Dear Buskerfest

Dear Buskerfest,

It's no secret that I'm not fond of you. For years, you've invaded my neighbourhood the last weekend in August and when I say invaded, I mean take over and fill up sidewalks and streets to the point that I can't get to the grocery store for the throngs of people. A few years ago, you added an extra day to the point where your bloated festival takes up four days, which means that for four days, my neighborhood looks like this

Don't get me wrong, I love a good festival as much as the next person - sure, it's not always easy to get through the crowds when you use a wheelchair, but Woofstock (for instance), which also invades this neck o’ the woods for 3 days in June, is a lot of fun. What makes your shenanigans particularly bothersome is the fact that the buskers? The reason we're all here? The entertainment? Is hard to see for me. After all, when this

is your view of the aforementioned acts, not once, but all the time, the fun is next to nonexistent. The fact that more often than not, the four-day long weekend falls on or near my birthday just rubs salt in the wound.

There is something about you that makes me feel disabled. My neighborhood is very accessible, as close to barrier-free as they get - there are lot of us wheelchair users here and almost every store and building are accessible and often not just in the sense that there is no step, but including automatic door openers, checkout aisles that are wider, staff who volunteer assistance without infantilizing you and most of the time, my ability to participate in this community and use its services and facilities is not that different than any of my able-bodied neighbours. Until you come to town, that is. Between the throngs, the stalls and equipment blocking the sidewalk and street, having to take a long circuitous route to the grocery store, your perky volunteers blocking all entry to the rather vast area of the neighborhood occupied by you, making it difficult for me to get through to aforementioned grocery store and did I mention this

it is impossible not to become aware that life would be so much easier if I could travel walking. After several years of this nonsense, I'll admit I started taking a bit personally. Sure, I made a joke of it because intellectually, I knew you were not deliberately trying to make me and those like me feel unwelcome at the festival. Although I'm sure you'll agree that placing the donation box on opening day last year at head height for a fairly tall (and walking) person

could be construed as assuming we would not attend, but I put it down to a particularly dimwitted staff having a "bright" idea. Because believing that a street festival in the city of Toronto is deliberately putting up barriers to people who use wheelchairs and scooters is just… well, paranoid, isn't it?

And then you came back this year. To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed that first day when I got to berate one of your employees - politely, because I'm Canadian and when I say berate, I mean ask nicely - about the sharp and pointed screws being left on the sidewalk after constructing the entry arch as being a decided risk for flat tires and oh look, there's more than one. There are many. All over the sidewalk. Serving as a minefield for wheelchairs. And then the next day, you'd finished building that entrance and it looked like this

Yes, you really did have to squeeze in at the sides – first a minefieild, now an obstacle course!

And the normally very accessible and wheelchair-friendly restaurants in my neighbourhood who normally don't have a patio decided to get in on the game (example only, there were more than this one)

And even if I wanted to sit inside, the ramp to the sidewalk is placed outside of that enclosure and now I can't go to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, either. And that's when I knew. I have not been paranoid. I have not been influenced by crowd-induced crankiness, people having fun without me (despite being right in front of me) or an inability to let go of the All about Me-infused birthday thing, but that you really, truly appear to not only deliberately exclude those who travel seated, but somehow managed to infect my accessible neighbourhood with that barrier-filled attitude like a particularly virulent strain of Head Up Yer Arse.

So is it any wonder that I snickered when I saw your flyer. Of which you have printed thousands, likely hundreds of thousands

It's a small thing. It doesn't make up for the rest of it, but it was very, very satisfying.




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