Yet another announcement about announcing bus stops

Why go through the agony of going to a traditional court, when you can access the Court of Public Opinion?  In recent months, I have slogged away in an attempt to force our local transit company to publicly announce what they have been saying to me behind closed doors… (actually a series of correspondence through my legal representative).  The problem? Bus drivers (they like to be called Operators now) in the city of Halifax have never adopted the practice of announcing any MAJOR stops on their routes. They will, announce a REQUESTED stop.  Perhaps I would not have chomped at the bit so voraciously, were it not for the drivers’ haphazard success to announce REQUESTED stops. It is an inconvenience at best and a potentially frightening and confusing experience, for Blind and partially sighted people to be dropped off at a location other than where they expect to find themselves.  I acknowledge that drivers have a lot on their plate at times, with traffic and weather. However, so often, they are occupied with mindless conversations with other passengers, personal cell phone conversations (now illegal when driving in this province, or they simply ‘forget’. It’s a nice gesture for the driver to say,  “sorry, I forgot” when they finally realize that  they have forgotten to announce the requested stop for the blind passenger and have blown by the stop (or maybe the passenger has asked, “are we at my stop yet?” and have dragged the driver back to consciousness long enough to let them off the bus). However, this is little comfort to the person who may be several yards or blocks beyond their familiar stop.  I am a resourceful type. Being ‘lost’ is a pain in the butt, but at least I have the skills and hootzpah to re-orient myself. Many blind people do not. So, as a result of a complaint about a specific incident which I reported, I was eventually offered a little olive branch. Legal council for the city and Transit management realized (once they studied the precedents which had somehow missed their radar) that they must accept that announcing bus stops is an OBLIGATION rather than a courtesy. To put it simply, transit companies all over the country have been hauled in front of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and other provincial human rights agencies by blind lawyers (see David Lepofsky v Toronto Transit Commission) and these tribunals have ruled in favor of the complainants. IE. Financial hardship (which TTC argued prevented them from implementing a voice enunciator system) was NOT a defense for not meeting the requirements for REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION for the disabled. Cities large and small (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa, North Bay, Sarnia, Woodstock, Waterloo region) have smelled the odor of imminent litigation, and wisely chosen to be proactive and voluntarily draft and enact similar policies  that obliges their transit drivers  to announce bus stops. Some are not very happy about it, but they are, at least acting on it. So a statement was sent to…pacify me?..shut me up? …lull me into complacent abandonment of my claim?..hold me off until AFTER the next municipal election?…I don’t know. The policy issued to me via my lawyer?…Here it is: “ANY person may ask a driver to announce the major stops on the route, and the driver will do so, until that person leaves the bus”. It sounds like they made  a desperate attempt to ACCOMMODATE , without giving it much thought.  How will a driver determine what a ‘major stop’ is, or how they will know when someone is leaving the bus? It did not matter much anyway. They did not tell the public about this new ‘policy’. They even neglected to let the DRIVERS in on it!  This became apparent, when a bunch-o-blind folk put the ‘policy’ to the test. Confusion, hostility, resentment, reigned. Some (3 out of 21) made an attempt to announce something. One driver decided to announce turns, and the other 2 winged it.  The other 18 drivers either refused,  or asked, “why?”  or “what’s a major stop?”, or had absolutely no response. When asked about the directive they allegedly received a month ago, they all said they had not received any such thing. That is when I thought it would be time to share my news with the public. A media release was issued. Radio and other media started phoning me for interviews. It seems that the public has a range of opinion on the whole idea of announcing bus stops. That’s why I believe in the Court of Public Opinion.  The public affairs manager of the transit company was asked by a hot line radio program for an interview to respond to me. How happy I am today!  Metro Transit has fessed up that they don’t have a date for implementing the automated voice enunciator system on buses yet, but at least they have told someone other than ME, that it will be installed eventually. In the meanwhile, drivers are suppose to be getting the elusive directive to urge them to announce major stops upon request. On today’s radio interview rebuttal, I suggested to the transit drivers, that they speak to their union and urge management to fast track the automated system, because after all, it is soooo  hard to remember all those bus stops. 

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