Hear it from Rhys: Niagara Specialized Transit

Rhys’ take on Niagara’s Specialized Transit!

Here’s a fantastic example of an outcome influenced by public opinion and concern. It goes to show that you should always try and let your voice be heard!

Niagara Specialized Transit Users Win Reprieve of Proposed Fare Increases

Written by Rhys Evans.

Hello my name is Rhys Evans I am currently a 24 year old Niagara College student currently enrolled in the Social Service Worker program.  I am also a graduate of Niagara College’s Recreation and Leisure as well as Recreational Therapy programs. I value staying involved in my community by doing things like representing the town of Pelham on the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee and participating in wheelchair basketball.

Rhys Evans

The Region of Niagara recently awarded BTS, a company from Vaughn, the Niagara Specialized Transit contract for transporting people with disabilities to medical appointments, school or employment.  Part of the agreement was a proposed fare increase for riders, many of who are on fixed or reduced incomes. In some instances the increases would have been as great as 300%. I got a letter in the mail along with other users to inform us of these changes.

I was unhappy with the lack of any consultation, or any transparency in how this had been done.  l was also angered by the proposed increases that would further limit people’s independence.  I firstly contacted the Mayor of Pelham, Mr. Dave Augustyn with my concerns. I also used social media, letters to the local paper and spoke to the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee (that I am a member of), in order to urge the council to reconsider the proposed increases.

Regional Council of Niagara discussed the concerns voiced by users like myself that were presented at their June 28th meeting, and made the decision to suspend the increases, and revisit the issue in 2017.

This date was chosen because the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act ( AODA ) will have enacted the Transportation Standard that will provide a clearer framework about what fare charges should be.  The expectation is that fares will become more affordable for Ontarians with Disabilities.

Side view of Niagara Specialized Transit bus

Whatever the outcome, it is hoped that there is full consultation with the user group before any final decision is made, because no such consultation occurred this time, and if things had remained unchallenged many users may not have been able to continue with this vital service.

In the meantime those using the system are grateful to Regional Council that they can still attend medical appointments, therapies, and school or work at a reasonable cost. As a user and member of the Joint Accessibility Advisory Committee, I shall continue to monitor the progress on this issue and make the public aware of any future developments.

 

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A Stair Lift for Mrs. Gill!

Mrs. Gill resides in Brampton with her family in a 2 story home. In 2014 she was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. This condition left her with limited mobility and dependent on oxygen. At the time of her application a family member had taken a leave from work to offer necessary care to her. For the most part, Mrs. Gill remained confined to the upper floor of her home. The stairs to the main level of the house were dangerous and a 2 person lift to bring her up and down the stairs was necessary, which there was a significant safety issue. Mrs. Gill was not able to safely exit her or engage with her family in simple activities such as having dinner in the dining room.

Mrs. Gill next to her new Stair lift!

With funding approved through March of Dimes Canada’s Home and Vehicle Modification Program a stair lift was installed. This equipment offers a safe method of transition between the levels of the home and Mrs. Gill is now able to access the essential areas and is able to interact with her family on a regular basis.

Here is a a wonderful letter we received from her son:

Good afternoon,

I have attached pictures of the stair lift used by my mother. Now she can access the ground floor using the stair lift to have lunch in the kitchen and to go for a doctor’s appointment. I can see her happy face when she used it for the first time. It’s been a long time since she’s been to the kitchen – she didn’t even recognize the kitchen area! This was mainly due to these parts of the house being inaccessible.

I appreciate March of Dimes Canada for providing this equipment. My mother said, “Thank you.” I’m sure she will enjoy the benefits for the rest of her life. Here are a few examples of these benefits:

  • She is now able to visit the doctor’s for appointments, as well as a clinic, hospital or temple.
  • She can now visit the kitchen on the ground floor to have lunch or dinner with her family.
  • She can now also visit the living room on the ground floor.
  • She can also exit the house in an emergency.

It has definitely improved her quality of life and has brought her cheer by improving her physical ability.

Regards,

Gurinder Gill.

For more information on our Home and Vehicle Modification Program, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCHVMP

 

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Life’s a beach for more people now at Lakeside Park

by Lorraine Nadeau

Access to the beach has taken on a new dimension at Lakeside Park in St. Catharines thanks to the addition of a Mobi Mat. A Mobi Mat is a portable walkway that sits on top the sand and creates an accessible path down to the water. While Lakeside Park is a regular destination for P.E.T. outings, this past trip was highlighted by the fact that our consumers using wheelchairs and with limited mobility were able to stroll out onto the beach and sit at the water’s edge.

P.E.T. Consumers Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin on the Mobi Mat

 

Pictured here are Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin, two P.E.T. consumers who have never been able to go out onto the beach before.  They were all smiles and enjoyed being able to easily wheel out onto the beach for the first time.  While we were there, it was clear we weren’t the only ones enjoying the beach’s new feature. The accessible pathway was also actively being used by other beach goers including seniors, children and moms with strollers, all of whom were just as pleased with the ease of access.

P.E.T. Consumers Liane Roberts and Sarah Hamlin on the Mobi Mat enjoying the water at Lakeside Park

A first for the region, the city wants to add other Mobi Mats to its beaches, and is looking for community partners to help support some of the costs. In addition to the Mobi Mat, the City of St. Catharines is stated to renovate the out-dated washrooms with increased accessibility and build a new pavilion so our future visits will be even more enjoyable.

The Personal Effectiveness Training Program (P.E.T.) is a therapeutic day activity program designed to enhance the quality of life of adults with disabilities and/or acquired brain injuries.  The program provides structured activities that promote the development of social, cognitive, physical and emotional skills that will lead to increased independence and community integration. The program is delivered in partnership by March of Dimes Canada and Brain Injury Community Re-Entry. For more information visit: http://bit.ly/MODCPET

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“I’m The Lucky One”

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Bob Hallett (Great Big Sea) and Valdy have joined 13 singers from Spectra Talent Contest to record “I’m the Lucky One” – a charity single in support of March of Dimes Canada, Easter Seals Canada, and the Spectra Talent Contest (a non-profit organization that celebrates diversity in music).

“I’m the Lucky One” is a song about finding your soulmate, a rare and transformative experience.  Written from the perspective of an able-bodied person who falls madly in love with someone with a disability, this powerful love song addresses ableism and accessibility issues.


According to Ralph Hamelmann, RACA Executive Director and song co-writer, the inspiration for “I’m the Lucky One” came several years ago.  “At the time, I was a part-time Independent Living Assistant at Tobias House and had invited a couple of their Consumers to my home for a Christmas Eve gathering. When another guest found out I had invited people with disabilities, they said ‘Oh! They’re so lucky to know you!’  To this, I replied, ‘Not at all. I’m the lucky one!'”

Hamelmann adds, “From my experience, a fair number of people with disabilities experience isolation, which can lead to low self-esteem. I wanted to write a song that celebrates the beauty and authenticity I’ve witnessed firsthand in this community.”

This song is part of Spectra’s social media campaign #AllAbilitiesAreSexy, which aims to end the stigma around disabilities and is supported by Margaret Trudeau. See more about this and you can also purchase “I’m The Lucky One” here: http://thelucky1.ca/

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” ‘You will dance again..’ rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.” – Len Boser, Stroke Survivor

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Stroke Survivor Stories: Len Boser
Written by Len Boser.

Fifteen years ago, I woke up to find the course of my life had changed forever. The day before, I was a physically active, healthy person leading the normal life of a father of two young sons, 7 and 10 years old. Overnight, I had a severe brain stem stroke that left me unable to walk, to talk and completely paralyzed on my right side.

After one and a half years in the hospital, I felt frustrated and hopeless despite the care of doctors and many trained healthcare practitioners. Despite their care, I did not know how to get my life back.

But, luckily, the inspiration and support from a fellow stroke survivor helped motivate me. His story about his recovery and even being able to dance again got me working on my rehabilitation and interested in helping others on their recovery as well. “You will dance again..” rang in my ears! It was a challenge I thought impossible.

Encouragement, support from my peers…and my motto…“Never Give Up!”

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Len Boser

A key to the quality of recovery is support from fellow stroke survivors and their
caregivers…the people who have first-hand experience. This peer support was instrumental for me. And that is what March of Dimes Canada’s Stroke Recovery Canada® is all about…reaching out to other stroke survivors and giving them understanding, knowledge and hope.

 

For more information on Stroke Recovery Canada®, please visit: http://bit.ly/ModcSRC

 

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LIFE Toronto reviews Apple Store’s iPad Workshop

Written by Amy Kostash

Last Friday, the LIFE Toronto group did a social outing to the Apple Store at the Eaton Centre for an iPad workshop. The experience was fantastic! The employees of the Apple Store were wonderful, they clapped us into the store, ensured there were no obstacles in our way, and really made an effort to get to know each and every person attending.

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Amy and Tyler snapping a pic on the iPad

Prior to the workshop, the Apple Store staff checked in with us to find out what it was we were interested in learning. They catered the workshop entirely to our needs and interests! First, we learned about some accessibility features the iPad has, and everyone got to try it on their own. There were enough staff to assist if anyone needed it. Next, we learned about the different ways to take photos and videos like square, panoramas, and time-lapse videos. Sraddha’s personal favourite was when we learned about airdrop! It was so easy to send photos to the other iPads in the workshop, and it was especially fun to see the expressions on their faces when they received our silly photos. Tyler was particularly interested in learning how to print photos from his iPad at home. The staff were eager to explain and demonstrate airprint for him.

 

Jess was very impressed with the Apple Store employees and appreciated how they spoke directly to her, rather than only speaking with the LIFE Toronto staff. She says, “they were very accommodating of our needs.” After the workshop, Jess wanted to make a purchase and more than one of the Apple employees was eager to help her out, even bringing the items right to her so she didn’t need to fight the crowds!

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Danielle and Jess taking a selfie with the iPad!

All in all, out LIFE Toronto group left the Apple Store with a collection of funny photos, new information regarding accessibility features of the iPad, and Apple USB bracelets!

The LIFE Toronto group encourages everyone to check out workshops at the Apple Store! They have a variety of topics, and they are very helpful and accommodating. The LIFE Toronto group is looking forward to going back for an iMovie workshop when they reach the editing stage of a project they’ve been working on.

LIFE Toronto participant, Sraddha on Subway

LIFE weighs in on recent TTC “Stay Focused. Stay Safe.” awareness campaign

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written by Amy Kostash and Danielle Hepburn

One component of our Learning Independence for Future Empowerment (LIFE) Toronto program is transit training. This allows participants to get one-on-one assistance using the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get to a destination of their choice; usually back home from our national office. During our transit training sessions, we cover everything there is to know about the TTC from safe use procedures to its accessibility and planning our route. For the individuals in the LIFE Toronto program, this transit training provides an alternative to Wheel Trans should they feel comfortable enough taking it on their own.

Recently, the TTC published a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of focus in order to stay safe. These posters can be seen on subway platforms, subway trains, and buses. We asked the participants of our LIFE Toronto program their thoughts on these new posters.

Stay Focused Graphics

The first poster shows a woman in a wheelchair using the deployed ramp of a bus while a pedestrian is running past, unaware of the ramp. The message this poster aims to spread is that pedestrians need to be more aware of ramps and the potential they could be deployed at any time, and may cause a tripping hazard. The second poster shows a gentleman in a power wheelchair waiting for the bus while pedestrians hurry past him. The message this poster aims to send is that persons with a disability and/or mobility devices are to be the first to board the bus and the last to disembark.

First, we asked the LIFE Toronto group if any of them had experienced being cut off by pedestrians while waiting for, or getting on their Wheel Trans rides. 4 of the 5 participants say they have been cut off while the ramp of their Wheel Trans ride was deployed. Tyler says “these signs are necessary because people cut us off and don’t know that I have the right of way when getting on a bus.” Jess added that “these posters may not work, the buses already beep and drivers will yell at people, so I’m not sure that a visual poster will necessarily help.”

Another concern that the group had was the use of the selected images on the posters. Both depict the wrong way of doing things! Instead, our group thinks it would be much more effective if the posters showed pedestrians correctly using the TTC and allowing persons with disabilities the right of way. If people don’t take the time to read the message on the poster, there is a chance they could just end up adopting the wrong behaviour after all.

These posters allowed for some interesting discussion in our LIFE Toronto workshops. The group came to the conclusion that it is too early to tell if these ads are working. It will be interesting to see if the attitudes of people change based on the presence of these posters. Also, the group thought it might be interesting to create a poster or image with the same message but from the perspective of an individual in a wheelchair that shows the implications of pedestrians failing to give them the right of way.

Angie Burke’s Story – Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

Written by Angie Burke.
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Angie Burke, Stroke Survivor & Peers Fostering Hope Stroke Mentor

I was 46years old and it was a normal evening until my husband heard a crash and found me having a seizure.  I was completely flaccid on the left side and my face was drooping.  I was trying to speak but could not. He called 911 as he recognized the symptoms and knew that I was having a stroke.

The next 2 weeks were terrifying. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.

If I did survive I didn’t know what my life was going to be like? Would I walk again?  Would I talk clearly again?  Would I be able to see clearly again? Dress myself? Feed myself? Would I be able to take care of myself and my family again??

Initially I was unable to walk. I had no use of my left side, I could see nothing on my left side, could not recognize people’s faces – I only knew my husband because of the shirt he was wearing, I could not tell time, I could not write, and the list goes on…

While in the hospital, I had help getting washed, help getting dressed, my meals were brought to me.  This was not the case at home.  The first time that I attempted to dress myself, it took me over an hour.  I remember bursting into tears.  Here I was a grown woman and I couldn’t even put on a shirt myself.  I either had it on backwards or inside out.  The same struggle happened when I tried to cook for the first time.  I couldn’t read, so how was I supposed to follow a recipe? I was extremely weak and still couldn’t see objects on my left side.  I fell and crashed into things constantly.  To make matters worse, I was on blood thinners.  I was always covered in bruises.  Everything was a struggle; from the time I got out of bed until the time I crawled back in again.  I often became so frustrated that I would just scream.  I felt defeated as I needed help with everything.  I felt like I was a burden to my family and completely worthless.  I was terrified that this was what my life was going to be like from now on.

I now have a seizure disorder. I take medication to control them.

I ended up suffering through a depression –oh the depths. The darkness. The hopelessness. The feeling of worthlessness. The loneliness. The despair. The loss of my will to keep fighting. The grief for all that I lost- my career and income, many friends, my freedom (as my driver’s license was suspended), my confidence, my entire identity, my self-worth. The horrible judgments that I passed on myself were devastating. After several months I finally started receiving the treatment, both chemical and therapeutic that helped me to start climbing out of that dark hole and gave me back my will to fight.

Fear in the beginning was crippling. It was my constant companion.  I have learned to overcome fear and have come to the point now, where I can say that I refuse to live in fear. I live in gratitude for the day, today.

I have ongoing memory issues, specifically short-term, but have developed strategies to cope with it.

I faced and overcame all of it; I now work with stroke patients as a Stroke Mentor in the Peers Fostering Hope Program; it is such a wonderful feeling to use my journey to help other stroke survivors that are just beginning their own journey.

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I am an artist; I walk with friends; I walk my dog; I ride my bicycle; I lift weights; When I first started, over a year ago, I could only complete my arm lifts with 2.5 pounds. I was so weak and had lost so much weight.  I gradually increased the amount that I was lifting, and currently I am up to 25 pounds, even with my affected arm.  I run 5k on my treadmill every 3rd day and hope to run a 5k this coming summer, I lawn bowl. I smile and laugh.  I tell jokes.  I enjoy my life.   I am a wife; I am a mother; I am a friend. I am an award winner.  I recently won the award for Extraordinary Women of Kawartha Lakes in the determination category.  Most importantly, I take care of myself and my family!! I have faced the nightmare and I have wakened stronger and more whole than I could ever have imagined.

My message to everyone: Life will throw you curve balls, Life will knock you down, but you’ve got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and overcome.  I’m NOT telling you it’s going to be easy, but I AM telling you it’s going to be worth it.

Angie also took up drawing after her stroke after a relative suggested she try it. She has used some inspirational quotes as part of her subject. Click on each thumbnail to increase image sizes.

 

For more information on the Peers Fostering Hope program and other support groups, please visit: http://bit.ly/MODCSRS

 

To volunteer with peer visits, please call the Stroke Recovery Warmline® at 1-888-540-6666.

Megan’s Story

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Megan was only 20-years-old when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over time, the disease has progressed to the point that she has limited circulation in her legs causing severe swelling and she can no longer walk. Megan’s occupational therapist recommended a power wheelchair with a tilted seat to give her mobility and relieve the pressure on her legs. But at a total cost of $18,730, the chair was out of reach for her financially. After receiving funding from the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program and the MS Society, Megan applied to March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program for the remaining $2,700.

March of Dimes Canada was able to fund the remaining amount to help Megan purchase the wheelchair, and she is amazed at the difference it has made. Megan has become more mobile and much more comfortable.

It’s a godsend,” says Megan of her chair. “It’s very helpful. For years I’ve had massive swelling in my legs and since I’ve gotten my chair I now have knee caps and shape to my legs… I feel very blessed to have been able to access this resource.”

Megan is very grateful to all the generous donors who contributed to her power wheelchair.

Thanks to your support over the last year, we have been able to provide 282 assistive devices to 119 consumers just in the Ottawa region alone! We were able to turn every dollar donated into $5.44 worth of equipment – purchasing in total $204,231 worth of assistive devices.

You are making a difference in your community!

You can now be part of our Door-to-door campaign without having to leave the couch! Sign up as an online canvasser and use the power of the Internet to help raise money to support Canadians with #disabilities: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline

 

 

“Why I Canvass” – Wayne Eastabrook

Door-To-Door-Wayne-EastabrookPeterborough resident Wayne Eastabrook has been canvassing his neighbourhood in support of March of Dimes Canada’s Door-to-Door Campaign for over a decade. He was first driven to support the Campaign after the organization provided financial assistance to his daughter Kate that allowed her to move into her own apartment.

“I don’t believe that Kate would be able to be as independent and live on her own without the support of March of Dimes Canada,” says Wayne. “It made the transition from our home into a supported apartment so much easier, and our whole family is very grateful for this.”

He started canvassing his neighbours and is able to raise $300 -$400 each year. His community members know he’s coming, and are prepared with a small donation when Wayne comes to their door.

“I like to canvass in January, because how can anybody turn away a man in the cold,” jokes Wayne. “But really, I like to remind my neighbours that this a good cause, helping people in their community, and that every bit counts” he says.

Wayne believes in paying it forward, in addition to supporting March of Dimes Canada, he is also the Board President of Community Living Peterborough.

“I know that there are needs in the community, and somehow, we have to help,” says Wayne.

Want to be part of our Door-to-door campaign but are unable to physically go door-to-door? This is an easy fix! You can now sign up as an online canvasser – here’s the link: http://bit.ly/D2DOnline Help us support Canadians living with disabilities!