Photos and information provided by Caitlin Fortier
One of the key barriers to an included life in the community is “getting around.” Most people with intellectual disabilities rely on the public transportation system, which often includes a service specific to people with mobility and other issues that make traditional bus service difficult or impossible to use. In Ottawa this is known as “Para Transpo” and there are many challenges with this system and not many easy solutions. Most of the issues were detailed in the Ottawa Citizen including the commencement of stakeholder consultations.
LiveWorkPlay members Jennifer Harris and Jalynn Plaus both participated in the consultation on October 6, 2015. They are not new to transportation advocacy (most famously involved with support for the Community Bus Pass which started as a pilot project and has been continued indefinitely.)
The Para Transpo system cannot keep up with demand and there are difficult choices to be made around scheduling, fees, and how to prioritize clients and different types of transportation needs (for example, whether or not medical appointments should be a priority that overrides other types of trips).
The issue of whether of not to penalize those who cancel or no-show was of concern to Jennifer. Given the service is provided to individuals who are known to have medical and/or mental health issues, to in effect punish those who cannot keep their appointments could be a very damaging policy. “It’s something that needs to be taken into account” said Jennifer.
Jalynn advocated for improved use of technology, including an online booking system, which would make booking or cancelling easier. “Not everyone who uses Para Transpo can use a phone or does well using the phone” said Jalynn. “For some people it means having their parents or another person manage their bookings for them, and if they could do it online instead they would have more control over their own life.”
Jennifer and/or Jalynn may be getting further involved in transportation advocacy. With their permission we’ll let you know what happens next!