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Accessing Public Services for people with Disabilities

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Hello Everyone,

Welcome to The Invisible Vision Project’s blog.

Accessibility is what makes our environments and services inclusive and open for all walks of life. Accessibility is extremely important for individual with a disability; people with a disability should always have the same rights and freedom to access services in the same way as people without a disability. Accessibility and Inclusion is also a form of creating Equity.

In this blog, I will address some of the key issues on the topic of Accessibility; some on the improvements and some on its lacking. Please do keep in mind that this is written solely from a personal point of view, and that I can only speak for what I’d seen or experienced.

Accessibility on Public Transportation:

Over the years, I have found some improvements of Accessibility on Public Transportation, these includes: the use of bus ramp instead of ‘stairs,’ this is used to ensure easier transit access for wheelchair, stroller, or walker users. Furthermore, the transit commission has also offered a guaranteed ‘stop announcement,’ this is really accessible for individual like myself with a visual impairment; this allows passengers not having to worry about missing or getting off the bus at a wrong stop. Just recently, I also discovered a new accessibility feature on Public Transit, its called an ‘external announcement’ (However, this has not been made available in every city just yet). How the ‘external announcement’ works is that: before the passengers boarding the bus, as the door opens, the bus will automatically announce its bus number and the direction that it is heading to. This is extremely useful for the blind/visually impaired: individual with vision loss will no longer need to ask the bus operator for bus info and direction; it saves time and energy for the passenger and also for the bus operator.

Accessibility in Public Washrooms:

Many people may already know that most public restrooms are made accessible for people with disability (well supposedly), but guess what! I would say that this part of accessibility only applies to people with physical limitations such as wheelchair users. A lot of Public Washrooms do NOT have Braille signs on them, so how is this accessible for the visually impaired?! No one wish to walk into the wrong washroom and embarrasses him/her self.

Accessibility in Accessing Public Buildings:

In most cases, Public Services usually have a ‘department’ or an ‘office’ that is responsible for guiding or helping individuals that may need some assistances. In a hospital for example, there are usually porters who are responsible for guiding anyone who may need help in getting to and from their doctor’s offices, to avoid the trouble of getting lost. In a shopping center, there are usually directories located at various locations of the shopping centre. There should also have a ‘customer service’ for anyone who may require additional assistance. Sometimes, security guards may also assist or guide people in need. Personally, I prefer to go ask a security guard for assistance if I’m all by myself, this is a much safer and worry-free solution, because they can physically guide me to where I need to go.

Finally, I will end this post with a story I wish to share with you, an exceptionally experience I had accessing Public Service in attending a concert at The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It had been an unforgettable experience for me. Before planning to attend the concert, I had a lot of worry, mainly because I didn’t want to be a ‘special’ customer, just because I have a visual impairment. But, because it was also an event that I was so determined to go no matter what, so might as well make it special. Gladly, I found out that there is actually an accessibility personnel working in the centre, so I made a call just 2 days before the concert. I explained to them that I’m an visually impaired individual and I would need a sighted guide for assistance. Of course, I also told them that I have white cane, so that it hopefully will be easier for the staff to ‘spot’ me when I arrive. On the day of the concert, I arrived about half an hour early than the entry time. As soon as I entered the gate, someone did recognize me and invited me into the building to be seated at a waiting area. When it was time to enter into the concert hall, I was again guided privately by a very friendly staff through a quieter backdoor and eventually to my seat. The entire process went very smoothly. What’s more amazing is that they also switched my seating so I ended up with a centre seat rather than a side seat. Finally, at the end of the concert, I was guide outside to the main entrance to find a taxi. Overall, I had a wonderful experience and was exceptionally happy how accessible, accommodating and helpful people can be sometimes and it just makes me feel so welcomed and included.

Thank you for reading to the end and I hope this has been an informative, helpful and even interesting piece for some of you!

By: The Invisible Vision Project


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