July 17, 2015 7:10 pm

Pan Am spectator with a disability finds challenges accessing event


WATCH: How did one Pan Am spectator with accessibility issues cope with the games?

A Pan Am spectator has complained to Pan Am Games organizers about his experience attending an event.

Joey Freeman said accessibility was the issue.

Finding no signs for accessible parking was just the beginning of Freeman’s problems when he attended the Pan Am Opening Ceremonies dress rehearsal at Rogers Centre.

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“As a person with a disability, I try to make it more the background of my life and make living my foreground and my experience here did the opposite,” said Freeman.

Coping with both MS and Parkinson’s, he does his best, but has his limits.

He said after finally finding a spot on Windsor Street Freeman walked to Rogers Centre to find a huge line, that would have exhausted him, so he said he asked a Pan Am volunteer for a disability access point.

“She didn’t know and basically shrugged her shoulders,” said Freeman.

So he found another volunteer who told him to go to Gate 7, at the opposite end of the building.

Then he asked a third volunteer who did help, directing him though the closest entrance and elevator…he then made his way to to his seat.

Once in his seat Freeman said he enjoyed the show and thought getting back to his car would be a snap, it turned out to be anything but.

He said after walking halfway back to the elevator where he came in, a Rogers Staff member told him and another spectator they could not use that elevator, but had to go out gate seven.

From there he had to walk outside the building, up several stairs, then back to his car.

The games CEO said Toronto 2015 provided extensive training on accommodation.

“Both on diversity language and on accessibility for our volunteers and for our staff,” said Saad Rafi, Toronto 2015 CEO.

Officials ignored a request by Global News to see the training module, but said in a statement: “…we are refreshing volunteers on training they have received in this regard”.

Rogers Centre said the person Freeman spoke with may have made a mistake, due to misunderstanding training, where it was emphasized Gate 7 was for shuttles.

“At the end of the day the fact that he came in the building though Gate 13 he should have been allowed to leave by Gate 13,” said Mario Coutinho, Vice President, Stadium Operations, Rogers Centre.

Freeman said improving training and signage before the closing ceremonies would be the right thing to do.

“Give people dignity.”

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