Nova Scotia

Metro Transit to improve bus accessibility

Public transit improvements will soon benefit Metro Transit riders with disabilities in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Metro Transit is set to improve accessibility this fall for riders with disabilities in Halifax Regional Municipality.

Tammy Robertson  and Michael Craig, who both use wheelchairs, could not use most of the routes on the transit system despite most of the bus fleet being accessible.

They went to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, which brought both sides together to improve service.

Coming changes include:

-passengers using wheelchairs will be able to use low-floor buses serving any route, providing the ramp can be lowered so they can board the bus. At the moment, low-floor buses pick up those passengers only if the whole route is fully accessible.

-passengers with proper identification who require attendants will have their attendant's fare included in their own.

-snow clearing at the Mumford and Dartmouth terminals will be improved and increased to a 24-hour priority.

-the Request a Stop program, which allows riders to disembark between stops for safety at night, will be extended to disabled passengers at any time of day if it becomes reasonably necessary to accommodate them. This would occur in adverse weather or for safety reasons.

Robertson and Craig said their experience reflected the frustrations of people in the disabled community.

Metro Transit worked with the Human Rights Commission and Robertson and Craig to help create many of the changes.

"This initiative has allowed the largest transit system in the Maritimes to provide leadership on our commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities," said Gerald Hashey, the commission's manager of dispute resolution.

"Public transit is key to independence and participating fully in life for people with disabilities."

The convention, signed last year by Canada, mandates governments to create "effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence."

More details will be provided by Metro Transit as improvements are introduced.