Michel Nadeau says he is so fed up with STM buses having faulty wheelchair ramps that he may bring his complaint as far as the Human Rights Commission.
Nadeau, 20, has cerebral palsy and has been using a wheelchair most of his life.
Nadeau says every time he tries to take the 200 bus on Montreal’s West Island from either Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue or Beaconsfield to Pointe-Claire, the ramp on the bus doesn’t work.
His twin brother Mathieu, who also has cerebral palsy but is not in a wheelchair, usually has to lift him onto the bus.
“OK, once I understand. Twice, sure. But three times and any time after that it's just ridiculous and unacceptable that we should have to pay for something that doesn't work,” Mathieu said. He filed a complaint with the STM — the city of Montreal’s public transit authority.
Michel says what’s worse is that most passengers on the bus just keep their eyes on their phones.
“It's just frustrating because they just stare at you and try to figure out what you're doing instead of asking questions like, ‘Do you need help?’”
Mathieu adds that drivers are often rude, and he wishes they could experience what he and Michel go through.
“Try to get on a bus in a wheelchair and, you know, just see how you like it — see how it feels… See how strong you are to lift one of these wheelchairs and a person in the chair onto the bus,” Mathieu said.
Officials say if someone in a wheelchair can’t get on the bus, then the driver should immediately flag the STM’s operational centre.
Once the centre is alerted, someone is sent to stay with the passenger until the next bus with a working ramp comes.
If that takes too long, then adapted transit is called in.
“The STM calls the adapted transit network, which sends a vehicle to pick up a person in a short delay to take the person where they need to go,” said STM Vice-President Marvin Rotrand.
Service not popular, STM says
The STM was the first transit system in the province to have buses that accommodate people who use wheelchairs.
At first, ramps were installed at the back of the low-floor buses, but officials were not satisfied.
“We asked our manufacturer to change to the type of ramp that deploys at the front of the bus,” Rotrand said, adding that the new ramps are more reliable.
Buses are brought in for maintenance and checked at least once a month.
Rotrand said by the end of the year, every bus route in the city will have some buses running throughout the day that are wheelchair accessible — even though the service doesn’t have much demand.
“We offer it, but it’s not a lot of people who use it,” said Rotrand.
“We carry about 5,000 to 6,000 rides a year, but it’s a service we felt is part of our universal accessibility program.”
Rotrand said he’ll look into Nadeau’s complaint.
“I can’t comment because I haven’t seen the complaint. My feeling is it’s unlikely that every ramp on every bus on a particular route wouldn’t work every time. I would be rather skeptical. Perhaps the person takes the bus at exactly the same time every day, and that vehicle has a problem with the ramp that should be addressed during maintenance,” Rotrand said.
Michel said he’s determined to be independent and that being in a wheelchair should not mean being limited to adapted transit.
“I believe anything is possible no matter what your disability is, no matter how you live, no matter what you do. There's no limits to what you can accomplish.”
Mathieu said the STM responded to his complaint last week and suggested they avoid the older buses with rear door ramps.
He said the STM advised them to check the schedules for newer buses with front door ramps, which are more reliable.
Both Mathieu and Michel say that is unacceptable and they are now considering filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.