B.C. senior forced to wait hours in the rain for accessible taxi
Published Monday, July 2, 2018 6:18PM PDT
A Metro Vancouver mayor is fuming after waiting with a senior late into the night on Canada Day for an accessible taxi she'd ordered ahead of time.
The senior, a Coquitlam, B.C. resident who advocates for those living with disabilities, was left outside in the rain Sunday night when the taxi failed to arrive as scheduled.
As fireworks lit up the sky, Merle Smith sat in her motorized wheelchair, waiting.
"I couldn't enjoy the fireworks because all I could think about was getting out of there," she told CTV News the next day.
She said she'd booked a cab to take her home at 9 p.m. She started calling the company, Coquitlam-based Bel-Air Taxi, when it hadn't shown up by 9:15.
"I either got a dispatch saying that there would be a car in 20 minutes, that they were doing their best, or I got an answering machine," Smith said.
The recorded message told callers that the dispatch centre was very busy and asked them to call back later, she said.
An hour later, she was still waiting. Then 11 p.m. came and went.
She was cold and wet as she waited for her ride home.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, who was at the Canada Day event, summoned first responders to check on the shivering senior.
"It's devastating when someone who's vulnerable has no choice but to sit there and wait," Stewart said.
As they waited, they started to look for alternative rides, Smith said.
"We did think about loading me in the back of the fire engine, and that's not possible. And we thought about loading me into the back of an ambulance, but we didn't think we could have be sitting in the wheelchair in the back of the ambulance," she said.
Then, just after midnight, the taxi finally showed up.
"The driver didn't know anything. He just knew he was dispatched to pick me up, he knew nothing about what happened," she said.
CTV News reached out to Bel-Air Taxi. The assistant manager said he was very sorry for the three-hour wait, calling it unacceptable.
He said he is looking in to what happened Sunday night.
The mayor expects an explanation from the company, at a city council meeting. Smith is hopeful that making the incident public will result in changes to the system.
"It's not the first time it's happened, so we would like to see the priorities changed so wheelchairs come first," Smith said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson