Accessibility advocate invites Londoners to ‘roll a mile in my wheels’

Gerry LaHay is inviting Londoners to "roll a mile in my wheels." . via @GerryLaHay/Twitter

A local accessibility advocate is hoping that understanding can lead to real change when it comes to city infrastructure.

Gerry LaHay, who had both of his legs amputated, will be outside of Y. O. U. Cafe at York and Richmond at 10 a.m. Tuesday, letting Londoners “roll a mile in his wheels.”

“It’s just meant to give, like the lessons that I’ve learned while spending time in a wheelchair,” he explained during an appearance on London Live with Mike Stubbs on Monday.

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“We did it with one person yesterday at Richmond and Central, and she failed miserably. Hopefully, the more people that see it, the more we will understand that we do have a problem and let’s see if we can come up with the money to fix it.”

READ MORE: London woman relies on Good Samaritans to get her wheelchair through snow

LaHay says there’s roughly 3000 kilometres of sidewalk in the city, and much of it is aging and in need of repair.

“Downtown especially is a major problem with cobblestone work that was done 25 years ago that is crumbling. Sidewalks, as a pedestrian you don’t really realize when they’re on that much of an angle, but you’re wheeling down and it’s a struggle. Again, luckily I have the body strength to do it but many don’t.”

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LaHay also touched on other accessibility issues within the city, noting, for example, the potential opportunities to make Sunfest in Victoria Park more enjoyable for those with accessibility needs.

“When I first got down there, there was a jazz group that was playing at the north stage and, you know, it’s a park, it’s mostly grass,” he explained, “but it’s a challenge to get through in my manual wheelchair over the tree roots to get out to the grass to see what was actually happening.”

READ MORE: Sunfest kicks off in London with a visit from Justin Trudeau

Another example included the difficulty he had getting his wheelchair over wet grass and dirt after a heavy rain in order to get to an ATM, noting that placing plywood on the ground would’ve made it easier to him to access the machine.

“I’m sure that the helpful folks of Sunfest would’ve come down to help, but the point of the matter is we prefer to be independent and self-reliant.”

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