talk talk talk Blog Looking Snazzy and Modern

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Screenshot of political blog talk talk talktalk talk talk — my original blog — has been looking sad and dated for way too long. I put updating it in my endless ToDo list. Publishing Concussion Is Brain Injury: Treating the Neurons and Me moved it from being written in some task app into my head, needling me regularly until finally Christmas arrived with NO appointments, NO TTC to sap the living energy from me. I got it done. Took longer than expected. With brain injury, doesn’t it always? I used one of Blogger’s new themes, then customized it, sticking with a dark theme because I liked it, and it helps to differentiate my political blog from this one. And I fiddled around with one of my Toronto waterfront photos for my header image — even mulling over a quacking duck shot — until I decided I liked the sardonic look of the gulls. They’re just soooo Toronto and political looking.

Yes, folks, talk talk talk is looking pretty good now. The gulls are even impressed. Sort of. The only problem is that with losing so many years of regularly working on my websites to focus on my brain injury recovery, I lost my familiarity with HTML. I only ever copied and pasted code I needed that I found on the web, anyway, but trying to figure out how to change the full post page to a white background with black text defeated me. The HTML code looked like complete gibberish. Worse, I couldn’t find what helpful techies in their helpful posts said to find in order to add or replace code. I felt like my computer-understanding brain had turned into Swiss cheese. Blogger’s themes are more visually accessible than they used to be, so I’m going to have to rely on that . . . for now. It’s not that easy trying to make one’s blog or website accessible, but as I improve, I’m hoping to be able to do that here as well as over on talk talk talk.

The nice thing about refreshing a blog’s look is that it makes you want to blog again. It’s been sporadic on talk talk talk and barely weekly here because I had to make the hard decision five, uh, six (gulp) years ago to putting my energy once again towards treating my injured neurons and recovering brain function. I hadn’t truly heard the years ticking by until I logged into my CafePress site to update its widget on talk talk talk and saw my last login date: November 2011. That was a depressing stunner. I have some choices to make.


I Support AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief on Barriers to Health Care in Ontario

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I wrote the government at aoda.input@ontario.ca the following email to support AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief on Health Care Accessibility Barriers. Join me and email them to; just one sentence to say you support the Brief is all that needed. Read more on the Alliance’s website.

I support AODA Alliance’s Finalized Brief on Health Care Accessibility Barriers.

I’d like to add that being able to access health care isn’t just about being able to get into a clinic or doctors office, but also about being able to have the doctor come to you when you’re unable to leave home due to the nature of your illness or recovering from surgery or type of disability. Telemedicine allows a person to receive timely and good health care.

This is especially important in mental health care.

Conditions such as OCD, depression, ADD, agoraphobia could be treated better if the physician could begin treatment in the home through telemedicine. The physician can see the living environment and understand the complexity of the condition better; the patient wouldn’t have to recover well enough to travel and get to the clinic on time just to receive some treatment; the physician could better guide the patient to leave home and eventually receive treatment in the clinic; and the physician would not have to spend time travelling, allowing for more hours to see more patients.

Not paying for laptop to laptop telemedicine excludes patients who can’t get to OHIP-designated centres. And wastes a doctor’s time by forcing her to travel if she’s not at an OHIP centre just to talk to and see her patient.

It isn’t only patients who live vast distances from their doctors who need telemedicine. It’s also the thousands who forego health care or receive diminished care because they can’t leave their home or they can’t get to the clinic for whatever reason. 

Dropping this artificial barrier to telemedicine will ultimately cost the system less and speed up health recovery, leading to faster return to work and taxes to the government.

Accessibility is a right not an option and benefits all Ontarians.


Join Us to Protest for TTC Accessibility for All

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Accessibility of all kinds is pitiful on Toronto’s TTC.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor
To protest this blatant injustice towards our most vulnerable citizens.

When you protest the TTC’s abysmal treatment of the disabled, we all win!

D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.


The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail


Take the TTC Survey Till February 11, Speak Up for Accessibility

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The TTC is running a survey purportedly on service standards yet with nary a word on accessibility and skewed towards not building subways.

Service includes accessibility. Service includes how easy it is to use the system. Yet the survey doesn’t include one question related to cognitive, physical, or mental accessibility, other than pitting the number of route transfers against local bus options. That should not be an either/or option.

This survey is strictly geared to the young, healthy downtowner who already has subway access. It seems like it’s designed to justify not extending the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre as originally designed, perhaps cancelling the Scarborough subway, and putting off the Downtown Relief Line.

Route transfers – the bane of my life – is the only remote nod to accessibility.

The best way to get attention is to stay focused on one or two things: route transfers and subway line names. So I urge you to take this survey and select the option “Reduced need to transfer from one vehicle to another” everywhere it’s mentioned as the Most Important. Or if it’s not in one of the options but “Routes that are more direct – on major roads only (faster travel and longer walks)” is, choose it as Most Important, for it’s code for subway line.

When both options are listed choose “Reduced need to transfer from one vehicle to another” as Most Important because it supports both extending the Sheppard and Bloor-Danforth lines as well as putting in more bus routes. In this case, you may also see an option for “Shorter walk to station/stops” or “Routes that are less direct – serve local neighbourhoods (slower travel and shorter walks).” These are code for Scarborough LRT over extending the Bloor-Danforth line; same with Sheppard Line. Choose those as Least Important when choosing “Reduced need to transfer” or “Routes that are more direct” as Most Important to emphasize you want the TTC to build the bloody subways already.

Fighting for more local bus routes will soon be easier with Uber coming into the market anyway, so we don’t need to agitate for those. But we do need to agitate for subways – a proper seamless transit backbone, not a hodge podge of subways and LRTs-trying-to-be-subways, requiring more energy from us to use and transfer from one to the other.*

You will then be asked either/or questions.

Continue to choose for fewer transfers, eg, choose “Service that allows me to make my trip on one vehicle, but involves more stops in local neighbourhoods resulting in a longer overall travel time.” This is obviously a bus that goes from A to B. The alternative “Service that provides a more direct service, but requires one or more transfers resulting in an shorter overall travel time” describes adding an LRT and transfer point at the end of the Bloor-Danforth and Sheppard Lines instead of extending the subways.

Choose “A longer walk to my stop if it means a shorter travel time to get to my destination.” This is code for subways because for some reason, the thinking is subways always require long walks to get to them. (In London, UK, that’s not the case because they’ve continued to build subways over the decades unlike us.)

“A shorter walk to my stop if it means a longer travel time to get to my destination” is code for LRTs (or buses instead of subways) because the expert opinion is walks to LRT stops are always shorter than subway stops. Um, no.

If you get an either/or question about buses, I chose “walks to/from bus stops with less direct and less frequent service through local neighbourhoods resulting in longer overall travel time” because buses specifically should be about local access and short walks. The alternative is about using buses instead of LRTs, streetcars, or subways. I don’t feel like being shoe-horned into buses instead of being able to use a streetcar or subway.

You will then be asked to rank your top 4 priorities. Put “The number of transfers you are required to make” at the top and “The time it takes to walk to/from your stop” at the bottom. Yes, the latter is important, but this is code for not building more subways. If people say they want shorter walks, the experts will say, see, people don’t want subways. They want LRTs. I put second “The time you wait for the bus/streetcar/subway” because frequent service on any kind of route is important plus it emphasizes the need for subways.

Speaking of subways, in the final screen asking for your opinion about the survey, in the box where you can type your thoughts, ask why no accessibility questions and to change the subway line names back to their original name and ditch the numbers. An example:

“Why were there no questions about accessibility? Why no questions about subway line names? Changing the names to numbers has made it harder to use. Please change subway line names back to their original names and ditch the numbers.”

Here’s the survey. Please take it and speak up for the only accessibility issue that they address – reducing transfers – and speak up for restoring subway line names. Thanks!


*I believe we need a coherent network of buses for local use, LRTs as feeder networks, and a robust subway network mirrored on the surface by buses that cover off the streets in between subway stops for local commuters. We do not have a robust subway network at all. London, UK is a great model. Using LRTs instead of subways ignores how geographically large Toronto is and the increasing volumes of people who need to use high-speed public transit.

Brain Power

Partnering Up to Attend TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit in Toronto

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Kerry, a Board member of BIST (Brain Injury Society of Toronto), and I attended the TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit back on 16 September 2015. I had spoken to one of the BIST Board members a few months previously about TTC accessibility, and he’d suggested I attend accessibility meetings. I told him this was one area I couldn’t do alone. I have to do most things by myself; I’m overloaded. I can’t do one more thing on my own. The Board took that to heart, and Kerry invited me to attend the Forum with her and drove me there. What a difference it makes to have someone with you! Not being alone buoys you up, gives you the ability to spend precious energy on the activity not as much on getting there and back, means you have someone to hash over a shared experience, helps you think, and empowers you to participate in society in person, not just virtually. This is what a person with brain injury needs. Heck, anyone needs!

I had never attended one of these Forums before – Kerry had a long time ago – and it was instructive. I wrote extensively, with pretty pictures, on my political blog about what I saw and learnt, about the conversations I had with TTC staff about the cognitive inaccessibility of subway line names, signage, streetcar stop request buttons, and the TTC’s pilot of new streetcar shelter maps. Here are the key points:

  • TTC staff were there, talking to attendees with visual, cognitive, and physical accessibility problems on the TTC. And the top management were there listening to complaints and noting down questions. (The TTC will post their answers in the first quarter of 2016.) But the TTC Commissioners with the exception of TTC Chair Josh Colle and Councillor Shelley Carroll, were absent. And yes, the Forum is legally mandated, but the staff showed up, while, politicians — who represent the people — did not with the rare exception.
  • Despite Mayor John Tory’s avowed interest in accessibility, he and members of Toronto Council were largely absent from the forum on the biggest accessibility issue the city faces.
  • Politicians pay lip service to physical accessibility; are unaware of cognitive accessibility; don’t care to hear directly from the public.
  • The changing of subway line names to context-less, abstract numbers was a design decision and didn’t take into account how people remember and navigate their environment. The TTC needed a unifier and thought numbers was it. Um, no.
  • The TTC has a problem of replication of names, for example, St. Clair station and St. Clair West station. Once the Crosstown opens up and if they named it the Eglinton line, there would be Eglinton station, Eglinton West station, and the Eglinton line. There’s a singular lack of imagination in naming stations and lines to retain context but make them distinguishable without resorting to incomprehensible numbers.
  • The TTC believes white text on black is the easiest to see. It is in certain kinds of design but not for maps, especially when they’re small and above your head.
  • London Underground TTC Platform Signs Collage SOOC Shireen Jeejeebhoy 26-09-2015
  • The design team at the TTC aren’t fully aware of all the research on memory, navigation, the distinguishability of colours depending on use, and so on.
  • This might explain why signage seems to be a constant work in progress over the decades and why it’s not visually and cognitively accessible, with certain rare exceptions.
  • Sign Through Yonge Subway Window
  • The TTC is trying to make shelter maps more useful and haven’t received much feedback from the public on their pilot program. Apparently, they usually do.
  • There’s a new international standard for Exit signs that the TTC is implementing. I saw these green, running-man signs on the London Underground. There was a big difference between the ones on the Underground and the one I saw at Bloor station: size. Size matters when you’re panicking and running from a crisis. The bigger the sign and the closer to eye level it is, the easier it is to see. The TTC seems to think in its design decisions that they have less room than they actually do. Yes, stations built in the 1950s are small, but so are Underground stations built decades earlier, yet the Underground makes its maps full wall-height size and its running-man Exit signs very big and places them at eye level.
  • London Underground TTC Exit Signs Collage SOOC Shireen Jeejeebhoy 26-09-2015
  • The streetcar stop request buttons were placed according to a math equation not on practical use. I don’t think new vehicle designs are tested by real-world people with cognitive, visual, auditory, and other physical challenges.
  • TTC New Streetcar Stop Request Button Locations Shireen Jeejeebhoy 5-10-2015
  • The button on the doors of the new streetcars serve as stop request buttons in between stops. Who knew! Not the person standing in front of the door who walked across the aisle to press the stop request button and then returned to her spot in front of the doors. Who can blame her for not knowing – there’s no sign telling you.
  • The TTC wants to be a beacon for transit systems around the world. Uh, the TTC needs to get basic accessibility down first. “Beacon” is a long, long, looonnnnggg way off.

Update (27/10/2015):

If you want to add your voice and help make the TTC accessible to everyone, here are some contacts and ideas:

CBC radio (and I think Toronto news too) don’t use subway line numbers but their names, maybe because I brought it up with them as an accessibility issue. Metro Morning said accessibility is important to them when I tweeted them about this. If you hear your favourite radio or TV news show using subway line numbers, tweet them (easiest), email, or call them to object and tell them it’s an accessibility issue and they should use the proper subway line names. Tell them they make it cognitively challenging and worsen the accessibility of the TTC when they use subway line numbers instead of names.

Here’s the contact details for the TTC people I tweet the most (their email addresses are on their Twitter profiles):

Ian Dickson, Manager, Design and Wayfinding: https://twitter.com/ttcdesign

Brad Ross, Head of Communications: https://twitter.com/bradttc

Below are the Twitter feeds for TTC Help. When they use line numbers and I see it, I RT their tweets with the line names and the hashtag #accessibility or I will ask them to use the line names. I noticed during the election that David Lepofsky is the king of repetition, and he gets results.

For help with questions and concerns 7am-10pm 7 days/week: https://twitter.com/TTChelps

For service updates (which I at times RT with the line names and #accessibility added): https://twitter.com/TTCnotices

Follow David Lepofsky at https://twitter.com/DavidLepofsky for accessibility info.