Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Traveling with Disabilities: Trip to Canada

- By Pinalben "Pinky" Patel -

My journey to CN Tower in Toronto, Canada and Niagara Falls was fun. It was a long drive. It took us two days to get to Toronto with an overnight stop at a town in Ohio about eight hours from Paducah. Accessibility was not a really big problem on the road. When we needed a bath room break, we would stop at a live exit where there are many name brand places like McDonald's or Pilot travel stations that guarantee to have wheelchair accessible restrooms.

The next day we passed the USA and Canada border at Detroit. The bridge on the border was called Ambassador Bridge and we had to drive on it to get to Canada. It was beautiful. I wish we were able to get a picture of the moment, but my dad was driving, my mom is technologically illiterate and I can not hold the camera straight!

We went to Toronto first because we were not only going to see CN Tower there but we were visiting family also. On the way to Toronto from the Canadian border, we went to Kitchener, Ontario to see some relatives. In Kitchener, we also stopped at a Wendy's. I got some chicken nuggets and it was funny because I would get those same nuggets for a dollar here and there they were three dollars!

Most of our relatives in Toronto live in high-rise apartment buildings, which are not easily accessible. We figured private homes are not accessible so we took my wheeled potty chair but the bathroom doors in the apartments were extremely narrow. My dad had to take out a handle of the potty chair for it to fit through the doors. Painstakingly, we made it through four nights in Toronto.

All of the public places we went to in Toronto were accessible. The bathrooms were just like the ones in the USA: some places had accessible stalls and some had private rooms. Actually, I thought accessible stalls or bathrooms were a little bit roomier than the ones in the USA. But the weird thing about them was the grab bars were at a steep angle so basically if a person with a disability needed to hold on to the bar to sit on the commode, he or she would need long arms.

We decided to see Niagara Falls on the way back. Yes, seeing the Falls from the Canadian side was so much better than the American side. We saw the Canadian Falls during the day and spent a night at Buffalo, New York to see the American Falls at night. We saw many other places in Toronto, not only CN Tower. I just don't understand what is so great about Tim Horton coffeehouse, which is so famous in Canada according to one of my cousins. It was not Starbucks in my books!

However, a person who has been dealing with a disability most of her life and who likes to think of herself as a physical disabilities advocate, I notice places where wheelchair accessibility is needed. It just makes me angry when I see public places don't have accessibility even though it could be easily installed with little cost. If it were a poor country like India where people with disabilities are still called the insulting handicap word, I would not be so angered but this was an advanced country and some places did not have the required accessibility?

I found four places to be really annoying during my visit. One was a bus/boat ride in Toronto. I wish someone would have given me the name of that place. Then there was a store in one mall that was underground and there seem to be only stairs to go down to shop in it. The other was a boat at Niagara Falls that takes people right next to the fall and my cousins told me there wasn't accessibility on it.

The main annoyance was the building we stayed in. I understand that private apartments don't have to be accessible, but shouldn't getting into the building be accessible? Since the apartment building was high-rise, there were elevators but getting to the elevators was the annoyance. My cousin found a flat sheet of wood that we used as a portable ramp for my electric chair. Most of the time, we felt stuck in the building once we were in because it would be such a hassle to come out. I wish I met the owner of the building-- unfortunately I don't speak as well as I write to give him a piece of my mind! Yes, it would be so helpful if architects or contractors spent a day in a wheelchair before designing a building.

I had been told I am the only person in a wheelchair who thinks about accessibility and advocacy. Of course, that advice is wrong. People with disabilities don't usually and should not accept things the way they are especially if they are unfair. I just really wanted to give you a heads-up if you are ever in a situation like mine.

But in no way I am saying this trip was not worth it. It was a great trip! I am so grateful that I got to go to these places because I know that there are many people who don't get to see what I saw. We also attended a baby shower for my sister-in-law (in my Indian culture, a baby shower is not a small female-only party; it is a big ceremony!). The party was fabulous!

Photo courtesy of Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joie86/3731610979/

1 comment:

  1. I agree. All hotels and resorts should have the people with wheelchair in mind when they have constructed their buildings. Plus it is the lawful thing to do.