CBC Radio Reports on Serious Recurring Accessibility Barriers on Toronto Transit Commission– Will Reforms to Ontario’s 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard Ensure These Barriers are Removed by 2025?

September 20, 2017


CBC Radio ran an excellent news report on September 20, 2017, addressing the many accessibility barriers that persist on TTC, Canada’s largest public transit system. This news report came less than 7.5 years before the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act requires Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities. This news report, set out below, was triggered by the AODA Alliance’s September 19, 2017 news release about the TTC’s annual Public Forum on Accessible Transit.

Here are some important reflections on this news report, and TTC’s September 19, 2017 Accessible Transit Public Forum :

* The significant disability accessibility barriers which TTC transit riders with disabilities reported at this public forum should not have come as any surprise to TTC top brass, if they are keeping in touch with what is going on the front lines. These disability accessibility barriers have been reported over and over to TTC, year after year, at these annual accessibility forums.

* It is inappropriate that TTC chair Josh Cole did not attend TTC’s accessible transit forum. The TTC chooses the date for this event, well in advance. The reason why these forums are needed is to ensure that top TTC management, including the TTC Chair,  know what problems their passengers with disabilities face. What message does it signal to those passengers, who took the time to come from all across Toronto by the hundreds, to share their concerns, only to have TTC’s top official, himself an elected politician, not even show up?

* As has been the case in recent years, TTC officials spent far too much time during this event making speeches, rather than affording all the hundreds of attendees from the public the time needed to each give their input. Indeed, we estimate that a majority of the time during this two-hour event was taken up by TTC talking at the public in attendance, rather than listening to the public in attendance. This is so despite the fact that during the event, TTC announced that the purpose of the event was for TTC to get a chance to hear from its riders with disabilities and to learn about their needs and experiences.

For the first time in the ten years of these forums, TTC restricted individuals from the public to a mere one minute each, to give feedback. TTC imposed no such limit on its own officials, when speaking. Indeed, the first public feedback did not start until more than 40 minutes into this two-hour event.

This leaves the reasonable impression that TTC viewed this primarily as an event for TTC to give its feedback to people with disabilities, more than as an event for people with disabilities to give their feedback to TTC.

We need the Ontario Government to revise the 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard, which requires the holding of these forums, to specify that the public transit provider should allocate the vast majority of the time to hearing from the public, and not the reverse.

TTC commendably devoted a great deal of effort to organize this event, and to provide accessible transit to and from it. That effort is squandered when TTC uses this event largely as a platform to speechify at people with disabilities.

* The feedback from people with disabilities to TTC at this forum must be transmitted to the Transportation Standards Development Committee that is now reviewing the Transportation Accessibility Standard, enacted in 2011 under the AODA. We had publicly encouraged that Committee to attend this event. We don’t know if any of its members did so.

The very limited draft recommendations that the Transportation Standards Development committee circulated for public comment earlier this year, would not rectify most of the recurring disability accessibility barriers that people with disabilities reported to TTC at last night’s public forum. The AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre have recommended far more extensive reforms, in their brief to the Transportation Standards Development committee. We have asked that Committee for a chance to appear before it, and make a presentation. We have not heard back regarding this request.

* At this event, TTC referred to its current program which allows WheelTrans passengers with disabilities to volunteer to take part in a trial program with a “family of services” offering. This approach would take away from paratransit riders the right to have door to door services on a route, if TTC decides that instead, it will pick up the passenger in a paratransit vehicle, and then drop them at the conventional transit system. The passenger would then have to make the rest of their way on conventional transit. This is an approach to transit services that Ontario’s public transit services have pressed for, over the strong objection of accessibility advocates like the AODA Alliance.

TTC and other transit providers mean this “family of services” as a way to cut costs, by reducing the number or length of its paratransit rides. The CBC report, set out below, illustrates some of the real concerns with this “family of services” approach to transit. Passengers with disabilities are left with the worst of both worlds. They must endure the unfair waits and delays associated with paratransit. They then must suffer the unreliable accessibility features on a conventional transit service that still lacks full accessibility.

At the September 19, 2017 TTC public form, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky challenged TTC to commit that it will never force a qualified paratransit passenger to be subjected to a “family of services” ride over their objection. TTC officials pointedly did not answer this feedback, in its responses from the podium, even though they did give responses to many if not most of the other items of feedback they received from the public during this public forum.

The joint brief by the AODA Alliance and ARCH Disability Law Centre on needed reforms to Ontario’s 2011 Transportation Accessibility Standard points out our concerns with the “family of services” approach, which serves to reduce the rights of people with disabilities on paratransit.

* In the CBC report, set out below, CBC at times refers to riding “public transit” when we believe it meant to referring to riding the conventional services on public transit.


CBC Radio 1 News September 20, 2017

Originally posted at:


Toronto – CBC News

Wheel-Trans users fear new program will force them to use inaccessible TTC
TTC hears concerns about long waits and inaccessible stations at annual meeting

By Natalie Nanowski,
Michele Gardner (centre) and Robert Muzzy (right) say broken elevators make it difficult to ride the TTC. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)

Michele Gardner never uses the TTC. Not because of delays or overcrowding, but because it scares her.

“I really don’t like using the regular transit, especially because I know that it’s not fully accessible,” said Gardner.

Gardner is in an electric wheelchair and has been using Wheel-Trans, TTC’s door-to-door service for people with mobility issues, since 1987.

She says she doesn’t want to be forced into using buses or subways, and that’s one of the reasons why she came to the TTC Forum on Accessible Transit.

‘No one saying it’s perfect’: TTC named best transit system in North America

The annual event drew about 300 people to the Beanfield Centre at Exhibition Place. It’s intended to highlight any concerns or questions people have about
the accessibility of the TTC or Wheel-Trans.


The TTC’s annual accessibility meeting drew about 300 people. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News)

Gardner’s anxiety about being forced to use the TTC comes from the arrival of  the new Family of Service Pilot Program, which merges Wheel-Trans and regular subways and buses.

Instead of being picked up from one location in adapted bus and taken to their destination, Wheel-Trans users are driven to the nearest TTC route where
they continue their trip using public transit.

Broken elevators, escalators a concern

At the moment, the Family of Service Pilot Program is voluntary, but that could change.

“If the mainstream conventional system was fully accessible, I could see them expecting more people with disabilities to move off of Wheel-Trans and into the conventional system,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance.

“But when you get put on a system where the elevators or escalators may not work, it makes things worse,” he said.

Robert Muzzy uses an electric wheelchair and frequently rides the TTC, but he doesn’t think that’s a viable option for everyone.

“You shouldn’t be forced to use the TTC,” said Muzzy. “Sometimes you get somewhere and the elevator is broken down and you have to figure out where you’re going to go. You have to back track or you’re stuck.”

David Lepofsky

Activist David Lepofsky doesn’t think people with disabilities should be made to use the TTC unless it’s fully accessible. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC News )

The TTC says it’s actively working on upgrading old elevators and installing new ones. Currently 34 of the 69 stations are accessible.

“St. Clair West has just had another elevator open,” said Andy Byford, CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission. “We also have Coxwell and Woodbine [stations] under construction at the moment.”

All stations accessible by 2025

Byford added that the TTC is on track to meet its 2025 target of making all subway stations accessible.

Another issue brought up at the meeting was late Wheel-Trans buses.

“I’d say most of the time they’re late picking me up or dropping me off,” said Gardner. “I’ve had a specialist appointment at Sunnybrook Hospital and the bus was over an hour late… I missed my appointment.”

Other concerns raised included long telephone waits to book a Wheel-Trans ride and gaps between the subway cars and platforms, which make the trains inaccessible for some.

The TTC said it’s working to fix these issues by installing a new phone system, improving the platforms, and finding ways to ensure drivers are on time.

Byford says issues discussed during the meeting are later examined by the TTC.

Background Resources and Information

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