Travelling off the beaten path

I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a bit. As of this writing, I’ve been to Toronto several times, Montreal, Kingston, and London, Ontario. All of these places have one thing in common. They’re all big cities.

What happens when a person with a disability wants to travel to a small town or somewhere off the beaten path just for fun?

Also, what happens when you need to travel due to a family emergency?

For most people, a trip to the countryside is pretty simple. They can hop into a car, and off they go for a day or longer. For a person with a disability who’s unable to drive or sit in a passenger seat, a relatively easy car ride becomes difficult.

Recently, a very close friend’s Mother’s passed away. The funeral was just outside of Ottawa. On top of the typical emotions associated, he was also very concerned about how he would travel to the town, or even if he’d be able to get there. For the first few days, he was on the phone trying to find a wheelchair accessible van. When a loved one dies, the last thing you should be worrying about is trying to find a van that can accommodate your wheelchair and thinking you may not be able to attend solely due to your physical disability.

I am happy to report that he was able to take the train safely there and back. The train station there was only a few minutes away from where the service was being held. In this case, it ended well, but you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops just to attend a funeral. I also wonder how many PWD weren’t able to attend a funeral due to a lack of wheelchair accessible vans.

Some of you may be wondering what it takes for a PWD to travel somewhere in the Ottawa Valley.

For this, I’ll use myself in this example.

First, I’d need to find a local car rental place that rents wheelchair accessible vans. Based on my own experience, and others (as I mentioned above) that I know, they’re tough to find. If you’re fortunate enough to find somewhere, they typically only have a few available, and they tend to get booked up quickly.

Now when it comes to finding a van, I would need to find a van with enough room for my wheelchair, which is pretty big. I’d also require a van that has straps to keep my chair safely secured, as well as a second seatbelt for myself. Oh, and I’d also need to make sure that someone could drive me if my PSW can’t. Once that’s all arranged, I’d move on to the next step.

The next step would be the rental fees. I’m not going to mention all of the costs associated with renting a vehicle because you may stop reading if you’re on ODSP. One such expense would include gas. As you’re all probably aware, fueling costs can quickly add up.

I have several friends that are located throughout the valley that I’d love to visit. There are also towns that I’d love to explore, and perhaps even go camping, or take a tour of Algonquin Park.

Besides camping and touring, there are tons of other events that some PWD miss out on due to cost and lack of wheelchair accessible vans.

Such as:

  • Seeing Fall colours in Gatineau Park
  • Farmers Markets
  • Holiday Decorations Drive Through Events
  • Country Fairs
  • Concerts
  • & more

Sadly, the issue of travelling, even within Ottawa, can be costly. In a previous column, I mentioned how much it costs to ride Para Transpo. In certain parts of Ottawa, a “rural fare” is added. The cost is $9.50, even for those with a Presto pass.

Let’s do the math.

If you purchase a Monthly Community Pass, that’ll set you back $43.25. Now, add in $9.50 per trip. If you’re going somewhere “rural,” you’re going to need to pay $62.25.

What exactly constitutes “rural,” according to Para Transpo and the City Of Ottawa?

One example would be the Rideau Carleton Raceway/Casino. If I wanted to go there, I’d need to pay the extra fare.

Good news, though.

If I had to go to the airport, which is pretty close to the Casino, it’s no extra charge.

While on this topic.

I should mention that Uber and other rideshare companies aren’t wheelchair accessible. To my knowledge, none of their drivers use wheelchair accessible vans. I consider this to be a HUGE oversight that needs to be further addressed by the City.

We just want to be able to experience things that most take for granted.