OPINION | No more porch patios in Hamilton

Hamilton needs to be completely barrier free, in both attitude and design for it certainly is not in many cases.

In addition to my poverty advocacy work, I Chair an advocacy group called Accessible Hamilton whose goal is to ensure that Hamilton is truly accessible for all.

Many public spaces are not fully welcoming. Some indoor malls have become dangerous outdoor malls. Some new local buildings have an automatic door opener at the entrance but not in the washrooms. Our goal is to ensure that all public and private spaces include universal design techniques such as the Rick Hansen ‘Access for All’ program design guidelines.

Former Liberal MPP Marie Bountrianni is a supporter as well as many local community groups. Ms. Bountrianni created the Accessibility for Ontarians Act (AODA).

Sadly, the City of Hamilton is allowing some restaurants to have heavy wooden and metal ‘porch patios’ outside their business, which block the metered parking spaces that residents with disabled parking permits should be able to utilize. No one should make money off the backs of the disabled.

The Fish Market on James Street North routinely blocks the sidewalk and the HSR stop but the owners are never penalized. Now the City is discussing a ‘pandemic’ mobility plan and considering closing parts of James Street which is wrong. Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson agrees it is wrong for private businesses to use public spaces to make money.

In August 2019, I had a painful car accident that was not my fault and now my disabled parking permit is working overtime. My personal experiences form the basis of my advocacy for accessibility, poverty, and disability concerns. I wrote the op/ed ‘Life Lessons I Learnt with Adapted Aquatics’ which demonstrated my initial introduction to disability concerns when I volunteered with the Adapted Swim Aquatics program.

I need a vehicle for work as well as for the volunteering I do. One day I had to do some banking and I was blocked from using the parking spaces out front of the Westdale CIBC bank. The Westdale Snooty Fox restaurant had two porch patios out front which were taking up more than their fair share of the parking. Porch patios in Westdale are apparently only for those businesses which are part of the BIA (Business Improvement Area).

Businesses with patios discriminate against residents with disabled parking permits who require those metered parking spaces for doctor’s appointments, etc. Any BIA business which has a porch patio has a ‘knock-on’ effect of taking away parking for customers trying to access other businesses or services. I met with the Senior’s group at the DISH (Disability Information Helpline) at the library downtown and they were concerned about the porch patios as a few were blocking their doctor’s offices.

Twice last summer I could not get to my cobbler in Westdale due to the porch patios in the area taking up more than their fair share of parking! I complained many times to my former Ward 1 councillor Aidan Johnson about the patios and he did not care. I complained to Mr. Thorne of the Economic Development office in June 2018 to no avail.

Porch patios are heavy: I cannot park beside them and get my cane out safely. Anyone with a wheelchair or walker could not access their device either without whacking their car door on the patio. These porch patios may be an Ontario Human Rights violation as well.

If you are interested in making a change to these porch patios in Hamilton then please follow the Accessible Hamilton Facebook page. There is a new website as well: accessiblehamilton.ca. You can also message me over Twitter @susanjcreer or email me at accessiblehamilton@cogeco.ca for more details. When I host the next meeting I will provide the details through these channels. We are looking for Board members and a Treasurer. I will do a Change.org petition as well.

In conclusion, I should like to say there has to be a better way to get through our current Covid difficulties. These options should not include making life more difficult for the disabled nor closing streets which may affect deliveries for meal programs, DARTS, etc. The cycle lanes on Charlton/Herkimer have a dangerous design as well. I am tired of feeling unwelcome in my City.

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