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World Braille Day !

Today we celebrate World Braille Day! We are grateful to French educator Louis Braille, whose creativity brought to light the written word and numbers for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Louis invented what we call “Braille” and January 4th commemorates Louis’s birthday. Louis Braille was innovative creating a series of raised dots in specific patterns, to represent the alphabet and numbers. Louis’s inspiration was based on the work of Charles Barbier de la Serre, of the French Army in the late 18th century, who created a military code that was tactile, which meant the messages could be felt by a finger and thus read at night. “Ecriture Nocturne” also known as “Night Writing”, could be interpreted without the need for light and created safety. Braille has welcomed those who are blind or visually impaired to a different life and opportunities for education, communication, and freedom of expression and opinion. By running one’s fingers over the varied arrangement of 1-6 dots, expression, both given and received, becomes the foundation of greater sharing and equality. Braille can be created by a pointed stylus, a Braille Slate, and a braille writer which is similar to the typewriter. Braille displays provide people with information that is on a computer screen. Braille displays can have been 40-80 characters. Forty-character displays can be used for most jobs. Where do we see Braille in our lives? If you were to have your eyes closed and stepped onto an elevator that has access to many floors, and that elevator moves more quickly than you can count, how would you know what floor you are on, if there were no verbal messages indicating the floor? Thankfully Braille is used on many elevators; it is located beside the floor number. Next time you are on an elevator check for Braille. In order to ensure equality for all, public buildings, that would be used equally by persons who are blind or visually impaired, often do not have Braille. Will you take a moment to imagine what it would be like to navigate outside your home, where there are no indications or signs that can tell you where you are and where you need to go. Let’s take World Braille Day and think about Braille. Let’s take this year 2021, where we are conscious of how we are “all in this life together” and ask, discuss, request, and require that Braille be more visible, in our public buildings, on our trails, and in our playgrounds and parks. In 2021 and on, let’s require that Braille show up in our everyday lives.

United Nations - International Day for Persons with Disabilities - December 3rd - Annually

Persons with disabilities day Contributed - Dec 3, 2020 / 4:44 pm | Story: 318253 By Donna Franz The United Nations marked Dec. 3 as International Day for Persons with Disabilities. International days create opportunities for us all to share information, provide education, discuss concerning social issues, and mobilize political awareness, about global health and wellness. On internationally marked days, we are all encouraged to think about our local community and global friends and neighbours, and the challenges we face. In the case of Dec. 3, we are asked to turn our focus to those of us who have visible and non-visible disabilities that can create added challenges in life. “Persons with disabilities remain one of the most excluded groups in our society,” says the UN, and are hit the hardest when crisis strikes. An estimated one billion people identify as having a disability and it is anticipated that by 2050, the world population will grow to 9.9 billion from 7.8 billion in 2020, a 25% increase. Stats Canada (2017) found that 26% age 65 and older report pain related disability. Indigenous people experience higher rates of disability (36% of women and 26% of men in Canada, excluding those on reserves). Persons with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty. The UN encourages us all to become more “aware” so that we can look at building strategies that we can implement to reduce barriers for persons with disabilities; barriers that create poverty, discrimination and exclusion. On Dec. 3, will you plan to learn more about the discrimination and harassment persons with disabilities face in the workplace and how unemployment is leading them into financial distress? On Dec. 3, will you seek to learn how COVID-19 has further isolated persons with disabilities? Imposed social isolation due to the pandemic has hit all of us to some degree and we have been frustrated. For many persons with disabilities isolation was every-day occurrence before COVID-19. COVID-19 has been additionally catastrophic for persons with disabilities, who are typically the hardest hit in any crisis, especially with respect to fatalities. For them COVID-19 has created challenges accessing available healthcare providers, and care attendants are in short supply. Some people with disabilities rely on care attendants for daily living support every day. On Dec. 3, will you plan to come together with persons with disabilities to talk and share information, stories, and solutions to problems persons with disabilities face on a day-to-day basis? Solutions to barriers like entering a building that only has stairs, sitting with friends in pubs have inaccessible washrooms, watching videos that don’t have closed captions, and reading websites that don’t have alt text. “I wish for a world that views disabilities, mental or physical, not as a hinderance but as unique attributes that can be seen as powerful assets if given the right opportunities,” said Dr. Oliver Sacks, best-selling author (Awakenings) and professor of neurology What do artists Claude Monet, Agatha Christie, and Frida Kahlo have in common? A disability. Monet, the French impressionist painter, was diagnosed with cataracts and almost blind by the end of his life. His admired water lily series was painted while losing his sight. You might wonder if his vision loss predisposed him to exceptional impressionism. Christie, a British crime novelist, was considered the “slow one,” by her family. She had difficulty writing, called dysgraphia, and found spelling challenging. She dictated all her thrilling material to a typist. You could say her typist was her assistive device. Mexican artist Kahlo is famous for her expressive self-portraits. As a child she developed polio. At age 18, she was seriously injured in a bus accident and subsequently suffered chronic medical challenges and pain for the rest of her life. You might say that suffering creates passionate creativity and creative ways of dealing with disability. Many would not likely have guessed these famous artists had a disability, but they did. It appears their disabilities created unique artistic expression that created possibilities. These famous artists with disabilities contributed significantly to the art world. These artists benefitted from help. People with disabilities may need your help and they most definitely need to be recognized for their abilities and innovations and be treated with dignity. With awareness communities will be more helpful and welcoming for persons with disabilities. Plan to install ramps, remove tripping hazards, provide helpful way-finding signage, provide closed captions on videos and alt text on websites, and fund universal designs that work for all. With full accessibility to environments, communication, art, employment, music, businesses, social gatherings, care, and park/playgrounds/ trails, we can help support and harvest a wealth of untapped talent and potential. This International day for Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity for us to learn more about persons with disabilities from persons with disabilities. On Dec. 3, will you observe your environment, your biases, your fears, and your own limitations, and then look at ways to remove barriers for all, so that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to achieve optimal self-expression with dignity? By commemorating Dec. 3, we will help bring to awareness a vision, for a new world that welcomes the uniqueness of all individuals, as a source of wealth called diversity. Accessibility will help create inclusion, which achieves diversity. Will you be part of a global community on Dec. 3 by enhancing your awareness and building your openness to learn new ways to welcome inclusion and diversity in this artistic world? Donna Franz is an occupational therapist at Design 4 Accessibility.

Communication is more than just what we say.

Masks - They do just that, they mask our facial expressions, i.e. the movement of our lips and jaw, and the curves of our mouth with the rise in our cheeks, that signifies a word or a smile. Not being able to read lips can lead to frustration for sure but also add to the feeling of isolation, due to the added challenges of communication, during this pandemic. Innovation helps all of us navigate these troubling times and this article speaks of a wonderful innovation. This article also informs that in Canada an estimated 3.2 million people are considered hard of hearing and 357,000 are deaf. The chances of encountering someone with a hearing problem are different for all of us. Having a mask that allows others to see your expressions and words, will welcome a more effective and enjoyable conversation, for all.

National Access Ability Week - May 31- June 6th, 2020

On Sunday May 31, to June 6th 2020, we had National #AccessAbility Week! This designated week provides Canadians with an opportunity to focus on sharing stories about the accomplishments of persons with disabilities and learning more about Accessibility. This year COVID -19 has taught many of us what it feels like to experience barriers to free will, freedom of choice, unsafe environments, loss of personal connection and challenges with navigating personal space. Many people have commented that they feel down, frustrated, and isolated. Many now recognize that in day to day life pre COVID-19 they enjoyed many freedoms. Persons with disabilities often experience barriers to free will on a day to day basis and are limited by unsafe and inaccessible buildings and urban spaces, inaccessible features on websites, uneven and/or low contrast surfaces, poor signage and wayfinding, limited access and hours for transportation, and lack of hearing loops in theatres and community buildings. Let's take this time now to feel and think, and in the coming year, let's make it an priority to help persons with disabilities by remembering how we felt during this time. We can work together towards removing barriers to free will, for all. Ask persons with disabilities who you meet to tell you their stories and ask how you can help. Let's dedicate this coming year to thoughts of removing barriers, making connection, promoting inclusion, welcoming diversity, creating safety, exuding respect, and improving accessibility in Canada. As we have done during this unprecedented time, we can work together in the future, for the health, safety, and quality of life, for all.

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