By Victor Schwartzman
July 27, 2015
Deconstruction class for today has begun.
Signs Restaurant, Gregor the Cockroach and Tony Soprano. What do they share in common? Implementation of the AODA access legislation! (I never guessed that! Did you? But that is why deconstruction is so useful!)
Signs Restaurant opened in Toronto in July, 2014. Described by the Toronto Star as “deaf friendly,” it is Canada’s first restaurant mostly staffed by deaf servers. It tries to be accessible to any client and wanted a ramp to allow complete access, but after months of negotiation was unable to get a permit. Why? Because a ramp would block part of the sidewalk.
Apparently accessibility ramps are a brand new concept for the City of Toronto!
Unlike the City of Toronto, Signs felt proper access was important, and when unable to get a City permit had a $4,700 ramp installed anyway. The need for access to the restaurant, and access in general, must always be reasonably weighed against a sidewalk ramp’s interference with pedestrian traffic. In this instance, the ramp encroaches on less than half of the wide sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
There were no known public complaints about the ramp but immediately the City of Toronto told Signs to remove the ramp. Why? Because people had to go around it. Apparently no ramp is allowed to intrude onto a sidewalk, which makes legal access to many buildings illegal. This is hardly an approach encouraging access and the AODA. City officials are negotiating, so far with no results. That a ramp would block part of a sidewalk is the stumbling block (so to speak perhaps the City thinks pedestrians could stumble on the ramp.) Toronto’s attitude is apparently that access is only good if it is out of sight and inconveniences no one passing by.
“We haven’t removed it because we believe in having full access to the restaurant,” Signs told the media. “If not, then the guests would have to come through the back which makes them feel like second class citizens.”
Adds David Lepofsky of the AODA Alliance, which monitors AODA implementation: “Right now, the municipal government in Toronto is actively trying to get Signs Restaurant to remove a ramp the owner installed. The city is using public money to oppose accessibility. It’s an illustration that we’re going the wrong way.”
Actually, access IS going the right way. Mr. Lepofsky has not properly deconstructed the situation. While the implementation of AODA is going the wrong way from an access advocate’s point of view, going nowhere is the right way from the City of Toronto’s viewpoint. Toronto’s refusal to properly implement access does not come from a void. This lack of interest should be blamed in part on the Ontario Government’s ten year avoidance of implementing AODA. The Ontario Government has spent a decade sending a message to anyone listening that access can wait. Toronto heard!
But perhaps you are asking what Signs Restaurant has in common with Gregor the Cockroach and Tony Soprano. You ask that because, on the face of it, they have nothing in common. That you think that is because you, like the AODA Alliance, have not deconstructed the situation.
I have always wanted to deconstruct something ever since I saw the word and figured out that it means ‘analyze’, except with more letters.
Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” is a short story about Gregor Samsa, a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning as a cockroach (Vladimir Nabokov suggests it was actually a beetle.) Gregor, an average fellow, suddenly turns into a loathsome creature no one would touch. How is this relevant? Big bugs remind me of politicians. Also, AODA is an access law which seemed when proclaimed like a great idea the Government was totally behind, but AODA woke up the next morning it was something no one in the Government respected. Or wanted to touch.
Further similarities between Gregor and AODA abound. Things do not end well for Gregor, who eventually wastes away from a lack of food and attention. AODA is similarly wasting away from a lack of Government funding and attention. No one talked about Gregor and no one in the Government wants to talk about access. Finally, society has no use for a giant bug and neither has the Government.
So the deconstruction of access implementation based on Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” is obvious. But what about, you ask, Tony Soprano? How does he fit in?
I am not saying the Government is a gangster. Tony Soprano lied and cheated and manipulated to get his way. The Government would never do that.
However, I am referring to how “The Sopranos” ended. In the famous final scene of the final show, Tony and his family are having dinner in a restaurant. You keep expecting something awful to happen. Then suddenly the screen goes black and the series is over. It was the perfect end, symbolizing the constant danger and unpredictability of Tony Soprano’s life.
AODA is like that final scene. Made active by the Government ten years ago, ever since AODA has been waiting for the “hit”the Government never effectively implementing AODA and then finally deciding to get rid of it. Fading to black is perfect because we still have no idea whether the Government will actually ever implement AODA. And the future of access certainly appears dark.
This ends today’s deconstruction class. Actually, this was more turning AODA into some kind of metaphor, not deconstruction. So maybe I don’t know what deconstruction means. But that’s okay because the Government doesn’t know what access implementation means.
Next: We Compare AODA With Julius Caesar (“Et Tu, Duguid?”)
Victor Schwartzman has contributed this weekly satirical column to Accessibility News and the AODA Alliance since May 13, 2013. Check out 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 for free on Facebook. The unpolished first nine chapters got a “4 out of 5 star” review! He is currently polishing the novel. 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 his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.