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Montreal presents a significant number of barriers for people with disabilities. As frustrating are the omnipresent flights of stairs, lack of audible crosswalk signals and accessible signage----are the number of public accessibility features that are either blocked or nonfunctional. Below, you'll see blocked disability ramps, accessible washrooms and showers without doors, and elevators with "reserved" times.
Photo on the right: a typical Montreal street, with large cracks and potholes. The street is humped in the centre, so travelling along the curb would require you to be slightly tipped.

Several people mentioned Montreal's cracked streets and pot holes in their stories. When sidewalks are also in bad condition OR have no ramped curbs, many people with disabilities are forced to wheel or walk onto these streets.

These conditions are prevalent on both main roads and side streets throughout the city. They affect people with all types of mobility issues and vision impairments. Participants expressed fear of falling and/or their wheelchairs tipping.

Learn more about RAMP participants by
clicking Our Stories.
Photos on the right: accessible toilet at the southeast entrance of Angrignon Parc. No curb cut, set crookedly on rough terrain. There is a Transport Adapte stop about 20 feet down, but you are not allowed to park there, even if you need the curb cut.
Photo on left: a portable toilet with an accessibility symbol is set up on a curb, just inside the Trinitaires parking lot of Parc Angrignon, Montreal. The brand name of the toilet is Sani Vac.

Parc Angrignon is a Montreal treasure. 240 acres of woodland and grassy areas, a pond, wildlife, and benches set here and there. It's free for all of us to enjoy. It boasts of being accessible. Except for the inaccessible Metro station, and the toilet set up on a curb. Read JL's story about his day at Angrignon in a wheelchair. Click here.

YMCA, Downtown Montreal branch, 1440 Rue Stanley
Photo of disability ramp into YMCA downtown pool. Ramp has several steps.

"I phoned the Downtown Montreal YMCA and read their accessibility statement online (click on file below). They claim their pool and change rooms are accessible.

Their pool ramp is actually a set of steps, photo above. I fell and twisted my knee. The warm pool with the jacuzzi, has stairs. That is not in their accessibility statement, either. On the phone, they tell you there is a jacuzzi, in the same breath as saying the pool is accessible."

YMCA Accessibility Statement.pdf YMCA Accessibility Statement.pdf
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"These issues, while egregious enough for a YMCA, are not confined to their private organization.

Our taxes pay for the YMCA 'City of Montreal Swims.' The City contracts with the YMCA to be open to the general public every day, for a certain number of hours."
Two photos of women's showers at YMCA downtown pool. Too small for accessibility. Shower chairs are layered with tape, as they are broken.
"The YMCA 'accessible' shower, isn't, and I sure wouldn't sit in that taped up shower chair, unless you want your disability to become worse. I asked repeatedly for a chair by the elevator, so we can put heavy bags down or sit while waiting for security. They refused."
Photo: sign on YMCA elevators says they are reserved for language students 17:45 to 18:10, and 20:45 to 21:30.

"Disabled people are required to be escorted to and from the basement pool and fitness studios by a security guard, as if we are criminals. Able bodied people are not escorted on the stairs.

They've reserved certain elevator times for their language students. I asked repeatedly what this means for accessibility to the pool. They would not answer.

All it would take for people with disabilities to be autonomous with the elevators, is a card scanner.

The Westmount Y also claims accessibility, when there is a flight of stairs from the women's change room to the pool. To access, you have to walk across the large room after a shower, and wait in the public hallway for an elevator to get to the pool. Unacceptable."
"On June 2/19, a lifeguard I'd spoken to several times about accessibility, locked me in the change room. I screamed and banged on the door for 15 minutes. The only way out was the steep stairs, which he knew I cannot climb. There was no way he did not hear me, and he laughed and blamed me when he finally opened the door. I reported the incident immediately, and have written to director Eric Trudel since. The YMCA has not replied. I spent the night with my hands and arms on fire.

My letter to director Néhal Nassif August 22/19 is also unanswered."
As Charlie Sivuarapi discussed in Our Stories (click link), railway crossings pose an extraordinary danger to people with disabilities, and run across busy City intersections.

Montreal's St. Henri railway crossing is one of Canada's Top Ten most dangerous (click link). Old Port of Montreal union workers are also calling for safety measures (click link)In 2013, Pritie Patel had both legs amputated after a security guard failed to warn or stop her (click link) and her friends from crossing an active rail crossing in the Old Port.

Below are photos demonstrating how a wheel or foot can get caught in track gaps. This track runs across the extremely busy entrances to the Montreal Science Centre and Voiles en Voiles, the Old Port amusement park. As happened to Ms. Patel, it is necessary to cross these tracks to reach the parking lots.
Photo on left: wheel caught on tracks, Science Centre crossing, Old Port. Photo above: foot caught on tracks and twisting ankle.
Cote des Neiges Centre Sportif
4880 Ave. Van Horne
Photo above: Cote des Neiges public pool, with a knotted rope and underwater fence blocking the disability ramp into the shallow end.
Centre Sportif de CDN
6445 Ave. Monkland

"The CDN building has a level entrance, one disability parking spot and there is a ramp into the pool. However, the ramp wa blocked by a knotted rope at one end and a chair at the other. The arrow points to an underwater fence."
Photos below and on the right: Centre Sportif de NDG's entrance from their disability parking spaces. Descriptive text is on the right side of this page.
Photo above: Access to CSNDG from 'regular' parking is even. Steep ramp with barriers is at top.
Photo above: Access to CSNDG from disability parking. Very uneven paving stones and Bixi bikes.
 Centre Sportif de NDG
6445 Ave. Monkland
Centre Sportif de NDG family room accessible shower, photo above, on left. No curtain, as able bodied showers have. On right, photo of able bodied shower stall with privacy curtain, to the left of the accessible shower. Able bodied swimmers told me they routinely share the accessible showers. This trespass is enabled by the Centre (and others throughout Montreal) not posting accessibility signage. Patrons are expected to "know" by the larger size, and the presence of a bench. If a disabled patron complains, able bodies and the City have deniability of human rights infractions.
"CSNDG disability parking is farther than 'regular' parking. While the latter is level, straight, and leads to the main floor, the ramp requires users to negotiate a 45 degree angled ramp to the second floor. While on uneven and hazardous paving stones, dodging Bixi users. The inexplicable barriers up top are not the required 48" apart to allow larger wheelchairs/scooters. Once inside, the disabled person must take a small elevator to the main floor to access the pool and gym. Imagine this 'accessible' entrance in winter."
On the left side of this page, general description: photos comparing the regular entrance to the main floor and the accessible entrance to the second floor. All equity would take, is to designate disability parking at the front instead of the side, and not build the steep ramp to the second floor. The second floor holds only a snack bar and elevators. The pool and gym are on the main floor.
Montréal-Nord Apartment Complex
Photo above: concrete disability ramp to apartment building. Cracks in concrete large enough for assistive device to get stuck, or person on foot to stumble. One crack extends across width of ramp, and is several inches wide. A second crack extends for 3 feet down length of ramp. Main entrance apartment doors can be seen at bottom of ramp.
In Our Stories (click link), Patrick talked about the broken, hazardous disability ramp he has been fighting to get repaired for five years. A visit to the area also showed hazards in the surrounding sidewalks and curb cuts, particularly on the route to the shopping district, several blocks away.
Photo above, left: post office box set beside the curb cut and the sidewalk curve.

The Canada Post box is in the area that wheelchair and scooter users need in order to navigate the curve and use the curb cut safely. In this instance, they would find themselves tilted. Visually impaired persons are also endangered.

Photo above, right: sidewalk with deep cracks in front of apartment complex depicted in photos on left side of page.
People with mobility or visual issues would find this sidewalk and these curbs difficult and hazardous to navigate.
George Vanier Public Library, 2450 Rue Workman
Photos above: boarded up book drop & a keyed lift with no call button.

"The disability lift at the bottom of the stairs needs a key. There is no call button, so how do you get library staff to help you? I tried smiling in an inspirational manner, but this did not attract assistance. The outside, accessible book drop is closed during renovations, June to September 2019."
Photo above: two interior flights of stairs.

"The entrance during construction. I tried to return books. A librarian was leaving, and I asked for her help to return books, as I cannot climb stairs. She said, 'You'll figure it out,' and brushed past me."
Photo above: George Vanier Library signage offering 3 hours of access, all summer.

"Special arrangements for people with reduced mobility: 3 hours from June to September 2019 in which to access the Bookmobile. After facing the staircase and the rude librarian, I phoned and asked if someone could meet me downstairs and take my books. I was put on hold for nearly 10 minutes. I was told I should travel across town to BANQ. Never mind that GV is my local neighbourhood branch. I guess this 3 hour window is their solution."
Concordia University, Hall & John Molson Buildings
"With several full classes on the first day of Summer Term 2019 (June 26/19), the only accessible women's washroom on Hall's 6th floor, had no door. The alternative was the "private" women's washroom. Which was locked (at right) No courtesy signage, no notice, nothing on the website. UPDATE: no door as of August 15/19.

Also on the right: A sign saying elevator access to floors 2-6 in the Hall building is reserved to 'card holders.'

There is a wheelchair symbol.

Students who register with Concordia's Accessibility Office are not given this information or a card. They must face this barrier, then seek the information. The elevators to the 2nd floor of the John Molson building are also locked. Photo on far right of page.

Inquiries resulted in replies from ACSD and Security that, "We want students to use the stairs, for fitness. Security will escort you to class."

"'Private' locked washroom, above. With the extra time and trouble it takes for a person with a disability to use the washroom, what could we do?

On the right is a photo of the 'Out of Service' sign on the accessible stall on the first floor of Hall. It does not inform where an accessible washroom can be found."
Students must ask for a key to the John Molson elevators (key photo at left), then are identified as disabled each time they use it, violating their privacy.  They must push past other students to access locks  both inside and outside the elevators.
Photo: the Hall men's washroom, including the accessible stall, was off limits. Again, no signage, no warning, nothing on the website.

Key users are routinely questioned: 'You don't look disabled'; 'Do you work here?' 'Why do YOU get a key'? and are isolated from their classroom peers, most of whom use the stairs.
More physical and sensory barriers in Simon Wong's NDG neighbourhood, below. Click Our Stories to learn more about Simon and other RAMP participants.
Photo above: loose gravel over potholes, and an orange post on the sidewalk. Steep drop off on right side due to broken concrete.
Photo above: randomly placed No Parking sign and orange striped pole in middle of sidewalk. Why is No Parking not on the street?
Photo above: even more signage, with placement between permanent street sign and temporary sign creating a "tunnel" to navigate.
If you step off the curb, you will run into more randomly placed poles.
Restaurant Washroom: Carlos and Peppy's
Photo above: disability symbol on bathroom door, placed 4"-5" from top. Nearly impossible to find from wheelchair.
Photo above: tiny washroom, obviously inaccessible. Industrial mop, bucket, broom and dustpan stored in front of toilet. Boxes stacked against long wall.
Photo above:  coffee station directly beside "accessible" washroom door, with female staff blocking entrance to washroom.
As Maggie discussed in Our Stories (click link), Carlos & Peppy's in downtown MTL told her on the phone that they had an accessible washroom. Disabled people are familiar with the exhausting process of calling ahead to every venue to find out if we can enter and use the amenities. What is a simple, "Let's go out for dinner", to an able bodied person, is a research project for us.

C&P's washroom was difficult to find, too small to navigate in a wheelchair, right beside the busy coffee station and kitchen, and used by the kitchen staff as if their personal toilet. In the space where you see the staff pouring coffee, Maggie had to change her urine bag in view of staff and customers walking to the able bodied washrooms.

The space was so busy I had trouble taking photos and was confronted twice by staff.

As so many accessible washrooms are, this one is used as a storage space. It is impossible to use for anyone with a walker or balance problems. The contempt for people with disabilities glares at us.

Several other people on the Our Stories page discuss how the unavailability of washrooms and the lies they are told when calling ahead, cause isolation and distress. This is also a serious health issue. Coupled with the long waits and rides for Adapted Transport, a  person using an assistive device may have to wait hours to use a washroom. In a city full of exciting venues and events, many people give up going out.
Verdun Beach
Two photos above: the long long long disability ramp down to Verdun Beach. In Our Stories (click link), Maria Lango discussed our need for beach accessibility. Does that mean a ramp that can be seen from the moon? This ramp is doable mainly for those with power wheelchairs. For those in manual chairs, or anyone else with a physical or visual disability, it is a formidable obstacle to navigate, up or down.

True, the angle to the beach is about 60 degrees. But the ramp sections are at least three times as long as necessary for navigability.  Below are photos of the long road and curb barriers to even access the ramp. Imagine what the impact of all this distance is on someone with asthma, heart disease, arthritis, CFS, MS. and so many other disabilities.

If you want to cut across, you will be stopped or do a face plant by elaborate landscaping that includes hedges. After all the verbiage about impacting the wetlands as little as possible, expensive exotics were abundantly planted, rather than Native grasses.

Photo on right: aerial shot by City of Montreal, public domain
Photo on left: Google maps photo, cc license

When we emerged from the long, long trip from the parking lot & transit, we faced these long, steep stairs.
We kept going, and hoped this steep, scary, graveled and pot holed path wasn't the disability ramp. I hope no one tried it.
Photo: sign with a green circle around pedestrian and bicycle.

None of the signs pointed us towards an accessible path to the beach.
But first, we had to get to this point, well above the beach, from the parking lot and street...
Photo above: Verdun beach parking lot with curbs to sidewalk & adjoining road to beach.

The Gaetan-Laberge parking lot is inaccessible.

The apparent graveled ramp ended in curbs, and in a very narrow footpath. What do the orange cones and fencing mean? Will accessibility be provided?

Montreal construction is endless, and rarely explained to residents. Verdun Beach opened in June 2019. Apparently "opened" pertains only to the able bodied.
The photo above depicts the approx. two city blocks from the lot & bus stop, to the end of road to beach.

You will eventually see the beach, and become encouraged. Until you hit the high curb at the end of this road.

Photo on right.

Photo above: high curb at end of road before beach. No accessibility signage.

If you are unable to navigate the curb above, you must go all the way back to the main street behind the lot, Gaetan-Laberge, and make a circle to the right before continuing again to the left, towards the beach. To give you an idea of distance, the Verdun Hospital is on this street. A Google map is farther down this page.

Below is a Google map showing distance & landmarks to Verdun Beach from Gaetan-Laberge & de L'Eglise. Blue dots represent the route pictured in photos above. Gray dots, the route from the last curb in the photo above right, down the hill to the beach itself. IF you take the steep stairs. The disability ramp is approximately another 100 meters to the north of the gray dots. However you travel, you will have to wheel or walk about 3 long city blocks just to get to the ramp, then traverse its incredible length to visit the beach.
Hazardous sidewalks in the Monkland Village neighbourhood
Photos above: the shattered, dangerous sidewalks and dubious patchwork "repairs" by the NDG Arts centre and library, described by Cindy and Paul in Our Stories (click link).
Photos above, left: broken curb cut. Right: close up of broken curb cut, facing Centre Sportif de NDG. This is the only curb cut to access the entrance. If a person is approaching from the south side of Monkland Blvd., they must cross the very busy road and then will have difficulty getting up on the sidewalk. This puts them in danger of being hit by traffic. This dense area, several city blocks square, holds major public amenities and large social housing complexes. These hazards were presented to the City of Montreal in 2018, by a committee of citizens.

Barriers to Obtaining or Renewing a Driver's License in Quebec

If you ask a clerk at the license bureau for a disability parking vignette, or in any way indicate you are not 100% able bodied, you will be required to take this form to your doctor. Upon examining the medical forms for all other provinces, no other comes close to this level of privacy invasion.

The SAAQ form requires complete disclosure of your medical history and prescriptions, even information unrelated to your ability to operate a vehicle. Click below to see the form, then continue reading for RAMP's analysis of this outrageous barrier to mobility.

This is not medical nor legal advice, but information in the public domain, and social commentary.
Quebec SAAQ medical report.pdf Quebec SAAQ medical report.pdf
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Invasion of Privacy and Catch-22's

The SAAQ form asks for:

-A full list of your prescriptions. All of them. Only then does it ask your doctor if any have side effects. Since SAAQ requires you to present your RAMQ card and give signed consent to check with medical services, you and your doctor do not have the option to keep irrelevant medications confidential. Besides the invasion of privacy, there is still a great deal of prejudice around some conditions and medications. 

This form does not provide confidentiality exceptions if you are being treated for HIV, hepatitis, any sexually transmitted disease, are a recovered addict, receiving hormone therapy or undergoing gender reassignment. What if your doctor quietly holds the belief that homosexuality is a "mental illness", as the psychiatric diagnostic bible stated into the '70's, and he/she outs you to the state, without consent? 

Any other province that inquires about medications, only does so in the context of asking IF you take any medications that could impact your ability to drive.

-Psychiatric evaluation. Including depression. It goes further and delves into any mental health issue. Full disclosure.

-Even if you do not have diabetes, which of course requires regular vision exams, it asks if you have ever been hypoglycemic. That means an episode of low blood sugar can create a red flag on your file.

-"Other" conditions, including obesity, cancer, and general health. Apparently, the PQ government is fat-phobic to the point of not wanting fat people to drive, and if you are fat and need to drive to your cancer checkups---permission doubly denied.

-Asthma, thyroid and heart conditions, even if they are so mild as to be of little concern, must be disclosed.

At the top of each section, you will see your doctor needs to check off a box that states whether any of your physical, emotional or cognitive systems has any symptoms, not just those that may impact your ability to drive. If you and he/she try to protect your privacy by stating there is no condition, you have just lied to the government and can face any consequence from suspension of your driver's license to your MD losing his license to practice.

Further, your information is handled by driver's bureau clerks who do not have the background to interpret what they are reading, i.e. your medical history. Your sensitive information is logged into civil records. Do civil servants gossip? In my experience, yes.

-Finally, the SAAQ form poses a Catch-22: it asks the doctor how long he/she has seen you, and how often you make appointments. This creates difficulties for anyone new in Quebec or in Canada, and raises the impossible question: how often is reasonable to see a doctor? What is the magic number? If you see them rarely, does this mean you do not look after your health, and the doctor doesn't really know your condition? Or, if frequently, does this mean your health is very poor and you are possibly unfit to drive? Again, PQ invades privacy and asks questions that are not on any other province's health forms.

Other provinces do not cover prescriptions, so it seems that the benefit PQ grants, is offset by the invasion of privacy.

If you need the disability parking vignette and do not have a medical condition that needs to be reported because it potentially impacts your driving, you can  apply through the form below:

This is not medical nor legal advice, but information in the public domain, and social commentary.
Disability Parking Vignette application.pdf Disability Parking Vignette application.pdf
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Now, here you may find another barrier. While the disability parking vignette does not require a full disclosure of your medical history, your wheelchair or other assistive device only counts with SAAQ if it was granted to you by RAMQ. As Mody Barry of Handicap Action Integration discussed in Our Stories (click link), immigrants and recent arrivals from other provinces don't have a Quebec health card. So they cannot obtain a device through RAMQ until they have their provincial i.d. documents in order, and the 3 month waiting period is up. Some people are living with no badly needed devices, and it seems that if they are fortunate enough to obtain a wheelchair, etc. elsewhere, they still cannot park in disability spots until approved by RAMQ.

A bright spot: if you have a disability vignette from any province, you may park in Residents Only spaces for one hour without a resident permit. Parking bylaw C-41, section 33 (click link)

But, be careful
when you see a disability parking symbol in front of a residential building. A resident who cannot access parking in their building, can apply to the City for a permit that reserves the space for them. In yet another Montreal Mystery, while the sign has nothing on it identifying the space as reserved for any one person, it gives this person the right to scream at you if you park there. I recommend getting your own reserved disability spot, and going out to meet other people with disabilities. You can apply for this space at your borough office (click link).

Cote St. Luc Outdoor Pool
Photo on left: 4 steps of ceramic tile up to showers and sinks.

Here we have something as surreal as the downtown YMCA's "stairs within a ramp."

The CSL outdoor pool has a flight of stairs up to the showers in the women's change room. If you cannot climb stairs, your only option is to get naked on the public pool deck. Note that these slippery stairs are also a significant hazard to able bodied people. At the bottom is a drain, so we know this is a spot where water pools.

Imagine waiting in your wet bathing suit for your adapted transit ride.

There is nothing on the website indicating this travesty.

I found similar conditions at the Westmount YMCA. Swimmers use a flight of stairs from the women's change room to the pool. OR walk across the large change room after showering, and wait in the public hall for the elevator to take you to and from the pool. Not to mention riding the elevator in your wet bathing suit.

Again, on the YMCA's Accessibility Statement (posted farther up this page), they state that the building and change rooms are accessible. They are far from being so.

I am wondering why this is not being addressed? Are able bodied members not outraged at these human rights violations that they see on a regular basis?