Ottawa—the city that people with disabilities probably don’t dream about

People have asked me if I’ve ever imagined what my life would be like if I weren’t physically disabled throughout my life. I have. Perhaps even too often. It’s hard for me not to. Almost everywhere I look, I see a city that wasn’t made for people with disabilities.

For example, here in Ottawa, where being a PWD is treated as a far-off thought. If Ottawa truly cared about PWD, we’d have better transportation and properly working elevators at all LRT and some bus stops. I get a notification every time those elevators break down. Trust me, and it’s a lot.

Somedays, it’s hard for me to live in this city. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t belong in Ottawa due to the lack of wheelchair accessibility and the lack of care by City Hall to improve things. While yes, specific improvements have been made to Para Transpo and are ongoing. Para Transpo only works if places are wheelchair accessible.

Over the years, friends have invited me to events that I would’ve loved to attend, but either the venue wasn’t accessible or I had no way to get there and back. If Ottawa truly cared about PWD, I’d be able to easily book a ride home when I wanted to go home.

Much like how an able-bodied person can use Uber or Lyft.

While it’s true that Ottawa has wheelchair-accessible taxis, they’re not always reliable late at night. The last thing a PWD (or anyone) needs is to be stranded somewhere late at night.

The lack of accessibility isn’t just limited to venues and transportation. There is also a huge issue when it comes to tourist attractions as well. Just within the past few weeks, a zip-line has been set up over the Ottawa River. It looks really fun, but it’s not wheelchair accessible. I can’t really see many of my friends that are physically disabled being able to either.

I use a ventilator 24/7. For me to even consider zip-lining, I’d need a really long ventilator tube. Generally, I’m always up for a challenge, and that I can do anything. To me, that seems like a big stretch, though.

I will say that Ottawa has some pretty decent museums and galleries. One of my favourite places is the OAG. The OAG, which features many great local artists, is located at 2 Daly Avenue. The gallery will be reopening to visitors on July 21st.

To book a visit, please go to their website at

Admission is FREE!

And it’s fully wheelchair accessible.

Along with OAG, there are also smaller local galleries nearby. Most aren’t wheelchair accessible, though. My suggestion is to call them for more information.

I will admit that before the pandemic happened, museums around here were getting boring for me. Now that some are reopened, or soon to be, going to a museum here will seem almost brand new again.

In case some of you are wondering what my life would be like if I were able-bodied, I don’t have a clear, straightforward answer.

Sometimes, I picture myself being in a band, rocking out on guitar, and living a rock-star life complete with a huge mansion. Other times, I imagine having a 9-5 job.

No, wait, no, I don’t imagine that.

But seriously, I also sometimes imagine being more of the outdoors type, travelling the world and challenging myself in different countries, and enjoying absolute silence.

No caregivers, no outside traffic. Just true peace and quiet for the first time in my life.

It’s important to note that a PWD CAN do those things, BUT due to my disability and “needing” to have a caregiver around me 24/7, I’ve never experienced 100 per cent peace and quiet.

I also need to point out that I don’t view my physical disability or other PWD as bad. It just happens to be a question that many have asked me.

Sometimes it’s good to dream, especially when you live in a city that wasn’t made for you and your community.

When you’re on ODSP, dreaming is the easiest way to travel.

Photo: iStock