Safer Accessibility for the Liu family!

It’s two thumbs up from Mrs. and Mr. Liu!

Mr and Mrs Liu

Let’s start from the beginning…

Mrs. and Mr. Liu have been living in the same home for almost 30 years! This is incredible. It also means there was a high chance that accessibility accommodations were not front of mind when the house was built. For those who don’t know, the push for accessibility standards came out in 2005 in the form of The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. This focused on public sectors and didn’t outline accessibility requirements for new homes, but it is good to note this increase of general awareness for accessibility standards in Ontario.

Recently, Mr. Liu’s mobility limitations changed and he became an individual who uses a wheelchair. Living in a home without an accessible entrance became a new barrier, and each time Mr. Liu would need to leave for important outings (such as a doctor’s appointment), he would need the assistance of multiple people. The situation would repeat when he would return home and need assistance to enter his house.

An example of a home entrance, which is not accessible.

Could you imagine not being able to leave your home independently? There is a lot of work and pre-planning involved, and don’t even think about spontaneous outings! Transferring an individual is also not a safe situation for everyone involved. This posed a risk for Mr. Liu if he ever needed to exit the home in an emergency situation.

With help from the Home and Vehicle Modification Program (HVMP), the Liu family was able to apply for funding to obtain a vertical porch lift. Through some guidance and advice from March of Dimes Canada staff, a contractor and an Occupational Therapist, the garage was deemed the best place for the lift to be installed for accessible entry and exit to their home.

“Having this lift is a huge relief for my parents.”

After installation, life improved dramatically for the Liu family. Mr. Liu is now able to enter and exit his home safely via the porch lift and no longer needs to rely on timely help from other family members, friends, and neighbors. He now has a higher level of independence, which also allows him to live life more sporadically, should he choose to!

Example_PorchLift Outside
Example of an outside Porch Lift for accessible side entrance to a home

Below, is a thoughtful letter from Mr. Liu’s daughter, which provides an update on her parent’s situation.

My family cannot thank you and March of Dimes enough for providing the funding for the porch lift for my father.

The contractor has been amazing to work with and my mother and father cannot be happier with his work. Today was the first day in a long time that my father has left the house and the smile on his face was priceless. He has been requesting for months to go out to McDonald’s and we’re looking forward to finally taking him there.

Having this lift is a huge relief for my parents. My mother will no longer have to trouble our neighbours, family and friends to elicit enough help to lift him in and out of the house. Taking him to his appointments will be less stressful for our family. It’s provided them a new independence and most of all, it has lifted my father’s spirits.

Thank you so much for all your help with supporting us through this process. I’ve learned so much.”

To receive a letter as the one HVMP received above is an honour. We are also grateful to have the family’s consent to publicly share Mr. Liu’s story, which we hope gives readers a little more insight on how HVMP can provide support to eligible applicants. The goal for the program is to help increase community access and independence for people living with disabilities and mobility limitations.

For more information on the program and to see if you’re eligible, please visit or call 1-877-369-4867. Please feel free to share this story with someone you think may benefit from #MODCHVMP!

Volunteer Spotlight: March 2018

Volunteers are vital to the success of our programs of March of Dimes Canada. We appreciate and acknowledge volunteers for all the amazing, incredible and hard work they do. This year we’re getting to know some of them a little more in these blog profiles!

Meet Darlene Johnson, our spotlight for March!

March Volunteer Spotlight

Name: Darlene Johnson

Volunteer Position: Communication Program Volunteer – ACDP Peterborough Site

What is your favorite part about volunteering with MODC?

How the clients are so motivated to improve their own communication and how they support each other through the process. I look forward to volunteering at the Peterborough Aphasia program because they provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment for clients, caregivers and the volunteers. The staff set the tone and they are knowledgeable, skilled and demonstrate respect for each individual that they encounter.

What are 3 adjectives you would use to describe yourself?

Caring, Friendly, Respectful

What is your favorite hobby?


What is your favorite TV show?

Call the Midwife (because of a Nursing background)

How long have you been an MODC volunteer?

1.5 Years

We asked Elisha and Sara why they nominated this volunteer.

“Darlene’s positive nature, energy, and welcoming attitude deserve recognition! On top of her friendly personality, she displays kindness and concern for the well-being of our clients, supporting their strengths and encouraging them to develop new skills. As staff (and I’m sure clients feel the same) we’re very fortunate to have Darlene as part of our team.”

Sara Piotrowska (Staff Partner)

Her patience and willingness to learn and use supportive communication strategies ensures that clients’ messages are expressed, all clients are engaged, and conversation is mutually beneficial. – Sara

“The first thing that strikes me about Darlene is her caring and empathetic attitude in the program. She is genuinely interested in the clients and their well-being! She actively inquires about their lives and is always supportive of their interests. She is also very patient, allowing clients to respond in their own time and always encourages them to use the strategies to support their communication. It’s very evident how much the clients appreciate Darlene’s time and effort!”

Elisha Nesci (Staff Partner)

Volunteer Spotlight: Darlene Johnson. 3 Adjectives used to describe herself: Caring, Friendly, Respectful

If you’d like to learn more about March of Dimes Canada’s volunteering opportunities, please visit this landing page from their site:


"Maida de Stein has been canvassing for MODC for over 2 decades!"

Let’s Talk About: Maida De Stein!

"Maida de Stein has been canvassing for MODC for over 2 decades!"

Written by Tina Siegel

Maida de Stein has been canvassing for March of Dimes Canada for over 2 decades, just like her mother used to do, and she has it down to a science.

Every year, Maida gets out her lists of phone numbers and addresses, and calls ahead to ask for pledges. She keeps careful records, then only goes to the homes of people who have agreed to donate. It’s quick and efficient.

That’s one secret to Maida’s success: organization.

‘But it’s a chance to catch up sometimes, too,’ she adds. ‘I know everyone on my route. I have a personal relationship with them.’

Maida goes beyond her route, as well. She approaches relatives, friends, members of her book club and tai chi class – anyone who might be willing to donate, or who has donated in the past. This often takes her well beyond her assigned canvass.

That’s another secret: personal relationships.

Maida also gives as much as she gets. She’ll often propose an exchange – you donate this much to my charity, and I’ll donate the same amount to yours. Everyone wins.

And that’s the last secret to Maida’s success: mutual benefit.

The result: Maida is one of MODC’s most successful canvassers, raising about $1,500 every year for a total of nearly $12,000 since 2002. She’s the first to acknowledge that it’s hard work, but also that it’s worth it.


Every dollar Maida collects goes straight towards supporting kids like Zachary (see photo), who are benefitting from MODC’s innovative Conductive Education® (CE) program. CE is designed to help people with neurological motor disorders like cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s to gain mobility and more independence.

‘It’s a tough job,’ she says, ‘but very rewarding.’

If you’re interested in volunteering as a canvasser for this year or the following, please email us at with “Door-2-Door Volunteer” in the subject header!

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.


Gurinder Gill.

For more information on our Home and Vehicle Modification Program, please visit:


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

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.

Jamie’s thoughts on the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability

On Tuesday, September 29th, one of our L.I.F.E. Mississauga Instructors, Jamie Hutchins was able to attend the Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability. Below are his thoughts on how the forum went:

“Yesterday, there was a forum concerning issues of accessibility and disability. Federal election candidates from various Toronto ridings were present to discuss their party’s platform regarding disability and accessibility.

Mike Sullivan represented the NDP, Arnold Chan. the Liberal Party and Sharon Danley, the Green Party. The conservative party was contacted, but no member volunteered to come and speak to those issues.


Federal Election Forum on Accessibility and Disability
A snapshot of the crowd at the forum on Accessibility and Disability
As for the discussion itself, there were several key points that I found intriguing. Primarily, all parties insisted that the largest adversary to the disability/accessibility movement is the Conservative government. Each federal representative said that the largest obstacle to adhering to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities has been the Conservative government.


All parties, except the Conservatives, have vowed to fulfill its international (and ethical) commitments. Furthermore, the NDP and Green party explicitly stated that they intend to create a national policy on accessibility and disability (Canadian Disabilities Act). Although Arnold Chan also expressed a desire to legislate such an act, he was not able to comment whether it was on the executive’s (Trudeau and his potential cabinet) agenda.


Secondly, I was astounded at the depth of the questions. To be clear, this discussion was specifically designed to appeal to persons with disabilities. Some of the questions designed covered topics including a Canadian Disabilities Act (CDA), physician-assisted suicide, a national housing strategy, disability representation in the HoC, adherence to the UN conventions and an increased pressure on provincial governments to administer better services.


Each speaker outlined his/her party’s policy concerning the aforementioned issues. Many candidates repeated old adages of “equality of service”, “reducing poverty”, “more consultation with community agencies and persons with disabilities”, “more adaptive equipment” and “an attitudinal shift”. However, both Sullivan and Danley offered more substantive policy changes should their parties be elected. Sullivan expressed his party’s commitment to enact the CDA within a year. Furthermore, the NDP is the only party to have a committee set up to constantly critique the party’s direction. The committee’s job is to meet with community agencies, listen to their advisement and consequently “hold the party’s feet to the fire”, if they alienate stakeholder rights. Alternatively, the Green Party has advocated to design a national equipment fund so that people with disabilities can exercise their right to live independently.


Thirdly, I was impressed by the turnout and audience participation. Peoples with disabilities were very well-represented and their questions were very specific to their disability. It was exciting to see such human agency from the group. Such a high attendance of persons with disabilities helped solidified the rights and equality rhetoric that accompanied most of the discussion. There was a wide representation of the disability community including persons who are blind, deaf, using mobility devices, having episodic disabilities, cognitive disabilities, learning disabilities, etc. This stressed upon me the importance to try to remedy the current situation regarding persons with disabilities. As a political party looking to get elected, it not only makes sense to move forward because it is proper (and moral) to have disability rights enshrined in legislation, but also because persons with disabilities represent such a large portion of the vote.


Lastly, Ryerson did an excellent job hosting. The adaptive devices allowed for all members of the crowd to participate. In conjunction with the captioning service provided, there were multiple people using both SLQ and ASL to communicate effectively with the deaf audience members. Student volunteers were constantly in the right place to help those with blindness find their seats. There was also one large aisle that allowed mobility devices to go back and forth. Also, I was impressed with the live tweeting of the discussion as this allowed questions to flurry in from Alberta.”