March 13, 2018 7:00 am
Updated: October 15, 2018 7:46 pm

Councillor hears DATS users are being abandoned in the cold

WATCH ABOVE: Councillors heard about DATS problems Monday from those who rely on the transportation service. As Quinn Ohler reports, they say complications lead to isolation and stress.

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Some DATS users have been having bad experiences during this particularly snowy winter, according to Councillor Bev Esslinger. She’s heard complaints about people being left to negotiate their way from the curb or the sidewalk into their destination.

“I’ve heard stories of people in the cold, they have to wait for someone to help them get (into their building) if they’re by themselves,” she said Monday after making an inquiry at council’s executive committee.

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“They can’t push their wheelchair through the snow, so they need some help, and the driver just lets them off.”

Esslinger has asked for a report to come back detailing what is required of DATS drivers when they drop off a passenger.

“I’m not sure what the driver responsibility is, and how much safety (is involved.) We have to make sure it’s safe for people. I want to understand what other people are hearing and what we might be planning to do to fix it.”

READ MORE: DATS to offer discount for Edmonton seniors with disabilities starting in February

Esslinger said she’s been approached several times, and presumes it’s the same with other councillors across the city.

“It came up at the women’s advisory committee. It came up through different community events. I’ve heard it on several fronts, so I feel like it’s something that we need to take a deep dive and look at,” she said.

“How many complaints? What are the type of complaints? And what actions have we taken to address those complaints? I’ve heard anecdotally several, so I assume there might be more.”

Watch below: A look at the impact of winter weather on Edmontonians with wheelchairs

She believes this is more than what is covered in the city’s ice and snow policy that will be reviewed by city council later this summer. Currently, that policy ensures windrows are removed from the front of schools, so kids don’t have to struggle to get over the piles that snow ploughs leave behind.

She wants to find out if something similar needs to be in place outside of seniors centres.

“The safety of the people that use DATS is very important to all of us and if we have to tweak our system to make sure that we are meeting the needs of those use that service, then we need to.”

A report based on Esslinger’s inquiry will be back before city councillors in 12 weeks.

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