Monday, April 07, 2014

Hip Hip ...

The subway was down this weekend in Toronto. Joe and I had plans on heading down to Dundas Square on Sunday and the subway was part of that plan. We knew that buses had been put on duty to shuttle people on surface routes normally part of the subway run.

The big city buses intimidate me and I've never ridden them before. I've spoken to a number of others with disabilities who tell tales of horror the impatience and low level aggression from other riders who don't like the wait it takes to load a wheelchair onto the bus. In any case my chair, not surprisingly, is a big chair and I am not even sure it would be able to make some of the turns to get into the city bus. So. We were wondering about simply changing our plan.

Then Saturday morning we had to traverse a very crowded corner. There were masses of people lined up to get on buses and there were three or four people hired by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to get people smoothly on and smoothly off. I could easily identify the supervisor there and made my way over to him. I asked him if the WheelTrans buses were part of the fleet that shuttled people back and forth. He said, quickly and without question, 'Certainly, I'll call you one now.' I stopped him and told him that we were planning on travel on Sunday and it was good to know we still could. He assured me that the TTC would get me there jokingly reminding me that it was "the better way."

As it turned out our Sunday did not include taking the bus to the square. We found a movie we wanted to see only a few blocks from us and we decided we'd rather do the movie and then pop over to the pub for an hour or two afterwards. Real Sunday stuff. So our plans changed, not because we couldn't do what we'd planned but because we changed our plan. My disability, my transport needs weren't included in that discussion.

I was impressed by whomever, at the TTC, planned it so that disabled riders had an option that fit our mobility needs. It still surprises me, in certain situations, we've been included in their planning. I know that I have been advised by my disabled elders to not fall into the trap of being grateful for what is, or should be, rightfully mine. And I'm not here. (Well, maybe a little, sue me.) But what I'm grateful about is the fact that at those meetings when they planned alternatives, someone said, some one person said, "We need to plan for people with disabilities too."

So whoever you were!

Hip Hip (Ouch) Hurrah.


Penelope said...

I'm glad they had a positive answer for you! I wonder if they would have made an exception for visitors who used wheelchairs.

I know it's scary, but I'd really suggest testing the buses eventually. You might be able to call and find out what dimensions will fit in the wheelchair spots. If you can fit in the spots, you'll be able to get your chair on/off the bus. You might also be able to ask the transit company if it would be possible for you to set-up the chance to test getting on/off so you could get practice before having to do so with other people around.

I only say this because I went through a similar thing about 5 1/2 years ago in NYC. I didn't ever have time to try to set-up Paratransit when I moved because I immediately started working. I'm still not sure that I would have qualified in NYC, anyway, because they have stricter rules than most places. I'd heard horror stories about the NYC buses and the same problems you have heard about in Toronto. Most wheelchair users I knew just completely avoided them (wheelchair users in NYC who can drive actually do drive everywhere). I'd spend the previous summer living in NYC and had figured out how to always use the subways to where I needed to go (that summer I was by one of the subway stations that was almost completely accessible). For the first several months of my job, as a result, I used the subway. It was easy near my apartment, but required about 10 blocks of wheeling from the closest accessible subway station to where I worked. I was a manual wheelchair user at the time so it meant that by the end of the day, I was wheeling 1.5-2 miles (I also had to go to my main client's office most days, although that was only about 2 blocks from mine). There was a bus stop between my flat and the subway station and I had figured out what bus I needed to take to get to work so one day I said the heck with it. As it turned out, I had very few problems with the buses. The hardest part was getting drivers to use the seatbelt . Most people don't insist so they get used to not doing it and don't remember how (it's not easily apparent, but I learned how so that I could walk a driver through. When I started using a powerchair some didn't want to even strap the chair down, but didn't grumble when I asked. I took buses in NYC last month for the first time in years (I moved out of NYC in 2010) and didn't even have to ask. If there were ever comments from other riders, I didn't notice them. I did notice them get made by one woman about a guy who came on smelling strongly of alcohol (I said something because whatever she said offended me, but it wasn't about his wheelchair). The most annoying part about using the buses was that they had to deal with NYC traffic. They actually ran pretty much according to schedule, but it did take longer to get places by bus than subway. I have no idea what buses are like in Toronto, but you may end up being pleasantly surprised. I certainly was in NYC.

Jayne wales said...

Yes you should expect but I have learnt in life a few compliments make people want to do it even more so there is method in the manners too.