Adapted transit users in Montreal told caregivers can no longer accompany them – Montreal | Globalnews.ca

Montrealers who use the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) adapted transport are crying foul.

As of Monday, caregivers who usually accompany them on those vehicles for free will no longer be allowed to due to staffing issues.

Entrepreneur Sandra Gualtieri, who lives with her partner, Adam Tryhorn, said she was shocked when she saw the notice on the transit authority’s website over the weekend.

“I thought i was seeing things,” she told Global News from her NDG apartment.

Both she and Tryhorn use the service.  They have cerebral palsy and though they live alone, they do need help — sometimes from homecare worker Shelby Johnson — when they go out for medical appointments or grocery shopping –

“I’m going to be the one pushing the cart, physically getting the items they decide on from the shelves, helping them with their credit cards,” Johnson explained.

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Now that Johnson or any other caregiver won’t be allowed to accompany them unto the vehicle, Gualtieri and Tryhorn fear they could be stuck at home.

“We can’t do our basic life things — groceries, medical appointments,” Gualtieri pointed out.

The new restriction also worries Linda Gauthier, president of Regroupement Activisites Pour L’inclusion Quebec (RAPLIQ), an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

Gauthier uses a wheelchair and has chemotherapy treatment every two weeks.

“It’s an obligation that I have a companion with me,” she stressed, “and in my case it’s my husband.”

Gautheri explained that her partner carries her supplies, like a bedpan and portable lift, for her for day-long appointments, and doesn’t have a car.

According to her it now means he’ll have to take a separate taxi and the two are on limited income.

The notice on the STM website to the transit authority due to shortage of taxi drivers and vehicles, which are subcontracted to do the service, means they’ve had to adjust.

“Starting Monday August 15, travel companions will no longer be permitted,” the notice reads.  “Note however that parents of customers ages 14 and under will always be permitted to join rides.”

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It also says they’re “asking customers to limit their trips to the Island of Montréal and avoid metropolitan trips, which require drivers to cover long distances and restrict their availability for shorter trips.”

“They have to put many people in the same van, even two people in wheelchairs sometimes,” Gauthier noted.

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The other issue, Tryhorn observed, is that since caregivers aren’t allowed, medically-untrained taxi drivers will now be forced to help them.

“To be honest with you, they complain enough as it is,” he laughed.

He and Gautheri stress that the restrictions will cut them and others off from essential services and believe it’s another example of systemic ableism.

STM executive director Marie-Claude Léonard said the company is doing its best to address clients’ concerns.

“We know that it’s very difficult for our customers and the team is working very hard to deliver the best service in the current condition,” she told Global News.

She said they are trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but couldn’t give a timeline, and that they are prepared to make exceptions to the restrictions in special circumstances.

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