Feeling like a stranger in an able-bodied city

ABOVE: The crosswalk at Pretoria and Queen Elizabeth Driveway. (PHOTO: OLM STAFF)

Let’s start with some good news.

The warmer weather has finally arrived here in Ottawa, which means I’ve been out and about recently. That’s the good news.

Shall we say the bad news or the bad part is that I quickly remembered how poor some sidewalks are, particularly in Centretown.

Some examples:

– Queen Elizabeth Drive at Pretoria Bridge – Both the sidewalks and the road itself are extremely bumpy & potentially unsafe for some people with disabilities)

– Bank Street – Near Gladstone There’s a curb in the middle of the street.

Whenever I cross, I need to go around the curb because it’s too bumpy. My only options are to either roll into traffic on Bank Street or roll into the street which connects to Bank Street. Often, vehicles are coming, which is dangerous.

Why is there a mini sidewalk/divider in the middle of the road?

I’ve seen other PWD and seniors having difficulties crossing all because of the divider.

I’m sure there are more bumpy streets and sidewalks, but I haven’t ventured out too far yet this year.

I want to talk more about the corner of Pretoria Bridge and Queen Elizabeth Drive.

First, I feel that the sidewalks are far too narrow, especially when people in wheelchairs, strollers, bicyclists, and even couples are all trying to get to and from the canal. That specific area always seems crowded. I often need to pull over and let others pass or wait for me to pass.

Also, at that exact corner are stairs leading to the canal. While I’ve never accidentally rolled down them, I’ve come very close on several occasions. All due to how narrow that particular section of the sidewalk is.

Let’s also talk about crossing near the TD Bank.

To me, it seems like a deathtrap, at least for people with disabilities.

I’ll do my best to describe it based on my experiences.

Right before Pretoria Bridge, there’s a bike path. The bike path goes from Elgin to Isabella and ends. To cross Pretoria and Queen Elizabeth Drive (QED), I need to go up a steep hill on the bumpy sidewalk. That alone can be scary at times.

After I cross that part, then come the traffic lights. In between the street, there’s another divider. If I’m unable to fully cross the street in time, I need to park my chair on this very narrow sidewalk with vehicles roaring both in front of me and behind me. My wheelchair’s pretty big, so I need to ensure that no parts of my chair are sticking out.

Once I cross the street, I need to make a fairly tight right turn to avoid rolling down the stairs.

I’ll see others talking about this on social media from time to time, but nothing has changed.

The same goes for the actual road on Queen Elizabeth Drive. I and others have mentioned how bumpy the road is. I often take roads instead of sidewalks because roads are smoother than sidewalks. When it comes to QED, I find the road to be bumpier.

The bike path along that stretch of the canal isn’t much better.

For a city that likes to boast about having the world’s longest skating rink and the canal's history, I think the NCC does a poor job of taking care of the bike paths and roads nearby.

What’s the point of having a historical landmark if certain people can’t access it?

I’ve lived in Ottawa for my entire life. Certain parts of Ottawa are beautiful, but it angers me that I’m unable to enjoy all that Ottawa has to offer. It’s not strictly due to money or lack of time. It’s because I use a wheelchair, and many places, including sidewalks, aren’t wheelchair accessible.

Until the day Ottawa and the NCC fully include people with disabilities, there will always be a part of me that feels like a stranger in my hometown.