Student Creates Opportunity to Increase Accessibility

June 2, 2010

Today, Pat Martin, NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, will introduce a Private Member’s
Bill calling for an accessibility audit of federally regulated transportation
systems. This initiative results from a high school student competition called
Create Your Canada, where students were asked to draft a bill to change the
way our country works. Sam Unrau, a Grade 12 student with disability at Argyle
Alternative High School in Winnipeg, is the winner of the competition and his
proposed Bill focuses on requiring the Government of Canada to undertake an
accessibility audit of all federally regulated transportation systems.

“Sam Unrau, as a high school student, has demonstrated considerable understanding
of the barriers people with disabilities face in travelling across Canada. He
gets it, and his good work creates an opportunity for Members of Parliament
to address the erosion of access for persons with disabilities in federal transportation
systems. We applaud his efforts and those of Member of Parliament Pat Martin,”
said Marie White, Chairperson of CCD.

“If students understand the need for improved access, why doesn’t
the Minister of Transport” asks Pat Danforth, Chair of CCD’s Transportation
Committee.

“The disability community has been frozen out of any dialogue with Transport
Canada for almost 4 years. CCD’s repeated requests for a meeting with the
Minister of Transport over the last four years have all been denied,” stated
Danforth.

CCD members have identified numerous recent access issues. They include:

  • Greater use of small planes that cannot carry a standard
    wheelchair in the cargo hold.
  • Small plane use means less access to boarding ramps and deplaning
    onto the tarmac.
  • Inadequate space for guide dogs in flight.
  • Even after winning a 7 year legal battle with VIA Rail over their
    purchase of inaccessible passenger cars a member of CCD could not travel by
    train from Toronto to Vancouver for the Paralympics; she had to travel through
    the United States because their system is regulated for access, in fact they
    purchase
    some of their passenger rail cars from Bombardier in Canada because of their
    accessibility.
  • Introduction of body scanners without any study or determination
    if they will be accessible. If not accessible, people with disabilities will
    be required to submit to the more intrusive “pat down.”
  • Installation by airlines of inaccessible entertainment systems. The
    system was accessible to persons with vision impairments before but the new
    system is not.
  • Although ordered to do so interprovincial bus systems that span neighbouring
    communities refuse to call out bus stops.

Canada, once a leader in accessibility, has lost considerable ground. Britain,
Australia and the United States all have enforceable access regulations and
service providers know what they must do. Here in Canada we continue with “voluntary
codes of practice” and people with disabilities are left with a system
where through the complaint system they have to remove one barrier at a time.

“Sam Unrau’s accessibility audit idea is a good one. We applaud his
understanding and the support of Pat Martin. Let’s hope others in the Government
of Canada will take note and act to improve access through the establishment
of enforceable regulations,” said Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator
of CCD.

For more information contact:

Pat Danforth, Chairperson CCD Transportation Committee – 250-383-4443

Marie White, CCD National Chairperson – 709-739-8233

Laurie Beachell, CCD National Coordinator – 204-947-0303

Sam Unrau, Student Argyle Alternative High School – email:
lancer12@shaw.ca

Reproduced from http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/transportation/minister/press-release-student-creates-opportunity-2June2010