Systemic Discrimination Toward People with Disabilities in the County of Brant
For those of you following the adventures of the variants of the County of Brant’s transportation schemes to eliminate Para transit, I submit this article to demonstrate the systemic institutional and attitudinal discrimination toward people with disabilities. By the end of December 2012, this systemic discrimination will lead to the elimination of Para transit service in the County. The following statements have been made by various staff and elected officials since the issue of those of us with disabilities “abusing” Para transit by going to work, for religious, social and recreational activities was “brought to light” in May 2012.
The Para transit service in the County is taxi-based. There is no conventional fixed route transit. The County has not explored any other model of Para transit other than the staff recommended scheme and it’s variants.
“If they can afford to go shopping they can afford to pay full fare.” (May 2012)
“If they can afford to go to the casino, they can afford to pay full fare.” (May 2012)
“If people with disabilities live a distance from where they work or from other services than they should move.” (Every meeting of the ad hoc specialized transportation service committee held in July 2012)
Many people do not have real disabilities and abuse the services (EVERY meeting of the ad hoc specialized transportation service committee held in July 2012)
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Integrated Accessibility Standards are not law, just suggestions (July 17 and 31 2012 meetings of the ad hoc specialized transportation service)
“One woman goes to the casino every day!” (July 3, 2012 meeting of the ad hoc specialized transportation service)
“One woman goes to the casino ten times a day.” (July 17 2012 meeting of the ad hoc specialized transportation service)
“…people with disabilities need to budget their money just like everyone else. If they cannot afford luxuries then they should consider moving and changing their lifestyle…” (August 13, 2012 community services committee meeting)
“Maybe we should use ambulances – put them in the back and take them that way” (November 5, 2012 community services committee meeting in response to questions on how people with disabilities were to get to work and go shopping under the new transportation scheme)
“We can’t allow anyone with a disability to go anywhere they want.” (November 19 meeting of the resurrected ad hoc specialized transportation service meeting)
“If they work they can pay full taxi fare.” (November 19, 2012 meeting of the resurrected ad hoc specialized transportation service committee)
“I found online grocery stores so they don’t need to go shopping.” (November 19, 2012 meeting of the resurrected ad hoc specialized transportation service committee)
“Going to the casino is not participating in the community!” (November 19 meeting of the resurrected ad hoc specialized transportation service committee)
At the July 17 and 31 meetings of the ad hoc committee we were told several times that if we didn’t approve the staff recommendation and violate the provincial law (Ontario Regulation 191/11) and give up our basic and protected human rights in Ontario and Canada, that Para transit would be eliminated. At the November 19 meeting of the resurrected ad hoc committee, we were told that this elimination of Para transit would take effect immediately if the scheme were not approved.
The latest variant of the transportation scheme: of the $100,000 annual budget, $25,000 will be spent on actually providing the service while the remaining $75,000 will be spent administering it. Trips will be limited to staff approved medical trips only and staff will determine who is eligible to use Para transit in the County.
The variant on the original restrictive scheme is being called a subsidized transportation program because “if we don’t call it a specialized transportation program we don’t have to follow the Integrated Accessibility Standards….but it is only for people with disabilities, not low income household’s”
Currently there are no trip restrictions and eligibility is based on a form signed by a medical professional. The current service provider is not paid to administer the program, only the metered fare is subsidized. It is not clear where the figure of $100,000 for the service came from as the county was not overseeing the contract or the budget during the past six years and the service provider was told in the contract to “book as many trips as possible.” Now that the amount paid for this year is around $170,000 the County is saying that those of us with disabilities are “abusing the service.”
And as a parting statement to include in this article, at the November 23, 2012 meeting of the Accessibility Advisory Committee one of the elected officials who sits on the accessibility Advisory Committee for the County of Brant stated: “I thought you people didn’t want special treatment?.”