Disability Advocates Propose Plan to Fix, Improve Winnipeg Transit Report identifies 9 steps to ensuring those with disabilities have equal access CBC News, Posted: Dec 03, 2020
Winnipeg Transit is broken for people with disabilities, say advocates who have proposed a nine-step plan to fix it.
A coalition of community groups – which includes the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Independent Living Resource Centre – have a nine-step plan to move forward and improve the city’s bus service.
A report, to be officially handed to city hall administration on Friday, was built on decades of experiences and frustrations faced by those with mobility restrictions and other disabilities “who rely on Winnipeg Transit day-to-day to live their lives like everybody else,” said Patrick Stewart, a consultant for the resource centre.
“The barriers are really diverse and what the report recognizes is that there’s not really a silver-bullet solution. Of our nine recommendations, really, each one of them might address five to 10 per cent of the issues that are out there,” he said Thursday, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
One of the top priorities the coalition identified is creating a policy to give people with disabilities access to priority seating areas on buses.
Although priority seating exists near the front of buses, there is no policy to enforce it. It relies on the good will of passengers who are allowed to take those seats on a first-come, first-served basis, Stewart said.
“There is a lack of understanding and awareness, sometimes, within that priority seating area,” he said. “Winnipeg is really in the minority of major Canadian cities in that we don’t have an official policy that regulates that part of the bus.”
Overcrowded buses are an inconvenience for many people who need to stand should-to-shoulder, packed through the aisle. It’s far worse for those with disabilities, who are frequently “passed up” by drivers carrying full loads. The report says that should never happen and encourages Winnipeg Transit to create a “priority boarding” policy.
Signs at bus stops would make it clear that passengers with mobility challenges, requiring the priority and courtesy seating area, are to be the first allowed to board.
Titled “9 STEPS: A community-based approach towards accessible public transportation,” the report also looks at:
- Removing barriers around bus stops, due to snow or other reasons, by directing bus drivers to immediately report barriers to Winnipeg Transit control, who must address the situation within a reasonable time frame.
- Providing alternative transportation services when a passenger with a disability is not able to board a bus due to a physical barrier, faulty equipment or overcrowding.
- Providing training for bus drivers to assist passengers with disabilities, such as guiding those with sight challenges.
- Developing guidelines for maximum sizes of baby strollers allowed on board.
The barriers cited in the report mean people can’t take part in daily life because they can’t get where they need to go, Stewart said.
The report is coming out now, but the urgency has been in place for decades, he said.
“Many people with disabilities have waited far too long and deserve action. There always seems to be another report at city hall, but nothing ever changes,” Stewart said.
However, there are a couple of things in the works right now that make it more urgent than ever, he said, noting the Accessibility for Manitobans Act, which became law in December 2013, is undergoing some review.
“There’s going to be a transportation standard, hopefully, that passes legislation next year, and our recommendations build upon those standards,” Stewart said.
“But, you know, we’re really encouraging the City of Winnipeg not to wait to the last minute until they’re [compelled] with other pieces of legislation to make these changes.”
As well, the city is in the process of creating a Winnipeg Transit Master Plan, which will redesign the bus network. It could include blending regular service with Transit Plus.
Stewart said that could mean a fixed-route service replacing the current door-to-door service for users of Transit Plus. Instead, riders would be picked up and taken to a transit hub to continue to their destination on a regular bus.
“We just can’t sort of flip a switch and do that overnight. There’s some major changes that need to happen first to ensure that passengers with disabilities have equal access to the bus,” he said.