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Posts Tagged "Accessible"

31Jan

TransLink hopes to mitigate effects of subsidy cut for accessible taxis

by admin


Wheelchair-accessible taxis outside Canada Place.


Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

TransLink will do everything it can to make sure its customers with disabilities who use taxis aren’t affected by the Vancouver Taxi Association’s decision to stop subsidies for drivers of accessible taxis, according to its CEO.

HandyDART, a door-to-door shuttle for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, is a service offered by TransLink, and over the last two years about 12 per cent of its rides were provided by taxis. About one per cent of its rides use wheelchair-accessible cabs.

This week, the Vancouver Taxi Association, which represents taxi companies that operate in Vancouver and adjacent municipalities, said it will no longer provide incentives for drivers of accessible vans, such as waiving fees or offering bonuses, because it can no longer afford it now that ride-hailing has entered the Metro Vancouver transportation market.

It said companies will continue to serve customers with disabilities as best they can.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said they are in discussions with the association to find out what the impact might be for HandyDART and TaxiSaver customers.

“We want to do everything, working in close collaboration with the taxi association, to ensure there would be no negative impacts on our customers, so those conversations are ongoing,” Desmond said.

Association spokesperson Carolyn Bauer said on Friday that she did not wish to comment on the decision, but the province is working with taxi companies to figure out how to allocate the 30-cent per-trip fee for non-accessible ride-hailing vehicles to “support a sustained and improved level of accessible vehicles on the road.”

HandyDART Riders’ Alliance co-chair Beth McKellar said she was unsure how HandyDART users would be affected if the subsidies are eliminated and fewer accessible taxis were available, but said TransLink relies too heavily on taxis to supplement service. She was livid at the taxi association’s decision.

“This is so wrong — so, so wrong,” McKellar said. “I’ve just been so disappointed with the whole mess. We get hit hard enough with our afflictions every day, our transportation shouldn’t be at risk.”

According to a recent report on modernizing the taxi industry, accessible vehicles cost more money, time and fuel to acquire and operate.

“When a taxi licence share is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, taxi companies have no difficulty absorbing the higher cost of these vehicles and can offer drivers concessions on their dispatch fees to offset the higher costs of operation,” the report said. “However, if licence values fall, or are already low, finding willing taxi companies and drivers becomes problematic.”

B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said most of his member companies — which operate outside of Vancouver — offer what he called incentives to drivers of accessible taxis and there is no plan for them to stop doing that.

“We are committed to providing the service to people with disabilities on a priority basis as we did before,” Kang said. “That’s our stance, that’s the association’s stance.”

Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., said she understands the position taxi companies are in, but she found it disappointing that it has come to this.

“We’ve been trying to just push the government or the municipalities a bit to step in and maybe provide some incentives for the taxi industry so that they can continue to have an accessible fleet, just because not having one means that people with disabilities are left out,” Loh said.

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30Jan

Vancouver taxi companies stop subsidizing drivers of accessible vehicles, cite ride-hailing competition | CBC News

by admin

The Vancouver Taxi Association says it will no longer subsidize drivers who operate accessible vehicles, claiming sudden competition from ride-hailing means taxi companies can no longer afford it.

Without the subsidies, the association said, drivers are less likely to choose an accessible van because it will cost them more out of pocket.

“I want to make it crystal clear — we have not stopped trying to service these trips. We’re doing our best to try and service these trips,” said Kalwant Sahota, speaking Wednesday for the Vancouver Taxi Association.

“But if I’ve only got so many vehicles on the road, if there’s an operator on the road, he’s got a choice of driving a car which costs much much less to operate. At the end of day, he wants money to take home.” 

The decision is the latest from the taxi sector in a continued turf war with Uber and Lyft over business in the region, and it’s a move that leaves customers with disabilities feeling caught in the crossfire.

“I find it very worrisome,” said disability advocate Laura Makenrot. “We know already that there isn’t enough supply of wheelchair-accessible taxis in general around Metro Vancouver, and that’s been a problem for years … I’m worried this news now will make wait time for people with disabilities using wheelchairs even longer.”

Laura Mackenrot says people with disabilities have been caught in the crossfire of a turf battle between the Vancouver Taxi Association and ride-hailing. (CBC News)

And she says simply relying on other services like HandyDart doesn’t cut it because they don’t offer the same freedom and spontaneity as taxis.

Taxi companies have previously helped drivers who operate accessible vehicles because the vans are typically more expensive to run than smaller cabs, meaning drivers who use them make less profit. 

Some companies waived dispatch fees or offered a $5 bonus per trip. Others rewarded drivers with a front-of-the-line position in the dispatch centre after taking a trip in an accessible van.

The taxi association said companies are now stopping those incentives, less than a week after Uber and Lyft launched in Metro Vancouver. The move effectively discourages taxi drivers from choosing the accessible vans when they arrive for a shift.

“Drivers want to switch over from the vans onto the cars,” said Sahota, who is also the president of Yellow Cab.

Sahota said cab drivers have been seeing fewer trips in general because customers are turning to ride-hailing. So, when drivers do get fares, they don’t want to lose profit by driving a van suited for accessible passengers.

A Vancouver taxi driver uses the wheelchair ramp on his accessible vehicle to load luggage for cruise ship passengers. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sometimes, Sahota said, drivers make double when they drive a sedan instead of a van.

“We can’t force someone to operate the vehicle. I understand. Their expenses are extremely high,” said Carolyn Bauer, also with the Vancouver Taxi Association.

Sahota and Bauer said the taxi lobbyists wants the province to level the industry by capping fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies, enforcing stricter pricing rules so ride-hailing is more in line with cab fares, and offering insurance breaks for cab drivers.

Sahota called on the province to step in and offer incentives, so companies don’t have to bear that cost themselves.

The province does not currently provide subsidies or incentives to cab companies, it said in a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Providing a certain number of accessible taxis, it says, is part of the licensing requirement of many taxi companies.

“Companies who do not abide by the terms and conditions of their licence can face administrative penalties of up to $50,000 at the registrar’s discretion,” it said.

In terms of Uber and Lyft, the province says it has set a 30 cent fee per trip for ride-hailing services.

This fee, it says, is “intended to support accessible transportation and administration of ride-hail services.”

 

20Jan

B.C. ride-hailing services won’t be accessible to all

by admin

Many people are eagerly looking forward to ride-hailing finally being available in Metro Vancouver, but Vince Miele is not one of them.

The Tsawwassen resident, who uses a wheelchair, said he and many others who have disabilities and use mobility aids will be left behind when services like Lyft and Uber begin operating, because they will be unusable by those who can’t get in and out of a standard vehicle.

“There’s been a erosion of access for people with disabilities, and I think this move to ride-hailing is just another step in this erosion,” said Miele. “It’s erosion because here’s another mode of transportation that’s being offered, and there’s a segment of the population that won’t be able to take advantage of it. I really feel that it’s a form of discrimination.”

Since last fall, the Passenger Transportation Board has been reviewing applications from ride-hailing companies that want to operate in B.C. To date, only one application — from a company planning to operate in Tofino and Whistler — has been approved.

When services do eventually start operating, ride-hailing drivers will use their personal vehicles, which means that few, if any, rides will be able to accommodate people who are unable to transfer to a vehicle seat or use mobility aids that can’t be easily stowed in a trunk or back seat.

Taxi companies are required to have wheelchair-accessible taxis in their fleet. According to statistics from the Passenger Transportation Board, about 14 per cent of taxis in the province are accessible, and about 19 per cent in Metro Vancouver, though it can still be difficult for people with disabilities to get an accessible cab.

There is no such requirement  for ride-hailing companies.

“It’s quite insulting and disheartening and really makes you question whether our society is moving forward at all with any intention of greater accessibility when we continue to have things being introduced that aren’t accessible,” said Gabrielle Peters, who uses a manual wheelchair.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, “Drivers of ride-hailing vehicles must take all reasonable steps to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities,” including those with service dogs.

The only nod to “protecting accessibility” in provincial regulations is a 30-cent-a-trip fee for non-accessible ride-hailing vehicles. According to the provincial government, the fee will “support funding for accessibility programs,” but those programs have not been defined.

“We’ll be working on how to allocate these funds once applications are approved, companies start operating, and the per-trip fee revenue is collected,” the Ministry of Transportation said in an emailed statement.

The lack of clarity around how the money will be spent has been criticized.

“There should be a plan, there should be a timetable. Saying that is their mitigation of this is patently ridiculous. It’s an insult to people with disabilities, pure and simple,” said Greg Pyc, who has paraplegia and has used a wheelchair for more than 40 years.

It took the City of Ottawa almost two years to decide how to use the money it raised through the voluntary seven-cent-per-ride accessibility surcharge it implemented in late 2017. It lowered the cost of taxi coupons for people with disabilities, increased the number of coupons allowed per customer, and funded community agencies providing transportation in rural areas.

Toronto just implemented its fee, the proceeds of which will be used to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis.

Some believe a fee is not enough or is the wrong approach altogether.

“Accessibility is a conscious decision to create a society and things within it — systems, ideas, places, services, policies — that include everyone, not a surtax. That’s almost like charity, like tithing. It’s insulting,” said Peters.

Terry Green, chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ transportation committee, said the easiest way for governments to make services accessible is to build requirements into the licensing scheme, as they do with taxis. The reality, he said, is that governments are reluctant to do this for ride-hailing, because ride-hailing drivers use their own vehicles.

“My response is that this is a transportation service that is being offered to the public and it’s supposed to be offered equally to our citizens with disabilities. Consequently, they should be at least, in the spirit of the legislation, required to provide accessibility to the level of other transportation providers,” said Green.

Jutta Treviranus was distressed to hear that B.C. had not written accessibility requirements for people with disabilities into its regulations for ride-hailing, beyond charging the per trip fee.

“This is a human rights issue,” she said.

Treviranus is the director of Toronto’s Inclusive Design Research, and was involved, along with many others, in the development of ride-hailing regulations in Toronto, which include a requirement for companies with more than 500 vehicles to provide wheelchair-accessible service, and for drivers of accessible vehicles to go through training.

She said that without regulations and conditions on licensing, there is no obligation to do anything to make the service accessible. She doesn’t think it’s too late to do better in B.C.

“If Uber is not yet licensed, and they’ve been successful in keeping Uber out of the province, and Uber wants to get in to the province, now is the time to negotiate, and the negotiation should be to get equivalent service,” Treviranus said.

The lack of accessibility is not unique to B.C. Ride-hailing companies have faced backlash, including lawsuits, from people with disabilities and advocates. For instance, Uber has been sued for discrimination in New York and Lyft has been sued in California.

Uber’s head of Western Canada, Michael van Hemmen, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement he said when Uber first hits the road in Metro Vancouver, he does not anticipate wheelchair-accessible vehicles being available on the app “because drivers will be using their own vehicles, and most vehicles are not wheelchair accessible.”

However, he said Uber has written to the province to ask for access to revenue from the 30-cent per-trip accessibility fee to make wheelchair-accessible vehicles available on the app.

A Lyft spokesperson said in an emailed statement that accessibility is important to the company, and drivers are required to make every reasonable effort to transport passengers and their wheelchairs.

The two companies have services or features to accommodate people with disabilities — Uber has WAV and Assist, while Lyft has “Access Mode” — however, they’re not available in all markets.


Vince Miele with his vehicle, which is modified for wheelchair access.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

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15Oct

Vancouver ramps up for more accessible city, but much more needed

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Micaela Evans at Ash street and SW Marine Dr. in Vancouver.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

The City of Vancouver is planning to install up to 600 more curb ramps over the next few years to help make the municipality more accessible.

The initiative comes after the city’s engineering department identified about 5,000 locations “where curb ramps are missing” from Vancouver’s infrastructure, according to a recent request for proposal. The city plans to award a one-year contract to install 150-200 curb ramps, and may extend that contract at its discretion, according to the proposal.

But wheelchair users such as Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer who used to sit on the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council, believe much more can and should be done to open the city for all to use.

In a 2017 motion passed by council, Peters identified that 8,000 of the city’s 27,000 intersections had no curb ramps whatsoever. Peters also calculated that the city budget allowed for 40 curb ramps to be built per year, meaning that it would take 200 years for Vancouver to be fully outfitted with ramps.

Asked what she thought about the city’s plan to put in another 150 ramps per year for four years, Peters said it was “raising a shockingly low number to an embarrassingly low number.” She said she believed the city had prioritized other things over ensuring access for many of its residents and users.

“What do you think that says to a disabled person living in Vancouver?” Peters asked. “Thank you eternally for almost treating me like I matter to you as a leader running my city, the city I live in.”

Micaela Evans, a wheelchair user who lives in Port Moody, said she doesn’t frequent many parts of Vancouver, but said older areas of most towns tended to be worse on wheels than newer areas. Still, she said she felt accessibility remained an afterthought rather than an integral part of design.

Eric Mital, a senior head of engineering with the city’s Streets Design Branch, said all new sidewalks in the city are now built with curb ramps. The 600 that have been prioritized were requested by members of the public, he said.

Peters has been a wheelchair user for over a decade now, so she has experienced the space by foot and by wheel. She said that when she started to use her chair, the Vancouver she knew suddenly transformed.

“I felt like I’d moved to a different city,” she said.

Peters described the place as a constant source of barriers, and most of them human-made. Asked if there were specific locations she could point to that were particularly accessible, she said “everywhere.”

Peters gave as an example the seawall ,”a spot where I tend to say that would be one of the more accessible, and it’s (still) not.” Accessing it around Denman Street near Beach Avenue involves crossing at least two intersections and a bike path, each of which includes its own set of challenges. Peters said she at times has needed to wait several lights to cross due to drivers who have blocked curb ramps with their vehicles. Once in the park, a relatively steep ramp that is not evenly surfaced descends to the path. And once there, wheelchair users will notice it is sloped, making for a tricky travel route.

Even sites that have curb ramps are not as accessible as some may think, Peters said. Some of the curb ramps at Burrard St. and West Georgia St., for example, unsafely exit wheelchair users directly toward the centre of the intersection, rather than into crosswalks, Peters said. There is a similar setup across the street from City Hall at 12th Ave. and Cambie St., she said.

Asked if she could compare Vancouver’s accessibility to other cities, Peters’ motion noted that for several years Calgary and Edmonton had budgeted for 250-350 curb ramp installations per year in intersections that had none.

mrobinson@postmedia.com

13Oct

New universally accessible playground opens in Surrey, B.C. | CBC News

by admin

A new playground created for children with disabilities is open for fun in Surrey, B.C.

The 12,000 square feet playground was unveiled Oct. 8 at the Unwin Park in Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood. The city says the playground is the largest inclusive playground in Surrey, one of Canada’s fastest growing municipalities.

The space features adaptive equipment such as a wheelchair-accessible “we-go-round.” The park has double-wide ramps, which allows children in wheelchairs to get into it.

“Creating spaces where residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy active play together is at the centre of our vision to advance as a thriving, healthy community where everyone feels welcome,” said Mayor Doug McCallum in a release. 

The park is part of a five-year $50-million commitment from the Canadian Tire Corporation to help children across Canada overcome physical barriers to sport and recreation.

3Aug

‘No no no no no no’: Wheelchair users say even accessible taxis will refuse rides in Vancouver | CBC News

by admin

Two weeks ago, Gabrielle Peters spent a rare day out in Vancouver with friends. They took in a cultural festival in the afternoon, then headed for dinner at a restaurant Peters had always wanted to try.

“As soon as we sat down, my anxiety started. In the back of my mind was, ‘I’m going to have to call a taxi,’ and that’s likely to be not a good experience,” she remembered.

Peters uses a wheelchair. It’s always a challenge to find a taxi that will take her, but she says the night of July 20 was the worst it’s ever been.

She and her friends say she was refused by multiple drivers with accessible vehicles who dropped off passengers while she was waiting in front of the restaurant.

Meanwhile, she was dealing with serious back pain from a day spent wheeling over uneven surfaces. The restaurant didn’t have a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, so she desperately needed a toilet.

“Drivers are giving me the, ‘No no no no no no’ and driving away,” Peters said.

 

But this isn’t a story about one horrible night in the life of a woman who uses a wheelchair. This is a story about all the frustrating nights, mornings and afternoons disabled people have trying to find reliable transportation in Vancouver.

Other wheelchair users who spoke to CBC for this story confirmed they’re frequently refused cab service, and said they believe drivers prefer to use the extra space in accessible taxis to carry tourists’ luggage.

They say the situation is even more desperate for wheelchair users who also happen to be poor or people of colour, and the situation isn’t likely to improve when Uber arrives in B.C.

“This is part of a larger problem, and all the solutions that they’re proposing are not solutions for this particular problem,” Peters said.

Urban planner Amina Yasin points out that Uber and Lyft have had their own issues with discrimination

“We’re innovating on a cracked foundation, and we’re not really solving the root of a lot of these problems for a lot of people,” said Yasin, who is co-chair of the Canadian Institute of Planners’ social equity committee and speaks on inclusive infrastructure.

Ride-hailing is set to begin in B.C. in the fall, and companies like Uber and Lyft will have to pay a 30-cent fee for every trip in a non-accessible vehicle.

The revenue is meant to support more accessible transportation options, but officials at the transportation ministry say they haven’t yet determined how the funds will be allocated.

‘I’ve hidden behind the bushes’

Vancouver Taxi Association spokesperson Carolyn Bauer told CBC she’d like to speak with Peters about her experience, and find a way to make things right. That includes holding the drivers who passed her by accountable — Bauer said all taxi companies have penalties for discriminating against disabled passengers.

“We take very seriously our responsibility to provide timely transportation services to everyone, and will continue to work diligently to ensure we live up to this obligation,” Bauer wrote in an email.

The B.C. Transportation Ministry notes it’s strengthened penalties for businesses and drivers that fail to follow the Taxi Bill of Rights, which prohibit discriminating against people with disabilities. Fines of up to $50,000 can now be issued for anyone who does not comply, and licences can be suspended or cancelled.

So far this year, the Passenger Transportation Branch, which regulates taxis, has four complaints on file related to excessive wait times for people with wheelchairs that resulted in trip cancellations. Peters says the complaint process is difficult to navigate, a subject she’s written about in the past.

Bronwyn Berg says she doesn’t let the dispatcher know she has a wheelchair when she calls for a cab in Vancouver. (Submitted by Bronwyn Berg)

Peters is not alone in her experiences with cabs.

Bronwyn Berg lives in Chemainus, but has similar stories from her visits to Vancouver. She says she’s had taxis speed past her while the driver yells “no wheelchairs!” out the window.

That’s why Berg never lets the dispatcher know she has a wheelchair when she calls for a cab — something that wouldn’t be possible if she used a power chair.

When she’s hailing from the street, “if I’m with one of my adult children, they’ll say, ‘No one’s going to stop for us unless you hide.’ I’ve hidden behind the bushes and around the corner while they hail a cab.”

‘A really hopeless, desperate feeling’

The consequences for a person’s quality of life are hard to fathom for anyone who doesn’t have to deal with this on a daily basis.

The cost of a wheelchair-adapted vehicle is out of reach for many people, and public transit can be extremely uncomfortable, depending on the disability. HandyDART service, meanwhile, has to be booked a day in advance.

“You have a whole different metric for whether or not you’re going to go out,” Peters explained.

“I start off by being excited that I have this opportunity to go do something, and then I start thinking about all of the various barriers between getting there and being there and getting home … and suddenly start going, you know what, I’m not worth it.”

A passenger tries to hail an Uber in downtown Vancouver. The ride-hailing service is scheduled to be available in B.C. beginning in September. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Berg points out that reliable transportation is also a crucial part of staying safe.

According to Statistics Canada, disabled Canadians are almost twice as likely to be victims of violent crime, and disabled women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted.

“There is a really hopeless, desperate feeling if you’re in a city and it’s dark and late and you cannot get home,” Berg said.

If the situation is going to improve, Peters believes wheelchair users need to be at the table when any sort of transportation policy is under discussion. Accessibility should be built into the system from the beginning, not padded on as an afterthought.

“You need to start with us,” she said.

Rather than the province’s current focus on increasing the supply of wheelchair-accessible cabs, Peters wants tougher rules to ensure drivers will actually pick up wheelchair users — and handle both people and their chairs with care, an issue worthy of its own story.

She’s especially skeptical about the introduction of ride-hailing in B.C. this fall.

Uber and Lyft depend on drivers using their own vehicles, which means wheelchair-accessible cars are few and far between. And ride-hailing companies generally don’t require hands-on training for dealing with wheelchairs.

“What we need is more regulation, not less,” Peters said. “What we need is more training, not less. We need rules.”

24Jul

Accessible parking scofflaws a problem for people with disabilities | CBC News

by admin

Vincel Miele feels frustration and anger when he sees an able-bodied person parking illegally in a spot designated for people with disabilities.

“For them it’s a convenience, I suppose,” said Miele, 69, as he drove through the parking lot of Lansdowne Centre in Richmond in his specially-designed van. 

Miele was injured in an accident at 21 and has used a wheelchair since. 

“It just takes away from someone that does need it and, in a lot of cases, can’t go about their business because they can’t find a parking spot where they can get in and out independently.”

Miele’s van lets him get out into the community independently, but he needs to park in a special, wider disability stall so he can use his van’s ramp to get in and out of his vehicle.

Vince Miele, 69, was injured in an accident at 21 and has used a wheelchair since. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He wants people to know how inconsiderate it is when someone who doesn’t need the spot takes it anyway.

Miele also wants to see improvements to what he calls a patchwork system of fines and enforcement in B.C.

He said rules, penalties and enforcement levels vary across Metro Vancouver.

Vancouver, for example issued more than 1,600 tickets for parking in accessible spaces in 2018, while Surrey issued 24.

Miele would also like to see tougher fines for those who violate disability parking rules, and stricter rules for disability parking on public and private property. Fines can be as low as about $60. 

‘They swear’

While driving in another Richmond parking lot with CBC News, Miele spotted an able-bodied person with a disability parking decal in an accessible spot.

The driver said she was waiting for her mother, who has a disability. She was legally using the space but Vince doesn’t get why she had to take the spot he needed instead of waiting somewhere else.

This Canada Post truck was spotted parked in a disability parking spot on Homer Street in Vancouver. The corporation said it has launched an internal investigation. (Eric Rankin/CBC)

“It’s a problem … mostly for people that use wheelchairs because they really depend on that wider spot,” he said.

Miele spoke to the driver. The conversation went well but he said drivers can turn nasty.

“They swear. Yeah. They tell you to mind your own business,” Miele said. “They tell you to, whatever off, and sometimes worse.”

Vince Miele says when able-bodied people park in the wider accessible parking spaces — like the driver of this white van has done — it inconveniences people in wheelchair vans, like the one on the left. (Vince Miele)

Private lots make own rules

A Lansdowne Mall spokesperson said it enforces parking rules, especially for disability stalls. Offenders, she said, are fined or towed.

EasyPark vice-president Gary Kohr said private lots — the kind you might find at malls, grocery stores or below ground at some highrise towers — are only obligated to include a certain number of disability parking stalls.

The buildings’ owners arrange enforcement, he said, and can waive tickets.

Private parking lots are only required by law to maintain a certain number of accessible spots, according to one lot operator. Enforcement of lot policies is up to the owner — who has the option to waive a ticket. (Vince Miele)

“The owner of the property will define the rules of engagement,” Kohr said, adding most owners follow guidance from operating companies like EasyPark, with fines starting at about $60.

City bylaw officers have no jurisdiction over private lots, he said.

Lorraine Copas, executive director of the accessibility advocacy group SPARC BC, said police can enforce rules on private lots, if called.

A CBC News team spotted this driver on Granville Island parked in an accessible spot with no permit. The vehicle’s back end encroaches onto a second accessible spot. (Ethan Sawyer/CBC)

Cities vary

Kohr would not say how many delinquent drivers his company tickets for breaking disability parking rules.

Numbers from Metro Vancouver’s four largest cities show a wide disparity in numbers of tickets handed out in 2018 for offenders on city-controlled lots and on-street parkers.

Vancouver handed out the most tickets — over 1,600. Burnaby issued 138, Richmond issued 107, while Surrey handed out 24. 

A City of Surrey spokesperson explained that’s because bylaw officers only actively patrol four locations in the city for violations, two of which are at city hall. 

Miele says it’s not just the malls — rule-breakers are commonly seen on Richmond’s streets and lots.

Richmond spokesperson Clay Adams said the city doesn’t have the power to enforce disability parking rules in private lots, leaving it up to drivers and lot owners to respect the parking laws.

“It really gets down to individual drivers and how much they want to respect the legality, but also the moral element, of these kind of parking stalls.”

Priorities

Miele wants to see rules for disability parking — on public and private property — better enforced, and a uniform, hefty fine to apply across B.C.

“Make it $400 as a even number,” he said. “Maybe that’ll get people’s attention.”

Most of all, he wants to see a change in attitude from some able-bodied drivers.

Vince Miele is an advocate for people with disabilities. He uses a special wheelchair-lift-equipped van that he can drive on his own. But if the wider accessible parking stalls in a lot are taken up, it’s hard for him to deploy the ramp and get out of the van. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“I mean, is part of parking closest to the entrance that critical for the guy that has to run in and grab a case of beer or go buy a pack of smokes?” he asked.

“I think they should give … their heads at least one shake. Maybe two or more.”


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16Jun

How to make B.C. active transportation accessible for all

by admin

Active transportation includes non-motorized ways of going places like walking, cycling and other types of wheeling. Making it accessible for everyone is a key message at the B.C. Cycling Coalition’s active transportation summit in New Westminster this week, where these five experts will be speaking during the two days of the conference (Monday and Tuesday):

Amina Yasin, New Westminster

Active transportation has to be inclusive and equitable, says Yasin, co-chair of the Canadian Institute of Planners Social Equity Committee. “Equity is the foundation for all solution-making,” she says. But making active transportation equitable requires “building fairness into the process” and, unfortunately, government policies have historically failed to acknowledge people’s physical and systemic barriers to it.

Fixing those problems starts with recognizing where active transportation falls short of being fair. For example, when cities time the cycle lengths for their crosswalk lights, do they prioritize drivers, or the pedestrians who might move a bit slower, such as people with neurocognitive disabilities and seniors? When designing transition spaces, can someone with an invisible illness like Crohn’s disease or dementia easily access the public washroom, too?

“If we don’t solve for equity then we’re not really considering everyone in this equation,” Yasin says. “We’re going to continuing to build biases that affect people in our policies and our built environment.”



Barb Chamberlain, director of the active transportation division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Handout

Barb Chamberlain, Seattle

“Changes that make the transportation system more accessible to people who need to have barriers removed make it better for everybody,” says Chamberlain, director of the active transportation division of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

She points to an article called The Curb-Cut Effect, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, which explains that while wedge cuts were made into sidewalks to make public streets accessible to wheelchair users, they also benefit parents pushing strollers, travellers wheeling luggage and even skateboarders.

Chamberlain says another thing to consider is that everyone will eventually be in a situation where they do not have the same range of capabilities they may have today, whether through aging or by acquiring a disability.

“We’re all moving through the world in different ways in our lives, over time, so we are building the future transportation system that is for ourselves,” she says.

Even motorists become pedestrians using active transportation once they exit their vehicles. “These needs for universal design are, in fact, universal needs,” Chamberlain says.



Allen Mankewich is an accessibility advocate.

Handout /

PNG

Allen Mankewich, Winnipeg

Who should be responsible for clearing the way for active transportation? It’s a question that is top of mind for accessibility advocate Mankewich.

Coming from a “winter city,” Mankewich, who uses a wheelchair, sees a good case for municipalities taking responsibility for clearing snow from sidewalks. In many places, property owners are required to clear their sidewalks outside their homes, which means “leaving it up to the goodwill of the people to ensure that a public resource is properly cleared,” he says.

“It’s not uncommon in Winnipeg to see somebody using their scooter or wheelchair on the street in the winter because, frankly, we do a better job of clearing our streets than we do clearing our sidewalks.”

Mankewich says municipalities should adopt a “sidewalks-first approach.” After all, their snow-clearing equipment and strategies are far more efficient than a person with a shovel, he says.

Otherwise, disabled people can face serious social isolation when just a bit of snow sticks. “The impact of that is quite serious,” he says. “People are not able to go to work, potentially. They’re not able to go out and get groceries. They’re essentially homebound until the city is able to get out and clear their sidewalk.”



Maddy Ruvolo, a chronically-ill disability activist and transportation planning master’s student at UCLA.

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Maddy Ruvolo, San Francisco

Planners can learn from the ways disabled people have adapted and built access for people with all types of bodies, says Ruvolo, a chronically-ill disability activist and transportation planning master’s student at UCLA.

“Disabled people are used to living in a world where your ways of moving and thinking and sensing are treated as deficient,” she says. “Because of that, disabled people have learned to move and navigate through hostile spaces, and have learned to creatively problem-solve when inaccessibility arises — but we shouldn’t have to because it’s exhausting.”

Fixing this means going beyond basic disability awareness and “token inclusion,” Ruvolo says.

Disabled people need to be hired for decision-making positions that will have an impact on active transportation and infrastructure. For example, Ruvolo found that some bike lanes in the Bay Area were designed without thought to how disabled people would navigate the altered spaces.

“If you have disabled people at the table in decision-making positions from the get-go, you can think about how to create a bike lane that works for cyclists, including disabled cyclists, but also works for wheelchair users, blind people and other people navigating around and through bike lanes that aren’t using them,” she says.



Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario.

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Sarah Jama, Hamilton, Ont.

Stop using consumerist language when talking about accessibility, says Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario. “A lot of our conversations around accessibility tend to focus on adding ramps to stores so that we can expand our economic purchasing power,” Jama says.

Legislation called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act contains a framework for accessibility in Jama’s province (B.C. has no equivalent) but relies heavily on consumerist language, she says. “It uses a lot of language around, ‘This is what we need in order to build a society that fits people with disabilities in public spaces, in terms of being able to be helpful or useful to the economy.”

The federal act focuses too much on employment, too, she says. “What about the people who can’t work?” she says. “What about the people who can’t really participate in what we would deem as conventional in this capitalist society and framework?” Jama says building public space that fit everybody — including for active transportation — means making them universally accessible regardless of whether people are using them to spend money or simply for their own enjoyment.

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12Apr

‘Safe and accessible’: Granville St. Bridge renewal open houses begin

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The City of Vancouver wants you to have your say on the future of the Granville Street Bridge.

To do so, they’re hosting open houses Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday, April 16, and inviting the public to speak their minds about the planned renewal project. 

The city says the planned improvements would make walking, rolling and cycling safer and more easily accessible for people of all ages and abilities, while still accommodating drivers, transit and emergency vehicles.

According to the project’s website, the eight-lane Granville Bridge was originally intended as a high-speed, freeway-style connector. Granville Street is the main thoroughfare from the Arthur Laing Bridge in Richmond; the closest bridge to the Vancouver International Airport and a major connector from the airport to the city’s core. 

Now, they say the current design presents “significant safety and accessibility challenges in today’s urban context.” 

In an information sheet, the city says the bridge has “extra capacity” and could reallocate up to four car lanes for a pathway. 

The same info pack says on a typical weekday, the bridge can see as many as 65,000 motor vehicles daily, plus 25,000 transit trips.

Currently the bridge does not feature any bike lanes or signaled crosswalks. The sidewalks are narrow and elevated, which the city says makes it inaccessible for pedestrians with mobility aids like wheelchairs or scooters.

Apart from safety and accessibility, the city says they are open to “big ideas” for the public space around the bridge, including art, seating and lookout stations. 

The open houses are being held at CityLab at 511 West Broadway on the following days:

  • Friday, April 12, from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
  • And Tuesday, April 16, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

An online survey is open until May 10 for anyone that can’t attend the live consultations, and four workshops are planned for April 27 and April 30.


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11Mar

Canada looking for input on making travel network most accessible in the world

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The federal government is asking for input on how tomakeCanada’s travel network the most accessible in the world for all passengers, including people with physical and mental disabilities.

It haspublished a new set of regulations for the public to view and consult on in the Canada Gazette, the federal government’s official newsletter. There, people can leave comments for the Canadian Transportation Agency, who said they will update the proposed changes based on public feedback. 

“(It’s) an ambitious vision, but we believe that in a country who values include equality and inclusion, we should aspire to nothing less,” said Scott Streiner, the chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The proposed changes would help centralize the CTA’s existing rules, six of which are voluntary, into a legally-binding set of transportation regulations.

That includes:

  • How to better communicate with disabled travellers
  • How to train transportation workers to help travellers with disabilities
  • How to make carriers and terminals accessible for all travellers
  • How to provide accessible services
  • How to make border and security screening accessible

Proposed changes range from automated self-service desks, training for staff to help those with sight and hearing impairments and assisting people with disabilities getting in and out of terminals.

The changes would apply to large airlines – an airline that carries more than one million travellers annually – VIA Rail and Amtrak operators, ferries weighing at least 1,000 gross tonnes, as well as Greyhound and Mega Bus operators.  

Airports that served more than 200,000 passengers over the past two years, any transportation terminals used by the aforementioned companies, and Canadian ports used by cruise ships would also fall under the new regulations.

The announcement was made at Vancouver International Airport, which received the Rick Hansen Foundation’s gold certification for accessibility last December.

If approved, the regulations would go into effect one year after they are published. The consultation period is open until April 8th, and feedback can be emailed to consultations@otc-cta.gc.ca

The CTA hopes to have the final regulations published by this summer.


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