City routinely ignores accessibility concerns, advocates say
Frustrated by a lack of co-operation from city council, the committee accepts offer to talk things through
The chair of London's accessibility advisory committee says she's looking forward to the start of a new dialogue with city council after the committee members were persuaded to drop their threat to resign en masse Tuesday night.
The threat was made at the end of a presentation to the Community and Protective Services Committee, during which several members of the advisory committee expressed their frustration with city council's failure to adopt their recommendations.
"We feel that council has consistently disregarded, ignored or dismissed our recommendations and the needs of the accessibility community," Jackie Madden, the chair of the committee, told the politicians.
Even when recommendations are approved, she said, they are not implemented.
"We've become just a box that you guys tick off … but you're not actually listening to what we say."
Mayor Matt Brown apologized on behalf of council.
"It takes a great deal of courage for you to come here today and for you to be so direct and so clear about your frustrations. And I have to say that I'm so sorry that you feel this way, but I understand why you might."
Brown was able to persuade the advisory committee members to stay on as councillors try to establish a better working relationship with the group.
Committee members will meet with councillors in the coming days for a frank discussion about their frustrations and will make a list of top priorities for accessibility in London.
In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Madden said there are three main issues that need to be addressed:
- Accessibility to the city's Paratransit service. The biggest problem is riders have to call three days in advance to book a trip, and call repeatedly as of 7 a.m. "When you do get through, you often don't get a ride."
- Barriers to employment with the city. Many jobs within city hall require a driver license, for example. "We want them to remove those systemic barriers."
- Road and sidewalk construction. When the city does roadwork "they're not mindful of the pathways around construction (needed) for people with disabilities. It's the law … but it doesn't happen."
Madden says she feels the politicians are making a "genuine attempt" to improve the relationship with the accessibility advisory committee. "I think they are genuinely embarrassed that they haven't followed through on the things" they promised, she said.
"I don't think anything is going to happen overnight, but I think the start of an honest dialogue is a good thing."
As of early Wednesday afternoon, Madden still had not heard from City Hall about a date for their meeting with councillors.