By Victor Schwartzman
July 15, 2015
Mary Penner needs a walker when she goes out, and she was going out to the Pan Am Games, which as everyone has been told has completely accessible stadiums. She had a pricey ticket in the single accessible section of an accessible stadium. Ms. Penner assumed, as would anyone, that she would enjoy her time at the Games.
In my youth I worked as a copyboy for NBC News in New York. Taped to an old wooden desk was an older yellowed piece of paper. On it someone had typed: “NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER” (it went on about ten more times before the last word:) “ASSUME.”
Ms. Penner took an accessible Handi Transit style ride to the stadium, no problem. At the venue, however, she was told that the accessible seating area was full. She had a $150 ticket that was somehow no good. Mary was moved twice, ending in a seat worth nowhere near what she paid for. When the people around her stood, as they did when Rick Hansen made an appearance, she saw nothing but their backs.
Although the stadium was accessible it wasn’t.
She told the CBC, which reported her story (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/pan-am-games-accessibility-lacking-during-opening-ceremony-woman-says-1.3149037). That is the only reason we know about it. She refuses to return to the Games and wants her ticket money refunded. Ms. Mary Penner had a close encounter with the Ontario Government’s access nonpromises.
Regarding the current Games the Ontario Government made many access nonpromises. Because you may have missed them, as a public service here are the:
TOP TEN SUMMER GAMES ACCESS NONPROMISES MADE TO WALKER USERS
10. Getting to the stadium was never promised. The stadiums are accessible but public transit, which had years to prepare, is not. Only 7 of 200 streetcars are usable for someone in a manual wheelchair. Less than half the subway stations have elevators.
9. Enough seating at the stadium was never promised. Although the tickets are expensive the seats are either not assigned or it does not matter. Apparently it’s rush seating for people using walkers. Walker Rushing For Seats should be a sport at next Games!
8. Promoting access law, so such mistakes could be prevented, was never promised. Clearly stadium administrators did not anticipate the need for access seating although it sold the tickets and arguably (well, to be completely fair and reasonable) INESCAPABLY knew it sold too many tickets because it uses ticketing computers. Did they hope walker users would not be able to get to the stadium? How much did the administrators understand about AODA and access? Leading up to the Games the only publicity about access was about access being denied. The Government, the self-proclaimed “world class access leader,” has been invisible. Question: if a politician is invisible, is that a disability or a blessing?
7. People using walkers were never promised access to anything. It is not mentioned why Ms. Penner uses a walker. A fictional Government spokesperson stated when interviewed, “This is not an access issue. It is a walker issue. Access is about disabilities. A walker is not a disability. Problem solved.”
6. Ensuring the AODA access law was enforced at the Games was never promised. Indeed, the Government worked hard to ensure AODA would not apply to the Games. Coming into the Games the Government said it would put its real emphasis not on demanding but on encouraging business to obey the AODA law. Access law is the only law which the Ontario Government does not require be obeyed.
5. Making Toronto reasonably accessible for Games visitors and athletes was never promised. A lot of people thought the Government promised it, but nope, not really, not in so many words. That is why $60 million budgeted to help with Toronto access problems was never spent.
4. A full implementation of the AODA access law was never promised. Okay, it was promised but in Politicalspeak. When interpreted into English, the Government promises access but not for today. Access is for the future, close to the 2025 deadline. For now, the Government’s goal is to encourage business to obey the law by thinking up nifty power point presentations.
3. Implementing access law now was never promised. Access cannot be implemented until the Government completes the access standards, and that is years away. If the Government is slow to implement access law, why should anyone else speed up? Have you ever tried to force a donkey to speed up? The Government is a similar ass.
2. While the Government promised to enforce and promote access law, it never promised to keep its promise. This statement should need no further explanation. Type into your search engine “government promises.” Few of the 127,000,000 Google results were about kept promises.
1. A fair and reasonable life for people using walkers was never promised. Since the people using walkers is increasing, politicians are looking to the future. Which raises the question why some politicians talk so much about Charlton Heston and Soylent Green and what people using walkers would taste like.
Next: I Was Going To Try And Write Something Nice About The Games While They Are On. I Really Would Like To Be A Team Player. Maybe Next Week About Why Women Have To Wear Bikinis For Beach Volleyball!
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.