Citytv reporter leaves Toronto due to lack of accessibility

Citytv reporter Tara Weber, who uses a wheelchair to get around, is
leaving Toronto for Calgary, says the city makes it too hard to get
around and do her job.

Weber is paraplegic after breaking her back in a car accident at age 17. She’s now 29. A Toronto Sun story by Joe Warmington, who has worked with Weber, quotes her as saying:

“I hate to leave but it’s just not easy for me to live here,” the 29-year-old Kelowna, B.C. native told me. “Ever since I came here in 2003 to go to Ryerson, I have found it so difficult to get around and it doesn’t seem to be getting better.”

Warmington writes that Weber “is as tough a journalistic competitor as there is. She combines grace with grit and does not use the chair as a hindrance or advantage — unless, of course, she can get an advantage for her story.

“I have seen tough nuts like Leafs GM Brian Burke or Gen. Walter Natynczyk — chief of defence staff — show extreme class, and perhaps favour, by kneeling down to give her an exclusive. We tease her about the special treatment but also note she could not join us at the Irish Embassy for a pint after because there are several steps and she’s too proud, and perhaps stubborn, to mention it.”

Warmington quotes the letter Weber wrote to Toronto Mayor David Miller and the mayoral candidates:

“I’ve interviewed you all and have enjoyed meeting every one of you,” she wrote. “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve left my job and am leaving Toronto to go out west. A big part of my decision to leave is the lack of wheelchair access in this city. I’ve lived in various places throughout Canada and can honestly say Toronto is one of the least accessible.”

She also wrote “the majority of places in this city are not wheelchair accessible — bars, restaurants, transit stations, bathrooms and even stores.” If she wants to go somewhere, she has to plan ahead – will she be able to get in? Will she be able to use their washroom?

In a video interview, she says that even the TTC is “useless” – only certain stops and certain stations are wheelchair accessible to her. At some stops she can only choose to go one direction, but cannot return via the same route. In the letter to the mayor, she notes that two massive subway stop redevelopments – Donlands and Greenwood – are not including accessibility in the design plans.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross clarified to Warmington that “there are two separate projects for those stations. One is the second exit being constructed, the other involves elevators; elevators will be installed at the main entrances” and that “all subway stations will be accessible by 2024.”