It’s a bumpy road, but the TTC and other GTA transit systems are slowly becoming easier for people with disabilities. So expect more users of electric scooters and other mobility devices on board buses and trains.
The latest trend is “travel training” — helping users of specialized paratransit services like Wheel-Trans switch to the “conventional” network. This is not a simple transition, since government has to buy low-floor vehicles and elevators must be squeezed into train stations.
Making transit accessible doesn’t just mean space for scooters — the elderly or anyone having trouble with stairs benefit, too. It also means creating a system where those with limited sight or hearing can find their way without great discomfort or even danger.
The changes can also lead to controversy and uneasy compromises with able-bodied riders. Low-floor buses hold fewer people than older models, which helped make overcrowding worse.
After the TTC lost two human rights tribunal cases for failing to provide adequate announcements of subway and surface stops, the agency reluctantly put in place audio systems and electronic signs. The TTC was also forced to hold regular public meetings on its accessibility progress.
In a session two weeks ago, riders appeared to agree both Wheel-Trans and the TTC have improved since the previous year’s highly-charged meeting.
There are more obstacles to address, and accessibility advocate David Lepofsky says many “cost virtually nothing to fix.” For example, some scooter users say drivers don’t always lower bus ramps right to the ground.
Everyone needs to adapt further — not just the TTC, but customers, too. Some apparently able-bodied folks charge onto buses or elevators in front of people with disabilities.
Then there’s the problem of priority seating. The TTC is preparing new signs to remind us to offer seats to people who are elderly, disabled, have service animals or a white cane. And reversing a decades-long oversight, the decals will finally include expectant mothers.
Should we go farther than just ask riders to make way for those who need to sit? New York City now threatens fines for failing to do so.
Do we need this in Toronto? I don’t see how such rules could be enforced, especially since some disabilities are invisible. Would transit employees have to decide which person is more deserving a seat?