Wheels of bureaucracy roll slowly for disabled
Thursday, January 09, 2003
It was the stuff of postcards, the tree- glistening variety that are a tourist board's best friend. Yup, yesterday's snow, coupled with bearable temperatures, transformed our city into a winter wonderland - for many.
For Maria Barile, however, it was a nightmare. Part of a seemingly endless nightmare. Snow-covered streets and sidewalks can make Barile's life hell, something she's been trying to convey to city hall for far too long a time.
Barile simply wants the city to slope the sidewalk outside her St. Michel home so she can have more direct access to the road with her wheelchair.
Barile relies on the Montreal Transit Corp.'s adapted transit service to ferry her to and from work at Dawson College. Because there is no slope in the sidewalk in front of her home, the bus must drop her off half a block away, in front of a driveway. Barile can handle the trek in the summer, but on a snowy day, it's downright treacherous.
Barile's request wouldn't appear unreasonable, but try explaining that to the bureaucrats.
In recounting her plight in a column last September, Barile, 48, expressed understandable frustration. She was becoming exasperated in her efforts just to find the right city official with whom to make her case, let alone to plead that case.
Last July, she had spoken to Paolo Tamburello, the city councillor for the Villeray/St. Michel/Park Extension borough. He referred Barile to city administrator Robert Choini?re.
Choini?re explained there was a city regulation preventing Barile and other disabled people from making their sidewalks slope down to the road. Why? Apparently to prevent confusion on the part of children who might cross the street there, rather than at an intersection.
No matter that Barile lives on a quiet one-way street. No matter that sloped sections of sidewalks abound everywhere. They're called driveways. And youngsters be damned, these driveways enable citizens to gain access to their garages. The same sort of access Barile seeks for her wheelchair.
A while back, Barile received a message from Tamburello's office stating that no one there was actually able to find the city rule in question on paper.
Barile has since learned that the adapted transit service has successfully negotiated with the city in several instances to have sidewalks sloped in front of the homes of other disabled people.
All of which infuriates Barile even more. This is such a no-brainer. Is it really in society's best interests to keep the Bariles of this city cooped up at home when, for the small cost of sloping a sidewalk and a whole lot of common sense on the part of city administrators, the disabled could get out, contribute and support themselves?
Barile wrote to Mayor G?rald Tremblay in November to explain her problem. More than a month later, she received a reply from Richard Th?riault, the city's director of administration and communications.
He noted that the city is aware of "the importance of making it easier" for wheelchair users.
Barile was also informed that a copy of her letter had been forwarded to ?rick Santana,the Villeray/St. Michel/Park Extension borough manager. "Please be assured that he will give the matter his full attention," Th?riault wrote. "And a city official will contact you as soon as possible."
Well, so far no city official has contacted Barile. So I attempted to contact Santana yesterday. After a half-dozen tries, I reached his secretary who referred me to Marc-Aim? Gagn? of the public works department in Villeray/St. Michel/Park Extension.
When reached, Gagn? was in a meeting and admitted to being not entirely up to speed on the Barile matter. He suggested I call back later.
When I did, I was told Gagn? was still in a meeting and that I should speak to Mario Carrera, Gagn?'s boss.
When finally reached late yesterday afternoon, Carrera confessed he just learned of Barile's caseearlier in the day. He was aware that Barile first petitioned the city to have her sidewalk sloped in 1997, but that she had been turned down because of the sidewalk regulations.
He has now assigned Gagn? to study the case and to make recommendations.
Carrera said a decision will be reached shortly, but even if the outcome allows for sloping the sidewalk, no work will be undertaken until the spring.
Barile is not exactly holding her breath in the interim.