Sunday, September 12, 2010

Priority Seating - Please Help to Stop a Discriminatory Policy

Please help to prevent a new act of discrimination against people with disabilities on Kingston Transit.

I just created a petition against a new motion by Kingston Transit to stop prioritizing the seating in the front of the bus for seniors and people who have a disability. If you want to read more before signing, please read the complete report from the city and an excerpt from the Provincial Government's proposed new Integrated Accessibility Regulation. Both have been pasted below.

To sign the petition, go to: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/kingston_transit/

Report from the City of Kingston

CITY OF KINGSTON REPORT TO ENVIRONMENT, INFRASTRUCTURE, and KINGSTON TRANSPORTATION POLICIES COMMITTEE

(NOTE: this was converted from PDF format by me, so that those who use screen-readers can read it)

Report No.: EITP-10-031 (source: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/pdf/cityhall/committees/infrastructure/agenda/2010/EIT_A0910-10031.pdf)

TO:Chair of the Environment, Infrastructure, & Transportation Policies Committee
FROM: Denis Leger, Commissioner of Transportation, Properties & Emergency Services
RESOURCE STAFF: Sheila Kidd, Director of Transportation Services
DATE OF MEETING:September 14, 2010
SUBJECT: Kingston Transit - Priority Seating Policy

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
The purpose of this report is to recommend a policy for priority seating on Kingston Transit buses,

RECOMMENDATION:
THAT the EITP Committee recommend that Council adopt a Priority Seating Policy for Kingston Transit that designates the front space as priority seating for seniors, people with disabilities, and passengers travelling with children in strollers, on a first come, first serve basis;

THAT the policy establish a maximum size of 30 inches wide x 48 inches long and for wheelchairs, scooters and strollers.

AUTHORIZING SIGNATURES:

ORIGINAL SIGNED BY COMMISSIONER
Denis Leger, Commissioner of Transportation, Properties & Emergency Services

ORIGINAL SIGNED BY CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER
Gerard Hunt, Chief Administrative Officer

CONSULTATION WITH THE FOLLOWING COMMISSIONERS:
Cynthia Beach, Sustainability & Growth N/A
Terry Willing, Community Services N/A
Denis Leger, Transportation, Properties & Emergency Services N/A
Jim Keech, President and CEO, Utilities Kingston N/A

OPTIONS/DISCUSSION:

The front seating area on transit buses, directly behind the operator, provides a wide aisle with seats that fold up. This space is usually designated as priority seating for some passengers such as those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices like walkers, people with disabilities, seniors, and passengers travelling with children in strollers.

Given that space is limited and the demand seems to be growing, it is challenging for both passengers and bus operators to determine which passengers receive priority. Historically, Transit authorities establish guidelines for this space by adopting a Stroller Policy, which establishes the rules for passengers travelling with children in strollers. With the introduction of low-floor buses that promotes the use of transit for people with mobility devices, most transit agencies have updated their policies and/or developed priority seating policies that determine how the space is to be used.

Kingston Transit has received numerous complaints from both passengers and operators who have asked that we review the current policy and provide clear direction on the use of this space.

Current Kingston Transit Policy

Prior to the introduction of low-floor buses, the policy at Kingston Transit designated the space as priority seating for seniors and passengers with disabilities. Passengers were permitted to travel with strollers, baby carriages or shopping carts, provided they were collapsed or folded. The policy was updated to recognize that often, public transit is the only transportation option for our passengers that travel with young children.

In 2009, Kingston Transit updated the Stroller Policy to recognize strollers as a form of mobility device used by parents and caregivers travelling with young children. The current policy enables these passengers to use the front seating area and avoid having to fold their stroller, however customers with wheelchairs are given priority and the passenger travelling with a stroller is expected to vacate the space to allow a passenger in a wheelchair to board. For their own convenience, passengers in wheelchairs are encouraged to travel at non-peak time. The current policy is attached as Exhibit A.

The current policy poses a challenge as it only provides priority seating to passengers in wheelchairs. The policy does not provide priority seating to passengers with other disabilities such as vision and hearing impairments or to seniors. In addition, many passengers travel with oversized strollers that either cannot be collapsed or are still too large to stow safely even when collapsed. Furthermore, some passengers use the stroller as a shopping cart so folding it is not an option. This has resulted in disputes between passengers and creates challenges for the bus operator who is expected to intervene.

Policy Options

Staff has reviewed the policies of other transit authorities and has determined that there are generally three approaches:
  1. The front space is designated as priority class seating for seniors, people with disabilities and passengers travelling with children in strollers, on a first come, first serve basis.

    Pros
    • All priority class passengers are treated equal
    • Provides equal status for parents who travel with children and rely on public transit
    • Easier to enforce

    Cons
    • May require seniors or disabled passengers to wait for next bus if priority seating area is already occupied by a stroller passenger

  2. The front space is designated as priority seating for seniors and people with disabilities on a first come, first serve basis. Strollers are expected to be folded or collapsed in order to board.

    Pros
    • Creates more available space for seniors and passengers with disabilities

    Cons
    • Restricts passengers travelling with young children in strollers

  3. The front space is designated as priority seating for seniors, people with disabilities and passengers travelling with children in strollers, however people with disabilities and seniors have a higher priority status so passengers travelling with strollers would be asked to vacate the space if a priority passenger wanted to board. This approach requires that only strollers that can be folded or collapsed be permitted on board. It also requires size limitations to be established.

    Pros
    • Essentially reflects current Kingston Transit policy
    • Compromise for passengers travelling with strollers

    Cons
    • Difficult to enforce
    • Often requires operator intervention
    • Can create disputes between passengers
Staff is recommending Option 1 be adopted for the following reasons:
  • it establishes a priority class but does not differentiate between passengers within the class
  • it is the fairest option for all parties and there is another public transportation option for some of the priority class passengers through Kingston Access Service
  • it is easier for operators to enforce and operators prefer this option
  • Option 2 is too restrictive and places an unnecessary burden on our passengers travelling with small children in strollers who may not have another affordable service option
Size Limitations of Mobility Devices and Strollers

Kingston Transit’s fleet includes a variety of bus models, all with slightly different configurations. The use of the space can be optimized by establishing size limitations for all mobility devices that are brought on board.

The City of Hamilton’s policy indicates that their buses can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters up to 30 inches wide x 48 inches long, based on the transit standards for accessibility as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To our knowledge, a Canadian standard has not been adopted at this time. To establish a maximum size, we can rely on the minimum clear space requirement of 30 inches x 48 inches identified in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Draft Transportation Standard. This draft standard is reinforced by the fact that our ramps are 30.5 inches wide and the average door opening on the buses is 31 inches wide.

To optimize the limited space available, some transit authorities have established maximum sizes for strollers of 24 inches wide x 48 inches long. The 24-inch width restriction also ensures the stroller could manoeuvre down the aisle if necessary to accommodate more passengers.

Staff is recommending a standard size for both mobility devices and strollers providing the recommendation is approved as presented in this report.

Operator Injuries

To avoid operator injury, all passengers must have the ability to board, manoeuvre and alight independently, safely, effectively and efficiently. Operators are only required to assist with securement for passengers travelling in wheelchairs.

Communications

Communicating the policy is extremely important for passengers and operators. Staff will ensure the policy details are explained by developing clear messaging that can be posted on the buses and the City website as well as other printed materials.

Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee (MAAC)

Members of the MAAC Transportation Working Group were asked to consider the policy options and provide input regarding the policy options and the impact of implementing size limitations for wheelchairs and scooters. The Committee felt strongly that Option 3 would be preferable, understanding that it would will be more difficult to enforce. The Committee members expressed concern with leaving a person with a disability or a senior behind, particularly in inclement weather, considering these passengers are more susceptible to becoming sick. The Committee indicated Option 2 would be their second choice.

The Committee also indicated they could support a policy that imposed size restrictions for personal mobility devices because manoeuvring a scooter or larger electric chair into the space can be difficult and take extra time. Furthermore, the size of the ramp already limits many electric chairs. The Committee indicated they would support size guidelines for wheelchairs and scooters of 30 inches wide x 48 inches long.

EXISTING POLICY/BY LAW:
Kingston Transit Stroller Policy

NOTICE PROVISIONS: N/A

ACCESSIBILITY CONSIDERATIONS:
The Municipal Accessibility Advisory Committee was consulted on this policy as noted above.

FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS:
N/A

CONTACTS:
Sheila Kidd, Director of Transportation Services (613) 546-4291, Ext. 2221

OTHER CITY OF KINGSTON STAFF CONSULTED:
Members of Transit Joint Health and Safety Committee

EXHIBITS ATTACHED:
Exhibit A – Kingston Transit Stroller Policy – June 2009

Excerpt from the Proposed Integrated Accessibility Regulation under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005:

(http://www.ontariocanada.com/registry/view.do?postingId=4142&language=en)

Courtesy Seating:
  • Conventional transportation providers will be required to ensure there is clearly marked courtesy seating for persons with disabilities, as close as practicable to the entrance door.

  • Signage will be required to indicate that passengers other than persons with disabilities must vacate their seats if its use is required by person with a disability.

  • Operators will be required to ask passengers who are not using a transportable mobility aid device to vacate wheelchair securement locations, if that securement location is needed by a person using a transportable mobility aid device.
Please read my other Blogs:
Accessibility: http://wheelchairdemon.blogspot.com
Health: http://wheelchairdemon-health.blogspot.com

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, it isn't fair and this is happenning in at least one other city in ontario, to me. They can't claim equal priority. The reality is that there are only 1-2 spots per bus where wheelchairs are required to be tied down. We can't fold up, stroll to the back of the bus, or just park our chairs any where like strollers. What was the point of making buses accessible if policies prevent people in wheelchairs from getting on even nearly empty buses because strollers are in the wheelchair securment areas of the bus?

Puzuma said...

Are you on glue? Did you actually read the proposal? Did you understand it? I don't think so.

It's not ELIMINATING anything. It's expanding the scope of who can use the priority seating. In order of highest to lowest priority:
wheelchairs/scooters, elderly with canes/walker, people with guide dogs, parents with strollers, everyone else.

Strollers are being considered as mobility assist devices, meaning they would have the option to fold up the seats and take a wheelchair spot. If a wheelchair needs to gt on, guess who moves? The stroller.

You want to be pissy with something? Get pissy at all theses dumbasses that don't understand what common courtesy is. It's not high school students either. College/university students are far worse for it.

wheelchairdemon said...

I did read the proposal. Perhaps you should read it again.

It says right at the top, RECOMMENDATION:
THAT the EITP Committee recommend that Council adopt a Priority Seating Policy for Kingston Transit that designates the front space as priority seating for seniors, people with disabilities, and passengers travelling with children in strollers, on a first come, first serve basis;

The part you are referring to is written under:

OPTIONS/DISCUSSION:

The front seating area on transit buses, directly behind the operator, provides a wide aisle with seats that fold up. This space is usually designated as priority seating for some passengers such as those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices like walkers, people with disabilities, seniors, and passengers travelling with children in strollers.

If you continue reading on down you will see under Policy Options, option 1, it says in the pros and cons section, all will be treated equal and it may mean seniors and the disabled would have to wait for the next bus.

See under priority 1, cons: "May require seniors or disabled passengers to wait for next bus if priority seating area is already occupied by a stroller passenger."

In other words, they wanted to eliminate the option for wheelchairs to have priority over that space. They wanted to stop giving the wheelchair user, seniors, and disabled, priority over the strollers using that space. A stroller can move. Wheelchairs, by law, can't. They must be tied down on a bus.

The point of this Blog was to ask, "How can a city even think to make such a discriminatory ruling?"

Other people can move and sit anywhere they want in a bus; they don't have a law to restrict them, so I took great exception to this planned policy change.

Thankfully, in the end, the policy change was withdrawn after I reacted, sent a letter to the transit manager and city staffers, and quoted the Human Rights code and the proposed new Transportation Standards soon to be released by the province.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you chucklehead, but you can't have it both ways.

Do you want to be treated equally or do you want preferential treatment because you're in a chair?

Let everyone have EQUAL access to the bus. If you can't hack the fact that you're equal to everyone else, to damn bad. Same goes to women. Courtesy and equal rights to fit together.

wheelchairdemon said...

Fine. I'll call the Ministry of Transportation and ask that it be made mandatory to tie ALL passengers to the floor of the bus.

Come on now. There are 35 seats on the bus, or something close to that, and only 2 spots for wheelchairs and strollers.

If you think it is appropriate to leave me on the side of the road because of a law, then I suggest you do some brushing up on the Human Rights Code and the Accessibility For Ontarian's With Disabilities Act that will soon be an enforceable law.

Believe me, if I had a choice, I would scrap the wheelchair and take any seat I wanted to on the bus.

Sadly that is not a choice I can make.

wheelchairdemon said...

By the way, equal also means letting me into every single store in Kingston - i.e. removing the steps right away, bringing in Accessible Taxis right away....

I'm willing to let things be phased in so think about it. It only makes sense to let me on the bus.

Snarky1 said...

What did people with strollers do before wheelchair spaces were made?
My disability does not allow me to wait in the COLD for an HOUR for the next buss.