wheelchairs

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.

 

 

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.

Dear Chair:

Two and a half years ago you and I made a deal. I would work and in return we could go on adventures together. We’ve been to Edmonton, where the snow fell in March and we could barely get through the snow. In England, where I blew up my transformer and you held on for as long as you could. We learned that English chargers do it quietly, and with style.

You are a part of my identity. Accompanying me on everything; my daily commute, protests, coffee meetings, kisses, and cat cuddling sessions. You make my life possible, and I’ve failed you.

I took a risk. Like many who work in wheelchairs I pay your repairs out of pocket. It gets expensive. It would’ve cost $200 for them just to show up this weekend, just to look at you. Instead I chose to pay rent, and student loans, and that amazing new coffee maker I bought the week before. But hey, this was the deal we made, to live life without fear of broken parts.

Now we’re here, you and I, unmoving. Let down by an unregulated wheelchair repair system that encourages people to stay on poverty; on ODSP repairs are free, and you and I thank the credit card. It’s funny how with all my activism I missed what’s right under my feet. Now we wait, without any sense of when the work will be done, or what it will cost.

There has to be something better, for all of us.

It’s one in the morning as I write this, I’m waiting to post it until morning because I’m pretty tired, but I wanted to get this out. I’m sitting here trying to drown out this rushing water sound in my ears, no doubt caused by listening to my building’s fire alarm for a half hour, waiting for it to shut off, or some (hopefully attractive) firemen to come rescue. Whoever designed this building didn’t really think through the painfully loud fire alarm when deciding to put the accessible apartments on the eleventh floor with no balconies.

This brings me to my point in writing this. While my neighbours were outside waiting out the situation in the freezing cold, I was trapped on the eleventh floor and at risk of damaging my ears. I’m grateful that I at least have the mobility to turn the lights on, and let the firemen know that I’m here. A lot of people don’t have that luxury and are stuck in their beds at night.

Maybe it was the creepy movie I’d been watching, or just the stress of the situation, but I started thinking of what I would do if this were a serious fire. I decided that if I saw smoke coming through the door I would grab my winter scarf, some towels, or anything else I could find to block it with. I was hoping that adrenaline would take over for my disability and make that happen quickly.

Then I got scared when I thought of my poor little cat hiding under the bed. She’s been through hell and back with me, but there’s no way I could save her like that. Nevermind all my things, and the wheelchair I’m dependent on. Like many, I’m too poor to afford renters insurance, let alone replace what I’d lose.

Thankfully it’s all over now, and everyone seems safe (terrified cat included). Still, I can’t help but wonder if anyone has died this way. We need better emergency standards, or at least some way for emergency workers to know that people like me can’t get out.

Find out about the march

It’s not a question of if austerity will impact Canadians with disabilities, but a question of when.

We need only look over to the UK for proof. Coalition proposals with see the Disability Living Allowance cut in that country by 20%, pushing those people into increasing poverty. Hate crimes against people with disabilities are also on the rise. Some 47% of people with disabilities say attitudes towards them have worsened over the last year. A recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report concluded that “people with disabilities in the UK face harassment, insult and attack almost as a matter of routine, while a collective denial among police, government and other public bodies means little is done to challenge the situation”.

If you’ve been following disability-related news here in Canada, this situation might seem eerily familiar. With recent provincial elections in Manitoba and Ontario, there is a heightened awareness that healthcare, housing, and disability benefits in those provinces might be headed for the chopping block as the recession drags on. Consider the case of Ontario’s Special Diet benefit. When people started using the benefit regularly to bring their income to a slightly less impoverished level, McGuinty cut it back, making it much more difficult for people with disabilities to access.

In the Ontario provincial election, it was not only social assistance programs, but also accessibility legislation that came under threat. During their campaign the Tories refused to commit to advancing the cause of making Ontario a fully accessible province; they refuse to agree not to cut existing legislation, or to effectively enforce it. Municipal politicians are also unafraid to cut on the backs of people with disabilities. In Toronto, Rob Ford and his cronies have considered putting the accessible transit system and social housing on the chopping block, crucial services for people with disabilities in this city.

Much like people with disabilities in the UK, Canadians have faced high profile disability hate crimes in the past few months. In August, a man who used a wheelchair died four days after being viciously assaulted in his Winnipeg apartment. Toronto has experienced two situations involving police interaction with people with disabilities. In July, Police used handcuffs to restrain a nine-year-old disabled boy who they say “became uncontrollable” at a Toronto daycare centre. Around the same time, a man with a disability was killed during interactions with Toronto police. No one should be dying in police interactions in Toronto!

Perhaps it’s time to take a hint from across the ocean, and fight austerity before it has already won. The situations in Canada and the UK may not be the same, but they are similar. Not only are people with disabilities part of the 99%, they are typically part of the lowest 1% of the 99%. A major reason why we don’t have decent accessible housing is that the Canadian government would rather focus on things like corporate tax breaks…And the fact that 70% of people with disabilities in Ontario can’t find a job while ODSP continues to be the most steadily increasing item in the province’s budget…well that’s a more complicated issue that is partly bigotry and discrimination, and partly that disability organizations that are supposed to be helping us fight back have been pacified, their attention has been too focused on government imposed accessibility standards. We have Canada’s first women with a disability in the official opposition, but people with disabilities are still feeling powerless. History has shown that it’s movements, not legislation, that end discrimination. Since when is a government supposed to tell us which rights to fight for?

In the past two weeks, occupations have sprung up across Canada in support of similar movements in the United States and around the world in solidarity. People with disabilities are among both the occupiers and people who support them. Everyone can play a role in this movement. People with disabilities are bring given accessible supports within the occupation in Toronto that would normally take months to receive in their day-to-day lives.

We’re living in a system that really only pays lip-service to people with disabilities, and doesn’t want people realizing that their struggles are connected, so if this movement wants to change the system, and is putting the needs of people with disabilities on par with the non-disabled, then whatever the outcome, I feel that’s a movement worth supporting.

Please join us on Saturday October 29th, 12pm at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto for the Toronto Disability Pride March. Torontonians with disabilities have a voice, and it’s time we used it.

Disability author and former managing editor of Abilities magazine Lisa Bendall recently started a new Yahoo group for people with disabilities and their family members living in and around the Toronto area. The group is called Freewheels and is for anyone interested in posting or reading messages that are specifically about gently used disability-related equipment and devices. People who subscribe to the free listserv can swap, donate, buy, sell or make a request for free (or very modestly priced) used disability-related stuff that’s no longer needed.
Website:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freewheels/

Peter Athanasopoulos apologized to six mayoral candidates: the wheelchair-accessible cab he ordered had arrived 30 minutes late.

His difficulties reaching a debate on disability issues in Toronto, a city whose subway stations won’t be guaranteed accessible until 2024, underscored Athanasopoulos’s argument transportation is a “huge issue” for people like him.

“I would have taken the subway but the gap was just way too big and it wouldn’t be safe for me,” he added during a debate Tuesday, June 29 in which contenders for mayor clashed over whether to keep group homes apart and how best to move disability issues forward at City Hall.

The city’s Disability Issues Committee, an advisory group that meets four times a year, might not serve that purpose, several candidates suggested at the forum hosted by non-profit groups at the University of Toronto’s Innis College.

“What’s there now is a way to appease the community,” said Giorgio Mammoliti, who suggested a dedicated committee of council could make more substantial changes happen.

If the disability committee is only a “feel good” group, “let’s blow it up,” George Smitherman suggested, but said he’d give the committee more power and make senior staff responsible for achieving its goals.

Smitherman, a former MPP, said the city needs to adopt “more exacting targets” for hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities.

Sarah Thomson, a publisher, said her administration will use remote or work-from-home programs and new technologies to open more municipal jobs to the disabled.

Rob Ford, an Etobicoke councillor and business owner, said financial incentives would encourage companies to hire workers with disabilities. Ford, who often names city spending he considers excessive, said more should be spent on making buildings accessible to the disabled.

“You should spend a lot of money helping these people out.”

Ford also said he sees no need to keep the city’s required 250-metre separation between group homes, adding he doesn’t believe in spreading them out. “If there can be four in a row, why not?”

Joe Pantalone, also a city councillor, said the distance requirements for group homes ensure they are distributed fairly. “If you really believe in spreading the wealth around, if you will, then you got to make sure every neighbourhood has its share of everything,” he said.

“Distance requirements achieve that.”

But Rocco Rossi, a former Liberal Party of Canada president, suggested enforcing such “Byzantine” rules for group homes takes options away from people with disabilities and said he was appalled by Pantalone’s view on spreading them out.

“Where does that end? Does that say every fourth house can be Italian, every third house can be Greek?” he asked.

From the audience, John Rae, vice president of Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, said right-wing candidates like to cut programs and contract them out to the private sector, an approach he warned against. “We in the disabled community know trickle-down economics rarely if ever trickles down to us.”

But later, Rae, though still undecided, said he had been most impressed by the performance of Thomson, the candidate whom Pantalone argued “wants to contract out everything.”

Rae said he was impressed with Thomson’s “no nonsense” support for his suggestion the city should stop purchasing all items that cannot be used by everyone who wants to work for the city.

Meanwhile, Athanasopoulos, part of an earlier event in which Rossi and Smitherman experienced the challenges of using a wheelchair for a day, was wearing a Smitherman button. He said he has seen Smitherman’s work with community organizations, and believes he will solve issues for people with disabilities.

Reproduced from http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/cityhall/article/841942–mayoral-candidates-debate-disability-issues