By Victor Schwartzman
May 5, 2015
This summer Toronto will host the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games for athletes who have a disability. The Games originated in 1999 in Mexico City and became a regional qualifying event for the Paralympic Games. Each year the Games have grown. Toronto’s this summer will be the largest ever. An expected 1,608 athletes will compete in 17 sporting events, including archery, judo, cycling and the always popular wheelchair basketball.
Warning: athletes arriving in Toronto may encounter difficulties. While the Games will be held where access is guaranteed, outside that “bubble” access becomes problematic. Ontario’s access legislation, AODA, could have solved that, given it was proclaimed ten years ago. However, progressive Governments have not been at all progressive when implementing AODA. The result? Toronto today is much the same as it was in 2005, with significant access problems.
What will that mean for the athletes attending (and their teams?) Advance teams for the athletes scouted Toronto and the Games came up with a unique solution. The Games will feature ten new events which will double as helpful training for the athletes when going out into or living in Toronto.
TEN NEW PAN AM/PARAPAN AM GAME COMPETITIONS RELATED TO LIVING IN TORONTO
10. CURB JUMPING. Not every street corner in Toronto has a dip in the curb enabling people in wheelchairs to get beyond the block. The new event will involve unusual wheelchair stunts, especially to get onto a curb from the street. This competition is dangerous and medical teams will stand by.
9. THE CROSSWALK SPRINT. Using a crosswalk when you are sight impaired or using a walker or crutches can be scary. Slow moving people can feel like targets of unaware motorists. This event, for sight impaired people, has them sprinting along a crosswalk towards a beeping sound, with no other cue where the crosswalk is. They have to dodge cars, trucks and buses. It has been difficult getting competitors for this competition or insurance to cover it.
8. RESTAURANT DEBATING. There have been recent news stories about Toronto restaurants denying service to people accompanied by guide dogs. People who have cerebral palsy have many tales of being mistaken for drunks. People with disabilities often seem to lose debates in restaurants over getting service and then they are kicked out. The Restaurant Debating Competition has an athlete debating a professional arguer.
7. FINDING THE HIRING INTERVIEW. People sometimes find that their employment applications receive no response, particularly if those applications mention any disability. Hiring interviews are elusive. In this competition, athletes enter a maze with the goal of finding an exit leading to a hiring interview. There are regular dead ends, with signs reading “Sorry the deadline has passed” or “We are holding onto your application, thanks!” Athletes must race against each other to find the right laneway. Labelled “I don’t have a disability,” this laneway does lead to a maze exit, where there is a fictitious hiring interview. Another laneway, “I have a disability and you legally have to accommodate me,” also leads to a maze exit, but without a hiring interview, so the athlete loses points.
6. SUBWAY SLIDING. About half of all Toronto subway stations are not accessible. This means no elevators, only escalators and stairs, an impossible and impassable situation for people using wheelchairs. Special wheelchairs were developed with skis. In tests, the skis worked spectacularly, the athletes skidding straight down the lengthy escalators and stairs. Unfortunately, stopping at the bottom has been a problem, making this event problematic.
5. WEB SURFING. There are all sorts of physical athletes so why not mental ones? There are no waves to surf in Toronto but the internet is widespread and available. Web surfing dangers include cable fees and slowdowns. Athletes must, while avoiding dangers, go to specified websites and get ten specific facts, not easy because those sites pose problems for sight impaired and people with coordination problems. The sites are existing Government and business websites.
4. TOKENISM BINGO. In this competition, the athlete starts as being hired because he or she has a disability. They are then stuck in that job until the grant runs out. To avoid that fate, the athlete must reach different physical squares on a large floor board, navigating obstacles such as “Gossip” and “Prejudice” to form a straight line of completed squares of “Achievements.” The athlete then has bingo and is “promoted.”
3. MEDIA CELEBRITY HUNT. In this competition, people dressed as the media chase athletes, who in turn try to lure the media into a central area labelled “Reality.” It is vital to avoid the media because when they catch an athlete they do an inspiring story. This is not what the athlete wants to talk about, so she or he loses points. An athlete who is caught three times by the media loses the competition. If the media are lured into the central “Reality” area, they then do a story about access problems.
2. FINDING THE MORAN REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS. The Moran Report criticized the implementation of AODA and made recommendations. Government officials have helped the Games by hiding each recommendation somewhere on the grounds of the Legislature. Athletes, working against the clock, will attempt to find the recommendations. Government officials have said they themselves don’t remember where the recommendations are.
1. WRESTLING MINISTER DUGUID. Sport that he is, Minister Brad Duguid agreed to participate. Ten competitors will take turns wrestling Minister Duguid. This is a relatively simple event. The first competitor wins who pins Minister Duguid down, forcing him to agree to implement an aspect of AODA, wins.
Next: How Come The Election Didn’t Change Anything?
Victor Schwartzman contributes this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance. Buy the first nine chapters of his current satirical fantasy novel, King Of The Planet, for .99 on Kindle at http://www.amazon.ca/King-The-Planet-Victor-Schwartzman-ebook/dp/B00NE0CCRC or read the whole thing, including current polished chapters, for free on the King Of The Planet Facebook page. It has a “4 out of 5 star” review!
His graphic novel The Winnipeg Weakly Herald (where each chapter is one issue of a community newspaper) is serialized on the great Canadian lit site, http://www.redfez.net. He has had poetry and short fiction published, has edited novels and volunteers. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.