Ac­ces­si­ble taxi in Up­per Trin­ity

Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties ad­vo­cate says trans­porta­tion a prob­lem in ru­ral ar­eas

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON editor@CB­N­com­pass.ca

Jo­vanax Taxi in Dildo re­cently un­veiled a brand new ac­ces­si­ble taxi equipped to hold as many as two pas­sen­gers us­ing wheel­chairs. The pur­chase was par­tially funded by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment, and an ad­vo­cate for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties says ser­vices like this are much needed in ru­ral ar­eas.

A taxi com­pany in Dildo is now equipped to more eas­ily serve peo­ple who find it hard to catch a ride in most ve­hi­cles.

Through the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s ac­ces­si­ble taxi pi­lot project, Jo­vanax Taxi re­ceived a $25,000 grant to go to­wards the pur­chase of a new $43,000 van equipped with a ramp.

It can com­fort­ably fit two wheel­chairs and an ad­di­tional pas­sen­ger, or three pas­sen­gers with one wheelchair.

Owner Wil­liam “Bill” Ne­whook has a few clients who use wheel­chairs, and it was plain as day to see how dif­fi­cult it was for them to get around.

“I’ve had three or four clients my­self (where) we were try­ing to help the par­ents move them from the chair to the van and back again. They had no other way, and it was ob­vi­ous it wasn’t right … We had to find a proper way to do it.”

Jo­vanax is now one of five com­pa­nies to take part in the pi­lot project since it was first launched last year.

Ne­whook looked at ac­quir­ing a wheelchair ac­ces­si­ble van and man­aged to pre­pare a grant pro­posal just be­fore the most re­cent dead­line. His pro­posal in­cluded let­ters of sup­port from lo­cal town coun­cils and a pe­ti­tion.

Over the course of con­duct­ing re­search for the pro­posal, Ne­whook found there were even more peo­ple in the area who could make use of such a ser­vice.

“I’m look­ing for­ward to serv­ing the peo­ple. I think it’s go­ing to be a great ben­e­fit for our lo­cal area, as well as long-dis­tance runs for peo­ple in the sur­round­ing area.”

Kelly White, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coali­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, says the need for ac­ces­si­ble trans­porta­tion is wide­spread.

“To have ac­ces­si­ble trans­porta­tion is free­dom,” White told The Com­pass. “To be able to de­cide when you want to go some­where, whether it be to mass, to church, to an out­ing, to a friend’s house — the abil­ity to call a taxi and get there is just un­be­liev­able to a per­son who hasn’t had that op­tion be­fore.”

White said ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in par­tic­u­lar are un­der­served when it comes to ac­ces­si­ble trans­porta­tion. The City of St. John’s sup­ports the GoBus Ac­ces­si­ble Tran­sit Ser­vice, and there are cab com­pa­nies in the city with ac­ces­si­ble taxis op­er­at­ing.

“The need is great in ev­ery ru­ral com­mu­nity, and I’m cer­tainly pleased that the Gov­ern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador has been pro­vid­ing th­ese grants to help taxi own­ers retrofit in or­der to ac­com­mo­date per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties,” said White.

Jo­vanax Taxi serves com­mu­ni­ties from Whit­bourne to White­way, though the com­pany does make trips through­out the Avalon re­gion. The cost for a pas­sen­ger in a wheelchair will be no dif­fer­ent from any other charged cus­tomer, ac­cord­ing to Ne­whook.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON / THE COM­PASS

This ac­ces­si­ble taxi has a ramp that folds out from the back of the van. The ve­hi­cle can ac­com­mo­date two wheelchair cus­tomers at once.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON / THE COM­PASS

Jo­vanax Taxi owner Wil­liam Ne­whook be­lieves his new ac­ces­si­ble taxi will ben­e­fit peo­ple in the Trin­ity South area.

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