Work, transport and wheelchair users

Picture showing the level access from the platform into the train. Work, transport and wheelchair users.How many jobs can a wheelchair user reach using public transport? Combining wheelchair accessibility with potential jobs is a useful way to show how access is good for individuals and the economy. That’s because we can add anyone with difficulty walking, and also people taking their children to childcare near their workplace. 

Montreal and Toronto are retrofitting their networks to ensure that all individuals can use the public transport system. But will it be enough? A group of transport researchers created a method to identify the public transport barriers that prevent wheelchair users from getting to jobs.

Once the method was devised, they applied it to Montreal and Toronto. They calculated calculate the number of jobs that can be reached within 45 minutes of travel by public transport by a wheelchair user compared to the number of jobs a non wheelchair user can access.

In Toronto, wheelchair users have access to 75% of jobs compared to non wheelchair users. In Montreal this figure drops to 46%. The main reason for the difference is that Montreal has less accessible subway stations than Toronto.

The title of the article is, Comparing accessibility to jobs by public transport for individuals with and without a physical disabilityThe article covers the development of the methodology, the results and analysis. It is worth noting that if wheelchair users can get out and about easily, others with mobility issues will also be served. So it is not just about a niche group particularly as our population ages.


Equal access to opportunities has emerged in public transport planning as a social objective that many transport agencies are trying to achieve. Yet in practice, not all public transport agencies are currently providing urban residents with comparable levels of service due to physical barriers in the public transport network that can significantly hinder the ability of individuals with physical disabilities to access opportunities.

In countries without a strong federal accessibility act and/or with major financial constraints, some public transport agencies fall behind in applying universal access design principles, making it even harder for people with a physical disability to access opportunities.

The objective of this study is to develop a methodology that can be used by
public transport agencies or disability advocates to clearly highlight and quantify the performance of the public transport network in a region, in terms of providing transit services to people in a wheelchair and compare that to the service offered to an individual not in a wheelchair.

In this study we use accessibility, the ease of reaching destinations, by public transport as the key performance measure in two major Canadian Cities (Montreal and Toronto). Furthermore, we focus on job accessibility in the most socially vulnerable census tracts in both cities, to evaluate levels of job accessibility for wheelchair users residing in socially vulnerable areas.

The findings from our study show striking contrasts between the numbers of accessible jobs by public transport for wheelchair users compared to the general population. On average, wheelchair users in Toronto have access to 75% of jobs that are accessible to users that are not in a wheelchair, whilst their counterparts in Montreal have access to only 46% of the jobs accessible to other users.

This research is expected to highlight for public transport engineers, planners, policy makers and advocates for those with disabilities, the importance of universal access in a region, especially along public transport networks, using a widely used land use and transport performance measure.

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