All Steve Simonar wants is an apology.
The man with no arms firmly believes having a Saskatoon police officer say sorry for how he treated Simonar will be a step forward for other disabled people doing their utmost to lead regular lives.
Simonar made headlines across the country earlier this year when he complained about getting his first ticket for not wearing a seatbelt — he can’t physically buckle up but has been driving in customized vehicles for years.
The fine resulting from his ticket was withdrawn in court after the province gave him a medical exemption allowing him to drive without a belt, but Simonar still held out for an apology from the officer who he says spoke to him in a way he’s never experienced before, particularly by someone in public service.
“That’s the only thing that I ever wanted. The ticket, whatever, that was minor details, but this apology, that’s still what I want. And it will be a happy day if that ever happens,” the 56-year-old said in an interview.
For Simonar, the situation is about much more than his individual case.
“I can take care of myself,” he said. “But there’s other people that never get a voice.”
Simonar lost his arms after he was electrocuted in a boating accident in 1985. He learned to drive with his feet, using his left foot to turn a small steering wheel near the floor and his right foot to work the gas and brake pedals. He also uses his feet to open the door and turn the key.
He’s been pulled over by police in the past but never got a seatbelt ticket until the officer he encountered in April brusquely told him if he couldn’t wear a seatbelt, he shouldn’t be driving.
Police later explained that Simonar didn’t have a medical exemption note so he had to be ticketed, but Simonar said it was the officer’s attitude he was angry about.
“People shouldn’t be able to get away with that. When you’re a public employee you should be even more respectful, more aware of the implications of your actions,” said Simonar, who remembers being “just furious.”
“I’d sucked it up for 25 years. So, it’s time that it had got straightened out.”
Simonar eventually sat down with the officer who gave him the ticket and a superior, but he said the interaction didn’t go so well. The officer, he said, remained offensive, giving Simonar all the more reason to push for an acknowledgment that the cop should have more sensitivity toward those with disabilities.
“I’m over the fact of not having arms — well some days I am and some days I’m not, whatever life goes on,” he said. “At the end of the day if I can help anybody out, I’ll do it.”
Simonar has since filed a formal complaint with the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission and is waiting to see what comes out of his efforts.
“I kinda thought it would have been done by now,” he said of the entire episode. “I want an apology from him…I just feel that something should be done.”