Hidden City Blog

The Old City Hall located downtown Toronto is a historic building that has been around since 1899.  Its function now is that of a courthouse, and as you can see in the picture above, accessibility is non-existent from the front of the building.  In fact, the only access to this building for individuals who require wheelchair access, is at the very back of the building (the Elizabeth Street entrance).  Given the size of the building and the fact that it does take up an entire block, having wheelchair access only in the back of the building is not inclusive to individuals whom are in need of ground level (or ramped) access to a building.

Naomi, a woman who spoke of her concerns with accessibility in the “The Disabled Cities” podcast had similar issues within her place of work at the Osgoode building, also located downtown Toronto.  The front of the building had these giant gates that she was unable to get around in her wheelchair, and the only access that she had to the building was at the back of the building.  To quote Naomi, she felt that the problem with inaccessible places was that it makes her feel like a spectacle, she feels separate from society and her co-workers who were able to use any access points to the building.  Understandably, in old buildings such as the Osgoode or Old City Hall access to the main buildings is difficult given the structures, however there are many other solutions than could be provided, other than completely segregating access to the back of the buildings.  I am sure that adding a ramp to the front of the Old City Hall would not hinder the historic appreciation of the building, nor would restructuring the gates at Osgoode.

As Mia Mingus states in her “Changing the Framework: Disability Justice” (2011) article,

“we need to think of access with an understanding of disability justice, moving away from an equality-based model of sameness and “we are just like you” to a model of disability that embraces difference, confronts privilege and challenges what is considered “normal” on every front” (par. 5).

If we keep pushing individuals with a disability “to the back” then we cannot embrace difference, confront privilege or challenge what is “normal” on any front.  Accessibility and options need to be the same for all individuals with a disability.


The Disabled City [Audio blog interview]. (2007). Retrieved from http://curio.ca.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/en/audio/the-disabled-city-4271/

Mingus, M (2011). Changing the Framework: Disability Justice. Leaving Evidence. Retrieved from: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/02/12/changing-the-framework-disability-justice/

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