Accessibility Barriers, Pink Basket Project & COVID-19 Updates

Happy Tuesday! I hope everyone had a restful weekend and was able to spend some time enjoying the quieter streets. It was thrilling to see Lakeshore and Bayview (safely) full of cyclists and pedestrians.  

I know that this prolonged period of COVID-19 response is challenging for everyone. As we all collectively turn our minds to recovery, I want us to continue to think about how we come out of this pandemic to healthier and safer communities.

Persons with disabilities face unique and heightened challenges and vulnerabilities in a time of pandemic. These challenges include equality of access to health care and supports, access to information and communications, mental health and social isolation and employment and income supports. In order to protect the human rights of persons with disabilities during these times there needs to be a disability-inclusive approach to government decision-making and action. To support this work, the Federal Government announced the creation of the COVID-19 Disability Advisory Group

As Chair of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee, I feel strongly that the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario must follow suit, and that all three levels of government must work together to support the elimination of barriers faced by people with disabilities especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we turn our mind to recovery, this is an easy first step that should be undertaken immediately.

COVID-19 has had implications into the lives of people living with disabilities that go far beyond the risk of catching the virus. These include:

  • For parents trying to homeschool their children, most education resources don't include accommodations or information for students with special needs nor do teachers have the capacity to adapt;
  • As the city opens new shelters and respites to allow for physical distancing, many of them have physical barriers that make it impossible for people with assisted mobility devices to access them; 
  • Many immunocompromised people who relied on grocery store deliveries for years suddenly found the services they use overwhelmed by demand with no alternative solution for them; and,
  • Where support for people with disabilities is available, there is confusion about what people are eligible for between jurisdictions. There are reports that violence against caretakers is increasing with no opportunities for respite.

One of the biggest challenges is that we don’t have enough knowledge about the specific ways people living with disabilities are being impacted. Any recovery effort must include their lived experience, and we must develop a far more robust disaggregated data collection and management system.

One of the biggest challenges is that we don’t have enough knowledge about the specific ways people living with disabilities are being impacted. Any recovery effort must include their lived experience, and we must develop a far more robust disaggregated data collection and management system.


I recently spoke with Liv Mendelsohn, Artistic Director of ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto and Director of Accessibility and Inclusion at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Center. She reports that foundations and not-for-profits that support data collection for people living with disabilities have had to significantly reduce their capacity as staff are laid off or furloughed. It is critical that governments step in to fill that gap. 

As I have said earlier, good information helps us make better decisions. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has found that data collection can play a useful and often essential role in creating strong human rights. This includes human resources strategies to monitor and evaluate potential discrimination, identify and remove systemic barriers, lessen or prevent disadvantage and promote substantive equality for people identified by Ontario Human Rights Code grounds. That is why I am so proud of the work we did to create the Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto, which will do exactly that -  use disaggregated data to create better policies to build programs and services to ensure no one gets left behind.

I will continue to push for greater reporting across all social determinants of health variables, including gender, sexual orientation, income level, race and disability. This information is critical as we begin to think about what a post-COVID19 recovery looks like. 

I am so grateful to Liv Mendelsohn for sharing her insights with my office, and for all her work on the ReelAbilities Festival. Thank you for demonstrating the best of Toronto. 


ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival 

Undeniably, one of the best sources of information is to listen and learn from people with lived experience directly. I am thrilled that the ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto  has worked hard to re-imagine the festival and will be going ahead online May 20-24.

ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival is Canada’s largest film festival showcasing disability and Deaf culture and narratives. It is 100% digital and entirely barrier-free. Over the past four years, ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto has launched programs alongside the festival in the spring of each year. Programs such as the ReelAccess Guide and the CBC-ReelAbilities Breaking Barriers Film Fund have helped build this Toronto festival into a mainstay of the city’s disability and cinematic fabric! The ReelEducation program has brought films and lesson plans about equity and inclusion into 118 schools across the province, in 28 school boards.

I encourage you to check out the entire festival at the ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival website and the free children's education program, ReelEducation!

Community Care in Ward 13


Today’s Community Care shout-out goes to The Pink Basket Project who have created an online directory which provides an opportunity for supportive businesses to reach their customers, and for LGBTQ2S+ customers to find businesses that support them. As a former small business owner and founding member of the Church and Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area, I understand personally the pressures that local LGBTQ2S+ businesses operate under during normal times, let alone the historic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brings on. Our continued patronage will be critical in the timely survival of LGBTQ2S+ cultural spaces and businesses. They serve us all year round and now they need our pink dollars more than ever before. Thank you to the The Pink Basket Project, which serves as a fantastic new online resource for local residents and patrons. Check out their directory here! 

If you are a business owner that wants to promote your business, get your free listing by registering at the Pink Basket website.

Please continue to email my office at [email protected] to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!


COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate.  

As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, we need to continue physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will help protect you and everyone in our community.

Physical Distance

When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:

  • in elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
  • using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and,
  • sick and going for a medical appointment.

Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a mask.wear_a_mask_.jpeg

Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit the City's website. or download this info sheet.

City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates 

City of Toronto Statement on Interim Settlement on Continued Physical Distancing Measures in City’s Shelter System. 

The City of Toronto has reached an interim settlement with respect to a motion for an injunction regarding the City’s unprecedented response to protect those experiencing homelessness in Toronto. 


City of Toronto Dog Off-leash Areas Open Today

The City of Toronto has opened its more than 70 dog off-leash areas following the Province of Ontario’s amendments to an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act that permit the use of dog off-leash areas.


City of Toronto Reopening Waste Drop-off Depots to the Public 

As part of the City’s phased resumption of services, Drop-off Depots (Transfer Stations) are now partially reopening to the public. Starting on Tuesday, May 19, at 6 p.m., Bermondsey and Ingram Drop-off Depots will open to the public on weeknights for drop-off of recycling, garbage and yard waste. Hours of operation are as follows:

  • Bermondsey: Monday to Thursday from 6 p.m. to midnight and 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Ingram: Monday to Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight and 12:30 am to 6 a.m.


City of Toronto to Aerial Spray for Tree-damaging European Gypsy Moth in Parts of Etobicoke

To protect the tree canopy and vulnerable trees from European Gypsy Moth infestation, the City of Toronto will implement the first round of its aerial spray program during the week of May 25 in a portion of Ward 2 – Etobicoke Centre.


More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario Extends Emergency Orders to Keep People Safe

The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, has extended all emergency orders currently in force until May 29, 2020. This includes the closure of bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery only, restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people and staff redeployment rules for long-term care homes and congregate settings like retirement homes and women's shelters. The government is also allowing drive-in religious gatherings.


Ontario Announces Independent Commission into Long-Term Care

The Ontario government announced that they will be launching an independent commission into Ontario's long-term care system beginning in September. Over the next several months, the government will be finalizing details of the commission including terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission and reporting timelines.


Government Unveils Plans for Reopening Child Care, Day Camps and Initiatives to Strengthen Learning into the Summer 

Later this summer, the Provincial Government will announce a plan to strengthen learning and safety protocols to enable students and staff to return to in-class instruction for the 2020-21 school year. That plan will be bolstered by an enhanced province-wide virtual learning program that will allow all students to learn, regardless of the challenges that may transpire in the coming months.


Ontario Collaborates with Med-Tech Innovation Hub in the Fight Against COVID-19

The Ontario government is working with Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX), Canada's first industry-led hub for med-tech start-ups, to provide non-medical manufacturing companies free support as they retool to provide essential supplies and equipment to health care facilities during COVID-19. 


More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Prime Minister Announces Expansion of Support for Workers and Small Businesses

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced an expansion to the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account to include many owner-operated small businesses. The program will now be available to a greater number of businesses that are sole proprietors receiving income directly from their businesses, businesses that rely on contractors and family-owned corporations that pay employees through dividends rather than payroll.


Prime Minister Announces Annual Increase to the Canada Child Benefit

The Prime Minister announced that the Canada Child Benefit will be increased in July. This additional tax-free support will help families pay for things such as food, clothes, and activities they can do together at home. The increase will be in place for the 2020-21 benefit year, and will raise the maximum benefit to $6,765 per child under age six, and $5,708 per child aged six through 17.


Support for Community Organizations Helping Canadians

The Government of Canada is working with the United Way Centraide Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the Community Foundations of Canada to disburse the $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund. These trusted partners will each post information on eligibility criteria and how to apply on their respective websites. Charities and non-profit organizations requiring financial assistance to address the pandemic can apply for funding as of May 19, 2020.


Government of Canada Supports over 500 Women’s Shelters and Sexual Assault Centres during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Government of Canada is supporting the country’s most vulnerable people during these times of uncertainty. This includes taking critical measures and making new investments to support shelters that provide a safe space for women fleeing violence and their families, as well as ensuring the continuing resilience of organizations assisting survivors of sexual assault. On April 4, 2020 the Government of Canada announced up to $40 million through Women and Gender Equality Canada for women fleeing gender-based violence.


Minister Ng announces more support for women entrepreneurs amid COVID-19

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced that the Government of Canada will provide $15 million in additional funding to support women entrepreneurs through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES). This money will go directly to select organizations that are currently WES Ecosystem Fund recipients and will help women entrepreneurs through the COVID-19 pandemic


More updates from the Government of Canada.

COVID-19 Information and Resources

Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting  the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: 

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: [email protected]

311 Toronto
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311
Email: [email protected]

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