“AccessTALK with Trish” online radio show / podcast
Hosted by Trish Robichaud, accessibility radio show “AccessTALK with Trish” features engaging discussions and courageous conversations. Listen in while Trish examines the good, the bad and the reality of accessibility in our communities.
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Trish: Hey there listeners welcome to access talk with Trish, a 30-minute weekly segment that is dedicated to examining the good the bad and the reality of accessibility in our communities and I'm your host for the show Trish Robicheau, disability awareness coach author, facilitator and motivational speaker I'm a woman with a disability but definitely not a disabled woman. The access talk with Trish radio show can be heard live on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. Eastern at access talk with Trish.com or you can listen the past show recordings on demand at any time at the same address on iTunes if that's how you roll. The show is brought to you by changing paces, an accessibility consulting firm that simplifies disability legislation for organizations that think they don't have the time or money for compliance. Visit changing paces.com and nurture culture of inclusion where everyone matters and on that note I'd like to introduce my guest for today. That would be Diana Simpson, who is the supervisor of accessibility planning at the City of Mississauga. Diana came to the city over 21 years ago from the healthcare sector where she worked as a recreational therapist for 12 years. At the City of Mississauga Diana was hired as a recreational analyst for seniors overseeing citywide recreation services for older adults including the Mississauga 55-plus senior games, really cool. During this time she worked with the Saugus drug breakers program. A day program for adults who've had a stroke and developed the next step to active living program which is another day program for adults with a physical disability. Fabulous, in 2003 Diana joined facilities and property management and developed the city's first accessibility plan and the Accessibility Advisory Committee, big job that year I'm sure. Since then Diana has completed 14, count them, 14 annual accessibility plans. Guess you can do them in your sleep by now huh improve as accessibility coordinator and most recently as supervisor of accessibility planning. Diana has had many notable accomplishments over the past 21 years including the development of the facility accessibility design standards and 8 again, count'em, 8 accessibility events including the accessibilitys awards event held in 2014. Through her work in facilities and property management Diana has been instrumental in providing her accessibility lens on city projects to ensure that the design of their facilities are considering all members of the community including those with disabilities. This attention to detail has resulted in the city being recognized for numerous accessibility awards including most recently the Rick Hansen foundation accessible cities award 2017 Circle of Excellence Mississauga was inducted for celebration square. Wow, I got to hear about this celebration Square, welcome Diana and thanks so much for joining me.
Diana: Thanks for having me.
Trish: Beautiful, let's start with your most recent achievement at the city the Rick Hansen foundation accessible cities awards Circle of Excellence for celebration square. What is celebration square and what makes it award worthy.
Diana: Okay, celebration square is our massive public space for festivals and events that is south of our city hall and to the west of it is our central library. So it's got in the summer a spray pad that's fully accessible and in the winter that becomes an ice rink and then it's got a huge lawn area that has a stage to the south of it with streams as well and it's where we have for example our Canada Day events, our New Year's events, our multicultural events throughout the year. Just this past weekend they had a rib fest. So it's fully accessible from the stage, having a ramp off to the side of it not at the back of the stage to a washroom at the back of the stage that if a performer has a disability and needs to use the washroom, there's an acceptable washroom there. There are other Universal Washington is on the site. There's an amphitheater, there's a section for vendors like a Market Square area. Yeah, so it's a massive space for accessible space for our residents and visitors to the city.
Trish: Beautiful, it sounds like a wonderful place to have a big party.
Diana: Yes it is, for sure.
Trish: So did you have Canada celebrations there.
Diana: We did yeah, we had Canaan was the, like the lead act at the end singing, you know, his famous waving the flag song.
Diana: Yeah, we also had fireworks as well.
Trish: Wonderful, excellent what Canada celebration wouldn't be complete without fireworks. I understand to start there were a lot of great differences throughout the square. That must have been an accessibility nightmare.
Diana: Yes, yes, yes, yes you're right Trish there was existing the existing space so here we're dealing with existing space and then retrofitting it for accessibility. So before there were some stairs there were large slopes to get into various sections of the space, so they lessened those slopes and we used our existing standards, our facility, accessibility standards at the time which referenced a five percent slope. So where we could we put five percent slopes in because the space does start kind of higher up and then it goes lower when we move from the north the south part of the space. We put in ramps where we could and then also handrails when there were ramps we put handrails on both sides of the ramp. So that's how we dealt with that.
Trish: Wonderful, I'm sure that the engineers had a ball trying to figure that all out eh.
Diana: Mm-hmm, say they, part of the process was to consult with our accessibility Advisory Committee. So when they heard the needs of people with disabilities I think the architect learned a lot at that meeting and applied what they heard.
Trish: Wonderful, and I understand there's a farmers market down there as well.
Diana: Yes there is on Wednesday morning, there's a farmers market.
Trish: Wonderful, wonderful and wandering these independent vendors would they be trained in customer service.
Diana: I would hope so. Part of our requirements are that third parties that come and do work with the city. That they either deliver the accessible customer training to their staff or that they use our booklets that we have posted on our website that covers the requirements under the legislation and that they sign off for that.
Trish: Gotcha, I'm sure the City of Mississauga has a wonderful accessibility training segment as part of your new hire orientation, even though they're just, you know, vendors that are working part time one morning a week or whatever it would be simple enough for them to walk through your orientation your online stuff. What other aspects of inclusive employment has the city implemented?
Diana: Okay so required by law under the employment standards under the integrated accessibility standards, we have made amendments to policies. So for example our hiring policy has a statement that says that if you are a person with a disability and you need an accommodation during the interview process or even if you're hired as you're working for the city, that you let us know and we will accommodate so for example if you are deaf and you need a sign language interpreter and let us know and we'll arrange for a sign language interpreter to be part of the interview.
Diana: Yeah as well for accommodations in the workplace so once you're hired or even if you, you get a disability as you're working at the city you get in a car accident or you never know what can happen. Then you need to let your supervisor manager know and then the accommodation plan will be put into place to ensure that you have what you need do your work.
Trish: Fabulous and then, of course, there's those of us who are in that aging baby boomer population, who will see likely disability at least 50% of us.
Trish: Those that are 50-plus right.
Diana: That's for sure yeah.
Trish: Yeah, so okay we're going to head out to a break right now and when we come back we're going to talk about the extensive work that you guys have done in your park system and your recreational programs.
Trish: And we're back. I'm here with Diana, you're still with us Diana
Diana: I am
Trish: I've read about the extensive accessibility work Mississauga's done in your park system and I'm really impressed with like the extent of your park system as well as your recreational programs that you've added to your park system. Can you share, this is kind of a pointed question. Can you share your proudest moment that you've experienced bringing play time to kids with disabilities in Mississauga?
Diana: Okay, yeah, I'll start with our playground. So a few years ago we set up a renovation playground program, where every year we identify a number of playgrounds that need accessibility improvements and it could be a universal swing that is put in that could be a pathway that connects to the play ground. It could be a transfer station so that someone, you know, a child with a physical disability can get onto some of the equipment. So we identify, for example, last year there were 18 playgrounds that received some kind of accessibility improvement and we've been doing this for a number of years.
Trish: So it must really be having up.
Diana: Yeah, yeah exactly and if we chip away and I would say on an average about 20 play grounds per year and we're gonna get there eventually, yes it does cost a lot to do them all at once but if you chip away at it and year by year makes your playgrounds more accessible, of course, the whole community is going to benifit. So not only do we plan for those improvements we also have a process where if a family needs a local playground to be upgraded, for example, needs a universal swing. They can contact cart, they can call our 311 line or they can contact myself and we'll set that in motion and get that done for them. We've heard a lot of positive feedbacks that families are able to go to their local playground and access it. Not only that we have what are called our fully inclusive playgrounds in various quadrants in the city that everything is accessible, so all the equipment the surfaces, the sponge, type surface, box surface and those are available as well.
Trish: So there's inaudible 2:39 ground level that there safe to fall on but you can still navigate with a wheelchair across the padded flooring.
Trish: My goodness, I saw a couple of pictures of one of your parks and there was a swing and it looked so unusual I had to like copy the name of it and look it up online. I can't remember the name of it now but.
Diana: The expressive swing.
Trish: Baby and mom. that was just amazing. You want to explain that. Tell our listeners what it looked like.
Diana: Yeah, yeah. It was an expressive swing and I think we have about three now in various playgrounds and so if you have a child maybe not even with a physical disability even a developmental disability that feels more secure to have your mom, your caregiver or your sports person near you then the kids with the disability sit on one side of the swing and then the mom or the caregiver can sit directly opposite and they can swing together. So that's called an expressive swing.
Trish: That is so powerful inaudible 3:52. I also noticed that one of your parks I noticed a QR code on the equipment tell me about that.
Diana: Yeah so we set up various trails have sickness equipment and some of the equipment is accessible to people who use wheelchairs but then we also have signage, so we give directions to people on how to use the equipment and the suggested while their using the equipment. So for people that are blind, they wouldn't be able to read the instructions inaudible 4:25 make it out but if their on there that they bring their cell phone and let's face of us have a cell phone and then there's a QR code so they can access the QR code and they can listen to the instructions on how to use the equipment that way.
Trish: Fabulous, and it's not just blind people that can benefit from that a lot of people have more difficulty with the printed word. Especially if your sign and lighting isn't all that great or whatever, you know there's all kind of reasons why face to face, you know an imperson sign might be difficult where as like you pointed out. First of all, let's explain, the QR code is one of these square digital looking images that have pixels and black spots and white spots mixed together to form a square or some a rectangular now and over time they will get very different looking, more and more unique actually but the QR code scans with your phone just like any barcode scanner, whatever, you just download an app and to be able to access that instructional information right there or, goodness, I can see it in like, you know, inaudible 5:51 places, you know, where, you know, parks you pull off and there's a view and then you know there's for, whatever you know and the history of that. Like, that could be transmitted by QR codes so somebody can just read it, listen to it instead of reading it, fabulous. So tell me, where going to summarize here.What do you think Diana as far as your own experience with barriers and your experience with breaking down barriers? What, if you were talking to other inaudible 6:34. What would be shortlist of the three top barriers that inaudible 6:42. should watch out for. That they should be inaudible 6:46. or within their inaudible 6:46. Every, any inaudible 6:50. going to give me a different answer to this there is no right or wrong but what has been most apparent for you.
Diana: Yeah, I'm going to say the top one and we've talked a lot in this inaudible 7:02. about physical barriers. That's a inaudible 7:05 I want to say easy, it's not easy it takes time and it takes money but its invincible people can see it and you can talk about it. Yeah, it's tangible right? So sometimes it's for the requirements around information and communication. So looking more of the needs for people that may have a hearing disability or a vision disability and ensuring for samples on our website is accessible and that it even goes beyond the minimum standards that are in the legislation that when we post, yeah when we post a video it is automatic that we include captioning and that we include descriptive video. That's not all that's done, it's not a part of the legislation. We do that for our own accessibility video but I'd love to see that throughout the cooperation. So I think that's one area that continually needs improvement and we're looking to the legislation to strengthen that a little more going forward. Yeah so physically you can always do better right. We have 350 buildings, we just did an audit of 97 of those more public facing buildings and I mean let's face it, we can continually improve, we need to install more automatic door openers, some of the visual alarms that may not have been installed in some of the older buildings. Those kinds of things. So information, communication physical and I guess the last, I think we're getting better at attitude and all. Barrier that I think we can always like we need to continue to educate and increase awareness and keep it in peoples minds that no matter what they're doing, their thinking about how would a person who is deaf access that service. How would a person who is blind access that service and how would a person who has a physical disability access that service and if you can think about that and anything. A inaudible 9:17. This program facility then you're following what's needed for accessibility.
Trish: Fabulous, so that was in terms of giving advice to a inaudible 9:28. What if you're talking to just our listeners alright and you want to convey to them what to keep in mind on a daily basis.On a daily basis way the average Joe person out there, what to keep in mind on a daily basis to help minimize barriers.
AccessTALK with Trish
Listen in on Wednesdays at 11:30 am Eastern at www.AccessTALKwithTrish.com and hear Trish interview guests who are:
- people with disabilities who’ve encountered barriers & gotten them removed,
- people who’ve removed barriers for others,
- communities who’ve gotten funding to remove barriers,
- people who’ve met with barriers that are seeking justice,
- businesses that embrace the inclusion of employees with disabilities,
- businesses that see the potential market share to be had, and
- anyone who has championed the accessibility cause for themselves or others.
Please Be a Guest on our Radio Show!
If you see yourself in any of the roles I’ve mentioned above or you’ve got an access-related story to share, I’d love to have you on the show as my guest. If you’re at all interested, please complete the form below and I’ll send you more info…