Why Has the Mayor and Council Allowed Para Transpo to Become Unsafe?
I planned to discuss a different topic this week, but life throws curveballs. When you’re a person with a disability, and you rely on Para Transpo, well, they don’t make it easy on you.
It can become very frustrating and sometimes even risky.
So, get comfortable if you can because I have a story about my experience with Para Transpo last Saturday.
On Saturday, I attended the Ottawa Inclusive Parasport Expo, which was held at Carleton University. In case you’re wondering, the Ottawa Inclusive Parasport Expo is where many local Parasport organizations gather to share information about their programs and activities for people with disabilities.
Let’s dive into my latest story about Para Transpo.
First, for YEARS, the city of Ottawa has been aware that Carleton University continues to be a problem for Para Transpo users. Just this past Saturday, several passengers were either left stranded. There are two main reasons for this.
1. Lack of communication between the Para Transpo drivers and the higher-ups on how to get to the correct stop.
2. There is a lack of clear signage (at least to me) indicating where specific Para Transpo stops are located.
Besides these two problems, Carleton University is a great place and IS VERY wheelchair accessible.
On Saturday, I booked my ride to Carleton University for 10:30 a.m., but it showed up closer to 11 a.m. Another passenger was on the same ride as me, so the driver dropped them off. By the time I arrived, it was 11:15 a.m.
For those keeping track, the total time of my adventure so far is 45 minutes. All things considered, it’s not too bad.
When I booked my ride, I indicated I needed to be dropped off at Stop #2, near the gym and arenas.
Right after the driver dropped the passenger off, they asked me what stop I needed to be dropped off at. A red flag enters my mind whenever a driver asks me where I need to be dropped off or for directions.
It’s the driver’s responsibility to know directions. If they don’t know, most, if not all, Para Transpo vehicles are equipped with a GPS system. Plus, there’s a dispatcher that can help them with this.
What happens if a passenger’s non-verbal or communication’s difficult?
As I mentioned earlier, I typed in Stop 2, on Para Transpo’s webform, so, in my opinion, I did what I could.
My ride home was scheduled for 1 p.m. I was sitting outside at the same stop that I was dropped off at. I hadn’t been to Carleton University for a while, so I foolishly assumed I was at the right stop.
At 1:30 p.m., I called Para Transpo to see when my bus would arrive. I don’t have a cell phone, and I’m not comfortable giving passwords to multiple caregivers. I’m physically unable to use a cell phone. If I could use a cell phone, I could log in to the Para Transpo website and see where my bus was.
After several minutes of waiting for someone to pick up the phone, I was told that the driver was running behind and would be there in 5-10 minutes.
Two o’clock rolls around, and my ride still has yet to arrive. I called again and was told that I was at the wrong stop. The person on the phone tried to blame me but eventually realized that the driver dropped me off at the wrong stop. The operator told me the bus should arrive at 2:30 pm.
Ok, so I continued to wait.
My ride finally arrived at 2:45 p.m. I could tell immediately that the driver was new. They were still trying to remember how the Para Transpo system operated at their end.
After a few minutes, I was on my way home, or so I thought. Again, I foolishly assumed that driving along the Rideau Canal meant I was heading closer to home. As it turned out, the driver had another pick-up.
And guess where that pick-up was?
It was the bus stop I was supposed to be dropped off and picked up at.
The driver who picked me up at Carleton University took Colonel By beside the Rideau Canal instead of driving around the corner of the other building.
When we returned to campus grounds, the driver was lost. They asked another driver at one point but didn’t know either.
Believe it or not, things were about to get worse.
Shortly after 3 p.m., I informed the driver I needed to go home for medical reasons.
The main reason was that I take regular medication between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The second reason was that the daytime shift for my PSW ends at 3 p.m.
When my driver called dispatch/supervisor, the supervisor refused to allow the driver to drop me off immediately. When I later asked my driver to get the supervisor’s name, the supervisor refused to give it to the driver.
For obvious reasons, not only was it unacceptable behaviour on the part of the supervisor, but also extremely dangerous.
Para Transpo refused to take me home so I could take care of my medical needs.
I arrived home shortly before 4:00 p.m.
Shortly afterwards, I tweeted/posted the following message on Social Media.
OC Transpo then responded on Twitter with the following:
I’m angry with their response, so I will be careful with my words.
Fortunately, many of my Twitter followers have voiced their anger on my behalf in an eloquent fashion. Thank you.
On a more serious note, things need to change.
Para Transpo and the city of Ottawa are putting the lives of people with disabilities at risk.
Our concerns continue to be ignored by city councillors and several on the Transit Committee.
How did they allow things to reach the point that a Para Transpo supervisor refused to allow a driver to drop someone off at home for medical reasons?
I’m afraid to use Para Transpo for fear of being put in a situation like this again.