By Karen McCall
May 29, 2012
On June 1, 2012, the County of Brant is sending out letters telling the people with disabilities who live in the County that they will no longer have access to the specialized transportation service known as County Service due to “abuses” of the service.
The specialized transportation service has two parts: subsidized fares due to the size of the County and lack of public transportation; and a fleet of accessible vehicles.
In questioning the mayor and ward counsellor, the “abuses” were repeatedly described as follows:
“One woman goes to the casino every day and if THEY can afford to go to the casino, THEY can pay full fare,” and;
“If THEY can afford to go shopping, THEY can afford to pay full fare.”
So, as of June 1, people with disabilities will only be able to go to “work” or travel for “medical” reasons using the specialized transportation service accessible vehicles.
It is not clear at this point, since going to a casino or a store is an “abuse” of the service if we will be “allowed” to work in a casino or even a store.
It is not clear that if we can pay for an eye exam which would come under “medical” whether that brings the “can afford to” criteria into play and we won’t be “allowed” to go for eye exams.
It is not clear what the income based criteria to now qualify for the specialized transportation service and its accessible vehicles are.
Currently those of us who “work” in Toronto and who take the VIA train in the morning cannot access the specialized transportation service because the train leaves at 7:18 AM and the service does not begin until 7 AM. It is not clear whether this will change to “allow” us to go to work.
The only criteria for accessing the specialized transportation service has been disability, however now it seems to be income based as well.
Using the new criteria, if someone is going to “work” then wouldn’t it logically follow that they could pay full fare?
As well as the subsidized fare issue for some but not all people with disabilities based on arbitrary criteria, it is not clear if conventional transportation service providers were given sufficient notice to acquire and implement accessible vehicles to provide choice for those of us with disabilities or if those of us with disabilities are supposed to use the same vehicles used by the specialized transportation service (which also operates a conventional transportation service) but at higher fares than those who now “qualify” for specialized transportation service.
It is not clear if the incumbent specialized transportation service provider is working under a contract or not. The contract for the specialized transportation service was up in September 2011. A search of the Internet and the County of Brant web site resulted in no information on an RFP or Tender for County Service.
There have been arbitrary changes to the specialized transportation service in the last few months including a restriction on booking. Prior to May 1, 2012 people with disabilities could book the specialized transportation service 24 hours ahead of their trip. This was standard practice. Now there is no dispatcher in the County from 6 PM Friday night to 7 AM Monday morning and we have been told we can’t book the specialized transportation service during those times because the Woodstock dispatcher “doesn’t know how to do County Service.”
The specialized transportation service is a County of Brant contract. Why is dispatching being outsourced to Woodstock? Under the new travel restrictions and income based criteria, what happens if someone is called into work over the weekend or gets a medical appointment for Monday morning? How can they arrange for specialized transportation service without access to it?
This latest act of discrimination appears to be chronic with the County in that to date none of the Accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities Act (AODA), Integrated Accessibility Standard, part IV – Transportation have been looked at even though deadlines have passed. Given that the IAS has sections for fare parity, no restriction on movement, hours of service that match conventional transportation service (in the County this is also taxis), the County seems intent on not providing specialized transportation services to those of us with disabilities.
As of June 1, 2012, those of us with disabilities living in the County of Brant will lose our independence in not being able to access specialized transportation services nor will we have the choice of choosing a conventional transportation service provider with respect to accessible vehicles. With the specialized transportation service now being income based, we still do not know what the income criteria are or what the process is. And with the County not adhering to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation, we will never be included in our own community.