August 19, 2014 5:58 pm

Visually impaired man questions accessibility of Eglinton Crosstown

TORONTO – David Lepofsky, a visually impaired lawyer, is concerned the platforms of the new Eglinton Crosstown LRT won’t be accessible.

He took a Global News crew down into the College Street subway station, loudly tapping his white cane as he worked his way down onto the platform.

It is familiar territory to him, close to his law office and despite its age has a design advantage for the visually impaired that he says is mostly absent from the Eglinton Cross LRT currently under construction.

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“When there’s a side platform, there’s maximum safety,” he said, running his hand along the wall. “I can follow this wall, using my cane.  The wall is my shoreline.”

We took a southbound train on the Yonge-University-Spadina line to Osgoode Station to make a point. It has a centre platform, with only pillars as opposed to a full wall.

For Lepofsky, it makes for uncertain footing.

“There is no safe shoreline that I can safely navigate to, so that I know I’m a safe distance from the edge,” he said.

The demonstration was to explain why he is livid at the design of the underground stations on the new, $5.3 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

All 12 of the stops have centre platforms.   Lepofsky wrote to Metrolinx in June to warn them of the problems with this kind of design and was told it is too late, the boring of tunnels is well underway and they are configured for centre platforms.

Unconvinced, he is now loudly calling for change, refusing to believe that the station design cannot be amended.

“Blind people were not just invented last week,” he said. “And the risk that’s presented to us by centre platforms didn’t just arise last week. They didn’t do the proper planning and consulting in advance.”

It is criticism rejected by Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson, who said the agency did extensive outreach with disabled groups in preparing the designs, with many accessibility features built into the stations.

“(The stations) are very safe for all passengers, including those that are visually impaired,” he said.

Lepofsky is a long time activist for accessibility in public transit.  In the 1990s, he fought a long battle with the TTC to convince it to announce stations on trains.  He won.

Now he has written to the Ministers of Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as the premier, reminding them of the Liberal election promise that all major infrastructure projects would be accessible.

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