Fredericton residents with vision loss concerned with proposed transit changes, accessibility of new routes

7/2/2014

Recent graduate Derek Ness is one of many individuals set to be affected by the elimination, re-routing and service reduction of several key bus routes by Fredericton Transit.

Born with bilateral cataracts, glaucoma and a multitude of other eye conditions, Ness, who is legally blind, has always adapted to each new challenge that life presents – including moving from his rural home in Belleisle Creek to Fredericton, where he now lives independently.

The Fredericton resident is now deeply concerned with the proposed re-routing of 13 bus routes, one of which will significantly impact his ability to make his daily commute to and from work.

“I am extremely disappointed to learn that Fredericton Transit plans to cut direct service to Sunshine Gardens,” said Ness. “This route change affects myself and a number of individuals living with blindness or partial sight in the area who rely on public transportation to reach crucial employment, education, social and recreational destinations.”

According to Ness, the only way he could access an alternative bus route from his home on Wilmot Street presents a number of serious safety concerns.

“If these proposed changes come into effect, I would have to access transit on Woodstock Road where there is no sidewalk for the north-bound routes – this presents a significant challenge for any pedestrian with vision loss, especially during the winter months,” said Ness.

He adds, “even more concerning is that the nearest intersection (Woodstock Road and Rockwood Avenue) does not feature audible pedestrian signals – making it incredibly difficult for individuals who are blind to determine when it safe to cross the street. This intersection can be dangerous to navigate even for persons who are fully sighted.”

Ness is one of several CNIB clients who have identified that they will be impacted by Fredericton Transit’s proposed changes, including the elimination of the Lincoln and Silverwood routes and the inaccessibility of new and re-routed bus stops.

Individuals who are blind or partially sighted face significant transportation challenges as they cannot drive – and therefore, they rely on Fredericton Transit to travel safely and independently in their city and communities.

Anytime service is cut, it can reduce individuals’ independence and their ability to carry out everyday activities, such as travelling to and from work, attending medical appointments, getting to the bank or grocery store, or visiting family and friends.

In recent weeks, Ness and other residents have attended two open house events hosted by Fredericton Transit voicing their concerns over the proposed service changes and how it compromises the accessibility of the transit system.

Fredericton Transit could implement a number of changes that would help create a safer, more accessible system for riders who are blind or partially sighted, including:

  • revising the re-routing so that Stepping Stones and Wilmot Apartments continue to be serviced by Fredericton Transit as seniors and individuals with disabilities frequently travel to and from these areas;
  • installing an audible pedestrian signal at the Woodstock Road and Rockwood Avenue intersection that alerts pedestrians when it is safe to cross and the direction of the crosswalk;
  • removing any obstacles that affect the ability of passengers and bus operators to safely reach or pull up to designated bus stops, including snow banks, ice, construction or poles;
  • introducing large-print, colour contrasted and braille bus signage posted at eye-level; and
  • installing tactile walking surface indicators that alert white cane users of key hazards, the direction of travel and designated bus stops.

CNIB is open to working with Fredericton Transit on improving the accessibility of the current transit system and offering recommendations to better address the needs of passengers with vision loss given the proposed service changes.

Residents are able to submit their feedback and comments to Fredericton Transit via fredericton.ca/TransitChanges until Friday, July 4.

For media inquires, please contact:

Nicole Lawrence
Communications Specialist, Atlantic Canada
(902) 453.1480, ext. 5721
nicole.lawrence@cnib.ca

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