For immediate publication
Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission today released a Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services in Ontario. The Paper analyzes the accessibility of transit systems in Ontario by persons with disabilities and the obligations of transit service providers to respect human rights law.
Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, persons with disabilities, older persons, and families with children have a right to equal treatment in "services", which includes public transit services. Inaccessible public transit services are important human rights issues because they prevent individuals who have difficulties in accessing public transit from participating in community life.
In July 1999, the Commission conducted a survey on the accessibility of transit systems in Ontario. The survey reveals a lack of awareness among transit service providers of their human rights obligations. While significant efforts have been made to improve the accessibility of transit services across the province, much more needs to be done.
The Commission believes that human rights principles, when applied to public transit services should set certain standards, such as full integration and accessibility, and equal access to transit services for persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children regardless of where they live in the province. Other standards include the right of persons who use paratransit systems to receive levels of service comparable to those who use the conventional system, and the right to equal treatment in the provision of transit services for all persons with disabilities, regardless of the nature of their disabilities.
The survey found several gaps in the accessibility of conventional transit systems in Ontario. It also revealed that people using paratransit services experience major discrepancies in service levels across the province, including eligibility criteria, fees and geographic limitations. In addition, few survey participants had set objectives for full accessibility and integration, and there were no plans to establish a uniform set of standards across the province for accessible transit services.
Chief Commissioner Keith Norton stated that, "For persons with disabilities, older persons and families with young children, difficulties in accessing public transit are a daily reality. This Paper is a first step in promoting discussion of human rights issues surrounding transit services and sets out the legal duty for all transit providers to ensure that transit systems are accessible."
As part of the process, the Commission is accepting written submissions from individuals and organizations regarding the issues raised in this Paper until June 30, 2001.
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