October 19, 2011
Hamilton’s disabled community will have an on-demand taxi service eventually. Right now, there is no clear picture on how that will look — and we won’t
find out for some time.
In July 2011, the province legislated taxi services should have fare and service level parity between disabled and able-bodied persons — including the same wait times. But the details on how much service would be provided and how that would be implemented have been left up to the municipalities.
Revisions to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act have forced municipalities to have a plan — and an appropriate number of totally accessible, on-demand taxis ready — by Jan. 1, 2013. The legislation does not make any specific recommendation as to the proportional amount of accessible taxis based on a community’s population.
The local disabled community and taxi cab owners, drivers and brokers had a lot of questions after Tuesday night’s public meeting hosted by the City of
Hamilton, where officials were short on answers. The city will bring Thursday’s suggestions to the planning committee in early 2012.
“It’s only the beginning of something we’re starting and reviewing,” said Vince Ormand, manager of licensing and permits.
“One hundred per cent of the vehicles have to be accessible,” said Aznive Mallett, who uses Hamilton’s Disabled and Aged Regional Transport System (DARTS) to get to and from her job at Hamilton Health Sciences.
Mallett expects the process could be phased in, but Blue Line Taxi owner Anthony Rizzuti says, without concrete numbers, it’s hard to estimate what level of service would be needed.
“It’s impossible to do 100 per cent,” said Rizzuti, noting many seniors ask for sedan taxis over vans (the taxis that would be converted for wheelchair
access), because of the ease of getting in and out.
“I would consider they revamp DARTS and make them 24/7,” added Rizzuti. Legislation isn’t leaning that way, specifically asking for taxis to be accessible.
Ormand noted it would cost approximately $15,000 to retrofit a van to be totally accessible, and $40,000 for a new vehicle tailored for this specific service.
The Ontario Taxi Workers Union is worried those costs will trickle down to the drivers, and some have disabilities themselves. Training costs and increases to insurance were also brought up as concerns.
“There are a ton of hurdles that need to be overcome,” said Rizzuti.