Pittman, owner of Pittman’s Taxi in Norris Point, was in Corner Brook on Friday for an announcement about the provincial government’s accessible-taxi funding program at the arts and culture centre.
Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Minister Gerry Byrne announced that Pittman’s Taxi and Star Taxi in Corner Brook had each received $25,000 from the program to provide accessible taxis. The companies are now among seven in the province to have received grants, which can be used to purchase or retrofit vehicles for accessibility.
Pittman and Edmonds both put the money toward the purchase of new minivans that offer accessibility through a wheelchair ramp at the rear. They also feature wider and longer running boards along the sides, providing a step for people who need it.
For Pittman, getting the vehicle had a personal connection. His son, Dwayne, has been in a wheelchair all his life, so he knows the need.
But having the vehicle on the road will enable him to help more people get where they need or want to be.
“It feels good,” Pittman said as he showed off the vehicle outside the centre after the announcement.
He said there’s always older people at the hospital who want to go home for a day or attend a celebration, and now it will be easier for them to do that.
He is already receiving positive reaction from people.
“A lot of people really appreciate it.”
Pittman’s vehicle is a Dodge Grand Caravan that he purchased in Montreal. Edmonds purchased his Grand Caravan in Ontario. Both of the vehicles had been equipped by Savaria Corporation.
Edmonds said he did some homework when he learned the grants were available.
“And I found that there was a need for an accessible van and I thought it was feasible to get into.”
Star Taxi has responded to calls in the past from people in wheelchairs, but it always meant having to get them out of their chairs and folding the chairs for transport in the trunks of vehicles. Now customers can wheel right into the vehicles.
“I think it’s going to work out well,” he said.
For people with disabilities, Terry Gardner said, the service will provide freedom and independence. Gardner represented the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities Newfoundland and Labrador at the announcement. He said it was a positive and important step in the struggle to gain equality and accessibility, and encouraged all people with disabilities to get out and take advantage of the opportunity provided.