Friday, August 25, 2017

The Question

When I moved here, one of my first calls was to the transit system to set up wheelchair services to get from work to home. I discovered that the system here is different than the one in Toronto in one significant way. In Toronto I get on a specialized bus and they take me to work. Here they use an 'integrated' system and I would be picked up by a specialized bus, taken to the bus station and then take two regular buses with typical passengers and then land at a spot where a specialized bus would pick me up and take me to work. The process takes a very long time. So, it's not going to work for me because they can't get me to work at the time I want to be at work.

However, I wanted to, perhaps, use the system to get me to other events locally on weekends or evenings. I have not used the integrated system but I have traveled on many occasions on the subway in Toronto right along with regular passengers. I have always found this daunting. In no particular order I found people annoyed by:

my very presence
the space my chair takes
my very presence
waiting for me to get on or off
my very presence
needed to use the disabled spaces they were sitting in

I have found myself, on more than one occasion feeling unsafe because of the mood of the passengers around me, particularly during rush hours where people wouldn't let me on the system at all. I only managed once to get on and that was with the assistance, firm assistance, of TTC staff.

So, I asked the transit people here, the ones who work with people with disabilities wanting to access services, a question. "Given the research that people with disabilities living in the community and accessing community resources are likely to be victims of violence, intolerance or social disapproval, what have you done to keep us safe on your system. I know that you will have trained drivers, I'm not worried about the drivers, I'm worried about my safety in simply getting on and off the bus.

Now I think this is a legitimate question that people with disabilities need to be asking frequently. The research is pretty solid, we aren't often greeted with welcome. So it's important to know when entering a new environment that claims accessibility, or when you are about to start receiving service from a new organization, to ask, "What have you done to keep me safe within this new environment or with the staff I will be dealing with?"

They should be able to answer the question.

It's a simple one.

Do you know what they said to me, after suggesting I ride, alone, and vulnerable, on two buses and transfer between those two buses without any assistance?

"You'll find that bullying and that kind of behaviour is more of a Toronto problem. It doesn't happen up here."


I told her that I'd already been to the mall and been the subject of stares and other forms of social discrimination.

I was told then that I'd need to speak to a supervisor.

I haven't.

I will but I haven't yet.

Why? Because I think I can already predict how the discussion will go.


Unknown said...

I have a accessible bathroom and I am sick of people saying it looks very clinical. I tell them it's great for me and that's what matters! So again, shut up and fuck off!

Unknown said...

'That doesnt happen here', (translation- 'No matter how much evidence there is we refuse to acknowledge and deal with this issue') makes my blood boil. Sadly I dont think you'll have much luck with the supervisor either. I was told recently that its great how everyones so nice and welcoming to disabled people these days.. its like the non-disabled world just doesnt see or hear what we do and experience.

L said...

Here in Australia, I've been subject to verbal abuse, threats, and even physical assault on the bus and train for daring to use public transport while using a power wheelchair. Not just late at night - some of the worst incidents have happened before 5pm.

Responses from the relevant authorities include

"Due to [budget cutbacks] we don't have the budget to prosecute [this kind of behaviour]"

"The person who [physically assaulted you with his walking stick and injured you and tore your coat-made-of-strong-fabric] is intellectually disabled/mentally ill and [physically assaults] people all the time, so what do you expect us to do about it?"

ABEhrhardt said...

Ask them to accompany you a couple of times - with a camera. Then go at all different times, and degrees of congestion.

What do they think, that you're the ONLY disabled person out there? Or the only one who has had a problem? Sigh.

Any chance you can drive yourself now? It sounds like work has just become almost unreachable for you.

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

I get so, so, very tired of people who are SO SURE that the people THEY have met are all such lovely people who would never ever be rude or cruel. Failing to realize that some of the people who are nice to THEM are not equal-opportunity polite people, or equal-opportunity jerks--some of the people who are perfectly lovely when dealing with non-disabled people, are not so nice when it's a disabled person asking for a little consideration from them, or asking to be treated like a human being.

I see the same issue with white people who are SO SURE that the people THEY have met cannot possibly be racist because, after all, these people are always perfectly nice to them, the white person!

Or straight people who are SO SURE that there is no more anti-gay hatred around any more because after all THEY have never seen it!

And so on. Why can't people who experience privilege (and I do myself experience plenty of privilege as a white, well educated person who grew up middle class and am still middle class) learn to just stop and LISTEN to disabled people, people of color, lgbtiqa+ people, Jewish people, Muslim people, and so on when we/they speak about our own/their own daily lived experiences? Instead of just assuming that what THEY experience is the same as that experienced by everyone else of all ability statuses, all races and ethnic background, all genders, religious beliefs, socio-economic classes, etc?

Unknown said...

They are trying to implement it on TTC as well. I have been called to take a survey but declined thinking my sitauation was temporary. I will remind you of the gentleman in Toronto last summer who put his motorized wheelchair in front of a bus as he had waited at the stop for more than 2 hours in the heat because each bus was full. Do you know what each driver said "you will need to get the next bus". This should let you know how that whole integrated system will work especially during rush hour. I believe they believe that most people with disabilities do not work so can take transit off peak times. Those tesined drivers dud nothing to ensure tgat any of the following buses could accommodate tge gentleman as tgey were clearly not concerned. The police were called.