Laurence Parent fights for dignity, advocates for change
Laurence Parent is documenting the experiences of people with disabilities and the public transit system for her humanities PhD research project. The subject parallels her own journey from personal frustration to political activism.
- Be vocal.
- Create opportunities where they don’t exist.
- Get involved and find a community.
Things that drive me
- The efforts of disability rights activist Judy Heumann who led sit-ins in the 1970s.
- My MA supervisor, who taught me to see history through a disability lens.
- Bringing disability studies to Montreal. [And to get my PhD].
Parent says Montreal’s transit system lags behind international standards. Wheelchairs can only access metro platforms in seven of Montreal’s 68 stations. Buses with wheelchair ramps are available on 160 routes, but are frequently plagued with mechanical problems. Parent says she can easily wait an hour between accessible rides.
She is no longer content to accept limited access to what she sees as a basic service. Her views were shaped while she earned her MA in Critical Disability Studies in Toronto. Not only did she gain theoretical perspective; she benefitted from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which ensures access across public services. Her research will help her make the case to bring similar policies here.
Seeing the positive impact of Ontario's legislation led her to launch a movement on behalf of the 20,000 people with reduced mobility reliant on Montreal’s paratransit system. She is co-founder and vice-president of the Regroupement des activistes pour l’inclusion au Québec, an advocacy group addressing accessibility gaps in Montreal’s transit system. She also produced an award-winning short documentary on metro accessibility.
Parent is gaining momentum. She is one of eight members of the Inclusive Design Advisory Council of the planned Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The council is advising architects and planners on how to build the museum to accommodate the needs of people with a variety of disabilities.
“We are not just making the building accessible for visitors, but also for people who want to work there.”