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ODA Committee Update
dated July 14, 2003
posted July 23, 2003



July 12, 2003


For the sixth day in a row, and the eighth day in nine, the Toronto Star included more coverage of the ODA issue. See the three articles below.
Keep writing letters to the editor to support this coverage. Tell the Star about barriers you face.


The Saturday, July 12, 2003 edition of the Toronto Star includes three major articles addressing barriers facing persons with disabilities and the ODA issue. Together this is A LOT of material!

These include:

* A column by Toronto Star disability issues columnist Helen Henderson on whether persons with disabilities need the Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001 to be strengthened to extend it to the private secftor, to make barrier-removal mandatory, and to provide enforcement;

* A very long investigative journalism article by Toronto Star reporter Valerie Hauch on this subject, focusing specifically on physical barriers to access in Toronto restaurants and the costs of removing these. This is the star's latest in a series of articles on this issue;

* A special guest article by Toronto City counsellor Joe Mihevc on the barriers he encountered when he spent a day in a wheelchair.

These articles do an excellent job of focusing on physical barriers facing persons with mobility disabilities. When one category of important barriers is highlighted, it is always important to remember that we seek a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to achieve a barrier-free society for people with all kinds of disabilities. This includes people whose disability is physical, mental, and/or sensory, whether visible or invisible. We seek removal of all kinds of barriers, not only physical

In the second of these articles, Citizenship Minister Defaria is quoted as setting out the Government's policy on whether mandatory requirements should be created for the private sector. It states: "DeFaria said he wants to give businesses a chance to understand what reasonable accessibility standards are. Down the road, if some 'are still not buying into it,' then mandatory action might be necessary." He believes the private sector will catch on that being accessible makes good business sense - 'and it's the right thing to do.'"

It is helpful to remember that since 1995, the same approach has been voiced by each of the four previous Conservative Government Citizenship Ministers, Marilyn Mushinski (1995-97), Isabel Bassett (1997-1999), Helen Johns (1999-2001) and Cam Jackson (2001-2002). Minister DeFaria is the fifth minister to say this. Yet the Toronto Star coverage shows that persons with disabilities still face far too many barriers, including barriers in the private sector, after waiting a very long time to see if the Conservative Government's approach would succeed.

In these articles, the cost of removing barriers in restaurants is discussed. The article by Val Hauch also included a detailed cost breakdown for four restaurants to become accessible. We do not have that part of the newspaper in electronic form, and so it is not included here. However Ms. Hauch's article summarizes the key information.

We want to repeat that the ODA Committee recognizes the importance of a strong and effective ODA giving business reasonable time to make changes.
The cost might be spread over a period of time where needed. Where the Toronto Star details the cost of certain restaurants making changes, there may well be other ways of removing barriers that would cost less. We also readily recognize that big businesses can afford to do more, and do it sooner, than can reasonably be expected of small, indpendent businesses. In the end, a mandatory ODA should help businesses get more customers and make more money.

For the earlier Toronto Star articles, letters to the editor, and the official Toronto Star editorial that have been published over the past week, visit:






It is more important than ever for you to send a letter to the editor at the Toronto Star to give your views on the issues covered in these articles. Send your letters to the Toronto Star at:



Toronto Star Saturday July 12, 2003 Page K15
by Helen Henderson

Those of Us Not Superhuman Need Legislation that Works

Jeff Adams can make a wheelchair look like the coolest thing since the invention of the wheel itself.

Using his super-turbo upper body, the Paralympic gold medallist can get any of his specially designed chairs flying - eating up the oval track, climbing the 1,776 stairs of the CN Tower or tooling around town.

These are stunning accomplishments. But they are not real life. Few people who use wheelchairs are able to bulk up any muscles at all. The conditions that disable them make that physically impossible.

Because Adams is lucky enough not to face such constraints, it is perhaps not surprising that he underestimates what mere mortals are up against. At least that's one way to explain his dogged defence of the weak, ineffectual Ontarians With Disabilities Act (ODA), which departing premier Mike Harris rammed through the Legislature, without any time for effective community input. (Other pieces of proposed legislation on the table at that time were carried over to the next session, where they could be scrutinized and debated.)

As the government-appointed chair of the government-appointed Accessibility Advisory Council, Adams told the Star this week that this isn't the right time for the province to start forcing companies in the private sector to make their businesses accessible to people with disabilities. He believes that with a bit of education, they will voluntarily do the right thing.

His remarks followed a report from the Ontario Human Rights Commission castigating fast-food chains for not providing easy, independent access for people who use wheelchairs. Subsequently, a team of Star reporters visited 62 fast-food locations operated by 15 major chains on Yonge St. from Lake Ontario to Richmond Hill. They found none independently accessible to customers who use wheelchairs. Even places that provided ramps had no automatic door-opening button.

Adams' statements, which appeared Monday in the Star, drew outrage from the disability community. In a telephone interview the next day, he zigzagged all over the map defending his belief in the legislation drawn up by the Tories.

Both Adams and advisory council vice-chair Barry McMahon, a film producer and disability activist from Ottawa, insist the ODA is working. Problem is, the Act covers only the public sector and effectively downloads any responsibility for change on to cash-starved municipalities.

As long as the municipalities put forward some sort of plan, Adams and the province can say the ODA has accomplished its goals. The fact that it contains no mandatory changes, no deadlines for accomplishing anything and no means of enforcement is apparently irrelevant.

Adams also argues that it is not the ODA but the province's building and human rights codes that should be used to effect change. That could be true
- except that the Tories have weakened accessibility under the building code and have left the human rights commission drastically underfunded.

It takes years to get a human rights case heard. The commission can tackle issues only on a case-by-case basis and has no teeth when it comes to making principles stick. If Adams isn't aware of this, he should be.

As far as the building code is concerned, Toronto Councillor Joe Mihevc, who heads the city's disability issues committee, says Queen's Park has made things "even worse than they were before.

"Things that were mandatory have become 'suggested,'" Mihevc said after revisions were completed last year. Adams says he believes building codes should be a federal responsibility. "We need to synchronize them across the country," he says.

As an "uploading" theory, that may sound terrific for getting Ontario off the accessibility hook, but I suspect Queen's Park and the other provinces might have a slight objection to handing over control.

Adams' belief that businesses will voluntarily make themselves accessible is also naive at best, witness the fact that fewer than half of 29 fast-food chains responded to a voluntary accessibility survey sent them by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. As a result, the commission hired an external consultant to do inspections.

"It doesn't matter what you're dealing with, whether it's smoking or pesticides or accessibility," Mihevc says. "You have to have timetables and it has to be mandatory or it won't happen."

Councillor Anne Johnston, who co-chaired with Adams the accessibility sub-committee for Toronto's failed bid for the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics, agrees. "Unless it's covered by a zoning requirement or a bylaw, nothing gets done," Johnston says.

The bidding group argued that hosting the Games would help make Toronto "the world's most accessible city." As part of that plan, Tourism Toronto hired a director of innovation whose first task was "to focus on accessibility." That plan fizzled with the failed bid. When he was first appointed to Ontario's accessibility advisory council last year, Adams, who was among the public supporters of Ontario Enterprise Minister Jim Flaherty's bid for the provincial leadership, stressed that "the carrot works; the stick doesn't."

In an interview, he said he'd like to see more effort from the construction industry and questioned why U.S. companies working under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) weren't making the same changes in their Ontario units that they had made south of the border.

Here's a hint: Changes under the ADA are mandatory only in the U.S.

Write: Helen Henderson, Life Section, Toronto Star, One Yonge St., Toronto, Ont. M5E 1E6. Please include your telephone number. E-mail: hhenderson@ thestar.ca.


Toronto Star
NEWS, Saturday, July 12, 2003, p. B1 (cont on B4 and B5)
Finding a Place at the Table
Restaurant Barriers Deter the Disabled
But change isn't always out of reach

Valerie Hauch
Toronto Star

If you walk, you can eat anywhere.

For the able-bodied diner, a restaurant-rich city like Toronto is a feast waiting to be savoured. A taste of tandoori? Just jog along Gerrard St. For tongue-cooling torrone (almond) gelato, take a stroll to College and Clinton Sts.

But for Julie Gibson, 58, also an adventurous connoisseur of good food, it's not so easy. While she loves to dine out and lives in restaurant-rich Little Italy, Gibson can't just duck into the El Rancho on College for some palate-pleasing "paella marinera" or sink her teeth into an eggplant al pesto panini down the street at Amato Pizza. She can't get past the entrance barriers in her wheelchair.

It's an all-too-common dilemma for people like Gibson, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 24 years ago and now gets around by scooter or wheelchair. But there's a new focus on restaurant accessibility, and Gibson welcomes it.

"Bravo for Keith Norton," she says, referring to the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Norton recently announced the findings of a hired consultant who found that seven fast food chains in the province are failing to provide accessible facilities.

Gibson and other disabled diners in the GTA, such as Ed Rice, who uses a scooter as a result of post-polio complications, are fed up waiting for restaurateurs to make voluntary changes. "I'd rather have accessibility now and deal with the ill will later," says Gibson.

She disagrees with a recent comment by Jeff Adams, chair of the government's Accessibility Advisory Council of Ontario, who said that now isn't the time to bring in mandatory accessibility requirements for the private sector, and that doing so would cause "ill will."

Adams' comments are "irritating," says Rice, a disability activist. "The private sector, which consists of restaurants, theatres, retail stores, salons, etc., is where people with disabilities spend the vast majority of their time and money. However, many of these venues are inaccessible but could be (made accessible) with easy and inexpensive modifications."

The names of the chains cited in the commission's report won't be made public for about five weeks, to give them time to respond. But some of the findings in the study - which used a 40-item checklist to rate the restaurants and found them lacking in elements such as automatic door openers and washroom accessibility - were echoed in a recent informal survey of 62 Yonge St. eateries done by the Toronto Star.

The Star survey found that none of the facilities, between Queens Quay and Major Mackenzie Dr., had an automatic door opener. Ten restaurants lacked ramps to bypass steps. Two had doors that were impossible for a wheelchair user entering alone to use. If you're an able-bodied diner you might be thinking: That's a shame - I'm thankful it doesn't affect me.

Not so fast.

Tomorrow, you, too, could be among the 1.9 million Ontarians who have disabilities, including mobility problems - a number destined to rise as the population ages. As Toronto disability activist David Lepofsky puts it: "There are only two kinds of people in our province. People who now have a disability and ... the rest who will get one some time in the future."

Lepofsky is the chair of the Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee, a grassroots, cross-disability coalition of groups and individuals (www.odacommittee.net) that has worked for nine years to strengthen the act and bring disability issues and solutions to public attention.

If your mobility is impaired, you know about barriers found at the door and inside many restaurants in the GTA.

New buildings must be built to specific accessibility standards under the Ontario Building Code. But hundreds of city restaurants are in older buildings erected when little thought was given to accessibility. Almost every restaurant in Little Italy, for instance, has steps or other barriers at the door. It may be just a 15-centimetre step. But frequently it's a more sizable one, to a heavy door without an automatic opener.

Even if a disabled diner manages to get in, his or her troubles are rarely over. Restaurant lanes seem designed more to accommodate a fashion model than the average, slightly corpulent Canadian, let alone someone who uses a wheelchair or a walking device.

Then there's the matter of washrooms. In most older restaurants, stairs must be navigated to reach a washroom in the basement. But even some relatively spacious eateries in renovated buildings, such as the Starbucks at College St. and Euclid Ave., which has two entrances, and Pizza Pizza at Parliament and Prospect Sts., with three entrances, are not accessible to wheelchair patrons. Strangely, both have washrooms with a wheelchair-accessibility signs - in essence, washrooms for the disabled that the disabled can't reach.

A confusing situation? Yes, but perhaps not surprising considering the hodge-podge of laws and regulations that govern accessibility for restaurants and other private buildings.

Superseding all other laws is the Ontario Human Rights Code. It gives everyone in this province the right to barrier-free restaurants, shops, hotels, movie theatres and other public places, and obliges businesses operating in Ontario to make their facilities accessible.

The only available defence would be if a business could show that providing access or services would constitute "undue hardship having regard to cost, outside sources of funding or health and safety factors."

The problem with enforcement is that it's complaint-driven - a complaint must be lodged by an individual or the human rights commission itself, and it can take months or years to resolve. Plus, the decision would apply only to the specific restaurant complained about, even if it belonged to a chain. Findings against one outlet would not be binding on all.

Then there's the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, passed in 2001, which sets out specific requirements for public buildings such as hospitals, school boards and government buildings.

It also requires all municipalities of more than 10,000 people to have accessibility plans, although an important element is missing: The government has not proclaimed section 21, which deals with penalties. If municipalities don't do what they're supposed to do, there are no specific penalties.

Citizenship Minister Carl DeFaria, whose responsibilities include implementing the act, says it's "working very well." As for the private sector, it's "just a matter of time before people starting seeing the results. People want an instantly accessible Ontario ... but you have to put the foundations in place," DeFaria said.

The government has been working with private-sector bodies such as the Greater Toronto Hotel Association and the Canadian Standards Association to create voluntary standards for accessibility.

DeFaria said he wants to give businesses a chance to understand what reasonable accessibility standards are. Down the road, if some "are still not buying into it," then mandatory action might be necessary, he said. He believes the private sector will catch on that being accessible makes good business sense - "and it's the right thing to do." It's good that Norton's report has drawn attention to the issue, he said. "From a point of an education and awareness role ... we welcome his report."

While the disabilities act doesn't require businesses to remove barriers, it does contain "tool" clauses that could be used to improve accessibility. For instance, section 29 allows municipalities to require that businesses be accessible to people with disabilities as a condition for obtaining, continuing to hold or renewing a licence. But it doesn't require municipalities to do so, which could lead to a patchwork of requirements and a bumpy ride for disability advocates across the province.

So far, Toronto has no plans to use this section, says Joe Mihevc, chair of the city's Disabilities Issues Committee. But the committee is working on accessible-design guidelines for buildings that will eventually go to city council for approval and could be used to "tie (business) applications to accessibility criteria," Mihevc says.

In the interim, he says, the province needs to amend the act to make accessibility mandatory for the private sector, as well as change the building code so that when buildings are renovated, accessibility requirements are included.

The Ontario Building Code is the third part of the body of regulations touching on accessibility issues, after the disabilities act and the human rights code. The code requires new restaurants to be fully accessible. In minimum terms, this means a person in a wheelchair must be able to enter easily; there must be a wheelchair-accessible washroom that follows specific design requirements; and there must be an easily navigated path to it. New restaurants of more than 3,000 square feet also must have an automatic door opener.

With retrofits, it's a different story. Basically, if a restaurant opens in an existing building with barriers, the restaurateur isn't required by the code to do anything to make it accessible.

Renovations take the restaurant owner into trickier territory. If the restaurant is just hanging a new door, for instance, the entrance doesn't need to be made barrier-free. But if major entrance changes are planned, such as widening a doorway or creating a new one, new requirements come into play.

By starting at the doorway and continuing, the restaurateur "triggers (the need for) a barrier-free path of travel," says Bryan Kozman, the province's manager of building and development policy. But if the owner totally upgrades the interior without a major change to the doorway, there's no requirement to remove barriers.

The next version of the Ontario Building Code is due to come into effect in 2005. A review of the code started this spring, and the government is looking at more than 100 submissions on accessibility and other issues.

Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Dave Young was out of town and unavailable for comment. But the current review follows previous, similar consultations. In fact, the government has been consulting on this issue for years.

Hansard records show that on Nov. 23, 1998, Isabel Bassett, then minister of citizenship, culture and recreation, proclaimed in the legislature that "the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing will consult with organizations representing persons with disabilities, municipalities, as well as the homebuilding and development industries, to identify priorities for improving barrier-free design standards in the Ontario Building Code.

"Clearly, Mr. Speaker, our commitment to preventing and removing barriers for persons with disabilities is government-wide," Bassett said. Almost five years later, disability activists like Lepofsky are still waiting for concrete changes. His group would like to see accessibility standards governing retail chains added to the disabilities act, as well as an enforcement provision.

"We want there to be standards and we want there to be enforcement," Lepofsky said. "If you set up (accessibility) standards and regulations but no enforcement, then you haven't got anything."

The ODA committee has already proposed to DeFaria that members of the disabled community sit down with government and business representatives (restaurant, retail, hotel etc.) and together come up with accessibility standards. "Then the government would have to work out a way to enforce those standards, along with a time frame," Lepofsky says.

In the interim, a lot of restaurant owners are missing out on business because disabled people can't get in. "A lot of us are working; we have disposable income," points out Nancy Barry, a wheelchair user employed as the peer support volunteer co-ordinator at the Centre for Independent Living, a non-profit resource group that helps disabled people learn independent living skills and integrate into the community.

Barry, 36, is part of a dining-out club whose members happen to be disabled. Club members (ranging from five to 28 at a time) eat out together on a monthly basis. They've compiled their own list of 54 accessible GTA restaurants. (For a copy, call 416-599-2458, ext. 27, or by TTY at 416-599-5077; or e-mail peervolunteer @ cilt.ca).

"We're not isolated ... we didn't just drop down from Mars. We're surrounded by family, friends," says Barry, pointing out that if a group that includes a disabled person or persons can't get into a restaurant, the whole group is going to go somewhere else.

If a restaurant is undergoing a major renovation, there's no reason why the design can't also make it accessible without breaking the bank, says David Wallace, vice-president of Toronto-based Adapt-Able Design Group Inc., which specializes in barrier-free and universal design in new construction and renovations for workplaces, commercial and public buildings and parks as well as homes.

"For those business/restaurant owners who want to improve accessibility but are concerned about the cost, I normally suggest that accessibility features be phased in over a period of time as other work is being done." The cost can be negligible when other renovations are being done, Wallace said.

The Star asked Adapt-Able to assess four restaurants in the GTA, chosen at random, and give ballpark figures for the cost of making them accessible.

Lou Ricci, co-owner of Tony Pistola's, at 2982 Bloor St. W., says his restaurant is accessible from the back entrance, which opens onto the restaurant's private parking pad and is near a public lot. Although there's a slight riser at the doorway (about 2.5 centimetres high) and no automatic door opener, Ricci says his staff are happy to help anyone who needs assistance. It's "not cost-effective" at this time to put in a door opener, says Ricci, who has a cousin with multiple sclerosis and made a conscious decision a couple of years ago to add a wheelchair-accessible washroom.

Paul Hatsisavvas, owner of The Friendly Greek at 4695 Yonge St., says he's in the process of trying to negotiate a new lease with his landlord. If successful, he says, he wants to add a rooftop patio, "and I will put in a wheelchair-accessible washroom" on the main floor. The only washroom now is in the basement. Hatsisavvas says he does have disabled patrons, and staff are always able to help those who need assistance.

Spiaggia Trattoria manager Mary Lee Mickevicus says wheelchair users can get in via the back door, and staff are happy to help. Disabled patrons, she says, like most clients, phone ahead and are told they can use a parking space at the back.

The budget for changes to increase accessibility, as proposed by Adapt-Able, "seems reasonable," she says, but is still "a huge outlay for a small business," especially since the no-smoking bylaw adversely affected sales.

A spokesperson for Starbucks Canada would not comment about the specific location Adapt-Able studied. However, in a statement responding to the human rights commission's report, Starbucks Canada spokesman Lara Wyss said, "We are committed to working with the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner to address any areas of concern to ensure that all of our customers, including our customers with disabilities, can access our stores and have an enjoyable experience."


Toronto Star
NEWS, Saturday, July 12, 2003, p. B4
My day in a wheelchair
by Joe Mihevc
Sspecial to the Star

A city councillor rolls through a day in the life of his disabled constituents and discovers the necessity of patience

The revelations:

His favourite eatery is off-limits; it takes three times as long to get to work; malls have their benefits

In planning for the day a few months back, my first thought was that I should tie my feet together the moment I got out of bed. In so doing, I would get a true sense of a day in the life of a person with a disability. I quickly realized, however, that it was not possible to even consider the option.

My house has two storeys and my family sleeps on the second floor. If I were truly disabled, the entire house would require a major renovation. First of all, I would either live on the main floor or have to install an electric lift. I would need to widen the washroom doors and install railings. Kitchen counters and stovetops would need to be lowered, a more accessible refrigerator purchased, and more space would be needed to accommodate a wheelchair's wide turning radius. Finally, I would need to install a ramp or a lift to get outside.

My day started in the garage, where the wheelchair had been delivered. I bundled myself in warm clothing and nestled into the battery-powered chair. I was committed to making it through the day and overcoming each obstacle that presented itself.

On any given morning, waiting for WheelTrans can be a big problem. Hearing that WheelTrans allows for a waiting grace period of only five minutes, I made sure that I was early. The bus came pretty much on time, but that meant that I waited for a half an hour. I realize that being in a wheelchair means you must be patient in playing the waiting game.

Without Wheeltrans, my only recourse would have been to motor the wheelchair to the nearest accessible subway station, which in my case was about two miles (3.2 kilometres) away at Bathurst and Bloor. The TTC is retrofitting its subways and elevators, a couple or so a year, but the entire system will not be fully accessible until 2019!

WheelTrans is the legs of the disabled community in Toronto. During the day, I talked with a number of people in wheelchairs. Every one of them both loved and had a horror story to tell about WheelTrans. All agreed that the door-to-door service is great, with staff helping you on and off very spacious buses. Most complaints, however, have to do with difficulties in booking appointments and the unforgiving grace period. The ride may be great, but the system is in such great demand that there is very little flexibility.

The bus drops me off at the back entrance to City Hall. However, I cannot enter because of construction barriers. I motor around the block to the front entrance. Entering my office is another challenge, as there are bookshelves and chairs blocking easy passage. The trip from my front door to my desk was made not in my regular half-hour, but in an hour and half. Life in a wheelchair is an obstacle course, and I am already tired. Washrooms, even accessible ones, are a challenge. Knowing where they are, planning one's day became quite important. It can be a monumental task just to get on a toilet, depending on the degree of disability.

Office work is doable in a wheelchair. I would need to adjust the level of my desk and computer, the proximity of certain files and material. The greatest discomfort is not being able to stretch, which, believe it or not, becomes quite painful by the end of the working day.

The battery-powered wheelchair is an amazing machine. It is fun to be able to crank up the speed and move faster than walking people. The wheelchair slows down automatically when you turn corners, thus reducing the chance of tipping. However, you quickly learn that it's awkward and bulky, and, at times, impossible to manoeuvre. The rides are bumpy, especially when crossing streets or on sidewalks that need repair. My ankles bear the bruises of a rookie bumping into obstacles as I try to master the machine that is my lifeline to the world.

Without the use of my legs, my upper body becomes all the more important. The day gives my arms and shoulders a good workout. I have heard that disabled people who have use of their arms and shoulders have amazing upper body strength. Arms and hands take on the extra task of becoming part of your transportation system. I wonder how my friends who have limited hand and arm mobility do it.

Lunchtime poses unique challenges. Normally, I eat lunch outside of City Hall on Dundas St., at my favourite Chinese restaurant. I curse the streetcar tracks as I cross Dundas, and praise the heavens for the ramped sidewalks. I discover that my favourite restaurant is inaccessible. One step is one step too many in a wheelchair. Most restaurants, indeed most stores, on main streets are not fully accessible. If there is not a step leading into the store, then it is the washroom located in the basement that makes it inaccessible. This limits disabled people to malls, where accessibility is improved.

I truck over to the Atrium on Bay, which has push-button doors, an elevator with wide doors and low panels, and wide walkways. I meet a number of disabled people and we instantly catch each other's eye - solidarity has taken on new meaning.

I compare my machine with that of another person in a wheelchair. I tell her I'm a rookie; she responds by encouraging me to take heart, assuring me that I'll get used to the machine. Generally, Torontonians are friendly in dealing with me, moving out of the way to give me elbow room (was it my driving?), and one person, in the food concourse, offered to help with carrying my lunch tray.

Back to City Hall. More meetings and paper-pushing to follow. I start to get very fidgety by late afternoon. I really want to walk around, to stretch, and to quicken the pace of activity to get all my work done. However, I cannot; I must be patient, approach things more slowly. I need to rely on my assistants more. The dependency is bothersome.

I arranged for WheelTrans to pick me up at 8 p.m. I wait at exactly the same spot where I was dropped off. Unfortunately, because of construction, a sign had been placed on the rear City Hall door saying that the Wheeltrans pickup was on the Bay St. side of the building. How was I supposed to know? I wait and wait in the cold, wondering about my next move if Wheeltrans does not show up. Meanwhile, the WheelTrans driver is around the block. Thank goodness, I decide to check out the Bay St. side of the building. My eyes light up as I see my saviour - that is, the bus and its driver. I am relieved - I'll make it home today! The driver tells me that he waited knowing it was a "VIP" call. In normal circumstances, he would have taken off after five minutes. I would have had to find a phone and plead for a second chance for a pickup. Such requests can result in several hours of waiting.

I make it home and park the wheelchair in the garage. My back is killing me and my body desperately wants to stretch. But I have survived the day and overcome each obstacle before me. I feel proud that I saw the world from a totally different angle and that I was still able to accomplish a number of things in the day.

I have a new respect for people in wheelchairs, who dare to take on the world each day they decide to leave home. I appreciate their fierce independence, the way they guard their independence wherever they can.

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