Number 54 • January 2015

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Accessibility standards

Founded in 1989, DeafBlind Ontario Services1 is one of the largest not-for-profit organizations in Ontario providing Intervenor, residential and other specialized services to individuals who are deafblind in communities throughout the province of Ontario, Canada. In the fall of 2014, DeafBlind Ontario Services launched their Accessibility Standards Guide after a thorough accessibility assessment of its own residential locations.

The purpose of the guide is to share standards and provide helpful tips that focus on establishing inclusive environments for individuals with varying sensory loss. Inclusion of accessible standards and design emphasizes efficient environments, space maneuverability, the importance of illumination, and the use of colour, texture and specialized materials to name a few.

Why develop and incorporate these standards?

The objective of using these standards is to increase functionality, safety, independence and overall accessibility for those with varying abilities.

The Guide is divided into three sections:

The Accessible Design Guidelines and Quick Design Tips sections of the guide were researched and written by an external resource; Lesley MacDonald of Pretium Anderson (Pretium Anderson Building Engineers, Universal Design Consulting Services2). Lesley’s background knowledge and experience includes 25 years of experience at Canadian National Institute for the Blind(CNIB)3, development of CNIB’s ‘Clearing Our Path Universal Design Guidelines for the Built Environment’ and a Master’s in Orientation and Mobility.

The Accessible Design Guidelines section is a very detailed oriented section that highlights standards for the Bathroom, Bedroom, Exterior Spaces, Kitchen, Laundry Room, and Living and Dining Room. Each section provides measurement specifications for accessibility, safety considerations and material recommendations.

The DIY section (Do-It-Yourself) Accessibility and Orientation Enhancements section is intended to share additional projects and products that can increase the accessibility and functionality of the of the environment/activity.

Accessible Design Resource

The Accessibility Standards Guide is an essential resource if you are a builder, member of an accessibility committee or government agency, or work in a recreation centre, retirement/nursing home or other facility or if you support someone with sensory loss.

Get your FREE copy at

1; and say Deafblind Ontario Services is a large corporate member of DbI

German Federal Commissioner Verena Bentele learns about services for persons with deafblindness

Verena Bentele1, Federal Commissioner for Disability Issues, visited the St. Francis Foundation2 (Stiftung St.Franziskus) in Heiligenbronn Germany to learn about the Foundation’s services for people with deafblindness. Years ago, Ms. Bentele was herself a student at the school for the blind and visually impaired in Heiligenbronn. The Foundation’s director, Hubert Bernhard, called it “an honor that you have come here to learn about our work”. In addition to meeting with leaders of the Foundation’s center of excellence for people with deafblindness, the former student, who attended the residential and school programs from 1988 to 1994, also reunited with a former teacher and residential care provider, Sister Margitta Pitz. Verena Bentele said that she was very pleased about meeting with ‘old friends’ again and she noted that the school had “contributed greatly” to her personal growth.

Hubert Bernhard reviewed the history and development of the convent and the foundation for the visitor from Berlin and her mother, Monika Bentele, who had accompanied her. Principal Dietmar Stephan described the expansion over the past 20 years of the former school for the blind into a support center for children with blindness, visual impairments, deafblindness and multiple disabilities. Most notably, consulting services for early intervention and school collaboration have become ever more important in a large catchment area. In addition to the 20 students with deafblindness who are included in classes at the school in Heiligenbronn, 74 children and youths with combined hearing and visual impairment are supported by Heiligenbronn’s consultants across the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Dr. Andrea Wanka3 presented about the center of excellence for persons with deafblindness and its numerous projects. Ulrike Broy, director of consultation services, and Beate Schork, director of the department for students with deafblindness, reported on communication development and the social learning of children with dual sensory impairment. They shared some of their everyday experiences and answered many of the federal commissioner’s questions. Verena Bentele emphasized how important it is for her participation in political discussions, to gather specific insights into the daily lives of people with disabilities.

Roland Flaig, director of services for persons with disabilities, and Nadja Urschel reported on European networking in the field of deafblindness and a project initiated in this context: the translation of the fundamental work ‘Communication and Congenital Deafblindness’4, originally written in English, which has recently been made accessible for German speakers in the field of deafblindness. The text of the four booklets encompasses 472 pages has been translated into German by an expert in the United States. Ulrike Broy and Nadja Urschel, both staff members of the St. Francis Foundation, took on the task of proofreading and revision during their parental leaves. The booklets have been printed and distributed by publisher Edition Bentheim5. Aktion Mensch6, the Kniese Foundation in Berlin and the Hermle Foundation in Gosheim subsidized the costs for translation and publishing, as well as for the development of a staff training program based on the booklets.

Roland Flaig presented Commissioner Bentele with an original set of the printed booklets. She also received the booklet abstracts in Braille and an accessible version on DVD, which is also commercially available. Roland Flaig also thanked the two editors for their commitment and presented them each with a portrait painted for them from a photograph by a Dutch artist with deafblindness.

In his closing remarks, Guenter Seger, director of the services for persons with disabilities, spoke about the importance of the code ‘deafblindness’ on identification cards for people with severe disabilities. This code indicates eligibility for special services, as well as for financial support for persons in this category. Seger asked the federal commissioner to lend her support to this issue. Verena Bentele thanked everyone for all of the information and told the audience how impressed she was by all that she had experienced.
Ewald Graf, Public Relations, Stiftung St.Franziskus

Translated by: Jim Witmer and Ulrike Broy

1 Verena Bentele is a former German biathlete, cross-country skier, four-time world champion and twelve times
Paralympics gold medal winner (
2 http://l
3 Dr. Andrea Wanka is the Chair of the DbI CHARGE Network and member of the DbI Board
4 Booklets prepared by the DbI Communication Network (
5 l
6 https: //

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