Increased Demand for Specialized Transit


The Transportation Standard of the AODA has numerous rules mandating how specialized transportation providers must operate. Many of these rules play an important role in ensuring that travellers with disabilities have equal opportunities to move around their communities. However, in practice, some specialized transportation providers are unable to obey a few of the transportation standard’s regulations. Increased demand for specialized transit makes it more difficult for providers to follow the standard’s guidelines regarding bookings and hours of service.

Specialized Transit

Bookings

The transportation standard states that providers must allow passengers to book rides on the day of travel whenever possible, or up to three hours before the end of the company’s hours of operation on the day before the day of travel. This regulation recognizes that people sometimes need to take spontaneous trips as well as planned ones. However, several providers require people to book at least three days in advance. In first-come-first-served booking systems, the routes for most busses on a given day are arranged within hours. As a result, people booking rides the day they need them do not get them.

Hours of Service

Specialized transportation providers are required to offer the same hours and days of service as local conventional transportation providers. This requirement ensures that people who always use specialized transit can travel during all the days and times that people using conventional transit can travel on. Providers try to obey this requirement by being open late into the evening. However, they often have fewer vehicles operating during evening hours. As a result, people taking trips in the evenings may be unable to book rides home.

Accessibility is for Everyone

Increased demand for specialized transit will continue. As the Ontario population ages, more and more people will need this service. They will need providers that can obey the transportation standard, a valuable element of the AODA. Adequate funding for more vehicles and more drivers will help to make transportation providers better able to uphold this portion of the Standard.

 



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Specialized Transportation in Ontario


Under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, specialized transportation providers must make their services accessible to passengers with disabilities. Here we will outline how people use specialized transportation in Ontario and describe some of the rules that make these services a valuable alternative to conventional transit.

Who can Use Specialized Transportation in Ontario?

Some people’s disabilities make it difficult for them to use conventional transit. In contrast, other people may be able to use conventional transit at certain times of the year but not others. They may also be able to access some places but not others using conventional transit, because of environmental or physical barriers.

For instance, some people may use specialized transit in winter but conventional transit in other seasons. Similarly, people may usually use the bus or subway but use specialized transit if they are going to a place without a nearby bus stop or subway station. In addition, people with temporary disabilities, such as injuries after an accident that they will recover from, may be eligible to use specialized transportation for a short time. Each provider decides how long people with temporary eligibility can use its services. Finally, visitors can use specialized transit if they are eligible for their local service or fulfill requirements for the service in the region they are visiting.

People who need or want to start using specialized transit can apply for their local service. Service providers must create an application process for people who wish to use the service permanently, temporarily, or conditionally. Providers must respond to applications in fourteen days or give the applicant temporary eligibility until they make a decision. Providers must also offer temporary services on emergency or compassionate grounds for people who need services during this fourteen-day period. Likewise, providers must create an independent appeal process for people whose applications are denied. If they do not reach an appeal decision in thirty days, they must give that applicant temporary eligibility. Moreover, providers must offer their application and appeal processes in accessible formats upon request. Both processes must be free of charge.

Fare Equity

If a company operates both conventional and specialized transportation, it is required by law to:

  • Charge fares that are less or equal to those of local conventional transportation providers
  • Provide the same fare structure and payment options as local conventional transit, and additional payment options if passengers need to use them
  • Provide the same hours and days of service as those offered by local conventional transportation.

Furthermore, if conventional and specialized transportation are offered by different companies in the same location, the specialized transportation company may charge no more than the highest cost of conventional transportation. These requirements are in place so that people who always use specialized transit do not pay more than they would have paid if they could use conventional transit. They may pay using all the options available through their local conventional transit service, such as cash, tickets, or passes. Additionally, specialized transportation providers must offer more payment options to passengers who cannot use the methods already available. However, if conventional providers offer temporary promotional deals or prices, specialized providers do not need to do the same.

Places to Go

Specialized Transportation in Ontario makes it possible for all people to go where they need to go. People use specialized transit to go to work, volunteer, go out with friends, play sports, or shop, among other pursuits. Conventional transit, and other forms of transportation such as driving, are not options for everyone. Specialized transportation is an essential way for people with disabilities to be fully engaged in their communities.



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Accessibility Plans for Specialized Transportation Providers


Under the Transportation Standard of the AODA, specialized transportation providers must create, implement, maintain, and document multi-year accessibility plans. Accessibility plans for specialized transportation providers describe how the providers will work to prevent or remove barriers against people with disabilities.

Accessibility Plans for Specialized Transportation Providers

All public sector and large private organizations must create accessibility plans. However, there are a few topics that specialized transportation providers must include in their plans that do not apply to other kinds of organizations.

Equipment Failure

Providers must outline in their plans what procedures they will follow when accessibility equipment on their vehicles fails. They should also inform passengers with disabilities about these procedures, so that passengers will know what will happen if equipment fails.

Demand and Wait Times

Providers must also plan how they will estimate demand for their services. In other words, they must outline their process for determining how many people in the community will need their services. This estimate will help them plan how many vehicles, booking agents, and other elements of service they will need. In addition, providers must plan how they will reduce wait times for rides. Wait time is the amount of time between when a ride is supposed to arrive and when it does arrive.

Reviewing and Updating Plans

Providers must post plans on their websites and provide copies in accessible formats upon request. They must review and update the plans every five years. Furthermore, providers must consult people with disabilities during the process of creating, reviewing, and updating their plans. In addition, they must write status reports every year that describe the progress they make toward implementing their plans. They must also post these reports on their websites and provide copies in accessible formats upon request.

More to Plan

Accessibility plans for specialized transportation providers ensure that several important aspects of specialized transportation run smoothly. However, if there were requirements to include more details in provider’s plans, services might improve further. For instance, the plans of conventional transportation providers require them to create processes for accepting and responding to feedback from passengers with disabilities.

Feedback allows providers to learn about any difficulties or barriers passengers have encountered, so that providers can improve their equipment or services. Moreover, conventional transportation providers must hold at least one public meeting every year where passengers with disabilities can offer feedback on accessibility plans. If the provider also offers specialized transportation, the meeting can cover both types of transportation. However, specialized transportation providers not connected with a conventional provider are not required to hold meetings about accessibility. Without arrangements for holding meetings and responding to feedback, providers lose valuable opportunities to hear from a wide audience about how to improve their services.

 



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