Author Archives: Donna Jack

An accessible educational curriculum that includes accessibility

Our Session @ The Accessibility Conference – Solutions for Inclusion, University of Guelph, May 28 & 29, 2013

Session Date: Wednesday, May 29, 201

Description: Making teaching accessible is as important as teaching accessibility. Re-framing the narrative beyond making the curriculum accessible, we explore the importance of including accessibility in the curriculum, analyzing opportunities and experiences of the Japanese and UK models that strategically implemented accessibility in a broad range of curriculum, thus creating a future generation of accessibility minded individuals. An accessible Ontario by 2025 includes educational curriculum that incorporate accessibility across all disciplines.

Objectives: Education has an important role to play in fostering the kind of change that will result in the immediate and long-term success of the A.O.D.A. An accessible society begins with strategic implementation of accessibility into curriculum across all disciplines to create a future generation of accessibility minded individuals creating accessible products, services and spaces. We will explore the opportunities and experiences of models that have strategically implemented accessibility and discuss items for inclusion.
The session will:

  • Analyze the opportunities and experiences of other educational models of accessibility curriculum implementation
  • Outline benefits and possibilities presented by the inclusion of accessibility awareness training;
  • Review current Canadian accessibility curriculum such as those being delivered through dedicated disability, healthcare, technological and design programs;
  • Discuss practical solutions for integrating accessibility into the curriculum and explore what a strategically addressed accessible curriculum might look like including who, what, when, where, and how.

Speaker Bio(s): With over a decade spent as a disabled consumer, patient, employee, accessibility advocate, business owner and consultant, first-hand experience with barriers to access and frustration with inaccessibility led Donna to found accessibility firm Roll a Mile and provides her a unique ability to advise on adaptation, accommodation and accessibility from a unique perspective. Or, in the words of her brother, “turns out the soapbox just needed a ramp”.

With a twenty year background as business and marketing advisor, both through her own company and the local Small Business Enterprise Centre, Donna has extensive and proven experience in the wholesale, retail, non-profit, financial, loyalty, online, service, manufacturing, tourism, economic development and public sectors. With a proven track record of developing strategic business and marketing strategy for any business model in any market segment, Donna works assisting businesses, organizations, and institutions implement and improve accessibility and dedicates herself to awareness and advocacy.

For More Information regarding The Accessibility Conference:

Open Letter to Healthcare Professionals

10 Things to Remember about Patients

1 We really don’t want to be here.

2 We didn’t fill out the requisition, report or record. If the doctor filled it out, we probably can’t read it either. If it isn’t to your liking, we aren’t responsible. We do not want to upset or annoy you, or make your job harder. You wield surgical instruments.

3 We are most likely partially clothed. Have a little compassion, we are vulnerable and our private parts are poking out.

4 Most of what you do would get you arrested anywhere else. Or at least cost you a dinner first.

5 We probably have either had nothing to eat or drink for days, or are loaded to the brim for your tests.

6 You know the terrifying alien-probe scene in horror movies, you are the terrifying alien

7 We can hear you talking about us.

8 We have probably waited hours, days, weeks and even months for this visit.

9 We really don’t want to be here.

10 We know you work hard. We know you save and change lives. We know the system is under-funded, under-staffed, under-supported, and under-appreciated. We know you are too. We also want an efficient, effective healthcare system. We are all on the same side, we just have our backsides exposed as well.

First post in our new blog series: The View from the Guerny

First, they came for the strollers and I didn’t speak out because I didn’t use a stroller….

On Tuesday last week, Global News’s Minna Rhee reported a story regarding the banning of strollers from certain spaces, in particular doctor’s offices, ‘War on Baby Strollers’ (

Within the medical building featured in the news story, several pediatricians’ offices within the building had a no stroller’s allowed policy. This resulted in stroller-lined hallways throughout the building. Dr. Aaron Lindzon, a pediatrician interviewed conceded it was, “basically, it’s a space issue”.  The story concludes with “the bottom line is, ask in advance, and don’t be surprised if the doctor asks you to leave the wheels behind, and points out that leaving the strollers in the hallway contravenes the Ontario Fire Code which requires they be clear of impediments.

But the policies of banning strollers concern me greatly, and should be considered an accessibility issue. The use of assistive devices should be permitted in all spaces, and strollers could technically be considered assistive devices. If my wheelchair is permitted, so should a stroller be. They are both mobility devices. And I know a few mothers with disabilities where in that circumstance; the stroller would become an assistive device for the caregiver. I suppose the caregivers of those babies-in-strollers could also technically be considered personal support workers. As well, a person in a wheelchair would not be able to access the stroller-lined hallway in the story, which is a huge issue, and not just in an emergency situation. The strollers themselves become barriers to access.

Awhile back there was a news item out of Ottawa where a bus driver on the public transit system required a woman, her baby, and stroller to disembark a bus in order to accommodate a passenger using a wheelchair. The bus company issued a statement to the effect that the driver had misinterpreted their accessibility policies and the bus line staff would receive more training on the policies.

The aim of the Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (A.O.D.A.) is for an accessible Ontario by 2025. Progressive implementation of the Act will result in more accessible physical spaces going forward and, hopefully one day, all spaces will be accessible. Benefits and opportunities for all are presented by accessibility, inclusion and diversity, and the unexpected benefit of accessibility on society as a whole is known as the ‘curb-cut phenomenon’. Named from the cuts in curbs originally for wheelchairs that benefited strollers, bicycles, delivery carts, and more. In fact, the typewriter, telephone, tape recorder and email were all developed by, or for, persons with disabilities, and have benefited everyone.

But for now, some common sense approaches could greatly benefit accessibility and strollers. For example, if you are a pediatrician, you should be aware that your patients come with apparatus and find office space accordingly. Medical buildings in particular should know that a large percentage of persons visiting the facility will be ill, have a disability or chronic condition, or use assistive devices. It is a medical facility.

So as an accessibility advocate, I am officially on the side of strollers. And there is, another reason that I think the banning of strollers should become an accessibility issue, if you take the case of the Ottawa bus incident, I do not want to see persons with disabilities demonized by being pitted against babies. Accessibility is not about preferred access it is about equal access.

It should be noted that I am not saying that a person in a wheelchair is in a similar circumstance to a baby in a stroller, certainly everyone has very different mobility options, I am only saying that in terms of accessibility and assistive devices, accommodation should be made for both. Accessibility for all, cradle to grave.

Accessible Terminology

Normally I am of the opinion that there is too much time spent focusing on superfluous items such as appropriate terminology than on implementing actual accessibility, but there are a few glaring exceptions.

Invalid, for example, is one I dislike especially. Broken down, it quite literally is in-valid, meaning not valid, of no importance. And I’m sorry that my brain doesn’t always communicate effectively with the rest of my body, but that doesn’t invalidate me as a person. Confined can be bothersome, people are not ‘confined’ to, or by, wheelchairs (they are, confined by lack of ramps). Gimp reminds me of camp crafts and cripple of potato chips.

And truth be told, it is not the words themselves that bother me, but the attitudes behind the words. It is the attitude we must address, enlighten and overcome, not the words. And quite frankly, I really don’t care what you call me, I just want to be able to buy my own toothpaste. But I do care what you call others, and any word, when used to name-call, becomes negative. Again, not the word itself, but the motive behind the word.

But it is entirely different with the r-word. There is no need to use the r-word. Ever.

In a clinical sense, the word means slowed development. But as language continues it’s constant evolution, the r-word, like many others, has changed. The clinical definition was first adopted by society as a reference to people with intellectual or development delays. Like all labels, it is limiting, but also insulting and hurtful. There are many, many great articles and activists out there who express far more eloquently than I ever could, exactly how hurtful and hateful this word is, and I will link to a couple at the end of this post. The r-word should not be used, ever. There is no need, even from a clinical perspective or physics principle, there are other words we can use.

Today we see the word used as a slang substitute for stupid, ridiculous, idiotic.

For example, “I can’t believe the restaurant did that, it’s so r-word” or “you’re acting so r-word”.

To understand exactly how the connotation of this word has changed, and how inappropriate the use of it now is, try this; substitute a race or religion instead of the r-word in the example sentences above.

Get it now?

The meaning of the r-word has changed from meaning ‘slow development’ to meaning ‘ignorant’. As in, if you are still using the r-word, I think you sound ignorant.

Politically correct isn’t about trying to limit speech, it’s about trying to expand vocabulary to be inclusive.

Blog #2: Accessible Terminology, a Post-Script on PwD

A quick post-script to our previous blog on Accessible Terminology, there is one more term of reference I take issue with.

The A.O.D.A. advocates using the reference term ‘person with a disability’ and while I completely appreciate the sentiment behind it, putting the ‘person’ before the ‘disability’, I have two issues with it.

The first is that my disability comes before everything else. It comes before my being able to attend my son’s graduation, my ability to access buildings and businesses to do my job or perform daily functions of life. It came before my ability to join my local chamber of commerce. I am not whining or complaining, just stating a fact. My disability even dictates my fashion choices. For example, I now have to wear flats with good grip and not my pretty boots. Cross-body strap bags and purses free my hands to hold whatever assistive device I might need them for, ie) cane, walker, scooter, wheelchair. These are just simple facts of life and I truly am not complaining for I have a wonderful life, but my disability affects every single aspect of it. So for me, putting the person before the disability is a token gesture, while I truly appreciate the acknowledgement that I am indeed a person and not a disability, it is not going to relegate my disability to the background.

My second issue is that ‘person with a disability’ is cumbersome in both conversation and writing and has been shortened to ‘PwD’ in most references. Like any industry, we already have our fair share of abbreviations; A.O.D.A., a11y, O.H.I.P., O.D.S.P., P.S.W., but aside from PwD adding yet one more, it also tends to relegate us into one. We are now PwDs. Most persons with disabilities, have already, in a sense, become relegated to being abbreviations; A.D.D., C.P., M.S., C.O.P.D., A.L.S., M.D., C.F., F.M.S., we don’t need to be further reduced. However, a friend has recently convinced me to embrace the abbreviation, “After all” she says, “we earned those letters after our name.”

Some scholars earn a C.A., PEng or PhD designation, we at Roll a Mile will be changing our business cards to read: ‘Name, M.S., PwD’ or ‘Name, C.P., PwD’ and will be wearing our PwD designations with honour.

And if we are to be referred to as ‘person with a disability’ then it serves that people lacking a disability be referred to as ‘person without a disability’, or abbreviated, P-wod.

Counting Backwards

And suddenly he is a ten year old. Able to use power-tools, but not unsupervised. He is smart and has great ideas, but some just aren’t feasible.

And the ten year old is suddenly six. He can be left to his own devices for short periods, but cannot be left alone. He is curious about what things are, and how they work.

And the six year old turns three. He struggles with the words to express himself. He sulks and removes his diaper, peeing around his room. Logic is not formed. Full of wonderment and fear at the world around him, but without the words to ask why.

He is two now, and striking out at the world around him. He takes apart the phone, but no longer to fix or figure out the workings, but just because it is there, and he can. The physical dexterity is there, but not the workings of complex inquiry or reason.

The toddler will become infant again. Reduced to sleep, sustenance and bodily functions. He will not have mobility, and be constrained to bed.

Through all but the end there are momentary glimpses of the man he will become. The husband and father. Scholar, teacher, neighbour and friend. But these become fewer, and farther between.

Alzheimer’s doesn’t just rob us of time, it turns it backwards.

Daddy I love you and will remember for us both.


Behind the Scenes @ Roll a Mile

A transcript from today’s office adventures…


“And what did you say?”

Donna Jack:

“It wasn’t good. But in my defense, they asked. The problem is that when people ask me a question, I almost always answer it. This is what keeps me from running for office. Okay, there are other reasons too, but that’s a main one. And I realize that many of my opinions are not shared with the majority of the rest of the planet, apparently. But I’m actively seeking another inhabitable one, so they needn’t worry.”


“Cool. I will guard the door and shoot intruders. We’ll have to make a list of who is allowed.”

Donna Jack:

“Shoot them with what? No guns on my planet.”


“But it’s gonna be a kick-ass planet and people will want it. We’ll have to defend it somehow.”

Donna Jack:

“Nope, standing my ground on this one. Besides, the only person capable of invading right now is Richard Branson, and he’s allowed to. Make sure he’s on that list of yours. And Brett Wilson. Yes, we should make a list.”


“Aaaand back to work I go.”

Written and posted by Mike, aka “Employee”.

(no celebrity or VC endorsement implied)

For more information

Accessibility and the Education Curriculum

With all businesses in Ontario are now required under the A.O.D.A, (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005) to comply with new accessibility laws, accessibility awareness training is now vital for all trades and disciplines.

When it comes to accessibility and education, the focus to date has been on making teaching and curriculums accessible. This is necessary, and will have far-reaching, favourable benefits as increasing access significantly impacts attainment levels. Education has an important role to play in fostering the kind of change that will result in both the immediate and long-term success of the AODA and accessibility, and as such, we need to reframe the accessibility narrative beyond making the curriculum accessible to explore the importance of including accessibility in the curriculum.

Both Japan and the UK present us with precedence of successful accessibility implementation, where accessibility was not limited to design alone, but strategically implemented in a broad range of curriculums representing future “policy makers, technologists and bureaucrats”.

Educational institutions have an active roll in building toward an accessible Ontario through the inclusion of accessibility awareness curriculums and training. As most barriers to access exist simply as a result of lack of awareness, awareness is key to accessibility. Lack of awareness is exacerbated by attitudinal barriers and misperceptions about the cost of implementation, resulting in barriers to access, inaccessibility, and non-compliance. Expanding awareness about these: issues, obligations, regulations and compliance requirements; barriers to access; the cost-effectiveness of accessibility; and the benefits and opportunities of inclusion will result in improved accessibility and accommodation, barrier removal, and the effective provision of goods or services to persons with disabilities.

The possibilities and opportunities accessibility and inclusion provide are immeasurable, encouraging and enabling participation and integration for all citizens in aspects of all aspects of society including employment, consumerism, and recreation. Accessibility is becoming increasingly important as our population ages and disabilities increase. For businesses, accessibility expands the reach of their product or service to the entire market while improving corporate perception, customer satisfaction and consumer loyalty. And as accessibility benefits all aspects of society, improved accessibility resulting from increased accessibility awareness will benefit all.

Imagine the benefits the following disciplines could gain from a curriculum that includes accessibility awareness training for a better understanding of barriers to access and accessibility;

– architects

- administrators

- security

- designers

- engineers

- healthcare

– web developers

- planners

- business management

- human resources

- marketing

- advertising

- hospitality

- tourism

- recreation

– computer engineering.

- criminal justice

-social services

- info. sciences

To be successful, accessibility awareness curriculums should provide an increased understanding

of disability and barriers to access and develop an appreciation of the benefits of accessibility and inclusion. Outlining obligations, requirements, and purposes of the A.O.D.A., as well as discussing core principles of independence, dignity, integration, and equality of opportunity, addressing the varying barriers for physical, hearing, intellectual, learning, visual and speech disabilities.

In addition, curriculums should address the rationale behind the regulation and compare legislated accessibility to actual accessibility. Providing solutions for accommodation so students can develop techniques, practical strategies and adaptive service skills and attitudes to create appropriate and effective methods of incorporating accessibility and accommodation into specific disciplines and fields of study is imperative.

With the government of Ontario planning toward an accessible Province by 2025, it is only logical to begin accessibility training now.

For more information

Allergy Cards

One in 13 Canadians has a food allergy and I am one of them. An incident at a local restaurant last month reminded me of the importance of communication when dining with food allergies.

Normally, I am very careful about what I eat as I have food allergies that are uncommon allergens, but common ingredients in a lot of meals. I rarely eat anything when not at home, it’s just not worth the risk. At pot-luck and celebrations, I do not eat anything I haven’t made. The fact that my allergens are such common ingredients as; spinach, mushrooms, squash of any kind, and even alcohol make it difficult to … for example, it is hard to tell which dip, bagel or granola bar has pumpkin seeds, spinach or mushrooms. And many holiday baked-goods can have traces of alcohol. When attending a business event by advance invitation where a food will be provided, I simply inform the host of my food allergies and explain that I do not need anything special prepared, just a ‘heads-up’ about which dishes to avoid. I am the bane of many chefs’ existence. Not because they don’t appreciate the importance of food allergies, but because I severely stifle their creativity. To date, all have been willing to accommodate and substitute special dishes when needed.

At restaurants, I’m usually very good about asking about allergy items when ordering, and always check my food carefully before starting, just to be safe.But this method, like most, is not fail-safe. This was highlighted after an incident with a salad five years ago.

I know when ordering salad to ask the server about spinach and mushrooms, but I never thought to ask about pumpkin in my salad. The following week of aftermath encouraged me to create my “allergy cards”, business-card sized cards outlining my food allergies. I always carry them with me in my wallet and give one to the server when ordering, and ask that they show it to the chef / kitchen staff as well. It’s just an extra method of communication, providing an extra measure of caution.

Of course, last month I didn’t have my cards in my wallet, in fact, I didn’t have my wallet. We had left the house only to run out for a can of paint, but somehow ended up grabbing dinner out as well. The menu was a good one, outlining most items’ ingredients. I ordered a seafood linguine with red-sauce. Distracted, I didn’t inquire further about the ingredients. Fortunately, when the meal came, I noticed the mushrooms right away. Mushrooms are a big allergen of mine and just the smell, or any other food item having come into contact can trigger a reaction.

The server was great. She offered to another, without mushrooms. I explained that they were probably in the sauce, and I couldn’t have anything that had even come into contact with them. She said she also had food allergies, and understood. When she returned from the kitchen, she informed me that they were, in fact, in the sauce but that the chef had offered to make the dish with the house red-sauce that didn’t have mushrooms. I agreed, and thanked her. Many restaurants will make you a custom item to accommodate allergies when possible. Occasionally, and especially with larger chain-establishments, this isn’t possible as most items are pre-assembled and simply cooked or warmed at the franchise. However, many of these franchises have fabulous food-allergy procedures built into all staff training and do their best to accommodate.

And quite frankly, the linguine was better with the improvised sauce, and now that I know the kitchen can accommodate, will request it again. A near-disaster turned into a great experience. And reinforced the need for me to ALWAYS carry, and USE, my allergy cards. Diligence prevents disaster.

To this end, I have now incorporated a customizable “allergy card” template on our Roll a Mile website so anyone with a food allergy can simply type in their allergies and print off a page or two of allergy cards of their own to carry and use when ordering meals out. Obviously these aren’t fail-safe, and have limited uses, but will provide an additional, tangible communication tool in the varied arsenal of tools employed by persons dealing with food allergies to prevent the accidental ingestion of food allergens. At least until better nutrition labels and menu ingredients listing is implemented.

While originally developed for food allergies, these cards can in fact be used for other types of allergies as well. Again, another tangible tool in the arsenal.

For more information visit or call us at 519-823-3046

P.S.  Even some brands of moisturizers now come with mushrooms in them, have to be diligent and read the ingredients on anything I touch.


If you are a resident of the Province of Ontario, we would love to include your original signature (ie. Non-electronic) on the petition that will be presented to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. To do this, please print and sign a hardcopy of the petition (any additional signatures provided are greatly appreciated) and mail to: Roll a Mile, 933 Kelsowood Lane, Fergus, ON N1M 3R8.

Please only sign one version of this petition, either the electronic petition or the hardcopy petition.

Thank you for your support of accessibility.


To: The Legislative Assembly of Ontario:

And to: The Minister of Community and Social Services

And to: Accessibility Standards Advisory Council (Standards Development Committee)

And to: Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committees

And to: Accessibility Directorate of Ontario

WHEREAS, it is the duty and responsibility of the Ministry of Community and Social Services to oversee and enforce accessibility standards and requirements set forth under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA)

WHEREAS, the AODA sets out compliance enforcement powers and processes as well as administrative penalties for non-compliance with the Act, and grants the power to appoint inspectors for the purposes of the Act and regulations setting out the power, authority and process of inspectors and inspections

WHEREAS, the undersigned petitioners desire to have accessible places, spaces and products and recognize that accessibility requirements will be more widely adapted if proper enforcement and penalties are enforced

NOW THEREFORE the undersigned hereby request that the recipients of this petition establish the necessary programs and procedures for the enforcement, reporting and increased awareness.

WE the undersigned petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows:

“That the Province of Ontario request that the Ministry of Community and Social Services expand current AODA enforcement activities beyond the assessment of voluntarily submitted Accessibility Reports, and use the powers, authority and penalties set forth under the Act to ensure compliance with the requirements therein”


“That the Province of Ontario request the Ministry of Community and Social Services set up a feedback / reporting process for non-compliant and / or inaccessible businesses in Ontario similar to the feedback requirements required of businesses under the Act”


That the Province of Ontario request the Ministry of Community and Social Services increase awareness efforts pertaining to the AODA, accessibility and compliance”