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Passengers with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

As Ontarians continue physical distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, people are limiting their travel. However, most people need to travel for essential services, such as grocery shopping or medical appointments. Some of these travellers use assistive devices, such as wheelchairs or scooters, as well as public transit, such as buses. Some passengers can board and secure their assistive devices on vehicles independently. However, other passengers require the assistance of drivers for these tasks. Nonetheless, some public transit drivers are refusing to transport passengers with disabilities in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transporting Passengers with Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Some public transit drivers state that they should not be assisting passengers with disabilities to board buses during the COVID-19 pandemic. These drivers state that this assistance requires them to come into close contact with passengers. Moreover, health organizations across the world are advising people to avoid this type of contact and stay a safe distance away from others. As a result, some drivers feel that assisting passengers to board and secure themselves on buses is not safe.

Nonetheless, the Transportation Standards of the AODA require public transit drivers to provide this assistance to people with disabilities. In other words, serving passengers with disabilities should not be an optional part of a driver’s job. Instead, it should be an essential service, because people of all abilities need to access services like stores or doctors.

Safety for Drivers

Like workers in all essential services, bus drivers deserve to be safe and supported as they do their important work. As a result, they may need to use personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, to keep themselves safe. In addition, companies may allow drivers who feel unsafe at work to take leave or vacation time.

Another way to reduce the risk to bus drivers is ensuring that people with disabilities have ways to meet their needs remotely. For instance, most stores and other agencies are providing remote service, through:

  • Delivery
  • Appointments or requests by phone or video-call

Furthermore, some businesses are also making these remote services easier for people to access, by:

  • Advertising
  • Waiving extra costs, such as delivery fees

These businesses should ensure that their workers have up-to-date AODA customer service training to meet the needs of remote customers with disabilities. In this way, all people can have access to the things they need while keeping themselves and each other safe.