David lives in the South end of Ottawa, near South Keys Mall. A thoughtful, well-spoken advocate for youth issues and accessibility, he is very open about his experiences as someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and how it affects his daily life. His interests include coin collecting, crosswords, sci-fi, and listening to extreme heavy metal.

I was born in Halifax. My father was a military finance clerk, and shortly after I was born we were posted to Baden-Baden, Germany, where we lived until I was four, and then we moved to Ottawa. My father got brain cancer and passed away when I was 13. My mother remarried when I was 16 and we moved to Smith Falls, where I was a bit of a loner. I dropped out of high school and got into some trouble, but I went back and graduated when I was 20. I ended up going to Algonquin College for five years, and I took three programs – Construction Engineering Technician, Civil Engineering Technologist, and the Architectural Technician program, which I finished in 2008.

I had a really hard time finding work after that, and I got really depressed. In February 2009 I was having some really suicidal thoughts, and I was hospitalised. But it kind of turned out to be a good thing: my whole life, my mom said that she thought there was something different about me, and I found out at the hospital that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a part of the Autism spectrum of disorders. I also have a speech disability, but finding out about my Asperger’s made a lot of things in my life make more sense. You know, some of the trouble I got into in high school and that I have trouble making friends my own age.

Can you talk a little bit about some of your interests?

I like to people watch in the Byward Market. It’s one of my favourite areas of the city. I used to play D&D with some friends, but I haven’t in a few years now. We all met at a gaming store, Infinity Entertainment, which is closed now. But there were a bunch of people that I met there, and we played together.

Tell me about your life in Ottawa. Why do you choose to live here?

Ottawa is comfortable. It’s very familiar. I’ve lived in the same place in South Keys for ten years now. I also have a history here.

Before living in Smith Falls, I lived just up the street from where I live now. I’m very familiar with the area, and it’s comfortable. It’s a quiet area, and I live in a great spot. South Keys shopping mall, the Southgate Mall, and Towngate Mall are all very close. Everything I need is here. The Transitway is a nine minute walk from my apartment.

There are some municipal issues I’m interested in, primarily around transit. I’m on ODSP [Ontario Disability Support Program] because of my Asperger’s. Without a car or license, I’m dependent on the bus. I’m a heavy user of the transit system.

Getting the bus drivers to stick to the schedule would be nice! It’s been such a problem for years. The drivers very rarely seem to follow the schedule. If the schedule says that the bus is going to come at eleven minutes past the hour and it’s the start of the run, I don’t understand why they’re late. They haven’t even had a chance to hit traffic yet!

Another issue is the availability of public bathrooms at transit stations. The stations really need washrooms, like at the Rideau Centre. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

In the winter snow clearing is an issue. OC Transpo does a good job, and I give them mad props. That’s one of the things about OC Transpo that I do like. Elsewhere in the city main roads and sidewalks are usually not too bad, but on side roads the sidewalks are so poorly cleared that they’re still covered with snow and ice. It’s dangerous. Part of my disability is a lack of balance, but even in the building I live in more than half of the residents either have a disability or they’re senior citizens. They have a much more difficult time navigating the sidewalks than I do. I mean, for the most part I’m a healthy young guy, and if I have a problem it must be very difficult for them.

You know what I would love to see here in Ottawa?  The bus service in Turkey. You can set your watch to the buses there. The drivers are on time within seconds.

Let’s talk about where you’ve chosen to have your picture taken. We went to South Keys and Notre Dame Basilica. Why did you choose these places?

I like the South end. I like South Keys. I like the Byward Market, too. Architecture has always been a fascination of mine, and I like all of the old buildings in the market. Ottawa’s Architecture is very interesting, and Notre Dame Basilica is one of my favourite buildings in Ottawa — I did a project on it when I was at Algonquin doing the Architectural Technician program. It’s beautiful.

In South Keys, I really like that I can get everything I need here. I don’t have to go far, and I know it really well. There are some very nice areas, too, that people don’t notice. Right across the street next to the road there is a small creek. Sometimes there are ducks there, it’s nice. It’s right in between South Keys mall and Bank Street, so it’s unexpected.

David is a supporter of Town Youth Participation Strategies (TYPS), which works with individual youth, youth centres, and youth initiatives to support youth engagement in their communities around issues of their concern. You can learn more about TYPS at their website.

If you have any questions about Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, or life as a disabled person in Ottawa, David invites you to contact him through his Facebook profile at http://www.facebook.com/davidvanscheyndel.