Winnipeg's 1st stretch limo for people with disabilities gets the go-ahead

Winnipeg’s first stretch accessible limousine will be headed to the city’s streets in June.

2 wheelchairs and up to 7 passengers will be able to ride in the new limo in June

Gary Jakeman says the new limo will hold two wheelchairs and up to seven passengers. (Submitted by Gary Jakeman)

Winnipeg's first accessible strech limousine will be headed to the city's streets in June.

Gary Jakeman, owner of Sunshine Transit, learned on Friday that the Manitoba Taxicab Board approved the licence for the limousine.

"I just find that it's something that should have happened a long time ago, I mean people needed to be treated equally and that's been my passion all along," he said.

"It's something that I felt I wanted to do and needed to do and I just keep pursuing those avenues."

Sunshine Transit is the city's only wheelchair-accessible limousine company and has been using a normal-sized executive car to transport people with mobility issues. Getting that vehicle licenced was a two-year process which saw opposition from the city's two biggest taxi companies.

After that vehicle received its licence in 2014, Jakeman said the demand for accessible rides to graduations, special events and funerals skyrocketed.

When Canadian paralympian and activist Rick Hansen was in the city he rode in the executive car, Jakeman added.

'It's catching on'

The process to get the new licence from the stretch limousine didn't take nearly as long because, with the previous vehicle's numbers, they could demonstrate there was a need in Winnipeg.

There was a hearing in November and it was approved in December, but Jakeman didn't learn of the approval until last week.

"The demand was there that we needed another vehicle so we figured we'd go for something a little bit different. It's catching on," he said.

With the stretch limousine, Jakeman said people with wheelchairs will be able to sit with the rest of the passengers.

"The people in the wheelchair will be able to sit with their group in the back. Whereas the one that we have now you sat up front with the driver. It's more of the limousine feel," he said.

The new stretch limousine is the first one west of Toronto in the country, Jakeman said.

Gary Jakeman, owner of Sunshine Transit, says the new limousine being designed by MV1 will be this style but black. (MV1)
Personal connection to accessibility

Jakeman pursued the accessible transit option after his wife, Suzanne, had difficulty finding transportation for a special night out with friends.

She has cerebral palsy.

"I feel great doing this because my wife is also disabled and when we tried to hire a limo once she had a lot of trouble getting into the limousine because they weren't accessible," he said.

The new limousine will hold two wheelchairs and up to seven passengers. It is being designed by MV-1 Canada and Jakeman said he plans to go to Toronto to be involved in the building of the vehicle.

When asked who would be the first lucky passenger to take a ride, Jakeman laughed.

"Probably my wife," he said.

The stretch limo is expected to be in the city just in time for graduation season.