Survey finds many buildings not accessible to disabled

  • Jun. 30, 2008 12:00 p.m.

Out of 103 Queen Charlotte buildings surveyed, only nine are fully accessible to people with disabilities, according to a report prepared for the village council. The report noted that 63 of these buildings are somewhat accessible, meaning a person in a wheelchair could possibly get up the ramp, but may still need help getting in the door. The report was prepared by Leslie Johnson as part of the province’s Measuring Up program designed to assist municipalities to assess the degree to which those with disabilities are active participants in community life. Washroom accessibility is another concern. Even if a person in a wheelchair can enter the building, they can’t always get into the washroom there. According to the report, traffic flow and parking are both problematic in Queen Charlotte, but when it comes to handicapped parking, the situation is critical. The high school, hospital and medical clinic are the only facilities with designated handicapped parking. Places without designated parking, like the Government Agent’s office, can present a challenge for the handicapped. “. a person requiring handicapped parking would need to go to the Government Agent to apply to get the appropriate signs for the vehicle. But they might not be able to park there and access the building,” says the report. As well as assessing buildings, Ms Johnson conducted interviews with several people regarding access issues. She found that other challenges affect people’s ability to get around town, including physical, visual, mental, emotional, and financial ones. Some have low literacy, and others could be fragile, elderly or obese. Not all conditions are life-long, but still present challenges, such as for those who’ve undergone hip or knee surgery. One person’s post-surgery account included these words: “When I returned home to Queen Charlotte, there was no public service (like Handy Dart in Vancouver) that could transport me and a wheelchair. Until I learned how to walk with my walker I was transported around by many friends and acquaintances. Without them, and without the home delivery service of City Centre, I would have been without groceries.” The report recommends involving those with disabilities in community planning and specifically offers these and more recommendations: 1) remove the concrete steps from in front of the old credit union to create a continuous sidewalk in downtown. 2) ask the regional library to provide better wheelchair access to public computers. 3) Encourage businesses to incorporate accessibility features and handicapped parking.