Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Neil Seeman Headshot

What it's Like for Disabled and Elderly People to Take the TTC

Posted: Updated:
Alija via Getty Images
Alija via Getty Images

You know that feeling when you're hurried to get to work or an appointment downtown but the subway trains are all packed? So you fidget with angst until a less jam-packed car zooms into the station?

Now, multiply that stress by 20 times. That's what it feels like to be a disabled man or woman waiting for a subway train in Toronto, at any time of day.

Since I was gob-smacked with serious hip arthritis -- I have just a barely visible line of cartilage -- I've learned that disability access in Toronto sucks. Have you ever seen anyone in a wheelchair on the subway? I haven't.

Many Torontonians treat the Elderly Like Dirt

The subways are useless for people on canes or crutches or with strollers. I have to pack up my foldable cane when I step into the car. Even if someone gives up a seat -- most people, unless you're pregnant (count me out) -- are too busy playing Candy Crush or staring vacantly at emails to give a damn. And I say this not out of self-pity, but rather to note that many Torontonians treat the elderly like dirt.

I'm turning just 44 soon. I don't care if I suffer a bit. It's life. But when I see elderly people on canes waiting for seven -- maybe 10 -- subways before they attempt to stumble on, I know the recent Mayoral candidates' caterwauling about improving transit meant they never seriously listened to the needs of people with disability.

I meet one man regularly, about 75, who shares the same schedule as me; he doesn't use a cane, due to frustration with the experience (he's had multiple surgeries) and he can't abide by the horror of stepping onto the subway. Even if you land a seat, it's Hades to navigate yourself through the crowded, self-absorbed pack.

Here's an idea for Mayor Tory that's won 100 per cent support from about 50 friends of mine -- across the political spectrum: get rid of special seats for the elderly, pregnant and infirm. Replace them with a regularly designated train, or bus, reserved for just those people needing it.

It's not just subways. We are nearing Remembrance Day. And yet, it's stunning to me that young people near the university where I teach part-time careen breezily past on a bicycle whilst elderly academics and pedestrians hobble about.

Greek Stoicism explains, empirically, that we are all part of a collective whole; you are not more special than anyone else, whatever your wealth or beauty or self-perceived accomplishments. You realize this more as you age -- or when you get socked with disability. How many of those elderly men in uniform on November 11 could snag a seat on a subway with ease? How often do they receive looks of awkwardness from passersby? Many of us would not be here but for them.

Mayor Tory: help us help them. That should be your number one goal as Mayor, nothing less.