The decision follows sharp criticism from Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean, who called the practice of covertly using the footage “just plain unfair.”
Toronto’s ombudsman has criticized the TTC for using security cameras to determine if some Wheel-Trans users actually qualify for service – without properly informing passengers that it might do so, or giving them a chance to explain their situation.
By: Paul Moloney City Hall Bureau reporter, Published on Wed Jul 10 2013
The TTC’s Wheel-Trans service has temporarily suspended using on-vehicle security cameras to screen disabled passengers after Toronto’s ombudsman called the practice “unfair.”
The decision to quit using the footage to reassess disabled patrons under its Questionable Rider program followed an investigation by ombudsman Fiona Crean.
Cameras were originally installed on Wheel-Trans buses for the purposes of public safety, security and crime deterrence.
The TTC was told in 2011 it could use the video to check passengers’ eligibility to use the service as long as riders knew about it, and a sentence to that effect was added in small print to a decal posted on the buses.
But riders interviewed by the ombudsman’s office thought the decal only referred to public safety and security.
“The way the Questionable Rider program is operated is just plain unfair,” Crean said.
Under the program, if a TTC employee or citizen asserts that a rider may no longer be eligible, the video is reviewed. If it raises doubts, the case is sent to an independent panel. The panel gets a copy of the video. The rider does not — and isn’t told about it.
According to the service’s website: “Wheel-Trans provides door-to-door accessible transit service for persons with physical disabilities using accessible buses, contracted accessible and sedan taxis.”
In 2012, 75 riders were called in for reassessment and 54 were deemed no longer eligible for the service. Wheel-Trans serves some 47,000 registered riders.
In an interview, Crean said she doesn’t know if the denials of service were justified.
“What I do know is the riders must be told the case against them, so they can defend themselves,” Crean said. “There are lots of diseases where one day you’re okay and the next day you’re not.”
Riders should be given an opportunity to present their side, bring forward their medical information and explain their condition, she said.