Letters to the Editor: Transportation for People With Disabilities

Re: Meeting the need
Published Tuesday August 3rd, 2010

On July 29, Kourtney Stevenson of Moncton submitted a letter to the Times & Transcript regarding Ability Transit.

That letter could not have better articulated the plight that too many New Brunswick residents with disabilities face each day. For several years, transit
departments across Canada have been receiving funding from Ottawa to rejuvenate their fleets.

One of the caveats to this funding is that only vehicles which can accommodate someone who requires the aid of a wheelchair or scooter be acquired. Yet, both Fredericton and Moncton have failed to provide any access to this population on their fixed routes.

What this means is that services such as Fredericton’s Dial-A-Bus and Moncton’s Ability Transit are forced to serve a growing population with increasingly scarce resources. Unlike other persons with disabilities, individuals using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or scooters who are on a fixed income or whose health prevents them from owning modified vans, have no other alternative.

Thus, they are required to rely on a service which is drastically under-resourced and which for most other people would be inconceivable. The need to arrange a social outing three weeks ahead of time is unheard of in most households in New Brunswick.

For persons using mobility aids, who are unable to afford their own accessible transportation, there’s no such thing as a last minute decision to catch
a movie, pick up grocery items, or take advantage of a cancelled appointment at the dentist.

Both Fredericton’s Dial-A-Bus and Moncton’s Ability Transit provide an essential service for their communities; and do it well. Yet, low floor buses traverse both cities without a single wheelchair passenger aboard.

Were this option available, the parallel services would be able to better serve their riders as some of their passengers could turn to the fixed route or
main bus system.

This would, in turn, free up capacity for the parallel services. What would it take?

Simple, follow and improve upon Saint John’s service model. Initially, while resources are realigned, designate individual runs which can accommodate a mobility aid such as a wheelchair. Then, as older buses are replaced with low floor accessible vehicles, increase the number of designated accessible runs. Eventually and, hopefully, within the very near future, all three major municipalities in New Brunswick will be able to provide affordable accessible public transportation to all citizens, regardless of whether they require a mobility aid. As this transformation takes place, the parallel systems will need to continue to expand their services in order to keep up with the expected growth in the numbers of persons with disabilities.

Lui Greco
Assistant Executive Director
Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Reproduced from http://dailygleaner.canadaeast.com/opinion/article/1160468