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Transit Raises Accessibility Concerns

Mike Zettel, Staff
Oct 05, 2010 – 2:06 PM

While the city has given itself top marks for adhering to provincial accessibility standards, one department has expressed concern over the “aggressive”
timeline in which to meet them.

In a report to council on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, CAO Colin Briggs noted the Ministry of Community and Social Services is
seeking input on its proposed integrated standard, which would apply to transportation, employment and information and communications.

The report notes that feedback from various municipalities and municipal organization such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has generally
been positive. Most agree with the non-prescriptive approach, but question how the province will ensure consistent use of methods, technology and communication.

In the report, Briggs states the city considers itself to be highly proactive in identifying and removing barriers to accessibilities.

This led Coun. Bruce Williamson to ask if there was any other evidence of that, something a little more objective.

Briggs said feedback from the mayor’s advisory committee on accessibility has been positive, and Mayor Brian McMullan has been invited to participate in
a video put out by the ministry on the topic.

“It’s good to hear we have a proactive mayor,” Williamson replied.

The report contained a letter from the city’s transit commission. Signed by general manager Dave Sherlock and commission chair Rick Werner, it applauds
the consolidation of the three standards into one regulation as beneficial, but raises the concern about the proposed 2018 deadline for meeting them.

While the Premier had initially stated 2025 as the target year for business and public organizations to phase in the standards, the transportation standards
have been bumped up, the letter states.

Doing so could mean the commission will have to defer other priorities.

The letter also addresses specific regulations, such as one to have the driver assist all passengers with boarding. Currently drivers help people with
disabilities when it is safe and reasonable to do so. Helping every passenger would make it impossible for buses to keep to schedule.

Another change would prohibit transit services from charging fares to caregivers, and the letter questions how these people would be identified and notes
this would affect revenue.

It’s also proposed that passengers without disabilities would be compelled to give up their seat if someone with disabilities needs it.

The letter states that signs would imply the rule would be enforced by drivers.

“To expect our drivers to attempt to force anyone out of their seat has the potential to create or escalate a conflict,” they wrote.

If the standard becomes law, the commission would have to keep its specialized transit booking office open until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, which
would be costly and has not been needed to meet its Paratransit customers’ needs.

Reproduced from http://www.niagarathisweek.com/news/article/882855–transit-raises-accessibility-concerns