For Detective Jeff Bangild, making the world more accessible is a personal, and professional mission. Detective Bangild joined the Toronto Police Service in 1996. Recently, he spoke with us about accessibility training for new recruits. Training of frontline officers and constables is very extensive in the Toronto Police Service (TPS), with new recruits going through six months of training before they can work on the frontline. In 2018, the TPS launched a mandatory training program for new recruits to improve police interactions with people with disabilities. When Detective Bangild heard about the training, he immediately wanted to get involved.
As a parent of a child with sight loss, Detective Bangild brings his own personal experience to the training. His eight-year-old son, Ryan, was diagnosed with Septo-optic dysplasia when he was three months old. Since then, he has been diagnosed with other disabilities. When new recruits see a picture of Ryan, he doesn't appear to have a disability. Detective Bangild believes this is an opportunity to raise awareness and foster understanding – he explains that not all disabilities are visible, so they may not be immediately apparent during police interactions.
In addition to raising awareness, the training includes information about disability legislation, including the differences between service animal laws and the Blind Persons' Rights Act. Detective Bangild says many business owners don't realize it's against the law to deny access to guide dog handlers.
That said, ignorance is not a valid excuse. Even if the proprietor eventually lets the person into their establishment, he/she can still be fined up to $5,000 under the Blind Persons' Rights Act for the initial refusal. If a guide dog handler is refused service, Detective Bangild recommends calling the local police service, as per the advice on the guide dog ID card that's issued by the Ontario Attorney General. If it’s an emergency, call 911 and police officer will respond immediately. A person doesn't need to make a report on the spot, but it must be reported within six months. Detective Bangild recommends reporting it as soon as possible, so the police can conduct a more thorough investigation.
Beyond the accessibility training, the Toronto Police Service has a Diversity and Inclusion Unit. If the TPS has a public safety message, the unit ensures the information is accessible and easily understood by everyone. Similarly, if someone is charged with an offense, all the paperwork must be provided in an accessible format if it's required by person who is charged.
Thank you, Detective Bangild and Ryan, for advocating to improve police interactions for people with disabilities.