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November 28, 2017

A failure of leadership

One of life's most important lessons is to avoid personal attacks.  It's OK to say a decision is "stupid" but it's not a good idea to label those who reached the decision in the same way.  They're misinformed or misguided.

Under those rules, misguided and misinformed people at Metro Transit have made a monumentally stupid decision.

They've considered their alternative facts and decided to buy 40 paratransit buses.

Gerry Post, tireless citizen advocate, has been waging this battle for years.  So have I.  Gerry makes the compelling point that there are cheaper alternatives that give better service.  He wrote Mayor Savage:

Dear Mayor Savage,
I just received notice of a HRM tender for 40 paratransit Buses, which came as a big surprise. After all the discussion regarding an alternative para-Transit business model that:
1. Cost less;
2. Improves service for the disabled
3. Supports getting more accessible taxis on the road
4. Prepares HRM for the future conversion to Autonomous Buses; the biggest cost will be severance (estimated at $100k per driver) - must reduce the hiring of new drivers; and
5. Supports the private sector.
It seems the administration is stuck in a rut, which is costly to the citizens in both in money and service delivery. This tender will continue the status quo for many years to come, this is the time to consider the alternative business model.

After 4 years of discussing this, with broad based support within the disabled community the current tender indicates a lack of understanding and respect by the administration for the citizens it serves.

Submitted respectfully,

Gerry P

For my part, I'm more concerned that HRM is operating a separate and discriminatory service contrary to the Charter.  This decision, made in the policy vacuum so characteristic of HRM, has the effect of making second class citizens of some residents.  While the decision may have some practical considerations:
  • A deal on 40 buses
  • Idle drivers
It's up to leadership to consider the larger issues:
  • Responsibility to taxpayers
  • Service level
  • The future of transport
  • The fair treatment of all Haligonians
  • Benefits to other sectors
I'm full of questions:
  • What is it about "less expensive" that Council fails to comprehend?
  • What is it about people with disabilities that brings out the worst in others?
  • Are we begrudged the means to get to jobs? (here is a CBC article about how we are treated)
  • Shall we satisfy HRM's bias by being unemployed and supported entirely by taxpayers?
The tender is an affront to people with disabilities, who have worked tirelessly to change HRM's outlook with facts, patience and understanding. Instead we have been met with misrepresentation, condescension and indifference.

This decision has the effect of ignorance, bigotry, waste and stupidity. Those who made the decision are misguided and badly informed.  Their leaders fail to provide leadership.

October 25, 2017

Becoming an UnPerson in Nova Scotia

(If you can't see the diagram, click the title to go to the blog or find it here).

This is how the new Adult Capacity and Decision-making Act appears to work.  The bill is almost 15,000 words long, so I welcome your corrections and additions.  I believe there are 2 major shortcomings:

  • The unwarranted trust in the medical profession
    • Given the profession’s long history of paternalism, especially as it relates to differences of ability, they are low on my list.  Why not lawyers?  Educators? Pastors? Nutritionists?  Scientists?  Why this act focuses on a group that has served people with disabilities so badly for so long is a mystery to me.  Imagine being a person having Down Syndrome and being assessed by a doctor who has counseled the abortion of people like you. Has the government hired Charles Dickens as the consultant on Disability?
  • The vague nature of “Capacity Assessment”.  
    • The few documents I can find, like this  or this seem trivial, inviting judgement by people with no real knowledge or grasp of facts.  There is no standard, no professional association. This act comes very close to saying “Just sign the contract, we’ll fill in the details later”

Given Nova Scotia’s own capacity for failing to protect its citizens, from Mi'kmaq people to African Nova Scotians to its continuing tolerance of indentured servitude in sheltered workshops and the huge errors it admitted in the discredited Incompetent Person’s Act, government needs to try harder.

Gus Reed

...he was abolished, an unperson.
1984 (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Part 2, Chapter 6.

October 21, 2017

New interest in public rights of way

Two new Facebook Groups have started in Halifax.this summer, Haligonians on Wheels and Halifax Pedestrians and Walkers.

They have an obvious common interest in the Public Right of Way and sharing of points of view will be productive all around.  PROW standards will certainly be on the agenda of the new Accessibility Directorate.

Which way is this person going?
For people with mobility complications, of course, intersections need careful design.  I have a suspicion that HRM approaches the problem in the most pedestrian manner possible.  I wish they would follow some principles as they build and modernize infrastructure.  Here are the kind of basic principles I have in mind:

  • Safe
    • Driver gets information about pedestrian intentions
    • Keep driver and pedestrian apart
    • Stop using those stupid invisible stripes
      • or should people die for a balanced paint budget?
    • Get the pedestrian across intersections quickly
    • No signs or poles in the way
    • Make ramp part of the sidewalk, not part of the curb
  • Intuitive
    • Buttons placed correctly
  • Consistent and science-based
    • Compound slopes not permitted
  • Easily maintained
    • Set limits for tolerable interruptions
    • If it works for wheelchairs, it probably works for Bobcats.
This kind of departmental mission or policy statement is a good news story to be found on almost any city website, like this one from New York.  But not HRM, where you need to apply to find out even the most innocuous information.  Well, I'm not playing that game - I assume if they don't tell me their mission, they don't have one.  Or maybe the Russians are still working on it.  Grrrr. 

I thought I would revisit the site of the death of Bill Lee, a 73 year old pedestrian who I wrote about in 2014.

As you can see, even though a pedestrian was killed, not much has been done to improve this intersection.  It's a busy crossing, where trail users of all kinds meet the regular infrastructure.  There should be a protocol for evaluating intersections after accidents.  
  • Lighting
  • Driver and victim characteristics
  • Marking
  • Speed limits
  • Weather
Having a bunch of information would allow searching for patterns:
  • Kids on bikes on weekends
  • Pedestrian crossing at dusk in fog
  • Trail user during rush hour
  • The corner store closing at midnight
This would help prioritize and predict.  Tim Bousquet catalogs the events, but the imagination of HRM staff is limited to one variable at a time, so no progress is made.  I wrote a similar critique of an accident for HalifaxExaminer in 2015, but it met with the usual lack of response from the Lotus Eaters.  

Here are some good ideas from Trumpland, where there are requirements for hiking trails as well