accessibility

I’ve lived in the same co-op apartment building since the spring of 2010. There have been times over the years when I’ve been frustrated with where I live, but nothing quite like this past week.

I live in a co-op in Ward 6 in Toronto. I’m fortunate to live in a wheelchair accessible apartment that I can afford, although I think the idea that someone should feel fortunate to live in a space that they can afford and access contributes to the kind of complacency leading to the situation that I’m now in.

As I write this, both elevators in my building are down for the third time this week. I live on the eleventh floor, and I have no idea when they’ll be up and running again. To clarify that, one elevator has been down for the entire week, and within this week the other elevator has broken down three times.

The first time was Tuesday, November 22nd, at around 10:30pm. I had just come into the building after visiting my friend in hospital on the other side of the city, so it was already a long day. I was just about to enter the elevator when the fire alarm went off. I waited downstairs for the fire department, and the fire situation was quickly resolved, someone was smoking in the stairwell. That should’ve been the end of it, but it wasn’t.

The firemen couldn’t get the elevator to go back in service. They couldn’t even get inside. They tried everything they could think of to get the elevator running again, even setting the alarm off to try to get it to reset, but it wouldn’t.

At this point I should explain that the building has some security, but they check on a range of building in the area. There is paid maintenance during the weekday, and the rest of the time we rely on volunteer maintenance. It’s well known in my building that the volunteer rarely answers his phone, and you have better luck banging on his door, but he was on vacation. My building manager was also on vacation.

There are a lot of seniors, and people with disabilities living in my building, thankfully I was the only one stuck downstairs. Security contacted my building manager, who contacted the daytime maintenance and the elevator repair company. It was about 11:30-12am when the maintenance guy came, he was not able to fix the elevator. He and security stayed with me until 1 am when my partner could get there. My partner and I decided to leave for an accessible hotel, the closest an hour away. My power chair was nearly dead, my cell phone was dead, and I had just the clothes on my back and my purse.

At 2 am, the fire department, thankfully nearby, saw us waiting for the night bus, and told us elevator repair company had shown up, and we went home. They knew because one of my neighbours got fed up and called 911. My local fire department is actually pretty great.

Since then, it was down Friday November 25th from before 6:30am to 10:30am, and again today, which is Sunday November 27th, I do not expect the elevator to work until Monday. I only found out about this because the person who came to assist me in the morning climbed 11 flights of stairs to get to me.

For me, I work full-time, and this impact my job and well-being. I’m trapped in my own home today, but it’s also a major safety concern for the seniors and people with disabilities that live here. What if an ambulance was called?

I recognize that sometimes things happen, but what really is most upsetting is the lack of preventative measures or concern.

When I called the building office on Friday, they acknowledged the problem, but offered no solutions or preventative measures. She offered to call me when the elevators were up, but I was already downstairs by the time she thought to call.

At the very least, we need full-time maintenance staff, and someone to check on vulnerable people when the elevators are down for more than an hour. Co-op members should be informed of expected repair times, and be given the option to switch companies if that’s what’s needed. This cannot be allowed to continue.

I’m writing to my Councillor Mark Grimes and my building manager Gary McMayo. I welcome other suggestions.

Let’s make sure disabled voices are heard on this important issue!

  • The following is a list of community consultations on electoral reform happening in the Toronto area, please find the consultation closest to you if you wish to attend.
  • There are consultations happening across Canada. Please contact your MP for more information on these consultations.
  • Please Note: Some locations require RSVP.
  • Please also note: At time of writing, no accessibility information is readily available regarding these consultations. I will update as more information is available (all the more reason to make sure disabled people are heard on this issue).

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall, Hosted by the Hon. Kirsty Duncan and MP James Maloney. 7 – 9 pm, Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall, Etobicoke, ON

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 – Willowdale Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Ali Ehsassi, 7pm – 9pm, North York Civic Centre Council Chambers, North York, ON RSVP

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Salma Zahid, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Scarborough Centre Scarborough Civic Centre, Committee Rooms 1-2, 150 Borough Drive, Scarborough, ON

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Bill Blair, 6 – 8pm, Warden Hilltop Community Centre 25 Mendelssohn St, Toronto, ON

Sunday September 11th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with Hon. Carolyn Bennett, 3 – 5 pm, Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Federal electoral reform community dialogue tour with Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, time and location to be confirmed, Toronto, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MPs Jane Philpott and John McCallum, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm, Markham Village Library Fireside Lounge, 6031 Highway 7, Markham, ON

Wednesday September 14th, 2016 – Community Consultation at 6:30pm at the Calvary Church to discuss and share ideas about the future of Canada’s democratic principles, and to identify and study other voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post. Toronto-Danforth, ON

Sunday September 18th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Town Hall with MP Rob Oliphant, (Special Guest to be announced), 2 – 4 pm, Don Valley West at Temple Emanu-El, 120 Old Colony Rd., Toronto, ON, RSVP

Sunday September 25th, 2016 – Electoral Reform Townhall with MP Francesco Sorbara, 3 – 6 pm, Vellore Village Community Center, Open to all residents of Vaughan-Woodbridge, Woodbridge, ON

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 4:00pm
Please join us at Yonge and Bloor Station, Toronto, Ontario


D!ONNE Renée is the organizer behind this event. If you have any questions, want to throw your virtual support behind her, or have comments, reach out to her via email or on Twitter at @OnElectionDay.

Click to listen to audio announcement.

The announcement reads:

Accessibility is a Right — Not an Option

On Wednesday, August 31, 2016 – Between 4pm – 8pm, on behalf of community and Public interests, an #AccessibilityNow! TTC campaign/protest will take place starting in the Yonge and Bloor area to raise issues concerning discrimination based on disability, barriers, and ableism in transit and its services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets out the interpretation for “barriers.” Too many barriers exist within the TTC. It is not acceptable to take a “minimum/at least” approach in improving access for all. The standard should be a model that reflects an equal to or greater than the access that is currently available, model. The equal to or greater than the access that is currently available model is a model of equity and equality.

People have a right to access public systems; in this right, people should feel that they have the option to be free to choose whether they access those systems or not. We are all not free just to be.

Approximately 35 out of 65 subway stations are “partially accessible,” on good days. Functioning equipment = good days. “Partially accessible” means that all patrons don’t have the option to access the system for lack of elevators, Braille information and helps, proper signage (large print, clear, large-enough digital boards), functional escalators, inaccessible entrances/exits (now including Presto Card gates and readers) to subway stations, buses, streetcars, and extraordinary Wheel Trans wait/scheduling. Plus the TTC worsened accessibility when they began replacing the names of Toronto’s subway lines with confusing numbers.

TTC (and transit across Ontario and Canada) must be proactive in its operations and provide equality in its services and not discriminate against anyone, including people with disabilities and/or people requiring accessible access in order to use its systems. TTC was able to find money to implement Presto Card systems into its subway, bus, and streetcar services even though the gate systems being used at subway and bus stations are all not accessible; but TTC seems to be unable to be actively proactive in ensuring that all areas of TTC are fully accessible.

While this event will take place in downtown Toronto, the issues and concerns being raised affect all of Ontario and Canada. We want everyone to have the ability to travel independently, or in group, as we so choose.

We want a barrier-free Canada.

Will you help?

Will you join the protest and invite others to do so too? Will you gather with community in accessibility advocacy? #AccessibilityNow #GetItRight #AODA #AODAFail

Disability advocate Tim Rose is attempting to fly to Cleveland to deliver a presentation on the importance of accessibility. But, ironically, he can’t get there because a major airline is refusing to accommodate – or even brainstorm possible ways to meet – his needs. Although Air Canada is the only airline to fly there direct (and thus Tim’s only reasonable option), they are refusing to transport his wheelchair because it is too difficult for them. Despite the fact that he has flown this exact route with Air Canada on a similar plane before (not to mention flown many times around the world). Despite the fact that their own accessibility policy commits to transporting mobility aids that do not fit on smaller planes by another method. and despite the fact that they have almost two months to come up with a solution. They are saying Tim wanting to fly with his wheelchair is the same thing as trying to bring an oversized bag. Tim and his wheelchair are not baggage.

This is hardly the first time people with disabilities have received inequitable treatment by Air Canada, see this article from 2009, and this article from 2015 for just a couple examples.

A while back I also started a petition related to this issue.

See Tim’s video below. Apologies this video is not yet captioned. I will post a captioned video when it becomes available.

 

 

My proposed line-up of disability-themed movies:

  • A group of crip sisters sharing stories of their struggles through the years, and how their crip sisterhood helped them through it.
  • Maybe those crip sisters are on a spaceship, as part of a rebellion.
  • Two young disabled people from divided houses fall in love. In an act of rebellion against family pressure, they don’t kill themselves, but instead start a family of their own.
  • A disability activist searches for meaning in their own life while fighting for safeguards in assisted suicide laws.
  • A group of disabled/Mad friends go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. They wake up the next morning to discover one of their friends is missing, and encounter various shenanigans while looking for them.

Ok so maybe I should stick with writing blogs, but I still think these films would be better than what’s on the table.  See this review of Me Before You if you’re not sure what I’m referring to here.

We know why ableist films and messages continue to spread, as do sexism, racism, and homophobia.

We have a responsibility to call out these stories, so that their toxic messages do not spread.

I’ve been seeing posts and messages that “it’s just one story” or “they don’t mean you”, but I think those posts miss the point.

I grew up in an area without many other disabled people. I had no disabled role models until I left home. Despite the privileges of being a white, middle class kid, I grew up with a lot of discrimination, but I didn’t know that’s what it was. I thought it was me, that I was broken. I was surrounded by sometimes well-meaning able-bodied people who saw my disabledness as something to mourn, or to mould into something more acceptable. They didn’t have better stories either.

Ableist stories were all I had until my twenties. Yes, I’m still here, but they’re woven into my formation, that’s just how it is.

Growing up in that environment still impacts me, some days I still feel broken. Some days ableist attitudes from others convince me for a time that I don’t belong, that I am less of a person.

I am fortunate now, that I have a strong community of disabled folks around me, but not everyone does.

Ableist stories and messages might not impact all of us equally, but they do cause harm.

We need to tell our own stories. We need less suicide and more solidarity.

Preferably with rebel forces on space cruisers.

Sign the Petition.

Every time I fly I make a silent apology to my wheelchair. I leave the chair at the gate, fingers crossed, as I’m transported to the cushy seat on the plain with a small screen in front to distract me from what’s happening to my wheelchair in the cargo hold.

For my wheelchair this journey will be far more hazardous. Once it leaves my sight, this machine that provides me with daily independence, freedom, and mobility, gets thrown on the carts and on to the loading machines with the similar respect that passengers suitcases would expect.

Imagine watching you 600 pound chair get tossed on its side and just hoping your chair isn’t melted, broken, or taken apart by the time you reach your destination. Yes, these things actually happen to people.

I’ve looked up the standards and regulations, it turns out Transport Canada is really concerned about wheelchair batteries, as they should be. They are also rightly concerned about the accessibility of the aircraft, there are also Training Regulations for Employees and Contractors Who Handle Mobility Aids. These were written in 1994.

They state:

Every carrier shall ensure that, consistent with its type of operation, all employees and contractors of the carrier who may be required to handle mobility aids receive the training described in section 4 (Employees and Contractors who interact with the Public) and a level of training appropriate to the requirements of their function in the following areas:

(a) different types of mobility aids;

(b) requirements, limitations and procedures for securing, carrying and stowing mobility aids in the passenger compartment of a vehicle; and

(c) proper methods of carrying and stowing mobility aids in the baggage compartment of a vehicle, including the disassembling, packaging, unpackaging and assembling of the mobility aids.

Were you expecting more details? Me too.

So here’s my point:

Power wheelchairs cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. I hate to make that argument, but it’s true. It’s also a good thing because that independence allows the people who need the devices to do great things that give back to the economy.

People who use mobility devices do a lot of flying, I don’t have statistics, but I’m fairly certain it has increased since 1994 when that training was put in place.

I think it’s time we treated mobility devices and the people who use them with a little more respect. When Canadians voted in their government last fall Prime Minister Trudeau promised a Canadians with Disabilities Act, and it seems like it’s been forgotten ever since.

I’m hoping he proves me wrong.

Canada makes changes to the way Canadians fly for all kinds of reasons, but changing the way we transport mobility aids would benefit Canadians, save us money in replacing these devices, and boost the economy by encouraging travel.

We can do this! Sign the Petition.

#On December 3rd, let’s remind Trudeau what an #AccessibleCanada4All looks like.

Canada has a new government, and with that new opportunities for change, new potential, new possibilities. Among those possibilities is the Canadians with Disabilities Act.

It seems that Trudeau has taken up the call, and made this potential Act a part of the mandate for our new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Carla Qualtrough.

But what does this mean in terms of real change in the disparity of equity that disabled people face across this country?

There are some promising points here, Minister Qualtrough has a background as a human rights lawyer and Paralympian; this suggests that she is familiar with the struggles we as disabled people face.

Unfortunately, this potential legislation is already being framed in terms that will favour some of us over others. There are people who firmly believe that this national idea should follow in the path of provincial legislation that came before it, such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This legislation was not so much focused on preserving our rights, as it was about getting disabled people involved in the economy, employment and industry.

These are still important points, but sometimes the more privileged disabled people tend to forget the many other hurdles that keep so many more of us behind.

  • The need for accessible, affordable housing.
  • Protection of the rights of parents with disabilities.
  • Accessibility in healthcare, including Indigenous Peoples and refugees.
  • Police training in effectively and sensitively working with disabled people.
  • Distribution of Health and Social transfers to address the inequities in the systemic barriers that exist between provinces and territories.

These are just a few examples, I’m sure there are many more.

This is why I’m asking all disabled people in Canada and their allies to make their voices heard.

Thursday December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is also the day before Prime Minister Trudeau’s Throne Speech.

That is why on December 3rd I’m asking all of you to show our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet what an Accessible Canada for all looks like.

Using the hashtag #AccessibleCanada4All please take to social media and remind them that real change is not a continuation of the status quo, where only the most advantaged of us move forward.

This is our time. Let’s make it count.

Please share the #AccessibleCanada4All campaign with your networks.