Sudbury Handi-Transit needs tweaking, disability advocate says

For a lot of people with physical disabilities in Greater Sudbury, the city's specialized transportation service — Handi-Transit — is the only option. But, there are drawbacks to using that service, according to some.

Independent Living driector says many Sudbury residents with disabilities would like to use city buses

Seniors used to be able to use public transportation in Sudbury, Ont., for free on Mondays as part of a 2016 pilot project. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

For a lot of people with physical disabilities in Greater Sudbury, the city's specialized transportation service — Handi-Transit — is the only option. 

But, there are drawbacks to using that service, according to some. 

"For you and I, we can just head down to the different part of the city to visit somebody in a drop of a hat," said Robert DiMeglio, executive director of Sudbury's Independent Living.

"[But for someone relying on Handi-Transit], their quality of life is hampered."

That's been the experience for Robert McCarthy, who uses a wheelchair and has taken Handi-Transit as long as he can remember.

Those hoping to take a trip must give a minimum of two-or-three days notice, and priority is given to people going to work or medical appointments. That means sometimes a ride to a concert or a hockey game can be cancelled at the last minute.

Robert McCarthy says although all city buses are accessible, often the bus stops are not. (Robert McCarthy )

The city also needs to improve the accessibility to bus stops in winter, McCarthy said.

"[The] plowing issue is sometimes a very big issue. You can't get into the bus stop. Even sometimes there is a lip or a step, which is quite impossible for a disabled person to get over," he continued.

"I found it's a very consistent problem. At the very least, all the bus stops should be accessible, particularly in the winters so we can have a shelter when we're waiting for the bus."

The problems aren't likely to go away any time soon, as the city grapples with increased demand for the specialized service.

And with 65 new users each month, the city said there aren't enough drivers or vehicles to meet the demand.

DiMeglio said many people with disabilities are interested in using the regular city buses, but they need help learning the ins and outs of the public system.

The city should be hiring a transitional worker to help people learn their way around the system, he said.

DiMeglio also noted many decisions affecting people with disabilities are being made without speaking with the people who use the services.

"Maybe there needs to be consultation with people with disabilities to get the input," he said.

"Maybe with people would be able to come up with a great solution to this problem. People with disabilities need to be asked ... I think we should be part of the conversation."


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