In July of 2013 I went to K Days at the Exhibition Grounds in Edmonton, I use the Disabled Adult Transportation Service offered to citizens with disabilities, when I arrived I noted that the pickup and drop off area for DATS was quite a distance from the entrance I would have to say approximately 3 blocks, I also noted on my way back that there were no curb cuts for a wheelchair to get on the sidewalk in order to wait for DATS nor was there any seating available: when using DATS a client can wait up to 30 minutes for DATS to arrive.
I contacted DATS to discuss the problems I had observed. I was told that they were not involved in the decision making process that Northlands made the decisions of where the DATS pickup and drop off designation and what was available for seating. I contacted Northlands via email and didn’t hear back from them; after a few weeks of waiting for Northlands to respond to my concerns I contacted the Human Rights Commission: I was told by the Commission that Northlands didn’t violate my rights because they provided what the Commission described as reasonable access. I then let it go, I figured it was only once a year.
Fast forward to July 2014 and some of the same problem persist. The first time I visited K Days I decided in order to having seating and shelter available for a potential 30 minute wait I would have DATS pick me up and drop me off at the Coliseum LRT Bus Terminal; sound pretty simple right, well not really. It would have worked but for the fact that the DATS driver that was to take me to the destination didn’t know where the bus Terminal at the Coliseum LRT was located.
My choice to be dropped off and picked up at a more accommodating location created a fire storm that is now being investigated by DATS.
The second time I visited I thought I would get DATS to Drop me off and pick me up at the location that I wasn’t impressed with the previous year (116 Ave/73 St.); my thought was to give it another chance perhaps Northlands made changes; they made changes alright, they added curb cuts, and added a shelter that looks like it came out of the horse stables. But no seating and the distance is still approximately 3 blocks from the designated DATS pick up drop off location to the main gates to enter the grounds.
Upon my returning to the designated location for my return I spied some parking dividers near the pickup drop off location so there I sat waiting for my ride to arrive. By the time the driver had arrived there had been other DATS vehicles that came and left each time I walk to the designated area and was told that they were not for me. I was frankly tired of walking back and forth so when the driver finally arrived I didn’t move until I knew that he was there to pick me up. The driver wasn’t happy about me not moving from my spot until I knew for sure that he was there for me, he said “Your supposed to be by the signs” repeating himself twice. I did say to him that there was no seating available near the “signs”.
Lesson learned; I may never visit K Days or any event at the Exhibition Grounds again.
Although not completely blameless it wouldn’t be fair to place all the blame on Northlands or DATS. I believe that most of the blame for the lack of accessibility for individuals that are disabled but don’t require the use of a wheelchair falls on the City of Edmonton. In my research I couldn’t find anything pertaining to accessibility bylaws. I could only find accessibility standards and unfortunately standards only apply to individuals in wheelchairs and don’t include standards for those who use other walking aids like canes, crutches or walkers. I would consider the existing standards minimal.
It is up to the City of Edmonton to take the lead and incorporate the existing standards and expand on them to include accessibility standards for those who use walking aids. Better yet create bylaws for accessibility standards and then perhaps a program like the Measuring Up program may be a success.
I would encourage all citizens to call there election officials to express concerns about the lack of accessibility for individuals that don’t require wheelchairs.