Today Sherry (our client services coordinator) and I met with our local MLAs, Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson and Christy Clark’s representative, Becky Harmata, met to present our concerns about the provision of HandyDart (known in some places as paratransit) in the Okanagan. We have been working on this initiative this year and we have put together a coalition of interested local service groups whose members also use HandyDart. We have written a call to action, which they received prior to the meeting, and we presented a summary of the areas that we feel need action. Here’s a brief summary:
We need more consistent coverage, as there are areas that are covered by regular buses but HandyDart doesn’t go. We also need more availability – longer hours. For those people who book trips as individuals, this can mean that the buses are only available for 4 hours a day, and never past 7:30pm, due to constraints in the system. Can you imagine being reliant on this service and never being able to go to a movie or to go out for dinner?
These two issues are covered by law in Ontario, stating that their HandyDart service must be offered to the same places and the same hours as the regular bus service. It’s an equal opportunities issue. Last year, BC set out a plan called Accessibility 2024, in which it hopes to be progressive province for people with disabilities in Canada. Clearly on this alone, it has a long way to go.
Kamloops is a smaller city but we are often compared to them for many services. Kamloops gets over 100 HandyDart hours a week and we get 60! This certainly caught their attention, as they admitted that they like nothing more than to beat their competition!
We did have a number of other issues, with research to back them up. We would love to be able to present our proposal to HandyDart and BC Transit, but unfortunately the system is so opaque that we cannot even find out who to present to!
The two MLAs and one representative took notes and one of them will take it on as a case file. Their staff will report back to us on the issues we raised, and we will take it from there. I’m sure that this isn’t going to be fixed overnight, but I am determined to stay with this issue, to bring better service to a vulnerable section of our population.
And of course, we finished it all with a photo!
If anyone is working on a similar campaign and would like to read our report and the research we had done, please contact me through the comments and I will send you a copy.