A list of local candidates that actually listen to PWD

Last Thursday, I watched the Mayoral debate on CTV Ottawa. Full disclosure: I get bored the few times I’ve watched debates. Sadly, I get bored because issues that people with disabilities face are rarely mentioned.

Scratch that. They’re never mentioned. This was also the case during the debate on CTV Ottawa.

I was excited to watch the debate because, to me, this is an exciting election. No matter who wins, we’ll have a new mayor.

As some of you are aware, I don’t like Jim Watson. There are several reasons why, but I never got the impression that he cared or even listened to people with disabilities.

While he was mayor, we’d see each other, and I’d always say hi, or something like that. Often, he’d ignore me in an obvious manner. It was always evident that he wanted nothing to do with me.

As a person, I get it. I often come across people who aren’t comfortable being around me or other PWD. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s not my problem—their loss.

As a mayor, though, I feel that an essential part of the job is being able to connect with all residents, not just the ones with money.

Jim Watson never took the time to reach out to me or others in the PWD community, except when it came to photo ops. That’s not a mayor.

While I’m on the subject, during the current election season, I’ve reached out to Mark Sutcliffe several times to hear how he plans to improve Para Transpo and wheelchair-accessible taxis.

As of now, he hasn’t responded.

I am happy to report that several city council candidates have responded or have included members of the PWD community.

Here’s a list:

John Redins (Ward 10 – Gloucester Southgate)

As a PWD himself, he has first-hand experience of how bad Para Transpo service is. I’ve known John for many years. We’ve attended many city council meetings together and had discussions with OC Transpo officials.

Our meetings helped convince the city to implement an online booking system for Para Transpo users.

Erin Coffin (Ward 23 – Kanata South)

If I recall correctly, Erin Coffin reached out to me. Initially, we were going to chat using Zoom, but I had difficulty communicating. Erin was more than happy to talk through email and, more recently, social media. I should also mention that Erin Coffin was the ONLY candidate to take a trip on Para Transpo. She joined Sally Thomas on Para Transpo while Sally did some errands.

I think that’s amazing, and more candidates SHOULD experience Para Transpo. Based on my conversations with Erin, I see that she cares about Kanata South, the city itself, and improving Para Transpo.

Miranda Gray (Ward 11 – Beacon Hill-Cyrville)

Full disclosure, I’ve known Miranda for at least a few years. She did reach out to me, wanting to talk face to face, but it didn’t happen, and I take responsibility for that. I can tell you that Miranda is aware of the concerns about Para Transpo and needs to improve. Miranda and I have talked about it on several occasions through social media.

Ariel Troster (Ward 14 – Somerset)

Again, I’ve known Ariel for several years. Through social media, she has learned about the challenges that Para Transpo users face and the lack of wheelchair accessibility both in Somerset and city-wide. In our brief conversations, it’s pretty clear that she wants to help improve Para Transpo and have our voices heard.

Catherine McKenney (Mayor)

I admit I have a soft spot for Catherine McKenney, and I know I’m not the only PWD to say that. For eight years, I’ve had the pleasure of having Catherine McKenney as my city councillor.

During those eight years, we’ve chatted many, many times through social media. We’ve discussed Para Transpo, wheelchair accessibility, bumpy, narrow sidewalks, bike lanes, and more.

THAT, by itself, is what a mayor SHOULD be and NEEDS to be. A mayor should be willing to listen and share ideas.

Catherine and I have sat at the round table during council meetings. When it was my turn to talk, Catherine was one of the very few who listened. They may not have fully understood my voice, but they listened.

I also remember that on one of those occasions, after my time was up, they mentioned that I had a column where I write about people with disabilities and our challenges. Catherine suggested that everyone read it to understand PWD better.

Another quick story I’ll share is, one day,  the road outside my building was being repaved. Due to this work, the sidewalk was no longer even with the road. The curb was much too high.

Before heading out on Para Transpo, I messaged Catherine McKenney to inform them. They quickly responded. When I returned home, a ramp was in place to help PWD get on and off the sidewalk while the road was getting repaved. I was pleasantly surprised.

For some, putting a ramp somewhere means very little; just ask certain small business owners. To a PWD, installing a ramp means the world to us. It means that we matter and that PWD are included.

Speaking of accessibility, during this election, adding bike lanes has been a hot topic. I just want to remind everyone that people with disabilities often use bike lanes, even during winter. Most sidewalks are too bumpy and narrow. Roads are also rough, which can be painful if you’re on Para Transpo.

More bike lanes mean more PWD could get around without needing Para Transpo.

It’s important to note that not all PWD can use bike lanes, and there will always be a need for Para Transpo and wheelchair-accessible taxis.

Before I wrap this up, if any local candidates plan to improve Para Transpo, wheelchair-accessible taxis, or learn more about what YOU can do to help PWD in your community, please contact me.

Election Day is October 24th. If a candidate reaches out to me, and I can properly address our concerns, I will write your name here next week as a person that PWD should vote for.

You can reach me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photo: iStock