The story begins with a public transit system and a lawyer. The story is interesting because the lawyer is the David to the transit’s Goliath. He’s David Lepofsky, a blind lawyer who in 1995 had a simple request for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC): can you ask the drivers to call out the subway stops over the train’s PA system?
The TTC flatly refused, claiming calling stops would be “a hardship” and a “potential safety risk” to their drivers.
Lepofsky brought his case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. So began two legal battles took twelve years.
The court discovered that the TTC rules and regulations already dictate drivers must call stops. And a few decent TTC employees always have. It’s even written in the TTC Ride Guide, a free pamphlet and transit map given to transit riders. Every transit vehicle is already equipped with mike and public announcement system. Some buses are even equipped with fancy flexible boom mikes for hands-free use.
In 2005, the tribunal ruled in favour of Lepofsky regarding subway stops. This Wednesday, the adjudicator ruled in favour of extending announcements to TTC streetcars and buses as well. Justice Alvin Rosenberg did not have happy thoughts about the TTC:
Rosenberg also ordered the TTC to pay Lepofsky $35,000, even though the lawyer did not request financial compensation. He says he will donate the money to charity.
“The TTC should have asked themselves many years ago, `What can we do to help? How can we accommodate these visually impaired patrons?’ Instead they resisted with all the means at their disposal…”
All total, the chronically cash-strapped TTC spent 12 years and $500,000 fighting the rulings. Let me rephrase this: the TTC spent half a million of Toronto taxpayers’ dollars fighting blind people.
But it appears the TTC will be able to stay mum. Instead of ordering drivers to do what they are already supposed to do (and that many already do), the TTC has spent an additional $2 million installing a computer voice into every subway train.