Ill ferry passengers need to be treated with care
Most people are aware of the interruption of ferry services to Bell Island caused by those who have refused to vacate their vehicles during the crossing.
We all recognize that safety for the passengers and crew is a “top priority.” However, the problem is not one of accessibility, since the new ferry is a state-of-the-art vessel with appropriate elevators and stairs, and a crew that is very attentive to people with disabilities. Conflict arises when the crew has no discretion in ordering people with disabilities to go to the passenger lounge, regardless of their condition. Patients returning to the island after undergoing chemotherapy, suffering from nausea — who must avoid contact with people because of a compromised immune system — are ordered to the lounge full of people. Others travel with oxygen tanks or suffer from Parkinson’s or seizures, all in the public eye. Doctors’ notes are ignored.
Human dignity is a human right. There is no dignity when there is no respect for personal space or physical and emotional privacy when returning patients cannot make choices for themselves and, as a result, are made to feel neglected or ignored.
Those with disabilities need consideration as individuals who desire the maximum level of independence and control over their own lives. The Department of Transportation and Works must realize that when people are at their most vulnerable is when they need the most support. Vacating their vehicles undermines their self-respect, increases their anxiety and fills them with fearful anticipation of their next hospital procedure in the city. The department must be held accountable, not only for its actions but for its failure to act.