Color & Control:

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games: Outlook on Accessibility

By Joel Dembe

As the 2015 Pan Am Games quickly approach, I find myself thinking about all the changes (both positive and negative) that will come to Toronto. It’s a bit of weird/cool experience to be an athlete who will compete in these games. I am processing the fact that I have a good shot to win a medal for Canada. To do this on home soil, in my own city, in front of all my family and friends would be incredible.

Besides my aspirations for glory on the tennis court, I’m also intrigued to see how the city responds from an accessibility standpoint. We’re going to have a LOT of visitors with a variety of disabilities (both athletes and fans alike) roaming around the city. As it currently stands, Toronto is not yet ready to face the challenges this will ultimately bring.

Accessible transit, both public and on-demand private transportation, is sorely lacking right now. As a proud Torontonian, I want our city to be held in high regard with all the visitors our city will host during the games. The other important part of this is the legacy factor. The London 2012 Paralympics were a perfect example – a city largely inaccessible transformed by the Games, with the creation of an accessible subway line and the addition of accessible taxis.

There are so many things one can do in Toronto. From the waterfront, to Kensington Market, to our many bike trails, we have a lot to be proud of. We need to ensure that an accessible transit plan is in place so that everyone has the opportunity to see what Toronto has to offer. We can assume that Games organizers will provide accessible transportation to and from venues, but what about the rest of the time?

New initiatives around the city such as the low-floor streetcars are a great start. Let’s continue to push, and push harder leading into 2015. We need a sense of urgency to ensure we are ready. The countdown is on.

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