“It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has got to get on with life.” — Stephen Hawking
St. James Town is my hometown of ten years. My family and I moved here for the sole reason that my previous neighbourhood was not very accessible. After a short time of living in St. James Town, I realized the neighbourhood had some serious accessibility concerns for its residents who have a disability and who are wheelchair bound – like me.
Accessibility issues can be as minor as the curbs on the sidewalks not being level, to more serious concerns like why every place of business doesn’t have a ramp and an automatic door opening button next to the entrance.
As a person with a disability, I shouldn’t have to rely on others to hold doors open for me or to help me get up sidewalk curbs or stairs. It is important that efforts are made to ensure that every building is wheelchair accessible. At the same time it’s a horrible feeling to realize that my independence costs landlords, business owners and the city money – a lot of money.
Take the Dollar Store on Wellesley and Yonge. The store has an automatic door push button, so I can get in – GREAT! BUT once I enter, there’s a full flight of stairs and no elevator. Sometimes I wonder if the people who build the buildings in and around St. James Town think about those with special needs. We DO go into buildings.
There are a lot of things about St. James Town I love, but accessibility isn’t one of them. Personally, I wish employers would think about their businesses’ accessibility a little more – whether it be making sure aisles aren’t so narrow, to putting portable ramps at their doorways.
I love the transit system in terms of accessibility. Wellesley station just got an elevator, which makes things so much easier for me. The buses have ramps and designated seating. Accessibility is for everyone.
There are things we can all do to help those with accessibility issues. Holding the door open for someone with a disability when there is no automatic button is a huge help. This is a personal pet peeve of mine: able-bodied people taking the elevator instead of the stairs. They should leave the elevators for those who truly need it. The things an abled-bodied person may see as “perks” are things I need to function day to day. Do not take your mobility for granted!
Yael Gottesman is a youth journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre – a partner of The Corner.