Tag Archives: accessibility

A new look at a daily activity

27 Aug

On my run yesterday, I had to cross a busy street.
This isn’t unusual.
But yesterday I noticed a new button at the crosswalk.
IMG_4361 It’s likely not new, but it’s the first time I noticed it.
And I noticed it, because it beeped when I pressed it.

The beep caused me to pause. If I had a visual impairment, the beep would let me know that the button had engaged and the lights above the cross walk were flashing. What happens when there is no beep?!

Suddenly I had a whole new perspective on crossing the street.

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copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker | Workshop Facilitator | Consultant | Author on issues of Diversity & Inclusion
www.annemarieshrouder.com (new website!)


Parapan Am Games – inclusion?

12 Aug

The Parapan Am Games started this past weekend in Toronto.

And I find myself wondering, again, why the “para” games are separated and later than the “non para” games.
The Pan Am Games came and went in Toronto amid much fanfare. Traffic was bad, but we heard about the medal count daily and there was a buzz in the air.  Tickets sales were great.

And then everyone left, and life returned to the usual.

And now, almost 2 weeks later, the Parapan Am Games have started.  It feels like the “country cousin” to the city slicker, like the “main event” has already come and gone.

And this makes me sad. And angry.

I used to be a competitive swimmer, so I know a little about the dedication, sacrifice, heartache and pain athletes go through to succeed at their sport.  What says athletics more than someone who beats the odds of a disability to compete and become a world class athlete in their sport?
Why do we continue to separate these athletes from – what one could assume the underlying message may still be – the “real” athletes and the “real” competition?

Why don’t the Pan Am Games (and the Olympics, and possibly other sporting events) practice inclusion and have both able bodied and differently abled athletes competing in events at the same time? Why can’t the 50m freestyle have two events on the same day? Why can’t the soccer field be shared over the time of the games? It would mean the Games are longer, but it might mean more of an equal exposure for (and greater understanding and appreciation of) differently abled athletes, the possibilities that exist for them, and the triumph of the human spirit.

And maybe we would see athletics differently – and funding would increase?
Just a thought.

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator, Consultant, Author on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

Accessibility on the Internet

4 Aug

I’m creating a new website and will be launching shortly.

I’m really excited about it. And I’m also aware that it will be woefully inadequate for some.
Given the work I do, that’s painful for me.

If you use a keyboard, if you use a mouse, if you can see, if you can read what’s on a computer screen without making the font larger, if you can hear – then you may not know what I’m talking about. It’s new for me too.  And in fact right now as I’m typing this blog I’m looking for the option to make the font larger. It’s a small thing, but it means one less adjustment for some people who may want to read this. I can’t find the feature. If I had a visual impairment, you can bet I would know how to do it!

This is a perfect example of how bias works – we are familiar with the things that we need to be, to get through our day. And if you, like me, just pick up your laptop or mobile, type in the URL and away I go, then you, like me, likely have no idea what it means to have an accessible site. Or how important it is. Or how many people can’t read our sites because they aren’t accessible.

If you live in Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has guidelines for websites.
As I build mine, I’ll be working on these over time, as many require coding that I am not able to do myself.
But I can begin with making the font larger, so that it’s one less step for people who need larger font.

One less step is part of what inclusion is about: recognizing the extra steps that some people have to take to get to the same place, to have the same access, to enjoy what many of us take for granted every day – and creating ways to eliminate or at least reduce those steps.

I’ll let you know when my new website is up.
And I’ll keep you posted on the accessibility of it as well.

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Facilitator and Author on issues of Diversity and Inclusion.

New Technology …that Excludes?

22 Jul

In the last couple of weeks I have had several meetings downtown in large high rise buildings, and I have noticed something new.

It seems the latest technology in elevators is to pick the floor you want to go to first, which then directs you to the correct elevator. I imagine this is to provide a quicker ride, since (I’m guessing) the software groups the requests so everyone going to the same floor gets into the same elevator. And maybe there are only 2 or 3 stops in total, instead of many – as per the “old fashioned” elevators.

I get it.
When you’re going to the 54th floor, and there are multiple stops on the way up (for people leaving and entering the elevator) your ride could be long. If you’re late, it’s probably excruciating. Some of these challenges are addressed by grouping elevators for different floors in very high buildings. But I guess that isn’t good enough.

Here’s what I noticed today, that made me think:
We’ve come a long way in elevation. We now have braille and elevators that speak so that the visually impaired can be autonomous. The new elevator that I was in – although we only stopped on two floors – didn’t speak. There were only two of us, and two floors selected. So if I wasn’t able to see, I wouldn’t have known if the first stop was mine, or the other person’s.  would have had to ask. And I imagine the beauty of elevators that speak is some level of autonomy in a world that privileges the sighted.

Maybe in our rush for efficiency, we forgot about inclusion?

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Copyright 2015 Annemarie Shrouder
Author, Speaker and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.

The Difference an “X” Can Make

14 Oct

Last month Australia made a significant change on their passport application forms; there are now three options for “gender” – M, F and X. 

When your passport doesn’t reflect what you look like – when your listed gender doesn’t match who you  are – it can be, in the words of Senator Louise Pratt, “very distressing, highly  inconvenient and frankly sometimes dangerous.”

This is a human rights victory for transgender and intersex individuals in Australia, even moreso because sex reassignment surgery is not required to use the “x” option.

Imagine the relief of being able to mark X and being able to move through customs like everyone else instead of being grilled about why your passport says you are male, but you look female (or vice versa). For people who have experienced greater scrutiny at customs for other reasons (like race, or real/perceived ethnic origin or religion for example – especially since 9/11) you will understand what this can mean.

Hooray for Australia! Change happens when people start to “get it” – and even moreso (and faster) when people in power “get it”.

Senator Louise Pratt’s partner is transgender. This gives her an inside view into the barriers that transgender and intersex individuals face – barriers that those of us who are not transgender or intersex may have no idea even exist. Because of her experience, her position and her conviction, Australia has change!

It’s a small change, one that doesn’t impact cisgender people at all. There is still an “M” and an “F” to choose from. Australia has simply added another option – to recognize that not all realities are the same, and to make travelling more equitable and safe.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator  on issues of diversity and inclusion


Learning in a second language

6 Oct

I’m in New Brunswick today!
This afternoon my colleague and I will deliver Diversity and Inclusion workshops.
I love to facilitate, and D&I is “my thing”.
What makes this experience a little different, however, is that this part of New Brunswick is very French.

Which makes me wonder…do I tell them I speak French (albeit it’s rusty) or keep my mouth shut? It’s an interesting conundrum.

On the one hand, my fear is that I’ll open myself up for a challenge that, in an already tight schedule, may not be wise. But on the other, it allows me to show up as more of who I am (a Montreal-born formerly bilingual now Torontonian with excellent comprehension and not so excellent spoken French). More importantly, it may also make a difference to some workshop participants. Although I can’t promise to answer their questions in French, maybe having the option of asking in French will be appreciated.

Which leads me to my point.

There are many Canadians for whom English (or French, depending on where you are) is not their first language.  No matter how fluent you are in a second language, it’s often still easier to express yourself in your first language. And often “native speakers” speak quickly and we don’t catch everything. Sometimes we ask. Sometimes we may just nod and hope we get the general idea and that no one will notice. It can be an invisible disadvantage.

It makes me wonder how much we may be missing when people don’t have the option to share their ideas or ask questions in their first language, regardless of how fluent they are in the second (or third).

So today, I’m going to be brave and offer the option of asking questions in French, if that’s easier. I may not be able to answer in French, but if they are willing to be patient, I’m willing to try.

I’m hoping it will make the time we have together a little more inclusive.

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copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

Supplier Diversity

27 Sep

One aspect of diversity we are not talking much about in Canada is Supplier Diversity. Growing in popularity in the USA and UK, Supplier Diversity is another way for a company to exercise their diversity and inclusion commitments.

Supplier Diversity is simple: it requires companies to take a look at the businesses they use as suppliers, and make conscious decisions to broaden the pool by using qualified minority-owned businesses.

I can already hear the arguments about preferential treatment, quotas and “needing to hire the best company for the job” (sound familiar?).  It begs the question: how are companies picking their suppliers now? Could it be that they are choosing suppliers that they have done business with for years, companies they know, or a company they own themselves…?

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like preferential treatment to me,  and not the meritocracy often used as an argument against diversity.  

Suppliers are at the mercy of “the Old Boys Network” just as new hires and employees up for promotion – it’s not just what you know, but who you know. Supplier Diversity shines a light on this and asks companies to take a look at how they can contribute to diversifying their pool of suppliers – essentially giving companies owned by women, visible minorities, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and youth a foot in the door in a system that can be just as exclusive as hiring and promotion (both intentionally, and unintentionally).

Just like commitments to diversity and inclusion internally (hiring, mentorship, sponsorship, etc) supplier diversity brings opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and market knowledge.

Think of what you could be missing.

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Copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion

For more information, check out: Diversity Business Network , WEConnect and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council.

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