On Tuesday last week, Global News’s Minna Rhee reported a story regarding the banning of strollers from certain spaces, in particular doctor’s offices, ‘War on Baby Strollers’ (http://www.globaltoronto.com/video/wars+on+baby+strollers/video.html?v=2339063245&p=9&s=dd#stories).
Within the medical building featured in the news story, several pediatricians’ offices within the building had a no stroller’s allowed policy. This resulted in stroller-lined hallways throughout the building. Dr. Aaron Lindzon, a pediatrician interviewed conceded it was, “basically, it’s a space issue”. The story concludes with “the bottom line is, ask in advance, and don’t be surprised if the doctor asks you to leave the wheels behind, and points out that leaving the strollers in the hallway contravenes the Ontario Fire Code which requires they be clear of impediments.
But the policies of banning strollers concern me greatly, and should be considered an accessibility issue. The use of assistive devices should be permitted in all spaces, and strollers could technically be considered assistive devices. If my wheelchair is permitted, so should a stroller be. They are both mobility devices. And I know a few mothers with disabilities where in that circumstance; the stroller would become an assistive device for the caregiver. I suppose the caregivers of those babies-in-strollers could also technically be considered personal support workers. As well, a person in a wheelchair would not be able to access the stroller-lined hallway in the story, which is a huge issue, and not just in an emergency situation. The strollers themselves become barriers to access.
Awhile back there was a news item out of Ottawa where a bus driver on the public transit system required a woman, her baby, and stroller to disembark a bus in order to accommodate a passenger using a wheelchair. The bus company issued a statement to the effect that the driver had misinterpreted their accessibility policies and the bus line staff would receive more training on the policies.
The aim of the Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, (A.O.D.A.) is for an accessible Ontario by 2025. Progressive implementation of the Act will result in more accessible physical spaces going forward and, hopefully one day, all spaces will be accessible. Benefits and opportunities for all are presented by accessibility, inclusion and diversity, and the unexpected benefit of accessibility on society as a whole is known as the ‘curb-cut phenomenon’. Named from the cuts in curbs originally for wheelchairs that benefited strollers, bicycles, delivery carts, and more. In fact, the typewriter, telephone, tape recorder and email were all developed by, or for, persons with disabilities, and have benefited everyone.
But for now, some common sense approaches could greatly benefit accessibility and strollers. For example, if you are a pediatrician, you should be aware that your patients come with apparatus and find office space accordingly. Medical buildings in particular should know that a large percentage of persons visiting the facility will be ill, have a disability or chronic condition, or use assistive devices. It is a medical facility.
So as an accessibility advocate, I am officially on the side of strollers. And there is, another reason that I think the banning of strollers should become an accessibility issue, if you take the case of the Ottawa bus incident, I do not want to see persons with disabilities demonized by being pitted against babies. Accessibility is not about preferred access it is about equal access.
It should be noted that I am not saying that a person in a wheelchair is in a similar circumstance to a baby in a stroller, certainly everyone has very different mobility options, I am only saying that in terms of accessibility and assistive devices, accommodation should be made for both. Accessibility for all, cradle to grave.