Saturday, December 13, 2008

The hidden victims of the transit strike

Ottawa radio station CHUO 89.1 show host Dahlya Smolash recently did an interview with Katherine Gardener, an Ottawa resident who uses a wheelchair to get around town and is in the midst of protesting the OC Transpo strike in front of City Hall. She doesn’t place the blame on either side of the conflict, but says that both sides need to come together to help out the people who are suffering.

Her emphasis is on people with disabilities who are unable to get around the city, even with Para Transpo services. More pressing are those who have attendants or caregivers who are unable to tend to their physical needs, such as personal hygiene, medication, and feeding themselves. Not all of those affected have backup options available to them for these services.

Gardener suggested that, to avoid another strike (and to bring an end to this one), bus drivers “have to be mandated back to work, go to arbitration, and make OC Transpo an essential service.” Her biggest fear, she says, is for the worst-case scenario. “I’m hoping that nobody dies before they go back to the table. There is a chance that somebody with a disability will pass away because of this, there could be a senior that falls in their home or even somebody with a disability who tries to get up and do something because their attendant couldn’t be there.”

No matter whether you believe the Amalgamated Transit Union is in the right on this issue or City Council, I think there is universal agreement that there are more important things than what either side is debating. The interview is only 4:54 long, so please listen to the podcast embedded below.

Thanks to Dahlya Smolesh of Kaleidoscope and CHUO 89.1 for giving me permission to publicize this story.

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