If a PWD is Stranded in the City – Will Anyone Hear Us?

Last Monday, Ottawa Transit Riders and ParaParity members held a Para Transpo awareness meeting at City Hall. I admit I only saw about 38 minutes of the meeting. Based on what I saw, the discussion mainly consisted of a two-person presentation and some questions from the audience. Several Para Transpo users, supporters, and a few city councillors were in attendance. Yes, a few.

City councillors that were present:

– Alta Vista Councillor Marty Carr
– College Ward Councillor Laine Johnson
– Knoxdale-Merivale Councillor Sean Devine
– Rideau-Rockcliffe Councillor Rawlson King
– Kanata North Councillor Cathy Curry
– Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard
– Transit Chair Glen Gower

Not present, but sent a representative:

– Somerset Ward Councillor Ariel Troster
– Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe

Not in attendance, but SHOULD’VE been present:

– OC Transpo General Manager Renee Amilcar
– Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe
– ALL local media outlets
– More Para Transpo users and supporters
– More bus & LRT users

I could not attend due to my PSW’s daily 3 p.m. shift change (The meeting was scheduled from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.), but by the sounds and looks of it, I didn’t miss much. I’m not saying that in a bad way. Everyone involved did a fantastic job of presenting our needs and frustrations and raising awareness of the issues. We need to continue the conversation and ensure our voices are heard.

ABOVE: Councillor Laine Johnson at the Monday, September 25, 2023, Para Transpo Awareness Meeting at Ottawa City Hall. (PHOTO: Facebook/LaineJohnson_CollegeWard)


However, as a long-time advocate for wheelchair accessibility and better transit for people with disabilities, I’ve attended many similar meetings at City Hall and met with city officials. For several years pre-pandemic, I attended meetings, was interviewed countless times by local media, attended rallies, and even organized a rally at City Hall.

Hell, I even ran for Mayor in 2018. My main reason for running was to improve transit and accessibility, not just for people with disabilities but for everyone. However, after all that, I admit that I’ve become jaded. It saddens and angers me to say that.

To me, fewer and fewer people are listening to our needs and concerns regarding Para Transpo.

Once upon a time, I was fueled by the fact that most city officials were not listening to us. Now, it just makes me angry and triggers me. I need to look after my health, both mentally and physically.

Sticking with angry public transit users topics, a rally was held at city hall the day after the Para Transpo Awareness. Tuesday’s rally was for all public transit users to voice their anger and frustrations with our public transportation system. Unlike the previous day, several transit riders, including a few Para Transpo riders, showed up.

In a rare move, CTV Ottawa did a news segment focusing on our concerns; I don’t recall seeing CBC Ottawa do a story on the rally, at least regarding Para Transpo.

My big question, and perhaps the million-dollar question, is where were these people on the previous day, and why did it take that many people for the media to pay attention to us finally?

What exactly am I missing here?

Someone please tell me.

The obvious answer is that not enough people care, or perhaps even know that Para Transpo exists or that people with disabilities don’t just stay home.

As I’ve said many times before, we go out just like everyone else. We work, socialize, shop, go to school, go to much-needed medical appointments, grocery shop, and generally do our best to function in this city. Why does the city treat us like second or third-class citizens?

Can someone please tell me how this is acceptable?

By ignoring our concerns, you are affecting our daily lives, health, and safety. People with disabilities often have challenges even with getting to their front door.

Why must we battle with trying to use Para Transpo as well?

Senior citizens also make up a large portion of Para Transpo users. Instead of ignoring them, you should treat them with the respect they deserve. The same goes for those on dialysis, chemotherapy, and other medical conditions requiring frequent doctor or hospital trips.

How long will this city continue to ignore the needs of our community? What will it take for the city of Ottawa to see, hear, and sit down with us?

During the 2022 municipal election, several candidates reached out to me with promises to listen to the needs of people with disabilities. During those conversations, many promised to show us support even if they were not elected.

Except for a few councillors, our voices continue to be ignored.

While I agree that Ottawa needs a better transit system, Ottawa needs to realize that people with disabilities also use public transit, which includes Para Transpo.

It’s time for YOU to STOP ignoring people with disabilities. STOP treating us like a problem that will disappear if you continue to ignore us.

Photo: facebook.com/freetransitottawa