Disabilities in Action

When you think of iconic movie stars or television characters of our time, do any have a disability? Well that might soon change. We are starting to see a growing presence of persons with disabilities on the TV and the big screen.

The shows and movies vary from documentaries about the disability to reality shows to television dramas. Three shows feature a regular cast of people with physical disabilities. Most of you will know the first two: Little People, Big World and The Little Couple. Both shows follow the lives of real families with physical disabilities resulting in dwarfism. And although their disabilities play a big role in the shows, they are, at their core, shows about people and relationships and… life. Now you are probably wondering what the third show is. It’s a new series to premiere on June 5 entitled Push Girls. The show follows the lives of four women who live with paralysis in theHollywood area. The show documents the everyday challenges each women face, both physically and mentally. We will definitely be checking this one out!

It’s fabulous to see shows that bring awareness to what it is like to live with a disability. This is a great medium to challenge or change the public perception of persons with disabilities.

And then there are shows that don’t focus on disability. There is simply a character or a person that happens to have a disability. A prime example of this can be seen in the diverse cast of Glee. Artie is a performer in the show choir before he is a young man in a wheelchair. This idea can also be seen in Rolling Around the World with Zach Anner. This funny, charming young man travels the world with a film crew. One episode in and you completely forget the host has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair. These shows are great because they do something entirely different. They reduce the stigma surrounding physical and mental disabilities and break down stereotypes. As a viewer, you don’t focus on the person’s disability because the show doesn’t.

Recently, a range of industries have begun to embrace accessibility and the media is doing their part by increasing access to images and depictions of persons with disabilities. This is amazing to see and even more exciting to think about a day where this will go from being wonderful to being the norm. Shows and movies will regularly feature people with disabilities because they are, after all, trying to represent and depict the diversity of the real world.


Other examples of persons with disabilities in the media include:


Do you know of other people with disabilities on the big screen? Love one of the shows we mentioned? Tweet us @mobilityforlife and let us know, hashtag #PWDHollywood

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A Stroll in the Park Made Easy

Millennium Park in Chicago, IL. Photo courtesy of Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

Countdown to spring: 9 days. Warm weather, budding trees and flowers, squirrels roaming about, birds chirping… you know the rest. With the season fast approaching, local parks are making the move to become accessible, bringing beautiful landscapes and nature to everyone.

In Windsor, Ontario, Lakeside Park has been constantly patching up the stairs that run down the middle of the park. Now the town is hoping to remove them entirely to make the park accessible. The hope is to replace the stairs with a footpath; discussions are still ongoing. Read more about this story here.

Named after the Canadian novel “Beautiful Joe,” Beautiful Joe Park in Meaford, Ontario currently has an extremely steep incline and non-accessible washrooms. The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society is looking to construct accessible public washrooms and install a footbridge that would span the park. Read more about this story here.

If you’d like to learn more about established accessible parks, check out Bowen Park, which has been recognized by the Canadian Institute of Planners as a candidate for the best public space in Canada. You can also take a look at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL.

One example that stood out is the parks of Massachusetts. The Buttonbush Trail at the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Johnny Kelley Trail in Dennis include guide ropes and Braille text. Broadmoor Sanctuary in Natick offers a 1/4-mile handicapped-accessible trail and boardwalk for bird watching. The Department of Conservation and Recreation also hosts accessible hiking programs with mountain wheelchairs, push joggers and lots of rest stops at many state parks.

With the nice weather fast approaching (fingers crossed), Savaria is always excited to hear about parks and outdoor attractions turning to accessible solutions!


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The Passion of Parasports

Sledge Hockey at the ParaSport Ontario Winter Games

Did you know that the Olympic Games include 35 sports, differing from the Paralympics only by 2 game offerings? Buzz about the 2012 Olympics to be held this summer in London, England has begun. And that means… the Paralympics are fast approaching as well!

Parasports are adapted or new sports specifically designed for athletes with a physical disability or limitation. Athletes may use a wheelchair, have a prosthetic limb, or suffer from blindness. The official parasport games are virtually endless, with 33 sports internationally recognized by parasport organizations. The most popular are athletics (similar to track and field), cycling, soccer, goalball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair curling and sledge hockey.

The most widely known parasport organization is the Paralympic Games. The Paralympics run parallel to the Olympics, in the same host city, and include either the summer or winter games.

There are also many local parasport organizations, one of which is ParaSportOntario. The organization just held their annual Winter Games in Huntsville, Ontario. Savaria staff member Ryan Bedard was invited to attend as a VIP and was thrilled at the opportunity to see these incredible athletes compete. This weekend, he witnessed extreme talent and dedication.

“With this being my first ParaSport Ontario Games, I was unsure what to expect. I was amazed, inspired and humbled all at the same time. ParaSport’s athletes exemplify sportsmanship in the truest form. Their passion and competitiveness is unmatched,” says Ryan. “I look forward to attending my next games.”

Paralympic competitors often train for 15-20 hours a week on average, while balancing a full-time career. Many high school/college athletic programs have events where their able-bodied athletes take part in a parasport – such as basketball players playing wheelchair basketball. Those participants are then truly able to understand the strength that Para athletes must have in order to compete.

Paralympic gold medalist Adam Hall says “I was born with a disability, but that’s what life is about. It’s about changing things that are difficult and making them into things you can do. If I was to go on a running race with you, I’d be the one with the disability. But come and have a ski with me and you’d be the one with the disability.”

So congratulations to ParaSport Ontario on their 2012 Winter Games. We, at Savaria, cannot wait for the summer games. And to all of our friends, check out the links below and get involved! Parasports are such a great way to have fun and stay active.









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Is web content just one click away?

If you were asked to picture your idea of accessibility, what would you see? An entrance way with a ramp? A building with an elevator? What if you were asked to picture a person with a disability? Is he or she in a wheelchair? We often think of accessibility as physical access for people in wheelchairs. But it has a much broader scope.

Web accessibility extends beyond physical space. The power of the web lies in its universality; access for everyone is an essential element. The ability to “be online” is an integral part of our lives: we pay our bills, we shop, we read the news, we interact with friends, etc. In fact, there are businesses that exist almost entirely on the web (Amazon, Google, eBay). Yet many services and websites are not accessible to groups of people with certain disabilities.

Potential users may include persons who are color blind, partially or completely blind, hard of hearing, or deaf. Users may also have limited mobility in their upper body or a learning disability.

These individuals most likely encounter barriers to their online navigation on a daily basis. Things like small text and poor color contrast could impact those with color or partial blindness. For deaf people, multimedia components may be difficult to access without captions. Sites that require a mouse to navigate present a barrier for persons with limited mobility. And complicated writing may provide difficulty for anyone with a learning disability.

So what can you do? Simple changes can include altering your page and text colors so everything is clear and easy to read. Make sure to underline your links or add a symbol or picture so that people who are color blind can easily identify them. Another easy one is adding captions to your images, audio clips, and videos. And lastly, write simple sentences that are easy to read and to understand (in a decent-sized font!)

If you are more advanced in the IT department, check out ways to alter your code to allow for keyboard navigation and screen-reader compatibility.

The web is such a big part of our daily lives that it has become a necessity. It provides access to almost anything you can think of. The phrase “Google it” is probably expressed once every few seconds around the globe. So now it’s our turn to provide access to the web!

For a quick review of accessibility on our site, check out the video below






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