Manitoba

Winnipeg Transit buses still not accessible, says man who is blind

​A Winnipeg man who is blind says the city’s buses are still not accessible for people with no or partial vision, despite a 2008 mandate to provide stop announcements.

Stephen McKinney says next stop announcements are sometimes too quiet or don’t occur at all

​A Winnipeg man who is blind says the city’s busses are still not accessible for people with no or partial vision, despite a 2008 mandate to provide stop announcements. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

A Winnipeg man who is blind says the city's buses are still not accessible for people with no or partial vision, despite a 2008 mandate to provide stop announcements. 

Stephen McKinney has had no vision for 22 years and uses a service dog as well as Winnipeg Transit to travel downtown from his home in St. Vital.

Every bus in Winnipeg Transit's fleet is supposed to be equipped with a "Next Stop Announcement" feature that gives a visible and audible announcement about upcoming bus stops, but McKinney said the announcements sometimes don't play or are too quiet to hear.

"I wish I could find out what's going on. When is the system going to really work? What is everybody paying for when it doesn't seem to work effectively?" said McKinney.

McKinney said he pays attention to curves and turns to help determine where the bus is, but sometimes he has to continually ask drivers because the announcements either aren't being made or are too quiet.

"It slows me down and doesn't help me to get to my destination because I have to keep asking," said McKinney.

The City of Winnipeg acknowledges there's a problem with the system.

Officials said the buses are supposed to come from the manufacturer equipped with a "pre-set volume feature, which is set at the same level," but some buses do have inconsistent volume levels.

Officials said since August 2015, they've received 16 complaints about the announcements, not including McKinney's concerns.

They don't know how many buses have volume issues or aren't playing announcements at all, but they said they are doing tests to figure that out.

City officials could not provide how much was paid to install the technology in 2008.

Other major cities have reliable service for blind, man says

McKinney said he hasn't contacted the city about his concerns but has raised it with some drivers.

He said another issue is that there are no exterior announcements about what bus is arriving, so people who are blind or partially sighted have no idea what bus has pulled up to a stop.

"A lot of times the bus drivers have to call it. They have to call out their number, but certain times you can't hear it," he said. "I seem to have no problem in other cities, like Ottawa. When the bus pulls up, you can hear the announcement. It tells you what bus it is. You could hear on the bus each stop."

McKinney said he's travelled to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, and all of the audio systems work on their public transit systems.

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