Living in Toronto and being the parent of a child who is disabled and uses a wheel chair to get around, sit in, and pretty much do everything except sleep in, I guess that qualifies me to write about my lovely interactions with the TTC and their Wheel Trans, a form of public transportation for persons with disabilities.
Firstly, in order for my son to even apply to use Wheel Trans we had to cart him, his wheel chair and any other mobility devices that he may be using while accessing Wheel Trans to Richview library, while we live right down by the lake. Lucky for us my parents were able to help us out and take us up there because my son’s wheel chair was too wide to get through the bus doors easily and lifting that heavy chair up into a streetcar would be damn impossible!
We handed the application form into the little committee that was sitting behind a table in one of the library’s meeting rooms. They asked us a few questions, such as how did we get there that day and if it would be possible to use that form of transportation on a regular basis. Were they kidding?
I explained that my parents were not a taxi service and could not drop everything and come to my beck and call and run us all over the city to the many doctor appointments that were scattered across this fair city of ours.
The one question that I really needed answers to was a simple one, as a parent of three children, the youngest of which is disabled, is it possible to bend the rule that only one person accompany the disabled person on Wheel Trans. It is necessary at times for me to bring my other two children along with us, and at the time they were four and six years of age.
The TTC’s answer to me was that it was up to the driver at the time of pick up. No, I could not inform the person I was booking the Wheel Trans appointment with that I’d have my two children with me, it was at the drivers sole discretion.
I was stunned. How on Earth could I make plans to take my kids to events across this city or even to something as simple and necessary as doctor appointments when I’d never know until the driver showed up at my door if I’d need a sitter for my older two children or if they’d be able to come along.
In all these years I’ve never been able to rely on Wheel Trans to allow my older children to come along with my son and myself so I have never used the service for any family outings.
As for taking my son and I on any trips, well every time I’ve scheduled an appointment I’ve been informed that there are no openings available for our pick up times. Most times that was the end of that, but few times I’d make alternative arraignments, taxis, my husband taking a day off of work to cart us around. A few times, as we were getting ready to leave there would be a knock at the door and standing there when I opened it would be a Wheel Trans driver standing there informing me that they were there to give us a lift.
“I was told it was booked and we couldn’t get a pick up.” I’d say and the driver then informed me that I should have called back later in the day because an opening came up and we got booked. Why couldn’t I get called for that? Even an automated phone message informing me of pick up and drop off times would have been great. But no. And because we didn’t need the service we were put down as a ‘no show’ and three of those in a month and your service is suspended. Nice!
Then there was the lovely time that my Mother in Law used the service after she’d had a knee and bone replacement done and she had to go to therapy a few times a week. Wheel Trans would come and pick her up and bring her home and since it was a pre-booked appointment, meaning that we’d booked her for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about two months, she had no time getting the service and she was going by herself so there was no problem with escorts and their number.
But the one problem I had was the day that she was supposed to be dropped off at 2:00pm after a day of therapy and since I lived right across the street I knew that she hadn’t come home. After 3:00pm I called Wheel Trans to find out what the delay was and nobody could help me. Finally around 5:00pm I was told that she’d been brought home and on time. I told them that there was no way she had been dropped off at home, since I’m right across the street and had been outside with my children watching for her at the drop off time.
Finally my Mother in Law came home and I discovered that she’d told the driver to drop her off somewhere else, which was fine with my Mother in Law because she has full use of her faculties, but there were times that she’d get confused, especially after he operation. And the driver changed the route without calling, without noting it in his log and there was no record of where she’d been dropped off.
And Wheel Trans never once apologized to us for the fear they put me and my husband through for almost seven hours, since she didn’t come home until almost 9:00pm, when a friend dropped her off.
I guess after my experiences with Wheel Trans I can safely say that I’ve given up trying to use them. I have to book my son’s doctor appointments almost a half year in advance sometimes, and then a few days before the appointment I try to get him a ride and I’m told that it’s not possible. Then I have to scramble to get alternative transportation or rebook those appointments for another half a year later and hope that at that point I’d be able to get a ride.
Now I just get my husband to take time off work and we lose a days wage because the Better Way, really isn’t.
Which is why I’m excited about these new wheel chair accessible streetcars. I know that the city has bunged up this whole TTC funding fiasco and that they are going to be not repairing vehicles that need it, not up keeping stations and what not, but at the same time the coming option to take my son on the TTC to the Toronto Western Hospital for appointments (only accessible through streetcars) without losing the money my Husband would have earned for that day makes me very happy. I know that the streetcars haven’t been built yet and that this is going to be in the future, it could be many years. But I now have hope instead of only frustration!
If only the stupid federal government, the ministry of transportation and my members of parliament had listened to my letter writing campaign and contributed some funding to cover these costs instead of making the City of Toronto cover the cost of the new streetcars themselves.