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Accessibility and Transitions

August 28, 2015
Christopher Lytle MA CDS

There is an accessibility consideration that I have been thinking about for quite some time which isn’t covered under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is the accessibility of transition. It was a thought that started around the same time as when the new subways started to show up in Toronto, and the height and width became a new barrier for some people who rely on transit to get to and from work.

The accessibility of transitions could be represented by the area or time in which a person with a disability moves from element to element. So, the gap in which someone must cross to get from the subway to the platform or the time it takes to transfer a mobility device from the street corner to a bus could be viewed in terms of this inquiry. What I find very interesting is that after transit systems have on-boarded accessible vehicles to allow for the transportation of people with disabilities, the aspect of time might not have been viewed as a mitigating factor.

This might seem benign, but if the schedule of a transit system is set so that it allows for a certain window of time for people to board and to get from stop to stop, the effect of lowering a ramp and securing a wheelchair might throw off the carefully timed schedule of the transit system. The problem is not that of the person with a disability. I’d venture to suggest that the process of transition from stop and pick up does not recognize that, for people with disabilities, accommodation might also equate more time.

As you know, the AODA makes suggestions that accommodation be delivered in a timely manner but in terms of providing smooth transition from one physical element to another it falls short. While this works for things like the exchange of information and accommodation requests, it doesn’t do very much for improving transit organization.

The impact is two-fold. For employees who need to get work in Ontario, a scheduled bus might be only chance they get to connect with other transit in order to arrive on time. For people with disabilities either being late for work or being seen as the cause of a delay is how stigma perpetuates itself. This is just a thought piece, but I think it is wise to bring it into the mix because conversations like these are important to have.

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