Thursday, December 29, 2011

Decisions

I went to bed without having written today's post. That's unusual because I try to have it written so that it publishes just after midnight. But I was having a difficult time deciding what to write. After all, we'd had a nice day. We'd gone to the Nutcracker, we'd stopped at the Hudson's Bay Christmas windows on Queen Street, Ruby invented the 'pizza sandwich', all things we will remember. All, and each, could spin into a nice post. But my mind kept returning to an incident which was frustrating and bothersome. I really don't want to have a blog wherein I focus on the negative experiences that accompany disability. There are so many positives, life is made up of more than rude people on elevators - but then, on rising this morning, I decided I really wanted to tell you what happened. So, asking for your forbearance, here goes ...

We left early, thankfully, to go see the Nutcracker. Ruby likes riding in the front car of the subway so she can watch us go through the tunnels. It's a small concession to make so even if we had to miss one train as we made our way to the front, so be it. I've never understood people who get impatient over a few seconds or a few minutes. Rarely is anything quite so important that a second or two really matters. Anyways, we rode to Osgoode station. It's perfect for going to the ballet because one of the station's exit is the hall itself. We disembarked and headed for the elevator.

On arrival the elevator had a sign on it saying that it was out of order. Panic!! What to do? Oh, there's a notice on the elevator. That surely will be helpful. It wasn't. It told us to use the stairs or the escalator. The elevator was covered with Blue Wheelchair Guy symbols, and the sign told us to use the stairs! I pushed the call button and spoke to an attendant who told me to use the stairs. I told him I was in a wheelchair. He said, 'Well, the elevator is down, that's the way it is.' Oh. OK.

Now get this. I know I should have checked the TTC website because they have information on elevators that are not working. But, I forgot, that's my fault. So if I was to be angry, it's at my own lack of preparedness. But what bothered me was the freaking sign. I mean, they know that the elevator is for access right? They must because the elevator is festooned with the blue symbol. So why couldn't they have given wheelchair users options like: travel north to Queen's Park or travel south to Queen Street to find the nearest accessible station. Instead, I had to find a map, look for accessible stations, the next north and the next south aren't accessible, then figure out which might be the closest. I figured either Queen or Queen's Park. I chose Queen's Park but I think I might have chosen incorrectly.

Joe and Ruby went up into the hall and I took off on my own. We were early enough for me to make it on time. Nothing hugely horrible happened. I just kept asking myself who they thought used the elevator, why they couldn't have given those with disabilities some consideration in the signage. Maybe they thought by telling us that we'd have to travel a fair distance away, we'd notice the inaccessibility of the system. Um, we know! Or maybe, and this is most probably true, they didn't consider us at all in the signage. Maybe we're just an afterthought. I don't know.

Now I have choices. I've told the story, I've got it out, I know I've got to contact the TTC and ask for appropriate information on their notices. But then, I need to shove that memory aside, I've got to remember, instead, Ruby slapping my arm while pointing to the stage when the Sugar Plum Fairy made her spectacular entrance. I've got to remember her laughing and screaming, 'There's Rudolph!' while looking at the Bay Christmas windows. I've got to remember pizza sauce shooting out of her pizza sandwich. I've got to remember those things - not a thoughtless sign on a broken down elevator. This is my life and my memories, I've got to choose to fill the well, from which I will draw when old, with sweet water, not bitter.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't care what you write, as long as you write. Thank you for the effort, thank you for the thought, thank you for the time, trouble and
grace. Thank you for the insight, thank you for being you.
"This is my life and my memories, I've got to choose to fill the well, from which I will draw when old, with sweet water, not bitter." Lovely......

Andrea S. said...

Ditto to what Anonymous says above.

Here in Washington DC, they have announcements probably over the loud speaker system (though I don't hear those) and also on these lighted sign things at the platform level saying which elevators at which metro (subway) stops are out of service, and where wheelchair riders should go instead. There is also supposed to be a shuttle service available from the nearest metro stop to the stop where the elevator is out, though I have heard it can take ages and ages for the shuttle to arrive. For this reason, one friend of mine usually uses the escalator, wheelchair and all.

It sounds like the folk running the system where you are need to come over to the Washington DC metro system to learn how things ought to be done. Things aren't perfect here, you could still find some frustration here also, but at least there is some conscious planning in place for wheelchair users, including a recognition that, hey, some of the people who normally use the elevators might not be ABLE to switch to the stairs or escalators.

Jo Ann said...

I say ditto as well. And let's hope TTC pays attention. Thank you for sharing. Love your blog. (a day with Ruby sounds wonderful)

liz said...

My advice (and I'm not sure if it's possible, but here it is anyway), is to let the TTC know about how they can do better, and then (duty done), push it out of your head as an unpleasant chore you got done. You don't remember every time you went to the bathroom, or every time you flossed your teeth, perhaps you won't remember this incident either when you think of this day...

Dave Hingsburger said...

Follow up: I just wrote the TTC about what happened and made suggestions for change. I didn't want anything like this going over into the New Year. Thanks all. My readership is really down over the holidays and I appreciate those of you who come by even during the festive season and really appreicate those who bother to comment. Thanks all!

Susan said...

The TTC is getting a letter from me today, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your writing. You teach me something with every post and are deeply appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
I appreciate you following up with the TTC. When I had my first child and started navigating the TTC with a stroller it gave me a tiny taste of what wheelchair users experience. I am so frustrated and angry on your behalf. So often I would go out and on my return find a lift was not working. I would often receive help hefting the stroller up the stairs but always realized that would not work for someone in a chair.
Do they post these closures online in realtime? I know the information you mention regarding alternate routes should be posted but I think it is not always posted.
keep us posted please. Accessibility is an issue for many TTC users and perhaps us parents with strollers could help make the TTC more aware of how this impacts our use of their service.
In London UK the new tube line is fully accessible and it is identified as such 'accessible' as people with baby buggies, luggage, rolling shopping carts and those in wheelchairs or mobility devices all want to access lifts and ramps.