Monday, June 27, 2016

Letter to TTC CEO Byford re Subway Line Numbers

I wrote the following email to Mr. Byford and am told I'll be receiving a formal reply.

Dear Mr. Byford,

As you know through the TTC's generous donation of ad space, June is Brain Injury Awareness Month. I have a brain injury. The TTC allows me to be independent; however your decision to rename the subway lines to numbers has jeopardized mine and others' independence, and I have a question about that.

Numbers are confusing and meaningless. Numbers require memorization. And people with brain injury have poor memories. For example, we have to remind ourselves where we're going. We're not likely to remember a number, no matter how often we repeat it, but we can remember names because they have meaning and context. The Yonge Line runs up Yonge Street. If we want to go to Yonge, we know to head to the Yonge Line. We don't know if Line 2 is Yonge or 4 or maybe 1. Translating from a number to a name requires cognitive effort, eg, from Line 1 to Yonge Line to Yonge Street. People with brain issues don't have the cognitive resources to do that without being heavily fatigued. Some simply cannot. I happen to know the TTC quite well and have good numeracy skills, but even I find @TTCnotices and radio traffic announcements confusing and thus frustrating. No one I've spoken to with or without brain injury understand the numbers. Even when I try to explain them, I get blank stares and frustrated comments: why don't they just use the names? They wonder: When will you rescind the change to numbers, return our beloved TTC subway names to us?

When you confuse people, you frustrate them. And when you frustrate people with brain injury, many of whom also have PTSD, you increase the risk of rage. We have enough problems with TTC rage without the TTC introducing a new source.

You have set a noble goal of making the TTC a beacon of accessibility. I have used several English and non-English subway systems. New York's I found the worst to navigate because it uses numbers and letters. I recently used the London Underground. The Underground is far more accessible and inclusive for those of us with cognitive challenges than the TTC. Its subway line names have meaning; their use of colours enhance navigability. If they had used numbers, I as a tourist, would have been completely lost. Plus I would have had no sense of place or London's history, which as a tourist I value. Taking away the subway line names from the TTC has also taken away that historical sense tourists and Torontonians value so much.

Names are inclusive.

Numbers are not. I wrote on why numbers are not (evidence-based research is down at point 4):

You cannot make the TTC a beacon of accessibility as long as you use subway line numbers. My question: When will you delete the numbers and restore word names to the TTC's subway system?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,
Shireen Jeejeebhoy
Cabbing it not TTC'ing it as I recover from surgery and being less stressed for it.

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