Monday, April 11, 2016

Party Politics Appeals to this Non-Partisan Blogger -- For A Moment

I watched the NDP's Convention Live Stream on CBC News' iPad app, well, I watched Tom Mulcair's speech and the voting afterward while I did the laundry or drank coffee and recovered from my month of crowdfunding. I thought as I watched: it's appealing being a party member. For a political junkie like me, it looked like a lot of fun!

Being a Canadian, I am free to vote in our elections for whichever candidate and party I want to -- if I was a party member, I could even vote against the party I'm a member of since every vote is a secret ballot and my ballot is exactly the same as every Canadian citizen's ballot. Being a non-partisan blogger and Canadian, I am free to choose which party I agree with at any given moment without feeling like I'm betraying anyone.

But there is no party of non-partisan Canadians.

The closest I got was the pre-social media group of non-partisan bloggers that James Bow founded. Many of us transitioned to social media back in 2008 or later . . . about the same time I outed myself by name and gender and expanded my postings to beyond politics. It got a little lonely.

But as a partisan Canadian, you're not lonely.

You get to be part of a group. You get to have your say and affect a party's policy direction. You get a say in who our future Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition will be. And you get to talk shop, debate heatedly, feel like you live in a democracy, and go home exhausted, on a high of being with other people like you.

It sure is appealing.

But ultimately, I'm not suited to group-think. I like groups that gather around other things like the Brain Injury Society of Toronto, where thinking or believing in a similar way is not the entrance to the group. In its mission, I belong. But in thought, I stand outside this group.

My freedom in non-partisanship comes at a price.

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Getting Hairy on the Concussion Crowdfunding Front!

I want to publicly thank the many people who have encouraged and supported me in my efforts to update Concussion Is Brain Injury. Your kind words have lifted me up and kept me going.

However, I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock and need your help to climb over it.

Today’s publishing world is moving towards readers essentially pre-ordering books by joining in crowdfunding. Publishers want to see tangible interest in the books they think are worth publishing before they proceed. My publisher, Iguana Books, and I believe Concussion Is Brain Injury is worth seeing the light of day, but it won’t unless my crowdfunding efforts succeed in the next two weeks. So far, we’re not even at 10 percent of the goal. Eek! 

Concussion Is Brain Injury needs a rewrite to include a wealth of new brain injury research from the past three years, along with my own remarkable improvements and the methods I’ve used to achieve them. Crowdfunding will fund the editing, cover design, and the all-important marketing of my book.

this is an amazing book that really sheds the light on how little is known about concussion,and brain injuries my good friend Shireen Jeejeebhoy now  wants to publish a second edition but can only do this by raising money through crowdfunding .  Shireen Jeejeebhoy  has new ground breaking new material that challenges the status Quo about brain injuries and needs to be read and heard” - Nancy Howson as shared on Facebook.

Seeing readers who’ve put their money where their interest is will spur me on to write faster, which as you know can be a challenge with brain injury. But I’m up for it, to get Concussion Is Brain Injury out and into readers’ hands by the Fall. Are you?

If you have any questions about the book or PubLaunch, please don’t hesitate to email me through the yellow button on my PubLaunch web page or leave a comment on this post. Thank you for reading this and considering participating in my quest!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Crowdfunding is Nail Biting!

Crowdfunding is so risky. You're seeing if anyone is interested in reading your book before you even put it out, or in the case of my biography/memoir Concussion Is Brain Injury, if anyone is interested in reading an update. Many indie authors are excited about crowdfunding, but I always was wary. I've taken risks with my health in order to get better, but publishing my writing . . . not like this! It's 10 days in, and it's not going so well. Kind of disheartening. I've received wonderful encouragement, notes of congratulations, supportive messages but so far, only 10 tangible backers -- only ten people and organizations have said with their cash that they want to read Concussion Is Brain Injury and believe it's worth backing.

How about you? Are you thinking about it, wondering if this is just another book on concussion -- yawn -- or still mulling over whether to back it? How about this, how about another excerpt? Will that help? I hear a resounding Maybe! So here it is:

Waiting, Waiting for the Worst News

April 3rd, I had my first IME: that’s Independent Medical Exam for those of you blessedly innocent of the medicine-through-insurance-company system. The idea is that after you are injured in a car crash, your doctor refers you to a physiotherapist, say, and the physiotherapist fills out a treatment plan for the insurer. Since naturally the GP you’ve been seeing for years can’t be trusted to know your health, the insurer, with governmental blessing, sends you to a doctor who knows squat about you because that way they can be trusted to advise what you really need. And to ensure true independence, the insurer pays the IME doctor so that s/he has zero obligation to you, the suffering claimant, under the do-no-harm rubric of society.

My first IME arrived the afternoon of Monday, April 3, 2000.

I was riddled with anxiety the night before because this IME was happening awfully early in the process. I’d been through Ontario’s insurance accident benefits system nine years earlier. I had a sense of how this system of expert-versus-expert worked, with me and my health care team struggling against it to make me better.

It’s horrible.

It’s a ritual of being told the date of your appointment and being told you have to show up, even if it means cancelling the medical appointments designed to get you better. It’s a ritual of the doctor examining you in such a way so as to determine you are fine. It’s a ritual of pain, confusion, fatigue that attacks your honesty and your health, yet if you don’t remain calm and be co-operative, you will be blackmarked. That means denial of your treatment plans — the lifeline to getting better. It’s a ritual of waiting to hear the verdict while reports are written and the insurer decides if they’ll pay the clinic or therapist to continue to heal you. It’s a ritual of you begging the therapist or clinic to keep you on while we all wait — or after the plan is denied so that your treatment won’t be interrupted, for interrupted treatment means setbacks, maybe even permanent disability.
But I knew the system. I knew how to behave, what to say. I knew how to protect my muscles and other parts from being re-injured. Yet I felt completely overwhelmed, terrified that the IME would derail my plan of action to get back to writing Lifeliner.

Between the severe pain in my right injured shoulder and my fear, I couldn’t fall asleep the night of April 2nd. I remember lying on my back, praying for release from this hell. I couldn’t fathom why the insurance company had scheduled it only two or so months after my crash. In my experience, they usually waited longer before they began the IME ritual. Maybe it was because I had successfully fought them for good treatment and income support after my 1991 crash when they had begun questioning my treatments. Maybe they recognized me as a claimant who would not be deterred in my fight for my health and who knew the real expense of treatment and lost income. I don’t know.

I only felt confusion and fear.

And then . . .

I sensed God’s presence over my head like a golden light looking down upon me. It reminded me of when I was six years old. I was sitting on the floor in Sunday School with the other children in this new land my parents had brought me to. I was probably sitting lotus style, for I hadn’t yet mastered cross-legged though was trying to in order to fit in. One of the mothers sat on a chair in front of us, her acoustic guitar on her lap. I stared at her straight black hair shining in the sunlight while her voice sweetly trilled one of the songs I was coming to know: “Jesus Loves Me.” The other kids were singing along with her. All of a sudden I felt Jesus near me as if he was a golden light around and speaking within me. I knew without a doubt that Jesus loved me. It didn’t matter that I was considered a brat, bossy, stubborn, relentlessly asking questions, too dark, too light, too small — it took over a year for me to catch up to the nutrition status of Canadian children — Jesus loved the whole of me. And then the presence was gone. It was back to normal in that room — except that my heart sang that at least one being loved me no matter what.

All that ran through my mind as I stared up at the ceiling in April 2000 and felt that almost-long-forgotten presence as God reassured me and stopped the thoughts running around my head like a hamster on a vicious wheel. It would be all right.

I slept.

That treatment plan was stamped approved.

I continued my physiotherapy and acupuncture and psychology appointments.

And my relationship with God changed dramatically after that.

A good thing, for it wasn’t long before the news worsened.

I had no idea when I went in for my regular weekly appointment with my psychologist that he’d be changing my life from one of planned rehabilitation to one of waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

For the worst diagnosis in my life.

Luckily, I had no affect — that is, no emotions.

My emotions had been severed from the rest of me. Sometimes they blew through a short circuit in my damaged neurons and rocked my world into a bawling mass of pain and confusion. But most of the time, they slept. So that’s how I waited: anxious, forgetting about it, no feeling, disbelief.

Oblivious in a way.

The day my psychologist sat down in front of me, leaned forward to look at me eye to eye, and told me what he believed -- that I had a closed head injury and needed to have my physiatrist refer me to the right specialist -- I did what I was told. I did it though I couldn’t comprehend his calm bombshell in any way other than intellectually. You have no idea how much your emotions help you think until they are shut off like a dried-up well. Yes, I understood his words. Yes, I followed his instructions. Yes, I acted and spoke and told people as if I understood what he’d said, as if I believed what he said. The logical part of my brain continued to work, albeit glacially; it told me his diagnosis made sense.

But I couldn’t absorb it.

And so I forgot about it.

I returned to rehabilitating my neck and shoulders. That I understood, for I had suffered similar whiplash and seatbelt injuries in 1991. I knew who to see, what to do. I knew about the m├ętier of insurance companies. I knew about keeping on top of the paper trail. I knew everything.

But I didn’t.

When my psychologist told me he had to teach me a visualization exercise to reach the peace deep within me, for I would need it in the months to come, I had no idea how correct he was. I couldn’t fathom the brutal hell of brain injury that drowned my life in a tsunami that swept over me like a black, invisible monster. Even years later, I couldn’t perceive the churning waters I was in. My subconscious had no such trouble.

One day I told my psychologist of a dream I had.

I was in a cove. Before me were boulders rising out of the water. Behind and to the left and right of me lay the land. Amorphous green trees surrounded me. The black, glistening boulders loomed out of the calm water of deceptive depths to block my escape. Every time I clambered over one, another would rise up ahead of me. Always before me were ragged rows of water-rubbed round boulders and rocks, their blackness both glistened and sucked in all the light.

I couldn’t escape.

I still cannot.

The depth of the water beyond the boulders terrified me, for I didn’t know what lay beneath or if a boulder would suddenly pop up.

As I waited to see the specialist, I kept on, perceiving only the moment, following my schedule as best I could. My memory problems were becoming too obvious to ignore any more. I had trouble reading the numbers in my day timer. I could read them, yet I misread them. My attention hopped from eating to my pain to my husband’s deep voice to my dog woofing at the door to my fatigue to trying to remember what I was supposed to be doing, all in about a minute. I had to buy a PDA. I chose a Visor. This appealed to my computer-loving heart — I hadn’t yet faced up to the fact that my ability to work with computers had been severely damaged. I could still use one, but I couldn’t trouble-shoot them at all (I had always been my family and friends’ personal IT department) and typing or mousing or trying to read the screen quickly brought on extreme tiredness and pain.

By the time I got my Visor, my assessment appointment at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI), Rumsey Centre, came up. I was still waiting for my physiatrist appointment. You would think the possibility of a closed head injury would open doors tout de suite. Nope. I waited three months for the physiatrist, about four for the TRI appointment, and then another couple for the psychiatrist.

The Occupational Therapist (OT) who assessed me at TRI said I was typical for closed head injury. She recommended I be admitted to the one-on-one outpatient neurorehab, pending official diagnosis by the psychiatrist. The logical part of my brain nodded; the coping part wept in relief that I was typical because then my experience was real and the doubting Thomases in my life would have to see my injury; the emotional part burst through briefly and decided it was having no part of this conversation.

I think after that, I didn’t talk much about it. Or think about it. I focused my fractured attention on my insurance case, my physiotherapy and acupuncture and psychology appointments, my husband’s life, and the endless IMEs I was sent to.

The day I saw the diagnosing psychiatrist, I didn’t know what I feared more: being told I had a closed head injury or being told I was malingering.

At least the wait was over.

Except it wasn’t.

The psychiatrist said he was positive I had a closed head injury. Unwittingly, he parrotted the OT when he said I was typical. He ordered a SPECT scan even though he said it would show no damage so many months after the injury. But he wanted me to have it anyway for research purposes at least.

I waited. What’s a few weeks after so many months of waiting? I was so afraid. I didn’t want to be this injured. I was supposed to be writing Lifeliner. I had been lapping up life right up until the moment of the crash, when seconds after our car had been slammed into twice, I sobbed like Job, like I had lost everything: my family, my job, my friends, myself. I had picked myself up minutes later with a plan: I would attack rehab like a full-time job and be back to writing in three months. Later, I amended it to six. Then September 2000 arrived, and I was still not back to writing and now this awful diagnosis sat over me.

When the psychiatrist’s office called me to come in a week earlier than scheduled, I told my husband in my new monotone that something was up. But I refused to face what my mind already knew. I was terrified and still worried the psychiatrist would say I was just malingering. I was a neurotic hypochondriac. All the problems I was starting to become aware of — brain injury takes away your ability to perceive yourself — were “in my mind.”

That’s what he would say, I thought to myself.

I didn’t know which was worse: to have a closed head injury or to have the people who loved me be right: I was malingering, depressed, and needed to get on with things.

I had a closed head injury.

The diagnosing psychiatrist said there was only one treatment, experimental yes, but the rest were placebos. I had two years in which to improve; after that, wherever I was at in two years forever I would remain. But Aricept showed promise to ease short-term memory problems. I needed to take it. He wanted me in the research trial, for it was my only chance.

Only one problem: it was contraindicated for people with asthma. And my asthma had returned with my brain injury like a coughing dog. It freaked me out. So taking a drug that triggers it? Shudder. My husband was furious I didn’t say yes to the drug instantly. As he drove, we argued over the Aricept all the way home. He said in frustration: I was to take it. Why wouldn’t I take it? I don’t accept his opinion. I should take it.

The thought that this was my only chance confounded me. Maybe I should take it. What if I didn’t take it? Would I be forever injured? And anyway, how could I be injured? The scan results were definitive. The psychiatrist was adamant. My psychologist and TRI were all in agreement: I was typical for closed head injury. I had a brain injury. I needed rehab and treatment.

Later, alone in the kitchen with my dog, I called up my father to tell him the news. He and I spoke clinically about my diagnosis, probable outcome, and the drug because that’s how we talk all things medical in my family. But my injury had changed me, though I knew it not. I couldn’t make a decision to save my life. And so in my new, unfamiliar state of indecision — on top of my normal way of seeing and arguing both sides first — I suggested I should take it. My father huffed: I shouldn’t take it. I don’t accept his opinion. It’s your decision.

What should I do? Whatever I did, someone would be mad at me. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me; I only wanted to get better.

I phoned my mother at work.

You need to know something about my mother. When she’s at work or scheduled for work, she ain’t coming over or taking me to a doctor or to the ER. It's a British cultural thing, and I was used to figuring out how to take care of myself. But as soon as I heard her voice, I needed my mother beside me instantly. My voice cracked. I heard my voice in disbelief. My voice doesn’t crack. I had mastered my emotions decades ago. When I cried, it was rare and not from zero to full blowout in an instant, and I didn’t cry in front of people. Surely, hearing this strange behaviour and awful news, my mother would come right over. Surely, she could find another nurse to take over her shift on the cancer ward for a couple of hours at least. A child in distress would be accepted.

She called my sister to go on over to my place in her stead.

My sister didn’t really know what to say. My thoughts were smothered; my emotions had disappeared again. So I didn’t know what to say either. That’s what I remember most about that time after my diagnosis: not knowing what to think or feel, except for sudden cracks when emotions rocketed out, only to disappear as the cracks sealed up again.

My best friend, BF, called. Relief. In her take-charge voice, BF prescribed tea, some croissants I had bought on my way home from the psychiatrist, and chocolate. After work, she and her husband brought me a chocolate cake. I remember the round cake frosted in waves of chocolate icing sitting high on its green plastic plate, covered by a clear plastic dome with corrugated sides. It was for medicine, she told me, not for sharing. They left. I took it into my kitchen, my dog trailing me, and ate a slice. Fatigue, confusion, fear blanketed me like smog.

I felt very alone.

Copyright Shireen Anne Jeejeebhoy 2016

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Crowdfunding for Concussion Is Brain Injury

I write on my other blog about brain injury aka concussion. As you may have guessed from some of my posts, brain injury has become a big topic for me, not only in trying to describe it, but also to talk about the lack of understanding, the promise of new treatments, and advocating for accommodation. I wrote a book on it back in 2012, and I always intended to update it.

I'm finally ready!

Today, I’m leaping into the world of crowdfunding. It’s a big risk because you’re asking people to put their cash and their faith in you towards launching your books out of your computer and into print, to take what only you and a few others have seen and turn it into paperbacks and ebooks that anyone around the world can read. I’ve always admired people who crowdfund. Their inspiration, my editor at Iguana Books, and my own circumstances have combined to make me take this leap at last for Concussion Is Brain Injury.

The crowdfunding is to update it. I want to make it better for readers. I want to enrich and enhance it with ground-breaking new sections that challenge the status quo, sections on the raw reality of relationships, the truth about our emotions, my thoughts on CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), faith after injury, rehabilitating reading in the knowledge economy, and a promising new treatment that I kickstarted.

To that end, I need your help to fund the services I need to bring this book to readers. The funds raised through PubLaunch – a crowdfunding site designed specifically for authors and readers – will go towards professional editing, a new exciting cover design, better packaging, and a robust marketing campaign. I have set up some great rewards for you in return for your generous support, including prints of my original photography, special edition hardcover copies, and copies of my previous books.

The target of $11,000 (Canadian) will cover all expenses. Won’t you join me in making this second edition happen? Please click the link below to check out the campaign:

I look forward to you participating!

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Speak Up for Accessibility in TTC Survey Till February 11th

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.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Democracy 2015: Who To Vote for in Canada's Federal Election?

I couldn’t wait for this election. Stephen Harper has taken past Liberal power-concentration moves and put afterburners on them, coalescing power into his hands and the PMO under his direction. When, as a teen or young adult, I used to cynically opine we had five-year elected dictatorships, I had no idea just how democratic and a free-for-all of free voices Canada’s late 20th-century Parliament was compared to what it has become. As far as I’m concerned, the single most important issue facing Canada is her democracy.

Our democracy underpins every aspect of our lives.

We citizens are supposed to protect it. But successive elections have led to MPs becoming trained seals – to the point where Tony Clement’s Twitter account went from entertaining to more boring than paint drying under, one presumes, PMO orders – thankfully, he’s slowly reverting to form. Worse, after 2011, one wonders if Cabinet has any say in government matters, and certainly we learnt that the Senate majority no longer retained its independence as part of the Senate’s sober, second thought role but jumped to Harper’s commands. If ever there was a reason for Senate Reform, that was it.
We Canadians haven’t protected our democracy. It’s now resuscitation time!

Bill C-51 cuts at the heart of Canada. What are we protecting if we kill our democracy to protect it? The heart of a free democracy is anonymity and privacy. Canada has faced terrorists (remember the FLQ?) and wars before, and we survived them. We even emerged from the Cold War intact. And we thrived after each danger passed. Why do we need to become essentially a police state now? And if we do, haven’t the terrorists won by turning us into them: a bunch of quislings who genuflect to the threatening cries of authoritarian, rich men?

Our first past the post system and the reversal of former Prime Minister Chretien’s party funding initiative means that we have a minority of votes ruling the majority. Canada was founded on compromise and coalition. We historically excel at that, and we haven’t yet fallen down in division at the drop of a pin, unlike others. So why have we become so afraid of coalitions? Because some man, wearing the guise of PM, told us to be?

We Canadian citizens need each one of our votes to count. To do that in the modern era, we need democratic reform.

Corporations have become increasingly powerful and seemingly rule governments these days. It’s not like we haven’t seen this in the past. I believe the 19th century saw rich men ruling through politicians; but then their monopolies were broken up, and government became more reflective of the people not the few. However, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, under the guise of free trade, is going to bind our governments to corporate demands. Although our media have focused on the dairy and auto sectors, these are the free-trade fronts of a corporatization and criminalization deal that will affect everyone from Asian countries trying to reduce their smoking rates to us in Canada trying to afford medicines to Canadians trying to become active, cutting-edge members of the Information Age.
Confirmed: 20-year copyright term extensions, new rules that would induce ISPs to block websites, and criminal penalties for the circumvention of digital locks.”, 9 October 2015
As an author who rather doesn’t like people ripping off her work, I don’t see the point of copyright law that extends 70 years after my death. Once I’m dead, it will no longer affect me how my work is demolished, distorted, or used. I do think copyright 50 years after my death, as it is under Canadian law, is sufficient. Generous, even.

No entity should be blocking websites. We frown on China doing that, so why would it be OK at a corporation’s demand? That’s antithetical to democracy and rather like one group of people burning books because they don’t like what another group of people are doing – and having the law help them set the fire.
Also, as an author who wants readers to read her works as easily as they do print books, I object to digital locks. The people who’re interested in pirating my stuff won’t be deterred by a lock and everyone else is pissed off at the restrictions they impose. The only reason I see for the use of a digital lock is with library ebooks so that they will expire automatically. As for suggesting that breaking copyright is criminal . . . well, that’s a first! And dangerous. When we criminalize behaviour that has never been criminal before, we go down the road of Prohibition, one we’re still mired in when it comes to “illegal” drugs. (Only Portugal has gotten itself fully out of that muck and is benefitting as a result.)

Repeal of Bill C-51, exposing TPP to the light and renegotiating so that it is strictly about trade and will not put corporations above governments, and democratic reform so that Parliament rules our democracy, not one man who leads a bulging office of boys “in short pants,” are what I’m looking for in choosing where to mark my X on the ballot.

The only two parties that meets my criteria are the NDP and the Green Party.
And one last thing: we vote for one person to represent us in our Parliament. We do not directly elect our Prime Minister. Once I’d narrowed down the parties to those who will resuscitate our democracy, it now comes down to which of their candidates in my riding will best represent me.

Choose your MP wisely.

#TTCAccess -- Pilot for New Streetcar Shelter Maps, a Review

As I mentioned in a previous post, Ian Dickson (@TTCDesign) challenged me at the TTC's Public Forum on Accessibility to look at the TTC’s new shelter maps that they’re piloting at some streetcar stops on King. Apparently, there hasn’t been as much feedback as they normally get when they do something new. I went to a couple of streetcar stops on King and took a gander. I scratched my head at the one at King and York and walked on to find another one. The one at King and Bay was much easier to perceive, primarily because the map “faced” the direction I was facing. I didn’t have to turn around to look at the north-south street depicted on the map – I could look straight through the shelter opening and see the street depicted. All I had to do was move my eyeballs.

Shelter Maps

So here are a few thoughts. The good stuff first!

Good Things:

  1. Clean. The map is definitely cleaner in design than the old map.
  2. Direction facing where you’re looking. King and Bay map is oriented well because when you’re facing the map, you can look down the street you’re facing and have it be the same one in the same direction as on the map.
  3. Inset local area map well designed. Except for the numbers requiring translation, the use of colour (for my eyes anyway) and fonts make it easy to perceive and read.
  4. Provision of contact info. Having web, Twitter, and phone numbers all easily readable at the bottom, as well as providing names and icons of two apps, is very useful.
  5. Route frequency info.


  1. Looks confusing for some reason. Given its fairly minimalist design, it’s confusing that it looks confusing. It took me awhile  to realize why I had to stare at the local transit network map: with no route names on the map it looks confusing right away. Standard street maps have street names not numbers on them, unless the name is the number like with Highway 401. (I’ve noticed street names not Highway numbers became more common in urban areas.)
  2. Requires memory. I have to look down at the number chart – I mean the route frequency chart – to match numbers on the map with the names of the routes and subway lines. I then have to retain those translations in my head when I look back up at the map. If there were two routes – King and Bay, for example – this may not be a problem. But there are several.
  3. Direction opposite to where facing. King and York is oriented the wrong way for the direction you’re looking at when looking at the map. King and Bay immediately made more sense because it shows only the direction you’re facing.
  4. Inset local area map clear, yet not clear. The map itself is well designed. But again using numbers for streetcar routes and subway lines, thus taxing poor working memory to use the translation aka route frequency chart, doesn’t make the map instantly clear.
  5. Translation charts needed. Maps should be clear by themselves. There should only be “north” and, if needed, a distance icon; streets and routes should need no legend or translation chart. The need for translation charts not only clutters up the poster, but also makes the maps themselves confusing until one understands the translations. When you’re in a hurry, and the streetcar is coming, you don’t have time to translate. Also stress worsens cognitive abilities like memory and comprehension. A streetcar approaching you as you’re trying to read the map is going to stress you out and make reading the map harder.
  6. Legend. Has the frequency line style changed? I didn’t notice the difference in line thicknesses on the map until I looked at the Legend. Wasn’t the old infrequent service line style a dashed line? That’s more distinguishable than a thinner line.
  7. Subway Line Names. Again, the subway line names have been taken off the map. There’s plenty of room to put them on the map itself; it would make the map instantly understandable if the names were attached to their lines.
  8. TTC Route Frequency Chart. This is both a translation chart and a route frequency chart. The route frequency becomes less visible when you’re busy trying to translate the numbers on the map to understandable names. Having the names on the map lines means that when you’re looking at this chart, you’ll see the frequency first because you won’t be filling up your brain space with having to first translate numbers to names. The frequency lines will then look less like clutter – which they did to me when I was trying to figure the map out – and more like useful information.
  9. Glass glare. There’s an awful lot of glare from the glass that interferes with seeing the map clearly. It was worse at King and Bay than King and York, maybe from the surrounding office buildings?? Perhaps another material could be used that has no glare but is durable.

I would take a leaf from street maps which use thick yellow lines to denote highway routes and use a thick yellow line down Yonge Street on the inset map to denote the Yonge Line so that one can instantly see where the subway aka the high-speed underground public transit is.

These maps are a definite improvement on the old, and a good start to making shelter maps useful to the harried commuter and tourist alike.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

#TTCAccess -- New Streetcar Stop Request Buttons Inaccessible

I wrote earlier on the TTC’s annual Public Forum on Accessibility and on my conversation with Ian Dickson,  @TTC Design, on subway line names and signage. Today’s post is on my excellent conversation with the Chief Engineer – Rail Vehicles about the new streetcar’s stop request buttons.

I had looked forward to the new streetcars.

New has always been better with previous vehicle rollouts – except for no longer allowing kids (including adult ones) to look out the front of new subway trains – and so I had assumed that requesting a stop on the new streetcars would be much easier, especially since the driver is now less accessible to riders. I assumed incorrectly. Does no one – at the TTC or in the media—ever assess anything for practical accessibility? Sigh.

The current streetcars have a pull line running along the top of the windows, accessible only to tall people who can stretch across seats or to people who can stand and reach up from their seat right underneath it. Everyone else must ask someone to pull it.

The new streetcars have stop request buttons like the TTC buses. But unlike the buses, they are, well, a little hard to find. On the buses, the buttons are on every pole near priority seats. On the new streetcars . . .  Um . . . well, apparently, they’re there.

The problem was that I only looked for them when seated and needed to push the button. They weren’t where I expected them to be; they were on the poles across the aisle or way down the aisle on the same side, not on the poles right where I was sitting on the priority seats. Not good if one has balance problems.

At the TTC Public Forum Marketplace, Greg Ernst, Chief Engineer – Rail Vehicles, listened patiently to my complaint and then pointed to a profile of the new streetcar he was standing next to to indicate where stop request buttons should be. He explained that they were 1.5m apart, alternating on either side of the streetcar. I tried to explain that people sitting on priority seats need a button on the poles they’re sitting right next to. After awhile, it dawned on me that I had assumed incorrectly that these streetcars are tested in real-world conditions for practical accessibility. Every 1.5m sounds great in theory; but when you have to hang onto the pole to stand up and keep hanging on until you exit, a button across from you or on the same side but down a few seats might as well not exist.

TTC New Streetcar Stop Request Button Locations

Ernst said he would email me the graphic showing the stop request button locations. He did! I’d post it for you to see, but I didn’t receive permission (if I do, I’ll add it). The graphic indicates that there are 17 buttons in total; minimum of one within 1.5m of the centre of any fixed seat; and minimum of one within 1.0m of the centre of each doorway. In that same email, he explained something I hadn’t known:

Please note that the door request Push Buttons mounted on each set of door panels also serve as Stop Request buttons if the car is in motion or if the doors have not been enabled. Obviously if the car is stopped and the doors enabled, those door panel buttons will actually open the doors for you.

That’s very helpful to know. For me, that means I can stand up and push the door button while still hanging onto the pole if I need to (like many people, sometimes I can balance on the subway without hanging on, as a way to practice my balance, less so on streetcars, not on buses; other days, no way on any vehicle). Unfortunately, the door button as a stop request still won’t help those who have to wait until the streetcar comes to a full stop before they can stand up to exit.

I want to end this series with noting that all the TTC staff I spoke to were respectful, listened to me, and answered my questions without trying to fob me off. They may not have agreed with me, and I may not have changed minds, but TTC staff didn’t give me lip service like politicians have. And unlike most of the politically-elected TTC Commission, staff showed up in the evening to the Forum. That counts for a lot. I will keep tweeting on this subject and blogging when I can until the TTC becomes accessible to everyone physically, visually, auditorally, stress-wise, and most of all for those of us with brain issues -- cognitively.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

#TTCAccess -- Cognitive and Visual Accessibility of TTC Signage

As I mentioned in my last blog post on the TTC’s Public Forum on accessibility, I spoke one-on-one with Ian Dickson @TTCDesign about the subway line names. We also spoke briefly about cognitive and visual accessibility of the TTC’s signage. I noted that the TTC signs are hard to discern for three reasons:

  1. Black is hard to see.
  2. Size is too small.
  3. Too much extra information.

1. Dickson said white text on black is more visible. Um, well, books since time immemorial use white pages for better readability not dark coloured or black ones. And most posters seem to use light-coloured backgrounds. And I’ve had to help people standing right underneath white-text-on-black-background signs who were unable to see them. But since our talk I looked around at all the TTC signage to see how readable those black-background signs are. I would say the really big ones that are up high running along the edge of the platform with simple information like “South to York Mills” are. This rare one is so clear, you can read it easily through the train windows! Awesome. Too bad it's a one off.

Sheppard Station Sign

But even though TTC stations are not dark -- they’re pretty bright for subway stations, actually -- the small signs from the Exit signs to the maps are hard to spot and to read. The London Underground signs with their white backgrounds were much, much easier for me to spot and discern. From a quick search, I found these articles on readability (they looked at screens, but probably applies to paper signs too):

2. Aside from black vs. white, the sign’s size and extraneous information makes a difference too. The bigger the sign, the easier it is to read. There’s no reason the TTC can’t use the entire wall height for their platform map signs, like the London Underground does. This would also be helpful for short people who currently have to look up, way up, to be able to read the map. That means they’re looking at the maps from a greater distance than tall people. Toronto is a city of immigrants, many of whom come from countries where people are shorter than the average Caucasian Canadian.

3. The maps should show only where you are and where you’re going. TTC maps show all the stations on the line. I’ve had to help people confused from all the extraneous information who thought the train was going in the opposite direction indicated. London Underground signs don’t confuse people with information they don’t need. You only need to know where the train at this platform is going, not where it’s been.

Train Maps

If the TTC used the entire height of the wall for their signs, used white backgrounds for maps, and kept the information to need-to-know, which the London Underground does, their signs would be easier to see.

But judge for yourself.

London Underground TTC Platform Signs

The London Underground sign is on the left; so big, it dwarfed me. The TTC sign on the right is way above my eye level and small. The photos in the collage are straight out of my iPhone.

Looking at these photos brings up one more issue: Is “Northbound” more informative than “Platform 1”?  I don’t know. Some riders need to know compass direction; others couldn’t care less. But the 1 on the TTC sign could mean Platform 1 to tourists. More confusion.

Other signage problems include: Exit signs are hard to find and to see; time to next train, and the time of day are hard to see unless I’m standing right underneath the screen; same with entering stations when looking for system-status information.

London Underground TTC Exit Signs

Exit signs should be plentiful and visible. Yellow is the most visible colour. Step off a train on the London Underground and you immediately see a “Way Out” sign. No need to hunt for it. Well, in most stations because in some the signs are not as visible as in others; still, it’s better than seeing nothing as at Spadina station above.

Dickson told me of the new international standard of a green Exit sign. See below comparison image. I’d forgotten I’d seen them all around the Underground. The TTC standard is that they’re visible for four hours after a power shutdown and/or emergency. (The Australian Accessible Exit Sign Project is working to include accessible information in the ISO standard.) I wasn’t sure how visible green is, but upon reflection (no pun intended!), I can see how this shade of green is quite visible and also green means “go” so it can implicitly encourage people to move in that direction. However, they’re kind of small and high up on the TTC. And the TTC should still place anything-but-black-highly-visible exit signs all along the platform so that no matter where you step off the train you know immediately in which direction to go.

London Underground TTC Exit Signs

Next: time of day and time to next train are given short shrift on the TTC. Time to next train is squeezed into the corner of a large ad/news screen on the platform. I literally cannot read it unless I’m within a metre of the sign. Same with time of day, which also has the added annoyance of disappearing when an ad takes up the entire screen except for time to next train. No such problem on the Underground. Visible everywhere.

Central Line Time

The TTC is putting up helpful screens at subway station entrances telling you about problems on the system. However, the essential information is squeezed into a line at the bottom of a massive ad on the screen. Hard to see from any distance; requires you to stand there while you’re, as usual late, as the message plays in one-line increments. The Underground had signs, but not in every station, and I don’t know how well they work because as, when the voice overhead in a train said, “This is your service update. We have good service,” one passenger quipped: “they wouldn’t say they have bad service, would they?”

Dickson challenged me to look at a pilot map initiative in TTC bus and streetcar shelters. I did take a look but haven’t had a chance to think about it. I’ll write about it later.

And one odd note. The next-bus information screens at bus platforms become wholly black when wearing polarizing sunglasses! If you’re myopic, removing said sunglasses doesn’t solve anything either. Now the times are visible but blurry!!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#TTCAccess -- One-on-One with TTC Design on Subway Line Names

I attended the TTC’s legally mandated annual public forum on accessibility and blogged on it last week. Today, I share what happened during one of the one-on-one conversations with TTC staff during Part One of the forum.

I wanted to talk to someone about the renaming of subway line names to numbers. I know, I know, the TTC insists they haven’t renamed them. But they use the real names of the subway lines less and less and quite often not at all, only referring to them by numbers. So, de facto, they have renamed them. Anyway, I asked one of the pleasant volunteers at the entrance who to talk to. The TTC has taken lessons from Wal-Mart. The volunteer not only walked me to the Marketplace where the one-on-one discussions were happening, but also asked her boss who I should talk to. Her boss walked me the few short steps to Ian Dickson, the TTC Design guy. We commenced a pleasant conversation on why I think they’re wrong, and they think it’s the best solution.

I’d been told the renaming to numbers was to help tourists and people unfamiliar with the system, which made me wonder who the TTC thought they were serving. But Dickson seemed puzzled by that. From what I recall, he said that the main reasons for going with numbers were:

  1. The subway stations are small, 1950s’ design, and there’s no room for the full names of the subway lines in many places.
  2. They needed a unifier.
  3. What to call the Eglinton Crosstown is such a conundrum, easier to go with numbers.
  4. They’re easier than word names.
  5. And I noted he called the subway line names “legacy names.”

1. You can’t get around the solid fact that some subway stations are small, have low ceilings. However, the same holds true for many stations in the London Underground. Some of their stations are cavernous, with ceilings seemingly up to the sky, while others are like holes in the ground such that tall people have to duck to ensure they don’t bang heads. One memorable station on the London Underground’s Northern line has so little room that you go down the stairs, turn right immediately to avoid hitting the side of the tunnel wall, take a few steps to the platform, and a metal barrier ensures you don’t take one too many and end up on the tracks. Yet somehow their signage still clearly tells you the name of the line without having to revert to numbers. You can see the full-height sign clearly from the top of the stairs in this Flickr user’s photo of a tiny tunnel. That sign will have the line name on it. So station size is a red herring. It's more a matter of the TTC not using the wall height to its full advantage.

2. Colour is the best unifier. It’s an instant visual way for people to know what line they’re on. The TTC already uses colours but not as effectively as the London Underground does. The Underground uses colour everywhere.

Central Line Red

See all that red – the doors, the poles inside the train? That’s the Central line colour (see image below for line colours). The train poles are even colour coded to the lines they run on!

Good Service

The signage showing commuters which platform to go to, and the signage inside the trains, uses the line colours. The colours are in the identifying bars (above image) and along the top of the signs (below image), as well as the subway lines. These signs, aside from their sheer size, are a whole lot easier to visually and cognitively understand because of their use of colour and white background and showing only the stops you’d be heading to, unlike the TTC signs, which I ignore because my eyes and brain just go, ummm, OK, I don’t get this, stop looking at it!

Bayswater Platform Signs

3. So here’s the problem. For example: There’s an Eglinton station, an Eglinton West station, and then an Eglinton line. Three Eglintons? How would commuters distinguish between them when they already confuse the stations Eglinton with Eglinton West? Dickson also said that the Bloor-Danforth is known as the crosstown. I had to digest that because I hadn’t heard that before. It’s not even true in a geographic sense because the Bloor-Danforth line ends at the Scarborough border; even with the new extension (if it’s ever built), it still won’t go anywhere near Toronto’s eastern edge. Neither will the new Eglinton Crosstown line. However, it’s been called the Crosstown for so long, and it does go east-west somewhere in the north-south middle of the city, it makes sense to name it “Crosstown” sans “Eglinton.” Or “Midtown” line. Both give context: this line crosses the city or this line is the one for midtown, that is, the middle of the city, both north-south and east-west. Problem solved.

4. Numbers are not easier than names. I had a discussion with a guy on Twitter who tweets “on sensory user experience & cognition, accessibility” about this issue. Alastair Somerville noted:

Dickson asked me for research. The first is George Miller’s research on numbers. Normal people can hold 7 +/- 2 items in memory. That means we should assume a normal person can hold 5 subway line numbers in memory; for someone with a brain injury that drops. In other words, Toronto already has the maximum number of subway lines a person can memorize if labelled with numbers. No new subway lines can be added to the TTC sans causing great navigational hardship for people with cognitive and navigational issues. Yet already it’s difficult for me to remember which number belongs to which line, and I absolutely love numbers. I asked @Acuity_Design for research links for why the difficulty, and he sent me two references. Twitter folk are wonderful!

In short: numbers put more load on the cognitive system than names do. More load equals fewer resources for memory and less energy. No wonder I’m tired just using the TTC!

5. Language is important. Dickson called “Bloor-Danforth” and “Yonge-University-Spadina” “legacy names.” The word “legacy” tells me that the word names are on the way out. I already don’t hear them used in the automated stop announcements when the Yonge Line train arrives at Bloor station and the pleasant voice announces this is the station for “Line 2” – she does not say, “Bloor-Danforth line.” The reasons Dickson gave for going with numbers, mainly no room, doesn’t apply in an announcement. You can say Bloor-Danforth in plenty of time, and until recently, that is what the announcement was.

The names with context and memory are Bloor-Danforth, Yonge, University, and Spadina. The Bloor-Danforth line is one continuous stretch, and so it makes sense to keep that as the name. But the Yonge-University-Spadina line is broken up at natural points – the interchanges at Bloor, Union, and St. George. When I spoke to people, the names that made the most sense to them were not the acronyms – BD or YUS – or numbers – but the names Yonge, University, Spadina, and Bloor-Danforth. As Somerville said, start with user language.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

#TTCAccess – The Legally Mandated TTC Public Forum on TTC Accessibility

I’ve been complaining on Twitter for awhile about the TTC changing its subway line names to numbers. Where in the world other than Toronto do bureaucrats decide to change names of a decades-old system and the Mayor shrugs his shoulders and says, I no like but not my place to comment? Mayor John Tory is apparently all for supporting Toronto’s most vulnerable citizens and for improving accessibility – as long as no action required. And so it’s up to us citizens to advocate for ourselves. David Lepofsky has been a beacon since the 20th century in advocating for customer service for all; I knew of him long before I suffered my brain injury. And I thought of him when I began my lone, ad hoc Twitter campaign against the changing of subway line names.

I brought up this cognitive accessibility issue with one of the BIST (Brain Injury Society of Toronto) Board members. At their September meeting, they decided that if I wanted to attend the TTC’s public forum on accessibility, one of their members would accompany me. That member emailed me a couple of days before the forum. I thought, oh, hmmm, I’m going to be exhausted, wiped out, drained doing that on top of this week’s schedule. Yup, going!

She picked me up, and we crawled through rush hour traffic to the Automotive Building at the CNE, now dubbed the Allstream Centre in Toronto’s continuing efforts to confuse people in pursuit of bucks. I can see why the TTC thought renaming the lines would meet with no opposition. After all, the Mayor and Toronto Council say nothing when our old buildings and landmarks are renamed in favour of people and corporations. And then renamed again. No one ever considers (1) history and pride of place and (2) memory issues and the inability to remember changing names.*
And (3) when it comes to the TTC replacing words with numbers, numbers are abstract, have no contextual meaning, are hard to memorize when you have more than 4 (we have four lines now, what happens when the fifth is built?), and make it cognitively challenging to navigate the subway system.
The TTC Public Forum was educational.
There were two parts:

1. The Marketplace or Open House, where posters on easels dotted the perimeter of the space, each poster highlighting some aspect of accessibility, eg, the new streetcars, and where TTC staff spoke one-on-one to people in front of these posters. To find who you wanted to talk to, you asked a volunteer, although looking for the poster you were interested in was how you were supposed to do it. More in a later post.

2. The Public Forum, held in a cavernous space filled with hundreds of people who came to talk to the panel members who sat up on a dais at the front. After TTC Chair Josh Colle, ACAT chief, and the Deputy CEO spoke, a moderator independent of the TTC ineptly moderated the two-minutes per person rule as the public asked questions and flung comments at the panel. We were also handed cards at the entrance if we were unable to ask a question verbally, and we were given the hashtag #TTCAccess to ask questions through.

Embedded image permalink

Part One was infinitely more enlightening on TTC thinking and productive than Part Two. Part Two was exhausting and frustrating but educational on what the disabled public experiences. I assumed it would be like other forums I’ve attended where a person asks a question, and the panel answers. Nope.

The TTC had divided the room into six areas; in each area stood a person with a microphone. The moderator went around the room from the front right hexadrant to the back to the middle ending in the left front hexadrant, giving one person in each section a chance to ask a question or make a comment before moving on to the next section. At the end of the first round, he didn’t stop and have the panel answer as I had expected. Instead, he directed another round of questions. And another round. And another. As the evening wore on, people in the last section got a little testy as they felt they were being skipped over and not given equal opportunity to ask questions.

On either side of the panel were two massive screens. The top three-quarters or so were the slides for the speechifying. The bottom had closed captioning. In a brilliant move, the signers for the deaf stood dead centre of the closed captioning. The Twitter hashtag #TTCAccess was not streamed up onto the screens. Why not?

It was a good half hour before the panel answered all the questions and comments that had piled up. I’d long since forgotten what all had been asked, but apparently CEO Andy Byford had been writing down the ones he wanted to answer. Speaking for the first time that evening, Byford addressed the problem of getting to the buses at Warden station. Warden is like Islington station where each bus platform has its own set of stairs. Needless to say, anyone who has trouble with steps, whether walking with a cane or in a wheelchair, cannot get to the buses. If you can get up to the bus level, then you run the risk of being mowed down as you go along the asphalt to the platform you want to reach. Byford said the TTC is aware of the situation, but it’s complicated to fix because they have to redesign the station completely (in order for it to become like the dark-as-night Eglinton station bus loading area, where the buses are all in one space, and you have to walk a short distance or a long one along the platform to get to your bus, but it’s all on one level).

In all the discussions of the Scarborough subway, I don’t recall that redesigning Warden station is urgently needed so that people of all abilities can use it, not just the able-bodied. That’s how little regard the city, province, and TTC give accessibility.

Byford said that each morning, every bus is checked for ramp failures before leaving the garage. I heard no one mention stop announcement failures, and Byford didn’t mention if the overhead signs and audio are checked too.

Byford also talked about why and how they are rolling out the new, accessible streetcars. I had not heard before, on Twitter or in the media, that the reason they began with the Spadina route is because it’s the shortest. They have to upgrade the wiring to accommodate the new streetcars, as well as the platforms (on some of the lines; the rest you exit directly onto the road). It’s not just a matter of randomly placing new streetcars on routes. Upgrade route; place new streetcars on route. The benefit is greater when go route by route, filling each route with its quota of new cars before moving on to the next. Spadina being  the shortest makes it faster to do. My impression was that Spadina was Toronto’s first LRT route and very busy, so that’s why it was first. Shows you how much media and TTC watchers get wrong sometimes.

Byford agreed with an irate patron and promised that from now on, the TTC will send out an alert when accessible streetcars are removed from a route. This came up because during the Pan American Games, accessible streetcars appeared on the Bathurst streetcar line. Afterward, not sure when, they were removed, leaving a patron stranded.

Byford said the TTC is committed to courtesy campaigns. Not like the TTC of the 20th century, they’re not. They’re barely visible, and they need to be gender balanced too, I thought. But I’d forgotten: the TTC is using YouTube. The problem is very little marketing of their great videos. It’s kind of one-off tweets.

After Byford addressed a very few of the many questions asked, and none from Twitter as they hadn’t been asked out loud yet and were nowhere to be seen on the ginormous screens, we returned to the rounds of questions.

I began to slump in my chair. We were about to leave when a woman totally invisible to me read out the questions on cards and my first tweeted question – and only the first one. Is her Twitter feed super slow, I wondered? We stayed, but the rounds continued. We were about to leave again when the moderator said we will have the panel answer in a minute. The rounds continued. We were about to leave when the moderator said, we’ll get to the panel after this question. And oh, one more there, he said – because that front left section was getting raucously annoyed at having their forest of waving hands ignored.

This time the Deputy CEO answered. I don’t recall what he said; it was very little. And he didn’t address my question at all. We left.

CEO Byford and the Deputy CEO assured the audience that all the questions would be answered on the TTC website. I wondered how the woman who said she had no Internet access would be able to read her answer to her question. As of the end of the week, the report is not yet up. No answers yet.
David Lepofsky wanted the panel to answer less in order to give the public more time to ask their questions. The problem is that there is no accountability when people ask and the ones who have the power don’t have to look them in the eye and answer. Simply showing up to listen and then having some staff member post answers behind the safety of a website “wall” means no change need occur.

Part One though does create accountability. When you’re standing right in front of the person who has the authority and power to change something and telling them the problem with their approach, you can tell if they’re listening, you can tell if they get it or are too mired in their expertise to understand the practical consequences of their decisions, you have a chance to change their mind, and you know that your question hasn’t disappeared into an anonymous website void.

I don’t know if Part One continued after Part Two began because we went around the dividing wall into the Public Forum area thinking we would learn from the top people how the TTC was going to improve its accessibility. This is what we learnt:
  • TTC riders assault people with visible disabilities, and TTC security lets the assaulters go before the police arrive.
  • Wheel-Trans is chronically late. In my opinion, it’s unfixable -- it’s what happens when the regular TTC system is inaccessible, requiring a door-to-door service, and the roads are congested so that, like everyone else, Wheel-Trans drivers have to fight whack-a-mole with badly timed traffic lights, construction, and collisions. The city itself is inaccessible.
  • TTC bus drivers have made a disabled person in their wheelchair wait while they pack the bus with able-bodied folk, then say, oops, no room, and zoom away, leaving the disabled person stuck on the curb alone. I would just like to say that in the 1980s, I sat on a packed New York city bus and watched while a driver let down a ramp and waited while the person in a wheelchair parked themselves and the rest of the passengers shuffled around to make room, before zooming off, leaving no one at the curb alone. This is the effect of a national disabilities act that the US has had in place for over a quarter of a century. So-called progressive Torontonians are disgusting.
  • Since John Tory waxed poetic about letting kids ride free on the TTC, the kids hog the seats, not letting people with even obvious physical disabilities sit.
  • An ambassador program in all the schools for children in grades four, five, six could teach children how to treat other TTC patrons with respect and courtesy and teach them to recognize when a person with a disability needs a seat. Great idea from the crowd!
  • Adult patrons won’t get off the priority seats to allow a person with a walker or scooter to park themselves in that designated-for-them space, out of the way of others.
  • My thoughts: Adult patrons need education too on both visible and invisible disabilities and what those priority seats are for. Heavily marketed video and simple, compelling signage to educate! Not text-heavy posters. 
  • People with disabilities are as blithely blind to the problems people with other kinds of disabilities have and get annoyed when disabilities other than theirs have to be accommodated.
  • Wheelchairs still get stuck in the gap between the new subway trains and the platforms. No response from TTC when it happened to one guy.
  • People with disabilities are not heard, not listened to, not respected, given lip service, and trotted out by progressive politicians who won’t spend the bucks or the effort to actually include them in society, including by Mayor John Tory and the TTC. When you include the most vulnerable, you make life in Toronto better and easier for everyone. The TTC and politicians don’t recognize this axiom at all. Some TTC staff are so immersed in their expertise, they actually can’t hear you when you point out the practical effect of their decisions makes life difficult. As for politicians . . . well:
  • TTC staff take this forum more seriously than the TTC Commissioners.
TTC Commissioners who believe it’s important to listen to the least-heard segment of the public:
  • TTC Chair Councillor Josh Colle
  • TTC Commissioner Councillor Shelley Carroll
  • TTC Vice-Chair and Commissioner (citizen) Alan Heisey for the Open House (which means he didn’t hear the voices of the disabled public who spoke at the forum)
  • Chair of Toronto’s Disability Committee Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
TTC Commissioners and politicians who don’t think it’s important to hear directly from the disabled public:

The TTC holds these Public Forums annually. They are required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). But the TTC decides the design of the forum and who attends.

As for wanting to be that beacon as the TTC stated at the start of the forum, just for starters, might want to work on these:

I’ll write later about what I learnt in the one-on-one discussions. But here are my questions:


*One of the fun parts of writing a novel in Toronto is taking TTC and local political trends to their seemingly absurd (but increasingly less absurd) extreme. In my time travel novel Time and Space, streets and buildings get renamed regularly. But no one gets confused because the chips in their brains keep them abreast of where they are.