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Newsstand: August 19, 2014

Happy birthday, John Stamos. In the news: the centre-loading Eglinton Crosstown LRT platforms will be dangerous to the vision-impaired, Union Station’s Bay concourse will not be ready for the Pan Am Games, plans move forward to shorten election lawn sign campaigns, and a new study looks at the use of anti-psychotic drugs on dementia patients.

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David Lepofsky, a blind human rights lawyer, says that the planned centre-loading platform design of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is a danger to passengers with vision loss and makes the 12 stations significantly less accessible to them. According to Lepofsky, side-loading platforms allow passengers with vision impairments to keep a safe distance from oncoming trains by using the wall behind them as a safety marker, whereas centre-loading platforms make it nearly impossible to remain oriented. Side platforms also provide clearer walkways, which can be free of support columns and other obstacles. The CNIB agrees with Lepofsky, saying that there are 116,000 people in Toronto living with vision loss, and for them, side-loading platforms are a critical need. Metrolinx confirmed that the decision to make the stations centre-loading was made several years ago, and cannot be altered at this point in time. There are opportunities to incorporate safety measures for people with vision loss into the centre-loading plans, such as the use of textured tiles on platform edges to warn passengers—much like the ones seen in Toronto subway stations. However, Lepofsky says that these strips are easy to miss with a cane, and do not provide enough of a buffer from the edge of the platform.

According to documents obtained by CityNews, Union Station’s Bay concourse will not be completed in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Early construction plans called for the concourse to be completed by July 2015, but delays to the York concourse have pushed that to 2016. While the City maintains that the Bay concourse was never actually scheduled to be completed in time for the Pan Am Games, documents show it is frustrated with the company managing the construction, Carillion Canada. The City’s construction manager vented about the lack of a working construction schedule from the company in a memo from May 2013, while other documents show that the City voiced concerns over work that was not completed to original specifications, and had to ultimately be redone.

Toronto’s licensing committee voted yesterday to support a proposed reduction to the window for candidates to post lawn signs during municipal, provincial, and federal election campaigns. Under the new proposed timeline, candidates would be limited to posting signs 14 days prior to elections. Initially, the proposal had been to limit campaigns signs to a 21-day time frame, but Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) put forward a motion to further reduce it to two weeks. “I hate signs. I would put up zero if I could,” said De Baeremaeker, who made note that he thought it was wasteful to have inspectors trying to enforce sign bylaws during election campaigns. Mayor Rob Ford, who always looks out for the little guy, says that the reduced timeline is unfair for people who are not currently in office and are trying to unseat incumbents. De Baeremaeker, however, thinks that the time limit can actually help candidates with fewer resources.

A study co-authored by Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Lawson Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario, finds that a class of drugs used to treat symptoms of dementia may increase the risk of acute kidney injury in patients. According to the study, dementia patients who were prescribed atypical anti-psychotic drugs as part of their treatment were twice as likely to experience kidney injury. The study also looked at mortality rates within the first three months of being prescribed these types of drugs, with researchers noting that 6,666 dementia patients who were prescribed the drugs died within that timeframe, compared to just 2,985 within the control group.

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