Accessibilize Montreal Claims the STM Has an Institutionalized Culture of Ableism

STM Policy Fails to Protect Clients with Limited Mobility, Advocacy Group Says

Graphic Madeleine Gendreau

Accessibilize Montreal campaigners questioned STM board members on whether the transport society had a corporate policy of ableism at an open board meeting on Wednesday night.

The STM hold monthly meetings where they open the floor to citizens to ask questions directly to board members.

“I want to know if passengers with limited mobility but without wheelchairs are allowed to ask for the bus to lower their ramp,” said Aimee Louw of Accessibilize Montreal, who uses a walker and not a wheelchair.

When the board failed to answer, Louw repeatedly asked whether she is allowed to use a bus ramp.

Last week, Louw told CTV that the city’s transit corporation discriminated against her. She said a bus driver refused to lower the ramp for her.

Louw is filing a human rights complaint in response to her treatment. One of Accessibilize Montreal’s objectives is “speaking out against transit and systemic discrimination,” according to its Facebook page.

“In my opinion, the [bus] ramps are there to facilitate any client who finds it difficult to get on a bus,” said Marvin Rotrand, Vice-Chair of the STM.

“In my opinion,” he continued, without quoting STM policy, “a ramp is not there just for someone in a wheelchair but anyone in obvious distress or walking with any sort of mobility aid.

“It is just a question of common sense, regardless of what the policy says.”

STM drivers are obliged to lower the ramps whenever asked, but, as Rotrand conceded, they don’t always work.

“I want to know if passengers with limited mobility but without wheelchairs are allowed to ask for the bus to lower their ramp.” — Aimee Louw, Accessibilize Montreal

He cited figures that painted the STM in a broadly positive light. Out of 8942 bus stops, 7985 of them are accessible, and 55 per cent of the buses have ramps.

Louw countered this by saying, “A 2011 report showed that [the ramps] function approximately 50 per cent of the time, according to research conducted by Rapliq, disability rights organisation in Quebec.”

Marie Turcotte, Paratransit users’ representative on the STM board, shared a short anecdote with Louw describing how things were worse in the 1980s when she began to take the bus.

“Its a shame she’s not using her position to advocate for people with limited mobility,” Louw said.

The Link spoke to Louw and asked whether she was satisfied with the answers she received to her questions the night before.

“I didn’t feel too satisfied; I felt they deflected most of the questions,” she said. “Particularly the question I asked in response to the corporate policy.”

“Why is [Rotrand] using his opinion and not STM policy in a board meeting?” Louw continued.

In his interview with CTV, Rotrand said that anyone who needs the ramp should be allowed access it on the bus, but when it comes down to it, thats not their policy which is “scandalous.”

According to Louw, this conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which directly refers to disability.

“How many doors have to be slammed in our face as we try to look graceful before we look at the glare of the sun and walk towards it?” Louw continued.

“We’re taking the lead because we’re tired of being led.”

Rotrand responded, “Is that a question or a comment?” before the board heard other questions and then called the meeting to order as they sped through the business on the agenda.