Exploring the world and your own backyard

How the internet can help make the world seem a little more accessible

I’ve lived in Ottawa my entire life, and even after almost 47 years, I haven’t seen everything. There are several reasons for that. One is that Ottawa itself isn’t very wheelchair accessible, and I’m not just talking about buildings. I’m also referring to bike paths, bridges, and even some parks. Many of those are just as bumpy or bumpier than the roads that cars, trucks, and buses use.

And during the winter, forget about it.

The only time I’m outside during the winter months is when I’m getting on and off a Para Transpo bus. Depending on how much snow is on the ground, even getting into a vehicle can become a battle. Needless to say, I mostly stay indoors during the winter.

It’s easy for me to feel isolated at times, which eventually turns into cabin fever. Given the pandemic, now, more than ever, cabin fever has hit many.

Thankfully, there’s the internet,

While the internet is often viewed negatively, there are many positives, especially if you’re a person with a disability.

For many PWD, including myself, the internet and social media have made communication much easier. Yes, I’m fully capable of speaking, but my voice can be hard to understand, especially in noisy places and when I’m wearing a face mask in indoor spaces.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve chatted with thousands of people both near and far, and all of my partners to date started online. Of course, I should also mention that you wouldn’t be reading this right now without the internet.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good thing.

The internet has opened up a whole new world for people with disabilities. While you’re out exploring the new world, it’s also important to explore your own backyard.

Recently, I was looking for something to watch on Youtube before I went to sleep. As most of you know, Youtube will recommend videos they think you might like. Sometimes their suggestions can lead you down a rabbit hole, and other times, they get it right.

On this night, Youtube got it right.

I discovered a Youtube channel that’s not only pretty cool, but it’s also local.

The Youtube channel is called Ottawalks.

While some of their videos are shot in different cities, most are shot right here in Ottawa.

You can check out their videos at: https://www.youtube.com/c/Ottawalks

The videos consist of a guy walking around different parts of Ottawa. In the many videos that I’ve seen so far, there’s very little (if any) speaking in the videos. There is a live stream where people can chat, ask questions, etc. I stumbled onto a Livestream recently and had an absolute blast.

Some of you may think the idea of watching a person walk around the city sounds boring, especially if you’ve lived in Ottawa for your entire life.

Here’s the thing though, if you’re a PWD, you’re unable to see and enjoy certain places and events in Ottawa due to a lack of wheelchair accessibility and proper transportation. Also, in general, we all live in a very noisy and busy society. One where not enough people take the time to stop and look around.

I’m certainly guilty of that at times as well.

The other thing to consider is that each of us has our own perspective of the world we live in. My view in general is undoubtedly different than someone who is able-bodied, for example. My ideas and opinions are different from probably many of you reading this. The things that I experience are also very unique.

A better example, it’s difficult for me to see the Christmas lights downtown. It’s not due to the distance. I live only a few blocks away. For it to be guaranteed that I see the lights are for me to take an accessible taxi or Para Transpo to a location downtown. From there, I’d need to hope that the sidewalks are clean enough for me to look around and then go someplace warm to wait for my ride home. While I have done that, it just so happened to work out those times.

So many people take technology and most things for granted. In a world that isn’t made for people with disabilities, we tend to appreciate the little things a bit more. At least I do, and so do some of my friends.

Ottawa has a reputation for being a boring city. As a person with a disability, I can agree with that, but only because much of Ottawa is literally not accessible.

For the rest of you, perhaps once in a while, stop, open your eyes, and see the beauty of the world (and the city) we live in.

Photo: OLM Staff