Accessibility, Inclusion, Parkdale - High Park, Public infrastructure, Toronto

High Park must be inclusive for all

The High Park Rink is not accessible

The agreement where the Howard family deeded the land that would become High Park states that it would be a:

“Public Park for the free use benefit and enjoyment of the citizens of the City of Toronto forever.”

Yet, not everyone can benefit or enjoy High Park. Since even today the nearest subway station to High Park (the largest park in T.O.) is not accessible. Nor is its skating rink. People using walkers, wheelchairs, and strollers must use a separate entrance to enter the chess club, swimming pool, stage, and the tennis courts, which is contrary to the principles of universal design, where everyone should be able to use the main entrance.

To play wheelchair tennis at High Park one can only use the back entrance

None of the crosswalks near or in High Park are raised. So, when it rains or snows it becomes slippery and unsafe to cross the street due to ponding. Raised crosswalks prevent ponding of water and snow, and as an added benefit act as speed bumps that encourage drivers to follow the speed limit.

One would think having an Accessible Parking Pass might help seniors, for example, visit the park by car and go for a swim until one realizes there are no accessible parking spots near the pool.

There are no accessible parking spots near the High Park swimming pool

The original deed also required the park to be kept in a natural state. So, why is there a road and a large parking lot in the middle of High Park? For some people, the only practical way to visit the park is by car. So, accessibility and inclusion are good arguments in favour of parking spaces inside the park. However, in that case, to be fair the percentage of accessible parking spots must substantially increase for High Park to be truly inclusive.

On a positive note, the Wading Pool, Splashpad and Playground at High Park do follow principles of universal design. For example, its main entrance is accessible and the four parking spots near the entrance are accessible. Nonetheless, High Park as a whole needs major improvements in this area. And every park in T.O. should be inclusive for all.

The Wading Pool, Splashpad and Playground at High Park follow universal design principles

Further reading

Universal Design 101 by Sonia Woodward