Varied Spectrums Of Accessibility: What Accessibility Mean To People With Different Disabilities
The National Accessibility Awareness Week focuses to bring awareness towards accessibility barriers and to mark the important contributions of Canadians with Disabilities. On day 5 of the National Accessibility Awareness Week , Pedesting as one of the organizations working on accessibility in Calgary we bring to you an exclusive blog on varied spectrums of accessibility. This blog has guest contributions from three important organizations in Calgary working with people with disabilities.
We are happy to share the voices of Joanne Dorn, Executive Director of Cerebral Palsy, Alberta, Taylor Bauer, Coordinator, Awareness and Community Outreach AB/NWT, Canadian National Institute for the blind (CNIB) and representatives from the Hear and Deaf Alberta. They discuss what accessibility means to each disability they are working for and how to make our communities more accessible.
What Does Accessibility Mean to Someone With:
Cerebral palsy is a spectrum which means not every individual who has it will be the same – accessibility means being able to enjoy the community together whether a person is in a wheelchair, uses crutches, or does not appear to be disabled.
Accessibility for Deaf, hard of hearing and any one who has hearing loss its about equitable communication access in daily life.
(Note: My name is Taylor Bauer, and I am with the Canadian National Institute for
the Blind (CNIB) as the Coordinator, Awareness and Community Outreach Ab/NWT. I am happy to give some insight on sight loss, however, please be aware that sight loss is a spectrum and each person may have different answers to the question below, but here are my answers)
Accessibility for someone with sight loss means having the necessary accommodations and support to overcome barriers and actively participate in all aspects of life, fostering independence, inclusion, and equal opportunities.
In Terms Of Accessibility What are the Biggest Challenges People With Disabilities Face?
People with cerebral palsy face barriers in the community that stem from attitudes, beliefs and stereotypes about disability. Cerebral palsy is a misunderstood disability as it is often assumed that there is a developmental disability when someone has cerebral palsy.
These attitudinal barriers are commonly present in the workplace, in education systems, and in day-to-day social interactions, causing social exclusion and lower rates of employment.
Physical barriers due to inaccessible transportation and the design of public buildings and community spaces are also a key challenge. Someone in a wheelchair may not fit through a doorway in a building without inclusive design; an uncleared parking lot or sidewalk may cause a person with a disability to not be able to leave their home that day.
Other commonly encountered barriers include barriers to communication and information, such as being able to easily access information and navigate on a website.
People and organizations' attitude and assumptions are one of the biggest challenges. The general population is uninformed about communication access and what accommodations are available. Access in the built environments, access to public information and events and accommodations to meet individuals communication needs.
a. Physical barriers: People with sight loss encounter difficulties navigating the physical environment. Obstacles such as inaccessible buildings, poorly designed infrastructure, absence of tactile cues or braille signage, and inadequate transportation systems can limit their mobility and independence.
b. Digital barriers: Many websites, applications, and digital content are not designed with accessibility in mind. This can make it challenging for individuals with vision loss to access information, use digital services, or interact with technology. Issues such as lack of alternative text for images, non-adaptive screen layouts, and inaccessible document formats can create barriers to their online participation.
c. Communication barriers: Sight loss can impede access to information presented in visual formats. Printed materials, charts, diagrams, and visual presentations often pose challenges for individuals with vision loss. The absence of alternative formats, such as braille, large print, or audio descriptions, can limit their ability to access educational materials, employment opportunities, and general information.
d. Attitudinal barriers: Negative attitudes, stereotypes, and misconceptions about individuals with sight loss can lead to social barriers and exclusion. Prejudice, discrimination, and lack of awareness can hinder their integration into society, limit employment prospects, and affect their overall well-being.
What Can Be Done To Improve/Enhance The Lives Of People With Disabilities: Technological Solutions/Physical Innovations To Consider?
Great strides are being made with accessible technologies. Guided Hands ™ is an international award-winning assistive device that enables anyone with limited fine motor skills to write, paint, draw and access technology.
Unspoken Symphony ™ is a software that transforms artwork into an original melody, giving those who experience barriers to communication the ability to connect with others and express themselves through art and music.
To learn more about these devices, please visit:
There are several communication accommodations and technologies that are available: ASL Interpreters, Virtual Remote Interpreting On Demand, Assistive technology, learning ASL, speech reading, peer mentoring opportunities, hearing aids, cochlear implants etc….
If the general public was more informed and aware of these technologies and provided the accommodation to meet the needs of the people they are serving and working with.
The lives of people with disabilities, including those with sight loss, can be enhanced through various means:
a. Technological advancements: Assistive technologies like screen readers, refreshable braille displays, and magnification software have significantly improved accessibility. Continued development and integration of such technologies into mainstream devices and platforms can greatly benefit individuals with vision loss.
b. Accessible design: Incorporating universal design principles into the creation of physical spaces, products, and digital content can make them more inclusive and usable for people of all abilities.
How To Work As A Community To Support People With Disabilities?
We need to advocate for each other. If someone is able-bodied, they need to speak up when they see an accessibility issue. We also need to increase public awareness and acceptance of disability. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, such as encouraging conversations about disability and providing a platform for the voices of people with disabilities to be heard.
Cerebral Palsy Alberta hosts a podcast, My Life Without Limits, where we discuss disability issues with special guests. Recent episodes include Disability & Sexuality, Let’s Normalize Disability Stories, and Representation Matters. Volunteering with a disability organization like ours, or collaborating with other organizations in the community, is also a great way to learn more about the disability community and to advocate.
Advocate for legislation to be implemented to eliminate the barriers people with disabilities face in their daily lives. Gain knowledge and education around communicating with people who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have hearing loss. Legislation is key to eliminating barriers in the daily lives of individuals who are Deaf, hard of hearing or have hearing loss.
Working as a community we can support people with disabilities in several ways:
a. Foster inclusivity: Create a welcoming and inclusive environment where people of all abilities feel valued and respected. Encourage community organizations, businesses, and public spaces to adopt inclusive practices and ensure accessibility for everyone.
b. Educate and raise awareness: Promote disability awareness and educate the community about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, including vision loss. This can help break down stereotypes, reduce stigma, and foster empathy and understanding.
c. Advocate for accessibility: Advocate for the implementation and enforcement of accessibility standards in public spaces, transportation systems, digital platforms, and services. Support initiatives and campaigns that aim to improve accessibility and equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
d. Support local organizations: Get involved with local organizations that work towards disability rights and accessibility. Offer volunteer assistance, donate resources, or participate in fundraising efforts to support their initiatives and programs.
e. Promote employment opportunities: Encourage businesses and organizations to create inclusive workplaces that prioritize the hiring and accommodation of individuals with disabilities, including those with vision loss. Support vocational training programs and initiatives that enhance employment prospects for people with disabilities.
f. Engage in dialogue and collaboration: Involve individuals with disabilities, including those with vision loss, in decision-making processes and community discussions. Seek their input and perspectives to ensure that policies, programs, and services are inclusive and meet their needs effectively.
What is One Thing You Would Like To See Happen Today That Could Impact People with Disabilities in a Positive way?
Collective community support. Alberta and PEI are now the only provinces in the country who do not have or are not actively seeking a provincial Accessibility Act. We need accessibility legislation in Alberta.
The Alberta Ability Network (AAN), an initiative of Cerebral Palsy Alberta, has been encouraging the Government of Alberta to enact strong and effective accessibility legislation that will ensure every Albertan living with a disability has the opportunity to participate in all aspects of a complete and meaningful life. If you would like to learn more about our advocacy efforts for this legislation, please visit https://www.barrierfreeab.ca/
For Alberta to have a Provincial Accessible Act that is clear and provides equitable communication access for individuals and supports business and organizations to be fully accessible and provide accommodations.
One positive impact would be to see increased representation and inclusivity of people with sight loss in various fields and industries. This can involve promoting employment opportunities, removing biases and discrimination, and fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce.
By ensuring equal participation and representation, we can challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive society that values the contributions of all individuals.