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

4 comments:

Emily said...

Keep up the great work by continuing telling the world about these misadventures and horrible inconveniences.

Marc Bernstein said...

Please continue to speak up for disabled people in Toronto who use Wheel-Trans.
I have an issue (really a grief) with Wheel-Trans: I live alone,in an apartment,I am self-employed,a Diabetic (Type 2,on Insulin) suffer from Anemia,Vertigo,High blood pressure. For the past 3 months I have been dealing with unpleasant complications-medical: due a double Cellulitus Skin infection in both my legs. I am on a antibiotic. In and frequently out of emergency hospitals. I received an unpleasant phone call earlier this morning from a nasty Wheel-Trans agent,stating that on March 29th,I had 5 no-shows that day. I explained to her I was in hospital,could not get to a phone in time. She took an arrogant tone,telling me I was costing their riders thousands of dollars!! I protest! I am a learning disabled person,59 years old,with many ongoing health struggles. I resent being treated as a criminal and abuser of Wheel-Trans! I on on CPP,Disability Pension per month,plus ODSP. I did not ask to be disabled. Feel that my human rights are being violated by Wheel-Trans officials. The drivers are wonderful. However,it is the Wheel-Trans officials who are extremely arrogant and tend to look down on all disabled users of Wheel-Trans. An advocate would help.

wheelchairdemon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wheelchairdemon said...

Marc,

It is important that you write a formal complaint and send it into Wheel-Trans Customer Service. Their email address is wheeltrans.customerservice@ttc.ca or phone them between 8:00am and 4:00 pm at 416-393-4111.

If there was a medical reason for missing the bus those strikes can be reversed.

Another option to air this critically important grievance is to ACAT (Advisory Committee for Accessible Transit). It can be done via a deputation. ACAT can hear what the problem is and then take action.

Any requests to make a deputation to ACAT must be made ten (10) days prior to the upcoming ACAT meeting. Deputant must provide a brief written overview of the topic/s to be addressed to acat@ttc.ca.

I hope this helps.