Huron County Accessibility Crusader Tackles Bathrooms


Scott Miller CTV News London Videographer
Published Wednesday, June 9, 2021

BLYTH, ONT. –Julie Sawchuk has become somewhat of an accessible bathroom ‘crusader.’

“Building better bathrooms, that is kind of my thing,” says the Blyth mother of two.

Since losing the use of her legs, after being hit by passing motorist while cycling near Goderich in 2015, Julie Sawchuk has been tackling the sometimes uncomfortable world of bathroom accessibility.

During Accessibility Week, she toured an accessible, universal bathroom, she helped design, at the newest addition to Blyth’s Main Street, Sweets N Treats.

“It’s all the little things that make you go, oh yeah right, I never thought of it that way,” says Sawchuk.

Things like the placement of the emergency button, typical in public facilities.

“I’ve been in situations where I’ve actually been on the bathroom floor, and haven’t been able to reach the emergency call button. That’s just one of those things that people don’t understand the actual need for,” she says. Or having an open toilet paper roll.

“For someone that has limited dexterity in their fingers, they can’t actually grip the toilet paper. So, when you can see it and it’s on an open roll, you know exactly it is, giving you a greater opportunity to actually get a hold of the toilet paper,” she says.

The owners of the renovated building and bathroom, Colleen Jordan and Shane Yerema, were happy to work with Sawchuk, to make their new building as accessible as possible.

“You can have beauty and accessibility, as well. It doesn’t have to look institutional, it can be functional and beautiful,” says Jordan.

Sawchuk isn’t just helping Huron County businesses become more accessible, she’s currently working with Dyson on hand dryers.

Original at https://london.ctvnews.ca/huron-county-accessibility-crusader-tackles-bathrooms-1.5463170




Source link

‘Grave’ Safety Concerns From Accessibility Advocates Could Stop London Rollout of e-Scooters


Daryl Newcombe CTV News London Reporter
May 28, 2021

LONDON, ONT. — A pilot project that would bring e-scooter sharing to London streets got a rough ride from city hall’s Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC).

“We have very grave concerns about the accessibility issues this would cause,” explains Jay Menard, Chair of AAC.

Menard warns that e-scooters pose a danger to people with mobility or visual impairments because they travel quickly with little noise, and if parked improperly on sidewalks could become a barrier.

“Yes, these things can be enforced, but who is doing that? And at what cost? Who is paying for that?” he asks.

City staff are collecting feedback on a provincial pilot project that would permit electric scooters on London streets.

Adults could use an app to rent a battery-powered scooter for short trips within the central part of London and Western University.

E-scooters can travel up to 24 km/hr, but speeds can be internally limited in different geographic areas using GPS technology.

Participation in the provincial pilot project has been inconsistent.

E-scooters currently cruise many of the streets and paved pathways of Windsor and Ottawa, but Toronto has decided to opt-out, based on accessibility and safety concerns.

Bird Canada, which operates e-scooter sharing in Windsor, Ottawa, and other cities says the concerns raised by the advisory committee are not new, and can be addressed through recent technology advancements.

“Sidewalk riding detection technology lets the e-scooter knows when it is on a sidewalk and can gradually and safely come to a complete stop to discourage riding on sidewalks,” explains Chris Schafer of Bird Canada.

He adds that Bird Canada has a team of people to educate riders and address operational issues in its partnering cities.

Schafer says injuries are few, and there have been no deaths in Canada related to public e-scooter fleets.

He suggests London has the ability to avoid some of the challenges faced in cities that first adopted e-scooters three to five years ago.

“Learn from them, take their best practices, and implement them locally to address the valid concerns, that our friends in the accessibility community have,” he adds.

The Accessibility Advisory Committee is preparing a written response to the pilot project that will express their concerns to city council.

“Unless we get those answers in a satisfactory manner,” he explains. “We are not going to be supportive of this program.”

City staff will continue consulting with stakeholders before bringing a report to council in late summer.

If approved, e-scooters could be on London streets this fall or next spring.

Original at https://london.ctvnews.ca/grave-safety-concerns-from-accessibility-advocates-could-stop-london-rollout-of-e-scooters-1.5447483




Source link

Smiths Falls Mom at Risk of Homelessness Due to Lack of Affordable, Accessible Housing


The town has a ‘very limited supply’ of accessible units
By Evelyn Harford
Smiths Falls Record News
Thursday, April 15, 2021

For Courtney Preece, the issue of finding affordable housing has been compounded by her struggle to find a unit that is also accessible. Now, she and her six-year-old son, Grayson, are at risk of being homeless if they can’t find another place to rent before the end of May.

The home they have rented for four years has been sold and the mother and son are forced to find somewhere else to live.

“For 27 years I’ve called Smiths Falls home and now I’m facing having no home here and it terrifies me,” said Preece. “It makes me feel as a mother so guilty that because of me being in a wheelchair and there not being any accessible, affordable housing in this town that my son is now facing having no home through no fault of his own.”

The search for another place to live has left Preece defeated. She relies on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for her income. She said the money she receives is not enough to cover rent in a market that is becoming more and more unaffordable ” especially for people on fixed incomes.

Preece has used a wheelchair for nine years. In 2012, she was diagnosed with a rare spinal disease that left her lower body paralyzed. She said finding accessible housing has been a constant challenge. In each place that she’s lived, not one has been fully accessible ” relying on homemade ramps and makeshift accessibility improvements all built out-of-pocket.

Preece said when she does come across a unit that is fully accessible, they always seem to cost more.

“It’s not fair,” she said.

Preece said more needs to be done to ensure that what is provided through ODSP is enough to find accessible housing, especially in an environment where prices are rising and income is not. Preece said more truly accessible and affordable rental units are desperately needed in Smiths Falls and elsewhere.

“This is an issue in so many places,” she said.

Preece said that while she was offered a place in Carleton Place through emergency housing, she couldn’t take it since she relies on her family who lives in Smiths Falls to help her with her son and to do day-to-day tasks. Without transportation, Preece said she simply can’t move away from her support network.

Preece points out that there is only one apartment building in town with an elevator ” not including the new ones being built. That apartment is for people aged 50-plus. Preece looked to getting an apartment there because it’s wheelchair accessible, but was turned down because of her age and child.

In contemplating what being forced on the street would mean, Preece said she wouldn’t even be able to navigate as accessibility challenges follow her outside the home too.

“If I did have to live on the streets with my child, the streets aren’t even accessible,” she said.

Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow reports that there is a “very limited supply” of accessible units in town.

“The challenge facing Miss Preece is a stark reminder how the housing crisis in town is worsening and has no regard for specialized needs of our citizens,” he said.

Pankow said while more accessible units will be coming to town with new construction, it doesn’t help Preece and her family right now.

“It’s very concerning and although we can’t just create a new home for her, I am hopeful that a solution can be found before the end of May that keeps her and her family comfortably housed,” he said.

Pankow said the town’s soon-to-be-formed housing advisory committee will focus on a variety of issues, including the need for affordable, accessible units.

“Although this may make a difference in the future, we know this issue needs to be addressed,” he said.

This newspaper has also reached out to Lanark County for comment but have not yet received a response.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY

The housing affordability crisis continues to grow in Smiths Falls. Reporter Evelyn Harford wanted to find out what happens when the lack of affordable housing intersects with a low supply of accessible units. This story highlights the plight of one family searching for both accessible and affordable housing, which brings to light a crisis within a crisis.

Evelyn Harford is the reporter for the Smiths Falls Record News.

Original at https://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/10373528–it-terrifies-me-smiths-falls-mom-at-risk-of-homelessness-due-to-lack-of-affordable-accessible-housing/




Source link

Committee Vote Goes Against Residents Opposed to New Sidewalks


Civic works committee votes against granting sidewalk exemptions on 8 London streets Andrew Lupton , CBC News
Posted: Mar 15, 2021

After four hours of debate, London city council’s civic works committee voted on Monday to follow city policy and install sidewalks on a handful of residential streets despite strong opposition from residents.

So strong was the opposition that a special meeting was held to allow everyone a chance to have their say. More than 30 people appeared at the committee via video conference Monday afternoon to speak against new sidewalks on streets in their neighbourhood.

Residents argued the sidewalks aren’t needed on their quiet streets and that adding them won’t be worth the loss of mature trees.

Lila Kari lives on Doncaster Place, a small cul-de-sac in the Sherwood Forest neighbourhood with fewer than a dozen houses. She said a sidewalk proposed for one side of her street would be a detriment, not an upgrade.

“This would be a short, one-sided, disconnected sidewalk going nowhere to nowhere that would only serve three houses that don’t want it,” she told the committee.

However, this debate is about more than whether or not residents want the new sidewalks. The city has a number of policies that call for sidewalks to be added when streets are dug up for upgrades to sewer and water lines. The Complete Streets manual calls for sidewalks on both sides of the street wherever possible. The London Plan also calls for sidewalks to be added as a way to encourage walking and ensure accessibility and mobility.

London is also working to comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which calls for the entire province to become fully accessible by 2025.

This year, staff produced a list of eight streets slated to get sidewalks when work was performed.

Subdivisions built without sidewalks were common in the post-war period and many Londoners told councillors they prefer their neighbourhoods the way they are.

Anne-Marie Grantham spoke against adding a sidewalk on St. Anthony Road, a quiet residential street that runs between the banks of the Thames River and Riverside Drive.

Against ‘a blanket policy’

Grantham called on councillors to grant an exemption to the sidewalk policy, given that her street is lightly travelled and a sidewalk installed there won’t connect to any others.

“A blanket policy can’t possibly fit in all neighbourhoods,” she said. “There are sound reasons why exemptions are sought and why they should be granted.”

One speaker who argued in favour of adding sidewalks to every London street was Jeff Preston, a wheelchair user and academic who is also an accessibility advocate.

He said the sidewalk debate comes down to granting accessibility to those who’ve been denied it for so long.

“Installing sidewalks does not necessarily prevent people from using the road who prefer it, however not installing sidewalks does force everyone onto the road,” he said. “The enterprise of accessibility is not a one-size-fits all project. It’s really about creating multi-modal spaces for people with a variety of abilities and needs.”

After a few hours hearing opposition from residents, the debate shifted to the five members of the civic works committee. Other councillors joined the discussion as guests, mainly to give voice to sidewalk opponents who live in their wards. Phil Squire spoke in support of residents in Orchard Park and Sherwood Forest while Steve Lehman pointed to what he says are problems with a proposed sidewalk on Tarabart Terrace in Oakridge.

‘Ribbon of concrete’

Coun. Paul VanMeerbergen, who sits on civic works, said the plan to add a “ribbon of concrete” on Bartlett Crescent, a street set to get a sidewalk in his ward, has led to unanimous opposition.

“We’re not listening to the people, we’re just imposing, thinking that this is what’s good for them,” he said. VanMeerbergen voted against adding sidewalks on all the streets on the list. A vote to exempt Bartlett lost 1-4 with VanMeerbergen casting the lone vote in favour, while a vote to exempt the other streets from sidewalk policies fell 2-3 with Coun. Elizabeth Peloza and VanMeerbergen voting in favour.

Coun. Jesse Helmer tweeted during the debate that failing to add sidewalks to older streets “perpetuates exclusion.”

The debate will now move to full council at its March 23 meeting.

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/committee-vote-goes-against-residents-opposed-to-new-sidewalks-1.5950701




Source link

Sidewalk Opposition a ‘Decision to Exclude’: Accessibility Advisory Committee


Daryl Newcombe CTV News London Reporter
Published Wednesday, March 10, 2021

LONDON, ONT. –Accessibility advocates are pressing city council to stick to its sidewalk installation policy, in the face of mounting opposition from homeowners.

There’ll be a showdown next week between organizations fighting for more sidewalks, and neighbourhoods actively opposing their installation across lawns and driveways, at a special meeting of council’s Civic Works Committee.

“It’s an active decision to exclude,” says Jay Menard, Chair of the Accessibly Advisory Committee at city hall.

Menard asserts that – systemic ableism’ must be confronted with the same vigour as systemic racism.

He says ableism excludes many people, including Londoners with disabilities, the elderly, and parents with strollers.

“We’re telling them you’re not welcome in this community because we’re not willing to support the infrastructure that would dismantle the systemic ableism,” he adds.

But homeowners behind the well-supported petitions against sidewalks see it differently.

“They should be listening to the people living on the street,” says William Yovetich, who has lived on Tarbart Terrace in Oakridge Acres for 50 years.

His street will lose six boulevard trees to road reconstruction and sidewalk installation this summer.

He warns, “This is supposed to be the forest city. We are already losing so many trees.”

Menard responds, “If we make our communities inaccessible, we’re going to be known for something else.”

Most of the 11 residential streets in line for new sidewalks when reconstruction of their underground infrastructure occurs this summer have sent petitions and letters to council seeking an exemption.

“This street (Tarbart Terrace) doesn’t go anywhere,” says 37-year resident Joan Stewart. “I think they’re wasting taxpayer money on a sidewalk.”

“Does a sidewalk give you any more accessibility than a road with very little traffic?” rhetorically asks 40 year resident of Tarbart Terrace John Edgerton.

Although it’s under appeal, The London Plan requires sidewalks to be installed on both sides (or at least one side) of a street when its rebuilt.

Council can, however, grant exceptions.

Last year, council granted three exemptions after residents of Fox Mill Crescent, Camden Crescent and Runnymede Crescent raised concerns about the loss of boulevard trees.

“At the time, we expressed concern that this was setting a precedent,” recalls Menard. “Now we’re seeing that manifest itself in continued opposition on other streets.”

Menard adds that there are design solutions that may satisfy homeowners, but they come with a higher price tag.

“me that’s the cost of dismantling a systemic ableist society that we’ve developed.”

On Monday, the Civic Works Committee will hold a special meeting to hear from stakeholders.

Original at https://london.ctvnews.ca/sidewalk-opposition-a-decision-to-exclude-accessibility-advisory-committee-1.5342264




Source link

Disability Advocates Want Windsor Homeowners to Shovel Their Sidewalks, Consider Others


‘It makes you feel a little not respected or thought about’
CBC News
Posted: Feb 09, 2021

The past few days of snowfall have made it difficult for Danica McPhee, who uses a wheelchair, to go for walks or get around Windsor due to the number of sidewalks left unshovelled.

Having been stuck in the snow before, McPhee said she’s often discouraged from heading out in the winter to walk her dog or do other activities alone, out of concern that she might find herself in the “humiliating” situation again.

In Windsor, there’s a bylaw that requires homeowners and tenants to clear the snow in front of their house within 12 hours, yet some still don’t get it done.

And while the issue isn’t new, it’s become even more frustrating for people like McPhee who live with a disability.

“It just feels a little bit like you don’t matter and that’s a feeling we get every time we can’t enter a building and it hurts,” said McPhee, who works with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario.

“It’s difficult … I walk my dog every day, I’m assuming that I’m kind of known to the neighbourhood … and again it makes you feel a little not respected or thought about, even if that’s not the intention.”

McPhee added that the curb cuts, where the sidewalk dips down for someone to cross the street, often also gets covered by snow and she asks that the city be mindful of these spaces, along with bus stops.

Yet most of these accessibility issues don’t get recognized unless someone complains, McPhee said, adding that that’s not necessarily the best way to deal with these issues.

“That actually puts all the onus on the person who’s already being discriminated against to stand up for themselves and they just might not be able to do that,” she said, adding that active monitoring by the city might help.

As a result of snow and ice pile up, she’s unable to routinely walk her dog in the winter and has to send it to a daycare for proper exercise.

Despite the added cost this brings, she said when she comes across a stretch of unshovelled sidewalk she always thinks about the person in the home – whether they also have a disability or are elderly and can’t take off the snow themselves.

“I’m conflicted about it, I get so upset when I’m rolling over the snow and my fingers are freezing and I can’t move but then I wonder is it somebody with a disability in there? Are they trapped inside as well?” she said.

‘Inclusion is the gateway to independence’

But even then, the City of Windsor has a Snow Angels program where residents can call 311 to have someone voluntarily shovel their space if they can’t do it themselves.

Disability advocate Kevin McShan, who uses an electric-powered wheelchair, says he’s also gotten himself stuck in the snow and, like McPhee, has dealt with the issue for quite some time.

“You learn to be strategic I’ll tell you that much, you try to look at the most uncumbersome path and what I mean by that is when there’s less snow you try to aim your wheelchair and if you get stuck in the snow you hope you have enough horsepower to get out of it,” he said, adding that he also makes sure he goes out with a personal support worker or someone who can pull him out.

But what would help is if people took more of an initiative to think of others, he said.

“Inclusion is the gateway to independence so anything we can do to alleviate the concerns for people with disabilities I’m all for it,” he said.

“We’re all rolling in the same boat and one thing I always tell people is ‘if you don’t want to help me out, how about we trade places for a day’ and then they usually get the message.”

Original at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/disability-snow-advocates-sidewalk-1.5907266




Source link

Downtown Building’s Facelift Wins Award for Accessibility


By Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterThe Uxbridge Cosmos Thu., Dec. 17, 2020

Recent renovations to a busy downtown Uxbridge building have earned a regional Champion of Accessibility Award.

Durham Region’s Accessibility Advisory Committee recently presented the honour to 29 Toronto St., home to Pharmasave, the Toronto Street Medical Centre, Uxbridge Physiotherapy and several other businesses. The building has had a major facelift of late, adding many features that not only update the building, but make it more accessible, hence the award.

Brandon Bird, CEO of Bernard Cole Corporation, bought the building last year. Bird, who was born and raised in Uxbridge, says he was excited when the opportunity to own property in his home town came up.

“29 Toronto St. fit all the criteria I had, but needed a lot of tender, love and care to restore it to its original glory,” explains Bird. “We are currently undergoing a significant revitalization of the property, both inside and out which gave us several opportunities to improve access around the property.”

Bird was given the Champion of Accessibility award after renovating his building beyond legislation set out by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including replacing pathways, improving signage and widening doorways.

According to the official announcement from the Region, award recipients are businesses or services that have made an effort to identify, remove and prevent barriers for individuals living with a disability.

Bird says he’s pleased with the award, but is looking forward to further improvements on the building.

“We still have many more projects to go to get the property up to our standards. Over the next four months tenants and residents will continue to see improvements inside and out!”

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/12/17/downtown-buildings-facelift-wins-award-for-accessibility.html




Source link

Ontario Human Rights Commission Issues Statement on Accessible Housing


November 22, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the need for safe housing, Ontarians with disabilities have always lived with the harsh reality that their housing choices are extremely limited, chronically inaccessible and often substandard and unsafe.

One in seven Ontarians have a disability. Yet, Ontarians with disabilities routinely face discriminatory screening practices by landlords and blanket refusals to retrofit accessibility features when accommodation needs arise. People with disabilities are regularly forced to file legal claims simply to get landlords to remove barriers and build safer environments; for example, litigating the installation of ramps, accessible parking, automated doors, brighter lighting, widened entrances, handrails, switching floors, etc. These are just a few of the types of claims that have gone before human rights tribunals and landlord and tenant boards.

For over a decade, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has pointed out that the onus is not just on housing providers to respect the right to accessibility. All levels of government, community planners and housing developers must promote disability rights by committing to universal design for any new housing construction. Accessible housing is not a panacea for eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities, but is a critical step toward facilitating safety, security and independence.

On National Housing Day, the OHRC calls on the Province to amend Ontario’s Building Code Regulation to require all units in new construction or major renovation of multi-unit residences to fully meet universal accessibility standards. The OHRC also calls on municipalities to prioritize universal design construction, consistent with their obligations under the Code. Government and housing providers must work together to make sure that new developments are fully inclusive, because Ontarians deserve no less.

“Universal design” makes housing accessible and adaptable not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.

A 2019 Angus Reid Institute study found that over half of Canadians surveyed were concerned about their home being inaccessible as their family aged. Universal design allows people to age with dignity ” in their own homes and communities ” without costly retrofits, searching for new housing or being forced into residential care.

The economic and social benefits of aging in our own homes are well established. The pandemic has exposed the unfortunate truth that residential care, while necessary for some people, is an expensive option that carries significant risks.

Universal design isn’t just a human rights ideal

Original at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/ohrc-statement-national-housing-day-november-22-accessible-housing-makes-social-economic-sense




Source link

New Real Estate Features Help Identify Accessible Housing


By Quinn Ritzdorf News-Press NOW

The Heartland Multiple Listing Service, an informational housing system used by real estate agents in the St. Joseph and Kansas City area, has added a more detailed filtering system for accessibility features.

Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant housing is difficult to find for the elderly and those with physical disabilities, which is why Kenton Randolph, the owner of Randolph Seating & Mobility, partnered with Berkshire Hathaway as an accessibility specialist to come up with a solution by updating the filters in the MLS.

“There is a growing need for ADA-accessible housing, not only in St. Joe, but in multiple communities,” Randolph said. “So as people age, a lot of them are wanting to age in place, therefore desiring to have a home that will allow them to do that.”

Randolph said there are two issues with ADA accessible housing ” inventory and identifying. This new feature will help with the identifying problem by helping those with physical disabilities find the home that’s right for them.

“Somebody comes to a real estate agent and asks about buying a home,” Randolph said. “Then the agent would be able to go into the matrix and search it by looking for a house that has wheelchair entry, accessible bathroom or stairlift.”

The previous MLS only stated if the entry of a house was accessible, but didn’t include anything inside the house. The updated filters include door widths, bathroom accessibility, stairlifts and ceiling tracks, to name a few.

“So in order to help my clients try to find more accessible homes, the MLS offers them an avenue to go in and select what modifications this home may have that is accessible ” ramps, smart technology, bathroom handicap accessibility, kitchens, bedrooms, so forth,” Randolph said. “So it gives a lot more expandability.”

The new MLS was six months in the making and followed the example of Northwest MLS in Oregon.

The Northwest and Heartland MLS are leading the way in accessible housing. They are one of the few systems in the entire country with detailed accessibility features.

Randolph said the goal is for all MLS systems to have these detailed filters, because it provides an easier way for those with disabilities to find housing with the proper needs.

“Everybody has unique needs,” Randolph said. “Not all people require the same amount of accessibility. Some of them don’t need an overhead lift in a home, so you can narrow that technology down.”

This updated MLS is new, and Randolph said real estate agents need to use the accessibility features for it to be effective. But if it is utilized, the identifying problems surrounding accessible housing could face a possible solution.

Original at https://www.newspressnow.com/news/local_news/business/new-real-estate-features-help-identify-accessible-housing/article_c32cdce0-2ad1-11eb-b8d5-a37c565da9c9.html




Source link

Smiths Falls Accessibility Advocate Applauds Beckwith Street Improvements


The town has a newly formed accessibility committee
By Evelyn Harford
Smiths Falls Record News
Friday, November 13, 2020

For Lucie Bingley, the redevelopment of Beckwith Street isn’t just about esthetics, it’s about an improvement in accessibility downtown.

As a person with spina bifida, Lucie uses a walker to help with mobility and balance.

The wider sidewalks and curbless design employed as part of Beckwith Street’s redevelopment means she can move around easier downtown.

“Anything that doesn’t have a curb is wonderful,” she said. “It’s very evident that accessibility requirements are a consideration for council and the town. I think they certainly have done a good job.”

Mary Pat Bingley, Lucie’s mom, explained that before the redesign, the parking configuration meant they’d have to get Lucie’s walker out into traffic. With the new design, the walker can be unloaded more safely. An added bonus: Lucie doesn’t need to head down to the nearest intersection from where her car was parked to access the sidewalk via the ramp. Previously, curbs would limit where she could access the sidewalks.

Lucie explained that with the redesign, it’s also easier to get into some stores downtown, as the sidewalks are more level with business entrances. Before, she said, it was “quite difficult” to get into some places.

“That has really changed,” she said.

Lucie explained that previously, she could do it with assistance, but she feels she has more independence now.

“I feel a lot more confident with it,” she said.

The Record News met with Lucie in downtown Smiths Falls to check out the improvements to accessibility and explore what barriers remain. As we walked from the old post office at the corner of Russell Street East and Market Street North, it became abundantly clear why wider sidewalks in town are needed. As people approached Lucie with her walker, there wasn’t an easy flow. Either those approaching, or our group needed to move over to let the other party pass.

“The sidewalks being widened are very crucial,” said Lucie. “People in wheelchairs, particularly a larger one, would really need that clearance to be able to get down the street and feel safe.”

While crossing at the intersection of Beckwith and Russell, the light turned red just before we could make it to the other side. While standing on that street corner, Mary Pat pointed out why accessibility issues are so important.

“There’s more people than you think,” she said motioning to others on the main street using walkers and scooters.

In her 27 years, Lucie said, people and institutions are now starting to take accessibility issues more seriously and they’re coming to the forefront of discussion and decision-making.

“I really do see that as an evolving discussion that does come up a lot more now,” she said. “People are really realizing their role in how they can contribute to accessibility issues and what can I do to help.”

Lucie is the chair of the newly formed accessibility committee in town. It’s a committee that will help advise council on accessibility issues. The committee is working to improve the accessibility of Smiths Falls by removing existing barriers and by preventing new barriers from being created.

Lucie said when most people think about accessibility, they think of wheelchairs.

“I think it’s really important to know that there are different kinds of disabilities ” visual, audio,” she said. Lucie said those diverse voices and needs are represented on the committee.

“It’s great to see the different perspectives,” she said.

Troy Dunlop, the town’s director of public works and utilities, reported that the redesign incorporated new accessibility elements, including accommodation for side and rear loading accessible vans, barrier-free roadside parking (which includes no vertical barriers between parked cars and adjacent sidewalks), tactile markers for persons who are visually impaired, audible signals and high visibility crosswalks.

“I am very pleased to hear that accessibility improvements are well received in the downtown,” he said.

Dunlop said that town staff sent out invitations and assembled a group of stakeholders in the accessibility community and held a focused workshop last year, which helped inform an improved design of Beckwith Street.

Dunlop explained that the designated accessible spaces are located in areas where vehicles can readily enter and exit the spaces conveniently and the roadside environment could accommodate the space requirements for exclusive off-loading area for ramps.

The designated spaces are situated in the first parallel parking spaces on your right in the direction that drivers enter into each block, Dunlop noted. There are two designated accessible spaces per downtown block ” six in total.

This is the same number of designated spaces prior to the redevelopment, at which time none of the spaces accommodated dimensions or functionality for side-loading or rear-loading accessible vans.

As for the timing of the lights on Beckwith Street, Dunlop said the three signalized intersections on Beckwith are still working off of the old traffic controller systems.

“The new controllers that will work with the audible upgrades will be installed in the near future,” he said. “The delay on this work is directly related to the delay in obtaining the black traffic controller boxes.”

Dunlop said once the controllers are swapped out, the timing will be changed and the pedestrian crossings will be timed accordingly. “Regretfully, that step cannot be carried out right now,” he said. “In all cases, the timing is developed to meet the guidelines of the Ministry of Transportation.”

To learn more about the town’s accessibility committee visit: http://www.smithsfalls.ca/government/committees-of-council.

Original at https://www.insideottawavalley.com/news-story/10264979-smiths-falls-accessibility-advocate-applauds-beckwith-street-improvements/




Source link