"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good News From Metro Transit

You might recall some previous posts I've written, one about my own efforts to have our local bus company institute a policy to which would allow the accompanying support person of a person with a disability to ride the bus free of charge. Because, as I noted at the time, although they had a policy in conjunction with the CNIB, providing that a blind person could travel with a support person without paying or a second fare, no such policy existed for individuals with any other type of disability. Which efforts, I was pleased to note, were ultimately successful.

A year later, I wrote about the issue Metro Transit, the Halifax Regional Municipality's transit system, was facing when some complained about their long-time policy of offering free bus passes to people who were blind.  But not to anyone else.

At any rate, I am pleased to advise that Metro Transit will be launching major policy and operational changes to improve accessibility on all of its routes later this year. This was apparently motivated by a Human Rifghts Commission complaint by passengers Tammy Robertson and Michael Craig.

Both Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig are wheelchair-users and were unable to use most of the routes on the transit system despite most of the bus fleet being accessible. We are told that "Their experience reflected widespread frustration among people in the disabled community". I imagine so.

At any rate, upcoming changes are to include:
  • passengers using wheelchairs being able to use low-floor buses serving any route, providing the ramp can be lowered so they can board the bus. At the moment, low-floor buses only pick up passengers if the route is designated fully accessible.
  • passengers, with proper identification, who require attendants having their attendant's fare included in their own. [ED. Thank you very much]
  • snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals being improved and increased to a 24-hour priority.
  • the Request a Stop program, which provides for disembarking between stops for safety at night, being extend to disabled passengers at any time of day if it becomes reasonably necessary to accommodate them, such as situations of adverse weather or for safety reasons.

Gerald Hashey, the Human Rights Commission's manager of dispute resolution, is quoted as stating that "this initiative has allowed the largest transit system in the Maritimes to provide leadership on our commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities". He notes, quite rightly, that public transit is key to independence and participating fully in life for people with disabilities.

I can't find the press release (which I received in an email) anywhere online so I am going to reproduce it in its entirety here.

But before I do that, there's one other thing I would like to mention.  And that is how pleased I am to see the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities* being used in such a manner.

One of the (many) things I never got back to discussing after posting about the Values, Vision and Action Workshop I attended this past March was the discussion around the use of the Convention in our advocacy work.

I've written before about some of my hesitation reservations around the practical usefulness of the Convention from a legal point of view.  But one of the things discussed at the CACL workshop was taking a copy of the Convention along with us when we visit our MLAs or MPs on various issues and pointing out the relevant sections to them.

Now that I like because although I am hesitant as to how much teeth the Convention might actually have in a court of law, it's primary usefulness may well be to quote from it in our advocacy work with politicans and the media.  Which, apparently, is exactly how Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig used the Convention when they filed their Human Rights complaint. Now that's what my mother would call "using your noggin".

Following is the text of the press release.
Public transit improvements will soon benefit riders with disabilities in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Late this fall, Metro Transit will launch major policy and operational changes to improve accessibility on all of its routes.

Metro Transit worked with the Human Rights Commission and passengers Tammy Robertson and Michael Craig to help create many of these changes.

Ms. Robertson and Mr. Craig, who both use wheelchairs, could not use most of the routes. Their experience reflected widespread frustration among people in the disabled community.

When the changes are introduced passengers using wheelchairs will be able to use low floor buses serving any route, passengers who require attendants will have the attendant's fare included in their own and snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals will be improved and increased to a 24 hour priority.

Media Contacts: Gerald Hashey
Human Rights Commission
E-mail: hasheygj@gov.ns.ca

Lori Patterson
Metro Transit

Michael Craig
902-454-6859 or 902-476-8288

Tammy Robertson
Release Date: 07/31/11

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