I recently posed questions to Wayne Brocklebank about accessibility in the 1970’s. Here is what he had to say.
To answer any questions concerning how Toronto was accessible in the 70’s, the simple answer would be NO it wasn’t. When you think about it that was just over 40 years ago.
I will give you the following examples:
- No intersection curbs were ramped down only parking lots entrances and exits.
- No Handicap Parking Spots
- No Handicap Parking Permits
- No Wheelchair Taxi Cabs
- No Wheelchair Accessible Buses
- Only 1 Wheelchair Accessible Subway Stop, Royal York Hotel.
Why did it take so long for older locations to become accessible?
Changes to older or newer locations to make them become accessible were costly so most of them came about because of legislation.
Were there organizations you could go to so you could address concerns/complaints about inaccessibility?
The Canadian Paraplegic Association was the only group that dealt with people who were either Quadriplegic or Paraplegic. And they themselves had a staff of less than 12 full-time employees.
Back then there was only Lyndhurst Lodge (I spent 5 months there in 1972) known today as Lyndhurst Rehab that dealt with Spinal Cord Injuries. It was owned at that time by the Canadian Paraplegic Association, known today as Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. The only major hospital in the GTA that dealt with spinal cord injuries was the Toronto General Hospital (I spent 5 months there in 1971 & 1972) that had its own separate wing.
Some of the changes to accessibility started to come in the late 70’s with the influence of United States of America because of the Vietnam War and don’t forget Lyndhurst Lodge came about because of the Second World War.
Were there any famous people/advocates who spoke out for those living with a disability?
I was unaware of any famous people/advocates or committees/firms fighting for rights of the disabled.
What were the expectations of individuals living with a disability in the 1970’s?
Things started to change towards the attitude of the public about people with disabilities, Para’s & Quads started to live longer. With that being said, the job market was very small for people with disabilities and today I don’t see much change in the full-time marketplace. So you had a choice to stay home or go back to school to get more education (find an accessible school). I was one of the luckier ones that went back to George Brown College for 1 year then got full-time employment (very good paying job) with a firm for 32 years until I retired.
I couldn’t answer some of your questions because it was so different back then and no matter what the problems with accessibility were, you still had to move on with your life. All I can say, people who think accessibility should be better, you are correct but still remember, we have come a long way since the 70’s.