Turns out the TTC has been using video- surveillance from their Wheel-Trans vehicles to conduct ‘investigations’ into misuse by riders and not notifying riders that they were doing so. Reviews have been conducted by an independent panel using only visual observation of a small fragment of a rider’s true lived-experience to determine eligibility for service use. No medical evidence, no interview of the rider, nothing. They just looked at someone for a few minutes and formed an opinion of that person and their abilities.
I would be interested to learn whether the panel even considered where the riders traveled to using the service. I would bet that the majority of use was to medical appointments, banking, groceries, work, or other necessities. Not that this matters in the slightest, if a person with a disability wants to use the service for purely social matters like visiting friends, that should not be an issue, but I would just bet that the majority of use was for necessity purposes and would serve as additional material in defense of rider.
And, as Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean stated in The Toronto Star’s “TTC suspends use of Wheel-Trans security camera footage to weed out ineligible users” by Paul Moloney*, “There are lots of diseases where one day you’re okay and the next day you’re not.” Many people with disabilities, specifically those incorporating chronic pain, are often only able to be seen ‘in public’ on ‘good days’, so basing a decision on eligibility simply on one short video is a ridiculous assumption that this would be standard representation of that rider’s mobility or eligibility. On days where a rider might ‘appear’ eligible, the rider is most likely unable to use the service at all. There is no video evidence of those days. Basing an opinion solely on visual observation of only a few minutes in a riders entire lived-experience is ridiculous beyond words. Not allowing ‘suspect-riders’ the opportunity to even present medical evidence or address the independent panel doing the review is problematic on a multitude of levels.
Obviously there are other serious issues with questionable issues including: failure to adequately notify riders of the true use of such video surveillance; failure to notify riders of investigations against them; and questionable resource allocation on behalf of the TTC on investigations rather than on barrier removal and increasing overall accessibility. According to The Star, 54 out of 47,000 riders were found to be ineligible during the TTC’s investigations. Hardly a high-percentage of TTC deemed ineligibility and certainly not enough misuse of service to warrant the allocation of such resources. Considering the fact that other than door-to-door service, there are no additional benefits to Wheel-Trans usage over their conventional modes of transportation, including cost it is not surprising to find such a low percentage of misuse. In fact, there are so many disadvantages to using Wheel-Trans that it seems obvious use would be only by those requiring it, with no other options.
Fortunately, the TTC has accepted the Toronto Ombusmen recommendations and has suspended the practice of using the video surveillance for review of eligibility for the time being. It will also be notifying all riders deemed ineligible since 2011 to invite re-application for usage. Not good enough by a long-shot.
Simply observing someone for a few minutes before forming an opinion of them and their abilities is wrong. Affecting someone’s quality of life based on this opinion is unconscionable.
*The Toronto Star: TTC suspends use of Wheel-Trans security camera footage to weed out ineligible users, By: Paul Moloney City Hall Bureau reporter, Published on Wed Jul 10 2013.