THUMBS UP to Carleton University students Micah Rakoff Bellman and Melody Chen, for winning top prizes at the annual Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) competition. Bellman’s design, Lift, enables home cooks to have a comfortable and flexible work surface in the kitchen, and can be height adjusted to suit users of any level of ability, while Chen’s Accessible Closet Storage Unit adjusts closets vertically and horizontally to optimize space and make it more accessible.
THUMBS DOWN to the Co-Op Taxi Company in Toronto for refusing to take a woman and her guide dog in one of their taxis. Renee Savoie, who has only five per cent vision, alleges that a driver pulled away after seeing that she had a guide dog. Despite a city bylaw and company policy requiring taxi drivers to accept service animals, Co-Op Taxi has said there have been previous situations where drivers had refused dogs due to cultural or religious reasons. Co-Op has since issued an apology to Savoie, but still maintains that the cab in question was not on duty at the time.
THUMBS UP to Ryerson Television Arts students who articulated the difficulties of coping with mental illness in their thesis film, If a Bird Cannot Swim. Written and directed by Coylan Subben, the film showcases the stigma around mental health and gender identity, and the crippling silence that often accompanies the struggle. Subben hopes to raise awareness about the complexity of mental health, and notes that “mental illness affects not only the person suffering, but everyone surrounding them.” If a Bird Cannot Swim is set to premiere in Summer 2016 at a variety of film festivals.
THUMBS DOWN to 50 Cent for mocking a young employee with Asperger’s syndrome, a hearing disability and social anxiety at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport—and subsequently posting the video on social media. This is notably not the first time 50 Cent has exhibited discriminatory behaviour. 50 Cent has since apologized and has donated $100,000 to Autism Speaks.
THUMBS UP to Indian Fusion, a restaurant in Edmonton that offers free meals and coffee for anyone in need. The owner and chef of the restaurant, Parkash Chhibber, said, “I’ve seen enough hunger in the past. I know the pain of not having food.”
THUMBS UP to Ottobock for providing prosthetic and orthotic technical service for the Invictus Games Orlando 2016.
THUMBS UP to Navi Dhanota, a York University student who won a landmark case against the school regarding the accommodation of disabilities without the necessity to label the diagnosis. According to the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, the number of students with mental health disabilities in Ontario colleges and universities has increased by 70 per cent between 2006 and 2011. However, Marc Wilchesky, the executive director of counselling and disability services at York University, believes it will become increasingly difficult to come up with appropriate accommodations unless the student discloses their diagnosis.