Chris Marks loves his hometown, Victoria, but he can only explore so much of it.
After a spinal injury over a decade ago, Marks gets around using an electric wheelchair. Every day he encounters design flaws that stop him from getting where he wants to go: things likes stairs, curbs, and even raised doorways get in his way.
He’s been advocating for more accessibility in Victoria. Now, B.C. is asking the public to help write new legislation that would make the province more accessible.
To Marks, it’s not just about people with disabilities.
“We’re all in this together. It’s not [just] a special interest group. It’s … for everybody at any age. Any healthy person could have an injury. A mom could have a stroller, trying to get on a bus or to a business. This is everybody.”
He understands that some changes would be expensive — so he’d like to see grants provided to help businesses upgrade.
Different kinds of accessibility
Elizabeth Lalonde, who is blind, sees accessibility another way. She says it’s often about access to information: people who are visually impaired use special tools to read websites, and if those websites aren’t designed properly, they can’t get the information or the services they need.
“So, for example you could be going on a government website and you get through half of it, say a form, but it doesn’t work for the rest of it.”
Both Lalonde and Marks are also looking for the legislation to enshrine the rights of people with disabilities — so that they don’t have to fight for accessible buildings or access to housing or employment.
Shane Simpson, the minister of social development and poverty reduction, says his government is focusing on five main areas of accessibility: employment, service delivery, information and communication, built environment, and transportation.
But he also wants to hear from British Columbians with disabilities.
“I’ll be very interested to see whether there’s advice to us to add to that list.”
Community town halls take place across the province this fall, and online consultation is open until Nov. 29.