How Hamilton candidates with disabilities are spreading the word when they can’t go door to door

Knocking on doors can be difficult if you use a wheelchair to get around – so two Hamilton candidates in the upcoming municipal election are running their campaigns a little differently.

Anthony Frisina (Ward 8) and Ian MacPherson (Ward 1), who both use wheelchairs, plan to run their campaigns largely door-to-door, relying on in-person events and engagement line in their attempts to secure seats on the city council.

Frisina, who runs a campaign largely focused on improving accessibility, says he doesn’t focus on the challenging aspects of running, like door-to-door. He hopes to be able to reach voters in Ward 8 through social media, virtual meetings and town hall meetings such as his campaign launch Thursday night at Turtle Jack’s on Upper James Street.

“I’ve done a lot of social media work and been able to connect with people in the neighborhood,” said Frisina, who lives on Limeridge Road West and works at Mohawk College, which is also in Ward 8.

Anthony Frisina runs in Ward 8. (Submitted by Meghan Graham)

He is a long-time advocate for inclusion and accessibility, including hosting a program on the subject on Cable 14, and serves on the City Council’s Disability Advisory Committee. He was awarded the Order of Hamilton in 2020 for his volunteer work and advocacy. He hopes his efforts have led to name recognition that will help win votes.

“People also know me and understand my work in the community over the years,” he says.

Disability is a category in which everyone will one day fall.– Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, referring to the challenges people face as they age

If he wins, he would like to help Hamilton move accessibility issues forward, helping the city become a leader in creating an accessible city far beyond what he calls the “bare minimum” of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which mandates accessible services in the province, but does not require renovations for many types of businesses and public spaces. Areas of interest to him include safer level crossings, with more audible and visible signals, and better transportation options for people with disabilities.

“Our autonomy and our agency is just as important as everyone else,” he told CBC Hamilton, noting that he is not unhappy with the work done by current Ward 8 councilor John-Paul. Danko, but thinks more could be done on issues of accessibility and inclusion.

“[The disability community has] representation through population, but much of the infrastructure tends to be missing [thanks to] the ableism that continues to exist both unconsciously and consciously.”

People with disabilities often face financial hardship, candidate says

MacPherson, who runs in Ward 1, says he spoke with Frisina about making everything accessible from the start, rather than having to waste money later on renovations and repairs.

His decision to run for office stemmed in part from his dissatisfaction with the two-way Main Street proposal successfully put forward by current Ward 1 Councilor Maureen Wilson.

He agrees the street is unsafe – particularly its intersection with Dundurn Street, near his home – but says he thinks the proposed solution is expensive, takes too long to implement and the city also needs to do more to remedy the dangerous intersection nearby. Dundurn and King streets. (This intersection is one the city is currently studying as part of a safety review.)

He created his own proposal, which he says he sent to the city clerk before the Main Street Votingwhich would see a five-second pause between each phase of traffic.

“It will cost next to nothing, can be done tomorrow and will stop the majority of accidents at such dangerous intersections because if someone goes red everything else is stopped for five seconds, [there will be] no pedestrians crossing or cars crossing the intersection to interfere with the vehicle running the red light” he wrote in a Facebook post announcing his candidacy.

A woman sits in a wheelchair surrounded by trees.
“It’s almost impossible for people with disabilities to campaign in a way that doesn’t harm them,” says Sarah Jama who has worked on political campaigns in the past. (Submitted by Sarah Jama)

MacPherson, who studied political science at McMaster University before switching to social physiology, says having a disability often puts him at a disadvantage, or at least makes him wonder if he has one.

“You look at people and say, ‘They’re in front of me because they can speak louder, they don’t have to stop and catch their breath. They can go where they want and don’t worry ‘” he told CBC Hamilton on Thursday, adding that people with disabilities who want to participate in politics also often find themselves in an unequal financial position.

“Most people with disabilities receive ODSP benefits. They have trouble starting.

The campaign is hosting a launch event on July 30 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Hamilton Christian Fellowship, 135 Strathcona Avenue. N. MacPherson says friends and volunteers will help him deliver flyers to let residents know the details. He says he hasn’t encountered any physical barriers yet, but it’s still early days.

“The proceedings appear to be on a stage,” he noted, wondering if they would take place somewhere he could attend.

“Disability is a category in which everyone will one day fit”

Hamilton resident Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, uses mobility devices and has worked on several political campaigns – including those of Central Hamilton MP Andrea Horwath, Central Hamilton MP Matthew Green and of the Ward 3 Coun. Nrinder Nann.

She says that beyond the obvious physical barriers — campaign offices that aren’t fully accessible, among others — people with disabilities also face psychological challenges.

“It’s almost impossible for people with disabilities to campaign in a way that doesn’t harm them,” she said, noting that candidates with disabilities often face “ableist rhetoric [about] who is fit to stand for election.”

In a post on the Raise the Hammer civic affairs blog in 2018, former Ward 1 contestant Sophie Geffros, who uses mobility aids, described residents’ repeated comments about their physical health and suitability for the role.

Five people are seated at a table with microphones in front of them.  One of them bends down to speak.
Sophie Geffros, speaking center, has run for Ward 1 in the past. Geffros described receiving feedback from residents about their physical health and suitability for the role. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

“Constituents asked my campaign manager if I would be healthy enough to be a councillor,” Geffros wrote in the post. “People have angrily asked why I personally didn’t knock on their door, when they lived up a flight of stairs and I was actually sitting on the street below.”

Jama believes that all levels of government will be better served by electing people with disabilities, especially now, when long-haul COVID-19 leaves growing numbers of people with disabilities.

“Disability is a category everyone will fit into one day,” she said, referring to the challenges people face as they age.

“We need more people with disabilities who are willing to speak out about the disabling conditions we face [and] develop policies to improve the systems in which we find ourselves. »