Changing the Accessibility Conversation #IDPD 2016

Last night I was out for dinner with my Mom. It was a small space, and it took some time getting a table, so we chatted for a while waiting, and then came in and sat down. It was at this point that something unexpected happened. The young waitress came out with only one menu, hands it to my Mom, and asks if she’ll be ordering for me. There was a split second of stunned silence while my Mom and I processed what just happened before I could say “Excuse me?!”.

The young waitress quickly apologized, and handed me a menu. Later after we ordered our meals, my Mom called the waitress over, and asked her to apologize to her daughter. As inherited as this trait might be, it’s still embarrassing for me when my Mom calls someone out on my behalf, though perhaps not nearly as embarrassing as it was for the waitress.

She did apologize, and explained that she hadn’t interacted with disabled people before. I felt a little empathy towards her at this point, perhaps because I too have been on the receiving end of a Mom Rant, and left her with some disability pointers that I hope she’ll remember. Someone else will be getting an email with the Accessible Customer Service Standard.

If this seems at all shocking for 2016, know that it will likely continue into 2017 as well. Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities #IDPD. Disabled people across the world have been bringing attention to issues like this all day, and for decades. I’m protected with a certain amount of privilege that keeps situations like this away from me most of the time, but many people are not.

Fellow blogger Dave Hingsburger recently posted about a disabled man who was finally given agency and the power to make a major decision about his own life at the age of sixty. This is a must read, beautiful post, bring tissue.

As a disabled person, sometimes it seems like this loss of agency is something we have to live with, but it’s not. Loss of agency has much more to do with the system we live in then it does with us as disabled people. I think this is particularly important when we talk about employment, which happens to be part of the theme for this year’s #IDPD.

Let’s face facts, employers would still prefer to hire an able-bodied, neuro-normative person most of the time, especially when that potential employee is white. These are hard times to find jobs for many people, but white, educated, non-disabled people seem a little more entitled to those jobs, and we need to start talking about that with them.

Like this waitress, when you’re just doing your job, sometimes it’s hard to see the people who’ve become invisible in the process. Not unlike the indigenous peoples in Canada whose rights and traditions suddenly become invisible so our Prime Minister can approve a pipeline, create some temporary work for other people, and leave progressing our economy and environment to somebody else.

The bottom line: if we don’t talk about our agency and our rights, and making those things visible, they will be lost to someone else who is louder and more visible then we are.

So please speak out when you can, if not for you, then do it for the many of us who are still not in the conversation today. Start with writing to your MP. Talk about accessibility, talk about a Canadians with Disabilities Act, talk about pipelines. It’s time the conversation shifted.

Accessible Apartment elevators down 3 times this week in Etobicoke

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.

Take Back the Night Toronto 2016 – Sept 16th

All People, All Access: Living with Disabilities and D/deafness for a Barrier and Violence Free World

55 Gould St. Ryerson Student Centre

Friday, September 16, 2016

Community Fair 4pm
Community Dinner 5pm
Rally 6pm
March 8pm

This event is TRANS INCLUSIVE.
ASL interpretation provided – ASL Poster
Tokens provided
Attendant care provided
Childcare provided

For more information visit takebackthenighttoronto.com

From their website:

Take Back the Night is a community based event to protest the fear that women and trans people have of walking the streets at night safely. Take Back the Night is also a grassroots event that honours the experiences of survivors of sexual violence; sexual assault, childhood sexual violence, domestic violence and survivors of state violence such as police brutality, racism, sexist oppression and other forms of institutionalized violence.

At the event, we demand our rights to safety, and lives free of the fear and perpetration of violence, Aboriginal rights, equal status for all women, safe affordable housing, rights for sex trade workers, de-criminalized prostitution, safe shelters, health care, child care, education, employment, raising social assistance rates by 40%, immigration status for all and raising the minimum wage now. We as survivors demand lives free of sexual violence, murder, living in poverty, police injustice and any violence that is directed towards women and children. 

Take Back the Night has been held in Toronto for 35 years. It has been co-hosted by several organizations such as the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, Council Fire, Anne Johnston Health Station, Parkdale Community Health Centre, the Redwood, George Brown College (Assaulted Women and Children Advocate Program), Women Abuse Prevention, Regent Park Community Health Centre, No One Is Illegal, Streethealth, Black Lives Matter, Native Women’s Resource Centre Toronto, Native Youth Sexual Health, Nellie’s, and many, many more.

Take Back the Night is an evening event and protest. It includes a community fair, rally with community-based performers and speakers and a march. It also includes a community dinner, childcare and media presence.

 

Toronto Area Community Consultations on Electoral Reform

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

The 6th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March Saturday, September 24, 2016

The 6th Annual Toronto Disability Pride March Saturday, September 24, 2016

Starting at Queens Park (111 Wellesley Street West) and marching to the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson (99 Gerrard Street East) from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Please note: accessible washrooms are not available at Queen’s Park. Please see information on accessible washrooms on the route page.

Why we’re Marching:

  • To bring recognition of the struggles and value of people with disabilities as we fight against ableism and other forms of oppression.
  • To be visible and show that we have a voice in our community and a right to be heard by taking to the streets.
  • To celebrate and take pride in ourselves as a community of people with disabilities.

Be Loud, Be Proud, Come March with Us!

Find us on Facebook and Twitter @DisabilityPM

We need volunteers and marshals for the march! If you have experience that is great, if not we still want you! If you aren’t sure what a marshal does, here’s a brief description. Please fill out the volunteer form if you are interested.

Some  things you should know if you plan to attend.

The Toronto Disability Pride March aims to promote a cross-disability atmosphere, that also recognizes other forms of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexuality, sanism, etc.  We believe the disability movement is strongest in a harmony of voices, not one homogeneous voice. We ask all those who plan to attend the march to respect this approach and the other people within the space of the march.

Have Questions? email us at torontodisabilitypride@gmail.com.

Come out for TTC Accessibility for All!

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