Tag Archive for: disability


When Self-Service is Not an Option – Refueling with a Disability

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

When I was a kid I loved the movie “Back to the Future” with Michael J Fox.  I remember clearly the scene where it shows his parents in the 50’s at a gas station – back then, “full serve” meant windows were cleaned, the car shined, tires pumped, and of course your gas tank refilled.  It was like the pit-stop at a NASCAR race where you would have multiple people at your vehicle getting you on your way quickly.  Fast forward to today where “full-serve” is uncommon, and finding a station where someone can fill your tank while you wait in the car might require you to venture out of your way. 

So, how does this translate for people with disabilities?  Well, firstly, there are many people that can and do drive a car regardless of a mobility impairment.  Cars can be modified to accommodate the specific needs of many people with physical challenges.  Hand controls, left-footed gas pedals, spinner knobs, automatic wipers, voice controls…to name a few.  That is all fine while the vehicle is being operated, but what about when it is time to refuel?  It is possible, but not always efficient or safe, for people with a physical impairment to get out of the vehicle, grab their mobility device, and wait outside the car in the elements to refuel.  Not to mention the safety risks of these tight spaces, other vehicles, and fall / slipping hazards of wet and uneven ground.

Considering the move away from “full-serve”, I wanted to look in detail at the services offered by gas stations to help people to refuel when mobility is a challenge.  I was surprised at what I found – some stations have well listed policies that are clear and supportive, while others have no policy or tell people to “call ahead” before coming to refuel.

Here is what I found about ways to refuel if getting out and around your car at a gas station is not the best choice for you…

I give the following companies a THUMBS UP:



Drivers with disabilities can use the Esso Fuel Finder to find stations that offer the fueling option that best meets your needs: 

Split serve stations: Both full- and self-service options are available to customers
Full serve only stations: Full service is available to customers
Self-serve only stations: While some of our stations have designated Disability Fueling Assistant hours where more than one attendant is available, often there is only one attendant on duty at self-serve stations.

We recommend you call ahead to see if appropriate staffing arrangements can be made. Contact information is available on the Esso Fuel Finder.



Drivers with a disabled parking permit will receive full service at self-serve prices at stations with both full and self-serve pumps. The gas station attendant will fuel your vehicle at the self-service island so that you pay only the self-serve price for fuel. Customers should identify themselves to one of our gas station attendants. Please note this service is available only during full service hours.

At self-serve only stations, staff will make every effort to help customers displaying disabled parking permits with refueling. Please identify yourself to one of our gas station attendants. We also encourage you to contact your local station to discuss your individual needs as some stations have limited staff and payment access.



At participating split-service stations, a site which provides self-service and full-service at the islands, drivers with an accessible parking permit will receive full-service at self-serve prices. The full-service attendant will fuel your vehicle at the self-service island so that you pay only the self-serve price for fuel.

Find a Petro-Canada station with full service

At participating self-serve stations, customers with an accessible parking permit can drive up to a two-way call station located at the fuel island and press the button to speak to the attendant inside the store to request assistance with fueling their vehicle.

The following get a THUMBS DOWN:



Pioneer’s site only speaks to assistive devices, communication, support persons and service animals, but does not address the challenge of people with physical impairments being able to refuel.


For non-full serve stations, people are required to schedule an appointment with the retailer for refueling.  ONRoute locations offer full serve to all customers between the hours of 7am and 10pm, 7 days a week.  For service outside of these hours, an appointment is required.  Those using the full serve through the Disability Assistance Program will be charged self-serve prices.


No information is provided. 

In summary, I was impressed by what I found and applaud Shell, Esso and Petro-Canada for being so progressive and supportive on this issue. For the rest, I presume that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) will require those that are behind in offering disability-friendly refueling options to develop policies and procedures and to post these to be easily found on their websites.   In the meantime, I trust those drivers with mobility issues will use and benefit from what Shell, Esso and Petro-Canada have to offer people in their situation.


A Step in the Right Direction — Forward

The Forward Movement, an advocacy group, is working hard to raise awareness and make change in Ontario.  The group is working to have Ontario officially adopt the Dynamic Symbol of Access to replace the currently used International Symbol of Access.  Why?  The dynamic symbol shows action and movement symbolizing differing abilities and can help to change the way society views disability.

It was all about the disability, and not about the person,” says Dylan Itzikowitz, co-founder of The Forward Movement, about the current symbol.

Learn more about The Forward Movement in the following article from CBC News.

CBC News:  Accessibility activists want to ditch iconic symbol highlighting the wheelchair, not the person

How can you support The Forward Movement?  Sign the petition, make a donation, follow The Forward Movement on social media, and/or become a Proud Partner like us.  Learn more about these great ways to get involved by visiting


Dear Everybody: Let’s Put an End to The Stigma of Disability

Children living with disabilities often face a number of physical and mental challenges, however, on top of this are also facing social challenges such as bullying and lack of inclusion.  In fact, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital states that 53% of children living with a disability have zero or only one close friend.   Holland Bloorview has created a new campaign to help put an end to the stigma of disabilities.  The Dear Everybody Campaign aims to provide awareness, knowledge and resources to help put an end to the stigma of disability.

Learn more about the campaign and help create change by visiting their website


The Ability App

As seen on Ellen!  Today we wanted to showcase the inspiring story of a 12 year old boy who saw a person in a wheelchair struggle to open a door and as a result started building an app to help people better navigate communities.  Learn more about Alexander’s story and this amazing app by visiting The Ability App website.


Disability Sensitivity — How to Guide

Are you unsure how to interact with someone who has a disability?  This blog from The Rick Hansen Foundation offers some handy do’s and don’ts that can help.

The Rick Hansen Foundation:  The dos and don’ts of disability sensitivity

In Ontario, under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), organizations are required to train employees and volunteers on how to provide customer service to persons with disabilities.  If your organization requires this training and is looking to enhance its customer service try our AODA Customer Service Training Program which delves deeper into how to interact and effectively service persons with disabilities.


Parents Call For a Change in Public Opinion

A recent survey suggests that 45% of Canadians believe children with disabilities lead less fulfilling lives.  However, this is certainly not the case.  While there may be increased struggles, families with disabled children are asking the public to change their views.  Learn more in the following article from CTV News.

CTV News:  Canadians urged to rethink their view of kids with disabilities


Personal Injury Advertising – A Picture is Worth….

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I was recently at a stoplight in Hamilton, stuck behind three busses spanning three of the four lanes in front of me.  All three were covered in ads for three different law firms, all personal injury.  Drive another block and there are anywhere between four to eight billboards again advertising personal injury services.  Some are soft, subtle and warm.  Others are creative, catchy and cleaver.  Then there are those that are more fear-mongering, “in your face”, and aggressive.  Whatever the style, message or format, clearly these ads represent the culture of the advertising firm, leaving the “buyer” to choose the approach that best might meet their needs.

Now the focus of this blog is to not bash the way lawyer advertising has evolved.  If signs in parking garages, washrooms, bars, hospitals, or on busses, benches and billboards work, go for it.   Lawyers are intelligent people, if the ROI on these investments is not paying off, I assume they would find an alternative.  However, I do know that within their own community, through events I have attended and articles I have read, that many firms are being criticized for the approach they are taking with the more aggressive “you don’t pay until we win” mentality.  Also, the fear-mongering approach directed at a population of vulnerable and often disadvantaged people can be viewed by many as distasteful.  Honestly, I think the public are becoming somewhat desensitized to the vast number of ads marketing the same thing and the more these ads surface, the less impactful they become.  But as a business owner, I can understand the intense competition in the industry and respect any professional who invests in their business, or themselves, to make a buck.

Where I think these ads need to improve, however, is in the representation of people with disabilities.  Some ads get this perfectly.  They show everyday survivors (presumably “real” past clients) doing the things they love, or “living” after their tragedy.  That, to me, hits the nail on the head.  Others though use images that are transparently “fake” and confuse the message.  Taking a photo of a fit, young(ish) person in Lululemon clothing who looks like they are ready for the Paralympics but is sitting in a clunker wheelchair from the 70’s just doesn’t jive.  The image is flawed and the message is lost.

As an advocate for people with disabilities, I would like to see a movement of “real” people with “real” disabilities center-stage for these ads, and in any ad for that matter, that is trying to represent this population.  Why?  Because it is easy for a non-disabled person to sit in a wheelchair for a photo, but the reverse is not true in that a person who actually uses a wheelchair cannot just “stand-up” to pose as a “non-disabled person” for a photo shoot.  So, let’s give the money spent on stock-photos, modeling and the resulting income to the population of people that “live” these problems, not to regular people who don’t truly represent.

And yes, I am guilty of this as well.  In searching for website stock photos we found several where the person in a wheelchair is standing in the next image.  Or, the one where you see the back of my husband sitting in a wheelchair to capture the image of a once real, but now needed-to-be-simulated, client-Julie interaction.

In searching for a way to better support the community of disabled persons, and to ensure the photos we use in our own media align with “real” people, we came across these sites which sell “true” stock images:

Lawyers working in personal injury – I hope you will join the movement to improve the representation of “disabled people” in your ads to, if nothing else, better support that community financially, realistically and appropriately in your advertising.


The CNE Disability Policy Change – What the CNE Did Wrong

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

For years the CNE has allowed people with disabilities and their attendants free admission.  Last year they announced that the policy would end for 2016 in that those with disabilities would be required to pay.  Attendants would remain “free”.

Recently the Toronto Star published an article confirming the change in policy.  The CNE explains that the new policy will: respect “the dignity and independence of all of our guests, including those with disabilities.” However, advocates note that people with disabilities can struggle to earn competitive wages which limits both resources and opportunities, and can result in social and community isolation.  Those advocates give this change a “thumbs down”.

As an occupational therapist and business owner, I think the CNE has made a few mistakes in making this change, and in articulating it.  Here’s why…

I love this comic sent to me by Occupational Therapist Jacquelyn Bonneville:















So, if equality is about “sameness” then the CNE has wrongly lumped the community of people with disabilities into the “equal” category.  Yet, it is easy to understand that people with disabilities can have increased difficulties making competitive wages and can be marginalized and secluded based on reduced resources and opportunities for participation in many aspects of daily life.  So, by the CNE saying that the policy respects “the dignity and independence of all our guests” they have wrongly lumped “all guests together” when not “all guests” are equal.  The previous policy was more equitable in that it leveled the playing field in a sense by allowing a more “equitable” experience for people of different means.

Essentially, then, the human issue is that the CNE may now be financially excluding a community who needs leisure more than the average person.  Literature supports leisure participation for all, but even more so for people that have reduced options to take on other commonly productive roles like paid work, volunteering, or even school or parenting.  The previous policy was compassionate and fair, the new policy is not.

From a business perspective, the CNE made another mistake.  They failed to make a logical argument for the change and opened themselves to greater scrutiny.  If they wanted to change the policy because that was a sound business decision (like expenses could no longer support it, they were having a hard time administering the policy, there were privacy and disclosure issues for customers in asking for the free admission, or felt the policy only met the needs of physically disabled people and not people with more “invisible disabilities” etc), then that is different.  In that case, the CNE should have simply said “we have reviewed the policy and while we understand and apologize for the impact this change may have on certain members of our community, our board felt it was in the best interest of the operations and sustainability of the CNE to no longer offer free admission for some customers”.  Or something.  Then, they could have used the announcement as an opportunity to advertise that they will continue to offer the $6 after 5pm fare on Monday to Thursday to keep it financially accessible to a wide range of consumers and that attendants of people with disabilities would remain free.

Of course, they could have been more creative in the first place by developing a “middle ground” policy similar to Hamilton’s Affordable Transit Pass (supports people receiving ODSP or Ontario Works), or could have progressed the policy for a year to “voluntary pay” for people with disabilities to recognize that some can afford it, and may want to pay like “everyone else” at entry.

So, knowing that my readership includes people with disabilities, if the CNE is no longer in the cards for you, or you feel the need to boycott because of the policy change, here are some other “disability friendly” places to consider:

·        Check out all the places that are included in the Easter Seals Access2 Card including:   The Royal Botanical Gardens, The AGO, The ROM, Ontario Science Center, Ripley’s Aquarium, The CN Tower, Great Wolf Lodge and more.

·        The Toronto Zoo offers 50% off admission for people with disabilities.

·        Canada’s Wonderland also has disability-friendly policies, contact them directly for discount information.

·        This resource includes other Toronto Attractions that offer a discount for disabled persons.

I am sure there are others, and if you might qualify for discounts or attendant admissions, consider contacting any park or location before you go to inquire.  I hope that these links will provide my readers with disabilities, or their friends and families, a good start for summer exploring. 



Pre-Peeled Oranges: Think Before You Judge

Recent chatter on the web has pointed a finger at pre-sliced, pre-packaged foods such as apple or orange slices – deeming these as lazy, unnecessary and wasteful.  However, for many people living with illness or disability, these items are extremely helpful and necessary.  Check out the following from NPR to learn more about how prepared fresh foods, such as pre-peeled oranges, can make a difference in the lives of many.

NPR:  Pre-Peeled Oranges: What Some Call ‘Lazy’ Others Call A ‘Lifesaver’

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