transportation

Dear Mayor Tory,

I write to you as a concerned citizen of Ward 6 Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and the City of Toronto, to request your support to continue with some accessible buses on the 501 streetcar line and other streetcar lines, and for shuttle bus service for major elevator disruptions, and that these items be reflected in the City’s budget for 2018.

Since January 2017, accessible replacement buses have been running across the 501 streetcar route during track reconstruction, this route is scheduled to return to inaccessible this month. Because the replacement buses are accessible and the streetcars are not, this construction has greatly improved my quality of life and that of many other TTC passengers.

Having accessibility on this line allows me to access my closest grocery store, rather than one much further away. It also made it possible for me to take a spontaneous trip to High Park with my young nephews. It made my trips from downtown shorter by half; a particularly safer option for a young woman such as myself when travelling at night to visit friends. I’ve also seen seniors have a much easier time getting to St. Joseph’s Hospital because of the accessibility on that line.

I’m not suggesting we stop having streetcars. Streetcars transport more people than buses, and that’s important. I also know that even if the TTC had all of the new accessible streetcars it ordered from Bombardier, we would still have old streetcars on that line, not enough streetcars were ordered to fully replace them. In short, there is no plan in place to return accessibility on the 501 route to levels experienced in 2017. If the 511 streetcar route can have buses due to a lack of accessible streetcars, the same can be done for the 501, and other routes.

Earlier this year, the elevator was down at Yonge and Bloor station, denying me and many others access to the Bloor line from that station for over a week. At Kennedy Station, that elevator has been down since October and is not scheduled to come back in service until January. The next closest accessible station is Victoria Park. There’s no shuttle service set up between stations either. It’s understandable that sometimes elevators break down, but passengers who use the elevators deserve shuttle buses just as they would have during any other service disruption.

In a world class city like Toronto, we know that people with disabilities deserve equitable service, on the TTC, and that starts with giving passengers with disabilities equitable dignity, respect, and consideration.  The budget for the TTC should reflect that as well.

Disability advocate Tim Rose is attempting to fly to Cleveland to deliver a presentation on the importance of accessibility. But, ironically, he can’t get there because a major airline is refusing to accommodate – or even brainstorm possible ways to meet – his needs. Although Air Canada is the only airline to fly there direct (and thus Tim’s only reasonable option), they are refusing to transport his wheelchair because it is too difficult for them. Despite the fact that he has flown this exact route with Air Canada on a similar plane before (not to mention flown many times around the world). Despite the fact that their own accessibility policy commits to transporting mobility aids that do not fit on smaller planes by another method. and despite the fact that they have almost two months to come up with a solution. They are saying Tim wanting to fly with his wheelchair is the same thing as trying to bring an oversized bag. Tim and his wheelchair are not baggage.

This is hardly the first time people with disabilities have received inequitable treatment by Air Canada, see this article from 2009, and this article from 2015 for just a couple examples.

A while back I also started a petition related to this issue.

See Tim’s video below. Apologies this video is not yet captioned. I will post a captioned video when it becomes available.

 

 

Sign the Petition.

Every time I fly I make a silent apology to my wheelchair. I leave the chair at the gate, fingers crossed, as I’m transported to the cushy seat on the plain with a small screen in front to distract me from what’s happening to my wheelchair in the cargo hold.

For my wheelchair this journey will be far more hazardous. Once it leaves my sight, this machine that provides me with daily independence, freedom, and mobility, gets thrown on the carts and on to the loading machines with the similar respect that passengers suitcases would expect.

Imagine watching you 600 pound chair get tossed on its side and just hoping your chair isn’t melted, broken, or taken apart by the time you reach your destination. Yes, these things actually happen to people.

I’ve looked up the standards and regulations, it turns out Transport Canada is really concerned about wheelchair batteries, as they should be. They are also rightly concerned about the accessibility of the aircraft, there are also Training Regulations for Employees and Contractors Who Handle Mobility Aids. These were written in 1994.

They state:

Every carrier shall ensure that, consistent with its type of operation, all employees and contractors of the carrier who may be required to handle mobility aids receive the training described in section 4 (Employees and Contractors who interact with the Public) and a level of training appropriate to the requirements of their function in the following areas:

(a) different types of mobility aids;

(b) requirements, limitations and procedures for securing, carrying and stowing mobility aids in the passenger compartment of a vehicle; and

(c) proper methods of carrying and stowing mobility aids in the baggage compartment of a vehicle, including the disassembling, packaging, unpackaging and assembling of the mobility aids.

Were you expecting more details? Me too.

So here’s my point:

Power wheelchairs cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. I hate to make that argument, but it’s true. It’s also a good thing because that independence allows the people who need the devices to do great things that give back to the economy.

People who use mobility devices do a lot of flying, I don’t have statistics, but I’m fairly certain it has increased since 1994 when that training was put in place.

I think it’s time we treated mobility devices and the people who use them with a little more respect. When Canadians voted in their government last fall Prime Minister Trudeau promised a Canadians with Disabilities Act, and it seems like it’s been forgotten ever since.

I’m hoping he proves me wrong.

Canada makes changes to the way Canadians fly for all kinds of reasons, but changing the way we transport mobility aids would benefit Canadians, save us money in replacing these devices, and boost the economy by encouraging travel.

We can do this! Sign the Petition.

Report from the AODA Alliance

Even though the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation has finally been enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, will Toronto transit passengers face new barriers in the future when paying fares to ride the TTC?

On June 6, 2011, the media reported that the City of Toronto was working out, or had worked out, an agreement for the Toronto Transit Commission to adopt the Ontario Government’s Presto Smart Card for paying TTC transit fares. Yet we have no word that the Ontario Government has removed the serious accessibility barriers in the Presto Smart Card that can impede transit patrons with disabilities from fully using it on a footing of equality.

We have waged an ongoing campaign to ensure that public money is never used to create new barriers against persons with disabilities. As part of this, last year, the AODA Alliance made public serious concerns about barriers against persons with disabilities in the Presto Smart Card technology, which was custom-designed with public money. We caused the Transportation Minister to revisit this technology, because of these concerns. However, the McGuinty Government did not commit to our request that it halt the roll-out of the Presto Smart Card until the barriers were removed.

Now, on learning of the recent developments in Toronto, the AODA Alliance wrote to the Toronto Mayor, the TTC Chair, and Ontario’s Transportation Minister. We asked them to commit that the Presto Smart Card will not be rolled out in the TTC until those barriers are removed and the Presto Smart Card is fully accessible to transit passengers with disabilities. We reminded them of the requirements for ensuring accessibility under the Human Rights Code, the Canadian Charter of Rights, and the new Integrated Accessibility Regulation enacted last Friday under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We set out that letter below.

Write your Member of the Legislature about this, to support our position. If you are in Toronto, write the TTC Chair, the mayor and your councillor to raise this issue. Let the media know about it. Everything you need to know is set out in this letter, and the web pages to which its links point.

Peter Athanasopoulos apologized to six mayoral candidates: the wheelchair-accessible cab he ordered had arrived 30 minutes late.

His difficulties reaching a debate on disability issues in Toronto, a city whose subway stations won’t be guaranteed accessible until 2024, underscored Athanasopoulos’s argument transportation is a “huge issue” for people like him.

“I would have taken the subway but the gap was just way too big and it wouldn’t be safe for me,” he added during a debate Tuesday, June 29 in which contenders for mayor clashed over whether to keep group homes apart and how best to move disability issues forward at City Hall.

The city’s Disability Issues Committee, an advisory group that meets four times a year, might not serve that purpose, several candidates suggested at the forum hosted by non-profit groups at the University of Toronto’s Innis College.

“What’s there now is a way to appease the community,” said Giorgio Mammoliti, who suggested a dedicated committee of council could make more substantial changes happen.

If the disability committee is only a “feel good” group, “let’s blow it up,” George Smitherman suggested, but said he’d give the committee more power and make senior staff responsible for achieving its goals.

Smitherman, a former MPP, said the city needs to adopt “more exacting targets” for hiring a diverse workforce, including people with disabilities.

Sarah Thomson, a publisher, said her administration will use remote or work-from-home programs and new technologies to open more municipal jobs to the disabled.

Rob Ford, an Etobicoke councillor and business owner, said financial incentives would encourage companies to hire workers with disabilities. Ford, who often names city spending he considers excessive, said more should be spent on making buildings accessible to the disabled.

“You should spend a lot of money helping these people out.”

Ford also said he sees no need to keep the city’s required 250-metre separation between group homes, adding he doesn’t believe in spreading them out. “If there can be four in a row, why not?”

Joe Pantalone, also a city councillor, said the distance requirements for group homes ensure they are distributed fairly. “If you really believe in spreading the wealth around, if you will, then you got to make sure every neighbourhood has its share of everything,” he said.

“Distance requirements achieve that.”

But Rocco Rossi, a former Liberal Party of Canada president, suggested enforcing such “Byzantine” rules for group homes takes options away from people with disabilities and said he was appalled by Pantalone’s view on spreading them out.

“Where does that end? Does that say every fourth house can be Italian, every third house can be Greek?” he asked.

From the audience, John Rae, vice president of Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, said right-wing candidates like to cut programs and contract them out to the private sector, an approach he warned against. “We in the disabled community know trickle-down economics rarely if ever trickles down to us.”

But later, Rae, though still undecided, said he had been most impressed by the performance of Thomson, the candidate whom Pantalone argued “wants to contract out everything.”

Rae said he was impressed with Thomson’s “no nonsense” support for his suggestion the city should stop purchasing all items that cannot be used by everyone who wants to work for the city.

Meanwhile, Athanasopoulos, part of an earlier event in which Rossi and Smitherman experienced the challenges of using a wheelchair for a day, was wearing a Smitherman button. He said he has seen Smitherman’s work with community organizations, and believes he will solve issues for people with disabilities.

Reproduced from http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/cityhall/article/841942–mayoral-candidates-debate-disability-issues