On Your Side: Challenging the SAAQ for disabled transportation
Published Thursday, October 13, 2011 3:00PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 7, 2012 2:36PM EDT
MONTREAL- Jolanta Stansinska has a brand new minivan waiting for her and her son handicapped son Jakub, but it is still sitting in a dealer's lot because of a dispute with the SAAQ.
The provincial automobile insurance board has offered to adapt the minivan so it can be used to transport Jakub, who uses a wheelchair, but Stansinska does not like what the SAAQ has offered.
"It's not safe for me, not safe for my son," said Stansinska.
Just over a year ago a corporation gave Stansinska $20,000 for a minivan, and the SAAQ has offered $18,000 to adapt the vehicle for a rear-access wheelchair ramp.
Stansinska says that is neither safe nor practical, because it would force her to find a location with two to three metres of empty space behind her when she stopped to park in order to get Jakub in or out, which is not the easiest task in Montreal.
"The streets of Montreal, it's very dangerous," said Stansinska, who thinks she would often end up double-parking in order to move Jakub.
Francine Boucher of Van-Action agrees, and says a side-entry ramp would be easier to park and allow Jakub to get directly onto a sidewalk.
It costs about $24,000 for that conversion, more than for a rear-entry, but Boucher thinks it's worth it.
"For sure you have more room. It's more accessible for her," said Boucher.
The SAAQ has refused that extra expense, arguing that since the mother and son live in the West Island, a side ramp was not necessary.
"Cost is an important consideration," but it's not the only issue said Dr. Sylvie Tremblay of the SAAQ, however she did admit that the agency puts strong emphasis on where a person lives, and not where they plan to go when paying to adapt a vehicle.
The SAAQ is more generous with vehicle adaptations than in other provinces.
In Ontario drivers who need to adapt a vehicle can face a salary cap for government assistance, and only half the expense is reimbursed.
Last year the board spent $8.3 million to convert 764 vehicles.
Quebec's Office of Handicapped People is helping Stansinska appeal the decision, and says many people are afraid to ask for something different than what is offered.
"It's impossible for her to go anywhere and go park anywhere, wherever she wants to go," said Annie Landry.
In June Stansinska was told the appeal would be heard within the next four months, but has yet to hear anything from the SAAQ.
Until she does her new car sits idle in a dealer's parking lot, waiting to be converted.