchair in an article at Disability Horizons. He visited some well-known Canadian landmarks, including the CN Tower and the ROM, and talks about some of the accessibility issues he encountered.

Getting in and around Toronto with a disability will always be a work in progress, but hopefully, learning about some of the systems in place will help you or a friend get around just a little bit easier!


Canadian thalidomide victims victorious

December 8, 2014 | Soheli | Comments (2)

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)

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!



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.