Riding ParaTranspo during the pandemic

Challenges during the pandemic – POV from a member of Ottawa Transit Riders who has a disability

By Sally Thomas

Alright friends, how many of you had to decide what you were going to do today, last week? If you don’t have a disability and don’t need Para Transpo to get around, you probably didn’t! If you’re an able bodied person, you probably just walked out - got in your car, or on your bike, or on a bus and didn't really think about it.

It’s not so easy if you use ParaTranspo. Add to this the added pressure of making sure when you do go out you’ve got all the support you need to feel safe in these uncertain times. It’s been an exhausting challenge! I know. We’re all tired of this. Some people I know have just not bothered. That means they haven’t left home in four months! I couldn’t do it but having to justify making arrangements to go out makes it extra exhausting and hard on a person’s mental health. I stayed home for the first 50 days after the government asked people to only go out if absolutely necessary. It’s weird and a bit crazy to say this; but I was somewhat thankful a health issue cropped up! It meant I finally got to go out! I’m the most extroverted person I know! MUCH worse than being bored has been being lonely! In normal times, I’m never home! Thank goodness for family, friends, social media…and Zoom; but I digress. I bet none of you have been screened to get on OC either! I’ve been screened EVERY time I’ve called to make a booking! We can’t even think about going out without getting screened! By now, we ALL know not to get on the bus if we’re experiencing any symptoms of anything! Common sense in a pandemic.

If you don’t know, OC Transpo, to protect the health of their drivers, for months, allowed passengers to board the back of the bus. In fact, unless you needed the ramp, you HAD TO board at the back. Not surprisingly, people were taking advantage of it and saving themselves a lot of money in bus fare! Meanwhile, people who used Para who required help to board, were continuing to have to pay…and pay each way, because there are STILL no Presto readers or any means to get transfers, in the fleet! They’re in a garage somewhere! Not going to lie! It got pricey to get to my appointments! I’m on social assistance. It wasn’t enough before COVID 19 and it definitely isn’t now!

Riddle me this; if masks are mandatory in enclosed spaces, including the buses, why is it okay for drivers to remove their masks in the bus? Is it okay?? What is the standard I can hold drivers to? For everyone’s safety and assurance, I don’t take my mask off in the bus. Courtesy.

By the way, how hard would it be to lower the fare box on OC Transpo so people using mobility device could reach it? OC wants to keep its drivers safe but don’t have the means for contactless payment, if you’re using cash…and a mobility device? What does that say about their concern for their own members? We don’t know each other. I don’t want to have to hand you money, which is dirty to start with. I do deserve to use the bus if I want, though! Presto passes, even the Community pass is a barrier for some folks on assistance, if they’re not using the bus enough to make it worth the expense.

Welcome to our world! Things to ponder while you sit uncomfortably in your masks. I’m doing my best to keep you safe. I’d appreciate the same from you! Small price to pay. Stay safe! We can do this!

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