A woman wearing a face mask sits in a wheelchair on a sidewalk.
Sioux Lily Dickson says a lack of accessible taxis late at night poses a safety risk for people with disabilities. (Photo: Brett Throop)
Brett Throop  - 
August 10, 2022

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Sioux Lily Dickson was relieved when she was finally released from the ER at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre at 1:30 a.m. on July 8th after being treated for a ruptured eardrum.

But her relief quickly gave way to a sinking feeling when she called for a taxi to take her home to East City. Dickson uses a wheelchair, so she called both of Peterborough’s cab companies looking for an accessible taxi. Call-A-Cab didn’t have any available that night. Capital Taxi did have one, she said, but it would be a two-hour wait.

“I felt abandoned,” Dickson said. “There was no safe way for me to get home.”

In the end, she made the half-hour trek back to East City in her wheelchair. “I was exhausted and I was in pain,” she said of the journey. She also felt unsafe being on city streets in her wheelchair in the dark.

Dickson is calling on Peterborough’s police services board, which licenses and regulates taxis, to ensure that there are more accessible cabs available late at night so that no one else ends up in her situation.

Police board chair Mary ten Doeschate said what happened to Dickson is “unacceptable” — but it’s not against the law.

Peterborough’s taxi bylaw says that people with disabilities must be given “exclusive priority” to accessible cabs when they request them “at any time of the day or night.” But it doesn’t state that cab companies must provide the service at all hours.

Still, ten Doeschate said the shortage of accessible taxis overnight is a concern. “It is definitely being addressed,” she said.

Police are now working with the cab companies to get them to provide more accessible cabs at night on a voluntary basis, according to acting deputy chief Jamie Hartnett. “Accessible taxis should be accessible or available 24 hours a day,” Hartnett said.

He said taxi companies have faced a driver shortage since the beginning of the pandemic, which has been compounded by delays in processing mandatory criminal record checks for new drivers. He said police are trying to reduce those delays in order to get more drivers who are qualified to drive accessible taxis on the road.

But the lack of accessible taxis overnight was a problem even before the pandemic. In 2016, a wheelchair user complained to the police board after she couldn’t get an accessible cab at 1:30 a.m. on a cold March night, the Peterborough Examiner reported at the time. The board agreed to send a letter to the cab companies about the issue, the article said.

Dickson is angry that the board didn’t do more to fix the problem back in 2016. “They clearly didn’t really care enough to make sure it didn’t happen to anybody else,” she said.

She said that a lack of accessible transportation late at night is putting people with disabilities at risk. “It’s not if somebody will get hurt, it’s just a matter of when.”

Peterborough Currents phoned both cab companies at 11 p.m. on Thursday August 4. A Call-A-Cab dispatcher said their accessible cab service stops running for the night between 6 and 8 p.m.

Capitol Taxi had one accessible cab running all night Thursday, but there was a wait time of up to one hour and it was going to be off the road between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. for a shift change, a dispatcher said.

When reached by Peterborough Currents, Call-A-Cab co-owner Mike Donnelly declined to comment. We also reached out to Capitol Taxi manager Dave Ramey but did not hear back by publication time.

Peterborough Housing Corporation faces lawsuit from former CEO Darlene Cook

A photograph of Darlene Cook former CEO of the Peterborough Housing Corporation
Darlene Cook in 2017. (Screenshot: 2017 Sybil Frenette Outstanding Leadership Award Video)

The former CEO of the Peterborough Housing Corporation (PHC) is suing the social housing provider over the organization’s recent restructuring, which saw the City of Peterborough take control of a massive redevelopment project to build more housing on PHC properties. Darlene Cook’s employment with PHC ended in September. She says she was constructively dismissed and deserves severance; the PHC says she resigned.

Read our coverage here.

Patti Shaughnessy brings a “glocal” perspective on the arts

Patti Shaughnessy in Nuuk, Greenland. (Courtesy of Patti Shaughnessy)

Our arts writer Leina Amatsuji-Berry interviewed local theatre artist Patti Shaughnessy recently. They discussed Shaughnessy’s recent creative work, as well as her take on the health of the arts in Peterborough and across Canada.

Read the interview here.

Other stories to watch

The deadline to register as a candidate in Peterborough’s municipal election is August 19, 2022. Want to throw your hat in? Click here to learn what’s involved. If you’re eligible to vote, click here to make sure you’re registered.

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