November 24th, 2017

Athlete feels transit changes take away her independence


By Gillian Slade on September 14, 2017.

Special Olympics chair Sandy Mahon (centre, standing) gathers with a group from the Special Olympics bowling team who are finding it a challenge to get to the bowling alley due to changes to city transit. Pictured are Kaytlyn Spicer, Nathan Maurer, Shirley Frank, Peter Frey, Susan Spicer, Shirley Bauer, Brydon Marchand, Sandy Mahon, Terri Didack and Dean Marchand.--NEWS PHOTO EMMA BENNETT


gslade@medicinehatnews.com 
@MHNGillianSlade

Recent changes to public transit are affecting Special Olympics athletes especially hard.

Terri Didack is one of about 55 local Special Olympics athletes who is struggling to reach the venue for bowling practise every week.

“I’m kind of mad that city council did not have an open house to explain what the plan was,” said Didack. “They do not care about the people who use it (transit). It does make me upset.”

Didack is trying to arrange rides in private vehicles so she can continue her participating but says in the process she has lost her independence.

“Bowling is a part of my life. It gets me out socializing,” said Didack, who says the closest bus route still means a three-block walk for her, something she is incapable of. The time it takes to get somewhere on the bus is also erratic making it impossible to plan a route and know you can get to your destination by the time required.

Registration for Special Olympics takes place Saturday and there is no public transit on weekends except for two routes that are not close to the venue, says Special Olympics chair Sandy Mahon.

An offer has been received from someone in the community to help with transporting the athletes. While very grateful for that gesture, Mahon says she has to consider the implications if there were to be a vehicle accident. The liability issues may simply make this unacceptable.

Ken Sauer, a former alderman, and someone who is passionate about sports, says public transit is an essential and a social service in the community. He believes the city has misinterpreted the response to a financially fit survey. Many of the 3000 people who completed the survey considered public transport of little value. They are perhaps the people who have no need of public transit themselves, said Sauer. For many others there is no other option to get about the city.

Merete Heggelund, the City’s CAO, acknowledged council’s recent instructions to provide other options for weekend service. Concerns expressed will be taken into consideration, she said.


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