Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Tunnel

Photo Description: building underconstruction onf the south east corner of Yonge and Bloor, pedestrian walkways (tunnels) run round the building.
The top part of the route between where we live and where we bank is under construction, on both sides of the street. For the longest while it was just the east side of the street, so we always made sure to travel the west side of the street. Now, construction is impossible to avoid.

To keep all us pedestrians safe, they've crafted wooden tunnels that we need to go through. They look rickety and like they'd never actually stop something heavy that falls from a great height, but they're there and we're supposed to feel secure. I don't think, honestly, about security when I go through them. I just think, 'shit they are narrow.'

All sorts of weird things happen when I go through the tunnels. There is more than adequate room for me to pass on one side and someone else pass on the other. But somehow many people lose their ability to measure space when I come towards them in the wheelchair. They fling themselves against the opposite walk, or put on scaredy-cat faces as they go by as if they are in huge danger. There's room, more than adequate room, but they are freaked out.

Needless to say, I don't like going through the tunnels but, also needless to say, I have to, that is if I'm going to be able to do my banking.

We are travelling again today and so yesterday, after work, Joe and I headed up to the bank. I was in the wooden tunnel and there were two young men coming towards me. They were walking side by side, chatting. They saw me and as they got close one tucked in just a little behind the other. There's nearly enough for two people to pass on that side. (See, I said there was adequate room.) And because he'd moved for me, I said, "Thanks." He said, "It's OK mate, no thanks necessary, you've got as much right to be here as we do." I almost steered into the side of the tunnel.

That's a response I'd not anticipated because I'd never had it.

His voice was casual, as if making this observation was so obvious that it was like a small joke.

On the way back from the bank, as I headed into the tunnel, I heard is voice in my mind, "It's OK, you've got a right to be here." It's amazing the power of positive words. They stay, they stick, they shore up courage, and determination, and belonging.

Because after all, though it's not a joke, I do have a right to be there.


Anonymous said...


sometimes in this situation, the problem is not you. Everyone has the right to be there. But since my brain got a little bit damaged I dont drive my car anymore because that is exactly what I am not able to do anymore: judge the amount of space I would need to pass something. I guess I would have problems with the space in those tunnels.


Anonymous said...

this is making me think about accessibility as a right not an add-on and making me question the phrase 'reasonable adjustments' which sets up adjustments to the norm as though the changes are extra. Of course we know they should be there in the first place but the phrase 'reasonable adjustments' doesn't know that. (Reasonable adjustments is used the wording for the equality act 2010 in the UK)

Purpletta said...

Anon - Another perspective that might be of interest is the philosophy of Universal design/inclusive design...

Anonymous said...

Yes, you have a right to be there! But have you noticed how often when there is room on one side but not the other, people decide to squeeze through the *narrow* side? To make a point of how hard they are trying, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Purpletta that is food for thought.
Anon at 07.10