Monday, September 7, 2009
Warning – These New Standards Will Not Be Safe!
The provincial government has too many pieces of legislation and, after reading through a lot of it, I have been left to wonder if they are investing enough resources into making sure they are properly cross-referenced for conflicts or loop-holes which would prevent them from fulfilling their original mandate.
This is because, as a person with a disability, there are times when my needs simply do not get met. The excuses given are wide and varied but, if you ask enough questions, you will find that behind the excuse lies a valid piece of legislation. I know this because, out of sheer frustration and being at a poverty level that does not enable me to retain the services of a lawyer, I have been doing some self-help by reading through, and trying to sort out, the meaning and jurisdictional priorities of, the many layers of legislation.
There doesn’t appear to be an exhaustive list that names all the legislation that is applicable within each ministry. It is listed, but it is not well grouped. There are also conflicts that appear to have been created by adding another layer to resolve an issue that was not working out.
As a person who sat on the accessibility for transit standards writing committee and, who by nature, is very inquisitive, I asked questions, tons of questions. However, the one answer I was never able to get was, what applicable legislation and regulations we were referring to when we wrote the following paragraph into the standard.
“Persons and organizations may be required to meet more than one accessibility standard under the AODA. Therefore, the following standard should be read in conjunction with other AODA standards and other applicable legislation and regulations to enable persons and organizations to determine and understand the full extent of requirements they will be mandated to comply with.”
The obvious ones were found and were able to be brought to our attention, but since the group was disbanded, I have found a few more. The reason for wanting to know this answer was so, when we were writing the new standard, we did not inadvertently duplicate, negate, or contradict, something that was already written into the law.
Now that the standards writing process is over, I have taken the time to look at the barriers, not only for me, but for those with another type of disability as well. I am left with a heavy feeling of disappointment because I realize that many issues will not be addressed.
No Provincial Requirement to Provide Public Transit
Further, this was to be a provincial law that was to improve access to public transportation for people in all municipalities around the province. It won’t do that. This is because we were told up front that there was no provincial requirement for a community to provide public transportation. However, if they choose to provide regular transit, they were to also provide specialized transit. This logic did not work in reverse. If a community was providing specialized transit, but not regular transit, then those who were not deemed eligible for specialized transit, had no transportation other than to take a taxi. Taxi’s
can be cost prohibitive for the disabled who, statistically have been proven to have a far higher rate of unemployment or, underemployment, than those in the rest of the province.
Application of Tie-Down Straps Will Become Optional – Major safety concern
Other examples of things not being properly addressed in the new standard, is the decision to make it optional for the tie-down straps to be used on a wheelchair. No consideration was given to the fact that the seats of all vehicles must be safety tested to make sure they can withstand the impact of a crash before the vehicle is allowed to be on the road. Why is the same logic not applied to a wheelchair? What will happen to an unsecured power wheelchair that weighs
over 200 pounds empty, in there was an accident? Does this decision not increase the safety risk for, not only the passenger who uses the wheelchair, but for the other passengers as well, if the weight of the wheelchair and the passenger was thrown around in the event of an accident?
It is my understanding that regulation 629 can only be applied to the vehicle, not to the policies and decisions that are made to govern the use of the vehicle. So, if a person doesn’t know of the risk, is it logical or ethical to allow personal choice to prevail and therefore increase their level of risk? Taking this logic one step further, why not scrap Regulation 629 and make it optional for a transit provider to even install them? After all, they are concerned about cost saving measures.
Obviously this last statement was a complete waste of time because of course, safety considerations should be the ones to prevail.
What concerns me is the fact that many people with disabilities might not even think of the safety factor. I know I didn’t.
To illustrate, what was the number one concern for wheelchair passengers, and their positioning on a train? They were tied-down in the crumple zone.
It took me years to even imagine that this would be the case because it never dawned on me that a public transit provider would overlook this important decision when trying to figure out how best to accommodate a person who has a disability. If the outcry had never happened, or if I was not an advocate, had not taken up a personal interest in doing more research on the accessibility of transit, I probably still would be none the wiser.
Likewise, it would never have occurred to me about the importance of the safety testing that has been done on the seats of all the vehicles that are licensed to be on the road.
Bus Ramps Too Steep – another safety concern – see images at link below
As for the ramp on a bus, it was designed to extend to a curb, not to a curb cut. Well, when we were writing the standard and this issue was raised, we were told that the issue was to be addressed by the built environment committee. It wasn’t. This means there is an increased risk of another very dangerous decision being inadvertently made by the transportation providers.
Case in point, Kingston just finished laying the pavement for several new bus stops. The problem is a curb cut has been built in at the place where the ramp is to come out. Therefore the person using a wheelchair will have to wait on the grass in the summer and probably forego the use of the bus stop in winter. When a ramp is extended out on a curb cut, the ramp is far too steep. It far it exceeds the acceptable grade stipulated in the building code as
being or the American’s for Disabilities Act, an act we used as a guide. Our committee’s understanding was the standards writing committee for built environment would address these issues instead.
From what I can make out, they were not able to come to a decision on this matter so it will not be addressed at this time. This will mean that the mistakes of laying new pavement at bus stops with a curb cut, instead of a curb, will result in the inadvertent building of more unsafe bus stop locations, such as the 3 I saw laid as recently as August 2009 in Kingston. Many of the brand new cement pads for a bus shelter have the curb cut right at the spot where
the ramp is supposed to come out. The person in a wheelchair will have to go on the grass a few feet away, to safely board the bus. Come winter, we will not be able to get on at these stops. How much will this cost the city to replace later on? But can you blame them? They have nothing to use as a reliable reference and they’re not necessarily exposed to the intricacies of accommodating these sorts of things.
Needless to say, I have grave concerns about some of the decisions that were made on this, and many other things in Ontario. Some important checks and balances appear to be overlooked, or at great risk of being overlooked. Worse, there are so many standards, and so many numbers out there that it is hard to determine which is the best one to use as a guide.