For more than 42,000 people, Wheel-Trans has become a lifeline. However, there is growing concern among longtime customers who received notices stating that they have to re-register for the vital service.
Adam Cohoon, 42, has been using the paratransit service for nearly 25 years. He is currently in the process of re-registering.
Cohoon calls it ‘degrading,’ saying a burden of proof has been placed on his shoulders.
“It’s like we’re filling out a job application,” he told Global News. “We’re trying to — in this weird, sick way — our worst foot forward.”
When Cohoon logged into his account recently, there was a notice near the top of the page. It advised that all customers who qualified for Wheel-Trans prior to 2017 “must re-register under the current Wheel-Trans eligibility process.”
Right now, he is awaiting a decision on his application.
Users are divided into three categories: conditional, unconditional, and temporary.
The re-registration process begins with an online application, which has to be filled out by the transit user and their doctor. Those answers are then assessed by a team, which then selects a service category it deems most appropriate.
“I’m waiting to see whether I’m going to have to go for an in-person interview, or whether they are just going to try and make me use the conventional system, or make me a conditional user,” said Cohoon.
When asked why there was such a push for users to re-register, Wheel-Trans head Cameron Penman told Global News it all boiled down to provincial legislation.
“We are trying to be as fair as we can,” said Penman. “We have to apply the legislation. We are mandated to do so.”
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed in 2005. Its goal is to develop, implement, and enforce standards to achieve accessibility in the province by 2025.
“All those customers who weren’t registered under these new eligibility requirements…those that signed up before January 1, 2017, we’ve now started — on a voluntary basis — asking them to please re-register.”
Penman says so far more than 8,000 customers have voluntarily re-registered. There are just under 11,000 who have yet to.
Disability advocate and chair of the AODA Alliance David Lepofsky, calls the TTC’s definition of equity ‘a slap in the face’ to people with disabilities.
“It is not equity to make a person who’s had a disability all their life, and who has already proven they have a disability, go and re-prove to a bunch of transportation bureaucrats that their life-long disability didn’t magically vanish,” Lepofsky said.
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