Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blogger tracks Toronto's disability-friendly spots

By Louise Kinross

Silvia Guido blogs about Toronto restaurants, bars and music venues that meet her 30-item checklist for accessibility.
The physiotherapist, who launched AccessTO in April 2013, just posted her 122nd review. She's supported by a team of volunteers.
The blog grew out of complaints Silvia heard from patients about the limited number of places they could visit in Toronto.
"I'd talk about going to a new restaurant and my clients would say 'Good for you, but I probably couldn't get in there.' A number of my patients have moved out of Toronto because we have such a long way to go." 
Silvia only writes about Toronto spots that meet her criteria, she says. "It's either accessible to me or it's not. If it's not, I don't want to write about it. I want to keep the blog positive."
Silvia measures entrance ways, table heights and door widths; checks floor surfaces, turning spaces and how easy the place is to navigate in a chair, scooter or walker; and looks for automatic door, hand-dryer, sink and toilet features in washrooms.
"Individual washrooms, rather than stalls, are best," she says. "They need to have grab bars, a floating sink and automatic features." She writes about whether they have a fold-out table for changing children, but hasn't yet seen any washrooms equipped with a change table for an adult.
Silvia also writes about nearby accessible subway stations, parking spots or street parking.
The most common barrier she finds is lack of a level entrance way. "We've had restaurants that think they're accessible but they have a six-inch curb in front of the door."
Silvia follows up on recommendations from AccessTO readers and also does walkabouts in neighbourhoods to scout new places. "Right now I can't find anything in St. Clair Ave. W. and it's frustrating," she says. Her blog has categories for 26 Toronto neighbourhoods.
Silvia's volunteers include a friend who uses a wheelchair and some former University of Toronto occupational therapy students. "I'd love to find more volunteers with a variety of disabilities, to make it more personal," she says. You can contact her at info@accessTO.ca.
Silvia generally posts once or twice a week. She'd love to hear about your favourite family-friendly restaurants.


Hi Everyone,

I'm going to throw caution to the wind to tell you that, "Although Silvia is a physiotherapist she is as wonderful as our very own Louise Kinross. So, if anybody deserves our help, it's Silvia."

Nonetheless, I was also born with cerebral palsy (CP) and, thus, understand that accessibility doesn't always result in inclusion. Therefore, I guess we have a choice to make: We can either stay home, in fear, or go out? Personally, "I'm with Silvia, her volunteers, and rest of AccessTO.

Lastly, if parents are unaware of any accessible restaurants, it's okay. Just tell her, "Where you take your kids to play." I think this would help.

Viva AccessTO! May you be like these kids and never surrender!!!

Matt Kamaratakis