anticipate the proximity of a wall.
Surprisingly, even healthcare facilities sometimes fall short. The United States Access Board, an
independent federal agency that promotes equality
for people with disabilities, recently published rules
on internet technology and communication, as well
as on medical diagnostic equipment. According to
Siegel, who was appointed to the Board by President
Obama, mammograms and cat scans can be difficult
to maneuver and wheelchair users should have the
option of an independent transfer.
In Canada, the Ontario government has been
leading the way since 2005 with the Accessibility
for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and a
stated goal of an accessible province by 2025. What
will this look like? According to The Hon. David C.
Onley, special advisor on accessibility to the minister responsible for accessibility, The Hon. Tracy
MacCharles, business will harness the buying power
of more people both in-store and online. More people with disabilities will participate in the workforce
and economy. Entrepreneurs will be able to create
new businesses based on inclusive design, products,
and services. And, employers will have better access
to untapped talent.
“Because of my long career in television journalism, I have been at the forefront of shifting perceptions
around people with disabilities for several decades
now,” says Onley. “As the first lieutenant governor [of Ontario] with a physical disability, I adopted
accessibility as the theme for my term in office (2007-
2014). I believe that accessibility is not just ramps and
automatic doors, it is an attitude of being
welcoming and supporting people at all
levels of ability.”
The AODA has accessibility stan-
dards in five key areas of daily life,
including the Employment Standard
and the Design of Public Spaces
Standard, which helps make new and/
or redeveloped sidewalks, roads, parks,
and trails accessible. The Customer
Service Standard aids in removing bar-
riers to goods, services, or facilities; the
Information and Communications
Standard helps private- and public-
sector organizations in making their
information accessible to people with
disabilities; and the Transportation
Standard ensures travel is easier for
everyone throughout the province.
“When I started 40 years ago,
accessibility was for wheelchair users
and that’s really all we were looking at,” says Siegel.
“But today, with baby boomers and several genera-
tions in the workplace, accessible design allows you
to keep workers on longer and to hire people you
may not have hired years ago because you couldn’t
Siegel suggests choosing a company that special-
izes in ergonomic chairs with adaptable seats and
movable desks. They are more likely to be sensitive
to people short—or tall—in stature and go beyond
a cookie-cutter approach. Articulating keyboards
assist employees with vision loss or low vision.
Better lighting benefits this demographic as well,
while also cutting down on workplace accidents
Somebody with hearing loss might need a quieter
workspace or amplification devices. “Not enough is
being done with acoustics,” adds Siegel. Agile floor
plans that acknowledge some people do better
working alone, while others need to be in groups, is
another way to make workplaces more accessible.
“People with autism or other sensory issues ‘on the
spectrum’ are wired differently and are more sensitive to color and lighting,” says Siegel. “There’s not
one solution and not a way you can accommodate
everyone 100 percent, but if you think about all these
diversities, it’s going to make a big difference.”
Diana Mosher is a New York City-based communications
professional specializing in content creation and brand
strategy for the real estate and design industries. She also
is an interior design consultant.
ON THE MAP
AccessNow is an interactive tool that uses
crowdsourcing to share accessibility information
about restaurants, hotels, and other businesses
around the world. Founded by Maayan Ziv, an
activist, photographer, and entrepreneur based
in Toronto, AccessNow already has 2,100 places
pinned in 101 cities and is on its way to mapping
Ziv has muscular dystrophy and has used a
wheelchair her whole life. The question she asks
every day—whenever she goes anywhere: Is it
accessible? Interestingly, you can search to see
if a place has amazing views, you can find out
how much the beer is going to be that night,
but you can’t find out if it’s accessible.
This was frustrating, so Ziv, a recipient of
the David C. Onley Award for Leadership in
Accessibility, decided to do something about
it. And, while coming up with a solution to a
problem in her own life, her initiative is
benefitting and engaging others as well
and encouraging them to get involved by
requesting businesses remove their barriers.
“A green pin on the map represents a fully
accessible location. These places might not
have automatic doors, but we can get in,
party, and go home with no problem,”
according to Ziv.
A yellow pin means the location is only
partially accessible; there might be alternative
entrances or steps to the bar area. An orange
pin is for patio access only. A red pin on the
map means a location is not accessible at all.
That’s when users tweet #AccessNow to spread
the word and encourage positive change and
a world that is accessible to all.
Get involved by downloading the AccessNow
app from i Tunes or Google Play.
A holistic approach to creating safety-conscious and beautiful environments
means all individuals—at any age, with or without physical constraints—can live
“I believe that accessibility
is not just ramps and
it is an attitude of
being welcoming and
supporting people at all
levels of ability.”
THE HON. DAVID C. ONLE Y,
Government of Ontario