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How Effective is the Integrated Accessibility Standard, Part IV – Transportation? Not so Much!

By Karen McCall, M.Ed.
July 30, 2012

After reading the article on the Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities Act blog entitled “Wheelchair Users Pay More for Taxis” there is even more evidence that those of us with disabilities are still being discriminated against in the area of accessible affordable transportation.

Combined with the current situation in the County of Brant where claims that those of us with disabilities were abusing a specialized transportation service by going shopping, participating in recreational activities and in general being independent, we may be seeing only the tip of the iceberg of the problem with the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation.

One would think that an arbitrary “industry standard” by a taxi company to charge people with disabilities more for transportation would be trumped by a provincial law/regulation.

One would also think that it would be trumped by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code (with reference also to section 11 of the code which prohibits another layer of discrimination being added to a group already identified in the code), and the Ontario Human Rights Commission Duty to Accommodate which has information on accessible affordable transportation as well as funding and criteria for undue hardship which must be met.

Combine all of those rights with the Canadian ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and what do we have?

When it comes to accessible affordable transportation we have chaos, discrimination, over charging of people who can easily be identified through Statistics Canada as being under educated, under employed and among the lowest income earners in the country. And a vast lack of knowledge and understanding of the barriers encountered by people with disabilities in accessing education, employment and transportation. This last point surfaces in the belief that to provide accessible affordable transportation is a gift to us, a gift that can be taken away at the whim of “our pseudo parents.”

In trying to work through the issues in the County of Brant with respect to continuing the specialized transportation service, both elected officials and staff have a new mantra: “You can’t sue us. Specialized transportation service is a gift. We don’t have to do it.” And the unspoken part of this is “And we can take it away from you any time we want, you ungrateful children.”

It is interesting that some municipalities conveniently forget that transportation in Canada is subsidized to some extent whether through collaborative projects, the gas tax, transfer payments, other subsidies or by advertising. For some reason providing subsidies to accessible transportation to ensure that transportation is affordable is seen as something out of the ordinary and some type of charity that can be arbitrarily applied and removed at any time. Subsidized transportation whether it is “conventional” or “specialized” is the big purple elephant in the room of specialized transportation services.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act including the Customer Service Standard, the Integrated Accessibility Standard and the upcoming Built Environment Standard are NOT complaint based. Those of us with disabilities have no recourse when we are faced with blatant discrimination
contrary to all of the human rights conventions, charters and codes listed above and the provincial law establishing “standards.” When the Ministry of Community and Social Services and the accessibility Directorate were contacted regarding the situation in the County of Brant, the response was for those of us with disabilities to turn to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. We can’t even complain to the Ontario Ombudsman!

This means that the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be overwhelmed with complaints related to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and those complaints will take years to sort out. All one has to do is to look at Nova Scotia where there is no AODA type legislation and where 50% of the human rights complaints are from people with disabilities who are being discriminated against to see the writing on the wall.

The other side of this is that there is currently no mechanism of enforcing the AODA and many municipalities are just going to wait it out until 2025.

There are many sections of the Integrated Accessibility Standard not yet done by the County of Brant and there is no hurry to catch up. There is no enforcement, no oversight, no policing of the standards so who cares.

Back to the situation in Aurora. If we look at the sections of the Integrated Accessibility Standard there is hope until we discover that the AODA is not complaint driven nor is there any enforcement or oversight. But let’s go through the sections as an academic exercise.

From the list of definitions under the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation: “taxicab” means a motor vehicle as defined in the Highway Traffic Act, other than a car pool vehicle, having a seating capacity of not more than six persons, exclusive of the driver, hired for one specific trip for the transportation exclusively of one person or group of persons, one fare or charge only being collected or made for the trip and that is licensed as a taxicab by a municipality; (“taxi”)

There is no definition for limousine. Limousines are typically licensed under a different category in municipalities.

Now to specific sections regarding taxis:

79. (1) Every municipality shall consult with its municipal accessibility advisory committee, where one has been established in accordance with subsection 29 (1) or (2) of the Act, the public and persons with disabilities to determine the proportion of on-demand accessible taxicabs required in the community.

(2) Every municipality shall identify progress made toward meeting the need for on-demand accessible taxicabs, including any steps that will be taken to meet the need, in its accessibility plan required under Part I.

(3) Municipalities shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2013.

(4) In this section, “accessible taxicab” means an accessible taxicab as defined in section 1 of Regulation 629 of the Revised Regulations of Ontario, 1990 (Vehicles for the Transportation of Physically Disabled Persons) made under the Highway Traffic Act.

80. (1) any municipality that licenses taxicabs shall ensure that owners and operators of taxicabs are prohibited, (a) from charging a higher fare or an additional fee for persons with disabilities than for persons without disabilities for the same trip; and
(b) From charging a fee for the storage of mobility aids or mobility assistive devices.

(2) Any municipality that licenses taxicabs shall ensure that owners and operators of taxicabs place vehicle registration and identification information on the rear bumper of the taxicab.

(3) Any municipality that licenses taxicabs shall ensure that owners and operators of taxicabs make available vehicle registration and identification information in an accessible format to persons with disabilities who are passengers.

(4) The information in subsection (2) shall meet the requirements of subsection 58 (3).
(5) Municipalities described in this section shall meet the requirements in this section, (a) By July 1, 2011, in respect of subsection (1); and
(b) By January 1, 2012, in respect of subsections (2) and (3).

It is clear from the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation that excluding the argument that a taxi is not a conventional transportation service, that fare parity is in place and has been since 2012. Again, where is the enforcement of the legislation?

In looking at the Ontario Highway Traffic Act it appears that taxis and limousines are licensed separately and are not interchangeable. Reference is made repeatedly to taxicabs and limousines as though they are separate licenses and services. If you go to the Business Licenses section of the Aurora web site there is an inaccessible PDF document outlining the business licenses issued and limousine and taxicabs are separate licenses. This seems to indicate that calling an accessible vehicle a limousine in order to overcharge people with disabilities for rides should be brought to the attention of not only the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Accessibility Directorate and the municipality but also the better business bureau and the Ontario Ombudsman.

The semantic difference between limousine and taxi is somewhat disingenuous as an excuse to deny accessible affordable transportation to people with disabilities. I also go back to the fare parity standard in the Integrated Accessibility Standard, part IV – Transportation and the responsibility of the municipality to ensure compliance.

In any event, the responsibility of the municipality is clear: a person with a disability is not to be charged more than the metered fare for a taxi ride. Taxis are to have accessible vehicles available for those who need them. It is part of doing business and meeting the needs of customers. The fact that we are even having this conversation illustrates that in some municipalities those of us with disabilities might as well be living in a developing country instead of Canada.

Resources

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act document I reviewed was Ontario Regulation 366/09 regarding displays in vehicles. I couldn’t find a specific document regulating taxis and limousines so this might be under the responsibility of the municipality.