ACAT Meeting


Meeting Info

Date:Friday, June 19, 2020
Start Time:
Location:Virtual meeting via Webex

Meeting No:353
  • Agenda
  • Meeting Minutes

Agenda is not available for this meeting.
Please check the meeting minutes for meeting details.

Present

  • Mazin Aribi, Chair
  • Marian McDonell, Co-Vice Chair
  • Igor Samardzic, Co-Vice Chair  
  • Margo Brodie
  • Anita Dressler
  • Carmen Galvan
  • Jessica Geboers
  • Debbie Gillespie
  • Sean Hollingsworth
  • Angela Marley 
  • Bobbi Moore
  • Sam Savona
  • Mahendan Sivabalasundaram
  • Chris Stigas

ACAT Pool Members

  • Ann-Marie Cole
  • Hans Winther

Regrets

  • James Pyo

     

TTC Representatives

  • Milly Bernal, Customer Communications Specialist
  • Dwayne Geddes, Head of Wheel-Trans
  • Matt Hagg, Senior Planner – System Accessibility
  • Lodon Hassan, Assistant Manager – Customer Service, Wheel-Trans 
  • Cameron Penman, Manager – Customer Service, Wheel-Trans

Copies

  • Rick Leary, Chief Executive Officer
  • Kirsten Watson, Deputy CEO – Operations
  • Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas, Chief Strategy and Customer Officer
  • Orest Kobylansky, Executive Director – Operations
  • Gary Downie, Chief Capital Officer
  • Josie La Vita, Chief Financial Officer
  • James Ross, Chief Operating Officer
  • Dwayne Geddes, Head of Wheel-Trans
  • Deborah Brown, Head of Marketing
  • TTC Board Members

1. Call to Order / Attendance

Chair Mazin Aribi called the meeting to order at 11:05 a.m. and attendance was taken.

2. Declaration of Conflict of Interest

Nil.

3. Approval of Agenda

On a motion by Debbie Gillespie, seconded by Jessica Geboers, the agenda was approved.

4. Report on TTC Board Meeting / Updates from the Head of Wheel-Trans, Dwayne Geddes

Report on TTC Board Meeting and Accessibility Matters:

A TTC Board meeting WAS held on June 17, 2020 via Webex.

The approved ACAT minutes for January 30, 2020 were received by the Board.

The ACAT Chair raised two items to the TTC Board’s attention:

Mandatory Masks: ACAT appreciates that the “mandatory” status does not apply to riders under the age of two or anyone with a medical condition. However, seeing as many medical conditions are invisible and the use of the word mandatory will inevitably contribute to an increase of harassment already experienced by people with disabilities, ACAT strongly encourages the TTC, the City of Toronto, and other customer-facing departments to consider their marketing of this message, their choice of wording, placement and its effect on the public.

COVID-19 Financial Cuts: ACAT speaks strongly against any cuts to Wheel-Trans or any decrease in funding for accessibility-related capital, service planning or design projects and initiatives. The TTC has a goal of achieving full accessibility by 2025 and ACAT strongly encourages the TTC Board and City Council to honour this commitment.

TTC CEO Rick Leary responded in full support of both concerns and will communicate this with the staff going forward. He assured ACAT that there will be no cuts in the Wheel-Trans budget.

Staff presented a lengthy presentation to the TTC Board titled “COVID-19 – Transitioning from Response to Restart and Recovery.”

ACAT members were encouraged to review the TTC Board meeting agenda, reports and presentations made at the June 17 meeting at:

https://www.ttc.ca/public-meetings/board/2020/Board-Meetings-June-17

Recorded video of the entire meeting is online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-geHQUqZMEc

The ACAT Chair informed the TTC Board Members of the next special virtual meeting of ACAT on June 19, 2020 via Webex.

The next TTC Board meeting is scheduled on July 14, 2020.

Questions and Comments from the Committee:

ACAT members raised concerns about a Toronto Star report on possible TTC cuts that had been shared among committee members. In figures attributed to Mayor Tory, possible TTC conventional staff cuts of/to 50% and Wheel-Trans cuts of/to 73.6% were floated if no additional funding support was provided to the City of Toronto by other levels of government.

A member stated that any cuts to the TTC budget should be exclusive to the conventional system. Questions were asked about why any inequitable cut to the Wheel-Trans system had been considered or reported, and how such a figure had been reached.

Dwayne Geddes, Head of Wheel-Trans, advised that he did not have an answer for that question. He indicated that, as TTC CEO Rick Leary stated at the June 17th TTC Board meeting, there are no current plans to cut the Wheel-Trans budget.

It was suggested by some members that they accept this, and address any Wheel-Trans budget or service cuts if and when they become an issue. However, questions and concerns remained among the committee about how media came to report a specific and high Wheel-Trans cuts figure that was attributed to the City and the Mayor.  

A member suggested that ACAT make a formal recommendation for no cuts to the Wheel-Trans budget, and at bare minimum, accept only the same percentage in cuts as the conventional system. Despite reassurance from the TTC CEO, there was concern that while the TTC may not be considering the reported cuts, the City of Toronto might be. Because these figures have been reported by the media, there was worry that if ACAT does not put forward a recommendation, it could look like the committee is okay with it. 

The ACAT Chair noted that the committee would definitely not be okay with such Wheel-Trans cuts, and took note of the points made, including a possible formal ACAT recommendation on the issue.

Updates from the Head of Wheel-Trans, Dwayne Geddes:

Restarting ACAT General Meetings – June 25, 2020: Dwayne Geddes advised that staff would recommend going ahead with the regularly scheduled ACAT General Meeting on June 25, 2020 via Webex, if today’s special meeting using the platform went well.  

TTC Response to COVID-19 and Impacts to Accessibility: An overview had been emailed to all members in advance of the meeting. Members were encouraged to review the document and bring forward questions, comments and suggestions to the appropriate ACAT subcommittees, as those meetings would also be resuming.

Resumption of Some TTC Operations/Features on July 2, 2020: There were plans to resume some features of TTC operations on July 2. Further updates could be provided at the June 25, 2020 ACAT General Meeting. Some major highlights included:

  • Implementing front-door boarding
  • Accepting fares – Including tokens and cash
  • Working on a plan for transfers
    • On the conventional system, possibly a folder/envelope/compartment just outside where the driver sits for customers to take their own transfer. If customers need assistance, the operator would assist.
    • On a Wheel-Trans community bus, there would be something behind the operator’s area. Customers could take a transfer or be assisted by an operator.   
    • Wheel-Trans drivers will have paper transfers and can hand them out directly to customers who may want one.

Specific Wheel-Trans highlights:

  • Opening up some aspects of the self-booking website on July 2 – Allowing people to book occasional trips using the site, noting the likelihood the Province will reopen much more of Toronto by the end of June
  • Putting the pre-screening questions currently asked by Reservations on the self-booking website
  • Increasing the possible advance time for booking a trip from two to seven days
  • Continuing with solo rides – One customer at a time in a vehicle
  • Continuing to provide operators with personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Continuing to provide special trips for customers who might have COVID-19 – Identifying them and ensuring operators have the appropriate PPE
  • Continuing with mid-day cleaning of vehicles

Dwayne Geddes added that Wheel-Trans was considering changing the time that customers are called to advise about their ride times from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This would allow Wheel-Trans to schedule rides a bit better. They were seeking ACAT’s feedback on this possible change.

Wheel-Trans was also working on a plastic barrier between the Operator and customer on Wheel-Trans vehicles to add an extra layer of protection during these times. They will seek ACAT members’ feedback on a prototype and aim to roll it out shortly.

Dwayne Geddes thanked ACAT for its great feedback on things Wheel-Trans has been doing. He noted that it had been collected and consolidated, and some of the recommendations had been implemented. 

Questions and Comments from the Committee:

Restarting ACAT General Meetings: The committee clarified staff’s recommendation that ACAT general meetings resume starting on June 25, rather than in July as had been discussed. This was confirmed, noting the TTC’s commitment to seek ACAT’s feedback as recovery plans ramp up, and recognizing the recent pandemic-related delays in meeting.

It was agreed the ACAT Design Review Subcommittee meeting that had tentatively been scheduled for June 25 would be rescheduled. The ACAT agenda review committee was asked to prepare an agenda for a general meeting on June 25, to be held via Webex.
 
Pre-screening Questions on Self-Booking Website: A member asked if customers would need to answer yes or no to each pre-screening question on the self-booking website. She suggested that it should not just be a list of questions that one could skip and then book their ride.  

Cameron Penman, Manager – Customer Service, Wheel-Trans explained that there would be a similar questionnaire to the one now used to screen customers over the phone. If customers do not pass the questionnaire, because they answered yes to questions about exposure to COVID-19 and/or symptoms, they will be taken to the bottom of the page. They will be unable to advance to the booking section and will be advised they are required to call Reservations to book their trip

It was noted that the Wheel-Trans Operations Subcommittee would likely have more feedback and advice on this item.

Wheel-Trans Recovery and Re-Opening Plan – Consultation with Public Health Officials:            

A member asked if the timeline for the Wheel-Trans services recovery and re-opening plan had been consulted with, and informed by, public health professionals. It was not clear from the staff presentation to the TTC Board if this was the case. This consultation is incredibly important, especially given the demographics of the people who use Wheel-Trans. There was concern that an entire timeline had been created for opening things back up, but it was unclear if it was guided by public health advice.  

Dwayne Geddes advised that there is consultation with Toronto Public Health on every major thing Wheel-Trans does at this time, including the reopening plan and timeline, which Toronto Public Health approved.

They are trying to stop the spread and don’t know exactly what the future holds, including the possibility of a second wave. The TTC will also work with ACAT, and the Wheel-Trans Operations Subcommittee will be an important part of this, regarding recommendations and timelines moving forward. 

Mandatory Conditional Trip-Matching – Status and Timeline: A member requested an update from staff on the status and timeline for mandatory conditional trip-matching. The “COVID-19 – Transitioning from Response to Restart and Recovery” presentation made at the June 17 TTC Board meeting includes a section on Wheel-Trans. It says that mandatory conditional trip-matching will be evaluated in Q4 (the fourth quarter – October to December) of 2020. The member wondered if this timeline would be extended further, or if not, if more details could be provided on it.

Further to his response above, Dwayne Geddes advised that they are working very hard to keep everyone safe and consulting plans regularly with Toronto Public Health. That being the case, they don’t know exactly what the future holds, including the possibility of additional waves of COVID-19. That is why there is a plan to review the timeline for mandatory conditional trip-matching in Q4 of 2020. 
  
Request for further ACAT follow-up – TTC Board presentation on “COVID-19 – Transitioning from Response to Restart and Recovery” and overview of “TTC response to COVID-19 and impacts to accessibility”:

The ACAT Executive encouraged ACAT Subcommittee Chairs to review these two documents, extract anything related to their subcommittee and ensure it is addressed at upcoming subcommittee meetings. It was also suggested that perhaps staff could review the “TTC response to COVID-19 and impacts to accessibility” at the next ACAT general meeting. The TTC restart and recovery plan includes a specific section on Wheel-Trans, which all members were encouraged to read.

5. Remarks from ACAT Chair

The ACAT Chair welcomed everyone to ACAT’s first special virtual meeting. He recognized that the last few months had been very difficult for all as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. In their lifetime, these are unprecedented circumstances.

He flagged that Queen and Osgoode subway stations are apparently not accessible at this time. These are third-party accessible entrances. Osgoode is through the Canadian Opera Company building and Queen is through the Eaton Centre, both of which are currently closed. 

The Chair noted this demonstrates the importance of an issue ACAT frequently raises with the TTC – its responsibility to keep the public informed about its accessible subway features, including access to elevators. There did not appear to be any TTC announcement of this change on the TTC website or elsewhere. He hoped staff would take note of this.

The Chair indicated that in the days, weeks and months to come, ACAT would need to be more active and vigilant in advocating for accessible transit. He wished everyone to be well and safe.

Questions and Comments from the Committee:

Milly Bernal, Communications Specialist agreed to look into the Queen and Osgoode accessibility issue and ensure it was announced on the TTC website if the situation was going to continue, which it likely was.  

The ACAT Chair noted that a sign on the Canadian Opera House / Osgoode entrance says that the building was closed effective April 19, two months ago. They should have informed the TTC. There should be a communication mechanism between the TTC and third parties where there is only that one accessible entrance to a subway station. 

The Chair requested that Milly and Matt Hagg, Senior Planner – System Accessibility              re-establish this. He also pointed out that there is likely an agreement between the TTC and third parties that an elevator should be open as long as the subway is open. Milly agreed that staff would look into these points.

6. Report on ACAT Executive Quarterly Meeting with CEO and Chair

The ACAT Chair reported on the ACAT Executive’s quarterly meeting with the TTC Board Chair, Vice-Chair and TTC CEO held on June 11, 2020 via conference call.
 
Construction of New Stations and Design: The ACAT Executive followed up on an action item from the last quarterly meeting held on March 11, 2020. Dwayne Geddes agreed to work with Gary Downie, the new TTC Chief Capital Officer, to prepare a motion.

Updates on Bike Lanes and their Impact on Accessibility: The ACAT Executive flagged the increased speed and priority with which bike lanes are now being built out in Toronto as a result of the pandemic. The ACAT Executive noted the specific effects bike lanes have on people using Wheel-Trans, especially safety risks for customers and drivers during pick-ups and drop-offs. They recalled that Wheel-Trans staff had been actively involved in recent, pre-pandemic bike lane project discussions with the City. They requested that special efforts be made for this to continue, amid the increased speed and urgency of current bike lane projects. Dwayne Geddes and the ACAT Executive agreed to follow-up on this issue.

COVID-19 Impact on Accessibility: The ACAT Executive expressed concerns about the communications on wearing masks on the TTC. They underlined that some people cannot use masks for a range of reasons -- they have problems physically taking masks on and off, mobility issues, medical issues, etc. However, there is a risk that other members of the public may not see or understand this, and single these people out for intimidation, harassment or policing their behaviour.

The ACAT Executive recommended that all public statements about mask usage on the TTC include a strong, positive message that if a person cannot wear a mask for health reasons, it is okay, so that people have greater protection from harassment.

The ACAT Executive also highlighted some challenges with using the term “mandatory”, with the recommendation that a phrase or concept such as “strongly encouraged” be considered instead. Dwayne Geddes agreed to bring these concerns and recommendations to TTC Corporate Communications and report back.

The ACAT Executive flagged a systemic concern that the accessibility lens is lacking in TTC Communications. They stated that the accessibility lens should be embedded in communications at all times and for all projects. They pointed out that missing these key points in this campaign is an example of the structural problem with TTC Communications lacking an effective accessibility perspective.

The ACAT Executive requested that before any communications are produced and distributed, they need to have an accessibility lens and there needs to be consultation with ACAT.

Orest Kobylansky, TTC Executive Director – Operations agreed that he and Dwayne Geddes would speak with Corporate Communications about this issue.

Review of Outstanding Items List:

  • Item: Harmonization of Accessibility Features between Metrolinx LRT stations with existing TTC Accessibility Standards – The Wayfinding report anticipated at the March 11 quarterly meeting had been tabled and included this.
  • Item: Accessibility (Provincial) – Subways, Elevators, AODA Legislation – Ongoing.
  • Item: Need for Elevator Redundancy at Interchange Subway Station – Ongoing.
  • Item: Impact of Curbside Bike Lanes on Wheel-Trans Customers and Operators in Accessing Certain Pick-Up/Drop-Off Locations and Subway Stations that Do Not Have Bus Platforms – Ongoing.
  • Item: Alternative Service Providers for Wheel-Trans Contracted Accessible Taxi Services – Ongoing. Next update: Q1 of 2022

Questions and Comments from the Committee:

An ACAT member asked about training for TTC staff to address potential situations in which a customer with a disability cannot wear a mask and another customer takes objection to that. She expressed concern about how TTC staff would manage this and if there would be specific training for them on it.

She noted that in her experience on the TTC, there is some discrimination against people with disabilities – not often, but it does happen. She had also witnessed an incident on a streetcar in which a customer got really angry about another customer not wearing a mask.

She wanted to reinforce the importance of the messaging and language on masks, so that customers understand that some people with disabilities cannot wear a mask for reasons that may or may not be obvious. 

Dwayne Geddes advised that staff have Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) training on how to work with customers with disabilities. Operators are also trained on how to handle incidents on a vehicle. The protocol involves contacting transit control, and TTC constables or the police are sent. Operators’ job is not to stop the abuse – they observe and report it, and let the appropriate people come in. They have handled these situations in the past and will continue to do so.

Dwayne encouraged members to bring forward any suggestions on how to better communicate the messages on wearing masks to customers. 

The ACAT Chair noted that it is important to have Operators on board in understanding that there are people with visible or invisible conditions that cannot wear masks. People who are vulnerable and who are not wearing masks will look for a certain protection or support from operators to prevent or address abuse. The protocol about contacting TTC constables or police is recognized, but it is the Operators who are first to acknowledge and act on such a situation.  

It was agreed that this issue, and the specific training of TTC Operators/staff, would be pursued further at the next ACAT general meeting and/or the Service Planning Subcommittee.

7. Restart ACAT General and Subcommittee Meeting Schedule and Logistics using Webex

It was agreed that the schedule of ACAT general meetings and subcommittee meetings would be restarted using Webex, beginning with the ACAT General meeting on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

The committee and staff will work on improving the use of Webex, including the closed captioning function.
 

Questions and Comments from the Committee:

A member recommended that the committee would need to be very vigilant of possible cuts as governments seek to recoup money spent during the pandemic.

8. Other / New Business

Nil.

9. Next Meeting

The next meeting of ACAT will be held on Thursday, June 25, 2020 via Webex.

10. Adjournment

On a motion by Chris Stigas, the meeting was adjourned at approximately 12:18 p.m.

Stephanie Power
Recording Secretary

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