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AMI This Week

AMI This Week

AMI This Week is a weekly magazine show with a distinct community focus, sharing events and interesting stories from coast to coast.

AMI This Week

AMI This Week is a weekly magazine show with a distinct community focus, sharing events and interesting stories from coast to coast.

Blog

Ollie Acosta-Pickering lies on a couch with two dogs.

By Emily Ramsay

AMI’s newest original series, We Are One, will air Thursdays starting on June 2 on AMI-tv. This new series will be following six unique Canadian families in the disability community, experiencing their own sets of joys, struggles and successes. The definition of a family has changed over the years, and We Are One attempts to share the experiences of families from diverse backgrounds, disabilities and experiences. 

Our first episode will kick off with Ollie Acosta-Pickering and his family. Ollie is a cancer survivor diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma at the age of seven, which resulted in Ollie becoming legally blind. His sister, Abby, not only recognized the first signs of cancer, but she also became Ollie’s stem-cell donor who helped him on his road to recovery. Ollie’s parents Dawn and Mario faced the challenges of learning to parent a child who is legally blind while also supporting Abby as the family went through Ollie’s cancer journey. 

You can watch We Are One on Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv starting June 2.

A man, wearing a medical mask and black toque, puts hi left hand on Priscilla Gagné's hands.

By Alex Smyth

Have you ever found yourself waiting at an intersection for the light to change and a stranger comes up to you and while they may have good intentions, forcibly tries to grab you and bring you across the street? Or have you had someone you don’t know try and grab and pull you against your will? 

Well, don’t fret, as AMI This Week has got you covered! In a short series of segments, Canadian Paralympic Judo star Priscilla Gagné offers tips and tricks for dealing with these situations with her self-defense tutorials. She highlights a few different scenarios and goes step by step on how to protect yourself and let them know you want to be left alone. She describes the scenarios that you may encounter and then takes you through the ways to disengage and protect yourself.

Priscilla knows a thing or two about dealing with people grabbing and holding her. She won a silver medal in Judo at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics and was Canada’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremonies. As one of the best in the world, she shares her knowledge and expertise on how to break grabs, slide body position, and force people to let you go. 

Living with vision loss can make these unwelcomed situations scary and intimidating, but as Priscilla explains in her segments, it’s about being confident in yourself and applying the right force at the right time. It never hurts to practice some of these maneuvers and tactics at home so that if the need arises, you are prepared.

It is also important to remember that these videos and the information provided should only be used to defend yourself in a situation where you feel you cannot get away and if you are dealing with a stranger who won’t leave you alone, screaming for help and getting separation is key.  

So do you want to pick up some self-defense strategies from one of the best Para Judo athletes in the world? Then, tune into AMI This Week on Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern to catch some of Priscilla’s segments. You can also find them online at AMI.ca or on the AMI-tv App.

Want to read more from Alex? Search his name!

Two men, seated at a desk, look at a computer screen.

By Grant Hardy

It’s amazing to see how accessible technology has flourished throughout my lifetime. I love telling stories about useful apps and services and the people who benefit from them in all walks of life.

But sometimes it’s important to just have fun. And the gaming world has some catching up to do—both technology-wise and culturally—to be more accessible and inclusive. Luckily, there are some movers and shakers in the industry working to make a change.

Our latest feature on AMI This Week takes a look at all things inclusive gaming. We start by chatting with Lucas Gates from Neurovaliant, an organization aiming to remove the stigma about people who are neurodiverse participating in the gaming and Esports community. Whether it’s partnering with other gaming organizations to provide sensory kits for people on the Autism Spectrum, or trying to make gaming communities and social networks more inclusive and free of abusive and ableist language, the organization recognizes that gaming can be a great escape for all. But the anonymity of these platforms, making players less shy about directing abusive comments at others, means it’s necessary to work extra hard so players with all abilities feel welcome online.

We also looked at some of the latest research and innovation in accessible gaming. After an interaction with a user who said he couldn’t play a racing game due to his vision loss, Charles McGregor, developer of the HyperDot, worked to make his game more accessible. This included adding the ability to skip troublesome levels as well as features allowing players to use eye tracking, mice and keyboards, and a variety of accessible controllers to control the game. It also includes support for colour blind players, and Charles is working on making the game even more accessible.

And in the field of gaming for blind users, Brian Smith, a P.H.D. Candidate in Columbia Engineering, has written software called The RAD (Racing Auditory Display), that gives a blind user the full experience of playing car racing games. Even as a non-gamer, I’m intrigued about what uses this technology could be put to. I’m convinced it could be both fun and educational. Spacial learning is really important and something I lacked growing up. I think having a safe, gameplay-style way to start appreciating and thinking about the traffic patterns that both drivers and pedestrians must take into account could be very valuable.

For this and much more, check out our piece on accessible gaming. I’m thrilled so much is happening in this world to include marginalized communities and those with diverse abilities in all things gaming.

Learn more by tuning in to AMI This Week, Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv. Want to read more from Grant? Search his name!
 

A pink flamingo stands in a shallow pool of water.

By Alex Smyth

As the days get longer and the warmer weather approaches, spring leads to more days enjoying the sunshine and outdoors. While we are not at a point of returning to the pre-pandemic “normal” we all aspire to, there are many things that have opened up again for our enjoyment. 

One of my favourite places to visit in Toronto has been the Toronto Zoo. I have always enjoyed checking out the animals and learning more about the natural world around us. It had been a while since I visited last, and was eager to return to a place that brings me so much joy. 

I was excited to learn that I would the get the chance to learn about a couple more animals with Animal Class. This time it would be the flamingo and hyena, two animals I soon realized I knew little about. Yes, I knew flamingos were long, pink birds that were surprisingly adaptable to their environments, but I did not know about their behavior, their ability to wrap themselves with their necks, or the social structure that they form in their groups. 

It was truly fascinating to watch the personalities of the individual flamingos show themselves while we were there. There was one female in particular that harassed and essentially bullied the other groups of flamingos as she tried to assert her dominance of the group. I watched as she would go and push around and bug other flamingos, but she would meet resistance as a group of three or four of them would stand their ground and squawk back until she left. It was the truest showcase of the fight for social dominance in the herd, but also the bonds and relationships that the birds would form with others in their groups. I had never paid that much time or attention to a particular group of animals at a zoo before and I was glad I did because it opened a new appreciation for the complex social structures they have. 

Plus, when they got tired of all the squawking and fighting, they would nestle themselves to sleep by laying their heads and necks on their bodies, which seemed impossible to do given the size of their necks. However, they are able to bend and position their necks to wrap around the top of their bodies, preserving warmth and providing comfort. It looks strange, uncomfortable and slightly unnatural, but it was fascinating to watch.

When visiting a zoo, especially one the size of Toronto Zoo, you can be forgiven for overlooking the less popular animals like the flamingo, and focusing your attention on the big cats, rhinos, giraffes, apes and bears. But next time you visit, I recommend that you slow down a little bit and spend some time observing the wide array of other animals the zoo has, like the flamingo, because you may be surprised just how much you learn from them. Who knows, they may even become your new favourite animal! 

Watch AMI This Week, Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv, to learn more.

Want to read more from Alex? Search his name!

A woman, seated at a table, laughs while being filmed for a TV segment.

By Grant Hardy

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has unique needs, with many in the community struggling with addiction and poverty. But there is a growing number of organizations, called social enterprises, that are entering the community to serve the public and address the issues inhabitants know all too well about. I have covered many such social enterprises throughout my career at AMI, and they are always incredible stories to share, with amazing and friendly people who open their hearts and minds both to us and to the communities they serve.

Mission Possible is one such social enterprise, and I invite you to check out the segment we produced on them for AMI This Week. The organization helps individuals break the cycle of poverty and achieve greater success in their lives. There are several arms to Mission Possible, including hot meal programs, employment readiness and pre-employment training, and even paid work experience. Of particular focus was the Employment Readiness Program. It helps marginalized community members ultimately transition into meaningful employment, including developing a résumé, gaining work experience, possibly filling gaps in said résumé, and determining the skills and abilities that serve them best. 

I spoke with two people who were positively impacted by the Employment Readiness Program. Alan struggled with alcoholism and became marginalized, but thanks to Mission Possible he now realizes his skills and abilities lend themselves to a career assisting other people who are marginalized. For example, he has knowledge on how to apply for certain tax credits they may be entitled to. Shauna and her family also struggled with drug addiction, but now she’s been able to transition to a meaningful job as a front desk worker at an SRO (single room occupancy hotel) in the Downtown Eastside.

Mission Possible is also able to provide a helping hand in other ways, such as through hot meals to community members who need them.

Ultimately, everyone we spoke to praised the community and inclusive aspects present in Mission Possible. It is obvious the staff are passionate about this project and organization, and determined to make their communities better. Now that’s inclusion, and it’s done in an incredibly respectful way that takes into account the needs of the vulnerable residents they serve. I invite you to tune into our piece to learn more about Mission Possible.

Learn more about Mission Possible on AMI This Week, Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on AMI-tv.

Want to read more from Grant? Search his name!