“If an Ontario Human Rights Complaint is filed, we will stop providing Para transit” County of Brant

Posted under:Articles,Brant County,TransportationbyKaren McCallon December 4, 2012

Ironically on the United Nations International Day for people with Disabilities, the County of Brant Community Services Committee approved yet another variant to their unaffordable transportation scheme which ignores any of the Integrated Accessibility Standards for specialized transportation, is not fiscally responsible, has no budget to administer the scheme and as with the other variants, will lead to the elimination of Para transit in the County and the erosion of our basic and protected human rights.

Oh yes, and warned anyone at the meeting that if an Ontario Human Rights complaint were filed opposing the newly approved scheme that Para transit would be stopped all together.

The latest variant, different from the one last week…or was it the week before……or was it yesterday…restores the budget for Para transit without using most of it to administer the program. The funding of an administrative position (AODA Coordinator) will now go to Council for funding approval so we can forget that.

Still called a “subsidized” transportation program to avoid implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation, the staff and Community Services Committee made it clear that diligent monitoring will ensure that Para transit is stopped once the budget amount is reached.

And the budget amount? Despite an increase of approximately 100 people per year for the past six years, the budget was set at the same level as it was six years ago…$100,000.

The total cost to the County for Para transit for the year 2012 was $175,000 as stated by staff at the meeting December 3, 2012 and included in their report. With this amount , those of us with disabilities have been able to go to work, live our lives and be independent. It is not clear from any of this process why the budget has to stay at $100,000 for the foreseeable future when there is about a 25% per year increase in the number of participants needing Para transit. This is not fiscal responsibility. This is not meeting the needs of the community.

“Council and staff have been informed that the only requirement for a municipality to provide a “specialized transportation program” is if the municipality operates a “conventional transportation system”. The intent of the Transportation Standard is to provide inclusivity for all segments of the population to utilize a transportation system and that by implementing these standards the conventional system could be designed to provide a more inclusive service. The intent of the previous County’s “Specialized Transportation Program” in the past has been to assist members of the community who are permanently or temporarily physically disabled, or who are intellectually challenged. The program was not intended to form a “Specialized Transportation Program” to augment a conventional transportation program as required within Accessible Ontarians Disability Act (AODA).” (Approved staff report/recommendation December 3, 2012)

OK, not sure why the dissolved and resurrected ad hoc committee was called an ad hoc specialized transportation service committee if we weren’t looking at specialized transportation. Am also confused by the language in the report/recommendation that does refer to the existing functioning Para transit service as a “specialized transportation service.

The language in the report/recommendation further supports the goal of the County to avoid implementing the IAS transportation standards by any means. Staff and elected officials claim that because they are not “signing” a contract and not calling it a specialized transportation service, that the Integrated Accessibility Standards for transportation don’t apply. There is still the belief that the AODA the Customer Service Standards and the IAS aren’t “real laws” and therefore don’t apply to the County of Brant (this would include the Built Environment Standards when they are released).

The newly approved unaffordable transportation scheme has several troubling elements:

The County will only pay a maximum of 50% up to a maximum amount of $20 per trip. If it costs $30 one way to go to work, the County will subsidize the trip by $15. If it costs $60 to get to work, school, or participate in any activity, the County will only subsidize the trip by $20.

People with disabilities will have to pay for full taxi fare up front, save their receipts and submit them for reimbursement at the end of each month. This despite numerous amounts of statistical data indicating that income levels of people with disabilities are still among the lowest, that many people with disabilities live at or below the poverty line and repeated statements during the ad hoc committee meetings that people with disabilities simply can’t pay full fare when it is $20 or more one way to get to work, school or for medical appointments and wait for reimbursement.

Each time new variants to the unaffordable transportation scheme were challenged or questions were asked about fiscal responsibility the response has been ” There is no law that says we have to do this (provide Para transit). It is done out of the goodness of our hearts, as a gift and we can take it away any time we want.”

The driving force behind the various transportation schemes in the County of Brant appears to be systemic discrimination against people with disabilities.

The perceived “threats” have now escalated  ”If someone files a human rights complaint for this new program, we can stop the service.”

This began as a question from one Counsellor because the report to the committee included a sentence that trip restrictions could not be made or the County could face human rights violations.

The question was answered by staff in the affirmative. The question was asked again by a different counsellor and once again the answer was yes, if there is a human rights complaint filed regarding this program, the County can stop the program and not provide any specialized transportation service/para transit…aka subsidized transportation service. Counsellors agreed in discussion that this was a good option.

And where is the Accessibility Directorate in all of this? Where is the enforcement of compliance of the AODA, the Customer Service Standards and the Integrated Accessibility Standards? Nowhere to be found. The ADO has abandoned people with disabilities in the County of Brant.

So now that we have an unaffordable  ”subsidized” transportation scheme that violates the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the Integrated Accessibility Standards, Part IV – Transportation, the Ontario Human Rights Code (including the OHRC Duty to Accommodate) , the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and on the United Nations International Day of People with Disabilities the United Nations Convention on the Rights of people with Disabilities,  we are also told that if we file a human rights complaint we lose para transit all together.

I hear that in many other countries and communities, the International Day for People with Disabilities is celebrated, inclusion is a goal and people with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect.