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Disability Barriers in Specialized Transportation

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 specialized transportation and ways to remove them.

Disability Barriers in Specialized Transportation

Review attendees state that there are not enough specialized transit vehicles to support all the passengers who need them. As a result, some specialized transportation providers frequently disobey regulations in the AODA’s transportation standards. For instance, passengers often cannot access rides to work and other needed trips. Alternatively, some transit companies require passengers to book their trips two weeks in advance. However, the AODA’s Transportation Standards mandate that providers must allow passengers to book rides on the day of travel whenever possible, or up to three hours before the end of the company’s hours of operation on the day before the day of travel. This regulation recognizes that people sometimes need to take spontaneous trips as well as planned ones. When people can only take trips planned two weeks in advance, they are not being treated as equal citizens.

Similarly, specialized transportation providers are required to offer the same hours and days of service as local conventional transportation providers. This requirement ensures that people who always use specialized transit can travel during all the days and times that people using conventional transit can travel on. However, some attendees report that some transit providers reduce the hours of their specialized services. For example, the review describes one company that offers weekend service on conventional transit but not specialized transit.

Improvement to the Transportation Standards

Attendees also suggest one improvement to the Transportation Standards to remove a barrier. Currently, transit companies must offer temporary services on emergency or compassionate grounds. Companies must allow temporary passengers to access this service in less than fourteen (14) days. However, passengers may not be able to wait fourteen days before responding to an emergency.  Instead, companies should be able to allow passengers to access temporary service in two (2) business days. This update to the Transportation Standards would treat passengers who have disabilities with more respect and dignity.