Breach of blind man’s rights spurs $8M transit PA system
Jake Rupert, The Associated Press
Published: Friday, June 29, 2007 in the Ottawa Citizen
After a finding that OC Transpo drivers not calling out bus stops breached a blind man’s human rights, transit officials are instructing drivers to do so and are seeking $8 million to install automated announcement systems.
“The technology required to automatically announce stops will be phased in over three years, beginning in 2008,” says report from city transit staff on the issue. “In the interim, we will maintain vigilance in fostering good customer service by announcing major stops when possible.”
The report, which will be tabled at the city’s transit committee next week, comes in response to a ruling by the Canadian Transportation Agency in April.
Another one of those “quality of service” issues – and because it touches on the case of a person with disabilities something is being done about it – in Ottawa. But the practice of calling out stops matters to many people, not necessarily those who may have recognised disabilities. If you are travelling in the evening, or when it is raining and the bus windows are all steamed up, or you are in an unfamiliar part of town, getting the driver to let you know when your stop is coming up can be very important. Of course, that means the driver has to remember which stops have been asked for. The #98 B Line did have an automatic annunciator but that died with the rest of the GPS system. (In London the drivers call the automated voice “Sonia” – because she “getsonianerves”)
So far as I am aware it is pretty hit and miss here – but this should set a precedent and other transit systems ought to sit up and take notice. But I would bet that because our provincial human rights watchdog is now almost totally useless that Translink will try to duck this one.
But they shouldn’t. And they have to realise that making the system work better for people with disabilities makes it better for everyone. Yes there are trade offs. You loose some seats with a low floor bus and some time at stops when someone in a wheelchair gets on and off. But you make that up in much faster loading and unloading for everyone else, and people with heavy bags and strollers thank you too.
Besides, the days when we treated some groups of people in ways that separated them from the rest of society should by now be long over. Equal access for all should not still be a campaigning slogan but a universally accepted principle. It is to the shame of the transit system here – and in Ottawa – that it is not yet.