A Fort McMurray mother is fighting for accessible transportation in the community after discovering just how hard it is to get around town with a child and a disability.
Koryn Krekoski, member of the Wood Buffalo Regional Inclusive Committee, had a stroke when she was five months pregnant, resulting in diplopia, which is double vision, along with a weak right side.
She can't do a car seat up with her right hand and she doesn't drive.
"If I wanted to join a mom and tots group for example, I couldn't," said Krekoski. She tried using the SMART Bus at first, but they weren't able to take anyone under five years old.
"It was very isolating," said Krekoski. At the time, she reached out to SMART Bus for a solution, but they weren't able to help.
SMART Bus is a program that runs until 7:30 p.m. on most weekdays and until 5:30 p.m. on the weekend. People who are 65 or older, or who have mobility issues, can make an appointment to get a subsidized ride around Wood Buffalo for $1.50.
Krekoski felt "so lonely" and was stuck relying on her family and friends to drive her around.
"People… genuinely want to help, but you just feel like a burden," said Krekoski. "The city should be helping you out for this."
She joined the Voices of Albertans with Disabilities and the Wood Buffalo Inclusive Committee, and people started reaching out to her about the need for an accessible taxi.
One woman was pregnant and in a wheelchair and she didn't know how she would get her child home from the hospital.
Another man she spoke with is 28 years old and is in a wheelchair. He's dependent on transportation services and he can't go anywhere after 5:30 p.m. on the weekends.
"He wants to go to the movies with his family or late night dinner parties and he can't," said Krekoski.
She is looking for an accessible, subsidized taxi with wheelchair access to drive people around Fort McMurray. The goal is to have people feel free to get around the community, regardless of disability.
She contacted representatives from the municipality to try and find a solution.
The subsidization is important to Krekoski, because for example, when Krekoski has to get her son to jiu jitsu, it costs $30 for a cab.
"There's lots of interest and we're just getting the ball rolling," said Krekoski.
Julieta Miranda, the owner of Kid Drop, said she's ready to help. She has buses already she said could be used that have car seats and booster seats on board. Twenty people have already asked her about the service.
"We recognize the need," said Miranda.
Including accessible services would mean adjusting her existing program, but Miranda said it would be manageable.
This way, parents could also come on board with their kids.
Wood Buffalo mayor Sandy Bowman said in an email that he has had discussions about the issue.
"It's my belief that the region should always be a leader in this area," wrote Bowman.
"My expectation is the new Transit Master Plan, including SMART bus services, the accessibility audit and the proposed Vehicle for Hire Bylaw will hopefully lead to needed accessibility improvements," said Bowman.
The Transit Master Plan is expected to be presented to council after the summer break, while the vehicle-for-hire bylaw is still seeking public engagement and the municipality is currently working with community groups on the accessibility audit.