Canada’s 150 birthday
This is Sam. So everyone was talking about Canada’s 150 birthday. You heard about it in the news, in ads, on talk shows, and everyone is talking about the history of Canada .I am so glad and proud to be Canadian, but when I hear people talking how this portion of society helped formed Canada or that portion of society went through a lot in order for us to enjoy what we have now , it frustrates me to no end not to hear any mention how the disability community advanced accessibility for all. You may say “well I don’t use the accessibility features”. Well have you ever taken a ramp instead of the stairs because you were carrying something or pushing a cart, or taken an elevator without thinking about walking up or down the stairs in the TTC? These features are all complementary of people with disabilities advocating for years and years. We just don’t hear about them when we celebrate our history in Canada. You might if you are connected with the disability community, but if you’re not, forget it.
I have two favourite moments in my disability history. I believe it was 1981, the year of persons with disabilities. We’ve been lobbying the TTC and the local government to make the TTC accessible for all. We met with executives of the TTC and board members, but to no avail. So what did we do? We held a rally march/wheel. It was a sight to behold. It was so amazing. There were at least a hundred of us (don’t quote me on that) wheeling and marching up on the north side of Yonge Street. We wheeled /marched from New City Hall to the head office of the TTC. When we’d got there there was a board meeting going on.. Only a few of us were allowed to go to the seventh floor boardroom where it was taking place. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to go up. I stayed in the lobby. The lobby was packed. No one could move. When our representative came down after the meeting, she told us that they said there would never be an elevator in the subway. We prove that one wrong in many folds.
My other favourite moment in my disability history was when I accompanied a group of fellow disability activists on a trip to Buffalo to try out their new accessible Light Rail Transit system. When we returned, we attended a city council meeting and made a deputation. It was there when I explained to city council that when I boarded that LRT, I realised at that moment how free I was to go where I wanted to, and when. The analogy I told them to describe the emotions that swept over me was; imagine you were convicted of a horrible crime you didn’t commit and was sentenced for life. Five years later they come and unlock your cell and say, “Sorry, we made a mistake, you’re free to go”. At that moment I could tell that I hit a nerve. The council passed a motion to start looking at putting elevators in subway stations.
How wonderful it would be if we all got the recognition we all deserve. No, I’m not looking for any. I just want the one portion of our society to get what it deserves.