MONTREAL, May 21, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ - During a press conference last Friday, in reaction to the pandemic, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced a plan to "share public space," to be reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. Several commercial arteries will be converted to pedestrian use, while others will see shared use (motorists/pedestrians, cyclists).
Ms. Plante added that, "Some things may stay the same." Are we to understand that what the current situation, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, is the mayor's best argument to finally implement the plan she has cherished since beginning her term?
Another of Ms. Plante's announcements concerned Montreal's terraces, which everyone has thoughts on, ranging from the issue of balancing social distancing with the relevance of setting up a terrace that's only going to be half filled, to the sense of entitlement stemming from an extended confinement and the urge to go where you want.
However, it seems nobody is thinking about the danger this implies, like the potential for a second wave…
That said, it's great that you acknowledge the distress, frustration and resentment people can feel when they're denied their freedom and their right to go wherever they want. It's great seeing that you've experienced for just two months what disabled people experience every day for their entire lives.
Yes, confinement will have to be lifted gradually and yes, since people will be more inclined to stay in Quebec this summer, "redeveloping" Montreal goes without saying. However, did we have to jeopardize universal accessibility so that terraces that have been accessible to people with disabilities since summer 2012 are no longer available?
Are we seriously asking disabled people not to complain too much, since merchants have lost a lot of money in the past two months?
François Cardinal, of La Presse, had this to say: "Why not turn Montreal into a huge terrace where city dwellers can eat, drink and have fun all summer long, while maintaining physical distancing?"
The article promotes this new plan for terraces across Montreal:
Has the Plante/Dorais administration thought of disabled people as they sought to "rethink" Montreal while complying with health measures?
Of course not! True to form, Montreal's elected officials fail to consider the needs of disabled people who, with all disabilities combined, account for 20% of the population. And let's not forget about the elderly and parents pushing strollers.
What's the issue for a wheelchair-bound person on a pedestrian street, for example, particularly during a health crisis?
That person will have a hard time squeezing between the sidewalk and the health corridor's barrier. What's more, terraces built on the sidewalks may end up blocking access to the rare shops that are universally accessible to disabled people. In addition, blind people will lose all their landmarks. The City knows this, so why do it anyway?
We've also been confined since March 12 and even beyond. The stores are closed? Yes, we know what that's like, because even when they're open, the step at the entrance prevents us from getting in.
So we're very familiar with the ordeal you've been experiencing for over two months, because we face it every day, especially due to the lack of access to businesses at the residential and urban level, along with a blatant lack of political drive.
Ending confinement and redeveloping Montreal is indeed a grand idea, unless you drive a car or live with a disability.
RAPLIQ is a pan-Quebec organization working in defense and promotion of the rights of people with disabilities and aiming to eradicate the discrimination often made against them.
SOURCE RAPLIQ (Regroupement des activistes pour l'inclusion au Québec)
For further information: Linda Gauthier, President, 514-656-1664; Steven Laperrière, General Manager, 514-836-6376