The dominant theme in the submissions received by the OHRC was the magnitude of the impact of access to transit services on the lives of Ontarians. Public transportation – or the lack of it – touches the lives of thousands of Ontarians in profound ways. Being able to use transit can make the difference in access to work or education. It also has major consequences for those who need to get to health care and other essential government services. For many, it makes the difference between isolation and loneliness, and full participation in the life of their communities. Without accessible transportation, employment, education, and community life remain out of reach for many. The would-be contributions of many to their communities are lost. As well, the transportation options that exist may at times jeopardize the dignity, security, and autonomy of users. For many Ontarians, the lack of accessible, dignified transportation options is a source of ongoing frustration.
The changes required to achieve an accessible transportation system are major. Some changes require large investments of resources, and will take time to implement. Others can be quickly and easily achieved, with minimal cost. What is lacking is not awareness of the issues, or even of solutions. All parties agree on the goal: a system that is accessible, that is integrated to the degree possible, that fully respects the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, older Ontarians, and families with young children, and that provides appropriate alternatives for those who are unable to use even the most accessible conventional services. What is needed is agreement and leadership on standards for accessibility, the will to implement them, and the resources to do so.
It was also very clear that improvements in accessible transportation can only be made through a partnership approach. Public transportation is a complex business, involving multiple levels of government, private organizations, non-governmental organizations, and volunteers. All parties must work together if accessible transportation is to become a reality in Ontario. No one sector alone can make the necessary changes.