By Tammy Van der Kamp
Most Canadian parents take for granted their children’s right to public education. We pack our kids off to kindergarten at 5, and some 12 years later they graduate from high school, with only the usual bumps along the road.
For Kimberley Yanko’s son, the bumps were mountains, and they needed moving.
Kimberley’s 18 year old son Daniel is a grade 12 student at Port Moody’s Heritage Mountain Secondary School. He uses a wheelchair for mobility.
Because truly accessible transit is not yet a reality, Kimberley Yanko couldn’t take Daniel’s right to a public education for granted.
The problem began with HandyDART’s policy against providing transportation to and from secondary schools. HandyDart’s position was that access to school property was the responsibility of the provincial Ministry of Education. Since the Ministry of Education provides funding to school districts for the transportation of ALL students, whether or not they require mobility aids, Ms. Yanko was encouraged to take up the issue with her school district.
But Daniel was stuck getting from school to a transition program at Douglas College – a program which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education.
During the first three months of school, because of the HandyDART policy, Daniel waited patiently at a regular bus stop by the side of the road with his fellow students. Often he got left behind. Sometimes the bus filled up at the regular stop before Daniel got on; and he had been denied access there on several occasions. When Daniel went to the accessible stop, there wasn’t room for him, because the bus had capacity in front of the school at the regular stop. Other times the lift didn’t work. And sometimes priority seating for people with disabilities was not enforced, and a stroller or cart took up the accessible space.
Kimberley Yanko kept records of all her correspondence with Translink; and she kept records for the$710.35 she spent on taxis over a three month period to get Daniel to his program at Douglas College.
Translink CEO Tom Prendergast acknowledged in an interview with CTV that it is Translink’s responsibility to improve accessible transit. So, to shine some light on the issue, Kimberley Yanko got busy and moved the mountain for Daniel – but according to BC Coalition For People With Disabilities’ Jane Dyson, there are many more stories like Daniel’s. Unfortunately, Translink deals with each complaint on a one-to-one basis, rather than addressing the systemic issue.
On May 8th, Daniel, along with two of his Heritage Mountain Secondary peers and Kimberley, organized a rally at the Coquitlam Bus Depot to raise awareness of these issues.
As a result of her actions, some really practical changes have been made to accessible transit. For instance, HandyDART will now do pick-ups and drop-offs from school property to non-school related programs like the one Daniel attends at Douglas College. HandyDART’s website is more accessible, and the complaint process for people with disabilities has also improved. One of the biggest victories is that busses are no longer permitted to leave the yard when a lift isn’t operational.
However, real change takes place only when policy changes are implemented.
So Kimberley’s fight isn’t over yet: she’s working toward increasing the overall 51 percent of accessible bus stops in Metro Vancouver. The Village of Anmore has rallied to Kim’s fight, committing to a hundred percent accessible stops wherever possible, and has agreed to work with Access Transit to realize that goal.
Kimberly has also requested that the Village of Anmore be the first Metro Vancouver municipality to pass a bylaw stating that every new or replacement bus stop must be accessible to people with disabilities. She intends to take her campaign to all 22 Metro Vancouver municipalities. So far, another 12 municipalities have applied to Translink for bus stop upgrades. 10 more have yet to apply.
The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC applauds Kimberley’s perseverance and dedication to the fight for truly barrier-free public transportation for people with disabilities. Thank you, Kimberly!
See Kimberley and Daniel’s online petition for further updates, and to read Daniel’s story in his own words. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/translinkfailspwd?e