As indicated throughout this Report, improving the accessibility of transit services is a complex endeavour, requiring the combined efforts of a number of parties. Set out below are the recommendations of the OHRC for moving towards more accessible transit services.
Transit Service Providers
The OHRC recognizes the multiple roles and obligations of transit providers, the complexity of the systems that they operate, and the severity of the financial constraints that they are experiencing. It is unrealistic to expect that transit providers will, without some outside assistance, be able to rapidly achieve maximally accessible, dignified transit options for all.
However, there are steps that transit services providers can and should be taking, even within current constraints, to move towards accessible transit services. Transit service providers should:
Set as a goal full integration and accessibility of services.
Full integration and accessibility, including both accessible conventional services, and comparable, dignified paratransit services, was endorsed as an objective by the submissions of both transit service providers and users.
Design inclusively when developing new policies, procedures, or programs, when creating new services, or building, renovating or purchasing new buildings or capital equipment.
For example, where new buses are being purchased, transit service providers should avoid reinforcing existing barriers by purchasing non-accessible buses, especially given the very lengthy life-span of such capital purchases. Issues of equality and access should be an important consideration whenever new policies, programs, services or facilities are being developed. It is more difficult and costly to retrofit inaccessible facilities and services than to design inclusively at the outset.
Develop and maintain plans to achieve full integration and accessibility.
Organizations are required to take positive and progressive steps to achieve equality. The first step towards equal access to transit services is for transit providers to develop accessibility plans. Plans should set out the steps, short of undue hardship, that transit providers will take to achieve fully accessible transit services. Plans should be built on the principles of dignity, integration and participation, and individualization. They should include timelines, performance measures, and accountability. They should also be regularly reviewed and updated.
As noted in the transit survey update, a number of transit service providers have developed accessibility plans, or are in the process of doing so.
Ensure that the process of planning for and implementing accessibility is respectful of the dignity of persons with varying types of disabilities, old persons, and families with young children.
The process of accommodation, as well as the outcome, should be respectful of the dignity of the persons affected, and should take into account the importance of integration and full participation. As a number of submissions pointed out, persons with disabilities are well aware of limitations in the current system, and of their own needs. Any planning process should recognize that older persons, persons with disabilities, and families with young children are important stakeholders in the process.
Take all steps short of undue hardship to achieve integration and maximum accessibility.
It should be noted that, under the OHRC’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, costs must be distributed as widely as possible within the organization so that no single department is burdened with the cost of an accommodation. The appropriate basis for evaluating costs is the budget of the organization as a whole, not the branch that is providing the service in question.
It should also be noted here that collective agreements, contracts,employee morale, and business inconvenience should not act as bars to the achievement of equality. These are not factors that can be considered when undue hardship is assessed. For example, if collective agreement provisions are found to act as a barrier to improving paratransit services, Transit Consultation Report this in itself would not be a defence for the transit service provider under
Senior Levels of Government
Significant advances in transit accessibility cannot be made without the involvement of senior levels of government. The two key components for advancing transit accessibility are standard setting, and funding.
The OHRC therefore welcomes the recent initiatives of the Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Citizenship in the area of transit. The announcement of new funding for transit services, as well as the focus on transit in the recently passed ODA, mark positive steps in this area, and a welcome opportunity for change.
The OHRC would encourage the Ministry of Transportation to consider accessibility issues, and in particular, the urgency and impact of many of the issues raised in this Report, when considering further transit funding initiatives.
The ODA provides an opportunity to develop standards and timelines for transit accessibility. The OHRC considers this a very important step forward. The OHRC encourages the new Accessibility Directorate to develop guidelines for transit service providers.
Ontario Human Rights Commission
The submissions received in the course of this consultation reaffirm the importance of equal and accessible transit services to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for Ontarians who have disabilities, are older, or have young children. The OHRC will continue to forward accessible transit services, through its mandate under section 29 of the Code.
In particular, the OHRC will:
- Ensure that relevant OHRC policies are applied in all transit-related complaints.
- Develop a communications tool on human rights and transit for the general public, e.g., a leaflet outlining human rights in transit services.
- Work with transit service providers to ensure that they have access to appropriate tools for understanding their human rights obligations as transit providers.
- Communicate the results of this transit consultation to government stakeholders, including the Ministry of Transportation, the Ministry of Citizenship, and the new Accessibility Directorate.
- Update the transit survey results within the next five years, and share the results, including progress and best practices, with transit service providers, stakeholders, and the public.