Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Redefine Accessibility

Many, if not most, built environments labeled accessible are never entirely so.

GO Transit, a public transportation system that serves the General Toronto Area, in regards to backlash from a man using a wheelchair who couldn't get off a train because the station wasn't fully accessible, advised him to contact GO beforehand to see if his station was accessible.

Seriously? A company can't be "fully committed to accessibility" if the people who need it can't access everything they need to; everything able bodied users can; if it creates extra steps for users who require accessibility like calling ahead first or making alternate, expensive plans if they need to go to a station that isn't accessible.

Partial accessibility is a common issue in Toronto, well, probably everywhere. The TTC streetcars, which are the only method of public transportation (unless you apply for the Wheel Trans service and order it in advance of a trip) for much of downtown, are completely inaccessible, although fortunately a new accessible light rail system is being built. Only some TTC subway stations have elevators. The washrooms in the vast majority of bars in the city are located in the basements, with no accessible alternative to the stairs.

I am aware that creating accessibility costs money, but there must be more to it than that, a wider social issue. The need for accessibility is bigger than you may think.


  1. I think it should be available after all we do pay taxes.

    thank your for posting this issue. this issue need awareness.

  2. I totally agree in priciple, but some places do have major problems. The London Underground, for example, was largely built in the Victorian era and faces huge practical difficulties when trying to install wheelchair-friendly exits at some of the very deep stations.

    On the other hand, I recently followed signs to the Ladies in a modern department store and was very pleased to see a wheelchair sign included - until I got to the top of a long flight of stairs. Designers just don't think!

    The 'disabled' loo was perfectly kitted out. Just completely unreachable on wheels!

  3. Sabi - Thanks! Good point. And why should people who require accessibility be required to pay taxes for infrastructure they can't access or can't properly? Thanks for your New Years comment earlier!

    Morning AJ - There are certainly some issues with retrofitting, but honestly, I don't believe in preserving old buildings if it means reducing access. Your department store issue seems quite common. It just goes to show that people who require accessibility are not consulted, at least not properly, when designs are created for so-called accessible buildings.

  4. Hi Ashley, I'm new to reading your blog.... but I like the what I'm reading.
    This is a subject that I can go on and on about. Even though some are really trying, it seems accessibility is what people say to make their establishments seem "friendly". Whether they are truly accessible is another story. Then there is the issue of making things accessible for both visible and non-visible disabilities.

  5. Mark - Welcome to my blog! What you wrote makes sense to me. Why else would companies make fraudulent or misleading claims about their buildings' accessibility? Surely, no one can be that ignorant to these issues. Invisible disabilities impact a perception that accessibility isn't so necessary. If people don't see an assistive device or a visible illness, they generally don't/can't see a need for accessibility. More consultation is needed.