VIDEO: Kamloops man voices concerns about accessibility on public transit | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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VIDEO: Kamloops man voices concerns about accessibility on public transit

Alex Kilba often uses public transit to get around the City of Kamloops, but it comes with its challenges.
August 21, 2018 - 8:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - Alex Kilba makes his way to the bus stop at Summit and Arrowstone Drives in Kamloops, an almost daily routine for him, but it comes with its challenges.

Kilba was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the growth of the spine. He's been in a wheelchair since he was two years old, and over the years has had to learn to deal with a world that isn't catered to people with disabilities.

Public transit can pose some of the most challenges for those in wheelchairs, and Kilba has had his fair share of issues riding the bus, which he's spoken out about over social media. He has his own suggestions for how the transit experience could be made better for people in chairs.

"Start with training the drivers better," Kilba says. "People have bad days, but if you can't take two to five minutes to strap me in, which puts me in danger, that's not right."

One of Kilba's social media posts details his experience with a bus driver he claims wouldn't strap him in to a certain spot on the bus. Kilba recently got a new chair which is roughly two inches wider than his previous one, making it impossible for him to fit in one of the designated wheelchair spots on certain buses. A light box near the bottom of the bus causes his wheels to get stuck, and he isn't able to pull into the spot.

This spot allows a wheelchair passenger to face backwards, be strapped in and have a back rest behind them, but other spots on the bus allow straps to hold the wheelchair in place. Kilba says one driver insisted he sit in the spot he couldn't fit into or he couldn't ride the bus, so Kilba obliged although he felt it was compromising his safety.

"The fact that she is endangering my safety just because she didn't want to strap me in, I don't think that's right or fair, or I don't even know what to say about it," he says. "Otherwise the buses are usually pretty great... they treat me pretty good."

Kilba says the good experiences with bus drivers usually outweigh the bad, but he wants to speak up about some of the unfair situations wheelchair-bound people are put in when trying to get around the city. He points out that people in wheelchairs can usually only get on the bus if the stop is at a curb, due to the ramp being pulled down. This became another focus of Kilba's after he says he had some incidents where drivers were hesitant to pick him up because he wasn't at a designated wheelchair stop.

"Please enlighten me as to where the designated able-bodied-only bus stops are?" Kilba wrote in a Facebook post. 

He continued to say that it was difficult for him to wheel out of the way and to a different spot, especially when some buses only run once per hour at certain times of day.

It's not all bad though. Kilba says for the most part the bus drivers treat him very well whenever he uses public transit, and would rate Kamloops transit at roughly a seven on a scale of one to 10.

He'd rate the rest of the city at about the same, he says, but does have issues in particular with some restaurants and cafes he simply can't get into. He points to one coffee shop where he says he would have to physically get out of his wheelchair and scoot up the steps, while carrying his chair, and a brewery where he has to take an extensive route to get to the main entrance.

A night club in town also has part of its dance floor on the lower level, Kilba says, which means he can't go down there if he wants to.

"Going to (the club) and not being able to go on the dance floor, that's annoying," Kilba says.

Overall, Kilba wants people to be more mindful about things they can do to improve accessibility not only in this city, but around every community. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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