In October 2018, Terri Sleeva called Rider Express Transportation to book a ride from Regina to Saskatoon for a date in November.
Sleeva told the operator that she uses a wheelchair and was told that the bus was not wheelchair accessible. The operator told Sleeva the company would be receiving wheelchair-accessible buses in the future but was not told a specific date.
Sleeva is part of a group called Transportation for All with individuals who mostly use wheelchairs. The group was founded when Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) closed in 2017.
“They couldn’t go home for Christmas. They couldn’t go to funerals, they couldn’t go to weddings. Nothing, because the (Saskatchewan Transportation Company) was gone and a (taxi) trip to Saskatoon and back costs $600,” Sleeva told Global News.
Armed with knowledge of Canadian transportation and accessibility rights, Sleeva filed a claim against Rider Express with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Sleeva’s claim was passed onto the Canadian Human Rights Commission because the company is headquartered in Calgary. The claim was passed on again for a final time to the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Sleeva said it was frustrating process. She was even told by peers that her claim wasn’t going to get anywhere and it was “no action thing.”
“The thing is you’ve got keep pushing, you’ve got to. If you feel that’s the right way to do things, keep going and persevere, it comes to pass eventually.”
According to subsection 172(3) of the CTA, the agency may require corrective measures be taken on determining that there is an undue obstacle to the mobility of a persons with disability.
“Transportation service providers, including (Rider Express), have a duty to accommodate persons with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship,” the CTA added.
In their decision, released on April 14, the agency found that there is no basis to conclude that removing the obstacle to Sleeva’s mobility would cause undue hardship for Rider Express.
“The agency therefore finds that appropriate corrective actions should be ordered,” the decision read.
The CTA added in their ruling that in order for Rider Express to meet its obligation to provide accessible services to persons with disabilities, they must provide bus services that are wheelchair accessible.
Rider Express has until May 12 to confirm that a number of measures set out by the CTA are in place for all of its routes.
The decision adds that if Rider Express does not have buses that can accommodate a wheelchair or if not all of its routes are served by wheelchair-accommodating buses, they must provide alternate transportation for someone who makes the request 48 hours before scheduled departure time, or make a reasonable effort to do so if the request is made 48 hours before departure time. This may include providing a wheelchair-accessible van or taxi for a person in need.
Rider Express is required to confirm that the alternate transportation means are in place no later than June 10.
Sleeva said she went into disbelief when she received the decision.
Dylan Morin from Transportation for All said the decision was “fantastic.”
Morin said people with disabilities and mobility issues face a number of challenges since the STC shut down.
“If they can’t get a ride, they stay home. They can’t go and see family, they can’t go and see friends. They can’t go to community events. If you’re on a provincial board, you may not be able to get to meetings, if you don’t have transportation,” he said.
Morin is hoping that things will change now based on this ruling.
In their decision, CTA said that Rider Express chose not to participate in the proceeding though CTA made several attempts to contact the company by phone, email and mail.
“(Rider Express) remained silent throughout the process and did not respond at any point, even when the onus shifted to it, in the second part of the proceeding, to explain how it would remove the obstacle or why it believed it could not do so without experiencing undue hardship,” the CTA decision read.
Rider Express did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls from Global News. This story will be updated when a statement is provided.