By Karen McCall, M.Ed.
August 20, 2012
For those of you who haven’t been following the adventures of subsidized or is it specialized transportation in the County of Brant, here is a recap.
In May, the contractor for the specialized transportation service who had been operating without a contract for a year, increased the billing to the County.
The County immediately responded to the “abuse” of the specialized transportation service by people with disabilities who were going shopping and to the casino, by trying to restrict access to the specialized transportation service to work or medical trips.
After some fast advocacy, this plan was deferred.
In June an ad hoc committee was formed to look at alternatives to the existing system and an RFP with the Integrated Accessibility Standards for transportation in place. Or at least that is what those of us from the community thought the goal of the committee was. Turns out it was to simply approve a staff recommendation to move to a taxi script program capped at $400.00 per month with the County paying $160 of the cost and people with disabilities paying $240.
As of August 14, 2012 the ad hoc committee has been dissolved and the staff recommendation will be approved in September. Apparently those of us from the community were problematic to the process.
A critical part of this new scheme is to put all of the specialized transportation service standards into the taxi bylaw making any taxi company in the County a specialized transportation service whether they want to be or not.
The County is rebranding the specialized transportation service as a “subsidized” transportation service although it is not for people with low income. It is only for people with disabilities. The name of the new scheme is “Accessibility in Motion” which sounds a lot like a specialized transportation service.
The County has said that by rebranding the specialized transportation service as a subsidized transportation service and off-loading all of the specialized transportation service standards into the taxi bylaw, the County doesn’t have to deal with the Integrated Accessibility Standards. No word yet whether this includes the standards for information communication and employment but the writing is on the wall.
The County will administer the eligibility applications, photo ID, production and selling of coupons and through the taxi bylaw, the taxi companies in the County will accept the coupons and be reimbursed with the subsidy.
To me this sounds like Schedule 1, part 5 item iii which states “under an agreement between a municipality and a person, firm, corporation or transit or transportation commission or authority” you have a specialized transportation service.
Even though the specialized transportation standards are woven into the taxi bylaw, wouldn’t the fact that the County is administering the Accessibility in Motion scheme and through the taxi bylaw making an agreement with taxi companies to accept the coupons and subsidy make the whole thing a specialized transportation service…called Accessibility in Motion?
Will the taxi companies in the County have to change their names to accessibility in Motion since they will, by the taxi bylaw now be part of the new transportation scheme?
A couple of other questions spring to mind:
If the taxi companies are now specialized transportation services how are taxi companies going to implement section 63 Categories of eligibility, 64 eligibility applications and 65 eligibility for compassionate reasons as well as 67 visitors.
The County hinted at the last Community Services Committee meeting that eligibility for Accessibility in Motion would only be done on a temporary bases and that there would be no people with permanent disabilities. Eligibility would be reviewed frequently to weed out those posing as people with disabilities whose medical doctors signed their eligibility forms. They don’t seem to have finalized the weeding out process but “know” there are a lot of people without disabilities using the current specialized transportation service.
If the County does not implement sections of the transportation standards can the individual taxi companies do this? How? The County is administering the eligibility forms and photo ID cards as well as the coupons/subsidy.
Would the taxi companies be held responsible and face possible fines and legal action for not complying with the standard because the taxi bylaw makes them “Accessibility in Motion?”
The same question arises for visitors. How can the taxi companies comply with this standard when the eligibility criteria is administered by the County?
The position of the County is that by off-loading the specialized transportation service standards to the taxi bylaw, they don’t have to do anything related to the transportation standards and that it is too “onerous” for the County to implement the transportation standards anyway. They have no data to support this claim….I’ve asked for the data and there is none.
They also claim that by calling Accessibility in Motion a “subsidized” transportation service they can pretty much write their own rules and as per their rules, it lets them avoid Ontario Regulation 191/11 (the transportation standards) and probably the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
Then there is the question of section 72:
72. (1) No specialized transportation service provider shall limit the availability of specialized transportation services to persons with disabilities by,
(a) Restricting the number of trips a person with a disability is able to request; or
(b) Implementing any policy or operational practice that unreasonably limits the availability of specialized transportation services.
(2) Specialized transportation service providers shall meet the requirements of this section by January 1, 2014.
If taxis are now Accessibility in Motion as mandated by the taxi bylaw, they would have to not be compliant with this standard because the County has capped the subsidy for the specialized transportation service.
There would have to be trip restrictions because people wouldn’t be able to use Accessibility in Motion to go to work if the cost of going to work is more than $400 and since the County will have eliminated conventional transportation service in the County, there is no option other than Accessibility in Motion for moving about in the County.
If the County of Brant no longer has conventional transportation service as per the taxi bylaw, can people without disabilities access the specialized transportation service? Would they have to undergo the eligibility process to get photo ID but not the subsidy? Would the County of Brant have to implement a non-disabled ID card to permit non-disabled people use of taxis in the County?
Since the entire taxi industry in the County of Brant would be, by agreement with the County accepting the photo ID and coupons/subsidy which will be written into the taxi bylaw making all taxis in the County of Brant Accessibility in Motion, it would seem that people without disabilities would have no transportation in the County.
Have I mentioned yet that the County has designed Accessibility in Motion on the basis that people with disabilities will not be able to afford their 60% of the cost of the allowed $400 per month in travel?
Is anyone else dizzy yet?
Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck…..must be a flamingo!