Human Rights

Under Represented, Under Funded, Under Served

Man using white cane searching for bus stop

Under Represented, Under Funded, Under Served

Republished Post From October 16, 2018 / See update in comments below.

By David Brun, Director, Gateway Navigation CCC Limited Website:

A recent shout-out by Rob Sleath a disability Advocate and Consultant. Frustrated by 20-years of inaction by TransLink to implement accessible bus stops for the blind and partially-sighted. Reflects a historic reality of the visually-impaired consumer.  Being under represented in policy making; under funded in Public and Private Sector investment; and not surprisingly under served in most areas in which equal access is considered a fundamental human right.

In 1998 a group of blind consumers and members of the TransLink Disability Advisory Group. Presented TransLink’s Executive with detailed information and their recommendation for the implementation of universally designed accessible bus stops. Like level entry curbs at intersections used by individuals with mobility challenges. This design standard would assist the nearly 1-million Canadians that are blind or partially-sighted to more safely, confidently and effortlessly access buses within the public transit system. The fact that nothing has happened in over 20-years of dialogue between visually-impaired consumers and the Metro Vancouver Transit Authority – in creating accessible bus stops. Reflects a lack of meaningful dialogue to move forward on this important issue.

The Directors of Gateway Navigation CCC Limited and our Advisors from the Canadian Council of the Blind. Agree and support the position that 20-years of inaction in creating accessible bus stops is unacceptable. We would also conclude that the consultation process being used by TransLink needs to be re-evaluated. As the involvement of stakeholders and setting their roles and responsibilities is fundamental to building equal access in public transit.

Gateway is committed to promoting and participating in a consultation process as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Commission Report on Equal Access to Public Transit: March 27, 2002. Only by bringing stakeholders together and defining roles and responsibilities can we move from inaction to action. By being part of the decision-making process, developing sustainable solutions funded by both public and private investment. Will contribute to the goal of achieving equal access in public transit for all users.

Please comment on this post and let us know what you think.

The following is the OHRC Executive Summary from the above Report.

“Equal access by persons with disabilities, older Ontarians, and families with young children to adequate, dignified public transit services is a right protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code. For many, it is also a necessity – to obtain an education, find and keep a job, or use basic public services like health care. Lack of access to transit may also lead to isolation, as visiting friends or participating in the life of the community becomes difficult or impossible.

Recognizing the importance of accessible public transportation to the ability of persons with disabilities, older Ontarians, and families with young children to fully and equally participate in their communities, during 2001 the Ontario Human Rights Commission consulted with transit providers, seniors’ organizations, disability consumer groups, labour organizations, advocacy groups and individuals regarding the status of accessible transit in Ontario.

Unfortunately, equal access to transit services is far from reality for many Ontarians. While many improvements have been made in recent years to improve the accessibility of conventional transit services, such as increased use of low-floor or lift-equipped buses, and modifications to bus and subway stations, progress remains slow, and many of Ontario’s transit systems anticipate that it will take 15 years or more to achieve maximum accessibility. At the same time, there are troubling limitations in many of Ontario’s specialized or paratransit systems. Patrons too often face restrictive eligibility criteria, long waits for rides, punitive cancellation policies, and unequal fare structures.

Improvements in accessibility of public transit services have been hampered by a lack of resources. Public funding for transit in Ontario is relatively low, accounting for only 25% of revenues, the rest coming from the fare box, as compared to American transit systems, which typically receive about 60% of their revenue from public sources.

Another stumbling block has been the lack of common, objective standards or benchmarks for accessible transit services. Standards are essential in motivating and sustaining increased accessibility, as well as in ensuring that access to transit is not contingent on where in Ontario people live.

Accessible transit is a complex issue, involving many players. For advances to be made, all players – transit providers, municipalities, senior levels of government, non-governmental organizations, the Ontario Human Rights Commission itself, and persons with disabilities - must rethink their roles and responsibilities, and work together to find solutions.

The Commission recommends that transit providers set a goal of full integration and accessibility; design inclusively when developing new policies and procedures, creating new services, or building or purchasing new structures or capital equipment; develop and maintain plans to achieve full integration and accessibility; involve persons with disabilities, and older Ontarians when planning accessibility improvements; and take all steps short of undue hardship to achieve integration and maximum accessibility.

The Ministry of Transportation has an important role to play in this field and should take accessibility issues into account when considering transit funding initiatives. As well, the passage of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the creation of the Accessibility Directorate create a timely opportunity to address the urgent need for standards for accessible transit services.

The Commission itself will continue to take an active role in furthering transit accessibility. It will work with transit service providers to ensure they understand their human rights obligations and work to fulfill them. As well, the Commission will continue to monitor developments in this area, and to raise awareness about these issues through a variety of communication mediums.”

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One reply on “Under Represented, Under Funded, Under Served”

Earlier this year. TransLink and the City of New Westminster cohosted a transportation forum focused on creating more accessible transit and communities for people with disabilities. City planners, municipal staff, people with disabilities and other stakeholders engaged in panel discussions, tours and workshops to explore the importance of designing communities from a human centred perspective. A great start to creating more accessible transit in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver.
Hopefully, we will have examples of this initiative in action and look forward to Translink and local municipalities keeping people with disabilities as an equal partner in creating human centred communities.

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