© Dave Stewart/The Guardian
Helena Reeves and Ryan Bulger, members of Charlottetown's Civic Board for Persons with Disabilities, say navigating around the city can be a challenge when road work is taking place or snow blocks some of those roads. A report released Wednesday suggests public works not only inform the public about road work and snow removal, but communicate which sidewalks are affected and recommend alternate routes for the disabled.
Cracking down on people who park illegally in disabled parking spots, cleaning snow off sidewalks faster and quiet rooms are just three examples of how Charlottetown could become more barrier free.
The city’s Civic Board for Persons with Disabilities released a report and recommendations on Wednesday for council to consider as it works toward the goal of transforming Charlottetown into a barrier-free zone.
It follows a brainstorming forum that included various city departments and people with disabilities.
“It’s a huge undertaking to be able to look at so many different angles. The willingness is there (from the city), the desire to help and the fact they want to listen to the public, I think, is great,’’ said Helena Reeves, a member of the board.
Larger fines for people who park illegally in disabled spots is one recommendation but the report also points out that snowplows can be offenders to, sometimes dumping snow at the end of the street where disabled spots are often located, blocking people from using them.
Ryan Bulger, a member of the board who uses a wheelchair, said accessible sidewalks is a big issue for him, especially in winter.
“Maybe a little bit of awareness in terms of the sidewalks and roads . . . during bad weather times,’’ Bulger said.
He’d like to see the city not only communicate to the public when roads are shut down for a public works issue but sidewalks that may be affected as well, and post alternate routes.
Reeves, the mother of a son with autism, also points to areas of the report calling for quiet spaces, soothing colours for those who may be sensitive to light and embrace loop technology that eliminates background noise for the hearing impaired.
Marcia Carroll, executive director of the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities, says the city is showing real leadership by hosting a public forum and releasing a report.
“They’ve started a dialogue. What they continue to do right is have a comprehensive report. What they need to do going forward is create an action plan (and) a monitoring system that can actually check to see if any of these recommendations are being met,’’ Carroll said.
“There needs to be a three-year plan that looks at long-term goals with budget implications but there also needs to be short-term goals where we can start to move some of these things forward right away.’’
Carroll said the big ticket item for her is removing the notion many people have that those with a disability are limited in their ability.
“With a level playing and the right access, people with disabilities can do and participate in and be included in anything the city does. I think we’re starting to see that philosophy, that mindset changing and we’re seeing action starting to happen.’’