Marchers call for equal rights for people with disabilities

Marchers took Toronto streets on Sept. 23, calling for transit to be more accessible

When Grofran Alyass needs to take the subway, her parents plead for help carrying her wheelchair up steep flights of stairs if there is no elevator.

Accessibility in Toronto still remains a problem. Only 35 of 69 TTC stations are currently accessible.

“I’ve been in subway stations where I face that sense of vulnerability,” Alyass said.

“My parents plead for help to carry me and my chair up the stairs, and it’s multiple steps. I’ve had to go to a station further down the road when there is a station near my house because that station is not accessible.”

She was one of about 100 people who took to the streets Sept. 23 for the annual Toronto Disability Pride March on Sept.23. They changed in the heat to get their message across — the need for better accessibility throughout the city for those with disabilities.

“These issues are being spoken about, they are being discussed, but discussion is not enough, it has to go further, it has to come into action, and acknowledgment is a big part,” said Alyass, a student in the disability studies program at Ryerson University. “These people, us, are facing issues, are going through struggles, and it needs to end, and someone needs to be that voice.”

The government should do more to make Toronto more accessible, she added.

Jenna Roy travelled from Gatineau, Que., to participate in the annual event for the first time. She said disability pride is important to bring to Canada, but there aren’t any similar events in her city.

“It was really empowering to be with community, with people who are also proud to be disabled and proud to be who they are, like unashamed of the things that make them different and the things that make them amazing because they’re different,” she said.

Roy said one of the biggest types of discrimination she faces in Gatineau is accessing transit with wheelchairs.

In Quebec, people with disability have less protection as they do not have legislation that is similar to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to protect them.

“My biggest blatant form of discrimination that I face was being denied and denied and denied access to a bus that had a ramp, that was going from an accessible stop to an accessible stop,” Roy said.

“That stopped me because of policy that believed disabled people didn’t have the ability to plan their own transit and policy that stopped them from doing that.”