Submitted by Fiona Watson on Mon, 03/07/2011 - 11:00

In early January, I moved from Toronto to Newmarket. I have severe Muscular Dystrophy and use an electric wheelchair. It took a lot of planning to ensure that I would be able to function in my new home and community.

I applied to Mobility Plus, York Region’s specialized transportation service, in December. Shortly after I moved, I was visited by an Inspector who needed to confirm that I am unable to use a minivan because of my height and chair size. I soon received my registration card and was on my way…or so I thought.

I booked a ride to go to a medical appointment and when the bus arrived, I boarded. My attendant took up her usual position beside me. The nature of my disability requires that I have neck and head support as well as assistance balancing to facilitate my breathing. I was shocked when the driver of the vehicle said my attendant had to sit and wear a seatbelt at all times. After explaining my needs to her, the driver made a phone call and said she couldn’t proceed unless the attendant sat down. Even if my attendant was sitting a couple of feet from me, the driver stated she couldn’t undo her belt to assist me. It’s interesting to note that on the Mobility Plus application, one of the questions asks if the applicant requires an attendant to travel with them, and why. If the accompanying attendant cannot assist the applicant, why would they require an attendant? It boggles the mind. I had no choice but to disembark and miss my appointment.

I immediately contacted the Inspector who had met with me and was told to provide a physician’s letter explaining why the attendant needed to stand. I submitted a letter, was given an amendment by their office, and sent in the revised note. After hearing nothing for 10 days, I contacted the Inspector again. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been given a myriad of reasons why I cannot be accommodated and yes, I am still waiting for resolution. Late last week, the Inspector gave the impression that nothing could be done. On Friday, I received an e-mail from someone in authority who said they are “still investigating“.

Surely I am not the only consumer who requires assistance while on a vehicle? People stand on “regular” busses every day. I can’t help but wonder how many people who do not know how to self-advocate (or have the support of family and friends) are sitting housebound after being told the same thing.

Ironically, I sent my resume to the York Region Accessibility Advisory Committee when I heard that they were looking for members to help make York Region more accessible for people with disabilities. I was delighted when they contacted me for an interview. Unfortunately, I was unable to schedule and attend a meeting with them and have missed a wonderful opportunity to contribute to my new community. I suggested that they consider using my current transportation predicament as a future agenda item.

I’m supposed to receive an update from Mobility Plus today or Tuesday, so watch this space.