I stopped writing for a while, probably because I keep letting other things get in the way. It could also be that I am exhausted from trying to fight, and feel like a complainer when I say that there are problems in my City. It’s why I took so long to write about Old East Village…the place where I live, and where I most of the time…just wait outside.
I am a resident in this community, but most of the time I don’t feel like a member OF this community, it has to do with the accessibility and the frustrations of having struggles with accessibility here. To be fair a lot of the buildings in the area are from “time gone by”, old buildings with inaccessible steps or narrow doorways. These places feel like a forbidden land to me since I can’t get in through the doors or up the stairs, and perhaps are reasons why accessible front entrances don’t happen. If this is the case it will always be a source of frustration for mobility impaired people like me because if no one is allowed to change the store fronts then they will always be barriers. History before people I suppose.
In OEV as it is affectionately called, the ability to access places is the exception not the norm. There are the rare places that I can easily get into, Maymo’s (since it’s actually an outside shop, not an indoor one). The Western Fair Casino and Raceway along with the restaurant are also accessible…however it’s difficult to get around in the Farmer’s Market. It starts with doorways that are a bit narrow and no actuators to make it easy to open the doors and gain entrance to the place, and continues inside where it’s very crowded and you spend a lot of time waiting for others to finish before you can get a turn. You also have the added problem of the upstairs level which is accessible only by one very small elevator and if it out of order then you have no access at all. There is a “handicap” bathroom, though I don’t like the word HANDICAP being used to describe a facility that is used by me and anyone with a baby buggy. Handicap to me is an awful and outdated word to describe someone who relies on a wheelchair.It’s an older building so I do try to forgive them for not having the facilities needed for those who have needs.
Even my own doctor’s office is not entirely accessible. There is an actuator on the door, but the doorways to the treatment rooms are not large enough for my wheelchair to get in. I am partially mobility impaired so I can walk a bit and I do, leaving the chair outside in the hallway, but I wonder about those clients who are completely reliant on their devices. I hope that when they finally get their remodeling started this problem will be cleared up and have fingers crossed that the day will be soon.
Almost every shop in the village has the old sized front doorways, the ones where even if your door is right flat on the ground, your chair can’t get past. I don’t know what the experience of a normal chair user is, but for my chair with it’s 3-5 extra inches of width, it’s just impossible, I don’t want to destroy someone’s door, and I don’t want to damage my chair either. So instead….my husband or daughter go inside, and I wait…outside. I wait in all weathers because I like getting out of my house once in a while and well, there is just no other way. Some shops I can see in the front window so if there is something of interest inside my husband will either bring it to the window or he’ll bring me a photograph so I can see if the item will suit what I’m looking for. These shops have been here for quite a while, and I suppose they don’t qualify under the accessibility law? Some of the shops are thrift type stores so the items are arranged inside in such a way that it is impossible to get a chair down the aisle and I’d be more likely to damage something trying to shop inside.
One “grocery store” in the area it’s really just a large variety store with a bit of a dollar store on one side, is relatively accessible. The staff are nice but again, no actuator on a door means no independent access to the place. In summer one of the doors is usually open for cooling, but in winter, it’s come with someone or don’t come at all. On the whole though it is a much better solution than the new grocery store is.
The Old East Village Grocer. Praises are being sung to the ceiling about this grocery store. Both in the OEV Facebook group and by many organizations around London. Yes it’s a grocery store in our area finally (some prices are a bit high for lower income but that is a reality). The big problem is…accessibility. Ironically this store is for training disabled employees to find work. They have a ramp at the front entrance, which is a plus. It’s a bit steep but not something that can’t be lived with, there is an actuator for the front door, check again. Then you enter and there are stairs. To the right is an elevator they had installed. The problem is, the elevator is a small box, and in order to get in you have to TURN your wheelchair or scooter to enter it. That is where the problem lies. It’s not wide enough for a chair of my width, way too tight a squeeze and if my controls are off, I could easily do some damage. Then there are the scooter users. They can’t use this elevator at all. Instead they leave their scooter outside, and can use one of the many wheelchairs they have upstairs inside, as well as have someone help them shop. This is hardly a solution for someone in a wheelchair, since I don’t think anyone would want to leave their chair outside untended and hope that it will still be there when you exit the building, and then there is the real fact that some simply can’t leave their chairs, and some shouldn’t but to date this elevator has been “it”. Nothing has been done, they know the problem exists but are content to just leave it, I guess as long as the “word of the law” is covered, they don’t actually have to make it accessible to everyone. Just “some”.
They do have a nice accessible point of sale device though.
There are many new businesses, but unlike this one, they didn’t even really try to make things accessible. So Inviting, is a new shop that makes dumplings etc, everyone in the neighborhood raves about them online, but I’ve never been in their shop. The whole building was remodeled and rebuilt inside and out, but instead of a ramp, there is a step, inside there are stairs. But if I sit outside long enough someone will come out to serve me, which does me little good since I don’t know what is for sale (unless they have a sign on their window for people like me?). The Pickle is a new Social Club that opened next door, they also remodeled inside and out, but the door still seems too narrow and there is a step there that wasn’t before. They are looking at getting a ramp, but when I asked how wide the door was, an important question for those of us with wheelchairs or scooters…I have as yet received no reply. I can only assume these two linked businesses whose building was completely redone simply had an oversight when it came to addressing the AODA code for accessibility, or is it that no one, not even our city counselor cares. I can almost believe the latter since I asked during last winter why the sidewalk in front of our building was not plowed (the co op has MANY mobility impaired folk living in it) and I received NO answer.
Then there is the EVAC they moved from where they once had space to a new place a few doors down. It was difficult to access in the first place, but when they moved THIS is their accessibility.
I’m not sure what to think of this, I’m not an expert, but it frightens me. I don’t like the idea of going up two mini ramps anymore than I’d like the idea of going up a single ramp with a huge incline. I’m not sure if anyone has used this ramp but I know I wouldn’t, I don’t trust the weight of my chair plus me on it. It pays service to the law again, but is it really safe? I haven’t been back since this photograph was taken so I’m not sure if this is still the ramp being used, but I can only hope not.
These are just a few of the challenges encountered in my area. There are more, I’m just too frustrated to even bother listing them.