On October 21, voters will elect six new councillors and a new mayor to City Hall. First let me get out of the way that I agree with most that it is important for all eligible Citizens to vote HOWEVER what if a citizen feels that they are not being represented by City Council or the Mayor, then what?
I can’t tell you how many times I have hear people over the course of the last few months say “I don’t care who you vote for just get out there and vote” Well that would be fantastic if I felt that I was being heard or that my vote mattered
As a Citizen with a disability I face many barriers to participate fully in society and as I write this I can’t believe that it is 2013 and I still face barriers.
Some of the barriers that I face are fair and equal access to transportation, programs and services and even getting around as a pedestrian. I will make an effort to briefly outline each issue but and I will go into each issue in greater detail separately in future posts.
Let’s start with transportation; I use the Disabled Adult Transportation Service (DATS) provided by the City of Edmonton’s Edmonton Transit Service Department, a few years ago I had written to one of the current candidates for Mayor regarding changes that I think could be made to make the program less expensive because in my view the present cost of the program is outrageous. After the Candidate being in touch with the Director of DATS at the time I was accused of being a liar and you would have thought that I had committed a crime for suggesting any changes. I had even offered myself as a potential pilot project participant, some of you might be saying what do you care, you are being provided a service. Well, let me tell you why I care, first and foremost I am a tax payer and I care about the City I live in secondly in recent years I have been refused service to medical appointments because my destination is too close to my home, according to DATS the cost is too high to justify a trip that is so close to my residence. My suggestion was to meter rate it.
Another issue that some DATS patrons face is costs, in approximately 2005 The City of Edmonton launched a pilot project that after a year was turned into a program where the City of Edmonton offers residence that are Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) for a Bus Pass Subsidy only to be used for those who use regular Transit and excludes AISH recipients who use DATS.
Now onto those dreaded potholes, think they only affect those who drive, think again. If you are an individual who uses either a manual wheelchair or forearm crutches you are at risk of injury when crossing the street. A manual wheelchair can and has been stuck in a pothole. Potholes can also be a hazard to someone who uses crutches; a crutch gets into a pothole causing the individual to fall, all too oncoming traffic, causing more danger. Did I contact the City of Edmonton about this issue; you bet I did, was anything done, not really. The Staff member that contacted me would rather argue with me about the whereabouts of the potholes than to send a crew out to solve the problem.
The issue of the lack of curb cuts on some city streets makes me chuckle because when I contacted one current mayoral candidate about this issue I had no idea that they were even called curb cuts I think I called them ramped corners, but after an exchange of emails I was set straight about that. After contacting two current mayoral candidates about the lack of “Curb Cuts” in certain neighbourhoods I was directed my one to contact 311 Edmonton and the other offered this statement “it’s not my role to prioritize one street over another for upgrading with the limited resources we have”. Ignoring the ridiculous statement I decided to call 311. I gave the operator a street and avenue location of some of the curb cuts that I noticed and absolutely nothing was done.
I am hopeful that this post will give you a better understanding and some insight as to why a person with a disability may feel that they are not represented. My wish for Edmonton is that our neighbourhoods become safe and barrier free for all citizens; children, senior citizens and yes even people with disabilities.
I final word to all the candidates; when your bid is successful please be mindful of all citizens when making decisions, hire staff that have pride in their community and ensure that all calls are answered and above everything else take all issues serious. Issues may arise from time to time that may not affect you personally and may seem petty or unimportant or even unreasonable but remember they are important to someone. Good Luck to all of you!!!!!!!!!!