You know that feeling when you're hurried to get to work or an appointment downtown but the subway trains are all packed? So you fidget with angst until a less jam-packed car zooms into the station? Now, multiply that stress by 20 times. That's what it feels like to be a disabled man or woman waiting for a subway train in Toronto, at any time of day.
Many Canadians are in need of mobility options. I work in the community with a lot of seniors, but it is not strictly seniors that need assistance. With many individuals struggling within their own homes, it's refreshing to see the selection and level of innovation. Such is the newly opened the ReliAble Living Centre.
The nub of my and others' unease with the current International Symbol of Access is that it excludes over 97 per cent of people with disabilities, because it is all about wheelchairs, rather than accessibility. To those who fear that the competition I've launched is aimed at throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and getting rid of the wheelchair symbol altogether: this is definitely not the case. What I'm asking is for designers to reimagine the concept of accessibility and to come up with a revised symbol or set of symbols that will be more inclusive.
In 1969, the universal symbol for accessibility -- a blue square overlaid in white with the stylized image of a figure in a wheelchair -- made its first appearance. But the symbol is still built around a stick figure -- not a person. But the most important problem with the International Symbol of Access is this: it is exclusionary. The symbol is all about the wheelchair -- even though the majority of disabilities are not mobility-related. That is why, with the enthusiastic co-operation of the Ontario College of Art and Design University, I have launched an international competition to find a contemporary symbol.
During his 22 years at CityTV, David Onley was an anchor, producer, science and technology specialist and weatherman. He was also Canada's first senior newscaster with a visible disability. Having lived with polio and post-polio syndrome since the age of three, he has broken down many social barriers. He has worked tirelessly to improve accessibility for all.
I was in Grade five when I fell in love with basketball. Michael Jordan fuelled my over-the-top obsession with the sport. Being a kid with a disability didn't stop me from dreaming of dunking or playing one on one with Michael Jordan. Defying people's expectations has been one of my missions in life.
The boundary between human and machine is softening. The first cyborgs have emerged -- much sooner than scientists would have predicted 30 years ago. We used to think having a device implanted in your skull made you a cyborg and wearing a pair of digital glasses did not. But to the brain, the distinction is arbitrary. Soon we may really have to answer the question: where does "me" end, and "my machine" begin?