National AccessAbility Week: The Highs and Lows
Each year, National AccessAbility Week highlights the importance of inclusion and accessibility in our communities, workplaces and culture as a whole. From fierce change-makers leading the way toward a fully inclusive world, to fashion brands becoming more disability-friendly, there are many reasons to celebrate the progress we are making in society.
However, while there is cause for celebration, it is equally important to reflect on the issues that continue to pose barriers for people with disabilities in Ontario and indeed, globally.
Here are some highs and lows in accessibility this year.
Accessible Fashion and Beauty
High: Inclusive Design in the Mainstream
It has been a noteworthy year for inclusive design in the fashion and beauty industry, with numerous brands starting to market products that are designed specifically for people with disabilities.
SKIMS, an underwear and loungewear brand famously belonging to Kim Kardashian released an adaptive brief with hook and eye closures for easier dressing. The brand featured models with disabilities to display the product, leveling up the game in the fashion and modelling world.
Meanwhile, mainstream makeup brands brought their inclusivity up a notch by introducing products that can be accessed by those with disabilities. Kohl Kreatives designed a set of adaptive brushes with bending capabilities, making it easier for everyone to enjoy makeup application. The company uses a portion of their profits to offer workshops to the community that are all about the art of makeup.
Olay also released an easy open lid moisturizer for those with dexterity challenges. The packaging features high contrast product label and Braille text to make it accessible to those with vision disabilities.
Want to explore more beauty products tested and recommended by people with disabilities? Check out this article for ten great products.
Low: Candace Owens Undermines Disability Representation in Fashion
In an infamous episode of the Candace Owens Show, The Daily Wire host undermined the importance of disability representation in fashion and even expressed her outrage about models with disabilities joining the mainstream fashion world.
The disability community was quick to fire back, and included a video response and lesson delivered by Taylor Lindsay-Noel, an SCIO community member who is no stranger to addressing conflict.
There is still a long way to go before inclusive fashion is embraced around the world but we are starting to see an understanding that people with disabilities are consumers who should have access to products they can use.
Access to Medical Necessities
High: Alberta Increases Public Coverage for Catheters
There are many people with disabilities who rely on catheterization to empty their bladders. Unfortunately, catheters are not funded consistently throughout Canada, forcing many to pay out of pocket for these essential medical supplies – and often costing up to $2400 a month.
This April, Alberta announced that it is increasing coverage for up to four catheters per day, including hydrophilic catheters, which are known to decrease the risk of infection for those who depend on catheters daily.
Low: People with Disabilities in Ontario Still Don’t Have Adequate Catheter Coverage
In Ontario, there is still a lack of public coverage for intermittent catheters and related urinary supplies, making it burdensome financially and mentally for people with disabilities to fully participate in society.
Many resort to re-using catheters, leading to frequent infections and secondary health complications that can lead to hospitalizations and even death.
We hope that Ontario will follow Alberta’s lead in providing better coverage for catheters as peeing is a human right that nobody should have to pay to do.
Leaders in the Disability Community
High: Maayan Ziv Continues to Enhance Accessibility in Canada and Worldwide
Maayan Ziv is well known to the disability community in Ontario and continues to break barriers in accessibility with her AccessNow platform that allows users to search for places worldwide and rate their accessibility. The platform also features a blog, with accessible itineraries to various destinations around the world and disability lifestyle pieces.
We are proud to know Maayan and follow her journey as she continues to make strides in accessibility including airline travel and accessible transportation in the city of Toronto.
Low: We Lost David Onley and Judith Heumann
This year, the disability community lost two champions who devoted their lives to making the world more inclusive.
Mr. David Onley served as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 2007 to 2014 and was instrumental to SCIO. A member of our organization, he often attended key meetings and community events and was considered by many as a mentor and role model. We are grateful for Mr. Onley’s passion for creating an inclusive world through his work to make Ontario accessible through the AODA and for his utter compassion and dedication toward the disability community. Because of his work and dedication to advocacy, we are better equipped to creating a world that is accessible for everyone
Judith Heumann is known worldwide among people with disabilities. Known as the “Mother of the Disability Rights Movement,” she helped to create the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and has inspired millions around the world, including our community. Judith’s loss is felt deeply and we will continue to honour her life’s work through our ongoing advocacy for a fully accessible world.
High: Hundreds of Beaches in Greece Become Wheelchair Accessible
Greece is making more than 200 beaches wheelchair accessible, making European vacations more welcoming to those with disabilities – and most will be ready by summer 2023!
SEATRAC systems will be installed, which are a fixed track mechanism involving a remote control-operated chair that can be moved in and out of the sea.
Wheelchair users can also take advantage of boardwalks, making it easy to navigate the beach without having to wheel through the sand.
Low: Ontario is Behind on the AODA
A report conducted earlier this year suggests that Ontario will fail to meet its 2025 target to make the province fully accessible for those with disabilities. The report examined the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians for With Disabilities Act (AODA) and stated that a lack of leadership and accountability are largely responsible for the delay.
To make the province fully accessible, barriers must continue to be broken down in the built environment, along with the production of more awareness campaigns around accessibility. It must also become easier for people with disabilities to participate in contributing to the economy through employment and having adequate access to funding programs for essential medical supplies and equipment.
Arts and Entertainment
High: Representation is Improving in Pop Culture
This year has seen some great representation in pop culture for people with disabilities. CBC’s Push is the first major-network primetime series in Canada to feature a leading cast with disabilities. It follows a group of wheelchair users who navigate daily life, from dating, to working, to parenting, to dancing – emphasizing just how vibrant, full and ordinary the lives of people with disabilities are.
Meanwhile, gaming is embracing accessibility, with XBox publicly celebrating millions of gamers with disabilities, touching on the accessibility features offered by their system. Play station is also leveling up, with a new disability friendly access controller. The access controller will include a wide array of swappable button and stick caps so players can freely create different layouts that work for their unique strength, range of motion, and physical needs,
Low: Mainstream Film Continue to Portray People with Disabilities in Tokenistic Ways
Champions, a 2023 film featuring Woody Harrelson, includes a cast with real disabilities, and while it is a step in the right direction with authentic casting, it is important to give thought to how the characters stories are portrayed. Many critics argue that the type of representation in Champions is harmful, because they are there to help the main character become a better person.
We are certainly hopeful that authentic disability representation will continue to improve in mainstream film, capturing the richness and full scope of living with a disability.
On behalf of SCIO, a happy National AccessAbility Week to everyone in our community!