There really isn't much to tell. I'm in my 40's (as of this update, I'm in my early 50's) and have lived in the City of Toronto most of my life (since early childhood). I use a scooter to get around anything more than a short distance and have for several years due to a genetic disease. When I am able to walk (short distances), I use a cane. Actually it doesn't matter how I got there (in the scooter), it's how I get around, which is next to impossible some days in this city lately.
This website has evolved out of sheer frustration. In one day alone in mid July 2002 I had to use a wheelchair ramp that was nothing but a long zig-zagged tunnel (extremely long) and if at any given twist or turn in it someone is coming towards you, one of you has to back right up to where you started so the other can get to their destination whether it's in the store or out of it. I then had to use 2 different 'freight' elevators, one of which I got stuck in. A store I wanted to go in had stock so piled up in the foyer by their 'disabled' elevator entrance (actually the freight elevator I got stuck in) that you could not even get out of the elevator!
Then, I had another stop to make in an unfamiliar building and called ahead to be sure it was wheelchair accessible, I was told it was. Just to take the ramp and then take the elevator to the basement. Well.. the ramp was all of a foot or so from the door, you had to hold the door open (not a disabled door) while you put your scooter on high to make it up the ramp. Try that! This ramp was a makeshift 'deliveries' ramp that was nothing but a heavy piece of wood under some carpeting. It was difficult getting over the edge of the wood and then it was at such a steep incline that even with the scooter on full, the person with me had to have someone push her scooter to make it to the top!
When I got home I was so frustrated I fired off letters to the first two places. The first one was The Bay of all places. The gentleman that responded to me is going to try to have another disabled door installed in the store! I'm looking forward to this and hearing back from him. *NOTE* I have since heard back from The Bay and I'm pleased to announce that they got together with Brookfield Properties whom own the building and a new disabled entrance is being built on the Bloor St. side of the store with a completion date of Oct. 2002.
The second place was Fabricland which I didn't get such a favourable response from. All I could find was a customer service general email to and the lady that responded really couldn't do much for me but offer me personal service to the store. This is great for me but what about everyone else? In the end she gave me the President of the company's name and address and fax number which I fully intend to write.
I have also contacted Futureshop concerning their store at Yonge & Gould Sts. Although the building is too old for modifications the store is making many new adjustments and has spoken to staff about it as well. For this reason, although the store itself does not have an automatic door and can be difficult to access, they are making it easier and it is listed in my "thumb's up" section.
I must be getting crankier in my old age as well. These days I seem to get more frustrated every time I'm made to use a dirty old freight elevator, enter through a rear door down an alley or told that a place is accessible when obviously it isn't. Travel on the city streets isn't getting any easier either with some of these so called 'ramps' that are downright dangerous at times or don't exist.
Then there's winter when the city clears the roads for vehicles so they can make it through the snow and proceeds to dump all that snow on curbs and ramps so we can't get out at all. Or we get literally stuck in it and have to wait for some kind person to come along and help push us out of the snowbank. In this situation we end up shut-in and have to rely on someone else to do our banking and groceries and such. Thank you very much City of Toronto. We prefer to be as independant as possible and you really make it difficult at times. There's nothing like feeling 'trapped and dependant on someone else' when it comes to the necessities. No wonder I curse the City in the winter. What the city needs to learn is we have already lost some of our independance having to rely on a mobility device to get around, we don't need to be forced to lose more due to the City's 'shove the snow up on the curbs and ramps' thoughtless mentality. Every little loss of independance is a huge loss to us.
Hence, the birth of torontomobility.com
I'm hoping this website is a huge success and that many businesses that are disabled accessible will contact us to be added to this list. This is going to take time to happen. If nothing else, I will keep adding places/businesses/streets as I come across them and think they are noteworthy either in the thumbs up or down catagories. These days I'm carrying a notepad around with me so I'm sure to remember addresses and places. The digital camera is always with me as well.
For the most part, these are my observations and opinions on these places. I'm sure some of the establishments I mention on this site will argue the facts with me but until they are in a wheelchair or scooter or walk with canes and have to fight to access places, I will state my own opinion on my own website. Like it or not. If they would like to attempt to access their bldg/business if they are in the thumbs down sections anywhere all they have to do is contact me and I'll gladly supply them with a scooter if possible to attempt it. (They can always rent one if they're really determined to prove me wrong but I insist on being there to witness 'just how wrong I am') The opinions stated on this site are due to my own experiences. I will also state my own opinion when it comes to Toronto's streets regardless of how the City itself feels. Newspapers and tv news can report on road closures, pot holes and street construction for vehicles. I'm only providing the needed info for the disabled and walking pedestrians.
I'd also like to add that I personally don't think every single place in this city has to be disabled accessible. I do not believe in closing down a business because it isn't accessible for certain reasons that can include the fact that the building was built too many years ago to facilitate restructuring or the fact it's a Heritage Bldg. There's an old theatre in Toronto, The Uptown, and it's closing it's doors because of a woman that is seen as almost 'militant' when it comes to disabled rights and such. This theatre should never close. It's in an old beautiful building, one we shouldn't want torn down, a classic in this city. It can't be made accessible due to it's age and in all fairness it shouldn't be either. This building is part of our city's heritage.
For the most part the businesses I have mentioned here have been built in the last 15 years or even as early as this year of 2002 although there are some older ones. Not old heritage and classic buildings that are part of this city's history and I firmly believe should be left alone to stand as they are. If the building I mention was built many years before that it's because it is a mall or a gov't building or such and should be accessible to all. Or it may be an old building that a simple automatic door can be installed without major structure changes made.
This website is to bring about awareness as well as to help disabled find places they can easily access and to help them avoid problems. When it comes to Toronto's streets, it will even help walking pedestrians avoid tripping/falling due to crumbling/disrepaired sidewalks, etc. I also have hopes that if a business finds itself on our 'thumbs down' list and they can't construct a way in for disabled then at least be aware of the problem and have staff watch out for disabled and help them in. The pharmacy I use myself is not wheelchair accessable due to the age of the building it's in and the city property directly in front of it. But, they have a clear view of the door and come to help us. Another good example of this is Futureshop on Yonge St. The building cannot be remodelled due to its age and structure, but the management there is making major changes and staff have been put on notice to watch for disabled and to help them as quickly as possible. You can even call the store ahead of your arrival so they are ready for you. This has put them on the 'thumbs up' list.
I'm also hoping that other disabled people will join in here and add their experiences to the message board. If the places they've encountered are close enough to me, I'll go check them out myself as well. Mind you, as soon as the snow hits with the way Toronto clears its roads for vehicles I end up trapped in at times because the snow is plowed onto the curbs & ramps. I have had business cards made up for this website and will carry them with me and as I encounter a disabled person I will pass them a card with the URL on it so they can add their own experiences if they like.
I sincerely hope this site will help others avoid the same pitfalls I've come across by providing a list of places to stay clear of and places that are safe and pleasurable to shop in.
Oh, two other thing, I have a passion for photography and go out many days just to shoot Toronto, the people and the places, so expect to see some pics on this website of the good and the bad. I have also contacted many of the places here mentioned on the 'thumbs down' lists. Some have written back and others haven't. If you are curious, you can always email me and ask if a certain business was contacted and what their response was. Some were great and other's were a real disappointment.
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