Monday, September 13, 2010

Update on Courtesy Seating on Transit Issue

Well, today I got a letter from the manager from Kingston Transit saying she spent the weekend reviewing various things; letters from 2 individuals (I was one) and the proposed Integrated Standard that will soon be coming down from the province, and she has decided to withdraw her motion.

At first, I thought this was great news. But then I thought about it. If she was withdrawing the motion, what protection would we have left? If she had to create the motion she must of felt there were problems. Besides, I knew there were problems because, on at least one occasion, I had been left on the side of the road to wait for the next bus.

So I wrote her back and asked that she solidify the more sensible motion; the one that would ensure there was courtesy seating for seniors, people with disabilities, and parents with strollers, but that this group be prioritized according to need as well. In other words, if a person got on with a wheelchair, the strollers would have to move.

She wrote back and said there was no need to pass the policy because it already existed.

Huh? You mean there was a good policy and they were trying to defeat it? I had to re-read the suggested report that was supposed to be passed into a motion in Council tomorrow night, Sept 14th, to find out why there was a problem. Nothing was making sense anymore.

Well, I re-read it and I got mad. I decided enough was enough so I wrote her back a VERY HARSH letter telling her her actions were discriminatory and she should give up her job.

Here is the letter. This letter was sent to her, the Accessibility Advisory Committee, and all city councillors, including the mayor. I am boiling mad.

Hi Sheila,

You have me completely and totally puzzled.
In your report you say, "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."
Okay, then I guess the policy exists. But why, may I ask, did you believe that the policy needed to be changed to provide equal access for parents with strollers?

For that matter, why did you feel you can counter the opinion of the MAAC, a committee that must exist by law, when they have clearly voted against Kingston Transit even changing the policy to begin with?

Just because Transit found it inconvenient to enforce one of their policies does not mean you can automatically ignore their opinion and change the law so that it will discriminate against the disabled.

To use a stroller is a choice - a convenience. It is not mandatory. Therefore, it is not, as you say in the report, a mobility device for children.

A wheelchair is NOT a choice. It is mandatory for people who, because of a disability, can no longer walk to get around.

Here are some quotes from the Ontario Human Rights Commission Web site (Source:
..... In some circumstances, employees with disabilities may require special arrangements or “accommodations” .... (if you read the act further you will see that this applies to more than just an employment relationship).

Customers, clients and tenants with disabilities also have the right to equal treatment and equal access to facilities and services. “Facilities and services” could be restaurants, shops, hotels, and movie theatres, as well as apartment buildings, transit and other public places.
Basically, what I am saying is your attempt to change the policy to one that would be more convenient for transit is one of the most blatant examples of discrimination I have ever seen. I am truly sorry you feel that we can be equal to the able-bodied, or that we should endure the hardship of not being able to get on the bus, and perhaps wait in the rain, because you think strollers should be given equal access to the tie-down section in the front of the bus.

I am seriously concerned about your attitude and, to be honest, I do not believe you should be able to keep your job with Kingston Transit.

Other examples of your failure to accommodate the disabled were made evident when you phoned me to tell me that, because of my scent sensitivity and your concern about the steepness of ramps at certain stops, that I should go back to using the Access Bus for all trips for which I would need to get to a destination on time.

You made it very clear that you would not enforce a scent free policy so, if I needed to get off the bus to breathe, so be it.

You also said the driver would be allowed to refuse to pick me up or drop me off at certain stops if HE or SHE decided it was unsafe. In that conversation I told you how I would often wait in a place that was safer; where there was a curb, and the bus would still stop at the curb cut, but it did not seem to matter. You still said the driver can refuse to let me board if he or she thought the ramp was too steep. This attitude too, is discriminatory.

I gave in after your phone call and started using the Access Bus full-time, and basically stopped using your service, because I could not handle the emotional turmoil of not knowing if I could stay on the bus and make it to my destination on time.

Let me make this clear.

Wearing scent is optional - breathing is not.

Therefore, there is no reason why a driver can't ask a passenger to sit at the back of the bus, or if need be, catch the next one if their scent is causing a serious health issue in another passenger.

The design of bus stops is not my problem. Kingston Transit started to take wheelchairs in Nov 2006. Since then several new bus stops were built with curb cuts in them so this has made them unsafe for a wheelchair. It has also made it impossible for us to board the bus at some stops.

To adopt a policy that says we can't use your service if we can't independently board or disembark from a bus because the stops were not built to be safe, is again wrong.

By giving in and going back to using the Access Bus full time, I have been forced to absorb the added cost of using it, and endure a severe financial hardship because they do not offer a subsidy or a bus pass. This too is wrong.

Need I remind you that you also asked the city to subsidize low-income passengers who use Kingston Transit because you recognized they can't afford to pay for the $65 bus pass?

Did you ever stop to think that, because the Access Bus charges $2.25 per ride, that the fares for passengers who go out a lot and have to use their service would have their fares go up to almost $200 per month? Why, if you are going to limit my choice of using the conventional service, did you not ask for the subsidy to be applied to all forms of public transit in Kingston? I can't afford to absorb these costs because you have decided to limit my ability to reliably use Kingston Transit.

I have had to give up a lot (cable, food and the ability to participate in social activities) because your discriminatory policies have forced me to pay more than quadruple the amount for the Access Bus than what people on low income pay for Kingston Transit.

In closing, I will again remind you that there is a duty for Kingston Transit to accommodate a person who uses a wheelchair no matter what the bus stop design is, how many strollers are on the bus, or what their health issue is, in regards to the wearing of an optional product by another passenger.

Please fix it NOW. Otherwise, the human rights complaints (3 of them) that I had written up some time ago, but thought I would hold off sending in an effort to be fair to Kingston, will finally be sent. I was hoping that, through education about disability accommodation, that I could spare the City of Kingston the legal costs of having to defend themselves against the charges of violating the human rights act.



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