Toronto, Canada: Accessible Shopping Areas

Toronto is a shopping destination. The first store on my list would be the highly unusual, IZ Adaptive, owned by Canadian fashion designer, Izzy Camilleri. Izzy has dressed actors including Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, and Mark Walberg but now her passion is designing fashionable, yet functional clothes for people who use wheelchairs. Whether you are “the fashionable traveler”, or you just want to get into your pants without too much effort, check out Izzy’s website. A few of the great buys include:

  • jeans and other pants that fit to a seated figure and include hidden side zippers and/or elastic waistbands (your choice!);
  • long coats with less fabric at the sides and seat;
  • capes;
  • men and women’s suits;
  • sleeve guards to protect your coats from dirt, water and muck;
  • formal wear; and
  • high back alterations on jackets and slip-away sleeves for people who require easy assistance when dressing.

It’s recommended to contact the store in advance to make an appointment so staff will be free to show you samples and take measurements should you wish to order some items. The store is located in a neighbourhood outside of the downtown core known as The Junction. You may want to drive or spring for a taxi or accessible private hire vehicle. You can also get there via the Dundas West subway and a bus. If your clothes aren’t going to be ready before you leave, the store will courier them. You can also order online at any time. Izzy ships internationally.

The Eaton Centre is a popular shopping destination for locals and tourists. The busy elevators that service the concourse, parking and two upper floors are located in the centre of the mall, and on either end (south near Queen St. and north near Dundas St.). There are plenty of clothing stores (the ones I’ve visited have accessible fitting rooms), several accessible restaurants, and a large food court in the basement level at the north end. A new Nordstrom’s will be built in the old Sears location at the north end (Dundas St.) over the next couple of years. The busiest store is The Apple Store, which has a special pull out surface at the back of the store for customers who use wheelchairs.

You can enter the department store, The Hudson’s Bay from the western Queen St. entrance or at the south end of the Eaton Centre by an accessible walkway on the top floor of the Eaton Centre. In the future, The Bay will officially become part of the Eaton Centre and a Saks will be opening in the same location. The Bay is connected to the PATH going south.

In addition to the underground PATH stores, you will find a great number of stores downtown above ground. Of course, malls tend to offer the best access, but you will find some accessible stores on the street as well.

There are many stores in the vicinity of the Eaton Centre and The Bay, especially on Yonge which has experienced a makeover around Dundas. There’s lots of action (and crowds) around Dundas Square at Yonge and Dundas. If you wheel up Yonge you will reach College Park, a mall that is pretty accessible but you will have to complete it in sections. There doesn’t seem to be an accessible route to take you throughout the store. There is a Winners in the mall. A new Marshalls and Bed Bath Beyond can be found nearby at Yonge and Gerrard.

North of Wellesley you might notice the stores are “less big chains, more mom and pop”. You will find more steps. I would skip this section unless something in particular interests you.

At Yonge and Bloor there is another major shopping area, including The Bay department store. You enter The Bay’s parking lot from Asquith. Alternatively, if you take the TTC there is an elevator left (west) of the Yonge/Bloor subway station. It will take you to street level and The Bay above. If you explore the underground mall you will find that you can’t cross under Yonge using a wheelchair – stairs only. Wheeling above ground and heading west on Bloor Street is a pleasant push due to the granite sidewalks. Bloor Street is lined with upscale retailers over to Avenue Rd. for those who have deep pockets – thus the granite sidewalks! Most are accessible with level entrances. The largest store in the area is Holt’s (on Bloor between Yonge and Bay), an upscale department store that also connects underground to many shops.

I would pass on the mostly inaccessible stores in the touristy old Yorkville’s narrow streets (Yorkville and Cumberland Avenues). For those who are interested in more upscale stores, Hazelton Lanes, a mall in the area, does have reasonable access but not all entrances are accessible or well marked.

A show, game or attraction might bring you south of Queen through historic “Old Town Toronto” where you will find some accessible shops and restaurants, in addition to interesting 19th century architecture and the St. Lawrence Market for food lovers.

The large and popular Yorkdale Mall is north of the downtown area. There is a huge parking lot but their subway station is not accessible.

If you want to pick up a snacks for your room or a picnic lunch, there are some small convenience/grocery stores downtown, including the Rabba chain and Longos. Larger grocery stores are common in the College area, and include College Park’s Metro (in the basement) and Sobey’s (first floor). To the east, Carleton St. has a Loblaw in the old Maple Leaf Gardens ice hockey arena. Kitchen Table is convenient in the Queen’s Quay building. A large Loblaw called the “Queens Quay Market” at the foot of Jarvis is better located for those with a car. Bloor St. has some pricey stores including Whole Foods, the small, crowded Pusateri’s, as well as the Loblaw owned Bloor Street Market. A large No-Frills on Pacific Avenue around the corner from Iz Adaptive would offer the best prices and plenty of selection. If you are in a Loblaw owned store (including No Frills, Shoppers, the Bloor St. Market) and aren’t from Canada, treat yourself to the President’s Choice Chocolate Chip Decadent Cookies!

If you require wheelchair repair or special equipment try Motion Specialties or Shoppers Home Health Care. Another small health care shop, NRX Home Healthcare is located at 878 Yonge Street just above Bloor. If you’re purchasing a bath bench to stay with a friend, Amazon.ca offers much lower prices than local stores. For a regular drugstore, you won’t have any difficulty finding one; Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharma Plus, and other drugstores cover the downtown.

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