Lloyd Pollock, Father of Accessible Transportation in South Central Ontario

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Trish: Hey there listeners is welcome to access talk with Trish. A 30-minute weekly online radio segment dedicated to examining the good the bad and the reality of accessibility in our communities and I'm your host for the show, Trish Robichaud. Disability awareness coach author facilitator and motivational speaker. A woman with a disability but definitely not a disabled woman. The access talk with Trish radio show can be heard live on Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern at accesstalkwithtrish.com or you can listen to past show recordings on-demand at any time at the same address or on iTunes if that's how you roll. This show is brought to you by changing paces an accessibility consulting firm that simplifies disability legislation for organizations that think they don't have the time or money for compliance. Visit changing paces.com and nurture culture of inclusion where everyone matters.

Trish: And on that note I'd like to introduce my guest for today. Lloyd Pollack is a trailblazer who brought accessible transportation to Toronto 26 years ago now he just happens to also be a man living with post-polio syndrome. With ten years of experience managing a taxi company and training drivers for the school board on how to handle students using wheelchairs, Lloyd was well acquainted with transporting people with special needs. It was a natural fit when he was approached by the interior ministry of transportation in 87 about developing a wheelchair accessible taxi service. He left his job in management to drive taxi as due diligence while he researched a plan to meet the ministry's needs. Dignity Transportation put its first wheelchair access taxi on the road in 1991. Since then dignity has grown a fleet of accessible cabs and Lloyd has had the privilege of transporting of all people even Hawking. He's also had the opportunity to showcase dignity's fleet to international audiences. As an extension of his passion for accessible transportation Lloyd served on the accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the AODA accessible transportation standards Development Committee. Wow that was a mouthful but so was the job. All in all two years to be precise. I look forward to Lloyd sharing the accessibility struggles and successes he's had throughout his journey to becoming the father of accessible transportation in south central Ontario. Welcome Lloyd.

Lloyd: Thank you glad to be here.

Trish: So tell us how and why did you step right up when you were approached by the ministry and how accessible was the whole process for you?

Lloyd: That's interesting when they approached me I thought a wonderful idea. I did approach my boss at the time he said no I'm not interested so I decided you know what I'm going to do this. I have a feeling and passion driving people for giving them the freedom that they never had. So I decided to do my due diligence. Spent a few years on the road in the taxi business. looked into vehicles, maintenance, insurance costs everything and chose to go ahead with it.

Trish: Wow that was a huge research project. Took you couple years you said?

Lloyd: Yeah a couple years. Couple years picking brains.

Well: Well good for you and good for Toronto and south central Ontario. I mean this is where you've grown to. I think that's phenomenal. I remember like the early 90s and I remember there's you know there was no transportation accessible transportation anywhere. There was a lot of small communities that had put together volunteer driver programs I wouldn't say a lot but there were a number of programs across the province. Georgina, we had one here I was part of the founding of that program but there was no conventional transit that was accessible at all anywhere in the province. So good for Ontario. I thank you for that Lloyd for doing the due diligence. I know you have a disability yourself, Lloyd. Can you share about that with our listeners and tell us how it impacted your journey. Well it goes back to when I was six years old I had polio. I had 4:41-4:43 inaudible the worst one s of course. I had the paralysis which affected my entire my entire left side and 4:52 inaudible growing spurts. So my left side is weakened and smaller and I had series of operations then and then again when I was about 13 or 14. I walked with a limp like took the teasing and curse in schools but you know that's life. I learned to deal with it. and then in 1980 I started having some really strange pain and weakness and extreme fatigue. So I went to a doctor an orthopedic doctor and he said the only thing that he can guess is it might be related to my polio but there wasn't much information out. So I found out about a doctor by the name of dr. Frank and West Park Osler who specialized in post polio and I waited about two months to get an appointment to see him and he confirmed that that's what it was and told me that as I get older it would get with progressively worse. And then in the post polio groups if you started to talk to people you'll find out that people had gone from being 6:14-6:17 inaudible no longer meaning it and now they are back to 6:19 inaudible needing some device anyhow 6:21 inaudible for breathing . You learn alot but it also gave me a deep feeling for people that has disabilities and have needs and I ended up going into the accessible transportation. It really is a labor of love.

Trish: I understand the the post polio symptoms came on and I think you said 1980?

Lloyd: Right. The average was about 20 to 35 years after the odd sound apologetic people would get it. Not everybody but most people.

Trish: Gotcha gotcha and so at that point were you working for the taxi company?

Lloyd: I was in a taxi company in 1980 as a general manager. I remained a general Manager for 10 years.

Trich: So you manage this company while dealing with post-polio symptoms.

Lloyd: Yes 7:35-7:37 inaudible.

Trish: Sorry say that again? I said there are all type of personalities survivors we push push push. That was what you went through when you had it. I had to really push.

Trish: So in terms of your employment obviously your symptoms your disability didn't
negatively impact your job.

Lloyd: No no and I had a boss that was very kind and he knew the not time if I'm not coming in I would called him because of pain or whatever but primarily he relied on me he knew I would show up on weekend repeated or whatever. And I got into the school board and the school board didn't want to deal with taxi drivers. They didn't like the idea. It could be any drivers showing up and would have no training. I offered to do it. So I was able to provide one driver per child and I have undergone training that I am and in terms of dealing with those with disabilities whether it's 8:50 inaudible or physical what ever and I had a wonderful relationship with the school board.

Trish: That's fabulous. So you broke down that barrier. They they originally had an attitudinal barrier around using taxis for transporting students.

Lloyd:Yes and in some cases that I understand I mean the students react to different faces different people. 9:19 inaudible inside that consistency the children really became quite involved with the driver and they liked the driver, they were happy with it they would call.

Trish: You know that's a really good example of how to accommodate a situation that might originally seem unapproachable. The fact that you were able to provide that consistency of the same driver for each student. I think that has a larger message in terms of accommodating people with disabilities you know that consistency is really important.
Fabulous. So knowing all that you know now about the journey okay that you travel to make dignity transportation what it is today, what advice would you have for someone just starting out on the advocacy trail?

Lloyd: The advice I give is do your due diligence. Understand the barriers because there Iare alot. I had to deal with people including in the government the city government that were dead set against approving a wheelchair accessible vehicle. I'm literally surprised when I showed up in their inspection with a vehicle which had 600 kilometers on it obviously would pass and the manager that time of the inspection of vehicle said you know I can't pass this. I quote and I said really can you give it to me in writing because from here I'm going down to the MPO and I will show them what you said. That scared him off a little and it said also by the way it needs to be for a line act CMV SS. I quoted all the regulations and affect them 11:20 inaudible the vehicle. He said give me a few minutes he came back in a half hou,r okay you pass take it down to the municipal way 11:30 inaudible they want to look at it. From literally like your sinuses to big? I'm dealing with is vision impaired people. You're going to go broke the head person who said? I said that the business choice I'm making then they said okay go ahead and here I am today.

Trish: Fabulous. So in that situation the barrier was definitely attitudinal because there was at it they didn't really have any reason not to approve.

Lloyd: They had no legal reason no legal. No legal reason at all and I was well prepared knowing what they are like and so I went ahead and took it through not wanting them because I knew it would be a surprise and I'm glad I did it that way.

Trish: For certain absolutely. What I get out of that is that when you encounter barriers when people encounter barriers don't automatically turn away when you see a barrier. It means standing all and speaking up and and proposing feasible ways of approaching. You know That attitudinal barrier if you would have just walked away and said okay well then you wouldn't be where you are today and there wouldn't be you know the fabulous dignity transportation service across.

Lloyd: I am proud of the change that I made over here in the city of legislation and Terms of Service for those with disabilities. I made a difference out of it.

Trish: As you should as you should. I titled this interview you know Lloyd Pollack the father of accessible transportation in south central Ontario because from what I could see when I did the research before to our interview that is the truth. You fathered our transportation system and brought shut-ins out of their homes. Pull out people who had never had the opportunity to leave the house prior.

I had so many people because we did you know what I has seven days a week 365 days a year and at Christmas I would get calls from people saying thank you thank you I'm finally getting out to see my family it just was heart warming.

Trish: Very nice very nice. That's the reason I get out of bed in the morning if I've ever heard of one and we we're going to go to a quick commercial break now Lloyd and when we come back we're going to talk about your involvement with the standards development committee.

Lloyd: sure.

Trish: Okay we're back. Let's talk about your involvement with the AODA transportation standards Development Committee. What what drove you and was it an accessible process for you?

Lloyd: Well I received notification if I wanted to apply to be on the committee and I said right there not other committees in the past but this one I felt was so important because it was Travis white and I really wanted to get out. I had several recommendations made of me to be on it and they accepted me. I don't know how to comment nicely but it was so fractious. There's transit properties there were members of the government ministries there were all these different advocacy groups and nine times out of ten I mean they kill the Amazon jungle with the paper and I still really believe in the goals but they were fighting internally. That was going.

Trish: How many people were on that committee?

Lloyd: I would say there is 40 or 50.

Trish: Wow that is a lot of people to bring to consensus. What a task. So amidst all of that in fighting did you still get an opportunity to make your position known.

Lloyd: Oh yes I'm not shy and reserved. I made sure that I got my view point across.

Trish: Excellent excellent and how accessible was the process for you if you had special requests for you know materials in a certain format or whatever.

Lloyd: I had no problem saying more than accommodation. I would arrange my own transportation because at that time I was able to drive and I Drive out night timely meetings no problem.

Trish: Alright big question would you do it again?

Lloyd: Yes. In a heart beat.

Trish: Awesome. So the experience was powerful for you?

Lloyd: Absolutely absolutely I'm so proud of it as I said earlier. I'd make changes and changes for the good, City of Toronto and in the province and I still, still although I'm not actively involved because I had the stroke and in a wheelchair I still I'm in contact and I want to see it continue to flourish.

Trish: The AODA you mean?

Lloyd: The AODA the company the needs of people with disabilities should be first and foremost in anybody's mind. when I had counted something that is it accessible and people don't even understand it I explained to them. I make sure they understand what a barrier even one step is.

Trish: Can you summarize your experience with a short list of barriers that others should watch for?

Lloyd: Doors wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, no steps, the buttons you press to open the doors if they are accessible should be operating. I mean I've entered restaurants because the the back is accessible. I had to go through the kitchen to get to the dining room. Bowling the place they were in was older and eventually moved but I wouldn't even say it was demeaning it just wasn't.

Trish: certainly demoralizing that's for sure. Y

Lloyd: Yes.

Trish: So you've mentioned a number of barriers and they're all physical barriers but the journey that you've taken there had to be other types of barriers that you've encountered in terms of communication barriers, attitudinal barriers, systemic barriers.

Lloyd: Well, I mean there are attitudinal barriers and there are systemic barriers because somebody has a speech impediment doesn't mean he's not intelligent. I had this all part of my training course I would show I had think if you read the CV I did the Ambassador Training Program at centenial college. One of the things and it worked very well is these were all taxi drivers getting the Ambassador taxi. I introduced myself when I had a disability that I've been in a taxi business for many many years and then I'll go into explaining things because of them ten hours remember there was one day as I had taught them how to deal with any visually impaired person abroad and how to approach them and offer them help and one guy said to me the next day he says you know I had somebody in the cab who is blind and I helped them. They were so happy because I told them I'll just put their hand bags to another person's hand and then they would take your honor elbow whatever work and then leave them and to watch your head for breaks in the sidewalk and whatever and that that told me how well it was going across.

Trish: Certainly certainly. What a Awesome opportunity that you had to actually deliver that training and the Ambassador Program explain that for me.

Lloyd: That was the city that they were going to issue special ambassador place. At that timing be single owner operator they wouldn't be allowed to lease to put drivers on. They were seeking to raise the level of the driver in the city and they ran that program. So there was a RFP out for the people to create that the course was called that dealing with a diverse clientele. So I applied for it , got it and I thought it for a year.

Trish: Awesome and were you in terms of you delivering that program through Centennial, did you find that there were any barriers to teaching for you at all?

Lloyd: No no not at all.

Trish: Somehow Lloyd I suspect it. You don't necessarily see barriers where many of us see barriers.

Lloyd: You know you're probably right.

Trish: Yeah you see them as opportunities instead of a barrier.

Lloyd: That's right.

Trish: Very good very good. So Lloyd what do you think as a society that we can keep in mind on a daily basis to minimize barriers to accessibility?

Lloyd: I strongly believe and it's in education starting from school. Educate the children they're the future. They are the ones that are going to have to try and accommodate and understand and have the empathy to deal with people with disability.

Trish: I completely agree with you we have to bring our children up with an attitude of accommodation for other humans. An attitude of accommodation and empathy for people of all abilities. So if any of our listeners lloyd want to know more about you or want to contact you about your services how can they do that?

Lloyd: Well we have a website www.dignitiytransportation.com. We have toll-free number and regular numbers 1 800 398 2109 or 416 398 2222 and of course through email.

Trish: Ok and your email address is?

Lloyd: info@dignitytransportation.com.

Trish: Fabulous. Thank you very much for joining us Lloyd I appreciate your participation today.

lloyd: It's been my pleasure.

Trish: and thank you listeners so much for joining us for today's episode of access talk with Trish. A 30-minute weekly online radio segment dedicated to examining the good the bad and the reality of accessibility in our communities please join us again next week on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. This show is brought to you by changing paces. An accessibility consulting firm that simplifies disability legislation organizations that think they don't have the time or money for compliance. Visit changing paces.com and nurture culture of inclusion where everyone matters. Till next time take self-care seriously and God bless.

or click here to download transcript

Lloyd Pollock, a trail-blazer, brought accessible transportation to Toronto 26 years ago now. He just happens to be a man living with post polio syndrome.

With 10 years of experience managing a taxi company, and training drivers for the school board on how to handle students using wheelchairs, Lloyd was well acquainted with transporting people with special needs.

It was a natural fit when he was approached by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in ’87 about developing a wheelchair accessible taxi service. He left his job in management to drive taxi as due diligence while he researched a plan to meet the Ministry’s needs.

Dignity Transportation put it’s first wheelchair accessible taxi on the road in 1991. Since then, Dignity has grown a fleet of accessible cabs and Lloyd has had the privilege of transporting of all people, Stephen Hawking. He’s also had the opportunity to showcase Dignity’s fleet to international audiences.

As an extension of his passion for accessible transportation, Lloyd served on the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (or AODA) Accessible Transportation Standards Development Committee. Wow, that was a mouthful; but so was the job – all in all 2 years to be precise.

Listen in as Lloyd shares the accessibility struggles and successes he’s had through-out his journey to becoming the Father of Accessible Transportation in South Central Ontario.

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