In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined many barriers that people with disabilities face. More improvements to the AODA would help to remove existing barriers and prevent future ones. Therefore, in addition to direct recommendations, Onley’s review also includes suggestions from attendees about how to remove these barriers. This article will explore disability barriers in public transportation and ways to remove them.
Disability Barriers in Public Transportation
Review attendees state that the AODA has helped many transit providers improve their services. However, other attendees report that transit providers are not following the mandates of the transportation standards. For instance, when audiovisual announcements malfunction, drivers do not inform passengers about approaching stops. However, the Transportation Standards require workers to accommodate passengers with disabilities when accessibility equipment is not working. Since audiovisual announcements are pieces of accessibility equipment, drivers must accommodate passengers by announcing stops when these features malfunction. Similarly, some drivers refuse to operate other accessibility equipment upon request. For example, they do not lower the floor of busses, or line vehicles up with platforms. Attendees suggest that when drivers violate the law in these ways, they seem untrained and uncaring.
Likewise, some non-disabled passengers also disobey the Transportation Standards. For example, passengers ignore signs that designate courtesy seating for passengers with disabilities. Instead, non-disabled passengers sometimes sit on seats that should be free for passengers with disabilities to use. Similarly, non-disabled passengers place strollers or carts in spaces that should be free for passengers’ assistive devices. Moreover, non-disabled passengers refuse to move when passengers with disabilities need to use these seats. Furthermore, drivers do not enforce the AODA by requiring these passengers to move. As a result, some passengers with disabilities cannot use public transit because their rights to use the seats they need are not taken seriously. Review attendees suggest that cities should create stronger rules about courtesy seating.
Other meeting attendees state that public transit companies should create additional procedures to support passengers with disabilities. For instance, companies could implement pre-boarding for passengers with assistive devices or service animals. Likewise, companies could offer more routes and be more flexible when scheduling.
Improvements to the Transportation Standards
Attendees also suggest that improvements to the Transportation Standards could prevent or remove these and other barriers. For example, many subway stations are not accessible, and equipment like elevators often breaks in accessible stations. Improved guidelines in the Transportation Standards could include timelines for making stations accessible and repairing features that do not work. Similarly, improvements could increase the number and size of assistive devices vehicles can hold. Attendees suggest that members of the transportation sector and people with disabilities should work together to make these improvements.
Moreover, the Standards should mandate requirements for shared ride services. Attendees suggest that requirements for taxis should also apply to ride-share companies and drivers. In addition, the Standards should mandate that cities can only licence taxis or ride-share services if they are accessible. Finally, the Standards should require accessibility training for all workers in these industries. High-quality training can remove attitudinal and physical barriers.