Frankly, when it comes to PWDs, wheelchair companies and the city don’t give a damn

Some of you may remember that last week I talked about a friend that became stranded due to his chair breaking down. In the same article, I also mentioned that Para Transpo safely drove him home.

I have an update on the story.

Last Thursday, Francis Menard, was again heading to work at TD Place. As the night rolled on, the air began to cool and dampen.

At around 8 pm, Francis’s chair suddenly stopped working. He proceeded to call Para Transpo to see if they would pick him up and bring him home. After being on hold for what probably seemed like an eternity, the call-taker at Para Transpo told him, “Sorry, we tried to look at every possibility, but we don’t have anything for tonight.”

Francis’s backup plan was to call a cab. When he called Capital Taxi, Francis was informed that they weren’t allowing customers to pre-book a taxi. The call-taker then told him that Francis needed to call back at 11.

At 11 pm, Francis called the taxi company again to request a ride home from TD Place. After waiting over 90 minutes, his ride never came. Fortunately, two of Francis’s co-workers offered to manually push him home in his chair.

At 2:09 am, Capital Taxi finally called Francis back to inform him that his taxi was on its way. When they called, Francis was home, thankfully safe and sound.

As for his chair, Francis managed to fix it temporarily, but it has since stopped working.

Like last week, Francis called and left a message for emergency repair. While on the phone, he was informed that the number isn’t actually for emergency repairs, which is also news to me.

When you call the number, a call-taker takes your information and location. The call-taker then sends it to the repair company, and they call you back the next business day.

How is that supposed to help you if you’re stranded somewhere cause your wheelchair broke down?

You'd need to call an ambulance if you’re out somewhere and become stuck. Here’s the thing, though, a wheelchair won’t fit inside an ambulance. So, what happens to your wheelchair?

Also, what happens if a PWD isn’t physically able to call for help?

Over the years, I’ve heard stories about the police bringing a van to transport wheelchairs that have stopped working. I don’t know if it’s true, but to me, that seems a bit drastic, and we shouldn’t need to involve the police.

In most situations, all we care about is getting home safely. There’s no need for a big production just because our chair broke down during non-business hours. It’s not our fault that wheelchairs break down and wheelchair companies stop “caring” once the clock strikes 5 or 6 pm.

There NEEDS to be a better system for wheelchairs and other mobility devices that suddenly stop working. We shouldn’t need to feel more disabled than we already are.

When our wheelchair breaks down outside, roadside assistance should be available, similar to CAA, a towing service at the absolute very least. With a towing service, we’d be able to get home safely.

Or…better yet…

How about having enough Para Transpo vehicles and drivers so they can’t refuse to pick you up when something like this happens?

While on the subject of Para Transpo, I have a tough time believing that there was nothing they could do.

Francis was at a Redblacks football game at TD Place. I know from first-hand experience that several PWD regularly attend the games. I also know that Francis lives about a ten-minute drive from TD Place.

Do you mean to tell me that NO Para Transpo rides were available to fit him in for a ten-minute trip?

I find that hard to believe, but yet, doesn’t surprise me.

Ottawa has an election happening on October 24th. As of now, there’s been very little mention from the candidates about improving Para Transpo service, as well as wheelchair-accessibility on all forms of public transportation in Ottawa.

As a gentle reminder, all people with disabilities are people too, and should always be included in your election platforms, and discussions. Failure to do so is a failure to you for not including everyone that you claim to represent.

So, where does it leave us, particularly Francis?

For the second week in a row, he’s stuck at home, HOPING for a call back on Monday from a repair person at the wheelchair company.

After all, what other choices does he or we have?

The sad reality is, for now, all we can do is sit and wait.

Photo: iStock