News / Toronto

Elevator breakdown leaves woman stranded — in her own apartment

Melissa Graham, an accessibility advocate and founder of Toronto’s Disability Pride March, says accessible housing is a major issue.

Melissa Graham has faced an accessibility “nightmare” at her Etobicoke apartment this week, as broken elevators have left her stranded both inside and outside her home.

Eduardo Lima/ Metro

Melissa Graham has faced an accessibility “nightmare” at her Etobicoke apartment this week, as broken elevators have left her stranded both inside and outside her home.

Melissa Graham is dealing with a conundrum: every time she leaves her Etobicoke apartment, she’s not sure if she’ll be able to get back in. And when she’s inside, she doesn’t know if she can get out.

That’s because the elevators at her co-op building at 1 Coin St. have been erratically out of service. Graham, who uses an electric wheelchair and lives on the building’s 11th floor, says she’s been left stranded.

“It’s both frustrating and scary,” she said. “A lot of people in my building are pretty vulnerable and you certainly wouldn’t want them taking the stairs.”

It all started on the evening of Nov. 22, when Graham came home from visiting a friend in hospital in Scarborough. Both elevators at her building were broken, leaving her and her partner stuck in the lobby for hours.

Eventually, she says they decided to take a night bus to an accessible hotel.

The issue was eventually fixed, but the elevators broke down again Friday morning and all day Sunday – leaving her trapped in her apartment.

Graham, an accessibility advocate and founder of Toronto’s Disability Pride March, said accessible housing is already a big problem, and it’s “a nightmare” if elevator breakdowns are not fixed swiftly.

“What’s really upsetting is the lack of preventative measures or a plan to make sure people are okay,” she said.  

Building manager Gary McMayo told Metro mechanical malfunctions are a recurring issue at the building. When the elevators broke down two years ago, he said it took months for repairs to take place.

“We need more prompt services,” he said. “I get tired of telling residents that we’re doing our best, and then see the same problem again and again.”

Otis Canada Inc., the company in charge of elevator repairs at the building, did not respond to Metro’s call for a comment.

According to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA), property owners have a responsibility to inform residents of any service disruption, and provide them with adequate alternative.

But it’s also a question of human dignity, said Nicole Cormier, the city’s accessibility consultant.

“You’re not paying to be trapped in your house,” she said.

Going up, not down

This summer, Canadian Press reported that the number of elevator-related emergency calls in Ontario has doubled since 2001. In Toronto, as many as 2,862 calls were made to 911 to rescue people from elevators in 2015.

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