Members of the Disability Action Hall were saddened by the news of the recent CBC news story aired on October 28th, 2014 where a woman with an intellectual disability was sexually assaulted on a city bus while her caregiver sat nearby unaware wearing headphones. Many of the Hall members know all too well bullying and harassment on a bus is nothing new for person who lives with an intellectual disability.
Tammy, Mary and Sue are members of the Disability Action Hall and wanted to share what is it like to ride transit as a women with a disability and that there are solutions to enhance safety for everyone.
Safety on Buses
Safety on transit is an issue for many persons with intellectual disabilities whether you have a staff with you or not." says Mary Salvani. “Based on my experience on using Calgary Transit, the straps and tie downs should be easier to access as not many people have an aid with them; my walker has almost hit people as I cannot secure it safely. One time a passenger offered to help me secure my walker, but even they couldn’t because the belts were locked in and we could not pull them out. It is difficult to tie the walker by yourself as it is hard to reach, transit needs to inspect the straps each day when the buses are cleaned."
Is Calgary Transit really providing a safe ride if the devices are not working well?
The para-transit service known as 'Access Calgary' provides just some of their customers with an emergency back up service in the event the service is late or a person fails to be at the door at time of pick-up. The solution? 'Access Calgary needs to provide all customers with reduced mobility with a backup ride or emergency card; everyone needs to be safe and have a reliable means to get home. Everyone needs a backup.” says Mary.
Reliable Transit and Back up plans
“In Calgary, safe, reliable public transportation can be very difficult when you have a reduced mobility,” says Tammy Poirer-Crosby. "Passengers always need a back-up plan like the Ace Card & a cell phone when using Access Calgary services. As a woman with a reduced mobility, it is far too easy to be a target on public transportation using accessible devices like a wheelchair or walker. You cannot get away as quick. And in the cases if a person with an intellectual disability may take public transit and who may have a hard time advocating for themselves, staff should near them at all times.”
When Hall members learned the person on Winnipeg Transit was caught on video taped and now charged...they said they are thankful most buses have video cameras. “I know the bus driver needs to drive the bus, but maybe there needs to be a help button at the back of the bus if a person cannot get to the front of the bus safely or is in danger of being dragged off the bus? Are there cameras in the back of the bus?” asks Sue Bente.
Staff Training and Healthy Sexuality Training for People with Disabilities
Bullying, harassment and sexual harassment don't just happen in the classroom. Staff training and hiring certified workers are necessary for people of all ages. Encouraging people with disabilities and their staff to take healthy sexuality courses at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre where people can learn how to recognize dangerous situations, and talk about what consent looks like are just one of the many solutions needed to start reducing violence. "People have to be taught how to learn to trust that 'sick feeling' in your stomach." says Mary.
Standing Up to Violence as a Community
“We all need to watch out for each other” says Sue,“We need to step in when someone is having a problem with someone. People may not want to get involved or invite trouble their way but its time we look out for one another.”
Ending violence against persons with disabilities is a community solution. People need to feel safe in the neighborhoods and using public services.
Members of the Disability Action Hall would like you to know November is Family Violence Prevention' month. An event known as “Break the silence” #breakthesilenceyyc kicks off this Saturday. Much like the Hall Members, the Calgary Domestic Violence Collective and their partners want to see violence reduced not just in the home, and everywhere else too. The Calgary Domestic Violence Collective is kicking off the awareness month at SouthCentre Mall starting at 10 am until 2 pm, on Saturday, November 1st. Visit their website to learn more about how we can all break the silence.