During the ice storm, people with disabilities living in Canada’s largest city didn’t know where to eat their next meal. If she didn’t have the money to deliver the food, her plan was to drink a glass of water and wait to eat the next day.
This is just one of the obvious stories Naomi Schwartz heard while studying food accessibility for people with disabilities living in Toronto.
Dr. Schwartz, a graduate of the U of T’s Geography program, co-authored a study on the experience of food access for adults with disabilities in Toronto, Canada, with Professors Ron Buliung and Kathi Wilson of the Department of Geographic Information and Environment at UTM. Disability and society..
The study found that people with disabilities were at significantly higher risk of food insecurity than others. The results are often partially explained by interrelated physical and economic barriers.
Schwartz interviewed 23 participants, including 18 mobile interviews, and accompanied participants from all over Toronto.
During these outings, she was amazed at the number of small barriers that accumulated during her travels. For example, trash cans are blocking the aisles, inadequate curb cuts, narrow aisles in the store, and so on.
“As an unimpaired researcher, it was very important for me to understand the small levels of barriers we didn’t necessarily think of,” Schwartz says.
Buliung adds that the study also provided unique insights into barriers in people’s homes.
“We really wanted to dig into what’s happening at home,” says Buliung. “When we think about access to food, we often think about accessibility in the city. We often look at our destinations from the outside … but seeing what’s happening on our home site It seemed a little unusual. “
Within the house, some participants with limited income or living in public housing lived in spaces that were too small to move comfortably on mobile devices. In addition, with kitchens inaccessible to many, people in apartments and condominiums faced potential mechanical failures of important services such as elevators and external entrances.
For those who use Wheel-Trans, Toronto’s paratransit service handicapped Sometimes I waited for the bus in bad weather. The affordability of transit services has also created financial barriers.
Schwartz says she was able to access one Food bank He was with one participant during a mobile interview, but showed that another participant could not access some food banks.
“We don’t necessarily perform accessible operations because there are many food banks that may not have enough money on their own,” Schwartz says.
Schwartz adds that there may be several solutions to the problems outlined in the study. This includes providing financial support through programs such as assistive devices programs. She also needs to strengthen and improve the accessibility legislation of Ontario with disabilities, which aims to be fully accessible by 2025, in and around people’s homes. It states that it is necessary to design a construction environment that includes it. Keep in mind obstacles in the first place.
“For failures, we need to consider further. Design process“As part of the way we design things from scratch, we need accessible space and we don’t consider obstacles to be retrofits,” she says.
Buliung says AODA should help improve accessibility in new builds, but access to the processes and resources to support retrofitting is cumbersome and unclear.
“There is a long way to go before the” accessible “vision of Ontario comes true,” he says. “What’s really happening by 2025 is somewhere, some for some, some kind of accessible Ontario. The existence of AODA is that someone comes to your dwelling and suddenly it It doesn’t mean you’re trying to get it to work. Many of the barriers identified in Dr. Schwartz’s work will not just magically disappear in the next few years. “
Schwartz added that providing basic income supplements and increasing payments through the Ontario Support Program for Persons with Disabilities (ODSP) could also be part of the solution.
“Higher income levels support so much in terms of housing as well as adequate food, or in an emergency you can afford an alternative, such as a taxi,” she says. “We need flexible income, and now income levels and things like ODSP aren’t enough to allow that margin at all. Basic income supplements are also very important. It’s about people’s income. It will allow much more flexibility. “
Ultimately, she hopes that their research can affect people’s lives.
“We advocate an increase in disability income and hope it can be used to serve as evidence of the need for a basic income program,” she said, and the team’s research is also being used in the food industry to ensure accessibility within. He added that he hopes to be able to improve. Their service.
Brion, whose daughter Asha was born with spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and is in a wheelchair, said the problem was very personal to him.
“I want my daughter to have a future where she doesn’t have to struggle with the problems described in this treatise,” he says. “I don’t want her to experience food insecurity.”
The researchers also co-authored two other studies focusing on food insecurity across Canada. This includes Disability and Food Access and Anxiety: A Scoping Review of the Literature and Geographical Changes in Mobility Disorders and Vulnerability to Households. food anxiety. ”
Naomi Schwartz et al, Experience of Food Access for Persons with Disabilities, Toronto, Canada, Disability and society (2021). DOI: 10.1080 / 09687599.2021.1949265
Naomi Schwartz et al, Disability and Food Access and Anxiety: Literature Scoping Review, Health and location (2019). DOI: 10.1016 / j.healthplace.2019.03.011
Naomi Schwartz et al, Geographical Changes in Vulnerability to Movement Disorders and Home Food Insecurity, Social science and medicine (2019). DOI: 10.1016 / j.socscimed.2019.112636
University of Toronto Mississauga
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