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Alex Smyth previews Animal Class: Hyena

A hyena stands in a green field of grass.

By Alex Smyth

I have written, in previous blogs, about my love for the Toronto Zoo and zoos in general as a means to educate and inform people about the diverse wildlife that our planet has to offer. I like to think of myself as pretty knowledgeable on many of the creatures I meet, but few animals have been the subject of more misconceptions than hyenas. 

On my latest visit to the zoo, I got to learn more about these fascinating animals while talking with zookeeper Josh. He had a clear passion for the animals and his understanding of hyenas was evident as soon as we started chatting. 

There were a few things that I was aware of, such as their sloped backs and strong bites, but Josh was quick to fill me in on more details and facts that made the experience even better. For starters, that bite. I knew it was strong, but I didn’t know that pound for pound, it is one of, if not the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. That’s wild! The strong bites help them break the bones of bigger prey that they hunt. And they do hunt! Another fact that Josh shared with me was that hyenas typically hunt more prey than lions do, completely smashing my understanding of this animal as a scavenger. That’s not to say they don’t scavenge food, but they are also quite effective hunters as well. 

Another aspect of hyenas that I did not appreciate before my visit was their complex social structure. It’s becoming a recurring theme in my blogs and visits that I have not been giving animals enough credit when it comes to their communication and relationship dynamics. With large packs and individual social dynamics amongst hyenas, I will henceforth make no judgements about other animals and how their societal structures work because clearly, they are far more complex than I thought!

I also loved watching Echo, the hyena that Josh was feeding while we were visiting, as it gave more insight into how active they can be. Usually, I will see them meander around during a busy day in the summer, but Echo was active, alert and eating. 

This summer I plan to make my way back to the Toronto Zoo and spend some more time with Echo and all the other great animals the zoo has to offer. If you want to watch our upcoming Animal Class segment on hyenas, be sure to tune in to AMI This Week on Mondays at 8 p.m. Eastern. 

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Grant Hardy previews WAGS of SCI

Two women, sitting in the laps of two male wheelchair users, smile into the camera.

By Grant Hardy

WAGS of SCI, or “wives and girlfriends of SCI,” is a support group for women with partners who sustained a spinal cord injury. It’s one of the most powerful of our AMI This Week stories.

Two young women, Elena and Brooke, had their lives change when their partners had accidents resulting in quadriplegia. Brooke’s partner, Evan, was injured when a massive, unsecured load of construction material fell from a truck onto his head, while Elena’s partner, Dan, was injured in a diving accident in Cuba. In both cases, the injury, aftermath, and recovery were terrifying for all involved, and I’ll let the couples describe their experiences in their own words. In addition to our interviews with the couples in our story, there’s more info on their experiences in an article on Love What Matters.

Disability often pushes couples apart rather than bringing them together, but the two couples we talked to—and many others in WAGS of SCI—have made this journey work for them. Ironically, one thing Elena and Brooke found is that while there are a reasonable number of resources to assist people with spinal cord injuries with rehabilitation, there aren’t a lot of resources for their partners and loved ones. So after meeting on Instagram, they started an online community where women in the same situation can come together, share support and experiences, and learn from one another. The group also does some advocacy, including partnering with a lawyer who can help guide members towards resources for filing for compensation and insurance benefits, adaptations for the home, and simply helping set up medical appointments with the right people. A podcast and many other public resources round out their extensive website and community.

Whether you’re going through a similar situation yourself or find stories about the power of love heartwarming, I encourage you to check out our piece on WAGS of SCI on AMI This Week. Tune in to AMI This Week, Mondays at 8 p.m. Eastern, on AMI-tv or stream it anytime on and the AMI-tv App.

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Previewing the new AMI-tv original series We Are One

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.

Alex Smyth previews Priscilla Gagné’s Self Defense Segments

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 or on the AMI-tv App.

Want to read more from Alex? Search his name!

Grant Hardy previews Inclusive Gaming

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!