I recently saw an article on the accessibility of transit systems around the world, which was fascinating. The article is available here: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/21/access-denied-disabled-metro-maps-versus-everyone-elses. It is good to see that transit commissions around the world are working towards a more accessible future (albeit slowly). The Toronto Transit Commission was left off of the list, so I decided to investigate. Being much newer than Paris and much less extensive than NYC, Toronto has a clear advantage in the ease of transforming their transit system to being 100% accessible. The following blog series will focus on the accessibility of the Toronto Transit Commission, where we are now, and how far we have to go to reach full accessibility.
TTC Subway Accessibility
The TTC has been making strides towards a fully accessible subway system, a goal which AODA requires is met by 2025. They boast on their website that 50% of stations are accessible. In addition, all subway cars are accessible, and able to be both wheeled onto and off of as well as with designated spots for wheelchairs to park on the trains.
So far, the accessible map of the TTC subway system looks like this:
Many stops are accessible, which means they have elevator access, accessible fare gates, automatic sliding doors and are hubs for accessible busses and Wheel-Trans. These stations also include highly visible signage. All subway cars have accessible access, and each car has at least one designated wheelchair space.
Challenges with subway transit:
- Elevators often malfunction or break, rendering “accessible” stations inaccessible.
- Crowded trains may be difficult to navigate towards the designated accessible seating areas
- Seats with blue covers are specifically for people with disabilities, and able-bodied people are required by law to vacate the seat if someone with a disability requires it. If the train is full, or if the people in the seat do not cooperate it is difficult to enforce this law
How the TTC is working towards solutions:
- The TTC provides up-to-date status updates on elevator and escalator function. As per the TTC website, “before you begin your subway trip call the TTC 24-hour Information Line at 416 393-4636 (INFO) and press 5 to confirm whether or not the elevators or escalators you plan to use on your trip are operating or scheduled for maintenance. Elevator information is also available at 416 539-5438 (LIFT) or on our Elevators and Escalators page.”
- Posters alerting people that they must vacate seats for people with disabilities are now on most TTC subway trains.
- Wheel-Trans vehicles are available to transport people who use wheelchairs to areas serviced by inaccessible stations.
What you can do to make transit easier via subway
- Use a blind spot sensor system, such as the Braze Sentina to help navigate safely towards to accessible seating in crowded trains (watch this video to see the Braze Sentina used to navigate off of a city bus).
- Ensure that you enter the subway car straight, not allowing front wheels to turn and get stuck in the gap
- Advocate for yourself, and alert people to the laws requiring them to vacate seats if required
- Plan ahead, and ensure elevators are running along the stops you need.
Thank you for reading this post. If you have ridden the TTC or other transit system subway and want to share your story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below!