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Sudbury Handi-Transit users vexed by new rules around passengers

The future of Greater Sudbury Handi-Transit will be high on city council's agenda in the new year.
Right now in Greater Sudbury, only passengers with physical disabilities can ride Handi-Transit — but, people with cognitive disabilities want to use it, too. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)
It's a lingering issue for the city of Greater Sudbury... the issue of who is allowed to ride Handi-Transit buses. It's also a debate about what it means to have a disability. The CBC's Erik White joined to talk a little more about the issue. 7:18
The future of Greater Sudbury Handi-Transit will be high on city council's agenda in the new year.

The debate will centre around whether people with cognitive disabilities should be allowed on the special buses.

A dozen people, most of them with cognitive disabilities, are appealing the city's decision to keep them off the special bus service.

The city says Handi-Transit was always intended only for those with physical challenges.

But the executive director of Sudbury Developmental Services said a precedent has been set by allowing people with cognitive disabilities to ride for the last decade.

"Did they get a cure? No, there was no miracle that happened here,” Mila Wong said.

“Their needs are the same. They cannot navigate public transportation."

'I didn't feel they were qualified'

Tracy Shaver works in the kitchen at the Jarrett Centre in Sudbury and currently commutes there from her home in Val Caron on handi-transit. Her mother Lois is appealing the city's decision to make her take a conventional transit bus. (Erik White/CBC)
Such is the case for Tracy Shaver, who rides Handi-Transit every day from her home in Val Caron to her job in the west end of Sudbury.

But if her eligibility for Handi-Transit changes, she will have to start taking the conventional transit buses, because she is able to walk.

Her mother, Lois, is appealing the city's decision.

"She functions [at the level of] about, say, an eight-year-old,” she said.

“Would you send your eight-year-old downtown to transfer downtown onto another bus?"

Linda Whiteside, who gets around in a wheelchair and is a long-time handi transit rider, said Handi-Transit is getting so busy, it's often hard to get a reservation.

But she points out another issue she sees: able-bodied people who are taking the specialized transit bus.

"They'd run to get to the bus and get on it. I didn't feel they were qualified."

Sudbury city council is set to debate a report on the future of Handi-Transit early in the new year.

Wong said if the city doesn't change its policy, she will take the case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

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