One in five Calgarians lives with some form of physical disability. As a number of Calgary’s accessibility strategists and consultants have noted to me, the majority of the rest of the population are “temporarily abled”. As we age, we are likely to face conditions that make navigating the world more challenging— whether it be physically, cognitively and/or medically. Even in our “prime” many people will encounter a temporary disability—for example a broken arm, a knee surgery, a cancer diagnosis or a brain injury.
Right now many Calgarians continue to face additional challenges finding employment, accessing services like transit and neighbourhood amenities, and participating in social activities because they live with a physical disability. When we improve physical accessibility in Calgary, we will not only increase quality of life for Calgarians, but also workforce participation, and economic investment.
This is why it is so important that we intentionally design, manage and maintain our city to include everyone. It is critical to also look at ways we can retrofit and upgrade existing services, buildings and infrastructure to improve accessibility, social inclusion and more.
Here are 11 ways I believe we can make Ward 11 and Calgary more accessible*:
- Existing City Facilities: Evaluate and update aging City facilities in our Ward to ensure they meet current accessibility bestpractices. For example, the ramp at the Southwood library is very steep and has limited room for turning for those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
- New City Facilities: For all new City facilities, an accessibility consultant should be mandatory and included at all stages of planning and development. Sign off from this role should be a requirement at multiple stages of the project to ensure accessibility best practices are met and not treated as optional. With the current building codes not adequately addressing accessibility, we should be deferring to best practices to ensure we are leading by example when it comes to accessibility, and not relying on what is known to be outdated policy.
- Consultation: Regularly consult the community though the Advisory Committee on Accessibility and other working groups to ensure their voices and lived experiences are represented in all areas of city planning and service offerings.
- Housing: Ensure there is a range of housing options in communities (one story, multi-family, single family, etc) to ensure that people have options at all stages of life and with a range of mobility. Work with other levels of government to ensure there is also an adequate inventory of accessible affordable housing.
- Calgary Access: Review to determine how to make this service a more reliable, efficient option for Calgarians who depend on it for day to day transportation to work, medical appointments, leisure activities and more. Explore other options if necessary to ensure all Calgarians have options to safely get where they need to go.
- Snow clearing: Proper and timely cleaning of streets without sidewalks, bus stops, intersections, sidewalks across alley driveways and beside parks.
- Curb cuts and road crossings: Ensure these are safe for users (ie: don’t send people out into traffic, make sure there is enough time to safely cross etc).
- Doors: This may seem like a small thing but by replacing doors that are heavy and awkward to navigate for seniors and those with mobility challenges to operate, we are ensuring that all Calgarians have reasonable, equal access to city amenities and services. Examples of concern include the doors at Central Library, the washroom doors at South Glenmore Park as well as C-Train transit gates in numerous spots across the ward and city.
- Public washrooms: Make more public washrooms available and make more of them gender neutral. This will assist those who need washrooms more frequently to feel comfortable using transit and park spaces. Gender neutral washrooms are important for a number of reasons, including facilitating those who require caregiver assistance who may not share their gender.
- Accessing city services: Review access to city services and processes (phone, website, mobile apps, in-person) to identify and address barriers for those with hearing loss, vision impairment and mobility challenges.
- C-Train stations: Make updates to existing Ward 11 C-Train stations to improve accessibility including (but not limited to):
-Closer, more direct connection between trains and bus areas for those with mobility challenges
-Curb cuts at stops and station lots
-Reliable escalators that go both up AND down
Accessibility is more than a policy or building specification—it involves fostering a sense of belonging so people with disabilities can thrive. We will have a stronger economy and healthier, happier residents if 20% of our populations can better participate to their full potential - in the workforce, in the community and with the City. Better accessibility benefits us all and has a demonstrated social and economical return on investment. Universal access should be considered whenever we are investing in and planning infrastructure, transportation, facilities, and City processes/policy. This will ensure Calgary is a prosperous, liveable city for all.