Orangeville works to be more accessible

February 15, 2024   ·   0 Comments


Little is being done in many communities to increase accessibility.

Luke Anderson of the StopGap Foundation said the lack of effort toward opening avenues of access for people with various mobility issues was a great source of frustration for him.

Anderson described to Orangeville’s accessibility advisory committee how his foundation solicits materials and expertise to help build ramps to increase wheelchair accessibility at businesses.

In 2011, the StopGap Foundation, which is based in Toronto, built 13 ramps for businesses in the Hog Town’s Junction district. The effort has grown to accomplish more than 2,500 ramps in 60 communities, he said.

“Generally, we all end up benefitting when measures are taken to open accessibility,” Anderson said.

Mayor Lisa Post said council had set aside money for the foundation’s work to take place in Orangeville. The town currently uses what are called suitcase ramps. They’re portable but cumbersome.

StopGap’s design is temporary, just as the suitcase ramps are, but doesn’t have the other drawbacks.

“This would be a really positive way to move forward,” she said.

Tony Dulisse, the town’s manager of transport and development, said StopGap would be a very good fit for Broadway businesses as they’re temporary. That means they won’t interfere with sidewalk maintenance and snow clearing.

Orangeville Transit’s accessibility issues was another topic broached during the Feb. 5 town council meeting. Some of those complaints were brought to the accessibility advisory committee.

Orangeville Transit will often use school buses when its public transit buses are taken off the road for repairs. The problem with that is school buses that are used can’t accommodate wheelchairs.

Dulisse, who is responsible for the public bus service, said the transit’s 30-foot buses aren’t as robust or as reliable as was once thought.

“Buses are meant to go in straight lines,” he said.

The stop-and-go nature of travel along Orangeville thoroughfares wreaks havoc on certain parts of the buses. Some of them have 200,000 “hard kilometres” on them. They’re taken off routes when they require repairs. But often parts can’t be timely obtained.

Dulisse said there’s a plan in the works that may yield a purchase order in April for a new Orangeville Transit bus.

“We’ve changed our approach to getting the best value,” he said.

That is, town staff won’t necessarily follow the approach of buying the cheapest option if a bus that’s a little more costly would likely prove hardier on the road.

“Cheap is not always the best option,” he said.

James Jackson, the committee chairperson, said it’s better to have the vehicle on the road by spending a little more than having to put it in the shop three times a month.

And there are other transit issues.

Complaints other than mechanical issues.

Jackson informed town council during its Feb. 5 meeting that a friend of his recently couldn’t get to a medical appointment because the school bus used couldn’t accommodate a wheelchair.

What was worse, the transit driver wouldn’t even look at Jackson’s friend, he said.

“That was appalling,” he said.

Dulisse said transit drivers aren’t required to leave the bus, but the majority of them will go above and beyond the service standard.

There have been instances in which passengers with service animals have had to prove by way of secondary identification that the animal is actually properly trained.

Dulisse related a past incident. A rider obtained a service animal vest for a non-qualified dog and boarded a bus. Apparently, vests can be bought on websites like Amazon. The dog got excited for whatever reason and almost bit the driver.

And that would have endangered all passengers, Dulisse said.

“The problem is when you have somebody with a dog that’s not actually a service dog,” Post said.

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