TransLink System Entirely Accessible?

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – TransLink says all parts of the Lower Mainland transit system, including buses, SkyTrain, West Coast Express and SeaBus, are now fully accessible to people in wheelchairs and scooters.

TransLink says the last hurdle was the retirement of older model trolley buses that had high floors and steps. The bus fleet has now been completely replaced by new trolleys with low floors, ramps and more open floor space.

One advocacy group for the disabled says it’s a step in the right direction. But Margaret Birrell with the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities says more work needs to be done by TransLink to help make transit accessible for all. “We don’t have good services once we get people onto the bus. We can’t stop here…we need to do some driver training, staff training, and public awareness campaigns.”

Birrell says only 50% of the bus stops are accessible. TransLink says it will continue to work closely with the disability community.

This is definitely a move in the right direction, as stated above, but there are other disabilities out there other than ones that require a wheelchair or scooter. Not to diminish the need for wheelchair accessibility, it is absolutely very necessary and the accommodations have helped the mobility disabilities, as well as seniors and parents with strollers.

I would say that we do have poor accessibility for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing and the Blind and Visually Impaired. There have been steps to improve the situation. TransLink is testing new sign boards on many of the buses. My one complaint is that the signs are a little small, so a visually impaired person would have trouble reading the sign. The new signs are also being accompanied by a new digital announcer that annouces each stop. It also announces the number and destination of the bus to the people getting on. The new boards will also be part of the new GPS system that TransLink is planning to implement throughout the system. There will be, hopefully, real time tracking of the buses that will help inform riders of which routes to take or not take. So these are great steps.

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The SkyTrain still lacks adequate tiling on the floor for the Blind. SkyTrain has the Yellow tiles to tell you to keep back from the track. However, many train platforms around the world have special tiles that guide the blind to a train door. So they follow the tile from the escalator to the door. This kind of tiling will likely not show up until we only have one model of SkyTrain instead of two models like we have now. You never know where the door is going to be unless you know which SkyTrain model is coming into the station.

The SkyTrain already has the lady announcer for telling people what the next station is; however, they still lack the visual reinforcement. Many trains worldwide have sort of visual display to tell what the next station is. Montreal’s Metro has an old 4-colour LED board that announces not only the next stop, but also the bus routes to which the station is connected. Hong Kong’s MTR has a display that lights up which station is next, which connections to another MTR line that you can make, and which doors will open. For somebody who is Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, these visual reinforcers would do a lot to help them on the system. It would also do a lot to help newcomers to Vancouver to figure out what’s going on.

In general, all of these accommodations for disabilities are targeting at helping those people who need it the most. However, such modifications or additions to the system will help everyone have a more enjoyable experience.

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