Decision No. 491-AT-MV-2010

December 1, 2010

December 1, 2010

APPLICATION by Jason Boyce against Société de transport de l'Outaouais.

File No. U3570/10-16


INTRODUCTION

[1] Jason Boyce, who has a visual impairment, filed an application with the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) against Société de transport de l'Outaouais (STO).

[2] The issue was initially identified in Mr. Boyce's application as being solely related to the failure to call out stops.

[3] Mr. Boyce subsequently introduced a new issue involving STO bus drivers not announcing route number changes.

[4] In his reply to STO's answer to the above-noted issues and in a subsequent submission, Mr. Boyce clarified that his complaint relates solely to the failure by STO bus drivers to announce route number changes. As such, the Agency will not address the calling out of stops in this Decision.

[5] Further, Mr. Boyce asks that the Agency order STO to adopt a policy requiring bus drivers to immediately start announcing route number changes on Route 59 until the "bus stop information system" identified by STO is installed. The "bus stop information system" that Mr. Boyce refers to relates to a submission by STO that its 2010 action plan includes a "plan to install bus stop information systems inside buses" and that STO will be "researching and/or designing an on-board system with display panels and audio announcements for bus stops." STO describes the system in the context of bus stops only. There is no indication that the system would provide information on route number changes. Accordingly, the Agency finds that STO's plan to install a "bus stop information system" is not relevant to the issue before the Agency in this case.

ISSUE

[6] Does the failure by STO bus drivers to announce route number changes, including on Route 59, constitute an undue obstacle to Mr. Boyce's mobility, as well as to the mobility of persons with visual impairments who need to be informed of a route number change? If so, what corrective measures should be ordered, if any?

THE LAW

[7] The Agency's legislative mandate with respect to persons with disabilities is found in Part V of the Canada Transportation Act, S.C., 1996, c. 10, as amended (CTA), which contains a regulation-making authority [subsection 170(1)] and a complaint adjudication authority [subsection 172(1)], both for the express purpose of removing undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities from the federal transportation network.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

[8] STO explains that buses on Route 59 operate between downtown Ottawa, Ontario, and the Rivermead Park-and-Ride Station, Gatineau, Quebec. STO adds that, generally, westbound travellers from Ottawa to the Rivermead Station who wish to continue to travel to destinations in the Aylmer sector at the end of Route 59 must transfer at this station. However, depending on the time of day, buses on Route 59 can continue beyond the Rivermead Station and the bus drivers will change the route number to serve specific areas in the Aylmer sector.

[9] Mr. Boyce states that bus drivers rarely announce the new route number, leaving many of the passengers guessing what route the bus will continue on.

[10] With respect to Route 59 from Ottawa, Mr. Boyce states that passengers usually wait until their arrival at the end of the route at the Rivermead Station to determine if there will be a route number change by either exiting the bus to see the number displayed on the front of the bus or by asking the bus driver, forcing passengers who are trying to board the bus to wait.

[11] STO indicates that, although it is not mandatory, it suggests that its drivers inform passengers of what route they will be operating once at the terminal. STO states that, normally, passengers ask the driver, regardless of whether they have a visual impairment, if the bus will be continuing beyond the Rivermead Station, and if so, what the route number will be.

[12] In addition to the bus drivers informing passengers of route number changes, STO describes two tools which provide this information:

  • The STO Information Service, which can be accessed by telephone or e‑mail. It can be used to determine, for example, if a Route 59 bus at a particular scheduled departure time from Ottawa will be continuing beyond Rivermead, and if so, what route will be operated next.
  • The STO Plani-Bus, a new Web trip-planning tool that will indicate whether to change buses or to stay on the same bus when a transfer is involved on a trip.

[13] STO states that passengers who do not have a visual impairment will experience the same situation as Mr. Boyce does if they do not ask the bus driver or use STO's Information Service for information on route number changes. STO submits that there is no undue obstacle as the relevant information can be obtained from the bus driver, STO's Information Service and Plani-Bus.

[14] Mr. Boyce states that STO's Information Service and Plani-Bus are not helpful to all people, nor are they user-friendly as they can only be used by people who can afford a phone and/or Internet service. Mr. Boyce disagrees that there is no undue obstacle. He points out that STO acknowledges that there is a problem as it states that passengers who do not have a visual impairment experience the same situation as passengers with a visual impairment if they do not ask the bus driver or use the Information Service.

ANALYSIS AND DETERMINATION

[15] An application under section 172 of the CTA must be filed by a person with a disability or on behalf of a person with a disability. In this case, Mr. Boyce has a visual impairment. The Agency therefore finds that Mr. Boyce is a person with a disability for the purpose of applying the accessibility provisions of the CTA.

[16] To determine whether there is an undue obstacle to the mobility of a person with a disability within the meaning of subsection 172(1) of the CTA, the Agency must first determine whether that person's mobility is restricted or limited by an obstacle. If so, the Agency must then decide whether that obstacle is undue.

The Agency's approach to the determination of obstacles

[17] In considering whether a situation constitutes an "obstacle" to the mobility of a person with a disability in a particular case, the Agency generally will look to the incident described in the application to determine whether the applicant has established in the application (that is, on a prima facie basis) that:

  • a distinction, exclusion or preference resulted in an obstacle to the mobility of a person with a disability;
  • the obstacle was related to the person's disability; and
  • the obstacle discriminates by imposing a burden upon, or withholding a benefit from a person with a disability.

[18] Should an applicant fail to satisfy any one of these three elements, the Agency will find that the applicant has not established a prima facie case of obstacle.

This case

[19] Mr. Boyce must demonstrate that the failure by STO bus drivers to announce route number changes results in a distinction, exclusion or preference that creates an obstacle to his mobility due to his disability. In other words, Mr. Boyce must demonstrate that route number changes must be announced in order for his disability-related needs to be met.

[20] In addition to being able to ask the bus driver whether the route number will change, passengers may obtain information on route number changes in advance of travel via the Information Service and the Plani-Bus.

[21] There is no evidence that Mr. Boyce cannot obtain, as all other passengers can, information with respect to route number changes either from the bus driver or in advance of travel. While the Agency is of the opinion that the calling out of route number changes would benefit all passengers, including those with a visual impairment, Mr. Boyce has not demonstrated that, because of his disability, he is unable to obtain information regarding route number changes from STO bus drivers or STO's information tools, as set out above, like other passengers are able to do, or that he needs the information to be communicated to him in a different way in order to have equal access to the transportation network.

[22] Mr. Boyce has failed to establish that he needs a service different from that available to other passengers without a visual impairment in order to ensure that he has equal access to the transportation network. More specifically, the Agency finds that Mr. Boyce has not established that the failure by STO bus drivers to announce route number changes results in a distinction, exclusion or preference as a result of his disability. As such, Mr. Boyce has failed to establish a prima facie case of obstacle.

CONCLUSION

[23] The Agency finds that Mr. Boyce has not established that the failure by STO bus drivers to announce route number changes results in an obstacle to his mobility. Accordingly, the Agency dismisses the application.

Members

  • John Scott
  • J. Mark MacKeigan
  • Jean-Denis Pelletier, P. Eng.

Member(s)

J. Mark MacKeigan
John Scott
Jean-Denis Pelletier, P.Eng.
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