Guest Editorial Accessible Taxis in Kingston

By Victor Schwartzman
August 17, 2009

Victor Schwartzman was a Human Rights Officer for 21 years with The Manitoba
Human Rights Commission, until its failure to accommodate his disability
resulted in his forced retirement.

The Accessibility News Newsletter recently published an excellent article(Accessible Cabs a Must: Group
) about the difficulty
in obtaining accessible taxis in Kingston, Ontario.

Individuals with mobility impairments have been negotiating on Kingston’s accessibility
committee for almost three years. To date, it is unclear anything positive
will happen.

It is always a sad surprise when the law is not used. Negotiating is
great-assuming that you are negotiating in people on a good faith basis,
where there is a commitment to move in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, too
many times people with disabilities try to demonstrate their faith by
engaging with municipalities in what turns out to be an unnecessarily time
consuming process-at the end of which, there may be no accommodation anyway.

Yes, it’s Canada, which means we’re all supposed to be polite. And people
with disabilities? Heck, by definition they are not as good as anyone
else-so we have to be even more polite, maybe even grovel a little to get
benefits the law requires? Why do we play their game?

Human rights law says that services available to the public have to be
available, generally, to the entire public, including people who have
disabilities affecting their mobility. That includes taxis. There is an
argument that if the local cab company in Kingston can not afford a
wheelchair accessible cab, that the municipal Kingston government has a
legal responsibility to do something. After all, does not Kingston provide
a municipal bus service available to the public? Is it the fault of people
with disabilities they can not use that bus service? What has Kingston done
to make its buses accessible? Has Kingston sought grants to help the local
taxi cab company buy wheelchair accessible vans?

My guess is, Kingston has put all of its efforts into meetings. And, at the end of a few years, there is still doubt anything will come of
those meetings.

Meetings are great, and golly we don’t want to offend anyone-but why has not
a human rights complaint been filed against Kingston regarding the lack of
accessible public transportation? A human rights complaint is a solid form
of advocacy. It takes little effort and no money to set up, and it is the
Human Rights Commission which does the investigation.

People with mobility impairments in Kingston may want to consider not being
so gosh darned nice, and while they continue “negotiating” they may want to
consider filing a human rights complaint, and putting themselves in a
position of demanding a service rather than hoping for one.