I’m recovering from eye surgery while still in my decades-long brain injury recovery. I have a CNIB orientation mobility trainer teaching me how to navigate the streets and TTC with my new vision. It’s harder than you’d think. The TTC is making it traumatic.
I don’t exaggerate.
Independence is fundamental to a purposeful existence, necessary for being fully functional in society. That’s why major transit systems have made their subways and buses accessible. Unfortunately, I live in Toronto where the TTC has to be dragged into doing it while we have to put up with their rationalizing BS contradicting their claims of wanting to be a beacon of accessibility to the world.
Because my brain is relearning how to see and vision is involved in balance, I can’t stand up right now while a vehicle is moving without being nauseated and dizzy. I must wait until the bus/subway/streetcar gets to my stop. And so I must be able to request a stop while still seated. Should be simple, eh? Ha!
I’ve managed to ride a bus on my own. Helps they have low floors, priority seats, highly visible poles, and stop request buttons on every pole next to priority seats. I can request a stop while seated.
I’ve learnt how to ride the subway between some stations. Priority seats are right next to the doors. Train stops, grab pole, hang on while getting off, regroup against the wall, then exit.
I’ve been trained on the old streetcars. But there’s a major problem. I can’t request a stop on my own. So I can’t ride a streetcar by myself until I have confidence in my balance and not feeling like I’ll throw up. I must not only stand up but also stretch up to pull the cord to request a stop. Well, OK. They’ve been in service decades so can’t expect to be accessible — except they were supposed to be. The TTC reneged; no one knew until they arrived in service.
But the new streetcars are accessible! Right? The media have trumpeted the TTC’s PR, done those cool tours. Have to be!
Have you ridden one yet?
I can’t request a stop while seated. I must stand up AND walk. I don’t know what’s worse: stretching to reach the pull cord while leaning on the seat or using my cane to pull the cord and hope I won’t conk anyone or walking across the aisle or standing, hanging onto a pole, walking around the pole, and reaching for the door button. With the cord in the old streetcars, I can sit down. In new ones, I’ll have to remain standing. Cognitive fatigue eats me with every movement too, just to complicate things. Fatigue makes it harder to navigate people on the street and TTC. Wonderful.
So I wrote CEO Andy Byford. He talks to customers, is totally into customer service. If he knew, he’d rectify it, right? After all, we’re customers too. And we’re the kind who clog up Wheel-Trans. He wants to be a beacon; he wants us off Wheel-Trans and onto the main system to ease the financial burden in our provincially underfunded system.
I wrote briefly since he’s a busy man:
“Dear CEO Byford,
I have a brief question: the priority seats in the new Bombardier streetcars have no stop request buttons on the poles next to them. There are also no priority seats within speaking distance of the driver. As a result, people who cannot stand while the streetcar is in motion cannot request a stop. How quickly are you intending to rectify this serious accessibility situation?
I received his reply Monday morning:
“Dear Ms Jeejeebhoy
The design of the new streetcar went through extensive consultation, including detailed review with our Advisory Committee for Accessible Transit (ACAT).
These reviews led to the finalized design that is in service today.
While I appreciate that we cannot please everyone, experience to date and the fact that we involved ACAT in the design tells me that we achieved the right balance.
We will keep this under review but there are no plans for a retrofit.
After I managed to pull myself out of the puddle I’d become reading that there’s to be no relief ever — trying to write my book Concussion Is Brain Injury while healing my brain while relearning how to see, perceive, walk, and navigate the TTC while my writing disappeared then is reappearing gradually with the visual changes, getting this kind of reply is despairing to put it mildly. My rehab plate is too full to deal with a system that makes life tougher than it needs to be. After I experienced the true accessible system — London, England’s — I know what a profound difference it makes to functionality and mental health.
I have a few pithy comments.
ACAT is either incompetent or a bunch of boot lickers to miss such a fucking obvious accessibility feature and to not at the very least call for the same accessibility features on the buses as a place to start accessible design from. Not regress from!
“Cannot please everyone”?! Seriously?!! Requesting a stop is basic functionality. TTC buses allow everyone to do it. London U.K.buses have special request buttons for those in priority areas so the driver knows to let them off before allowing people on. It’s awesome to see! But TTC streetcars decide only people who can balance are allowed to request a stop? And my desire to request a stop is what? Being ridiculously over the top? Asking for special treatment?
And as for “balance” . . . Balance with what?!! Money??? Oh sorry, but having people with balance and visual issues being able to request their own stop all on their own is a tad too expensive?! Those people should have to ask or just fall over or throw up because, really, imagine if they had that kind of independence on our shiny new streetcars that are so late, we can easily retrofit them now? Next, disabled people and seniors would be demanding the TTC paint the poles yellow like on the buses so they won’t bump into them or miss as they attempt to grab them.
I mean, really, the disabled are getting too big for their britches demanding stop request buttons that work for everyone.
I’m going to get some cake now.
(And having written all the above in one flow in that style, I feel like my writing is returning to pre-eye surgery. What a fucking relief!!!)