REGINA – Accessibility and tolerance for those living with disabilities in the Queen City was thrust into the spotlight this week after a man who is legally blind was denied a ride by two cab companies because of his service dog.
Michelle Busch is legally blind and is the Accessibility Advisory Committee Chair. She sat down with Teri Fikowski to highlight areas where Regina is winning and losing in terms of accessibility:
Q: Have you experienced anything like Bishop’s story? Were you surprised to hear something like this happening in Regina?
A: No I wasn’t. I’ve been denied access by cab numerous times. But cab companies have gotten better at realizing and telling their drivers that service dogs are allowed in their cabs. They are not going to be a nuisance, they are going to lay on the floor quietly, and not bother anything and be good. It’s a cultural thing and awareness thing. People will say, ‘oh I’m allergic to dogs.’ And I say, ‘no you’re not. The dispatcher would not send somebody who is allergic to dogs to pick up somebody who is a service dog user.’
Q: How is tolerance in Regina? Do you think in your own experiences things have gotten better or worse?
A: It’s gotten better in some parts and in some parts it definitely needs improvement. Just accessibility in general, like restaurants. Having access to alternate format menus – be it large menus in large print, in brail or online. Being able to just do regular things that sighted people take for granted, like walking into a restaurant and being able to sit down and read your menu without having to ask for help. Or being able to know what bus stop you’re getting off at in a new area.
Q: On that note, there have been improvements to city transit like the audible bus stops.
A: It’s like playing Russian Roulette because sometimes the bus drivers don’t put them on like the audible switch isn’t on. So, you’re all excited and revved to go because you can listen to the buses and then they’re not on. Or the bus driver thinks you’re going to a certain spot so he’ll only turn the sound on when he thinks you’re getting off. It should just be turned on and they should just leave the audible signals alone.
Q: What is the message you want to get out, not just to the general public, but to business owners or anyone who might be providing a service?
A: If you see anybody with a disability just ask if they need help. If you’re unsure and you happen to be at a bus stop or you walk into a restaurant, just ask ‘would you like help?’ Then the person with the disability, regardless if it’s being in a wheelchair, or (having) a visual impairment or hearing impairment, then the person could say that they could want that assistance and tell you the best way they need that assistance.