If you dare to assert your legal rights as a person with a disability, one arm of Toronto’s government will try to spend you into the ground to keep from having to uphold those rights. Such is my interpretation of the news that the TTC spent $450,000 on legal and other fees to fight the same losing battle twice – the requirement to announce stops for blind passengers.

I’m beginning to think I should have attended the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal hearings and taken notes. Nonetheless, from the public record, here is a digest of what happened to David Lepofsky as he struggled to force the TTC to announce its vehicle stops.

Start with the Tribunal rulings:

  • For subway stops (2005): Initial ruling (handed out half an hour after final oral arguments were made – the chair apparently just told everyone to stay put and typed it up in MS Word right on the spot); final ruling
  • For surface routes (2007): Initial ruling; final ruling, which required five days of hearings

Why would TTC bother to resist a second human-rights complaint when it is fundamentally indistinguishable from a previous complaint it had just lost? Good question. I assume, based on my own experience with them, is that any outside expertise is resisted with the full force of the organization. In this case that involved hiring lawyers and spending $268,000 on the first case and $182,000 on the second.

Golden boy Adam Giambrone – the one who thinks the TTC ought to run a ferry service, who proposed shutting down a subway line, and thinks Bordeaux, France is a model we should follow – acted unethically by telling everyone that the TTC had made Lepofsky an offer to settle the latter case. I saw this based on Lepofsky’s reported statement that the offer was confidential. (You’re supposed to keep those things quiet, aren’t you?)

But since the cat is out of the bag, note that the settlement offer did not require drivers to announce all stops (doing so merely at their “discretion”), and it would have enjoined Lepofsky from criticizing the TTC ever again. (I would assume TTC will attempt to include a similar no-disparagement clause in the upcoming Web-site contract. That would be a no-go.)

Also, the TTC has consistenly stated that requiring drivers to call out stops, as opposed to using an automated system, would be a safety risk. But that’s conjecture. The Tribunal found that not only did the TTC not bring any drivers forward as witnesses to attest to this safety concern, TTC never even bothered to ask any drivers about it. They were blowing smoke out their asses. (And they continued to make this claim after it was demolished by the Tribunal.)

And in fact Giambrone couldn’t even accurately describe the requirements of a compliant program of stop announcenemts. He claimed that the Tribunal “expect[ed] 100% compliance,” but in fact all the Tribunal asks for is 98%, a serious difference when you consider a system with 10,000 stops, running 19 hours a day on most routes and continuously on others, with several vehicles simultaneously plying most routes. That’s a lot of stop announcements. You can miss 2% of them – surely thousands in the run of a year – and still comply.

It’s actually a lenient performance measure, given that a highly reliable system will work without failure 99.999% or 99.9999% of the time (five nines or six nines).

According to the Tribunal, the TTC is a “two-time offender.” The Tribunal took the step, apparently a humbling one, of requiring every TTC commissioner, along with senior staff, to attend a reëducation camp about accessibility. An accessible public meeting will also have to be held, and it will be interesting to watch TTC screw up interpreters, captioning, and accessible document production for that event.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.12.02 17:46. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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