Thursday, May 19, 2016

Flexibility on ParaTransit is vital

Here is an example of one of my daily stressors. Small wonder I was just diagnosed with PTSD.

Yesterday I signed up on short notice to volunteer at the ROM. There was an urgent request put out and I thought I could do it. I managed to switch most of my Wheel-Trans bookings and I got put on a wait list to get a bus home at the end of my shift for 9:30 pm.

Little did I know I would wake up this morning and find that the wait list request was removed and I could not get a ride home. The Wheel-Trans schedule showed my last drop off location as being the at the ROM at 6:05 pm. Clearly I had to phone Wheel-Trans to fix up the rides.

For 30 minutes I sat on hold and got to listen to this message on the Wheel-Trans line:

"Thank you for calling Wheel-Trans. We are experiencing a high call volume. Please hold for the next available representative. Your patience is appreciated."
 "Help us help you. Construction season has arrived in Toronto and traffic delays can be expected and traffic delays can be expected. Wherever possible we are asking customers to be ready and waiting for their ride 10 minutes before their ahead of time. This is in case the driver arrives early so he can stay ahead of potential delays."

By the end of 30 minutes I was thinking to myself, sure, I'll help you. Now it's your turn to help me.

I again asked for a bus to pick me up at the ROM at 9:30 pm and take me back to BridgePoint, the Rehab Hospital. No go.

I changed tactics and thought, okay, I'll take the subway over to Broadview, which is a lot closer to the hospital, and then ask for Wheel-Trans to pick me up there at 10:15 pm. Both the St. George and Broadview stations are accessible and within easy wheeling distance, so I thought this was reasonable. No go. The best offering I could get was for 11:30 pm. It wasn't safe or doable.

I then remembered the Dinner Club was meeting at a location two blocks away from the ROM. People with disabilities are dining there and I originally planned to go there. I knew Wheel-Trans would be in there to pick other people up so I gave Wheel-Trans the address of Spring Rolls on 693 Yonge St.and asked if I could be picked up from there at around 7:00 pm. The idea worked. I got a bus.

Unfortunately I can't change any of the other buses though.

If I cancel the bus that leaves BridgePoint at 1:30 pm to go to City Hall for a Right2Housing meeting, another one of my volunteer jobs, I would get a penalty from Wheel-Trans for a short notice cancelation. I have to keep that ride.

If tried to change the bus from City Hall to the ROM and go back to BridgePoint instead. There was nothing in the way of buses. If I cancelled it, took a subway to Spring Rolls and then took the bus home from there, I'd get a penalty again. All I can do is keep my bookings from City Hall to the ROM and Spring Rolls back to BridgePoint.

Yesterday I didn't mind finding out I'd be arriving at the ROM more than 2 hours ahead of my volunteer shift. I figured it opened opportunity. It meant I could attend the staff party, and then work. With the bus scheduling problem, the ability to attend the staff party before working, also failed.

What a wasted, and very disappointing, day. I lose out on Spring Rolls and the Staff Party and volunteer job at the ROM, all because I tried to follow my heart and answer an urgent request for a volunteer.

There's no one to blame. It's just how it is. It makes me hate being disabled. I stupidly never thought of the spillover effect of booking the bus from one location to another either.

I volunteer because I like to work, I need job references, and because of transit barriers like this, I can't be flexible enough to meet the needs of most employers to work at a paying job.

When I once had a full-time job and was fully off ODSP, but after 18 months of employment the employer changed my shift to one that couldn't be accommodated with ParaTransit. It's hard to be forced into poverty.

My 'volunteer employer' at the ROM understood, and there will be no repercussions. It's just sad that she's now stuck unable to cover the shift I had to abandon.

Does society realize how many hoops and stress a person with a disability has to go through just to survive?

Could you take it, if you were stuck in this position?

Would you get frustrated and angry?

Would you push through these types of barriers daily, just to live as normally as possible?

I doubt very many people will. I am very thankful to have the guts, strength and determination to endure, but I did pay a price. The price is called PTSD. My symptoms are dangerously high blood-pressure, sweating, a racing heart, and at times, tears, more like melt-downs.

How much will that cost society when I have to go into treatment?

I am a HUMAN. I too, need to go out, to give, to socialize, and to be part of the fabric of society. LET's lobby together for the barriers to come down.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wheel-Trans Did NOT Accommodate Disabled Passengers During the PanAm/ParaPan Am Games

A good news update – added on September 15, 2015

Today I got a surprise call from Mr. Dean Milton, Manager at Wheel-Trans. He caught wind of my Blogs and decided he could respond to them. The Blog that I think he read was the one written on my other Blog page (Wheel-Trans Did Not Accommodate the Disabled). I’m providing this positive update on both sites, just to make sure it is known that a solution has been found.

The issue that caught Mr. Milton’s attention was the address I was given for Varsity Stadium. It was written on my Blog. I was given the address of 301 Bloor St. W., when in actual fact it’s 299 Bloor St. W.

What happened was Wheel-Trans was directed by the Ministry of Transportation not to go to the real address, side door on Devonshire Place. It was turned into part of the secure zone. This meant that Wheel-Trans had to create a fictitious address for Varsity so they could instruct passengers and drivers where to go for pick-ups and drop-offs during the games.

Well, I now know this information and Mr. Milton now knows that this information was never communicated to me or to some of the drivers. The sign post, that was supposed to identify the Wheel-Trans stop never got installed either. In other words, the principle was great – the communication and the plans to erect a sign – failed.

The penalties named in this Blog (for short-notice cancelations) have been removed from my record and I have been pardoned now that Mr. Milton has heard what was happening from my perspective.

The lesson learned is – Wheel-Trans does listen. It’s just a matter of getting to the right person.


Now for the original story:

Toronto hosted the PanAm/ParaPan Am Games and recruited over 23,000 volunteers. I was one of them. What an amazing experience!!

The one problem I encountered though was Wheel-Trans. What a nightmare.

To start with they instilled new rules for their passengers stating that anyone who wanted to book Wheel-Trans as a spectator for the PanAm/ParaPan Am Games must call the Call One booking service at 1-844-727-2663. Once more, Wheel-Trans said they would cancel anyone who ignored this rule and booked their buses online instead. This screen-capture of the new rules tells all:


As a volunteer, things got really difficult on a few occasions. This is because I got lucky and was given a free ticket to another venue, not one I normally volunteer at, to be part of the cheering section. The ticket is not an ordinary looking ticket and the rules of the Games were, we could not use our Accreditation to pay for the bus. On top of that, we were not to wear our uniforms or even take our Accreditation to the Game.

Well, I considered myself to be a spectator in this case so I called Call One. Because of the uniqueness about the ticket, they said they couldn't take me. They told me I must call Wheel-Trans. I called Wheel-Trans and they tried to tell me to go right back to Call One. Fortunately I managed to convince Wheel-Trans to let me book my bus with them.

The next challenge was that the games don't publish ending times and Wheel-Trans doesn't know the addresses of some of the Venues. I quickly learned that, if I wanted to save myself from a real nightmarish communication headache, the best thing to do was call Call One, pick their brains for the address, directions to the address, and the ending time of the event, thank them, hang up, and then call Wheel-Trans to give them all the answers they needed in order to book my bus. It was very time consuming and very annoying.

I must say the folks at Call One were fantastic in their level of knowledge. They didn't mind sharing information at all.

In fact, when a glitch came up with Wheel-Trans at the Venue where I was volunteering, Varsity Stadium, Call One helped me out a lot. Wheel-Trans did nothing to help. Worse, the problem still remains to this day.

Here's what happened.

When I went through training and learned the intricate details about my Venue - what door to go in off Devonshire place, what doors were locked (the front ones), how to get through the secure zone (at the side on Devonshire Place), etc., I called Wheel-Trans customer service and gave them all the details.

The address of Varsity Stadium is 299 Bloor St. W.  The doors facing Bloor St. W. are locked though,  except during competition time. I can't go in to work that way. The organizers of the Games were very strict about that because of security; a vital component of the games.

The online booking tool for Wheel-Trans identified the drop-off location at Varsity to be at Gate #3. The catch is, no one, but no one, knows where Gate #3 is. It's not marked on the building, the maps produced by the Games organizers, or the Internet. I therefore called Wheel-Trans customer service.

I explained the bus had to drop me off on Devonshire Place. To get to Devonshire Place the bus must enter the Restricted zone on Hoskins Ave. from the West (off St. George St). The person at Customer Service seemed to get it, as was evidenced by a Screen-Capture he sent from the Wheel-Trans Computer booking system. See Below (where it says: 299 Bloor St. W. Stadium went on Devonshire Pl Toronto M1B5L2). The VAR-G3 is still there but the door appears in this screen capture to be clearly identified so I was happy.


For a few days things worked out great. I got to work on time and I was dropped off at the right door. Then one day it happened. I was NO-SHOWED. I couldn't believe it because I had been sitting outside starting at least 1/2 hour before my pick up. I phoned them and was told the driver was there. He/She was at Gate #3 and I was clearly not there. 

I asked the dispatcher what street the driver tried to find me on - Bloor St. W. or Devonshire Pl. His answer was at 301 Bloor St. W., west of Devonshire Place.  That answer made no sense at all. The address of Varsity Stadium is 299 Bloor St. W. Here is a picture of the front door with the building number clearly marked on it. 


The person on the other end of the phone argued with me. He said the computer shows I changed the drop-off location address in the computer using the online booking screen. I went to that site and, sure enough, the address had changed, as this screen capture shows:


I can guarantee that it was not I who changed it and I told the person on the priority line this. He said, oops sorry, the PanAm/ParaPan Am Games organizers changed it. I knew that was wrong too. Why? Because 301 Bloor St. W. doesn't exist in downtown Toronto. If one took the time to Google the address, here is what they'll get:


Yup, 301 Bloor St. W. shows up on the map as being in Etobicoke. I told the person on the priority line this as well. 

He said, are you west of Devonshire Place on Bloor St. W.? I said no, I'm at Varsity east of Devonshire Place on Bloor St. W. and in front of the entrance that's locked. He said, open your eyes and look for the bus stop sign with a Wheel-Trans symbol on it. I did as I was told (so I could get proof of how much ridiculous run-around I was being given).

Here's what I found:


This is NOT a Wheel-Trans bus sign. It is a temporary bus stop sign for the Wellesley Bus, which is being re-routed from Hoskins onto Bloor St. W. I told the person on the priority line this detail as well. 

He said, NO... go WEST of Devonshire Place to 301 Bloor St. W.; the Munk School of Global Affairs. 

Now I knew it was getting ridiculous. I also knew that his answer meant really BAD accessibility for any spectators who wanted to go to Varsity Stadium to watch Archery because the suggested stop location was a long way away from the front doors of the building. I vowed to continue arguing and taking pictures along the way.

Here is the building he was referring too. The stonework over the door verifies it's the Munk School of Global Affairs. However, the building number on the stone fence post clearly stated the address for this building is 315 Bloor St. W. 


I relayed this "Fact" to the priority line dispatcher. He told me I was wrong again... go further West. The next building is 321 Bloor St. W., I'd had enough of playing with this guy, and I hung up. 

I called the Call One line. I asked them what address they were instructed to drop spectators off at. The answer unfortunately was 301 Bloor St. W.

The Games organizers clearly did not intend for disabled passengers to wheel miles to the front gate of Varsity, as this map shows:


The map shows that the Wheel-Trans drop off location is on Devonshire Place up near the top on the east side just before Bloor St.

Someone in the Wheel-Trans office goofed big time and not one of their managers or supervisors will admit they made a mistake.

I was left stranded at Varsity for the majority of the days I volunteered there. Getting there was easy. I was inside the bus and I could give the driver clear-cut directions. I even asked the drivers to call in to their boss and tell them exactly where they were dropping me off so I wouldn't get left behind later that night, but the problem never got properly fixed. It was a hit and miss proposition every time.

The hardest part about all this is I have melt-downs when I have to fight with the people in the Wheel-Trans office just to get a bus back after I've been no-showed. I also had to waste one heck of a lot of time waiting for Wheel-Trans to send me another bus.

On the day I did the running around taking pictures so I could expose the severe LACK OF CUSTOMER SERVICE at Wheel-Trans I ended up finally getting another bus 50 minutes later.

Two of the volunteers, John and Taylor from the Games called the upper management of Wheel-Trans and raised cain. John also gave me a taxi chit which, in the end, I didn't use (because Wheel-Trans showed up).  Taylor, a transportation area volunteer, tried super hard to get the problem fixed. Taylor spoke to upper management, explained the problem, and I even got a call back from a person named Mike, who said he would work hard to fix the problem.

By the time Mike called, I'd gotten home on the very late Wheel-Trans bus, I missed the next bus booked for 2:30 pm from home to the Stockyards. I had an appointment up there. I used the TTC trip planner and took the very long, and very out-of-the-way route by 3 different buses, to reach my destination. Much to my horror, when I got there I discovered I was almost out of battery juice.

Needless to say, Mike got an earful because I panicked. I had errands to do and I couldn't do a thing. I was stranded and stuck in one location for 4 hours until another Wheel-Trans bus could come back to get me.

Mike promised to make sure I got home safely and I did. The thing is, would you believe the problem is still not fixed regarding the address Wheel-Trans insists on using for Varsity? A full 6 days have passed and Wheel-Trans still has the drop-off location addressed for 301 Bloor St. W.

I don't get it. At least 5 drivers have radioed in the correct location when they were dropping me off - they did this in front of me so I heard every word. The upper-management has been involved, I've shared pictures, facts, and others have called on my behalf trying to help me sort this mess out, and still Wheel-Trans insists on leaving an address in their system that will guarantee I will be no-showed at the end of my shift.

I can't just go up to Bloor St. W and sit there and wait because some of the drivers know the correct door to go to. I tried sitting up on Bloor St. once and I was no-showed again.

As an FYI, Wheel-Trans is in clear violation of the AODA Customer Service law. I say this because they refuse to accommodate and they refuse to accept the word of their passengers.

Please read my other Blogs
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Fixit: http://wheelchairdemon-fixit.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Customer Service Severely Lacking on Via Rail

This is sadly, another bad news Via Rail story. How can we stop these nightmares from happening?

A passenger got on the train wearing strong scent and sat in the seat facing me. She crossed her legs so they were in my way. I was not happy because my movement disorder caused my legs to keep bumping hers. I asked her to move her legs a bit and she wouldn't.

She then took her coat off and the strong scent wafted off her body. It triggered an asthma attack.

I got my medical letter out that explains that I have asthma and stated that, by moving me further away from the source of the scent, I'd be fine and gave it to an employee. The employee asked the passenger if she was wearing perfume and she said no. I actually believe that. It smelled more like she had used a strong smelling soap, shampoo, or deodorant.

The employee then told her I had asthma triggered by strong scents. She was indignant. She said no one reacts the way I was to strong scents, or has an asthma attack, because of it. She came across like she thought I was making things up. There was obviously no willingness on her part to respect me or to believe what was said in the doctor's medical.  The man with her then spoke up and said, if she's asthmatic, she'll have a puffer to use. He said I would be fine if I'd just use it.

Who is he to judge?

The puffer will only help me survive until I can get away from the irritant; the scent. The Via employee seemed to agree with his logic and, because the medical letter didn't spell it out about how useless the puffer would be if I didn't get away from the irritant as well, he decided to tell me to get off the train; the last one back to Kingston that night. He said the train can't leave the station if someone is at risk of having a potential medical emergency.

When I cried and tried to insist that the passengers just be asked to switch seats with other passengers so I could stay on the train, there was no willingness by the customers to move, and the employee didn't press the situation. I guess he found it easier to take me off the train instead.

Of course realizing I was being asked to move, knowing full well that no one was supposed to be sitting in those seats in the first place, only made matters worse. That seat was initially for my service dog. I went out of my way to cancel the ticket that morning when I decided not to bring him. Even knowing I didn't have my dog, the employee said those seats wouldn't be used. I told her to please feel free to use them. The last minute switch of rail car equipment had already shorted them by several seats. She thanked me and agreed to use them. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have expected that I'd be the one taken off the train if scent caused an asthma attack and took away my ability to breathe. It still makes no sense that the employee didn't bother to speak up to defend me.

Once off the train, other indignities included being told to "get control of myself" because I was crying and I was scared of once again, being stranded in Toronto. I've been stranded several times before due to incidences related to the train. Being told to calm down and then having the employees walk away without answering my questions, reassuring me, or at least trying to put my mind at ease, was downright nasty.  There was no sensitivity shown and there was certainly no consideration given to how I might be feeling knowing I might not make it back home to take care of my service dog, among other things.

Besides, I didn't have my CPAP Machine (for sleep apnea), no medical supplies for issues related to my disability, if they sent me home the next day by train, potentially no Access Bus to get home from the train station the next day because they too, require passengers to book their ride in advance.

Once off the train an employee admonished me for not having the scent reaction noted on my file each time I booked a train. I had no idea those facts were no longer there. Several years ago a letter from my doctor was obtained about my asthma and, when employees either didn't read it or it wasn't posted on the manifest, the letter was given to Derek at the Kingston station so it could be held on permanent record. The details describing the dimensions and weight of my wheelchair were supposed to be on record as well.

Despite believing the letter was permanently on file, I always carried it with me. It was that that I shared onboard the train. To later be told I should have told the reservations line about the scent reaction, so they knew about it, and wouldn't take me off the train only made me more upset.

I don't understand why the letter I had with me couldn't be used as leverage for the employee to legitimately insist the passenger switch seats with another passenger. As far as I was concerned, other passengers (if they weren’t wearing scent) could still sit there.

I also don’t understand why the employees chose to question the health condition and the treatment of it, rather than accept what I, and the doctor's letter, said would fix the problem.  Proper training would instruct the employees to prioritize the medical necessity over the opinions expressed by a passenger who is not a trained medical expert on the topic of a chemical sensitivity disability.

It's true the employees were right to move me away from those wearing the scent, but to remove me from the train because a person wearing an optional product (scent) hampered my ability to breathe; something that's not optional, is wrong.

If separation on the same train can't be done, why not remove the ones who are easier to accommodate with an offer of an extra night in Toronto courtesy of Via Rail or door-to-door service to their home in a vehicle that doesn't have to be booked a minimum of 24 hrs in advance?

The Union Station employees had quite a struggle finding a way for me to get home because accessible taxi and livery services require passengers to book their trips at least 24 hours in advance.

When no one spoke to me and I had no idea what was being planned for me to get home, I did some phoning around myself. The companies I spoke to, 4 of them, all said they can’t make a trip that was that long and on that short of notice. Obviously it was by sheer luck that the staff at Union Station found an accessible cab to take me home.

In future, if a person with a disability has to be removed from the train, it is vital to find out what the person needs (I have several disability accommodations that must exist at night). It's also important to let them know that all efforts are being made to find a satisfactory and workable, alternative solution to get the person home or into suitable accommodations.

Also, if a customer goes the extra mile to help Via out with the seat shortage situation, the last thing that should happen is to ungratefully take them off the train. Next time I should be selfish. But it's not in my blood. It it really hurt to be treated that way.

When all was said and done, I got home but I didn't get the meal I was supposed to get on the train, I got no opportunity to go elsewhere to buy one, and I didn't get my "homework" done on the way home (using the WiFi connection). I had to endure hardships, because a very bad decision was made.

I expect, when I ride the train, to be treated fairly, equally, and with dignity; the same way as anyone else would expect to be treated. I also expect a firm apology and compensation for pain and suffering. The stares and indignities I got, because I got upset at how badly I was treated, is very embarrassing and it causes others, not in the know, to assume it was a case of another disabled person trying to be unreasonable.

Sadly, I'm not alone. This article, Derailed on Accessibility, was printed in the Whig Standard a few weeks ago about another passenger who was severely affected by the lack of customer service. She, unfortunately, had to cancel her trip.  With any luck mediation with Via Rail, something I'll soon be doing, will help.

As for myself, I have no choice but to continue taking the train. I have medical appointments in Toronto every week. Thank heaven's I've learned how to become very resilient and I can bounce back from the horrors of being treated like this.

If you have experienced problems on Via Rail or any other form of Inter-city transit, contact the Canadian Transportation Agency. It is their job to help people with problems of this nature.

Please read my other Blogs
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Barrier Removal: http://wheelchairdemon-fixit.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Via Rail, a not so "Human Way to Travel" (if one is disabled)

Via Rail has been doing complete renovations of their LRC trains. Yesterday, I had the occasion to view one. They're nice and spacious for most people and they look more modern. However, they fail in the dignity part, when it comes to tying down a wheelchair in the accessible spot reserved for them.

With permission, I took this video of an employee trying to secure the restraints to my wheelchair; a procedure that must be done by law.

When you think about the fact Via Rail's slogan is, "A More Human Way to Travel" one has to wonder what they're thinking.

Below is a video of the employee attaching the tie-down straps. Below that are some pictures of the layout of these newly renovated trains.

video



For accessibility features there is a power outlet located in easy reach beside the space reserved for wheelchairs, and there's a light switch to control the overhead light.

There still isn't an alert button to enable a passenger to alert an employee of when they need the tie-down straps removed so they can go to the bathroom.

When will Via Rail start listening to its passengers?

Please read my other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Barrier Removal: http://wheelchairdemon-fixit.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Brief sit-in at Via Rail

I staged a sit-in on the train tonight (Aug. 2nd). I refused to get off because once again, Via Rail failed to accommodate my disability. Let me explain.

The train I was on from Toronto tonight went in on track 2 at the Kingston Station. That's the side where there's no washroom and no working lift to take a person who uses a powered mobility device down through the tunnel and back up to the other side, the main side.

Yesterday when I was leaving the Kingston station I reminded Derek, the station manager, to make sure that the accommodation he'd arranged for several months ago wasn't overlooked when I came back to Kingston tonight, because it has been as of late. He assured me that he would make sure they didn't forget; that he would in fact guarantee that Via would bring the train in on track 1, the main and accessible, side.

The stair lift break-down problem has been one that has been longstanding at the Kingston station. As far back as in 2008 when I was volunteering to write the Province's Transportation Accessibility Standard for the AODA by attending meetings in Toronto, the lift stopped working quite a few times. How ironic.

I can't tell you how often I've been stranded, suspended in mid-air, ever since. It used to be that when the lift broke down, the servicing company had to be called in and the on-call person would arrive, unlock the control box, and then use a ratchet to hand crank the lift back up the stairs. This process once took close to an hour.

Eventually another company was hired to maintain the lift. This company made a few better arrangements. For example, instead of requiring outside personnel to be sent in, the employees at the Kingston Station were given access the control box so they could crank the lift and get the person out faster. However it was still an agonizing slow process and it exhausted the station employee, to say nothing of taking them away from their regular job duties of serving other passengers. Consequently the station tried automating their backup plan. They bought a compressor of some sort that could crank the ratchet faster than doing it by hand. I thankfully never saw it in action because eventually an even better plan was created. However, it was at least it was a comfort to know that there was a more realistic backup plan put in place.

The new arrangement that was made about six months ago was that, every time a train had a passenger on it who used a powered mobility device, arrangements would be made with train traffic control personnel to bring the trains in on track 1, or the main side.  Finally, I thought.  That would end the hassles and the delays. Think again.

For several months this new arrangement worked well, and then for no understandable reason, the trains stopped always going in to the accessible side. It became sporadic so, once again, I started to proactively remind the train’s service manager and the staff at the Kingston station to remind headquarters to arrange for the train to arrive on the accessible track. Despite these reminders and promises to remember to properly accommodate this time, it didn’t happen.

I have no idea what happened after that. What I know is when I saw the train had pulled in on track 2, the side with no toilet, no amenities, and no reasonable way to get across the tracks and over to the main side, I made a snap decision and decided it was time to insist the problem be fixed.  After this many years of lift breakdowns, there was no longer a valid excuse for continuing to make the same mistake and then expecting me to bend and accommodate for their mistake.

I knew I had to wait approximately 1 hour for the Access Bus, which would have been directed to pick me up on track 2 when they arrived, and I knew I had to go to the washroom. I also knew I didn't want to wait over there alone or be forced to pee behind the building again. It's humiliating and unsanitary when the pee drifts into the swamp.

I want to sincerely thank the train personnel for their understanding and for making a quick decision to drive the train forward, switch tracks, and back up onto track 1.

I also want to apologize to the train employees, the passengers on the other train that were held up by my actions, and to all others who were inconvenienced by this event.

I just couldn’t stand the thought of any more indignities. I’m on the train a lot and I deserve to receive the same comfortable and dignified ride as all the passengers who ride on the train and use the stations.

It is my hope that this act will remind Via Rail headquarters to remember to properly accommodate the disabled the next time. It's not like I haven't been patient or tried to use more reasonable and more rational approaches, before this.  I’ve dealt with the station, with the Canadian Transportation Agency, and even the accessibility rep many times about this problem and so have the good folks who work at the Kingston Station.

Thanks for your understanding.

Please read my other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health Care: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Monday, June 17, 2013

New Ramp to TTC Subway at Union Station

A new barrier was created at Toronto's Union Station. The lift was taken out in August 2011 and a new, very long narrow ramp, was built in its place.  It was just opened last month (May 2013).

In my opinion it's not accessible.The following video, complete with commentary to verbally and visually describe it, will show you what I mean.

If you agree this MUST be fixed, please write the TTC, Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Wynne and ask that this NEW barrier be removed.  

In summary, the video shows the new, very long ramp with 5 switch-backs, and no room to pass. People with limited mobility, pushing a stroller, using a wheelchair, etc. would be exhausted by the time they reach the top. This is NOT accessible. In my opinion this new design is in violation of the AODA and the Human Rights Code because many people will not be able to navigate a ramp that's this long.

video

Please read my other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health Care: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Friday, January 25, 2013

Transportation Impossibility in Toronto

On January 24th 2013 I was in Toronto and I took Wheel-Trans to appointment in North York. I couldn't get a Wheel-Trans back downtown after the appointment was over though.  For this reason I phoned around to a few taxi companies and pre-booked a ride with Beck Taxi. 

I asked for the wheelchair accessible service, was told I would get it, was given a booking time, and was told the cost of the trip from my appointment at 4646 Dufferin to the Downsview Subway Station would be $11.00 (give or take depending on what showed on the meter).

What I got was a non-accessible car.  The electric wheelchair had no hope of fitting into it. The driver had no idea a wheelchair accessible taxi had been requested. He got on the radio and tried to do his best to accommodate me, but it wasn't working out too well. He informed me that it would be a long wait. 

I decided, forget it, and I wheeled to the bus stop. The first bus that came along had a frozen ramp so I was left behind. The temperature outside was -11 C.

I phoned Beck taxi back and asked what happened. They didn't know, but they were eventually able to send an accessible taxi.

After I got in it, and we were en route to the subway station, I asked the driver where the meter was. He informed me that they don't have one; that wheelchair accessible trips were automatically charged a minimum of $30 (more if it was a long trip).

I can't afford it so I told the driver this.  He did a U-Turn right in the middle of Dufferin St., a very busy 4-lane road, and took me back to the clinic where I'd been picked up.

I was really stranded. Wheel-Trans couldn't rescue me, so the only remaining choice was to wheel back to the bus stop and pray.

Thankfully the next bus had a working ramp and I was able to catch it.

The driver not only had working equipment, but he took the time to tie-down the wheelchair to guarantee my safety. He was so nice and so accommodating that I took down his bus number, and the approximate time for the trip, and wrote a letter of kudos to the TTC.

I've already received a response back, thanking me for the letter and assuring me that appropriate accolades would be given to his supervisor and also added to his employee record. 

Thank God something turned out right. The rest of it, with the taxis and the other bus ramp not working, was a real nightmare. In that cold, being stranded outside with no alternative affordable means of transportation to leave, was downright dangerous.

I wonder how many able-bodied people would put up with this number of roadblocks to just trying to get around?

Please read my other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health Care: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bus Safety and Wheelchair Lifts

Here is an example of why laws not only need to exist, but must be ENFORCED, by our government.

On Sunday, August 19, 2012 I had the scare of my life on a wheelchair accessible school bus that shouldn't have been on the road. The emergency brake didn't work, there was no hook for the wheelchair accessible door to hold it open, so it kept banging against me, and there was no interlocking system between the bus brakes and the lift. There were also serious safety issues with how the bus driver parked that bus.

What happened was, when the bus came to pick us up it parked on a very steep hill with the front of the bus facing up hill. It was also parked on a piece of the hill where the road was slanted heavily to the curb side. This is a no-no when using a wheelchair lift because, when there is weight on it, it will tip the bus to the side even further. The lift shouldn't even work if the bus is tipped too much to one side because a wheelchair is at risk of sliding off it, but it was. The driver then lowered the lift onto the grass. She said she couldn't pull forward because there were too many parked cars in the way.

The bus was packed full of people, all waiting for me, so I felt rushed and stupidly decided to get on it. When I backed onto the lift I immediately went into a backwards wheelie. I threw my body weight forward and then I grabbed the side arm to hold myself upright. The bus driver then raised the lift. The minute she got the lift raised off the ground the bus started to roll backwards down the hill. All I could think of was the lift hitting a telephone pole and taking out both me and the lift.

The driver dropped the controls, ran, jumped into the bus, and jammed on the brakes. Her daughter was then assigned the task of sitting in the driver’s seat and jamming her foot down firmly on the brake while her mother came back and continued raising the lift to get me inside.

As the lift was raised, the weight of me on it, combined with the sideways slant of the bus, tipped the outermost part downwards and I started to slide off it. I had to turn my chair on and keep throttling the chair backwards toward the bus, in order to keep from sliding off it.

I have never been so scared in my life. That bus should never be on the road with no interlocking system between the lift and the brakes, a failed emergency brake, and for the lift operating at all, when the bus was parked on such a slant. That bus would have failed a safety inspection. As for the driver, she should lose her job over parking the bus on such a slant and not abiding by safety laws regarding parking the bus, inspecting the lift, the brakes, etc.

My life is in the hands of these incompetents... It's scary as hell.

The outcome of this, as I learned a few days later, was that the bus was taken into the shop and it was determined that the emergency brake was defective. The cable was stretched to its limit and, when the shop tried to fix it, the whole cable snapped. Now the entire cable has been replaced.

When I told the others how scared I was and how many infractions took place in that incident, the people I was with wanted me to forgive the bus driver because she didn't own the bus. No one would tell me the contact info for the bus company, what city it was from, or anything. In order to keep the peace, I sucked down the fear, and did nothing. It at least helped to know the cable was replaced and the driver had at least done part of her job right by applying it.

I'm still not happy with my fear being dismissed and minimized over the fear expressed by the bus driver. But now she's considered to be a hero for jumping into the moving bus to save me..... yeah right.


Please Read my Other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

We Demand the Right to Pee

I am a wheelchair user who, for years, has taken the train to Toronto to visit, be a tourist, etc. I used to always get GREAT customer service from the employees on the train and in Union Station.

Now Union Station has been sold to the City of Toronto and the Wheelchair Accessible washrooms, I once was able to use, are gone.

The Via One Lounge that had one of the accessible washrooms used to be on the Via Departures level. It was closed in January or February of this year and moved upstairs to ground level. The other accessible washroom that used to exist, was at the base of the ramp to the departures level and it closed ages ago. No thought was given to the fact that a person using a manual wheelchair who has come off GO Transit or the TTC, has no hope of ever wheeling up that ramp to the main level unaided. They also didn't build an accessible washroom in the new Via One lounge. Attempts were made to make it accessible, I guess, because the stalls are a little bigger, but that's about the extent of the accessibility features that are built into it.




Ramp to Departures level of Via Rail.
Click for credit to image source
The grab bars are placed in a way that does not meet current building code, the toilet paper dispenser location does not meet code, the soap dispensers that are reachable are never filled; instead a different dispenser was added and it was placed further back on the wall, making it almost impossible to reach by a person who is seated in a wheelchair. On top of that, the door to enter the washroom has a very heavy hinge on it and no power door opener. It is now impossible to open independently if ones disability hampers their upper body strength. Even the fire Code stipulates a door should not be that heavy, but for some reason it is. Worse, the new design has passed the building inspector. Where is the oversight?

With Ontario having the Accessibility for Ontarian's With Disabilities Act, the Human Rights Code, the Customer Service Law, and new Integrated Accessibility Standard, you would think that more thought would have gone into this.  Society knows that people with disabilities must be accommodated, so I don't get why this new barrier was allowed to happen.

Last week (July 2012), when I was back at Union Station after first encountering and reporting this barrier in February and being assured it would be fixed right away, I found that nothing had changed. When I asked for help to enter the washroom, no one had time to help me.  It took over 30 minutes to find someone to help. She was an Angel - a Red Cap whose job is NOT to look after people in the Via One lounge. She just happened to have a heart and was agreeable to help. The appropriate accolades have been sent to her boss.

Prior to finally getting her help, I had to endure the indignities of being advised the following by a three separate employees:
  • use the washroom on the main floor of Union Station. It has a sink in the stall that blocks a big chair from entering,
  • use the toilet at the GO Concourse level. It has a steep ramp (shown in the image below) that can't be navigated by a person using a manual wheelchair, especially if they have low upper body strength and normally use an electric wheelchair,
  • Photo showing ramp from Via Rail level to Go Concourse level
    Ramp at bottom of Via Rail to GO Concourse level.
  • bring along a helper the next time so they can open the washroom door.   Huh? At whose expense?
Why on earth should the disabled be expected to pay the added costs of taking along a helper when they generally are able to live and remain fully independent?  It was Union Station who goofed and took away the accessible washrooms.  The suggestion that people with disabilities must give up their independence because of their mistake, is ridiculous.

This issue has been raised with Via Rail customer service a few times. Their response was that the responsibility for the design of Union Station lies with the City of Toronto. I tried to contact the appropriate person with the City of Toronto and so far it has been to no avail. Besides, it's not my responsibility to be chasing people down.

Union Station serves GO Transit, Via Rail, the TTC and several other major rail providers so I'm sure there is at least one contact person for the City of Toronto,who all these companies go to with their lists of specifications of what's needed to meet their needs, while the renovations are being done. Via Rail has the ability to correct things. They've just chosen not to.

If I had the guts, I'd pee on the floor in front of them, but thankfully for them I was brought up to be more civilized than that. 

This stalemate MUST be broken and the accessible washroom must be restored immediately at Union Station.

Please Read my Other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wheelchair Passenger Safety on Buses

I had a rather nightmarish experience on an inter-city bus yesterday in regards to the improper use of tie-down straps on a wheelchair. It clearly illustrates the need for more education about the law as it pertains to the securement of occupant seats on a bus. I'll first share the law and then I'll share the story. The story will help to illustrate the logic and safety that is embedded into that law.

The highway traffic act dictates certain rules about how occupant seats must be fastened in a vehicle before it  can be on the road. The purpose of the tie-down straps is to secure a wheelchair in the same way.  To read this in the law, see the National Safety Code, a Federal Law governing the Safety Inspections of Vehicles.  On page 39 of this code, there is a section about seats [in a vehicle] and how no seat must be insecure.

After reading this law, and then experiencing the danger of NOT being tied down properly on a highway coach yesterday, I would say one could safely argue that it would be discriminatory to NOT affix the tie-down straps to a wheelchair properly. When the straps are attached properly, it makes the wheelchair safety equal to that of the installed seats used by every other passenger in the bus.

The waist seat belt and shoulder belt are for a different purpose, so using logic, I would  suggest that there are valid grounds to refuse to use them because the other passengers are not forced to wear them.

To further describe the experience I had yesterday, the straps were very hard to use so the driver just tied down the two front straps. He then insisted I use the shoulder belt. He said that would prevent the chair from sliding.

No consideration was given to the fact that, if the chair slid forward, that shoulder strap would tighten on my body to hold back the weight of both me and the chair. The combined weight is over 450 pounds. Depending on the speed of travel and the suddenness of the stop a human body could not withstand that amount of force without either being hurt or worse, killed.

However, wheelchair passengers can't reach the straps to do up the chair themselves, so we're at the mercy of the bus driver.

It wasn't long before the driver hit the brakes to turn onto the highway. I slid forward and to the left and was left sitting half way into the aisle. Thankfully the shoulder belt did NOT do it's job and I was not strangled or hurt.

I called out to the bus driver, and he refused to stop. He said he would fix it at the next stop, which was about 20 minutes away. I couldn't turn the chair on and back up because I was wedged on top of the tie-down strap assembly.

When we stopped he took off the shoulder belt, loosely attached one, not two, rear tie-town straps and didn't crank the coil to make the straps tight and safe. He then insisted I must wear the seat belt around my waist. He said the seat belt would prevent the chair from sliding forward.  Again, he wouldn't listen when I tried to point out that my body would be expected to withstand the weight of the chair and me the next time he hit the brakes. Now there was no safety left.

The seat belt was put on because I was left with little choice but to comply.  He said the seat belt was mandatory. This is false. By him saying that, it clearly told me that he didn't know the rules for wheelchair passengers. He was making the rules up as he went along.  I share the story here because I see this type of thing happen all the time.  People don't really know what the rules are, so they say what sounds best at the time, and often what's said is untrue.

Shortly after we were back on the road, the driver hit the brakes again, I slid forward, and the seat belt cut in to my waist.  I was able to minimize the pain to by grabbing the seat ahead of me and then turning on my wheelchair to back up.

I again reported the problem to the driver and he refused to stop.

That did it. I called the bus company from my cell phone. They called dispatch, who in turn ordered the bus to pull off the road. He didn't. Instead he used the bus loudspeaker to tell the "wheelchair passenger" that if she doesn't like the seat belt, take it off.

I took the seat belt off and ignored the stares from the other passengers. I couldn't reach the buckle so another passenger had to undo it.

I reported the actions of the bus driver's misuse of the bus loudspeaker system to management, and they said they would phone him to more explicitly instruct him to pull over and do the job right. The next thing I knew the bus driver was talking loudly on the phone to his boss and explaining that the wheelchair passenger was being ornery, refused to follow orders, and that the chair was tied down correctly. He said it was not his fault that I refuse to listen, wear the seat belt, or follow his orders.

I was shocked. The best I could do was take photos to show how one strap was not secured at all and then email them to the manager of the bus company. The manager, by this point, had given me her direct email address. I sent a few photos from my cell phone and then for good measure, and with encouragement from the manager, turned the date and time stamp on in my regular camera, snapped a few more, and emailed them to her when I got home.

The manager was great.  She kept in phone contact for most of the trip. She also listened when I begged her not to take any further action with the driver; to do it after I got off of the bus. I didn't appreciate being centred out,  humiliated, or stared at by the other passengers because of how the driver chose to respond in and blame me for the problems, to his boss.

Throughout this whole experience I learned that the buses are equipped with a  tracking device so they could substantiate immediately that the driver was refusing to obey their orders and pull over.

It's important to point out that the biggest problem has to do with the lack of practice and the lack of a thorough education to explain the significance of each of those straps for wheelchair passengers to safely ride the bus. The drivers, and often the passengers, don't realize that the chair not the person, must be secured to the floor of the bus by law. The seat belt around the waist and/or over the shoulder is meant for an entirely different purpose.

The drivers only get trained once and then for months don't see a wheelchair passenger, so I'm not surprised they have forgotten how to use the equipment.  If you couple, the lack of practice with the fact they're given a very awkward, and almost impossible-to-use tie-down system on some of the buses, it can make life miserable for the bus driver. That morning I had a similar problem with another bus driver not knowing how to use the tie-down straps.  The difference is he listened to my concerns, understood their significance, and then got help to get the job done. He was also respectful.

There was another accommodation issue that triggered the anger in the afternoon driver, and that was he forgot how to use the lift. If you ever use the lift you will see the drivers have one heck of a time figuring it out and how to do every single step in the correct order. If you miss a step and do it later, the lift won't work. It must be precise. I've almost never seen a driver get it right the first time and I travel on buses a lot.

In the case of this driver opened the big door, not the little door, fiddled around with opening the side-arms of the lift and hooking the seat belt on the lift in correctly, and then started the test lift. By this point, 20 minutes had passed. Each of those arms must be flipped up in a particular order. Otherwise the electrical circuit that's built into each piece as a safety feature, won't connect, and it will render the lift inoperable.

When he tested lift before taking me on it he found out he had opened the wrong door to bring the lift out. The big door blocked the lift from going all the way up to the top.  The choice of doors appears to be the only step that is not included in the so-called fool-proof wiring system to ensure a driver does every step right. Those safety features should either be abolished, or set to work as long as the pieces are in correctly. The order of how they open the lift shouldn't matter and I feel sorry for the drivers who get so frustrated by it.

Anyway, the driver who opened the wrong door had no choice but to take the lift apart, stow it, close the big door, open the little door, and then start all over. Naturally he forget the right order for how to open the lift pieces, and was frustrated even further by the safety features that are built into its electrical system. We ended up being over a half hour late leaving the station because of all the provincially mandated safety features in the lift.

I felt sorry for the guy, but I won't excuse him taking his anger out on me by using the bus loudspeaker system.That is simply wrong.

Oh well, there's some good that has come out of all this.

The company now sees the significance of providing more frequent training that includes fully explaining the significance, purpose, and potential danger of not using those straps correctly.

The image below shows how the one strap was clearly not attached.

Please Read my Other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kingston Continues Discriminatory Public Transportation Policies

Kingston has been held out as an example of how to accommodate people who are on a low-income and, in some cases, are disabled; especially in regards to their provision of a subsidy to help pay for public transit. I am therefore writing this Blog to show the truth of the matter.

As you will see below, the City has decided that people who use specialized transit, will still be left out of the picture.

We have very little choice but to use it because the conventional transit service is not accessible enough for people who use a wheelchair. Transit decided, about 1 1/2 years ago, to limit the bus stops that a person in a wheelchair can use because of safety concerns. Some of the new bus stops that they built were not accessible so, when the safety hazard was realized, wheelchair users were advised to limit their user of conventional transit.

Kingston still has no accessible taxis either so I was trying to address both these things with a meeting with the Mayor. I wrote him a letter outlining the problems in early January 2012, met with him and several other city staff members a few weeks later, and then finally got a written response to the discriminatory issues I was raising, today.

I want to clearly point out that, in 1992 Kingston got 4 accessible taxis. These were permanently taken off the road in 2004 because the taxi companies said they were too costly to run.

In 1998 Kingston started buying low-floor conventional transit buses. They didn't start to use them until Human Rights became involved and a settlement was reached in 2006. The limitations have, once again, been imposed on wheelchair users so, once again attempts such as this, are being used to regain our rights to fully take part in all that Kingston and indeed the province, has to offer.

Here is the reply I got from the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Kingston today on the accessible transit availability and cost issue.

It is clear they have no intention to stop their discrimination against people who must rely on the Access bus to get around.

The Letter Received Today:

City of Kingston
216 Ontario Street
Kingston, Ontario
Canada K7L 2Z3

March 5, 2012

Dear Ms. [last name removed],

Thank you for attending the meeting convened by Mayor Gerretsen at City Hall on January 16 2012. The meeting gave the Mayor, myself and other members of city staff present the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion with you on the pertinent legislative requirements being introduced through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and to update you on municipal transit programming, Kingston Transit's Affordable Transit Pass program and the accessible taxi considerations by the Taxi Commission.

As part of the discussion, I indicated that I would provide you with a response on the matter of the Kingston Access Services (KAS) and Kingston Transit's Affordable Transit Pass Program. As was described in letters you have received from Sheila Kidd, Director of Transportation Services dated June 14, 2010 and August 9, 2010, the services of KAS are offered by a separate non-profit corporation that is not under the direction of the city and, as such, distinct from the services offered through the general municipal transit system. The service programs and corresponding rates for provision of services are determined by KAS and its board of directors. We appreciate that the nature of the services offered by KAS are different from conventional transit and geared as door-to-door services on a call basis.

The city continues to strive to introduce the requirements of AODA. We recognize that in 2011 AODA legislation was passed without the fare parity provision. We also respect the role of the various organizations and boards that provide services to our residents and offer our support when requested. I have taken the liberty of copying Trevor Fray, Executive Director, KAS, on this letter to keep him informed on this important topic.

Sincerely,

Gerard T. Hunt
Chief Administrative Officer

GH/jr

cc: Mayor Mark Gerretsen, City of Kingston
Denis Leger, Commissioner, Transportation, Properties & Emergency Services, City of Kingston
Julie Salter-Keane, Accessibility Compliance Project Manager, City of Kingston
Elizabeth Moore, Chair, Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee
Sheila Kidd, Director, Transportation Services, City of Kingston
Trevor Fray, Executive Director, Kingston Access Services
Alan McLeod, Senior Legal Counsel, City of Kingston


The issue, as it was presented to the Mayor and the City Staff named above:

January 1, 2012

Dear Mayor Gerretsen,

It was good to meet with you today at the New Years Day Levee. As a follow-up to our brief discussion today, I am sending you some information about the transportation problems I described to you.

I’ll include in this summary quotes from various directives, policies, and sources in Kingston that will clearly indicate that the city, in theory, does NOT have control over the provision of accessible public transportation to its citizens with a mobility disability, at all.

The hope is, by sharing this information, that Kingston could fix this glaring discriminatory gap. Below are some links and some quotes that will better illustrate the extent of the problem.

Kingston Access Bus

The quote below is from Hal Linscott to the city councillors around budget time 2011.
Kingston Access Services
Kingston Access Services Kingston Bus for the Handicapped, carrying on business as Kingston Access Services (“KAS”) is a charitable not for profit corporation incorporated by a number of individuals in 1967 under Letters Patent from the Province of Ontario. KAS is not a local board, agency or authority of the City. KAS by-laws provide that up to two members of City Council may sit on its Board of Directors.

The KAS mission statement is “to provide, in a safe and courteous manner, a reliable, efficient, transit service for persons having impaired mobility”. KAS oversees the operation of the Kingston Access Bus, the Kingston Area Patients Shuttle and a “dial a bus” service in rural areas of the City for Kingston Transit.

The City provides funding to assist KAS in paying for its operations, which are not fully funded from passenger revenue and other sources of revenue. Although there is no legal requirement for the City to provide funding for KAS, the City has the authority to do so should Council determine that is appropriate.

KAS by-laws provide that the Board cannot voluntarily dissolve the organization without the ratification by City Council of the Board’s motion to dissolve. Upon dissolution, any assets net of debts and liabilities are required to be distributed to charitable organizations.
Source Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/council/agenda/2011/COW_A0111-11068.pdf.

Note on page 2 where it says the city holds no contract with the Access Bus and they're not legally obligated to give them money.
Operating Budget for the City in 2011: In the city's budget, funding to the Access Bus is posted as an administrative cost. Why?

Source Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/budget/2011_OperatingBudget.pdf.

Note how they post expenditures for transit vs the Access Bus. Transit is on page 4 & 15. The Access Bus is on page 19. (It's hard to spot in this document).

Fare Parity and the Municipal Transportation Subsidy for Low-Income Kingstonians:
Excerpts from the Municipal Fee Assistance Program

The Affordable Transit Pass - access to a renewable reduced-cost monthly transit pass. The discount is good for a full year after approval. The 32 per cent discount makes Monthly My Cards $46.50 for Adults, $34.25 for Youth and $31.50 for Seniors. Full price Monthly My Cards are $68.25 for Adults, $50.50 for Youth, and $46.25 for Seniors. (Source: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/transportation/transit/fee-assistance/index.asp)

Link: http://wheelchairdemon-transit.blogspot.com/2011/04/bus-fare-increase-in-kingston.html . This takes you to bus fare cost comparisons. The link to the bus fares on Kingston Transit is: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/residents/transportation/transit/passes.asp

This subsidy cannot be used on the Access Bus. This means the policy, created by the City of Kingston, is discriminatory.

Proof that Kingston Access Bus will not be creating fare parity with Kingston Transit for now: (This is copied from the AGM minutes for Kingston Access Services - the information is public and can be received on request by emailing kab@kingston.net)
Fare parity:

The new regulation reads:
66. (1) Where conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services are provided by separate transportation service providers in the same jurisdiction, the specialized transportation service provider shall not charge more than the highest fare charged for conventional transportation services in the same jurisdiction.

(2) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of subsection (1) by January 1, 2017.

(3) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that there is fare parity between conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services.

(4) Transportation service providers to which subsection (3) applies shall meet the requirements of that subsection by January 1, 2013.

(5) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that the same fare structure is applied to conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services.

(6) Where a transportation service provider provides both conventional transportation services and specialized transportation services, the transportation service provider shall ensure that the same fare payment options are available for all transportation services, but alternative options shall be made available to persons with disabilities who cannot because of their disability use a fare payment option.

(7) Conventional transportation service providers and specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of subsections (5) and (6) by January 1, 2013.

(8) In this section,
“fare structure” means the fare price determined by fare media, such as cash, tickets, passes and bulk quantity discounts and by fare category, such as adults, seniors and students, but does not include promotional fares that a transportation service provider may employ from time to time.

Summary: Despite the fact that KT and KAS receive our funding from the City of Kingston we are considered separate transportation providers, thus there is no obligation for complete fare parity. We are compliant in that our fare matches the standard Kingston Transit fare. We have started initial discussions with the City regarding fare parity for items such as monthly passes and discounted pricing and the funding that would be required in order to make this happen.

I don’t blame the Access Bus for this one because, unless they get a major financial boost from the city, they can't afford to align their bus fares with that of Kingston Transit.

To illustrate, if one were to take an average of 2 Access Buses a day for a year, the annual cost of bus fare for one passenger would be $1,825 [($2.50 x 2)x 365]. If they were able to buy 12 full-priced adult bus passes at a cost equivalent to Kingston Transit, they would get unlimited rides and pay $780.00. If they were able to buy the equivalent subsidized bus fare, the fare would be $558.00 per year.

This difference shows that, for one person to stop paying the full $2.50 for each and every trip that the take, the Access Bus would lose $1,045 ($1,825 – $780) revenue per passenger, annually for an equivalent full-priced bus pass, and $1,267.00 ($1,825 - $558.00) for a subsidized fare.

Obviously, without more financial support from the city, the Access Bus can’t afford to equalize our fare. That being said, it would be discriminatory for the City to leave things as they are. At the last meeting, where the Accessibility Report was presented to the citizens of Kingston, it was announced that this, in fact was the intent; that the cost discrepancy would not be addressed.

Current law exists that requires that this be done. For example, there’s the Ontario Human Rights Code (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90h19_e.htm#BK1), the Municipal Act (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_01m25_e.htm#BK170) and the Planning Act (see: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90p13_e.htm#BK3). The AODA has just been released, and it contains provisions that will soon add more strength to these obligations.

Accessible Taxis

From MAAC Agenda (about accessible taxi’s)

MEETING Transportation Working Group 08 Jun11

2. BUSINESS OLD BUSINESS

A. Accessible On-Demand Taxi’s

Under Old Business we spoke of Accessible Taxis. In regards to Accessible-on-Demand Taxis questions arose :

(i) Where is this issue now? The next meeting of the KATC will take place following the summer, probably in September.

(ii) Could a request be put forth for an Interim Decision thru Julie prior to The next meeting?; and

(iii) Do you think the City will meet this goal?

Subsequent to the MEETING OF THE MAAC COMMITTEE 02 Jun 11, Accessible On Demand Taxis is in abeyance until further notice. No further action will be taken by the Transportation Working Group until further notice or direction has be given by the City Representative – Julie Salter-Keene to the MAAC

Source Link: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/cityhall/committees/accessibility/agendas/2011/MAA_0711-SchedC.pdf

Note how the taxi project has been put aside until further notice.

Another one about bringing back accessible taxi’s to Kingston

Report of October 19 Taxi Commission Meeting

Commissioners present were Ken Matthews, (Chair), Rod Macdonald (Vice-Chair), Charlie Lapointe, Martin Prachowny, Sandy Berg and John Pyke. Ric Bresee was absent again.

To assist them were Dana Kennedy, Clerk, and Dave Kennedy, Taxi Inspector. Julie Salter-Keane of the City of Kingston was present to speak about accessible taxis.

From the Industry were Kevin Murphy, Doug Cox, Mark Greenwood, Kirstie Attisha and Roy Ambury.

Steve Buckingham was present for a hearing about the plate held by his late father Gary.

Accessible Taxis

Julie Salter-Keane spoke to the Commission on behalf of the City of Kingston about Accessible Taxis. Her points included:
  • The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed by the Parliament of Ontario in June 2011. Although the Taxi Industry here is regulated by a Commission rather than a municipality as specified in the Act, the Act still applies to the Commission.
  • The Accessibility Committee has decided that the best way is for each of the Brokers to be issued a special licence for one accessible taxi vehicle each.
  • The Act prohibits charging higher fares for disabled passengers and charging for the handling of mobility devices. It also requires that by January 2012 all taxis have vehicle ID numbers on the rear bumper, as well as inside the vehicle in such a way as to make it easy for a person with low vision to process the information (in large print & possibly Braille).
  • The Act mandates that there be Accessible taxis in every municipality.
  • The Accessibility Committee will probably ask the City to recommend to the Commission that the three Accessible taxis be licensed by the summer of 2012. These vehicles would have to meet certain specs, and the licensees would have access to interest-free loans of $20,000 from the City.
  • [To Mr. Matthews' comments about KAS having idle buses and taking $1.8 million from the City]: The Act mandates accessible taxis, so this has no effect on Kingston Access Services, who operate the Access Buses. KAS must provide the same hours of service as Kingston Transit, and the Accessibility Committee recommends that KAS use taxis to cover the hours that their services fall short of those of KT.
  • The Committee would recommend going to rest homes and other places where persons with disabilities might reside to find a greater revenue stream.
  • [To Mr. Macdonald',v comment that an interest-firee loan is no incentive, that there are costs involved in complying with the Act, and that having all three Accessible taxis at the same broker would make more sense]: The Province is willing to help in training taxi drivers, but has no provision for financial assistance to operators of accessible taxis from the Province. No municipality does either.
  • [To Mr. Macdonald's comment about the requirement for 24-hour service]: If one accessible taxi Plateholder were unable to provide the requested service in a reasonable time, he could pass the service request oil to another Plateholder. Any Plateholder whose vehicle was broken down would have 14 days to have it repaired.
  • [To Mr. Lapointe.v question about the number of potential customers]: The Act is based on a perceived need, but there are no hard numbers to indicate what level of demand there will be.
  • To Mr. Cox's statement that Accessible taxis lose money on every call]: Accessible taxis can be used as regular taxis when not transporting disable persons.
  • Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Pyke suggested that costs be borne by the taxpayers of the City rather than the other taxi passengers paying higher fares.
  • Mr. Greenwood said an Accessible taxi would only last two or three years.
  • Mr. Matthews questioned the application of different criteria to taxis and KAS.
  • Ms. Berg recommended that the Accessibility Committee contact the City of Halifax.
  • Mr. Pyke said the City was demanding that the process not cost the City anything.
  • Mr. Cox says his company already does work for KAS. He stated that these calls take longer to service, and that three vehicles would be —insufficient for the demand. He added that drivers of Accessible vehicles would have to be paid hourly rather than oil commission and that the $70,000 Accessible vehicles were not practical for ordinary taxi passengers.
  • Mr. Greenwood projected a $20,000 loss per year per vehicle, and said the City pay this out of the KAS funds rather than having taxi passengers as a whole pay extra when the City should spread it over the entire tax base.
  • Mr. Cox said the City of Burlington had issued Accessible plates worth $100,000 to get Plate-holders to add Accessible taxis.
  • Ms. Salter-Keane said Ottawa had removed plate value from Accessible plates.
  • Mr. Macdonald said the Province was wrong to mandate that anyone open a business that was likely to be a money loser.
  • Mr. Pyke said it was a done deal, and it is up to us to figure out how to comply.
Why is it so hard to enforce the need for the taxi companies to provide accessible service? How can we get around the obvious mindset that says that they won’t accommodate until someone else pays?

This mindset would not happen in, for example, a food establishment where health unit, and other, laws would require them to buy some costly equipment so they could comply with the food safety laws.

To add accessible taxis is no different. It is the law (see above), so it should be considered the cost of doing business and made mandatory by the City of Kingston.

In summary, with Kingston offering no fare parity for transit, no accessible taxis, and only a partially accessible conventional transit service, the City of Kingston has no control over the provision of accessible public transit. It therefore is committing some serious Human Rights Violations, and indeed creating new ones when it creates municipal transportation subsidies that can’t be applied to the disabled, one of the protected segments of the population.

After reading this, please contact me and arrange a date that we can meet to discuss this further and hopefully come up with a remedy to this situation as quickly as possible.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration into this matter.

Sincerely,

[name removed]

The cost comparisons between conventional and specialized transit:

Access Bus - Actual Costs: 2011


Month
Completed
Trips
Cash Fare Price
Total $$$
January
94
$2.25
$ 211.50
February
87
$2.25
$195.75
March
75
$2.25
$168.75
April
82
$2.25
$184.50
May
84
$2.25
$189.00
June
49
$2.25
$110.25
July
53
$2.50
$132.50
August
60
$2.50
$150.00
September
66
$2.50
$165.00
October
65
$2.50
$162.50
November
84
$2.50
$210.00
December
72
$2.50
$180.00
Total
871
$2,059.75


Kingston Transit Costs

Adult Bus Cost
Subsidized Pass
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$65.00
$44.00
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$68.25
$46.50
$799.50
$543.00


$2,059.75 vs $799.00 = 61.18% more than those with a full-priced bus pass
$2,059.75 vs 543.00 = 73.64% more than those with a subsidized bus pass

29.34% of total income (living allowance) from ODSP is spent on transit.

Note: CNIB card holders pay $0.10 per trip if they're an adult and $0.05 if they're a child or a senior.

Please Read my Other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com