Audit sought over claims public transit in London fails to comply with accessibility law

The London Transit Commission's satellite facility on Wonderland Road South. Andrew Graham / Global News

Accessibility advocates in London, Ont., say that after nearly 20 years of hearing that the city’s public transit service is “looking into it,” the time has come to escalate their concerns.

A formal audit request was sent to the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario on Wednesday, alleging “the continued failure of the London Transit Commission to organize and maintain a functional specialized transit system for disabled Londoners.”

“It appears to us that for a very long time, disabled people have not been a priority for the London Transit Commission,” said Jeff Preston, associate professor of disability studies at King’s University College and author of the audit request letter alongside Wendy Lau, CEO of Leads Employment Services, and Jacqueline Madden, a member of the community.

“For particularly those with physical impairments like myself, public transit is literally our lifeline … and what we’ve asked disabled Londoners to do for far too long is to change their life to fit within the system, as opposed to trying to build a system that actually fits within the lives of our citizens.”

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The letter alleges that the LTC’s paratransit service is noncompliant with several sections of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, or AODA, including a failure to: publicly share annual compliance reports, ensure publicly-shared PDFs meet accessibility thresholds for the visually impaired, provide accessible booking options for those with limited or impaired speech, ensure the same payment options are available for all transit services, and more.

According to the LTC’s accessibility page, the website claims to be AODA compliant as it offers the option to “any documents in alternate formats” via email.

Its fares page, however, notes that its specialized service does not accept Smart Cards. Under the AODA, “the transportation service provider shall ensure that the same fare payment options are available for all transportation services (O. Reg. 191/11, s. 66 (6)).”

Global News reached out to the LTC for comment via phone and email on Wednesday but has not received a response.

An example of a PDF image that does not provide accessibility options for those with impaired vision, for example, text to speech. via Jeff Preston

Figure 1 – Support-Person-Application

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“There’s definitely some problems. And I wonder if there are other problems that we’re simply not able to see,” Preston said.

While requests for improved accessibility have been longstanding, the push for an audit began in earnest in March after Preston says the LTC made statements claiming to be AODA compliant.

After contacting the directorate to receive the report, he says there were no disclosures of noncompliance within it, so he and others began gathering stories and asking clarifying questions from the LTC.

“At this point, we felt that there was enough here for us that it was time to pass it on, that somebody actually needs to take this on in a more serious way.”

Preston is hopeful that an audit, if granted, will lead to change.

“I think that this is a really good way for us to open up real conversations about disability and accessibility, the urgency for trying to become more accessible, to tackle internal ableism, to tackle ableism within our organizations,” he said.

“The other advantage of going down this path is that there now is a document trail between the ministry and the organization, and the AODA does have fines for noncompliance.”

Fines can reach up to $100,000 “for each day or part of a day on which the offence occurs or continues to occur,” (Part X, 37.3.B) though Preston noted that a major criticism of the AODA is that it rarely deploys fines.


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