Friday, June 06, 2014

The story behind my appearance on the Toronto Star website

This is the link to the Toronto Star article featuring yours truly that appeared last night. Check it out if you haven't seen it. It did not make Friday's paper so you can only see it on the website. I want to talk about how this happened. A few years ago, I went to vote at a polling station at the Canadian Legion hall on Eighth St. I had never been there before. The poll was on the second floor. It has an elevator but when I got in, it was way too small. I could barely fit in there. Afterwards, I decided I wouldn't return to that place. Because of several polling station accessibility horror stories, Elections Canada and Elections Ontario are now obligated to have all polling stations fully accessible. Not half accessible; not kinda sorta accessible; not by twenty year old standards but by today's standards. And this location is not accessible by today's standards. The elevator is too small and there is no automatic door. That may be OK for legion members but it is not acceptable for a polling station. The problem is Elections Ontario labels this location as accessible on their website. But any disabled person who goes to vote thinking it's accessible is going to get a nasty surprise like I did a few years ago. When we had the Etobicoke-Lakeshore byelection last year, I got my voter's card and they're still using this location as a polling station. I spoke to the returning officer and told her to stop using that location because it is not fully accessible. When the Ontario election was announced, I asked David Lepofsky of AODA Alliance on Twitter about inaccessible polling stations. You may recall that David was the guy who shamed the TTC into announcing stops on all vehicles. So I contacted David when I got my voter's card. He asked me to email Elections Ontario and send him a copy. Their response was they didn't have enough time to find a different location. They had plenty of time because I told them last year. And that turned out not to be true anyway. David asked me if I was interested in publicizing this to help others. I told him I would be happy to meet any media at the legion hall. If he had asked me who to contact, I would have suggested Toronto Star Social Justice reporter Laurie Monsebraaten. But I didn't have to. David knew she was the one to call. Laurie emailed me Monday while I was working on the Natsuki*Taiyo retirement story. I was watching the videos. When I finished, I called her and we agreed to meet Tuesday afternoon at the legion hall. Laurie came with photographer Lucas Oleniuk and she checked out the location. She took measurements and agreed that the elevator was too small. I had forgotten that there is no automatic door. I had only been there once before. That's actually a bigger problem than the elevator. It's wrong to say on the Elections Ontario website that this location is accessible and a disabled person goes there and finds barriers. They must stop using that location. Period. On Thursday I got an email from Elections Ontario. It turns out they lied when they said they couldn't find a different location. They looked at the Ken Cox Community Center which is fully accessible. It's in the Father Redmond School on Colonel Sam Smith Dr. south of Lakeshore. That street is actually Kipling Ave. They decided not to use it because when it was last used, there were complaints that it was too far to walk there. I wish I could walk too far. They also claim a lack of transit. But the 44 Kipling South bus goes right by there. I asked a bus driver this morning when I was on that bus. So walking too far is more important than full accessibility. Is that absurd enough for you? You gotta love clueless bureaucrats. On my way home from today's People In Motion show, I went to the advance poll on Lakeshore which is also the returning office. The returning officer emailed me earlier in the week that she wanted to meet with me. But when I got there, she was on a conference call and I wasn't going to wait around for her. That's her loss, not mine. So there you have it. I hope that what I did helps someone else.

1 comment:

  1. Frank, I can only hope you have indeed helped other people. While I am sorry for what you went through, you will be able to expose and help others in you situation. With respect to you Defshepard.