Friday, April 08, 2011

Sugar Beach News

Interesting things have happened and I feel compelled to share. For those of you who haven't read the original post, as small recap. A wonderful recreational area called Sugar Beach opened last summer in my neck of the woods and about three weeks ago, I went to check it out. Only to discover that there was no accessible path to get there (details with photos on the original post). I planned to contact Christopher Hume, the Toronto Star columnist who writes about architecture and urban affairs and who’s raved about Sugar Beach. I did so with an invitation to join me for a trek down to the area to see it from a wheelchair point of view.

Christopher Hume never wrote me back, which is a pity because this turned out to be a great story. While I was waiting (in vain) for Mr. Hume to contact me, I got an e-mail from someone entirely unexpected. Bruce Sudds, the Communications Manager for Waterfront Toronto, contacted me the day after that the post was published. He expressed regret that I'd had trouble getting to Sugar Beach and let me know that there were plans to upgrade in the area later this year and that in a few years, the revitalization project would vastly improve the area itself, including wider sidewalks, etc. He also let me know that Sugar Beach itself met the City of Toronto accessibility standards and that waterfront Toronto had included an accessibility consultant in the design process.

I very much liked that e-mail, but did write back and pointed out a few things - in an entirely polite and professional manner - including that any accessibility consultant worth their salt would have included an accessible path to the area. I did not suggest that they hire me, but should they want a consultation from someone who knows firsthand what accessibility is (and who used to work in the field), I'm certainly open to the idea. A-hem. Anyway, back to my chat with Bruce! As invited, I asked for more details about the planned upgrades.

After I’d sent that e-mail, I went to a Community Planning Meeting co-hosted by Pam McConnell, my City Councillor and Glen Murray, the MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) for my riding. It was a terrific meeting and afterwards, I had a fit of advocaciousness and decided to have a chat with my hosts about Sugar Beach, with excellent results. Since curb cuts, etc. are in the City’s area of responsibility, Pam McConnell asked me to send her an e-mail giving her more details about the problem and said she’d pass it on to the appropriate department. I promptly did the next day, but am not sure what's happening with it - left a message with her office asking for an update earlier this week.

Yesterday, I got another e-mail from Bruce Sudds and this is where it gets really cool. Bruce shared a number of things with me:

  • This spring, Waterfront Toronto will be installing sanitary sewers on the east side of Jarvis Street and Queens Quay Boulevard. As part of this project they will be putting curb cuts in the sidewalk
  • Bruce will write to the City requesting curb cuts on the west side of that intersection. Between him and Councillor McConnell asking, I hope this happens by the end of April so people with disabilities can start using the area
  • The gravel area between the sidewalk and Sugar Beach will be paved sometime in the next four months. I urged them to do this sooner rather than later so that residents who use mobility aids can enjoy the area during the summer of 2011. Keep your fingers crossed!
  • In the next several weeks, they will be "installing a ramp leading to a platform that will be 4 metres by 4 metres beneath one of the pink umbrellas." This will be placed "at the same level as the sand" and is "done to ensure people in manual or electric chairs can enjoy Canada’s Sugar Beach."
Good news indeed.


AlisonH said...

Oh, that's wonderful! Well done, Lene, and kudos to them for listening.

Laura said...

Yay!  Congratulations for making your voice heard.  It's obvious that your blog is reaching farther than you may have realized, but it's also great that you were able to speak up and be heard and, even more importantly, be listened to. 

Although I'm still shocked that such a basic accessibility aid as curb cuts aren't mandatory in Canada.  Usually we in the US view Canada as so far ahead of us in social issues, but in this one case I think a law like our ADA is something Canada needs to adopt, the sooner the better!  Leaving it to local sources to provide these basics all too often leads to them being ignored in the name of budgetary stinginess.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that curb cuts are mandatory, but the area around Sugar Beach is industrial and there really hasn't been anything down there. Sidewalks - especially on the south side of the road - are ancient, probably from before accessibility standards got included in the requirements, but it hasn't mattered until now because the only thing that was on that side of the road was the sugar factory.

but yes. We need something like the ADA. The federal government is pushing it on the provinces and the provinces just sit there and do nothing. Without federal legislation, it's too much of a patchwork.

Lene said...

sigh. that reply was from me. I hate my commenting system.

Trevor said...

The problem is that federal legislation would change almost nothing.  Almost everything that an accessiblity law would cover is provincial jurisdiction.  The federal government has almost no say.

LynnM said...

Agree with Laura! YAY and great you made your voice heard!

Kitten said...

I'm tellin ya, you're going to get into politics sooner rather than later...

Lindsey said...

You go girl!

I worked for a county library in California and we had a woman in a power chair that worked for us.  She had to go from our building to another at least once a day.  There was a sidewalk with a curb cut at our location, but no curb cut at the other end of the sidewalk.  She had to roll down the road. The county then did a terrain remodel and when they put in the sidewalk extension and crosswalk there was no curb cut -- at first.  It took 1 year more before they got around to making it accessible!  

It's too bad that you have to request accessibility, but it's wonderful you are making a difference.

liz said...


laura said...