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.
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