Advocating for better accessibility in Montreal | Watch News Videos Online

People living with disabilities say very little thought is given to making public and private spaces accessible. On Thursday, Global News reported on a man who was denied a permit to install a mechanical lift at his home for a wheelchair. As Phil Carpenter explains, advocates say the provincial law needs to be stronger.

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Canadians with long COVID: Sick and, increasingly, worried they’ll go broke – National |

Adriana Patino, 36, has been battling COVID-19 since December 2020.

First, the virus made her very sick, prompting several trips to the ER when her blood-oxygen levels had dropped dangerously low. Then the long-term symptoms set in: palpitations, difficulty breathing, overwhelming fatigue, and concussion-like cognitive issues.

“I have memory issues, it takes me a while to retain information or follow up conversation or I misspell words constantly,” says the North Vancouver-based consultant.

Patino, once a competitive swimmer who represented Canada at the FINA World Aquatics Championship, says she’s been housebound for more than six months. Minor physical or mental exertions lead to debilitating exhaustion or violent headaches. Carrying out her job, she says, is impossible.

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But while Patino says her employer has been very supportive, getting her long-term disability (LTD) insurance claim approved is taking longer than expected. Patino, who has exhausted her short-term Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, says she was hoping her LTD coverage would kick in around a month after she filed the claim in early April. Instead, the insurance company keeps coming back with new requests for medical records, she says.

In the meantime, Patino says her financial situation is rapidly deteriorating. After raiding her personal savings, she had to borrow from her mother. Her friends raised funds through a GoFundMe account.

But if her workplace benefits don’t come in soon, she says she’ll have to start selling some of her possessions to make ends meet.

“We don’t have anything else to rely on,” she says.

Click to play video: 'Millions continue relying on COVID-19 benefits'

Millions continue relying on COVID-19 benefits

Millions continue relying on COVID-19 benefits – Mar 15, 2021

More than half of COVID-19 patients might be suffering from long-term symptoms more than 12 weeks after testing positive, according to a new review by the Public Health Agency of Canada. To date, 1.39 million Canadians have contracted the virus and survived, according to official statistics.

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But many of the country’s COVID long-haulers say they’re falling through the cracks of both private workplace insurance benefits and government income supports.

Workplace disability benefits often denied

Only 12 million Canadians have disability insurance, according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association. But even those who, like Patino, have coverage, aren’t necessarily able to access the benefits when they suffer from long-term COVID symptoms, also known as long COVID.

The lingering effects of the virus manifest as a bewildering array of symptoms. The common ones include fatigue, difficulty breathing, cognitive problems often described as “brain fog,” cough, muscle pain or headache, sleep problems, cardiac issues and trouble sleeping.

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The pandemic is leaving millions of COVID-19 survivors chronically ill, creating what science magazine Scientific American recently called a “tsunami of disability.”
But long COVID has all the hallmarks of an illness for which it’s difficult to claim workplace disability benefits. What’s causing those often debilitating symptoms doesn’t always show up in diagnostic testing. Patino, for example, says she has undergone a barrage of tests, most of which came back normal. Only a few tests revealed issues with her lungs, blood and heart, she says.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ describe shakes, trouble breathing weeks after testing positive'

COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ describe shakes, trouble breathing weeks after testing positive

COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ describe shakes, trouble breathing weeks after testing positive – Feb 19, 2021

Also, researchers still have a limited understanding of COVID’s long-term effects and family doctors often don’t recognize the condition. A recent study in the British Journal of General Practice, for example, suggested that general practitioners in England may be grossly under-diagnosing long COVID. Researches found less than 24,000 records of formal diagnoses of long COVID, a number that is nearly 100 times smaller than the two million adults thought to have had long COVID in England.

“It’s an invisible illness, it’s much like … chronic fatigue syndrome, (that is) myalgic encephalomyelitis,” says Susie Goulding, a floral designer based in Oakville, Ont. She’s a COVID long-hauler who founded COVID Long-Haulers Support Group Canada, which has almost 14,000 members.

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These Canadians say they suffered COVID-19 symptoms for months

Many COVID long-haulers in the group have been denied long-term disability benefits, she says.

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“People are being turned away because they just can’t prove it in black and white on paper that they are as ill as they are saying that they are,” she says.

Because there is still little research around long COVID, it’s easy for insurance companies to dismiss disability claims due to “insufficient medical evidence,” says Nainesh Kotak, a Mississauga, Ont.-based disability and personal injury lawyer, who has recently been retained for a long COVID case.

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“It’s no different than dealing with a chronic fatigue case or even a chronic pain case. What is more difficult, though, is certainly the newness of the impairments,” he says.

It’s important for long COVID sufferers to build medical evidence by relying on their family physician to record their symptoms and provide referrals to specialists as needed, Kotak says.

“The important thing, of course, is to have your physicians as an ally,” he notes.

But that’s often a challenge for long-haulers in Canada, where not everyone has access to a family physician. The head of the Canadian Medical Association recently called on the federal government to boost access to family doctors for long-haulers.

Click to play video: 'The struggles of COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’'

The struggles of COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’

The struggles of COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ – Oct 20, 2020

In the absence of that, long-haulers should consistently use the same walk-in clinic for appointments, which makes it easier to gather evidence, Kotak says.

But besides providing a full picture of long COVID patient’s symptoms, it’s key that doctors identify how the condition limits the patients’ ability to function in their jobs, he adds.

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Still, it doesn’t help that, unlike the U.K., Canada has yet to establish a clinical definition of long COVID.

And some long-haulers face yet another mystifying obstacle: they can’t prove they ever had COVID-19.

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Many long-haulers who caught the virus in the first wave, when Canada was rationing a limited number of available tests, don’t have a positive COVID-19 test result to show for it, Goulding says. For example, many COVID-19 symptomatic patients weren’t given tests if a family member had already tested positive, she adds.

“They were assumed to have a positive case as well, but then they didn’t get a positive … test, so then they’re left trying to prove themselves,” she says.

In a recent survey of more than 1,000 COVID long-haulers in Canada by Goulding’s COVID Long-Haulers Support Group Canada, Viral Neuro Exploration and Neurological Health Charities Canada, less than 60 per cent of participants said they had received a positive test.

COVID government-benefits safety net not enough for long-haulers

For those who don’t have or can’t access long-term disability benefits, there’s little in the way of a social safety net.

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Chantal Renaud says she began suffering from crippling symptoms, including severe difficulty breathing, tachycardia and profound fatigue in April 2020. When her LTD insurance claim was rejected, she says she accessed EI sickness benefits. But after exhausting the 15-week maximum eligibility period for the program, she says she found herself without any income.

In the end, Renauld says she was forced to sell her house to survive financially.

“I have financially contributed to this country for more than 32 years and I should never have lost my house because I fell ill,” Renaud recently told the House of Commons’ Human Resources committee. “No Canadian should ever have to experience that.”

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On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

Renaud had been called to testify about Bill C-265, a private member’s bill sponsored by Bloc Quebecois MP Claude DeBellefeuille proposing to extend the maximum period for receiving benefits to 50 weeks.

Federal budget legislation recently extended the maximum number of weeks for receiving EI sickness from 15 to 26, but the changes are expected to take effect only in the summer of 2022.

The office of Human Resources Minister Carla Qualtrough did not respond to a question about whether the federal government is considering a further extension of the maximum benefits period.

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“The Government of Canada recognizes that this continues to be a difficult time for many workers in Canada. We will continue to monitor how the labour market rebounds and the needs of Canadians as we move forward on the path to recovery,” Employment and Social Development Canada said via email.

Patino, for her part, says she’s hoping her story helps people and policymakers appreciate the impact of long COVID.

“I want people to take this seriously and I want the government to take us seriously.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pickering mother demands fully accessible playgrounds in community

Pickering has many playgrounds, but none of them are fully accessible. A mother of a child with disabilities is calling for that to change.

She’s launched a petition, and it’s getting the attention of city hall.

“The ground surface is made up of wood chips,” Seana Haley.

“We don’t actually have a fully accessible park. We need to have poured rubber surface on the playground.”

Haley brings her three-year-old son to a park in south Pickering regularly. She says he has two disabilities, and like so many others, could benefit from a fully accessible place to play.

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Haley started a petition, to raise awareness of the issue. So far she has received over 500 signatures.

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“There are kids in our city who can’t go to any park right now. We have a few parks that are starting to become a bit more inclusive but even though they call them inclusive they still leave out certain people in our population and I don’t think that’s OK in this day and age,” said Haley.

Maurice Brenner, Pickering Ward 1 councillor, says the city needs to do a better job going forward.

“An inclusive playground falls short of being accessible,” Brenner said.

He wants to bring forward recommendations to staff that every future park be accessible to everyone.

“Unfortunately, at this point, I’d have to give myself and the city a failing grade of an ‘F’ because it does not meet the accessibility needs,” said Brenner.

Pickering has about 60 playgrounds across the city; 14 are inclusive.

“I see a fully accessible playground as more of a destination park-type playground,” said Arnold Mostert, Pickering landscape and parks development manager.

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Mostert says an accessible playground with specialized equipment can cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

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He adds that they also require more space.

“There’s definitely a need for it in the city, just they have to be at the right location, with additional services such as washrooms, parking; a lot of our neighbourhood parks don’t provide those services,” said Mostert.

The city says it is looking at adding a fully accessible playground at a northern community park in the near future and that it will need to start replacing some of the older structures around the community, which it could convert to accessible places to play.

As for Haley, she says every municipality should have an accessible park.

“I think every kid should have access to a playground. It’s a hugely important part of their lives,” said Haley.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Changes to Saskatchewan wildlife regulations make it easier for hunters with mobility impairments

Changes are being made to wildlife regulations in Saskatchewan, giving better access to hunters dealing with mobility impairments using a motorized wheelchair, in an announcement made by the province Monday.

In 2020, Saskatchewan allowed the use of motorized mobility equipment for hunters with disabilities, but required a permit.

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‘Choked me up’: motorized wheelchair takes hunter into the wild for the first time

The province dropped the need for a permit on Monday.

“This new legislation provides greater access and less red tape for hunters with mobility impairments,” said Warren Kaeding, Saskatchewan’s environment minister.

“Hunters will be able to take advantage of new technologies in motorized mobility equipment, without the requirement of obtaining a permit to use the equipment.  This is a great example of how a policy can evolve to meet the needs of Saskatchewan residents.”

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Bobbie Cherepuschak tests out the snow blade attachment on his new motorized wheelchair.

Bobbie Cherepuschak tests out the snow blade attachment on his new motorized wheelchair.


It’s something Bobby Cherepuschak, an avid hunter with a mobility impairment, said will have a positive impact on those dealing with similar issues.

“Now anybody with a disability that can’t walk long distances or can’t walk at all, can now hunt out of one of these all-terrain action track chairs,” said Cherepuschak.

“It’s going to be awesome, more people are going to get out and enjoy the outdoors.”

More changes to The Wildlife Regulations Amendment Act, 2021 include:

  • Prohibit the feeding of dangerous animals, to help alleviate increased concerns related to dangerous wildlife in the province.  This includes feeding wildlife on the side of the road.  This prohibition will not apply to the use of bait for hunting or trapping purposes, conducting agricultural activities or operating licensed landfills.
  • Authorize the use of a Hunting, Angling and Trapping Licence (HAL) identification number to identify hunting baits and stands on Crown lands, as an alternative to an individual’s full name and address.
  • Authorize the disposal of inedible or diseased wildlife specimens to simplify the removal of carcasses deemed unfit for human consumption, including specimens infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Read more:
Lumsden man hopes rule changes can improve hunting accessibility in Saskatchewan

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Further information regarding The Wildlife Regulations Amendment Act, 2021 can found on Saskatchewan’s website.

Click to play video: '‘Choked me up’: motorized wheelchair takes hunter into bush for the first time'

‘Choked me up’: motorized wheelchair takes hunter into bush for the first time

‘Choked me up’: motorized wheelchair takes hunter into bush for the first time – Feb 14, 2021

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Halifax research group creates app to help break barriers for those living with disabilities

A research group in Halifax is trying to make the city more inclusive to residents and visitors.

PEACH Research works to promote equity, accessibility and health in urban design and planning practices. It’s part of Dalhousie University’s school of planning and consists of faculty members, students and partners developing and executing projects to help design a better place for Haligonians to live, work and play.

One of those partners is Halifax-based non-profit reachAbility. It provides support and accessible programs to individuals facing barriers to inclusion and community participation. Each year, it hosts National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) to celebrate and recognize contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability,” says Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility.

“Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”

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Halifax-based non-profit goes digital for week-long conference on accessibility and inclusion

During NAAW, the two groups hosted a virtual event on how to build a more accessible city. CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment was hosted by Melanie Goodridge, pre-employment support navigator for reachAbility, and PEACH researchers Kate Clarke and Katherine Deturbide. The panel covered accessibility standards and barriers faced in the built environment, and highlighted their latest app, the CANdid Access web map.

The app allows users to share and access photos and information about the accessibility in their community.

“Take a picture of something that’s accessible/inaccessible,” Goodridge explains. “Then you give a little blurb on why and then it’s uploaded and put onto a map.”

The photos and information submitted by users of CANdid are added to the access map and can help those living with disabilities to navigate – or even avoid – certain parts of the city. Unmarked crosswalks, paved park pathways, construction zones and sidewalk conditions are some examples of what users may find on CANdid.

“It’s just a really great way to show features that are accessible versus features that are inaccessible,” says Goodridge. “You get a visual of how we can make it better and how we can change to meet the standards by 2030 of the Accessibility Act for Nova Scotia.”

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The Accessibility Act, passed in 2017, plans to improve standards for public buildings, streets, sidewalks, shared spaces and education. The standards are expected to roll out in 2022.

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Nova Scotia announces plans to support accessibility law passed in 2017

The hope is that the information collected through CANdid will one day land on the desks of provincial government officials who can make a difference.

“Nova Scotia does have some big targets to reach by 2030,” says Goodridge. “A lot of the work that the folks are doing at PEACH Research is a great way to start and an easy way for all of us to understand and digest what needs to happen so that moving forward, we can engage in our government, we can engage on a local level to see those changes being made.”

NAAW runs from May 30 to June 5. It is free and open to everyone and is available to access any time through the reachAbility website.  CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment is available to watch through the reachAbility YouTube channel.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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How accessible is Lethbridge for people with disabilities?

May 30 to June 5 marks National AccessAbility Week, which acknowledges and celebrates contributions made by Canadians with disabilities, the removal of barriers to accessibly and inclusion, and the work to oppose discrimination against those with a disability.

Diane Kotkas, director of DaCapo Disability Services with Lethbridge Family Services, said it’s important to see people for who they are and what abilities they have, and not just for their disability.

“Every one of us has challenges in some form or another,” she said.

“Individuals with disabilities are members of our community and should be treated with the same rights and opportunities as any other citizen.”

Kotkas added it’s important to acknowledge the barriers some face, and the ease at which many people are able to navigate the community.

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“As ambulatory individuals, we more often than not take accessibility for granted,” she said. “But for many folks with a disability, accessibility is a daily challenge.”

According to Chris Witkowski, the parks planning manager with the City of Lethbridge, there have been recent improvements in the mobility accessibility around the city.

“(The) last couple years we’ve really put a high-priority on making the city more accessible,” Witkowski said.  “Probably the biggest accomplishment was completing our mobility accessibility master plan, which was completed in summer of 2020.”

Also a member of the Mobility Accessibility working group, Witkowski said the city is always welcoming input from residents and organizations about what improvements can be made.

“I know facilities is always making improvements to the public buildings,” he said. “If you’re walking on intersections, you’ll see new sidewalk ramps, trying to improve accessibility for wheelchair use, strollers, walkers, those with visual impairments.

“For playgrounds, we’ve started to add some playground surfacing, some hard-rubber surfacing to increase wheelchair access in there. Putting a lot more inclusive play pieces into our playgrounds.”

Click to play video: 'Canada’s Week of AccessAbility'

Canada’s Week of AccessAbility

Canada’s Week of AccessAbility

For Bill Brown, who is blind and runs the Lethbridge Association for the Blind, many additions to the city have been positive.

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“City’s done a lot of work in putting ramps at all the corners, and that’s very beneficial to people in wheelchairs, but it certainly helps people who are visually impaired as well.”

However, he does believe some improvements could be made within the city’s transit operations, and hopes the general public is able to become more educated on disabilities.

“It’s amazing how people have difficulty in dealing with someone with a disability, and I think that’s not only blindness but practically every disability,” he admitted.
“People sometimes, when they meet someone who’s blind, they think they have to talk loud, because they’re thinking of deafness.”

According to Witkowski, the recently-approved Capitol Improvement Program includes funding for improvements to accessibility at city facilities and funding for a benchmark study.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Companies under pressure to comply with Ontario’s new website accessibility standards

Companies with at least 50 employees that do business in Ontario face a June 30 deadline to confirm they are complying with new standards for making websites accessible for people with disabilities.

All private-sector and not-for-profit organizations with more than 50 employees could be fined for failing to ensure their website complies with rules that took effect in January.

The Ford government has given until the end of this month for organizations to self-report on their compliance with the accessibility law.

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The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act provides for enforcing compliance with an escalating range of fines that can reach $100,000 per day.

The law originally focused on physical barriers but more recently adopted an international standard for accessible websites and digital communications.

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Ontario’s law has been described as the toughest in Canada when it comes to digital communications but years behind what’s in place in the United States.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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4 Peterborough-Kawartha organizations receive federal funding for accessibility projects

The federal government is providing four Peterborough-area organizations with funding to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

On Monday morning, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef announced $241,000 for four organizations — Camp Kawartha Inc., the New Canadians Centre, the Jewish Community Centre of Peterborough and the Peterborough Theatre Guild — through the Enabling Accessibility Fund. The federal grant supports construction projects to improve accessibility, safety and inclusion of people with disabilities.

The announcement comes during National AccessAbility Week.

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“Building a more inclusive Canada takes a lot of work, but it’s important work that must be done,” stated Monsef on behalf of Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion.

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“Thanks to the Enabling Accessibility Fund, the Government of Canada has been able to support organizations in Peterborough-Kawartha. Together, we are working hard to make our community more accessible for persons with disabilities. Improving accessibility benefits all Canadians.”

The projects include canoeing at Camp Kawartha, improved access to the theatre and the two community centres.

Monsef also highlighted the June 4 launch of two new calls for proposals under the EAF mid-sized projects and youth innovation components, which can provide contributions of $350,000 up to $1 million to support large retrofit, renovation or construction projects. The call for proposals will remain open until July 29.

The youth innovation component challenges youth ages 15 to 30 to volunteer and collaborate and submit proposals for accessibility projects. The deadline to submit a proposal is Nov. 30.

Monsef says since 2015, the riding has received more than $1.1 million through the EAF to fund more than 25 projects, including the Lakefield Baptist Church, Five Counties Children Centre, YWCA Peterborough and Haliburton, and the City of Peterborough.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Long-awaited Vendome tunnel will finally open Monday

Delayed by several years and more than $30 million over its initial budget, the long-awaited newly accessible tunnel linking the Vendome Metro Station to the MUHC’s Glen site will open next week.

“It’s a priority for the STM. I think it’s very important to state that it’s a real priority and the results are there to show it’s a priority,” said Philippe Schnobb, the chairman of the board of directors of the STM.

The $110-million project to create the multimodal station will make access to the Vendome Metro, the Exo commuter rail, buses and the MUHC much easier for people with disabilities and mobility issues, and parents with strollers. Previously, the tunnel was only accessible by stairs.

New wheelchair-friendly turnstiles were installed, as were five new elevators.

STM board of directors member Laurence Parent says it will encourage more people with disabilities to use the station.

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“For disabled people, it’s also about being visible now that this station is accessible,” said Parent, who uses a wheelchair. “Now it means you will see more disabled people around and I think it’s how you change society.”

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Train disruptions likely as work on Montreal’s Vendome Tunnel continues

It will also make life much easier for patients needing to access the hospital.

“This improves the situation a lot,” said Dr. Pierre Gfeller, the director-general of the MUHC. “It also increases our accessibility of our patients and staff to this building where we have many medical clinics, where some of our staff are working. So for now in the winter you won’t have to go out, you will go directly to the hospital.”

The project to retrofit the station proved incredibly complex because the STM tried to avoid disrupting service.

“Our biggest challenge was an engineering challenge because we had to build a tunnel underneath the train tracks,” said Maha Clour, the project director of the STM. “Our metro system is built in the 1960s and the urban mapping has evolved all over the years so it becomes more difficult to manage a construction site with buildings around us and tunnels underneath us.”

Click to play video: 'Community groups worried after Montreal transit authority inspectors granted new powers'

Community groups worried after Montreal transit authority inspectors granted new powers

Community groups worried after Montreal transit authority inspectors granted new powers – May 7, 2021

Critics and advocates for those with disabilities say it should have been done long ago, when the hospital was initially built.

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“It was ludicrous, it was completely out of our minds why they did not plan for this in advance. It adds insult to injury,” said Laurent Morissette of the RAPLIQ. “Knowing this metro would service a huge clientele with special needs it was ridiculous.”

Even STM officials admit they are confounded it wasn’t done earlier.

“I asked the same question when I got my job seven years ago, why did we not have universal accessibility,” said Schnobb. “I was not there at the time, I can’t explain why someone missed that opportunity.”

The STM hopes to have 30 of its 68 stations accessible by 2025, and the whole network completed by 2038.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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