Give blind LRT riders enough time to prepare, advocates urge

Advocates for people with vision loss want the city to ensure there will be enough time to prepare them to ride the new Confederation LRT line safely.

City says familiarization session will be booked once LRT handover date is confirmed

Lorne Neufeldt worries he and his guide dog Herbie could end up in dangerous situations on Ottawa's new light rail line if the city doesn't give accessibility experts enough time to assess the system. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Advocates for people with vision loss want the city to make sure there's enough time for them to prepare to ride light rail safely.

Lorne Neufeldt, who commutes on OC Transpo with his guide dog Herbie, said he's concerned the city hasn't yet announced specific days for accessibility professionals to become familiar with the stations and trains on Ottawa's forthcoming Confederation line.

"We don't know what we're going into. They're not giving us enough time. They're talking about giving us one or two days before opening it up to the public," Neufeldt said.

Neufeldt's guide dog Herbie helps him navigate OC Transpo as he travels from Ottawa's west end to downtown. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Neufeldt, who also works for the Canadian Council of the Blind, said guide dog trainers and other professionals need notice to come to Ottawa and assess the situation.

"They will be able to teach us where we need to stand, which cars we would need to go into, where the best line of travel would be and how to train the dogs properly," he said.

'Prior access' needed

Duane Morgan, executive director for CNIB Eastern Ontario, says the organization — which advocates for people with vision loss — is still asking the city for a date for advanced access.

That would allow orientation and mobility specialists to look for any problems with the stations.

"It's going to be very important for us to get that prior access to the LRT to take a look at it so we can be prepared," Morgan said.

"[We can] also give any feedback on changes that could possibly made at that time."

Duane Morgan, executive director of CNIB Eastern Ontario, says the organization has tried to be proactive about accessibility issues for future LRT users who are blind or partially sighted. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

While the opening date of the LRT line has been delayed more than once, Morgan said he hopes the city will still take the time to address any issues that arise during their test run.

"We're hoping that accessibility takes priority over any other sort of delays," he said.

Morgan said CNIB has advocated for the use of audio announcements, large text, and textured floors that would provide warnings of hazards and edges for people who use canes.

However, he said he's not sure how the city has implemented that feedback.

Advocates for people who are blind or have vision loss say textured surfaces, like these installed at Lansdowne Park, can aid with navigation. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Date to be determined

In a statement, OC Transpo says it's planning to provide outreach and familiarization sessions for customers who indicate specific requirements, including people who are blind or partially sighted.

The date of those sessions will be set once the city confirms the handover of the LRT with the Rideau Transit Group, the consortium building the line, OC Transpo said. 

The transit agency also said light rail was designed to adhere to Ontario's accessibility legislation.   

The city has held meetings with stakeholders over the years of the design process, including a presentation to the city's accessibility advisory committee in 2013.


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