Changes to the TTC are having a negative impact on people with disabilities
As the TTC continues to implement safety measures to protect workers and commuters during the COVID-19 pandemic, some passengers are experiencing difficulties accessing buses, saying the measures compromise buses’ accessibility features.
Courtney Mclean is a healthcare professional working at a downtown hospital. She has multiple sclerosis (MS) and uses a cane, sometimes a walker. Mclean says that last week and this week she experienced difficulties boarding and exiting TTC buses on her way to and from work.
@ttc so how tf do you guys expect the elderly and disabled to get on the bus if the front of the bus is blocked off please explain?— 𝐤𝐚𝐞𝐥𝐚 (@kaelabriannex) April 1, 2020
The TTC announced on March 23 that due to workers’ health and safety concerns, passengers will only be allowed to board and exit buses from the rear doors.
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said that an exception is made to this rule in cases where passengers require the use of the bus’s kneeling feature or the wheelchair ramp.
Mclean says she needs her cane in the mornings. On her way to work on March 26, the bus driver would not let her embark from the front entrance — as she stood outside, the driver gestured to her to enter from the rear, she said.
When she reached her destination, she asked the driver to let her off from the front, but he would not.
“So then I went to get off in the back and another passenger helped me,” Mclean said. She was understandably upset and filed a report with TTC that same day. “I just need to know if I’m going to be able to get home okay,” she said.
Making a report to TTC customer services is something Green recommends passengers do.
Being accessibility challenged, I do appreciate greatly the operators who will let me on through the front doors, I do not appreciate being told if you don't like rear door boarding... go home and stay there like I was told on route 84 this morn— Stephen Bennett (@SecureSteve160) March 28, 2020
“The only seats we have officially blocked off are those directly behind the operator on some bus models to protect the safety and security of our operators,” Green said.
But this has, according to Green, been done in a way that ensures “the vehicles remain accessible from the front doors and the aisle remains clear.”
“If a customer sees a vehicle with a makeshift barricade that is rendering it inaccessible, they should report it to our customer service team so it can be addressed,” Green noted.
On March 31, after an 11-hour shift at work, Mclean had a difficult ride home. “There [was] a spider web of caution tape separating the driver totally from the back of the bus,” she said.
She had entered from the rear that night, but noticed another passenger with a cane, so she spoke to the driver.
“I just need you to know that I have MS and I’m a healthcare worker, and whether or not your bus will let me on with my cane or my walker, I will be at the hospital, ready to take care of you and your family if you need it,” she told the driver, who she says then got angry with her.
Mclean is not alone in experiencing difficulties making use of TTC buses. Plenty of commuters have taken to Twitter to raise their concerns.
I need to use the front door so they can lower the bus. How can I signal to the driver that I need the front door. The bus drives right by me and I get on the rear doors. I then explain to driver I have a tumour in my leg and need to use front door and bus to be lowered.— WendyL (@wLee0209) March 25, 2020
“It all comes back to the fear that’s not being addressed,” Mclean says. Working in healthcare, she said she experienced individuals from the Ministry of Labour actively making sure hospitals were well-equipped to handle the pandemic.
She says the TTC should consult with professionals on effective practices when it comes to making their employees feel safe, so that employees don’t take “extraordinary steps to protect themselves.”
“I know they’re just trying to do the best thing for their families and themselves,” Mclean said. “And the result of not having their workplace make them feel safe and make them feel educated is that they’re taking it out on the vulnerable people in our population.”
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