Friday, November 21, 2014

A difference that can be felt: Braille plaques help residents with vision loss with their garbage and recycling

Kelly Nadeau is one of the first Calgarians to receive plaques on his carts
Taking out the garbage and recycling every week is a routine task for most Calgarians. But for residents with vision loss, it’s not quite so straightforward. Telling the difference between a blue cart for recycling and a black cart for garbage can be difficult. That’s why The City of Calgary’s Waste & Recycling Services is now offering Braille plaques to help Calgarians differentiate between their carts.

“We first learned about the issue from the citizens who were affected by this,” says Waste & Recycling Services program coordinator Philippa Wagner. “We worked in partnership with Community & Neighbourhood Services to figure out the best solution. A City accessibility committee was also involved in providing feedback for the design and placement and that’s how we came up with the idea for Braille plaques.”

With many vision problems to accommodate for, the new plaques are designed to meet all those needs. They contain a large raised letter – a G for garbage and R for recycling – in high contrast to help those with limited vision. There are also raised dots included for those who read Braille. The plaques are installed on the lids of carts to help users know which cart is which.

Kelly Nadeau is the chair of the accessibility committee and one of the first residents to receive the plaques. Nadeau has a medical condition known as cone rod dystrophy that causes separation in the cones, rods, and retinas of his eyes. He is legally blind and has been living with vision loss for most of his life.

Using touch, citizens can use the lettering to tell their carts apart

“People don’t think about the small details that affect their lives. For me and my vision loss, I have to adapt,” says Nadeau. He uses his sharp memory to his advantage – before receiving the plaques he relied on keeping his carts in the exact same order and remembering the shapes of the lids and carts. With the addition of the plaques it makes it that much easier for him to tell his carts apart.

“It may seem like a small change, but it’s all about giving people options to maintain their independence. It’s great that The City of Calgary is working towards accessibility.”

Resident Kelly Nadeau speaks with City employee Philippa Wagner
Accommodation and accessibility play a big role in breaking down barriers to help people gain independence and lead the lives they want. Nadeau is a strong advocate for independent living and universal design. “We live in a society that is continually aging and will need to be accommodated for. It’s not about special needs, it’s about equal access. It’s about making it easier for everybody,” he says. Through his work on the accessibility committee, Nadeau is also helping on projects like the extension of four-car C-Train platforms and the planning for The City’s new recreation centres.

“If we can offer another tool to help people do their tasks, then it’s important for us to do,” says Wagner. “The Braille plaques are just one way The City is working to provide equal access to our programs and services.”

The plaques will be installed at no charge for anyone who needs them – contact 311 to make a request.


  1. This is good, but I am curious as to how this will work in the winter months when snow and ice accumulate on the lids... Maybe a specific spot on the side/front would work as well?

    1. This is our first season implementing the plaques but we will be working directly with the residents who are using them to get their feedback. The plaques are placed on an area on the lid that is meant to be the most accessible and we will monitor outdoor conditions as well.

  2. What a great idea!!!!!