Handi-Transit users say they are tired of having less than excellent service.
“We want to bring this to the public. They wouldn’t put up with this on their city buses, so why is it an expectation that people with disabilities do?” Darlene Marcoux says.
Marcoux worked at Independent Living Resource Centre (ILRC) for 25 years and has used Handi-Transit since the program started in 1977.
After hearing many complaints about Handi-Transit’s services over the years, ILRC has submitted an official complaint to the Manitoba Ombudsman about the service.
In 2012, ILRC held a transportation forum to develop a list of issues, both individual and systemic, people from the disability community were having with Handi-Transit.
Following the forum, ILRC began to pursue the complaint with the help of the Public Interest Law Centre.
“It’s started to become lackadaisy,” Marcoux says about Handi-Transit.
While there are many little things that upset Marcoux about the service, she is currently most angry about questions asked in applications for Handi-Transit. The most concerning questions she hears are about users’ weights and medication use.
“We feel, as persons with disabilities, that shouldn’t have any bearing on why we use Handi-Transit,” she says.
Marcoux says Handi-Transit also changes policies without telling users about the changes and transportation is often late or early.
“Those are the kinds of things we have to put up with. And if we don’t put up with those things, we end up being told we may not get transportation. You can be suspended,” she says. “They really do have the upper-hand.”
If people were not allowed to vote by mail this year, Marcoux says she would not have voted because she likely would have had to wait a few hours for Handi- Transit between being dropped off and picked up.
“It makes me feel like a second-class citizen,” Marcoux says.
Natalie Pirson, an employee at ILRC, has relied on Handi-Transit for 15 years and has seen its services steadily become worse.
“Handi-Transit isn’t very handy,” Pirson says.
She’s seen the same issues come up again and again without being resolved.
“There’s a strong community, especially in Manitoba, who do rely on this service, and we need to have a voice and I think there is a strong voice out there,” Pirson says.
One of the biggest issues, in Pirson’s experience, is that the service is not reliable. This means people using the service need to make sure their employer understands Handi-Transit’s insufficient booking policy, Pirson says.
Employers need to be aware their employees may arrive late or have to leave early.
“There is often a time where I can’t get a ride to a destination or from a destination, which totally negates my enjoyment of that activity,” Pirson says.
ILRC planned to submit the complaint after a news conference on Oct. 15 in hopes that it would influence Handi-Transit to become more handy for users.