Disabled still struggle to navigate Toronto

Cory Daniels, 41, has been confined to his wheelchair since he was involved in a car accident in 2000.

Since then, he’s found travelling the city difficult and longs for the days when life was much easier prior to the accident.

As his sister Deborah helps (him) into  his chair he lights a cigarette, exhaling slowly, signs of frustration are evident in his stare. He generally believes most people take walking for granted and that just getting groceries from store can be an arduous task.

“I had to take the bus to a certain point to get to the subway, only to have to get off several stops before or after my intended stop because the station I want isn’t wheelchair accessible.”

Daniels was referring to his frustration with travelling downtown from his Scarborough home and the lack of wheelchair accessible TTC stations equipped with elevators and ramps. As most frequent users of the transit system are aware, the majority of stations are only equipped with escalators and long flights of stairs.

“I used to go to the Harbourfront every weekend in the summertime, but now it’s simply not that easy,” Daniels said. “I remember trying to take the TTC downtown for the first time (after the accident); it was one of the frustrating experiences I ever had in my life.”

Besides problems of gaining access to the city’s transit system, Daniels has had to seek other means of transportation such as taxis services which he says can be “extremely costly” for someone on a fixed income.

He said he also found the number of downtown restaurants and stores unable to facilitate the disabled “unacceptable”.

Steps have been taking by the city to ensure that all Toronto residents are able to move freely through the city regardless of disability by making Toronto more accessible for all.

Bernita Lee, coordinator of the Disabilities Issue Committee, is in charge of implementing the city’s Accessibility Plan which is a requirement under the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“Our mandate is to advise city council about the implementation and effectiveness of the Accessibility Plan.”

Mayor David Miller says that the city will continue to support and fund an “accessible” Toronto.

“City council is committed to the goal of being a barrier-free city in which all people with disabilities can exercise their civil and social rights on an equal basis,” Miller said.

The mayor said he’ll continue to see through his commitment of renovating Toronto’s infrastructure to suit the needs of everyone. He vowed to produce results, but hinted it’ll take more than just funding.

“This is an issue I feel strongly about and our goal is attainable and will be accomplished. It’s going to take not only funding, but patience as well.”