Accessible Transits Making Disable People More Independent

November 11, 2016 by dccinc

Millions of Canadians rely on public transportation every day. Governments are actively promoting using public transit as one of the ways Canadians can do to reduce our carbon footprint.  The lack of accessible transit creates barriers for people with disabilities who rely on public transit to get to where they need to go. Removing the existing transit barriers will advance universal accessible public transit and para-transit systems and provide guidelines for accessible transportation across Canada. This will allow transit systems to fulfill the duty to accommodate the transportation needs of people with disabilities while enhancing their opportunities to actively participate in their communities.  These guidelines need to involve accessible vehicles, door-to-door transportation, accessible bus and train stops and stations, accessible bus shelters and transportation information that can be understood by all people with disabilities.

Provinces across Canada have introduced legislation that requires public and private organizations to be accessible to all members of a community.  For example, “Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians Act (AODA), has instructed that public transit agencies need to meet the accessibility requirements under various standards, including the Accessible Transportation Standards. The Transportation Standard requires transit agencies to put in place a set of measures, including accessible plans, specific accessible transit vehicles equipment standards, accessible boarding and de-boarding of accessible transit vehicles, service improvements in specialized services, such as integrating accessible services between communities, hours of service, booking procedures and on-time pickup.  Providing these services is important as the population ages and for those with disabilities. Implementing these practices across accessible transit will ensure that the transit needs of people with disabilities will be met”.

Accessible Transit Legislation Requirements Across Canada:

Click on these links to see the accessible transportation requirements:

 Challenges to achieving accessible transportation across Canada: 

  1. An important challenge that accessible transportation presents is that as the Canadian population continues to grow and age, so does the number of people with disabilities. While many people with disabilities are living independently and are mobile, this means there will be a greater number of people with disabilities needing to use accessible transportation to get to where they need and want to go.
  2. Another challenge in implementing a fully accessible transit system is making all bus and train stops accessible. For example, some wheelchair and scooter users may be unable to reach bus stops due to the lack of accessible curb ramps and sidewalks. Poor snow removal and ice can also be a seasonal obstacle for wheelchair and scooter users. Even though the Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government have mandated that buses, trains, and stops be accessible, the funds may not be readily available. This is also dependent on what area people are accessing transportation (ex. city centers vs. commercial areas vs. residential areas) and the type of area (ex. urban vs. suburban).
  3. When people with disabilities want to use para-transit door-to-door service, it usually requires booking three days or up to a week in advance. For example, if you were needing to take a para-transit to work but are asked to stay late for a meeting or work dinner, you may not be able to because you booked the para-transit to come at a specific time and they do not allow for last-minute changes. So for last-minute needs, this is not very convenient.
  4. In many cities and towns, para-transit may cost more than a regular bus or train. This may be because of the need to pick up passengers at specific locations such as their homes instead of the train or bus station. Also having more than one passenger to pick up per ride can affect the cost. Many taxi companies do have accessible vehicles or very few of them which makes it difficult to provide this service. It is much more expensive than the service provided through public transit systems.

The vehicles that para-transit companies use can cost more to maintain because of their specific need. Due to all the costs of running para-transit, public transit companies may choose not to expand their services, this may be one of the main reasons why para-transit systems are not more accessible to people with disabilities.

Improvement strategies for accessible transit:

As the Canadian population continues to grow and age, investments in public transit are a necessity. Many transit companies throughout Canada have developed accessibility plans that include strategies to assist in improving and providing affordable accessible transit.   Here are some examples of these strategies:

  1. Accessibility planning needs to be implemented in municipalities throughout Canada that focus on all aspects of the transit system. The accessibility plan needs to include policies and procedures that concentrate on these aspects of the transit system:
    • “Accessible buses, street cars, trains, and other vehicles;
    • Accessible routes and transfers between systems;
    • Transit facilities, including stops, shelters, station platforms; and
    • Transit information, including emergency procedures ”.
  2. Discuss strategies for implementing accessible transit with organizations that assist people with disabilities and ask for opinions on accessibility planning.
  3. Train, bus stations, and terminal platforms need to accommodate and be accessible for persons with disabilities using mobility devices and support animals.
  4. When renovating or building new bus and train shelters, accessibility plans need to be used to ensure spaces can accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. Walkways also need to have visual cues for people with low vision.
  5. Accessible vehicles need to be available to those with mobility issues, support animals, and assistive devices. Examples include:
  • Buses and trains with ramps or lifts;
  • Non-slip floor surfaces;
  • Multi-sense stop displays for passengers;
  • Flip-up seats in wheelchair locations; and
  • Separate stop request button and emergency response controls in the accessibility car, with light or sound indicators that are different from the general stop request
  1. Boarding and de-boarding assistance need to be provided for the safety of passengers with disabilities.
  2. Visual information with audio and video components. For example, LED/LCD technology and computer screens are to be used to present information that is also announced, as well as pre-boarding and boarding announcements.
  3. Provide tactile cues such as tactile maps, Braille signs, and warnings along platforms and detection cues for people who use canes.

Increasing and expanding the methods of conventional transportation to be more accessible can assist in decreasing the high demand for para-transit services. With conventional transportation becoming more accessible, this will encourage and motivate people with disabilities to be capable and successful in taking this mode of transportation reinforcing community inclusion and personal independence.

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