I took a week off from my blog last week, so I figured I should come back with a pie-in-the-sky, big dream idea blog in order to make up for my absence. What I am going to write about has long been a dream of mine and is something that has crossed my mind more than once this week. That dream is for a disability positive community center and event space in the heart of downtown Toronto.
You may look at this and say "Tim, what are you talking about, there are tons of community centers and disability focused facilities". That is true on the surface, I suppose, but none of them fit exactly what I am talking about. Variety Village, in addition to not being in the downtown core, has a focus on sports and fitness. Holland Bloorview, on the other hand, is tied into a medical approach to disability. A lot of community centers, while they may run some disability programs, are not truly inclusive spaces in terms of physical access. What I am talking about is the ultimate hub for the disability community.
I want a space that combines the best elements of all of those above along with places like the center for social innovation. I want to space that offers fully accessible event hosting capabilities, offices for small disability organizations and social opportunities for people of all abilities to mix and mingle. I want to create a space that is cool, contemporary and that people want to hang out in. A place where the disability community can unite in the celebration of our identity. That is not too much to ask, is it?
I have had this dream and desire for a long time. I look at places like 519 Church St. and the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Center as great examples of what could be. These are places that are open to everyone but still focus their programming towards a particular community. They have become symbols of that community and places where ideas can be born and change can be incubated. I truly believe that for the disability movement to take a major step forward we need a building in Toronto that we can call our own. We need a building that can represent all of the amazingly positive things that people with disabilities are known for.
There are many challenges to getting this off the ground. Not the least of which, of course, is funding. I space like this would be hugely expensive and would need a massive amount of support and buy in not only for people with disabilities but from all levels of government. Because of this, I do not think I will see this building appear in my lifetime. There are just too many pitfalls, red flags and challenges for it to be realistic. That being said, I will never stop dreaming and drawing up plans in my head.
My reason is simple. They said the same thing about lots of other crazy ideas… And the world is full of them.