CNIB Opposes Flawed Low Income Transit Program


CNIB has advised the City of London that the elimination of the current $10-annual pass program for transit riders who are legally blind will force many to live in isolation. The City has announced a plan to cut the program and replace it with a new subsidized program open to all people living on low incomes, regardless of disability. The proposed program would permit a small percentage of people on low incomes to pay half the full price ($40.50) of a monthly pass ($81.00).

"We commend the City of London for recognizing the challenges faced by people on low incomes, and the rights of citizens to travel in the community. But there are significant flaws in the proposed program. We urge the City to keep the existing program used by CNIB clients in place until an approach is identified that guarantees affordable transit for all people who are legally blind," said Rob Gaunt, Executive Director for CNIB in Western Ontario.

An unacceptably small number of people will actually benefit from the proposed plan. The number of people eligible for the low income pass is 28,699. However, the City's report clearly states that the approved City budget for subsidized transit will only cover approximately 1,222 bus passes being issued each month on a first-come-first-served basis. Thousands of people would be lining up for 1,222 passes.

Scrapping the current plan will not generate revenue from people who are legally blind. The majority of the 320 to 400 passengers who rely on the $10-annual pass program cannot afford to pay $40.50 per month. For them, travelling in their community will not be an option. They will be unable to access employment, health care, recreation, educational and social activities.

If London were to adopt the proposed program, it will be falling well behind other municipalities in Ontario in regard to concessions for people who are legally blind. The scan conducted by the City to learn how other cities handle transit pass programs is deeply flawed. It lists Guelph, Halton Region, Hamilton, Kingston, Niagara Region, Waterloo and Windsor, but only focuses on their low-income subsidies, ignoring the fact that all these cities offer free transit to CNIB card holders (except Kingston which charges 10 cents).

The proposed system to receive a pass is unsafe for people who are blind. To receive a pass, thousands of London citizens who have been formally approved as low income, will line up at kiosks set up in two unspecified non-profit organization premises. "It is not an exaggeration to expect that people will be anxious, arriving hours early and may even be aggressive. This is not a safe environment for people who are blind or for their guide dogs," said Gaunt, who is legally blind himself. "Many people who are blind will be afraid to expose themselves to this danger and will therefore be forced to forfeit their right to travel in their community."

The proposed program will require orientation training for passengers who are blind – at a cost to the City. CNIB clients will need orientation and mobility training in order to ensure they can find their way safely to and from the two new locations that will be giving out the passes. The City will need to pay CNIB to provide that additional training if the new program is adopted.

The proposed process strips people of their dignity. It is degrading to be forced to join a line that is only for people with low incomes – in a public place. Some people who are blind will find it too embarrassing and degrading to line up publicly. Their privacy should be respected.

For more information, please contact:

Kat Clarke
Specialist, Advocacy & Community Impact
416-486-2500 ext. 7651

For media requests, please contact:

Shannon Simpson
Manager, Communications
1-888-233-1232 ext. 5147

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