Advocating for better accessibility in Montreal | Watch News Videos Online

People living with disabilities say very little thought is given to making public and private spaces accessible. On Thursday, Global News reported on a man who was denied a permit to install a mechanical lift at his home for a wheelchair. As Phil Carpenter explains, advocates say the provincial law needs to be stronger.

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OnTree Park introduces new wheelchair-accessible ziplining course

Brian George, an accessibility advocate who lives with a disability, has been able to do a lot over the years — triathlons, the Bluenose Marathon and skating at the Oval, to name a few.

But never ziplining — until now.

OnTree Park, located in Windsor, N.S., right next to Ski Martock, has introduced a brand new, fully accessible high rope course in an effort to make sure nobody is left behind.

The owners of the park invited George to be one of the first wheelchair users to give it a go.

George says it was an experience like no other.

“It’s an honour to be the first wheelchair user to really try it out,” said George, shortly after going through the route twice.

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“The more things that open up like this for people living with disabilities, the better the world will be for everybody.”

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OnTree has been one of the popular adventure parks in the province over the past decade. With 18 high rope courses and over 50 ziplines covering more than 100 acres, it provides fun and adventure for those of all ages, while also posing a physical challenge.

But ziplining clearly has its limitations, so that’s why Juergen Weigelt, the owner of OnTree, set out to make a route that wheelchair users can enjoy as well.

“I started to build OnTree 11 years ago and when I started, it was always my goal at a certain time, I want to build a wheelchair-accessible route,” Weigelt said.

“We have them in Europe, there are a few, but I said when I had the time and the pace and the design, then I will start to build one.”

That extra time came during the latest lockdown, as OnTree had to delay its opening by a few extra weeks.

Weigelt says creating the fully accessible ziplining route was no easy feat.

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“The platforms, for example, are triple the normal size. The ramps are completely different to build. You have to figure out how wide is a wheelchair, what can a person in a wheelchair do, how stable it has to be, how you can connect them on the end to the zipline,” Weigelt said. “And you also have to make it interesting for them.”

And it certainly is interesting, to say the least. There are several challenges along the route, including speedbumps, steep ramps and even a rope pulling section.

The route ends with a zipline to the bottom, which was George’s favourite part.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake,” he said. “It really makes the whole thing worth it.”

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George says that safety was a top priority throughout his experience and that at no time did he feel in any danger.

“The crew here really seem to know what they’re doing,” George said. “The safety was fantastic. They really seem to plan ahead with all this.”

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Weigelt credits the hard work of his family and staff for allowing them to complete the project before the summer season.

“It makes us proud because it’s a team effort. Without my team, without my wife, this is not possible,” he said, holding back tears.

“We moved to Canada, we wanted to live our dream, make our dream come true, and this is our dream.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Halifax research group creates app to help break barriers for those living with disabilities

A research group in Halifax is trying to make the city more inclusive to residents and visitors.

PEACH Research works to promote equity, accessibility and health in urban design and planning practices. It’s part of Dalhousie University’s school of planning and consists of faculty members, students and partners developing and executing projects to help design a better place for Haligonians to live, work and play.

One of those partners is Halifax-based non-profit reachAbility. It provides support and accessible programs to individuals facing barriers to inclusion and community participation. Each year, it hosts National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) to celebrate and recognize contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability,” says Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility.

“Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”

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During NAAW, the two groups hosted a virtual event on how to build a more accessible city. CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment was hosted by Melanie Goodridge, pre-employment support navigator for reachAbility, and PEACH researchers Kate Clarke and Katherine Deturbide. The panel covered accessibility standards and barriers faced in the built environment, and highlighted their latest app, the CANdid Access web map.

The app allows users to share and access photos and information about the accessibility in their community.

“Take a picture of something that’s accessible/inaccessible,” Goodridge explains. “Then you give a little blurb on why and then it’s uploaded and put onto a map.”

The photos and information submitted by users of CANdid are added to the access map and can help those living with disabilities to navigate – or even avoid – certain parts of the city. Unmarked crosswalks, paved park pathways, construction zones and sidewalk conditions are some examples of what users may find on CANdid.

“It’s just a really great way to show features that are accessible versus features that are inaccessible,” says Goodridge. “You get a visual of how we can make it better and how we can change to meet the standards by 2030 of the Accessibility Act for Nova Scotia.”

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The Accessibility Act, passed in 2017, plans to improve standards for public buildings, streets, sidewalks, shared spaces and education. The standards are expected to roll out in 2022.

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The hope is that the information collected through CANdid will one day land on the desks of provincial government officials who can make a difference.

“Nova Scotia does have some big targets to reach by 2030,” says Goodridge. “A lot of the work that the folks are doing at PEACH Research is a great way to start and an easy way for all of us to understand and digest what needs to happen so that moving forward, we can engage in our government, we can engage on a local level to see those changes being made.”

NAAW runs from May 30 to June 5. It is free and open to everyone and is available to access any time through the reachAbility website.  CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment is available to watch through the reachAbility YouTube channel.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Long-awaited Vendome tunnel will finally open Monday

Delayed by several years and more than $30 million over its initial budget, the long-awaited newly accessible tunnel linking the Vendome Metro Station to the MUHC’s Glen site will open next week.

“It’s a priority for the STM. I think it’s very important to state that it’s a real priority and the results are there to show it’s a priority,” said Philippe Schnobb, the chairman of the board of directors of the STM.

The $110-million project to create the multimodal station will make access to the Vendome Metro, the Exo commuter rail, buses and the MUHC much easier for people with disabilities and mobility issues, and parents with strollers. Previously, the tunnel was only accessible by stairs.

New wheelchair-friendly turnstiles were installed, as were five new elevators.

STM board of directors member Laurence Parent says it will encourage more people with disabilities to use the station.

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“For disabled people, it’s also about being visible now that this station is accessible,” said Parent, who uses a wheelchair. “Now it means you will see more disabled people around and I think it’s how you change society.”

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It will also make life much easier for patients needing to access the hospital.

“This improves the situation a lot,” said Dr. Pierre Gfeller, the director-general of the MUHC. “It also increases our accessibility of our patients and staff to this building where we have many medical clinics, where some of our staff are working. So for now in the winter you won’t have to go out, you will go directly to the hospital.”

The project to retrofit the station proved incredibly complex because the STM tried to avoid disrupting service.

“Our biggest challenge was an engineering challenge because we had to build a tunnel underneath the train tracks,” said Maha Clour, the project director of the STM. “Our metro system is built in the 1960s and the urban mapping has evolved all over the years so it becomes more difficult to manage a construction site with buildings around us and tunnels underneath us.”

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Community groups worried after Montreal transit authority inspectors granted new powers

Community groups worried after Montreal transit authority inspectors granted new powers – May 7, 2021

Critics and advocates for those with disabilities say it should have been done long ago, when the hospital was initially built.

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“It was ludicrous, it was completely out of our minds why they did not plan for this in advance. It adds insult to injury,” said Laurent Morissette of the RAPLIQ. “Knowing this metro would service a huge clientele with special needs it was ridiculous.”

Even STM officials admit they are confounded it wasn’t done earlier.

“I asked the same question when I got my job seven years ago, why did we not have universal accessibility,” said Schnobb. “I was not there at the time, I can’t explain why someone missed that opportunity.”

The STM hopes to have 30 of its 68 stations accessible by 2025, and the whole network completed by 2038.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Changes at Parlee Beach means improved access for people with disabilities

New Brunswick’s largest beach will once again be open to the public starting Friday and visitors to Parlee Beach Provincial Park will notice some changes that include improved access for those with disabilities.

“We have been lobbying for years now to make the entire province accessible,” said Mathieu Stever, the manager of the ParaNB program with Ability New Brunswick

The provincial park is getting a $2-million facelift in advance of its second season in operation amid the pandemic. According to the province, funding for the upgrades is being applied from the capital improvement budgets from 2020 to 2022.

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The work includes upgrades to roads, entrances, the canteen, restaurant bar and patio area as well as improved access to the beach, according to the park’s manager, Michel Mallet, who said they partnered with Ability NB on the project starting in 2019.

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“We call it a comfort station, which is basically an accessible washroom and accessible charging room and shower outside,” said Mallet.

Improved sidewalks and beach-friendly wheelchairs will also be available for visitors, said Mallet.

He said an accessible playground is also being installed in the coming weeks. The hope is to have the upgrades ready by the end of the school year, he said.

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Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work

Program helping Moncton youth with disabilities find work – Mar 18, 2021

“I think it is great having Parlee Beach set the example of how you can renovate the beach and make it accessible for everyone because our motto is that everyone plays,” said Stever.

Stever said he hopes the initiative will encourage other provincial parks in the province to do similar upgrades.

“It is everyone’s right to be able to access all recreation activities in the province”, he said.

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Parlee Beach opens on Friday with COVID-19 protocols similar to last year, said Mallet.

All washrooms and changing rooms, even the accessible ones, will remain closed for now, he said.

Access to the provincial beach for vacationers from outside of the province will also depend on the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sidewalk debate: London, Ont., Civic Works Committee grants no exemption for any street – London

London, Ont., city council’s Civic Works Committee has voted against exempting any street that’s set to receive a new sidewalk this summer.

The debate, which took place during a virtual meeting Monday afternoon, heard both sides from members of city council as well as 31 delegates.

Eleven streets were set to get new sidewalks installed once underground infrastructure reconstruction takes place, but this didn’t sit well with some homeowners.

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Speaking at the meeting, more than 10 homeowners brought up the issue of tree removal that comes with installing new sidewalks.

“It appears that there are 14 trees on 13 properties slated for removal,” said a resident of Bartlett Crescent, one of the streets on the city’s sidewalk installation list.

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“We will be left with three trees on 13 properties… This is an unnecessary loss of trees that are integral to the charm and beauty of our landscape.”

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Icy sidewalk dispute in Saint John

Icy sidewalk dispute in Saint John – Mar 8, 2021

Others said the roads are safe for both pedestrians and drivers. One resident also brought up the mental health benefits that comes with a greater number of trees.

On the other hand, accessibility advocates argued sidewalks are vital to ensuring London is moving towards becoming more inclusive.

“Older adults with mobility challenges, young families pushing strollers… neither of whom should be on the street,” said Jay Menard, the chair of London city hall’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

“From city parks to sidewalk debates over the past few years, disabled Londoners have routinely been told to go somewhere else or to wait for the next time around,” added Jeff Preston, an assistant professor in disability studies at Western University.

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The debate also heard from a resident with a disability who disagrees with sidewalk installations.

S. Skelton lives in the St. Anthony Road area and has lived with the challenges of a traumatic brain injury for more than 20 years. St. Anthony Road is set to get sidewalks this summer.

“I speak for six per cent of households (in my neighbourhood) with a resident who meets the criteria of an Ontarian with a disability,” she said. “What we are unanimously opposed to is the assumption that sidewalks in our neighbourhood will improve our accessibility (and) safety.”

Skelton said sidewalks often cause more trouble for those with disabilities because ridges can make walking or wheeling uncomfortable and difficult. Snowy and icy conditions means sidewalks are unusable at times.

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S. Connolly, who lives in the Friars Way area expressed similar concerns. He’s the stepfather to a 21-year-old who uses a wheelchair.

“I am opposed to the sidewalks because (they) reduce Noah’s accessibility and they are a potential safety hazard.”

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“We have never (experienced) any issues or problems using the roadways… Just because we have no sidewalks doesn’t mean the neighbourhood is not accessible to all. In our neighbourhood, (the) quiet roads without sidewalks are more accessible.”

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Green access road prompts heated debate

Green access road prompts heated debate – Aug 22, 2018

Towards the end of the meeting, members of the Civic Works Committee voted against exempting any street that’s set to receive a new sidewalk.

Councillor Paul Van Meerbergen was the sole member of the committee that voted to grant exemptions for all streets.

Councillor Elizabeth Peloza also voted to grant an exemption for Bartlett Crescent only.

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The final decision goes to city council on March 23.

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The following streets are part of the city’s sideline installation project:

  • Abbey Rise
  • Elm Street
  • Friars Way
  • Imperial Road
  • Paymaster Avenue
  • St. Anthony Road
  • Tarbart Terrace
  • Bartlett Crescent
  • Doncaster Avenue
  • Doncaster Place

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Halifax wheelchair user ‘trapped’ in apartment due to 15-day-long elevator repair

A Halifax mom is advocating for her son with disabilities, who hasn’t been able to leave his apartment for more than two weeks, due to an out-of-order elevator.

Tracy Denney and her 30-year-old son Adam live on the third floor at 16 Caxton Close, with four flights of stairs standing between their apartment and the exit.

“I’m fed up,” Denney tells Global News.

Adam has spina bifida and has been wheelchair-bound since he was two years old.

The only elevator in their building broke down Feb 24. For more than two weeks, Adam has not been able to leave his apartment.

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Now, his mother says it’s having an impact on his physical and mental health.

“I understand that probably in the last year with COVID, a lot of people have been stuck in their house. But there’s a difference between being stuck in your house and being trapped,” Denney said.

“He’s actually physically not able to get out of the apartment.

“It’s mental health and panic attacks; he’s just overwhelmed by what’s going on.”

Denney also said Adam is now going onto week three of having to miss work because he cannot leave. She is a single mother, so this is having a financial impact on the family as well.

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She said this is not the first time the elevator has broken. She and her son moved into the building in 2005, but issues with the elevator arose in the last two years.

“It’s gone down many times, sometimes that’s days at a time,” said Denney.

She said the elevator broke on New Year’s Day in 2020 and stayed broken for nine days. Adam missed holiday dinners and a hockey games he sometimes coaches.

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Submitted by Tracy Denney.

Submitted by Tracy Denney

“We have been actively looking for a wheelchair-accessible apartment, and the problem is in the HRM, there’s no affordable, accessible housing. So we’re pretty well stuck.”

In the last 15 days, Denney said she’s made countless of phone calls to the owners of the building, operated by Doric Management, as well as the company in charge of fixing the elevator.

“I’m sort of just getting the run around because the elevator place doesn’t really tell me what’s going on.”

Having already unsuccessfully contacted medical services and the fire department in hopes of getting help, Denney said she’s exhausted her options.

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Advocates call for reversal of funding cuts for books for people with disabilities

Advocates call for reversal of funding cuts for books for people with disabilities

On Tuesday, Denney filed a complaint with the Residential Tenancies Program, also known as the tenancy board.

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“We’re just at our wit’s end. We don’t know what to do,” she said.

Doric Management declined an interview with Global News. In an email statement, the agency said the lengthy repair is out of their hands.

“Our repair company is working to complete the repairs on a timely basis. We regret the inconvenience that this is causing our tenants,” the statement read.

The company said it is aware of the issues an out-of-order elevator has caused tenants with mobility issues.

“The elevator is an amenity which helps many of our tenants on a daily basis. Any time it is out of commission for needed repairs it’s inconvenient and we recognize that,” the statement added.

“At the same time, repairs and maintenance are required for the continued safe operation of the elevator. We need to make sure the elevator is operating safely, and this sometimes means it is unavailable during repairs.”

An ‘out-of-order’ sign is seen at the 16 Caxton Close apartment building in Halifax.

Submitted by Tracy Denney

In response to a safety concern, Doric Management said: “Absolutely safety is a concern. This is why we need to maintain and repair the elevator to ensure it in safe working order.”

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As of Wednesday evening, the elevator was still out of order.

Denney said able-bodied people are just not aware of how difficult this is for her son.

“It would be like me removing the stairs and telling everybody ‘you have to stay in your apartment.’ I know that’s not something that would happen, but to him, that’s what’s happening,” Denney said.

“His way of exit and entry is gone.”

Denney says she knows she may be annoying to the property managers, but she is Adam’s only advocate.

“I’ll do anything to make sure he’s able to get in and out,” Denney said.

The Department of Service Nova Scotia stold Global News in an email that it “(does) not comment on complaints due to privacy of the individuals involved.”

“The Human Rights Commission may be able to provide information on the rights of persons with a disability,” the email read.

As for the complaint, the department said “a residential tenancies officer can offer to mediate the dispute or a hearing will be held and a decision made within 14 days.”

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Tracy and Adam Denney are scheduled to attend a Residential Tenancy hearing by phone on April 7.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Open House: Converting homes to safely age in place

The aging population spread of COVID-19 in care homes has lead to an increase in renovations on current homes to allow aging in place. One local company has been kept busy converting homes and especially bathrooms to safely allow people to stay in their homes longer.

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