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Letter: 'Onerous' TransLink plan would end up screening out seniors, people with disabilities

Union president speaks out about changes to HandyDART system
handydart
A HandyDART vehicle.

Editor:

TransLink is proposing an onerous and intimidating interview process to decide if seniors and people with disabilities are disabled enough to ride HandyDART - resurrecting painful ideas with questionable motives.

This time, they are calling it the “HandyDART modernization program.” People with adequate social supports and good English language skills won’t likely be intimidated and may be able to make it through the proposed interview. But the most vulnerable will be denied HandyDART service to reduce TransLink’s costs. Yet another attempt to diminish use of HandyDART is hardly “modernization.”

Federal and provincial funding is going to highway mega-projects while HandyDART continues to have its neck on the chopping block. TransLink should be demanding long-term federal and provincial funding to meet the growing needs of our aging population.

HandyDART (paratransit) service for seniors and people with disabilities is critical to the health and quality of life of those who need support, as well as the functioning of the health-care system. The value of allowing people to live independently, rather than being forced into expensive long-term care homes (which have proven deadly in the COVID pandemic) seems to be ignored.

In 2011, the City of Vancouver’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee opposed a similar proposal on the basis that it would “discourage many people, especially persons with language issues, developmental disabilities, persons who are older, frail or confused, from applying for HandyDART.”

HandyDART has often been referred to as “too expensive,” but the cost of denying service to those in need would be devastation. TransLink should be helping out people with disabilities, not screening them out.

Mark Beeching, president, Amalgamated Transit Union local 1724