By: Sujit K. Reddy
December 3rd 2018 – Every year since 1981 when the United Nations declared December 3rd as the International Day of People With Disabilities, people all over the world have been organizing events and activities to enhance the awareness of disability and the daily struggle that those within the community deal with on a daily basis.
This year in Toronto, I had the privilege of attending one part of a 3 part event that spanned across the city of Toronto which dealt with the issue of public space accessibility. The event was sparked by a project which is being conducted by students at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), to approach businesses and evaluate them on how accessible they really are by way of a survey of carefully crafted questions. My perspective during the event was two-fold: 1) If I came to this venue on my own (i.e. a manual wheelchair user), would I be able to accomplish what I intended to on my own? 2) If someone in an electric scooter or electric wheelchair be able to manage without any assistance?
After we evaluated the businesses in the area, and sat down to have a discussion about our experience of the event & what we learned, one thing that came up in our discussion is the idea that the concept of ‘Accessibility’ does not mean the same thing to everyone, and that often those who are responsible for making our public spaces accessible do not have a concrete understanding of what it should be, due to lack of personal direct or indirect experience with people with disabilities.
*Special thanks to Terrence Ho, a former guest on ‘Keep Pushin’ for the invite to this event!*