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April 19, 2016

Please Release Me

This is what Halifax Transit's Accessible Transit Services Handbook says about wheelchairs:

All mobility-devices will back into the paddle post tightly and require one (1) anchor/tie-down point restraint system. This anchor/tie-down point will be secure at the rear side of the mobility device closest to the docking station located on the window side of the bus.

I get contrary when people make assumptions about me and my wheelchair. I have a fantasy about challenging the rules of Halifax Transit................

Returning to Halifax the other day from another coding conference, my wheelchair and I took the Airport MetroX into the city. I backed against the paddle post. As I looked around at the other passengers on the crowded bus, some were seated, some were straphanging, most had a suitcase or two. Nobody was wearing a seatbelt because there were none. Some of the suitcases must have weighed 25 kilos. My wheelchair weighs 11.

When the driver approached to anchor my chair, I said "No thanks, I've got my brakes on".
"It's required, or we can't go.", she said.
"I'd rather not."
"Then I'll have to ask you to disembark.", she said, and started to push me towards the door.
"Don't touch my chair."
"Sir, be reasonable, or I'll call security."

I am tasered into submission and carted off to Burnside while other passengers cheer...............

Sensible British Advice

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute says the opposite of what Halifax Transit says:

Ensure that you are facing towards the front of the vehicle.Explanation: Research has shown that the forward facing position is the safest. The rider is more stable in this position, and passenger restraint systems are designed for this position.

The main conclusion of a 2003 University of Virginia study is:

The primary finding of this study is that there is very little published information regarding transit bus safety and crash environment. There is no information to suggest that wheelchair riders face undue risks aboard transit buses.

Earlier in that same study, researchers tell us:

Wheelchair securement aboard low-floor buses in Europe, the United Kingdom (UK), and more recently Canada consists of backing a rear-facing wheelchair against a padded bulkhead and setting the brakes. In some applications, an aisle-side barrier, such as a stanchion or flip-down armrest, is provided. This securement approach is reported to be preferred by German transit operators and wheelchair riders. A former Canadian Urban Transit Administration (CUTA) researcher who has extensive contacts with transit agencies in Europe, the UK, and Canada, has not found any reports of accidents associated with this securement option.

The Canadian researcher is Brendon Hemily, now an independent consultant. Halifax Transit has a habit of making stuff up. They should hire him. brendon.hemily@sympatico.ca

#69 bus, Paris

The detailed and thorough University of Virginia study raises the possibility that wheelchair tie downs are a solution in search of a problem, or maybe just a problem. It cites a review of the records of an urban center's transit provider which found that 35 of 1.1 million one-way trips included incidents with wheelchair riders, although none was because of a vehicle crash.

Count%Result or Cause
1440%Improper securement
1131%Passenger fell from wheelchair
514%Tie-down failed ("claw" type)
26%Tie-down failed ("strap" type)
39%Wheelchair failed

Other transit providers confirmed that most wheelchair rider injuries are not due to impacts and that 40 to 58 percent of injury-causing accidents were due to improper wheelchair securement or securement failure. Again, the restraint was the problem about half the time.

When Metro Transit re-visits this issue, they should proceed from first principles, rather than stereotypical assumptions about people with disabilities.
  • Have goals that relate to the service, not to the characteristics of the customer: 
    • Safety 
    • Simplicity 
    • Economy 
    • Equity 
  • Presently how does the accident rate for wheelchair users compare to other types of passengers? 
  • Ditto seriousness of injury 
  • Factoring in injuries to drivers from attaching and removing restraints (see article), what is the expected net benefit? 
  • Is there a pattern? 
    • Roundabouts 
    • Hills (what do they do in San Francisco?) 
  • Are there alternative solutions? 
    • Minor route changes 
    • Driver training 
People with disabilities need assurance that decisions affecting them are grounded in reality, not preconceptions.

See you on the bus.

Gus Reed

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Visiting other cities in Canada, I've seen much better accessible transit. Vancouver and Ottawa both appeared to NOT use tie-downs. It was a get-on-and-go system (I think "passive restraint" might be the term for it.) Passengers got on independently, lined themselves up with the padded backrest and/or bar. No driver assistance needed.

As a consequence, I saw many more wheelchair users actively riding transit. There was no reason for other passengers to grumble about the time it took, because it was just as quick and easy to board as for everyone else. (There were no seats in the wheelchair spaces that needed to be flipped up. When not in use, other passengers could use it as a standing area.)

Halifax Transit is soooo far behind on accessibility, and best practises in general. It was quite depressing to see just how much better things could be! My Ottawa experience was several years ago. I've been waiting and waiting to see Halifax drop all the strap-in business ever since. My Vancouver experience was more recent, and only re-affirmed how much of a difference ease-of-use makes to accessibility. It's an entire culture shift, of de-segregation and equal participation. It changes people's attitudes.