For immediate publication
Toronto - Following up on several key developments in the area of accessible transit, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall has written to transit services across the province asking them to remove barriers faced by riders with disabilities. “Stop announcements are not only necessary for visually impaired riders but can benefit all transit users including visitors and even many of us who can't see the stops due to crowds or weather conditions,” commented Chief Commissioner Hall.
In a recent decision this past July in Lepofsky v. Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found that the TTC’s failure to ensure announcements of all stops on buses and streetcars violated the human rights of persons with disabilities, particularly riders with visual impairments. It ordered the TTC to begin announcing bus route stops within 30 days. This follows a similar ruling by the Tribunal in July 2005 involving a complaint about the lack of stop announcements in Toronto’s subway system.
As part of its ongoing work to address human rights issues in public transit, in August, the Commission made a submission to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario setting out concerns that the Initial Proposed Transportation Accessibility Standard falls far short of fundamental human rights standards. For example, most of the accessibility requirements for transportation vehicles would apply only to new vehicles, leaving barrier removal on existing vehicles to the discretion of transportation providers. Transportation providers could also continue to make non-inclusive design choices such as being able to purchase non-accessible second-hand buses.
“Let’s be clear”, commented Hall. “Commission policy and Tribunal decisions have set the bar much higher for transit accessibility.”
Recent Tribunal cases have shown that a policy of announcing stops only upon request doesn't work. Transit providers should call out stops regardless. The Commission is now asking transit services to review their accessibility policies and practices and inform the Commission on what steps they are taking to ensure all transit stops are announced. The Commission will then report publicly and consider its next steps so that the Tribunal decisions are applied equally across Ontario and the duty to accommodate riders with disabilities is respected.
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