The ramp that zigzags across the steps at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver will not be modified to address accessibility concerns because of the “architectural significance of the site.”
Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng says the ramp, which was designed in the 1970s by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, is too steep to safely navigate in a wheelchair or while pushing a stroller.
Cheng says the ramp is also a tripping hazard for people with visual impairments because the stairs are all the same colour, which makes it difficult to determine where one step ends and the next one begins.
“A lot of people use architectural significance to justify not making any changes, but historically it has not been a problem for many, many buildings,” he said.
“The Louvre in Paris has more historical significance than Robson Square, but they have changed a lot of things over the years.”
Any changes to the design would have to be approved by the provincial government.
The province conducted accessibility audits of Robson Square in 2010 and 2018, both of which determined the stair ramps may be difficult for some people to use.
Despite the findings, the B.C. government will not alter the design.
“There are no plans to update the ramps and as such they should be primarily considered ornamental,” the Ministry of Citizens’ Services said in an emailed statement.
“Access to the building can be attained through a number of other means.”
The province says there is signage to direct people to more than 20 elevators that are located at Robson Square, but more signs and assistance for people with a variety of disabilities will soon be added to the site.
Cheng says he welcomes the changes but he doesn’t think they go far enough.
“The signage definitely has to be better,” Cheng said.
“For some reason, people think you automatically know where everything is.”
Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War.
Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was always close to the architect’s heart.
“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.
“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”