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I should not be limited because I am in a wheelchair 

Halifax in winter is woefully inaccessible.

click to enlarge Penny Kitchen is an independent, active member of Halifax and bronze medalist for Team Nova Scotia in national boccia. - PATRICIA PHONCHAREON
  • Penny Kitchen is an independent, active member of Halifax and bronze medalist for Team Nova Scotia in national boccia.
  • Patricia Phonchareon

I am writing to express my frustration with the restrictive nature of the Access-A-Bus-service. This service is offered to persons with physical and intellectual disabilities who seek accessible transportation. My application for an extension for the Access-A-Bus service was initially denied on the grounds that I am “deemed able to utilize the conventional low-floor transit service with personal care attendant.” While it may be true that I use transit with the assistance of an attendant, on the occasion that an accessible bus is made available I still require the door-to-door service of Access-A-Bus—especially during the winter months when the sidewalks to the closest bus stop are impossible to reach.

As a woman with cerebral palsy I found this denial of this city’s support and services to be a limitation on my independence. Just over half of Halifax Transit’s bus routes have accessible services. The rest of the routes cannot be relied on to provide the service I need for appointments if the bus that happens to arrive is not accessible. These odds limit my ability to access resources and opportunities in the city.

An example of this was last Monday: I had to wait in the rain and snow while two inaccessible buses passed by. Being out in the damp cold for that long can affect my breathing, and I am subscribed a puffer for this reason.

The current weather is a huge hindrance on my ability to get out into the community. During the wintertime, due to snow and ice, it has proven to be very difficult, or impossible, for me to get to the bus stops safely. Like everyone else, I need transportation to attend appointments, events and leisure activities. This requires multiple accessible bus routes. Where I choose to go should not be limited because I am in a wheelchair.

The final reason I was deemed not eligible was because I stated in my application that I play the sport boccia and sometimes need to bring sports equipment with me. However, I am aware that other manual wheelchair users with the assistance of an attendant are currently using the Access-A-Bus to carry groceries and other belongings with them. Isn’t this the exact point of the Access-A-Bus? For transportation and activities that would be impossible without this service? And yet, I was deemed ineligible.

I have called several numbers associated with the Access-A-Bus service, as well as sent multiple emails in an attempt to appeal the decision. I finally heard back this week and was granted my appeal, but I’ve found this process frustrating and disheartening. It is my right to have access to public places and a restriction on accessible transportation limits my ability to live independently. I simply wish to have the equal opportunity to move through this beautiful city.

 I am hoping that my story and the untold stories of many other persons struggling to receive transportation services will help raise awareness on the need for a more inclusive and accessible city.

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