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Group Questions LRT Accessibility for Visually Impaired

Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians meeting with city officials Monday CBC News Posted: Jan 29, 2018

The Ottawa chapter of the Alliance for the Equality of Blind Canadians is concerned Ottawa’s new LRT trains won’t be easily accessible for visually impaired riders.

Just when Ottawa’s new light rail system will be up and running remains an open question, but some blind and visually impaired transit users are already raising concerns the trains won’t be properly equipped to meet their needs.

City officials will meet Monday evening with the local chapter of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians to discuss those concerns.

Alliance president Peter Field said the group has already heard about some features of the new train cars that might be difficult for passengers to operate, including buttons to open doors.

“As a blind or visually impaired passenger, how are you going to find those?” Field asked on CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning.

No followup from city

Field said the city first met with the alliance two years ago to discuss the project, but there’s been no followup to address potential problems.

‘We talked about building it to be accessible from the beginning.’

– Peter Field, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians

“One of the commitments they made to us in 2016 is that we would have a chance to look at a car before they’re live, and that would help a lot. But that hasn’t happened.”

He said beyond basic issues, the alliance would like to see the system embrace digital navigation, allowing visually impaired passengers to use their smartphones to help find their way through stations.

Field said other cities around the world have deployed similar systems, and he said the alliance suggested Ottawa follow their lead.

“We talked about building it to be accessible from the beginning, and this is one of the things we pointed to, and at that point there really wasn’t much take-up on it.”

‘Accessibility for all’ promised

According to an overview of the Alstom Citadis on the Confederation Line website, the trains, which are currently undergoing testing, feature “easy accessibility for all,” as well as “real-time display information” on board.

OC Transpo’s $12-million automated bus stop announcement system came under fire recently when visually impaired passengers complained it failed so often it was practically useless.

The Canadian Transportation Agency fined OC Transpo $25,000 in December following a CBC story about the failures.

The city installed a system to announce bus stop locations two years ago, which helps visually impaired riders, but the system was only installed after two fines from the Canadian Transportation Authority.

Monday’s meeting between the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and city officials is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Festival Room at Ottawa City Hall.

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