Canadian Transportation Agency rules Sask.-founded company must make buses wheelchair accessible
Decision comes after Regina woman was unable to board bus, filed complaint
Terri Sleeva says a recent decision by the Canadian Transportation Association (CTA) is a move toward equal treatment for people with disabilities, but that there's still work to do.
CTA has ruled that Rider Express — a bus company founded in Saskatchewan in 2017 — must make its buses wheelchair accessible.
The decision comes after Sleeva, a disability issues advocate who is paralyzed from the neck down, filed a human rights complaint to CTA.
Sleeva said she tried to buy a bus ticket from Rider Express a few years ago to go from Regina to Saskatoon.
However, she was informed the bus wasn't wheelchair accessible. Sleeva said Rider Express told her they had plans to make their buses wheelchair accessible in the future, but they couldn't tell her when.
She had to cancel her trip, something she said is too common for people with accessibility challenges.
"I know a lot of people in the disability community, people who have cried to me and said, 'I want to go to this funeral. I want to go to this wedding, and I can't because I can't get out," she said.
"That is so wrong to treat people that way because disability doesn't discriminate... We're people. We still have quality. We're still able to do things."
Sleeva said Rider Express has become essential for many people since the Saskatchewan Transportation Company was shut down by the provincial government in 2017.
"There were so many people [who] wanted to travel, but all of a sudden it was just cut off," she said.
Rider Express is now the only bus company that provides transportation from Regina to Saskatoon and vice versa.
The CTA decision is a step in the right direction, Sleeva said, but society as a whole needs to have a better understanding of how people with disabilities are treated differently.
"Until society has changed and the thought process has changed, we're going to be having problems."
Sleeva is also encouraging people to keep fighting for their rights.
"Don't give up. There is a way. When one door closes, another one will open," she said. "It takes a lot of fortitude, a lot of strength."
CBC News reached out to Rider Express, but did not receive a response for publication.
Regulations for buses
The CTA decision, which Sleeva provided to CBC News, said Rider Express must provide wheelchair accessible buses for all of its routes.
The decision said buses that are already wheelchair accessible must provide several services as well:
- Advise the person with a disability in advance if the route does not have a regularly scheduled stop at a rest stop with a washroom that accommodates a person using a mobility aid and offer the person their choice of alternative rest stops on the route.
- Permit the person with a disability to board before other passengers.
- Assist the person with a disability during boarding and disembarking and with their baggage, moving in and out of the mobility aid space, storing and retrieving their carry-on baggage, retrieving their checked baggage and helping them to the curbside.
If the bus does not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom, the bus must stop at least every two and a half hours at a rest stop with an appropriate bathroom and allow the person, or people, adequate time to use it.
The bus driver must also allow people who use wheelchairs to leave the bus at a stop of their choosing, as long as the driver deems it safe to do so.
Future buses, meanwhile, must meet multiple requirements if they have a carrying capacity of 40 passengers or more, such as a minimum of two mobility aid spaces and a wheelchair accessible washroom.
If a wheelchair accessible bus cannot be provided, the company must offer alternate transportation — at no extra cost — if a request is made 48 hours before the departure time.
If a request is received less than 48 hours before the departure time, the company must make a "reasonable effort to provide the service."
The CTA decision said Rider Express must comply with the decision — or have concrete plans to do so — by June 10.