What was supposed to be a real treat ended up being a real disappointment for a Vancouver woman and her brother in Toronto on Sunday after no wheelchair accessible cabs showed up on time to take them to the ball game.
Wendy Stanyon said she had planned to take her brother, David Stanyon, who has a disability, to the Toronto Blue Jays game on Sunday afternoon against the New York Yankees. David uses a wheelchair and lives in Toronto. Wendy, who visits him once a year, flew into the city to be with him.
The pair never made it to the game despite months of planning. Now, they are trying to raise awareness of the lack of wheelchair accessible transportation in Toronto.
"She comes once a year. God bless her angel heart," David said on Tuesday.
"And she comes and spoils me for a whole week ... I don't get to go out that much anymore. I was really looking forward to it, and of course, the Blue Jays were playing so well these days, it was a real treat. It didn't happen.
The Stanyons' experience is an all-too familiar one to advocates for people with disabilities, who say Toronto falls well short of standards for accessibility. One of the cab companies Wendy Stanyon called, Beck Taxi, says City of Toronto regulations are partly to blame for the lack of accessible cabs.
Wendy had bought two tickets to the game in February, then paid for airfare from Vancouver to Toronto weeks later. She initially called the TTC's service for people with disabilities, WheelTrans, which said it had trouble on Sundays and recommended she call Toronto taxi companies such as Beck Taxi and Co-op Cabs.
Last Wednesday, she booked a wheelchair accessible cab with Beck for 11:00 a.m. on game day. The game started at 1:37 p.m. She received a confirmation number and thought they were good to go. Beck's wheelchair accessible taxi did not show up. When she called at 11:30 a.m., she was told Beck had her order and the confirmation simply means the company had confirmed her order. She was told to call back in half an hour.
Wendy tried calling Co-op Cabs at noon. It promised a wheelchair-accessible cab within 15 minutes to half an hour, and that one didn't show up either.
"They said, 'Oh no, no wheelchair cabs in your area.' Well, I said, 'Can't you send one to our area?'"
By about 1:30 p.m., just before the game was to start, Wendy said she gave up.
"I'm on a moderate pension myself and Blue Jays tickets are not inexpensive and I wanted it to be a good experience so they were in 100 level. It's a big expense for me to blow off," she said.
In a Facebook post, Wendy wrote: ."I bought these tickets as soon as they came out and my brother & I had been looking forward to this for months. I am totally disappointed in Toronto's accessible transportation."
David, an avid Blue Jays fan, said he tried to look on the bright side.
"Well, I was disappointed, but thankfully, the Blue Jays won! 10-9! That took a little of the bitterness out of it."
Beck 'terribly sorry' about delays in rides
In a statement, Beck Taxi said it was "terribly sorry" about delays that people in Toronto are experiencing to get a ride, but it blamed the city, insurance companies and gas prices for the situation.
"This is particularly difficult for our most vulnerable citizens who require wheelchair accessible service," Beck said.
"Wendy and her brother should be able to receive on-demand wheelchair accessible service in the city of Toronto. Bad regulation, lack of enforcement and access to affordable insurance, purchase prices and gas prices are some of the reasons that wheelchair accessible taxicabs are not being replaced in Toronto," Beck added.
"We are looking forward to being able to collaborate with our regulator to ensure that this necessary service is improved with a better plan than is currently in place. This situation was predicted long ago and we are looking to the City of Toronto to create a better regulatory environment than currently exists."
Beck, however, tried to make up for the disappointment by providing a cab for the Stanyons on Tuesday so they could go for dinner. The cab was paid for and showed up on time.
People still dealing with no-shows, advocate says
Luke Anderson, executive director of the StopGap Foundation, said the incident is a good example of how unreliable wheelchair-accessible transportation can be in Toronto. The foundation says it helps communities discover the benefit of barrier-free spaces and provides support to create them.
"We're still in this place where people are dealing with no shows and forgotten about," Anderson said.
Anderson said taking public transit sometimes doesn't even work out. as a Plan B. "Not all subway stations have an elevator," he said.
The disappointment of the Stanyons should serve as a reminder to the taxi companies that it's time to improve service for people with disabilities, he said.
"I think that there's a tremendous opportunity for cab companies to amp up the amount of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in their fleet."
As for David Stanyon, he said it should be simple. When a taxi company provides a confirmation number, that should mean the ride is confirmed.
"Show up on time. We don't have a whole lot of choices."