Many disabled passengers are being left out in the cold
DAVE STEWART, The Guardian
Defective wheelchair ramps are causing headaches for Charlottetown’s transit system and the disabled community.
Bobby Dunn, general manager of Charlottetown Transit, says the problem with the wheelchair ramps has been affecting the entire service the past year.
All of the buses are outfitted with ramps to make the service completely wheelchair accessible. However, the ramps have not been working properly leaving many disabled passengers out in the cold.
“These are low-floor buses. The issue we’re having is the wheelchair ramps themselves, when the bus lowers and you deploy the ramp, they can stick on you, they seized up,’” said Dunn. “The rollers inside, there are bearings and they can seize on you.”
In addition, there are electronic problems, a situation which can affect every customer if the buses can’t move, he said.
“If the ramp comes out and seizes the bus can’t move. If that happens, and they get it back in, they won’t use the ramp for the rest of the day.”
Dunn said he is dealing with the problem. He said he has talked to his counterparts around the region and in Quebec and his hearing similar problems with other wheelchair-accessible buses.
Heidi MacDonald, 36, of Charlottetown is one of the transit service’s disabled customers and she is frustrated.
“This has been going on for a long, long time, far too long as far as I’m concerned,” said MacDonald, explaining that she has complained to the P.E.I. Council of the Disabled and her city councillor.
MacDonald said she’s been getting conflicting messages from different transit bus drivers — sometimes the ramps work and sometimes they don’t. One driver told her he could only take regular wheelchairs, and not power wheelchairs due to the extra weight of the power models.
“As far as there being no buses available, that’s ridiculous,” she said. “A couple of weeks ago the buses at the Charlottetown Mall had wheelchair-accessible stickers. (One) driver said ‘I’ll take you if the lift is working’. He tried it and it wasn’t working.”
Disabled residents also have access to Pat & the Elephant but MacDonald says it’s more expensive and the point is if the transit system advertises wheelchair accessibility it should provide it.
Barry Schmidl, executive director of the Council of the Disabled, said his office has received numerous complaints.
“You have to wonder how serious they are,” Schmidl said, referring to promises to fix the problem and how long it’s taking.
“These buses are supposed to be wheelchair accessible. This is unacceptable.”
Dunn said the firm that manufactured the ramps has been to Charlottetown twice this year to fix the problem. He said no sooner did the company official leave than the ramps broke down again.
“What I’m dealing with now . . . are the warranty issues, who is covering the cost? Either they are going to fix these so they’re fixed right for us or replace them.”
Dunn said they’re looking into fold-out ramps that can be adjusted by hand in case they stick.
Written by Stephen Pate
Reproduced from http://www.njnnetwork.com/?p=2821