One kilometre Access Calgary policy

City council unanimously backs a good decision

I was originally going to write about the recent budget discussions at Calgary city council and then something really remarkable happened on Monday December 2: council unanimously made a good decision. Even more behind that decision are some exceptionally profound stories. First a little background.

Access Calgary provides transportation services to individuals who are not mobile themselves due to disability. There is a rigorous process to apply for the service including an interview and documentation from medical professionals. As you could imagine persons with disabilities who qualify for Access Calgary services are dependent on those services for social engagement to get to and from medical appointments and for many to see their families. Of these individuals some are not able to speak for themselves — are unable to fluently express their emotions.

In the late summer of 2012 Access Calgary began enforcing a policy that has come to be known as the “1km Policy.” The policy stated that only passenger pick-up and drop-off points within one kilometre of a Calgary Transit stop were eligible for Access Calgary services leaving those living outside the zone out of luck. If you complained enough — or based on what I’ve seen begged enough — you were allowed to access the service for $20 per trip.

Not many were impacted in terms of the number of individuals however the hardship this caused those individuals was significant. For someone living on an income of $1600 per month from AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) receiving a $2000-plus invoice monthly as one user of the service did is nuts.

The difficulty caused by the Access Calgary 1km Policy is not respectful of the dignity and rights of the individuals affected. We often talk about Calgary being a world-class city but frankly the 1km Policy has been a world-class embarrassment. To completely isolate disconnect and remove dignity from these individuals is shameful. For administration to defend this policy with cost estimates ranging from $200000 to $700000 for removal of the policy is further embarrassment.

The removal of the 1km Policy was passed by council unanimously. Each councillor from Ward 1 through to Ward 14 plus the mayor should be thanked for sending this policy packing. I’m a fiscal kind of guy and when I looked at the (assumed) savings this policy generated it was clear to me the benefit was far below the hardship faced by individuals who already face many challenges I couldn’t begin to understand. After all any one of us could be affected by disability at any time.

Lucy Fowler along with other organizations and people such as the Disability Action Hall worked tirelessly to inform members of council about this issue and the silent hardship it created for those they cared about. People like Lucy rolled up their sleeves and swam into a complicated political system holding their breath in the hopes they could figure out how it all worked and affect change.

They did it and it happened because they chose to make it happen. Council listened and a very good decision was made. Good work.