Map by Sean Marshall.

Map by Sean Marshall.

People with disabilities often have great difficulty in using transit.  These difficulties usually occur because the transit system is not designed to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

In Toronto, sometimes trips become so much more complicated that the person cannot access the TTC to the extent they need.  It doesn’t matter if the disability is physical, mental, developmental, or the result of injury; this same situation can occur for people with all types of disabilities.

Take Warden subway station, for example.  Travelling from Warden and Steeles to the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway is designed to be a straight trip with a single transfer at the station.

However, Warden station is inaccessible.  Transfers can only be done through the use of stairs, hence those who can’t use stairs can’t use the station.  This means that Warden station is inaccessible to those using mobility devices such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, as well as those who have trouble walking up and down stairs.  In order to access Line 2, those travelling from Warden and Steeles, or other parts of Scarborough, require multiple bus transfers to arrive at Scarborough Centre, Kennedy, or Victoria Park stations instead.

One of the marks of a quality public transit system is its accessibility.  As it currently stands, the TTC must make many changes to improve its accessibility.  Only 34 out of 69 subway stations have accessible entrances, fare gates, and elevators.  Low floor streetcars can only be consistently found on the 509 Harbourfront, 510 Spadina, and 514 Cherry routes.  Buses are fully accessible, but not all stops have enough hard surface for the ramps to be deployed.

Fortunately, the TTC has a deadline.  Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the TTC must meet accessibility requirements by 2025.  One important example of this is the Easier Access program to make all subway stations accessible.  It’s part of the TTC’s overall Accessible Transit Services Plan, but at certain times in the past, both the City of Toronto and the provincial government claimed that it was not their responsibility to pay for the plan.

Today, the federal Liberals announced $500 million in capital funding to the TTC, with some of the money going towards the Easier Access program.  This funding is welcome, and will help continue the accessibility improvements of the TTC’s basic infrastructure to fulfill AODA requirements.  But there is more work to be done to make the TTC accessible to everyone.

Accessibility Annex will attempt to better understand disability issues in the context of accessibility and the TTC.  In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have a disability.  What I have is the interest, curiosity, and commitment to share the stories of those who do.  Discussion and debate are welcome, as this will be a place to keep talking and thinking about accessibility.

I encourage you to share your thoughts via e-mail (helen@ttcriders.ca), Facebook, and Twitter.

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