Under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, municipalities that offer public transit in Ontario must have accessible public transit for passengers with disabilities. Public transit vehicles that should be accessible are:
- Motor coaches
- Light rail
- Commuter rail
- Inter-city rail
Accessible Public Transit
There are technical rules in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) that describe how to make accessible public transit vehicles. For instance, the features that these rules apply to are:
- Lifting devices, ramps, or portable bridge plates between train cars
- Grab bars, handholds, handrails, and stanchions
- Floors and carpeted surfaces
- Allocated mobility aid spaces
- Stop requests and emergency response controls
- Indicators and alarms
- Rail cars
Many of these features, such as lifting devices and stop requests, make busses, streetcars, and trains accessible for passengers with physical disabilities. Others, such as lighting, signage, and steps, ensure accessibility for passengers with visual or hearing disabilities.
Limits to Vehicle Accessibility
Currently, the standard only mandates accessibility in public transit vehicles that were made on or after January 1st, 2013, or vehicles that companies have purchased on or after July 1st, 2011. In addition, if companies update one feature of their vehicles, such as signage, the updated feature must be accessible. However, remaining features continue to be inaccessible. Thus, this limitation to the standard means that older vehicles may not be welcoming to passengers with disabilities.
More Vehicles Should be Accessible
Some individuals responsible for vehicle oversight at public transit companies may feel that they do not need to worry about making older vehicles accessible because the standard does not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, there are many important reasons for people to choose accessibility.
Fifteen percent (15%) of people in Ontario have disabilities. This number will rise as people age. More and more people will soon want to travel in accessible ways. If public transit companies make vehicles as accessible as they can, their actions may later help someone they know. Moreover, accessibility also affects non-disabled family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Groups of people travelling on family trips, friendly outings, or company social events will include people with disabilities. While renovating for accessibility may take time and retro-fitting is inconvenient, inaccessibility is just as time-consuming and inconvenient for people whose lives it impacts.