By Harry Wolbert
Last Updated: 2nd February 2010, 1:18pm
Transportation was the primary issue around which people with disabilities first organized back in the mid 1970s. This led to the eventual creation of a
Handi-Transit system in 1976.
Since then, much progress has been made. However, many barriers still exist with new ones being erected almost daily.
An example of this was the recent decision on the part of Handi-Transit to move the “drop-off and pick-up point” from the rear of Portage Place to the front,
along Portage Avenue. The decision was made unilaterally, without any consultation. Organizations which advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities
The Independent Living Resource Centre and the MLPD had some serious safety concerns with the move and rallied to have this decision reversed and were successful.
Our message to Handi-Transit is: Nothing about us, without us.
Still, there are other issues that continue to persist. A lot of the complaints I hear centre around Handi-Transit’s “no-show and cancellation” policy.
The MLPD has been calling for changes to this policy for some time now. Why does senior management at Handi-Transit refuse to listen to us? Our issues do matter.
Then there are those being denied Handi-Transit service simply because they’re earning less than minimum wage.
I am aware of at least 50 individuals with a developmental disability who have been denied service.
Shame on Handi-Transit for the way they’ve been treating some of society’s most vulnerable citizens. MLPD members have told me that they’d like to see the scope of eligibility expanded to meet the needs of persons with invisible disabilities.
One of my pet peeves is that so many of the programs and services which people with disabilities rely on are run by non-disabled people. And to my knowledge Handi-Tranit has no one in senior management with a disability. I believe that if people with disabilities ran Handi-Transit we would run things a whole lot differently.
In a recent review of complaint records filed with the Winnipeg Regional Heath Authority, the Taxicab Board and the city’s Handi-Transit system it was revealed that there were close to 6,000 complaints over a five-year period.
On Jan. 1, 2010 some new legislation came into effect in Ontario which regulates how the public sector provides “customer service” to people with disabilities. I’m beginning to wonder whether the time has finally come for the Manitoba government to introduce similar legislation.
If, in the end, the decision is made to go ahead and introduce some standards or accessibility legislation, then it must also be accompanied by an enforcement mechanism.
Finally, it’s our position that accessible transportation is an essential service. It is a service that helps deal with the social isolation faced by so
many people with disabilities.
We also believe that all people with disabilities should have the same access to our public transportation system that so many non-disabled Manitobans have taken for granted.
After all, accessibility is a right.
— Harry Wolbert is the co-chairperson of the Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities.