Montreal paratransit users informed that caregivers can no longer accompany them – Montreal

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

From Monday, caregivers who usually accompany them for free in these vehicles will no longer be allowed to do so 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 transport authority’s website over the weekend.

« I thought I was seeing things, » she told Global News from her NDG apartment.

She and Tryhorn use the service. They have cerebral palsy and although they live alone, they need help – sometimes from home helper Shelby Johnson – when they go out for medical appointments or to run errands.

« I’m going to be the one pushing the cart, physically picking up the items they choose from the shelves, helping them with their credit cards, » Johnson explained.

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Now that Johnson or any other caregiver will not be allowed to accompany them to the vehicle, Gualtieri and Tryhorn fear they will be stuck at home.

« We can’t do the basic things in our lives – groceries, medical appointments, » Gualtieri pointed out.

The new restriction also worries Linda Gauthier, president of the Regroupement Activities Pour L’inclusion Québec (RAPLIQ), a group advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.

Gauthier uses a wheelchair and receives chemotherapy treatments every two weeks.

« It’s an obligation that I have a companion with me, » she pointed out, « and in my case, that’s my husband. »

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

According to her, this now means he will have to take a separate taxi and both have limited incomes.

The notice on the STM website to the Société de transport due to the shortage of taxi drivers and vehicles, which are contracted out to do the service, means that they have had to adapt.

« As of Monday, August 15, travel companions will no longer be permitted, » the notice reads. « Note, however, that parents of patrons aged 14 and under will still be permitted to join the rides. »

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It also states that they are « asking customers to limit trips to the Island of Montreal and avoid metropolitan trips, which require drivers to travel long distances and restrict their availability for shorter trips. »

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

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The other problem, Tryhorn observed, is that since caregivers are not allowed, taxi drivers without medical training will now be forced to help them.

« To be honest with you, they complain enough as it is, » he laughed.

He and Gautheri point out that the restrictions will cut them and others off from essential services and believe it is another example of systemic ableism.

STM chief executive Marie-Claude Léonard said the company is doing its best to address customer concerns.

« We know this is very difficult for our customers and the team is working very hard to provide the best service under the current conditions, » she told Global News.

She said they were trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but could not give a time frame and were prepared to make exceptions to the restrictions in special circumstances.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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