For immediate publication
Toronto- Today the Ontario Human Rights Commission sent six disability cases to a Board of Inquiry, challenging the lack of accessibility of transit services in Hamilton, Ontario. The complaints are against the Disabled and Aged Regional Transit System (DARTS), the City of Hamilton, the Ministry of Transportation and the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth.
The complainants are two persons who, because of limited mobility, cannot use regular transit but who also encounter barriers getting access to paratransit services.
Said Chief Commissioner Keith Norton, "The combined effect of hard-to access regular transit and restricted paratransit services means that people with disabilities are falling between the cracks and may not be able to access any public transit at all. This is a major concern for the Commission." In February 2001, the Commission issued a discussion paper on the accessibility of transit services. It highlighted the existence of restrictive eligibility criteria in paratransit services, as well as high fees and uneven service levels across the province.
These six complaints will address the fact that the duty to accommodate is a shared responsibility. The provincial government, municipalities, transit authorities and private contractors need to work together to provide services. "Transit is fundamental to an independent life for most people. Persons with disabilities have the same rights to access these important services as anyone else," added Mr. Norton.
The Commission released its Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate on March 22nd, 2001. At that time, Mr. Norton warned service providers in Ontario about his intention to move forward in these areas. "The duty to accommodate is not optional," he noted, "we have made it clear that meeting the special needs of persons with disabilities is a legal obligation. It is not some sort of voluntary program."
The Chief Commissioner added, "It is my hope and expectation that we can work co-operatively with employers, landlords, unions and service providers to help them come into compliance with the Code."
The Commission is authorized by law to send cases to Boards of Inquiry where the evidence warrants. The Board of Inquiry is an independent decision-making body.
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