Taking Steps to Ensure ParaTransit Buses are Service Dog Friendly

Gerry Dewan
CTV News London Reporter
Published May 30, 2023

As Liza Worsfold prepared to board a paratransit bus Tuesday afternoon, the driver didn’t hesitate to take the lead of Helix, her service dog.

However, Worsfold said she’s recently been told by drivers that they can’t hold the dog’s leash.

“I’ve never heard the rule that they weren’t allowed to hold the leash,” said Worsfold, who admitted she was surprised by the response. “Where did this rule, all of a sudden, come from?”

Worsfold said there have been occasions she’s had to leave Helix off-leash outside the bus while she was using the lift because the driver declined to handle the dog. While Helix is very obedient, it left Worsfold uneasy.

“What happens if a car comes into the parking lot and doesn’t see my dog? Who has control of the dog? I don’t want my dog to get hit,” she said.

Jeff Preston is a professor of disability studies at King’s University College, a Western University affiliate. He said the issue illustrates a challenge people with disabilities face frequently — not knowing if the services they rely on will be provided on a consistent basis.

“Service dogs are really important for some people,” explained Preston. “Service dogs can be the difference between living independently, being able to go about your day independently, versus potentially being stuck at home.”

Lisa Worsfold said she’s very reliant on Helix and told CTV News London, “I suffer from seizures. He knows when my seizures are starting. He knows when I need help picking things up.”

Shortly after CTV News London reached out to the London Transit Commission (LTC), they reported steps had been taken to address the issue.

In an email, LTC General Manager Kelly Paleczny pointed to the Accessible Customer Service Policy, noting that, “It is the expectation that service animals are accommodated on all London Transit services and in all London Transit facilities.”

Paleczny added that London Transit has “followed up with the contractor who has ensured that all drivers of the specialized service are aware of this expectation and will adhere to [the] same.”

Preston said there are a number of issues related to LTC paratransit services that advocates have been working to address. He’s been lobbying for a more coordinated approach to address those issues.

“We need to put more effort, time and focus on this service,” said Preston. “We have called previously for them to open up a working group of people from the community to come together to start working on solutions. We were told that wasn’t necessary.”

Original at https://london.ctvnews.ca/taking-steps-to-ensure-paratransit-buses-are-service-dog-friendly-1.6420228