Tag Archives: disability discrimination act 1995

Disabled living in Canada

I have just returned from a very happy two week visit to Ontario with my husband Ian, staying with my brother and attending our niece’s wedding. I have loved Canada ever since my first visit nearly 50 years ago, and have been back many times. Indeed, it is the one country outside the UK where I would be happy to live. The Americans joke about the Canadians – always calm, punctual and highly efficient (and with strong gun laws) – not realising that it is indeed good to live in a liberal democracy ruled by common sense. The country is also stunningly beautiful and we have explored it from Newfoundland to Vancouver, and from Niagara to Hudson Bay.

Canada has a proud record of providing a safe haven for those who have been forced from their homes, from the former slaves who took the Underground Railroad to freedom, to the current policy of welcoming refugees, most recently from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

But Canada has its dark side, highlighted by the recent visit by the Pope. And we also discovered that disabled people have limited rights in law, and their needs are often overlooked institutionally.

This was the first time we had flown anywhere since the pandemic. Ian has a complex neurological condition and we have been using Special Assistance in airports for some years. He has some, but limited, mobility and since our last flight he has started using a mobility scooter and a folding wheelchair which we take with us when we go out together, so we took it with us to Canada this time.

The first thing we noticed in Canada is that there is no requirement for buildings that are open to the public to be accessible. When we ate out in a restaurant we had to phone in advance to check whether we could actually get in with the wheelchair. Once in, few had disabled loos.

But the real struggle emerged when we got to Montreal Airport for our flight home. We had booked Special Assistance through the airline (Air Transat) but we discovered on the airport’s website that they also offered a service from the drop-off point to check-in. To add to the complications my mobility is also limited, but not to the same extent as Ian’s, and I find it impossible to push a wheelchair and all our luggage at the same time. So we filled in the online form to request this support and received a confirmation telling us to report to Door 4 of the terminal at 7pm.

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Baroness Sal Brinton writes…Disabled rail travel: We’re not just treated like second class citizens, we’re treated like packages

Link is Very Friendly to WheelchairsWhen people in wheelchairs meet one another, disabled travel experiences are a frequent topic of conversation. Rail, buses or taxi we have often encountered brilliant helpful staff, but frankly, sometimes appalling service.

My train commuter run to Parliament from Watford Junction to Euston is usually very smooth, with unfailingly helpful London Midland and National Rail assistance staff, but both stations are staffed for as long as trains are running. Unstaffed stations can be really patchy.

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Opinion: London 2012 Paralympics – A real legacy for people with disabilities?

I was watching Newsnight last week and saw a discussion on the diversity and legacy potential of London 2012 with respect to the UK’s disabled population. Some of the remarks made by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson I was in complete agreement with, whilst others left me perplexed and feeling somewhat cut off from whatever the organisers are trying to achieve.

She is right to say that legislation alone will do nothing to change the mindsets of the majority in our society who see disability as something to be scared of. The reason for this, as with many people’s fears, is because …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 12 Comments
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