Yesterday (December 20, 2010) at noon, I read the following speech at a rally outside the Hudson Bay Company, at Bay and Yonge. Members of DAMN 2025, OCAP, and the Workers Assembly stood with me in the frigid cold as we handed out leaflets and flyers, and spoke passionately about our cause
Some people might say we have reason to celebrate because the elevator at the Yonge/Bloor subway station has been finally been fixed. I say NO! Not on your life should we accept this token response to our demands for full transit accessibility! For nine long months we have waited for this elevator – the one at the busiest subway station in Toronto! - to be repaired so that we could go to work, go to school, visit friends and family, and be a part of the fabric of our society.
Nine months – from April to December! - nobody could use this elevator. It took the busiest shopping time of the year for the TTC to actually do something about this situation. And I can tell you this: it wasn't because the TTC actually cares about making their services more accessible. If they actually cared about the needs of people with disabilities or had any respect for us at all, then 60% of subway stations and 40% of buses would not be inaccessible! No, what spurred the TTC into action finally was the knowledge that people with disabilities do holiday shopping too.
A couple of years ago I was trying to get my wheelchair off a subway train and my front wheel got stuck in the gap. Instead of showing concern or support the driver of the subway yelled out “Why don't you use Wheel Trans?" Excuse me, but I thought we were supposed to be members of society too. I'm sure he wouldn't have been so rude if it were anybody else. And, isn't Ontario supposed to be accessible by 2025? If this is the attitude of the TTC, it will be 3025 before any change happens.
Telling me to use Wheel Trans shows how little people know about this service. People have to book rides one day in advance. You can't just call up for same day service or book a ride way in advance. As well as this, if you manage to book a ride to your destination you are not always guaranteed a ride back. It's ridiculous and something that people have been complaining about for years. Not only that, but people have been stranded and have experienced rudeness and condescending remarks from drivers.
The fact that this elevator was broken for nine months is disgusting! It also demonstrates the lack of respect for us and lack of empathy for our daily lives. I say we don't stand for it anymore! I say we rally at every broken down elevator in the subway system until they understand we won't back down and we won't go away until every last one is fixed!
Before I read my speech, Lenny told me at the same station as the elevator that had just been recently repaired was another elevator with a sign on it saying that it would be out of service, starting January 10, 2011. No estimated time-line was given as to when this most necessary mobility aid would be back in service, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be a top priority for the TTC.
January 10, 2011. Hmm, I wonder if this start to a brand new decade will actually change anything. New year, new decade - brand new respect and empathy for those of us who need reliable and well-maintained elevators in order to get around with ease,
Truthfully, I'm not holding my breath....