Erin Courcelles, her husband Martin and his guide dog make their way to Kennedy station en route to work.
“I’m like everybody else, I just want to work, but each step I face some sort of barrier,” Erin said.
“I have issues almost daily just trying to get to work.”
Her biggest challenge these days is navigating a safe route to work near Don Mills, from her home in Scarborough.
Erin is in a wheelchair and unable to access the elevator to track level because it is off limits to users.
“It’s about a three-month project. The important thing here, is this is not just a repair work, this is a full rebuild. So if you think about it in terms of a car let’s say it’s not just a matter of replacing a tire that’s blown, this is rebuilding the entire engine,” TTC Spokesperson Stuart Green told Global News.
Replacing the elevator means Erin must take an alternate route to work or to her doctor appointments downtown.
“Even though I’m six kilometers from work, it’ll take me about an hour and a half,” she said.
“I have to go along on a bit of a dangerous route.”
She said the bus is overcrowded and the route is dangerous, since it drops her off blocks from her office, rather than right in front of the building.
“Daily I get hit in the head or people put their bags on me. I’ve had someone actually sit on me last week,” she said.
The Courcelles bought their home just two years ago near Kennedy station specifically for the accessibility.
“With my husband who is visually impaired being close to a TTC hub is extremely important.”
On weekends, they stay close to home because without a functioning elevator to the tracks, they refuse to spend the time commuting.
With Ontario pledging to be fully accessible by 2025, the Toronto Transit Commission acknowledges it has a long way to go, but is committed. Streetcars and buses are accessible, but only 37 of 69 subway stations have elevators. Two more will be accessible by the end of this year.
“Elevators for a lot of people are just a convenience, but for her, it’s her independence,” Martin said about his wife. “There are regulations out there that are supposed to make things easier for us, but they don’t seem to be working right now.”
Green pointed to seven incidents of entrapment in the Kennedy station elevator last year. He said despite the inconvenience, the work is necessary.
“This elevator is about as old as the RT so going back to the mid 80s, and like a number of elevators in our system they need to be replaced,” he said.
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The TTC has brought in Wheel Trans shuttles to get commuters from Kennedy to either Victoria Park, Main Street or Woodbine, which are the other three nearby accessible stations.
Erin said she could manage the long route for now, despite the frustration, but she is worried about what will happen when the temperature drops.
“What terrifies me is when the ice and snow come, even the best of routes aren’t going to be safe,” she said.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.