Halifax research group creates app to help break barriers for those living with disabilities

A research group in Halifax is trying to make the city more inclusive to residents and visitors.

PEACH Research works to promote equity, accessibility and health in urban design and planning practices. It’s part of Dalhousie University’s school of planning and consists of faculty members, students and partners developing and executing projects to help design a better place for Haligonians to live, work and play.

One of those partners is Halifax-based non-profit reachAbility. It provides support and accessible programs to individuals facing barriers to inclusion and community participation. Each year, it hosts National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) to celebrate and recognize contributions made by people living with disabilities.

“Everyone in Nova Scotia and in Canada will have had, has or will have a disability,” says Tova Sherman, CEO and co-founder of reachAbility.

“Let’s find a reason to celebrate inclusion and the incredible things that people with disabilities achieve every single day in their workplace, in their lives, with their families and with their children.”

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During NAAW, the two groups hosted a virtual event on how to build a more accessible city. CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment was hosted by Melanie Goodridge, pre-employment support navigator for reachAbility, and PEACH researchers Kate Clarke and Katherine Deturbide. The panel covered accessibility standards and barriers faced in the built environment, and highlighted their latest app, the CANdid Access web map.

The app allows users to share and access photos and information about the accessibility in their community.

“Take a picture of something that’s accessible/inaccessible,” Goodridge explains. “Then you give a little blurb on why and then it’s uploaded and put onto a map.”

The photos and information submitted by users of CANdid are added to the access map and can help those living with disabilities to navigate – or even avoid – certain parts of the city. Unmarked crosswalks, paved park pathways, construction zones and sidewalk conditions are some examples of what users may find on CANdid.

“It’s just a really great way to show features that are accessible versus features that are inaccessible,” says Goodridge. “You get a visual of how we can make it better and how we can change to meet the standards by 2030 of the Accessibility Act for Nova Scotia.”

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The Accessibility Act, passed in 2017, plans to improve standards for public buildings, streets, sidewalks, shared spaces and education. The standards are expected to roll out in 2022.

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The hope is that the information collected through CANdid will one day land on the desks of provincial government officials who can make a difference.

“Nova Scotia does have some big targets to reach by 2030,” says Goodridge. “A lot of the work that the folks are doing at PEACH Research is a great way to start and an easy way for all of us to understand and digest what needs to happen so that moving forward, we can engage in our government, we can engage on a local level to see those changes being made.”

NAAW runs from May 30 to June 5. It is free and open to everyone and is available to access any time through the reachAbility website.  CANdid Access and Research for an Accessible Environment is available to watch through the reachAbility YouTube channel.




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