Femmes en ville : l'accessibilité des transports pour être libre Une présentation de Laurence Parent Handicaps au féminin: 25 ans d’actions 25 novembre 2011 Hôtel Reine Élizabeth, Montréal Le métro de Montréal: not exactly wheelchair-accessible On September 2009, the Montréal was one of the last underground transit system in the world to be 100% inaccessible to persons whose mobility needs cannot be accommodated by stairs. Today, only four Metro stations on Montréal Island have elevators. L’importance du métro de Montréal / The importance of the Montréal Metro L’historien Jean-Claude Germain écrit que “le métro est à Montréal ce que les boulevards sont à Paris et les canaux à Venise”. The Metro is the heart of Montréal. The Québec historian Jean-Claude Germain writes that “The Metro is to Montréal what boulevards are to Paris and canals to Venisa”. L’importance du métro de Montréal / The importance of the Montréal Metro Inauguré au coeur de la Révolution tranquille, période historique marquant la naissance de l’État moderne québécois, le métro de Montréal est l’un des symboles édifiant Montréal à titre de métropole internationale. Le métro de Montréal a toujours été raconté comme étant un lieu public au cœur de l’action urbaine; le métro de Montréal a été raconté comme le système nerveux de la métropole québécoise. Inaugurated during the Quiet Revolution, the Montréal Metro symbolizes the modernization of Québec society. Not only is the Metro central in the organization of the public transit system in Montréal, but also it is one major component of Montréal identity and Québec history. Une histoire qui n’a jamais été racontée / A history that has never been told L’histoire du métro de Montréal écrite jusqu’à a omis de rendre compte de la face cachée du métro de Montréal: l’exclusion qu’il produit. Depuis sa construction en 1966, le réseau de métro a exclu une partie non négligeable de la population montréalaise; les personnes dont les besoins de mobilité ne peuvent pas être comblés par des escaliers. Ces personnes ont été forcées à utiliser un système parallèle de transport adapté puisqu’elles ont été identifiées comme étant différentes de la norme. Jusqu’ici les escaliers dans le métro de Montréal ont été perçus et racontés comme un fait architectural neutre et sans grand intérêt. Up to now, the history of the Montréal Metro has only been written from an able-bodied perspective. This able-bodied perspective does not consider the ways in which stairs are architecture that accommodates those with normal legs. The history of people who have been excluded from the Metro due to the hegemony of stairs remains unwritten. Stairs in the Montréal Metro have been - and are still - largely understood as a neutral architectural structure which was and is not problematic. TROUVER LES MOTS / FINDING WORDS Handicapisme ambulant: Wolbring (2008) définit l’handicapisme comme un système qui favorise certaines habiletés par rapport à d’autres. La discrimination vécue par les personnes dont les besoins de mobilité ne peuvent pas être comblés par des escaliers doit être comprise comme le résultat de pratiques délibérées valorisant l’habileté d’utiliser des escaliers dans un contexte historique particulier. Walking-ableism: Wolbring (2008) explains ableism as a system that favours certain abilities over others. The discrimination lived by people whose mobility needs cannot be accommodated by stairs needs to be understood as the result of deliberate practices which cherished certain abilities such as walking and the ability to use stairs as prerequisite for enjoying full citizenship within a specific historical context. A Too Quiet Revolution: The Making of a Walking-Ableist Public Space Great Darkness: Throughout the Great Darkness disabled people have been subjected to the most horrible treatments and kept in institutions (religious or philanthropic). They were rarely seen in public places. Une Révolution trop tranquille: La création d’un espace public handicapant Lors de l’inauguration du réseau initial comptant 26 stations, une page de l’histoire du Québec s’est écrite. Évènement marquant de la Révolution tranquille, l’ouverture du métro de Montréal le 14 octobre 1966 symbolise l’une des premières réalisations ambitieuses accomplies par un gouvernement visant à combler les besoins en mobilité de ses citoyens. The day of the inauguration of the initial Montréal Metro network, which counted twenty-six stations, was a significant moment of Québec modern history. In the context of the Quiet Revolution, the opening of the Montréal Metro on October 14, 1966 symbolized one of the first realisations accomplished by an elected government which served the mobility needs of its citizens. Une Révolution trop tranquille: La création d’un espace public handicapant Lors de l’inauguration le maire Drapeau déclara: “Cinquante ans de patience, de projets, d’études. Cinquante ans d’espoir. Voilà qu’enfin c’est chose faite. Il est donc tout naturel qu’en cet instant ma pensée se porte d’abord vers nous tous, résidents de cette grande ville, afin que nous nous félicitions mutuellement de posséder un tel réseau de transport souterrain. Nous l’avons bien mérité” (Guimont, 2007, p. 1). During the inauguration ceremony, Drapeau declared: “Fifty years of patience, projects and studies. Fifty years of hope. Now it’s done. My first thought goes to us, residents of this big city. We need to mutually congratulate each other to own such an underground transport system. We deserve it. [...] With its new subway, Montréal gains one more title among the greatest world capitals” (Guimont, 2007, p. 1). At the first glance, this ‘us’ seems to describe all human beings living on the Montréal island. However, this ‘us’ as it has been formulated during the inauguration of the Montréal Metro, contributes to the construction and marginalization of the disabled body – the body that cannot use stairs. A total erasure of this body was needed in order to assert that the new subway could be ridden by everyone- by ‘us’. The inauguration of the Metro – understood as being a public space- had to tie the notion of being a Montrealer to the ability of riding the subway. The status of citizen was granted upon the performance of a specific ability judged by people in power as being a “normal” ability. L’État-Providence québécois répondut alors aux besoins de mobilité d’une partie de sa population: celle pouvant se mouvoir dans un espace conçu pour répondre aux besoins de l’homme moyen voyagant seul, sans limitation et en parfaite santé. The Québec welfare state addressed the mobility needs of a specific and never-named category of the population: the able-bodied population. LA GRANDE SORTIE / THE GREAT EXIT It is fundamental to note that disabled people who have been deinstitutionalized during the 70s discovered that Québec society was not expecting them. A city and a nation was being constructed without them. Access to transport quickly became one of the first struggles of disabled people (Boucher, Fougeyrollas & Gaucher, 2003, p.140). Fondation d’un premier service de transport adapté / Creation of a first paratransit service It is in this context that two brothers using wheelchairs who lived in Montréal funded the first para-transit service in Québec. Jacques and Jean-Marc Forest had to find the funding necessary to create the service by themselves, since the Québec state did not assume any responsibility regarding the transport of disabled people. In 1973, the two brothers got a small grant for their project and invested their own personal savings to create Minibus Forest. dans le système de transport en commun / The Institutionalisation of Transit Segregation During the Great Exit, obstacles that disabled people who tried to participate in their communities faced were numerous and complex, and it quickly became clear that the Québec state needed to legislate. In 1976, Claude Forget, the Minister of the Social Affairs, submitted Bill 55 on the “protection of the handicapped person” (Boucher, Fougeyrollas & Gaucher, 2003, p. 144). The presentation of the bill was followed by an unprecedented wave of protests led by newly- born disability rights groups. The Québec Disability Rights Movemen (QDRM) was born. A NEW LAW On June 23 1978, one day before the very symbolic Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, the Loi assurant l’exercice des droits des personnes handicapées (LEDPH) (Law ensuring the rights of disabled people) was unanimously adopted by the Assemblée Nationale du Québec (Québec National Assembly). IMPACTS DE LA LOI / IMPACTS OF THE LAW The Article 72 of the LAEDPH stipulated that a “handicapped person” could not claim discrimination under Article 10 of the Charter if public transit was inaccessible to her. The law that was supposed to promote the rights and freedoms of disabled people in Québec society essentially granted an amnesty to a nation for acts of exclusion that were still continuing. IMPACTS DE LA LOI / IMPACTS OF THE LAW Article 67 of the LAEDPH defined the obligation of public transit organisations as an obligation to elaborate on a development plan aiming to provide public transit for disabled people. In 1980, the Montréal public transit commission presented its plan which proposed the creation a public paratransit system. The Ministry of Transportation approved it (Comité sur l’Accessibilité du Métro de Montréal, 2002, p. 13). DISAPPOINTEMENT FOR THE ACTIVISTS The decision to not adapt the regular public transit in order to make it accessible to all citizens went against the vision of disabled activists at the time. Larivière explains: “Obviously, we advocated for the accessibility of the regular transit. This has never been considered by decision-makers” (personal communication, December 17, 2009). IMPACT OF THE CREATION OF THE PARATRANSIT People whose mobility needs cannot be accommodated by stairs were not only marginalized among the general population, they were also stigmatized amongst disabled people themselves. Disabled people who cannot use stairs were labelled as being too handicapped for using the regular public transit. The adaptations that would need to be made in order to make the public transit accessible to them were judged as being too costly. Rather than questioning the hegemony of stairs in the Montréal Metro, the implementation of paratransit shaped the mobility needs of these people as being too different to fit into the regular system. Les manifestations de 1988 / 1988’s protests In October 1988, Montréal hosted the annual convention of the American Public Transit Association (APTA). APTA delegates were not the only ones who made the trip to Montréal for the conference. In fact dozens of members of the Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit (ADAPT) came to Montréal to stage protests against the inaccessibility of public transit. In three consecutive days, more than sixty demonstrators were arrested in Montréal and on the South Shore. State-controlled Sub-politics: A Missed Revolution The QDRM adopted the logic of collaboration with the state and failed to lift the veil on walking-ableism, which has shaped the Montréal Metro as a segregationist space. Furthermore, the QDRM went through a process of mainstreaming which put aside some activists who attempted to challenge walking-ableism. REFUS DE SE JOINDRE AUX MANIFESTATIONS / REFUSAL TO JOIN THE PROTESTS Even though the RUTA morally supported ADAPT’s demands (Semenak, 1988), the organisation refused to join the protestors. This organisation, founded after the implementation of paratransit in Montréal in 1980, had the principal goal of bringing together the situations lived by paratransit users and the (walking- ableist) preoccupations of decision-makers and public transit administrators. Even though, the RUTA focused on transit, the accessibility of public transit has not been identified as an objective. Contrary to ADAPT, RUTA learned political language and did not interpreted public transit inaccessibility as a form of segregation. CRITICAL VOICES MARGINALIZED Only one Montreal disability rights organisation accepted ADAPT’s invitation to protest against the inaccessibility of the public transit. Maria Barile was an active member of this grassroots organisation called the Mouvement des consommateurs handicapés du Québec. While her participation in the protests have been really enriching, Barile suffered painful consequences. She describes how the mainstream Québec Disability Rights Movement (QDRM) marginalized their actions. She says: “Here in Québec, we were told by various groups that we were traitors, that we were embarrassing the city, the community of people with disabilities. People with disabilities themselves were L’impact majeur des manifestations / Impact of protests The protests forced the Montréal public transit commission to justify to the general public, the inaccessibility of its services for the first time in its history. Louise Roy, the managing director of the transit organisation declared to the Gazette that her organisation “has no intention of adapting buses or Metro stations to accommodate the handicapped” (Semenak, 1988). / Neoliberal Stairs: Between Resignation and Criticisms In fall 1989, the STM created the Comité sur l’Amélioration de l’Accessibilité du Réseau Régulier. This Committee was mandated to identify the needs of the elderly and people with reduced mobility and the measures that could be implemented to meet them. During the 1990s, several correspondences have been conducted with the Ministère des Transports by different disability rights organizations (RUTA, Ex-Aequo). Larivière represented paratransit users first and then the OPHQ on the Committee of the Montréal paratransit for over ten years. She explains that transit decision-makers came up with all possible excuses for not making the Montréal Metro accessible (personal communication, December 17, 2009). L’hégémonie des escaliers dans le métro menacée / The Transit Fortress Threatened At the start of the new millennium, this inaccessible and untouchable fortress was seriously threatened for the first time in its history. However, the threat did not come directly from Québec disability rights movement. In fact, the hegemony of stairs became dangerous for the Montréal Metro’s self-image and for its financial sustainability. L’image de Montréal / Montréal’s self-image The Montréal public transit commission studied the accessibility of other subway systems in North America, Europe and Japan. The conclusion of this study was unambiguous: the Montréal subway was one the last in queue in terms of accessibility with Glasgow, Marseille and Bucharest. The Committee stated: “We have to keep in mind that this project (construction of elevators in Montréal Metro stations) would contribute to preventing the Montréal Metro to be the last 100% inaccessible subway system in the world”. Un avantage économique / an economic advantage In 2001, a project for the construction of three new Metro stations in Laval was underway. Quickly, architects noticed that $3.3 million would be saved if elevators were built immediately instead of installing escalators everywhere (p.2). Curiously, the installation of elevators, which are considered an unreasonable economic burden, became an economic advantage. 2085: THIS IS NOT SCIENCE-FICTION In October 2009, the top candidate in the Montréal civic election committed to build elevators in one subway station every year (Équipe Tremblay, 2009). This means that the Montréal Metro would be a step-free space....in 2071! Four stations are supposed to be made accessible by 2016 which is less than 1 station per year. At this pace, the Montréal métro will be fully accessible by 2085 Les barrières empêchant l’émergence d’un discours anti-ségrégation aujourd’hui/ Walking-Ableism Today: The Barriers Preventing Transit Exclusion from Coming-Out Le Mouvement de la défense des droits a choisi de collaborer avec la STM. Cela fait donc en sorte que les activistes qui choississent la collaboration (étant ainsi forcés à tempérer leurs demandes) jouissent de davantage de crédibilité auprès des institutions publiques. The strategy of colllaboration adopted by the QDRM produces disability rights activists whose credibility is strengthened if their positions do not challenge too dangerously STM’s orientations. The current transit inclusion model proposed by the STM and supported by the QDRM ignores the power relations imbedded within the Montréal Metro. The acceptable discourse tends to portray paratransit users as individuals who are gradually included into the regular transit instead of individuals who have been historically excluded from it. By looking at inclusion instead of exclusion, lived experiences of exclusion are depoliticized and marginalized within the QDRM itself. People whose mobility needs cannot be accommodated by stairs are disembodied and their history of exclusion is removed from their identities which force them to overcome their disability. CONCLUSIONS A greater understanding of our shared history is necessary to better locate ourselves. The time has come to reclaim and write our history. The Quiet Revolution has been too quiet.
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