By Rhianna Jackson-KelsoStaff Reporter
Wed., Aug. 28, 2019
Getting around a city the size of Toronto can be difficult, especially for someone with a disability or mobility issues, and that includes navigating the subway system. Thats why Robin Hufgard, a landscape architecture graduate with a background in studio art, created a TTC subway map designed with accessibility in mind.
Hufgards map, which is available online to download for free (opens in new tab/window), looks similar to the official TTC subway map, but only lists stops deemed by the TTC to be fully accessible. Given that only 45 of the 75 stations contain elevators designed for people with mobility devices or baby strollers, this means a sizable chunk are missing.
Advocate and super-commuter Jessica Geboers braves College Station stairs and narrow fare gates on Line One on March 7th, 2019. Although she says the TTC is trying, she rates it a 6/10 in terms of accessibility.
Hufgard, whose pronouns are they/them, said the idea came to them last summer after a minor surgery temporarily reduced their mobility and energy levels.
When I would take the TTC, I wouldnt be able to stand or go up and down the stairs very easily, Hufgard said. With many stations now inaccessible, I started thinking Wow, this really sucks.
Architectural intern Robin Hufgard created this revised TTC map to be more legible and showcase accessible stations more prominently.
While only needing to rely on accessible stations for a short recovery period, Hufgard began to wonder how the experience could be improved for people whose accessibility needs didnt have a time limit.
I didnt grow up taking TTC, and even not having any accessibility issues visually or physically, I found reading the map and getting information was very difficult, Hufgard said.
Hufgard said they wanted to design a map that streamlined the system for those with accessibility issues as much as possible.
As well as noting accessible stations, the map also uses a dyslexia-friendly font called Open Dyslexic, spaces out station names further than the TTCs map and labels them in a larger font size. It also uses leader lines to indicate which names refer to which stations in areas where many names are clustered together.
Hufgard has made several different versions of the map since last summer, revising it based on online feedback and when station upgrades are completed.
The issue with accessibility is theres no one way to make one thing perfect for everyone, Hufgard said. Im not a professional in this, but I think its important to listen to the community, and if something consistently comes up as an issue to try and address it.
Hufgard noted the majority of responses came from parents who otherwise have no access issues but have to navigate the subway with baby strollers.
In an email to the Star, TTC spokesperson Hayley Waldman said the agency is working to make all subway stations accessible through its Easier Access program.
She said factors in choosing which stations underwent changes first included geography ensuring stations were made accessible across the system rather than concentrated in a certain area or subway line as well as ridership.
Generally, stations with higher ridership were made accessible first to benefit the greatest number of customers sooner, she said.
The TTC has been upgrading stations gradually over the last several years to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), which became law in 2005. The agency plans to make all stations accessible by 2025.
Waldman said stations are considered accessible when there is a barrier-free accessible path between one street entrance, bus/streetcar terminals and subway platforms. They also include elevators, power-operated or sliding doors, wide fare gates and signs which indicate accessible paths.
Waldman said information about the TTCs progress can be found on the agencys website at http://www.ttc.ca/TTC_Accessibility/Accessible_Transit_Services_Plan/index.jsp (opens in new tab/window).
But as the process continues, Hufgard said, information about the construction status of different stations can be tricky to track down online.
St. Patrick station recently finished its accessibility upgrades, and on some parts of the website it would say it was accessible, other parts it would say it was still under construction, or that it was totally unaccessible, they said.
Someone who may already have less physical or mental energy to navigate because they have accessibility issues … Theyre not going to be sitting all day long monitoring TTC channels.
Ben Kropp, vice-president of government relations at the Occupational Safety Group, an organization that helps train companies on workplace well-being and accessibility, said that, although Hufgards map doesnt take into account all disabilities of people who may be using the system, he praised the initiative.
Any time that anybody is going to go out of their way in good faith to do something for people with disabilities I think is hugely important, he said.
Kropp said one way institutions can improve accessibility is by taking into account people with an invisible disability, as well as clear emergency plans in situations where people with disabilities would need to be evacuated.
If somebody has Crohns (inflammatory bowel disease) as an example, theyre gonna need readily available access to a bathroom, he said. If thats not placed on a map or if there is a station that does not have a bathroom, those individuals are gonna be very negatively effected.
Rhianna Jackson-Kelso is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Stars radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @RhiannaJK
Ilya Bañares is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ilyaoverseas