Wednesday • 2014.05.28
UPDATE: Wheel-Trans Stops Collecting Gender, Revamps Name-Change Policy, Trains Staff!
Two weeks ago, we learned of Kylie Brooks, a Deaf and Disabled Trans* Woman resident in Toronto. Kylie shared her story of frustration, uncertainty and confusion surrounding the treatment she received in a phone conversation with Wheel-Trans customer service, when she requested to have her gender identity and preferred name respected by the TTC Wheel-Trans service and their staff.
It was not immediately clear whether or not Wheel-Trans had an accomodation policy in place to prevent discrimination against Trans* people, but Kylie’s experience showed that even if they did, Customer Service wasn’t following it properly. Of course when it comes to accessibility and discrimination issues at a service provider, organizational policy is meaningless if a lack of training prevents that policy from reaching the people who need it.
Kylie wrote to Wheel-Trans with her concerns, and this week she received a response that was as surprising as it was impressive.
Dean Milton, Supervisor of Customer Service, wrote to Kylie thanking her for her concerns and recommendations, and reported a number of organizational steps will be taken in response: including that Wheel-Trans will completely discontinue the collection of gender designation for all its customers (not just Trans* people).
Eliminating gender goes above and beyond what Kylie had asked for, but it marks a startlingly awesome trend toward companies and organizations realizing that, in virtually all situations, gender and sex designation simply aren’t relevant in the provision of goods and services.
Advocates have long held that collecting and storing this information causes discrimination to Trans* people, in particular people with non-binary gender, and it would be best to simply eliminate it from data collection practices altogether.
Milton also announces changes to documentation and training policies in his letter (below, with emphasis added).
Dear Kylie, We have reviewed the concerns and recommendations you expressed in your email dated April 25, 2014, following your call to Wheel-Trans on April 25, 2014, with respect to the process for requesting a name change.
We appreciate your recommendations, which have been considered, and further to our review, we can advise as follows:
We agree that customers should be permitted to request that Wheel-Trans records recognize a name for them that differs from their legal name and that legal documentation should not have to be provided for this purpose. Accordingly, on a go forward basis, it will not be necessary for customers to submit legal documentation to change their names in Wheel-Trans records and/or to add preferred names.
Also, we are reviewing other ways in which customers can request changes to their information contained in Wheel-Trans records, for example by submitting such requests to Wheel-Trans Customer Service via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Moreover, we agree and confirm that regardless of what is recorded on the customers’ files, Wheel-Trans customers will be addressed by their preferred names. Also, we agree and confirm that on a go forward basis, information regarding Wheel-Trans customers’ gender identities will not be collected.
Finally, we wish to inform you that the TTC has included information pertaining to gender identity and gender expression in its training programs and applicable policies, and that education on these issues are, and will continue to be, provided to employees.
Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention, and for your suggestions on improving customer service standards. Sincerely Dean Milton Supervisor – Customer Service Wheel-Trans
Hope for the Future, and Why We Fight
Stories like this are a shining beacon of hope and reassurance in a world where few organizations are yet making the effort necessary to be truly accessible to Trans* people.
Kylie has done a great service to Trans* people, and TTC Wheel-Trans should be commended for acting so quickly and decisively to address her concerns in a positive manner.
Kylie took to facebook to announce the news, and to share the response she sent to Mr. Milton with her thanks—and a direct first-hand reminder emphasizing why it’s important to follow through with staff training on these issues.
Thank you for this follow up. I have noticed that since the name change, on a lot of bookings, the drivers have had preset expectations of gender based on the recording of such in the manifest provided to drivers that shows scheduled bookings for their vehicles.
So I think the training you are planning on providing is critical to ensuring equitable treatment and so that people like me can have equal opportunities to be out and about in the community.
I appreciate you working with me to ensure equitable treatment for all Wheel-Trans customers.
Thanks to Kylie, things are a little more safe and accessible today for Disabled Trans* people in Toronto than they were last month.
Her story proves that activism works, and that in time as education and awareness improve, things will continue to get better—for all of us.