An Open Letter to The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
Monday, May 14, 2018
ATTN: Rick Leary, Interim Chief Executive Officer & Chief Service Officer of the Toronto Transit Commission
Re: Pertaining to events which occurred on May 11, 2018
Dear: Mr. Leary,
Throughout my life, the TTC has been the primary mode of transportation for myself as well as countless family members and friends. We rely on the system not only to take us to our destination, but to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for those on board. In most cases, the TTC has done a fantastic job serving the residents of Toronto in both a professional and convenient manner. Last week, however, events transpired which led me to question the values and moral compass of both the TTC and the individuals it employs.
I suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic illness that greatly debilitates the body and wreaks havoc on the digestive system. Sufferers of Crohn’s disease experience a variety of lifelong symptoms, including internal bleeding, excruciating pain, lack of nutrient absorption, and increased risk of other illnesses (such as colon cancer) to name a few. Should one with Crohn’s disease experience an “attack”, they would immediately experience crippling pain followed by an intense sense of urgency, which necessitates the use of a restroom. With Crohn’s disease, there is no warning, and there is no waiting. The body will vigorously release bodily fluids. Any attempt to hold everything in can result in numerous complications, from varicose veins to ruptures of the anal sphincter. Please note, Mr. Leary, that I give you these details simply to make you aware of the risks associated with having this disability as it pertains to the subsequent sections of this letter.
On Friday May 11, 2018 at approximately 8:00 a.m. at Eglinton West Station on Line 1, I found myself on the verge of a “Crohn’s attack”. The attack commenced just as the train came to a stop at the station. I exited the train promptly, felt the effects of the attack worsen and hurried up the stairs to the collector booth. At this point, I felt notifying the TTC collector was the best course of action. When I reached the collector booth, I kindly asked the gentleman if there was a washroom in the station I may use. He promptly replied “no”. Following his response, I politely made it clear to the gentleman that a.) this is an emergency, b.) I require a washroom as soon as possible because of my health condition, c.) I have Crohn’s Disease and, d.) It is a disability and that I would appreciate his help. He responded with a very abrupt and dismissive “I don’t know, go figure it out”. I kindly pleaded with him again, and asked if there were a washroom in the immediate vicinity that I may use, to which he replied, “I don’t know. Go outside and look for one.” This was repeated several times. Take note, Mr. Leary, that throughout this interaction, I did not raise my voice nor illustrate any aggressive behaviour towards the gentleman. I found myself in an urgent situation and was required to act quickly so that I may reduce chances of further complicating my situation and health condition. Should you require an accurate depiction of the interaction, I am certain the audio/video surveillance at the station will serve you in that endeavour. Following the interaction, I immediately left the station to seek assistance elsewhere. I was unable to locate a restroom in time, I physically couldn’t hold in the bowel movement, and had my clothing stained in blood and other fluids. The clean-up process took time, and the experience shook my body for a good while afterwards. All of this could have been avoided by a simple act of kindness and understanding on the side of the operator.
Now, I implore you to understand, Mr. Leary, that I am one to let instances like this go. I would have been fine handling my business on my own and resuming my day. What prompted this letter was one simple realization – what if the person in that scenario was not me, but had instead been my mother? My mother, who also sufferers from Crohn’s Disease, has been managing her disability for quite some time. Her illness has caused a slew of other complications. How do you think I would have felt if she were in my situation and was abruptly refused assistance or help of any kind from your staff? How would any person feel if their parent, child, spouse, sibling or loved one were in a dire situation and not only refused assistance but rudely dismissed altogether? To me, and I feel to countless others, this TTC employee lacked both a sense of humanity and common courtesy.
Following the event on May 11, I contacted TTC Customer Service to file a complaint. The operator I spoke with was very understanding and sympathetic, and notified me that the issue will be addressed with the collector. I felt, however, that sharing this experience with both yourself and the public was critical. There are over 250,000 Canadians with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, a similar inflammatory bowel disease. I am certain other people with Crohn’s or colitis have had experiences echoing my own.
In closing, I kindly ask for a few key items to be addressed. Firstly, please remove the The TTC Way posters that populate transit vehicles. It is clear to me after this experience that the TTC has no interest in ensuring your operators follow the outlined pillars. I bring to your attention the following three in particular:
Respect One Another, TTC: We will value, support and treat every customer and colleague with patience, respect and dignity. We welcome all.
Help Others Out, TTC: We will go out of our way to help – and if we can’t, we will take the time to point you in the right direction.
Stay Safe, TTC: We will ensure the safety and security of our customers, employees and everyone around us.
On May 11, 2018, not one of these promises made by the TTC was fulfilled.
My second request is an apology from the TTC for not fulfilling these pillars to all those who suffer experiences similar to mine. This pertains to all individuals who identify as being a person with a disability. I would also urge the TTC to revisit their five-year corporate plan and explore ways to better integrate The TTC Way into the workforce. I applaud the TTC for creating The TTC Way and making it a priority, but I would hope to see it better employed in the near future. If not, the posters warrant removal.
As both a resident of Toronto, and an individual living with a disability, my experience last week with the collector on duty at Eglinton West Station was nothing short of appalling. I am not asking the TTC to cover the cost of replacing my clothing, nor do I expect the collector to personally apologize to me. I will, however, bring into question the TTC’s attitude towards those with disabilities, special needs, and those that might require additional accommodation.
I have included my e-mail address below should you wish to contact me.