Writing From Frustration

(A variant quote) – “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission” – Grace Hopper

With the writ finally coming down for the next federal election it is time to start writing again. I have ignore my writing all summer while I took on other challenges only to realize my absence of expression only contributes to the erosion of democracy. I needed a good kick in the ass and I received one this morning (actually numerous but I’ll only focus on one).

First a quick history lesson to the members of @YYCShapers. They are a group of young Millenial professionals dedicated to making Calgary the best city it can be and kudos to them for that. This opening quote is a variant attributed to Read Admiral Grace Hopper someone who laid a lot of the groundwork for the likes of the Millenials. Get to know Grace who was one of the early pioneers of computer coding and is often overlooked. She contributed to the development of the Advanced Research Project Agency Network (ARAPNET) which was the ground work for todays Internet. Grace passed away in 1992 but her work has carried us to where we are today.

Now to business and I am a bit pissed off. I have tried repeatedly to work with Calgary around the whole issue of “accessibility”. Many of these issues I felt had been dealt with years ago. I was wrong. From my recent dealings it appears that the City of Calgary doesn’t really gives anymore than lip service to access.

I spend almost two hours on the phone this morning with the City’s “Accessibility Specialist”, Dave Morton. He was polite, tried to be helpful but fell back onto the denials offered by limited policy interpretation. He basically told me “too bad, so sad, wish I could do more, keep up the fight” (click) over almost a two hour period. I suspect he meant well but can only do what his policy interpretation allows.

Policy should never be allowed to guide a myopic ideology. Having been a government policy analyst for years there are always (or should be) alternative solutions. Policy should never be that rigid that it eliminates the need to use “common sense” and practice some critical thinking. From my experience policy should be used as a guiding map, not a restrictive law.

Picture of front of Dorchester Square condo building, drive-way and pedestrian ramp to front door
Dorchester Square – condo building where I live

My issue of frustration, access to where I live. This was the front of my place up until recently. That ramp, which is non-complaint by todays standards but served the purpose, was recently replaced with a couple of stairs. This ramp has worked fine for over 25 years but it recently disappeared. I didn’t notice it right away because I was always parked in the underground and entered the building from the underground garage. I had to make a very drastic decision this summer and sell my car. The old shoulders just are not working well enough anymore for me to do a safe transfer and since where I live in the Beltline 90% of what I do is within wheeling distance. That changes in the winter with the arrival of snow but the reality was the car had to go.

Front of Dorchester Square after modifications involving removal of ramp and installation of stairs.
The new look

So imagine my surprise when I went out recently and discovered stairs had replaced the ramp. I use to think I had a pretty good understanding of how peoples minds worked but this one blew me away. Why would a condo building swap out a ramp access for stairs? Everyone I spoke to in management positions with this condo had no idea it had happened. Now I’m sorry but somebody had to authorize it and issue payments to the contractor. This not knowing is just a blow off to me.

Enter the City. I did what I believe every well meaning citizen should after failing to get an appropriate answer from the condo management people. After all, access is suppose to be promoted and protected is it not. Well apparently I was wrong. After being placed in the gerbil exercise wheel by the City’s answer to everything, the 311 phone line (Service Request Number: 19-00814592) I finally received a call from a gentleman with the City Roads department suggesting I call the aforementioned Dave Morton. He is reportedly the City Specialist on all things “access”. After a couple of phone conversations it would appear nada. This City has no real interest in accessibility issues.

First of all Dorchester Square never made application to do this ramp conversion. They did make application to upgrade and change the ramp to the underground parking. I remember that well because one side of the underground parking ramp was out of service for about six weeks last summer. They replaced that ramp to include a water warming system to help avoid freezing over the winter. The ramp to the underground parking is quite steep so I appreciate that action.

However that ramp upgrade had nothing to do with the removal of the current front door access ramp. You don’t replace an access ramp with stairs and consider it “job well done”. It makes absolutely no sense but then the lack of common sense is becoming pretty self evident in todays society. The City, who is already battling a budget deficit, states this issue is on private property leaving the City with no jurisdiction.

I would think that a City with budget issues should be fining those businesses who don’t comply with the current process. Despite the fact that no permit was ever applied for or issued the City has removed themselves from my service request and it is every man for himself. No wonder the City has a budget problem when they allow the “chosen” few to do whatever they decide and process be damned. Why no fines? Why does the victim pay the price?

Fighting for access is now up to each individual. We cannot collectively battle for something that I thought was already settled. I just have a really hard time accepting a City that talks about “inclusion” while almost going out of their way to make the community less inviting. Accessible living accommodation are hard enough to find so to start rolling back the few options that are available sends a very firm message that certain members of the community don’t really count. This is yet another situation I find myself in clawing my way back up hills of battles previously fought. There is no retirement for someone who is a self declared advocate.

Then to add insult to injury (and the mentality of this blows me away) getting rid of my car and using Access Calgary Transit is no longer an option. One of the criteria is that if a bus stop is within two blocks you are expected to use public transit. I can partially understand that but I have a few questions for the City. Do you consider a difference in two blocks when it is 25 degrees versus -25 degrees because trust me, there’s a huge difference. Will the City stop piling all of the plowed snow across every curb-cut to eliminate the mountain of snow one has to get over to get to that “two blocks away”? Where has common sense gone?

Stay tuned, I’ll be back. With an election looming and a Premier who is using tax dollars to stump for Scheer on the national stage while proroguing Alberta legislature I will be watching and writing. Next on my list, the removal of the word “public” from education. This may appear innocuous enough but those with disabilities are only guaranteed educational opportunities in “public” venues, #WordsMatter.

So yes I am frustrated…

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