by Anne Finlay-Stewart

"I was born in this city which I love very much. And I do like to visit the stores on the hill."
It is really as simple as that. Marlene Naveau just wants to go out to shop like anyone else. But in 2011 she had to give up her car, because neuropathy in her feet was making it unsafe. She gets out and about on a power scooter because her knees have been replaced twice and she has spinal stenosis. Until recently she could go longer distances on the city's mobility transit vehicles, easily driving on to the lift at the back, turning around and driving out at her destination.

Marlene made regular trips to the stores by bus until the city's contractor, First Transit, bought new vehicles. Now she says there is only one ramp at the front of the bus, and not enough room to turn her scooter around. One driver helped her back it on to the bus so she could drive straight out. Another got the scooter turned while she walked off the bus. But in a phone call from a representative of First Transit, Marlene says she was told the drivers were not permitted to help her with her scooter, and that it was too big for the new city vehicles. "It is not even as big as some in my building," says the retired teacher, who lives in a 14th Street West high-rise.

Owen Sound Transit only travels to the city limits, so Marlene is used to taking her scooter if she wants to go to stores on the Sunset Strip. Rough sidewalks can make the going painful, but she manages. But going out to Penningtons takes almost an hour by scooter, even in good weather. "What will I do in the winter," she wonders, "Am I supposed to stay home all the time?"

For twenty-five years, Owen Sound has provided door-to-door transit service "specifically designed for residents of the City with physical mobility limitations that restrict their ability to use the City's conventional public transit system". Riders must apply every two years for a Specialized Transit Card, and Marlene definitely qualifies. She says the First Transit representative who called with the news that she could no longer use the mobility transit asked her "Don't you have any other way to get around?"

Councillor Marion Koepke, who has raised residents' concerns about specialized transit more than once at Council, said in an email "I am concerned that there are citizens in Owen Sound, especially those with mobility issues, who are facing changes to the specialized transit service from that of the previous provisions for accessible transportation and their needs are not appearing to be being met". City staff assured the Hub that city buses meet the standards of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and are 

looking into Marlene's situation.

Mackhall, one of Owen Sound's dealers in mobility devices, uses the slogan "Mobility is life. Get back to living." That is exactly what Marlene would like to do.


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