Tag Archives: accessibility
Ok, so sometimes I make politically incorrect jokes. Like making fun of Darth Vader for being an amputee in one of the Star Wars: That Other Version videos. Of course, most people don’t live in a galaxy far, far away where amputees can become part-cyborg and reach high levels of professional achievement without facing discriminatory barriers.
So what is it like to be disabled? Youtube to the rescue…
So those are some of the challenges that people in wheelchairs face. Some of the things I didn’t fully realize are:
- Employment. Getting to a job interview isn’t necessarily easy, employers may have discriminatory views about the ability of disabled people, etc. etc.
- Many buildings were built without accessibility in mind so those in wheelchairs cannot go to many places for entertainment, meeting friends, etc.
- Building a ramp does not magically make a building accessible. There are certain requirements such as the ramp not being too steep. I’ve always thought that the ramps around university buildings were ridiculously long. Well, they really do need to be that long.
- Paratransit services tend to have problems. You have to book in advance, so you can’t just spontaneously go somewhere. You may have to wait on the phone to book (e.g. in the Youtube video, the guy gives up pretty early). In Toronto, you have to wait well in advance for your Wheeltrans bus. The whole trip may take hours because other passengers have to be picked up and dropped off. So you have to budget hours for travelling. Effectively, you can only go out once a day.
- Washrooms, fountains, sinks, and stoves (including the controls) have to be designed differently so that they are accessible. Not all homes are ideal.
- Even where things are supposed to be accessible, there will be inconveniences. For example, wheelchair lifts and ramps in buses don’t always work. Elevators are sometimes out of service.
- There is a continuum of mobility. Some people in wheelchairs will climb stairs and use escalators (generally this is dangerous). Some elderly people have extreme difficulty using stairs and parents have difficulty getting strollers up/down stairs and escalators. The elderly and people with strollers would benefit from improvements in accessibility.
Where I live, the politicians lie and make bizarre decisions. Toronto has a streetcar fleet that isn’t wheelchair accessible. The plan is to replace these streetcars with new low-floor streetcars. The TTC (which is really controlled by the politicians on its board) often uses the word accessible when describing these streetcars. They are not (video example). If the TTC instead replaced the old streetcars with accessible buses, it would save money compared to streetcars (see this article by David Gunn, former TTC general manager). The TTC is actually going to spend money on making the transit system inaccessible. Unbelievable.
And the media is rather complacent on the issue, even the Toronto Star. The Star is generally considered a left-wing newspaper so you would think that they support disabled rights. But they are largely silent on the issue of the new streetcar fleet being inaccessible and being more expensive. They are also silent on the TTC pushing back full subway station accessibility from 2020 to 2024 due to budget pressures. Um… I thought that an important function of the press is to inform the public. I guess not. Anyways, The Star is strongly opposed to replacing the streetcar fleet with buses. (The reason for this is probably because they like the old left-wing mayor whose reign ordered the new streetcars and hate the new right-wing mayor who wants to scrap them.)
Anyways, the moral of the story is:
- Don’t always trust government agencies. In the case of the TTC, the board is composed entirely of politicians. The board effectively controls the TTC (they can fire the GM). The politicians get to micromanage the TTC and use it as a platform for furthering their political careers.
- Don’t trust politicians. (Like, duh.)
- Don’t trust the newspapers either. Sometimes they fail.