Posts Tagged "Accessible"

31May

New supports for students with disabilities make education more accessible |BC Gov News

by admin

Students with disabilities enrolled at public post-secondary institutions are receiving more supports to help them succeed in their studies and train for a range of in-demand careers.

“Every British Columbian deserves the opportunity to achieve their career dreams and goals,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “We’re empowering students with accessibility challenges to pursue post-secondary training and education to reach their goals, get good-paying jobs and fully participate in B.C.’s strong, resilient economy.”

The Province is providing additional support to three programs that facilitate accessible education across public post-secondary institutions. The Academic Communication Equity (ACE), Centre for Accessible Post-Secondary Education Resources (CAPER) and Program for Institutional Loan of Adaptive Technology (PILAT) help students with accessibility challenges train for in-demand jobs, including those in the technology and trades sectors.

“Almost 25% of adults in B.C. identify as living with a disability. That means a potentially large number of people struggle with unnecessary barriers to training and education,” said Dan Coulter, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility. “We remain committed to building a more accessible and inclusive B.C., and these three new programs are a great step towards that goal.”

The ACE program supports accessible post-secondary education for students who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind and attending, or planning to attend, college or university in B.C.

The CAPER program provides alternative-learning-format resource materials, such as digital audio books, large print texts, electronic texts and other suitable formats to students and instructors.

The PILAT program supports post-secondary students that require specialized adaptive technology and/or software, such as TypeWell Transcriber and XamBox computer technology.

The $250,000 in additional funding towards these three programs will support approximately 3,000 students with disabilities at public post-secondary institutions. This additional support addresses an increase in demand and will help these students succeed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Prior to the pandemic, B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook estimated 861,000 jobs will need to be filled over the next 10 years. These ranged from trades, technology and tourism, to health care, management and business. Some level of post-secondary education or training will be required for about 80% of those job openings.

Approximately 71,000 students received federal/provincial student financial assistance through StudentAid BC in 2019-20, totalling $768 million. This included 4,800 students with disabilities.

The Province has proclaimed May 30 to June 5, 2021, as B.C.’s fourth AccessAbility Week, to promote inclusion and accessibility, while also celebrating the people in the disability community who are working to identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. AccessAbility Week is also nationally recognized.

A backgrounder follows.

28Apr

Legislation will build a more accessible, inclusive B.C.

by admin

Neil Belanger, executive director, BC Aboriginal Network on Disability Society

“The Indigenous peoples of Canada experience a disability rate significantly higher than that of the non-Indigenous population of Canada and face systemic barriers limiting their ability to be active members of their community, both socially and economically. The creation of new accessibility legislation is a positive step to begin to address some of these barriers, and in doing so, create a better future of opportunity and inclusion for all people living with disabilities.”

Helaine Boyd, co-executive director, Disability Alliance BC

“Disability Alliance BC is looking forward to engaging in the implementation of this legislation, particularly to ensure that the development of regulations and standards will address accessibility with a cross-disability lens, and which will echo across various sectors including housing, education, employment and business.”

Doramy Ehling, CEO, Rick Hansen Foundation

“A more accessible B.C. will ensure people of all abilities can participate in the places we live, work, learn and play. We look forward to this important legislation and a province, country and world where everyone can go everywhere.”

Chris McBride, executive director, Spinal Cord Injury BC; executive director, BC Paraplegic Foundation; chair, Spinal Cord Injury Canada Executive Directors Council

“The provincial government’s commitment to improving access, inclusion and full participation for all in communities throughout B.C. is clearly evident through the extensive community engagement it undertook during the development of this new legislation. Spinal Cord Injury BC welcomed the opportunity to work with our government and community organization partners to ensure the experiences, perspectives and wisdom of people with physical disabilities and their families were reflected. With the historic introduction of B.C.’s new accessibility legislation, a critical step has been taken toward making B.C. the best place for people with disabilities and their families to live, work and play.”

Sarah McCrea, executive director, The Prince George Brain Injured Group

“1.5 million Canadians live with acquired brain injury, which is close to 4% of the population. By 2031, traumatic brain injury is expected to be among the most common neurological conditions affecting Canadians, along with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and epilepsy. When we look at promoting accessibility and brain injury, the scope reaches far beyond physical aids, such as ramps or accessible washrooms. There needs to be a societal shift to encourage awareness and acceptance of this disability; that a person who experiences aphasia (difficulty speaking) is not met with impatience or assumptions of intoxication because of slurred or slow speech, but with compassion and understanding that it may take a bit longer. Or that a person who experiences poor memory may forget to don their mask is not a purposeful act of neglect and a reminder or mindfully placed signage would be beneficial. This legislation is a step forward to a world where people with brain injuries can not only live but thrive.”

Jonny Morris, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, B.C. Division (CMHA BC)

“Stigma is one of the biggest barriers for people living with mental health and substance-use related disabilities trying to access services. We also know that stigma is rooted in negative attitudes and behaviours against a particular group and a lack of awareness, which all produce real consequences in the lives and well-being of people affected. CMHA BC is encouraged that the accessible British Columbia act will address attitudinal barriers to disabilities. This will have important impacts for the people we serve. We are hopeful that this legislation will provide the necessary changes to reduce stigma and design inclusive services so that the populations we serve can have equal access.”

Sheila Pither, president, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C.

“For me, increases in accessibility really translate into gaining freedom. That is precious to those who are trying hard to maintain, or perhaps improve, their independence. As I grow older, it seems that loss of whatever kind is frequent, and gain rather rare. So to have increased accessibility is quite a wonderful feeling, for it is a signal that our society understands the need to maximize the ability of people to thrive.”

Lisa Beecroft and Robin Silvester, co-chairs, The Presidents Group

“The Presidents Group believes that greater accessibility will provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to access higher education, secure a job, as well as enjoy leisure and cultural activities. Greater accessibility will provide more opportunities for employment, solutions for employers and stimulate economic growth.”

Rob Sleath, president, Access for Sight Impaired Consumers

“In April 2016, when Barrier-Free BC first called upon the B.C. legislature to create and enact legislation designed to remove barriers for British Columbians with disabilities, it was a vision of independence and inclusion for the hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. It was a vision of hope, independence and inclusion. Today, that vision begins its journey to becoming a provincewide reality through the first reading of the accessible B.C. act, which will benefit every British Columbian not just those who currently have a disability, but also those who will acquire a debilitating condition or disability as they age. We applaud the introduction of this act and see a more welcoming, accessible and inclusive British Columbia as venues, services and programs become barrier free and inclusive throughout the province.”

Forrest Smith, president, Greater Vancouver Association of the Deaf and BC Deaf Accessibility Caucus

“As a linguistic and cultural minority, the deaf community applauds the provincial government’s decision to recognize sign languages and sees this as a significant step toward ensuring equitable access and inclusion for deaf British Columbians.” 

Tim Stainton, director, Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship, University of British Columbia

“Inclusion requires access, and this new legislation is a major step in fostering a British Columbia that is welcoming for everyone, including those citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We at the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship look forward to working with government and community partners to get this right.”

Christopher T. Sutton, CEO, Wavefront Centre for Communication Accessibility

“We are pleased to see the various standards that have been proposed for development; relating to delivery of services, employment, information and communication, and health, which will make a difference in the lives of all people in British Columbia and will break down barriers. Wavefront Centre is also thrilled that the government joins a small number of other jurisdictions around the world in recognizing sign language as the language of people who are culturally deaf.”

Karla Verschoor, executive director, Inclusion BC

“Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2010. Inclusion BC is pleased about this new legislation designed to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities. We now have the long-awaited legislative framework to bring the UNCRPD to life in a meaningful way. As we begin to address the deeply rooted inequities in our province, we are encouraged there is a focus on addressing the existing ableism in our systems. Inclusion BC is fully committed to working with our government to expand our collective understanding of accessibility and inclusion for all.”

Tania Vrionis, vice president, community, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

“B.C.’s new accessibility legislation is an important step in our collective efforts to remove barriers for British Columbians who live with a disability – including episodic or invisible disabilities. To maintain independence, people with episodic disabilities such as multiple sclerosis must be able to participate fully in their communities, have opportunity for employment and have access to public buildings, housing and transportation. We applaud the Government of B.C. for making progress in achieving the goal of accessibility for all B.C. residents.”

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC)

“For many years, UBCIC has advocated for Indigenous persons with disabilities to be heard and to receive greater support and recognition of their human rights and basic needs in British Columbia. Indigenous persons with disabilities often face barriers and disadvantages causing hardship, marginalization in accessing social supports and poverty. Legislative reform to better serve persons with disabilities is long overdue. We are glad to see the Province taking this step with the introduction of accessibility legislation, and we applaud the specific provisions in the proposed law to build in the input of Indigenous peoples in the development of accessibility standards. UBCIC shares the view that meaningful work for persons with disabilities must be grounded in and fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a human rights approach.”

7Apr

Funding keeps income tax-filing assistance accessible

by admin

People with disabilities and other barriers will continue to receive free help filing their income tax and accessing tax credits and benefits, thanks to $1.18 million in provincial funding.

Disability Alliance B.C. (DABC) has been operating the Tax Assistance and Information program (Tax AID) since 2015, providing free community-based income tax filing services for persons with disabilities and persons with persistent multiple barriers throughout British Columbia.

DABC works with partners Together Against Poverty Society, Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society and the Active Support Against Poverty Society to ensure people around the province can receive this support. The new funding will help the program run for an additional three years.

“Making B.C. more accessible for everyone includes improving access to things like financial resources,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “I am very happy the Tax AID program can continue to support people through what is often a complicated process, ensuring that they receive the benefits or financial supports they are entitled to.”

It is not uncommon for people receiving income assistance or disability assistance to have incomes below the poverty line, and they often face significant barriers to accessing additional financial resources through tax filing. The services provided through Tax AID can help people access tax credits, income tax refunds and additional benefits such as Registered Disability Savings Plan grants and bonds.

The Tax AID program has been able to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic without disruption. This has been especially helpful for those on income or disability assistance who are faced with more complicated taxes this year due to provincial and federal emergency measures supporting them during the pandemic.

Government continues to develop B.C.’s first comprehensive accessibility legislation and remains committed to working with the disability community to build a more accessible, inclusive future where all people have equal access to opportunities.

Quotes:

Dan Coulter, Parliamentary Secretary for Accessibility –

“Filing taxes shouldn’t be a barrier to additional financial assistance. By supporting DABC’s Tax AID program, we are making sure those British Columbians who require a little extra help filing their taxes receive it, and they receive it free of charge.”

Karen Martin, executive director, operations, and project co-ordinator, Indigenous Women, Disability and Violence Project, Disability Alliance BC (DABC) –

“DABC is incredibly grateful to the ministry for its ongoing support of the Tax AID program. Thanks to our successful community partnerships, Tax AID is able to help people with disabilities in four regions of the province. The program has supported over 5,000 unique clients, distributed nearly 10,000 self-help guides and brochures, and delivered workshops to over 350 people. The people helped through the program benefit from greater financial security, stability and an increased sense of well-being that results from getting caught up with their income tax filing, which makes them eligible for other benefits.”

Susan and Richard, a couple helped by Tax Aid –

“Having gotten our many tax returns up to date is a huge burden off our shoulders, and we could not have done this without you. Your patience with us and your kind-hearted willingness to go way above and beyond is appreciated more than you can imagine.”

Quick Facts:

  • Since 2018, Tax AID has served over 5,200 clients and helped them to access over $9.73 million in income tax benefits.
  • In 2017, there were an estimated 926,100 British Columbians (24.7% of the population) who reported having a disability.

Learn More:

Learn more about Tax AID:
https://disabilityalliancebc.org/direct-service/file-income-taxes/

The 2019 Framework for Accessibility Legislation can be found here:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/about-the-bc-government/accessible-bc/disability-consultation/2019-consultation/framework-for-accessibility-legislation.pdf  

20Mar

VIU making buildings more accessible – Lake Cowichan Gazette

by admin

Power door openers, wayfinding signage, grab bars in washrooms and plus-size chairs are some of the improvements students and employees at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus and the Cowichan Trades Centre are beginning to see thanks to funding from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The Rick Hansen Foundation recently granted the VIU Foundation $240,000 for accessibility projects in 12 of the least-accessible buildings at VIU. The money, which comes from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will help the institution become more user-friendly for all, explains Dr. Linda Derksen, Universal Access Committee chair.

“We have found that improvements for people with disabilities have the effect of making things easier for everyone,” says Derksen. “Power door openers make it easier for people pushing carts or parents with strollers. High-contrast signage with raised letters is meant for people who have low vision, but it also helps anyone who is trying to find their way around campus.”

Also included in these improvements are handrails on ramps, high-contrast signs pointing to accessible routes, hearing equipment at service desks, change tables in washrooms, adjustable desks and rolling workstations.

“We are making hundreds of little changes that add up to making the whole campus much more accessible for a wide range of people,” says Derksen. “About 20 per cent of the working-age population have disabilities, but most of these are invisible. Think of things like ‘bad’ knees and hips, or illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, or conditions like brain injuries and vertigo. Many people who appear to be able-bodied have a lot of trouble with our stairs.”

In 2018, the VIU Foundation brought the Rick Hansen Foundation to VIU to have all its buildings rated for a wide range of accessibility needs, including vision and hearing. Of those, 29 buildings met the criteria to achieve Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. The accessibility ratings provided a wealth of information on what changes need to be made to make the buildings accessible to all. This information has been handed over to Facilities Services and Campus Development, which is integrating access improvements into routine maintenance work.

Education

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20Mar

VIU making buildings more accessible – Cowichan Valley Citizen

by admin

Power door openers, wayfinding signage, grab bars in washrooms and plus-size chairs are some of the improvements students and employees at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo campus and the Cowichan Trades Centre are beginning to see thanks to funding from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The Rick Hansen Foundation recently granted the VIU Foundation $240,000 for accessibility projects in 12 of the least-accessible buildings at VIU. The money, which comes from the BC Accessibility Grants Program through the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, will help the institution become more user-friendly for all, explains Dr. Linda Derksen, Universal Access Committee chair.

“We have found that improvements for people with disabilities have the effect of making things easier for everyone,” says Derksen. “Power door openers make it easier for people pushing carts or parents with strollers. High-contrast signage with raised letters is meant for people who have low vision, but it also helps anyone who is trying to find their way around campus.”

Also included in these improvements are handrails on ramps, high-contrast signs pointing to accessible routes, hearing equipment at service desks, change tables in washrooms, adjustable desks and rolling workstations.

“We are making hundreds of little changes that add up to making the whole campus much more accessible for a wide range of people,” says Derksen. “About 20 per cent of the working-age population have disabilities, but most of these are invisible. Think of things like ‘bad’ knees and hips, or illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, or conditions like brain injuries and vertigo. Many people who appear to be able-bodied have a lot of trouble with our stairs.”

In 2018, the VIU Foundation brought the Rick Hansen Foundation to VIU to have all its buildings rated for a wide range of accessibility needs, including vision and hearing. Of those, 29 buildings met the criteria to achieve Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification. The accessibility ratings provided a wealth of information on what changes need to be made to make the buildings accessible to all. This information has been handed over to Facilities Services and Campus Development, which is integrating access improvements into routine maintenance work.

Education

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31Jan

TransLink hopes to mitigate effects of subsidy cut for accessible taxis

by admin


Wheelchair-accessible taxis outside Canada Place.


Arlen Redekop / Vancouver Sun

TransLink will do everything it can to make sure its customers with disabilities who use taxis aren’t affected by the Vancouver Taxi Association’s decision to stop subsidies for drivers of accessible taxis, according to its CEO.

HandyDART, a door-to-door shuttle for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, is a service offered by TransLink, and over the last two years about 12 per cent of its rides were provided by taxis. About one per cent of its rides use wheelchair-accessible cabs.

This week, the Vancouver Taxi Association, which represents taxi companies that operate in Vancouver and adjacent municipalities, said it will no longer provide incentives for drivers of accessible vans, such as waiving fees or offering bonuses, because it can no longer afford it now that ride-hailing has entered the Metro Vancouver transportation market.

It said companies will continue to serve customers with disabilities as best they can.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said they are in discussions with the association to find out what the impact might be for HandyDART and TaxiSaver customers.

“We want to do everything, working in close collaboration with the taxi association, to ensure there would be no negative impacts on our customers, so those conversations are ongoing,” Desmond said.

Association spokesperson Carolyn Bauer said on Friday that she did not wish to comment on the decision, but the province is working with taxi companies to figure out how to allocate the 30-cent per-trip fee for non-accessible ride-hailing vehicles to “support a sustained and improved level of accessible vehicles on the road.”

HandyDART Riders’ Alliance co-chair Beth McKellar said she was unsure how HandyDART users would be affected if the subsidies are eliminated and fewer accessible taxis were available, but said TransLink relies too heavily on taxis to supplement service. She was livid at the taxi association’s decision.

“This is so wrong — so, so wrong,” McKellar said. “I’ve just been so disappointed with the whole mess. We get hit hard enough with our afflictions every day, our transportation shouldn’t be at risk.”

According to a recent report on modernizing the taxi industry, accessible vehicles cost more money, time and fuel to acquire and operate.

“When a taxi licence share is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, taxi companies have no difficulty absorbing the higher cost of these vehicles and can offer drivers concessions on their dispatch fees to offset the higher costs of operation,” the report said. “However, if licence values fall, or are already low, finding willing taxi companies and drivers becomes problematic.”

B.C. Taxi Association president Mohan Kang said most of his member companies — which operate outside of Vancouver — offer what he called incentives to drivers of accessible taxis and there is no plan for them to stop doing that.

“We are committed to providing the service to people with disabilities on a priority basis as we did before,” Kang said. “That’s our stance, that’s the association’s stance.”

Justina Loh, executive director of Disability Alliance B.C., said she understands the position taxi companies are in, but she found it disappointing that it has come to this.

“We’ve been trying to just push the government or the municipalities a bit to step in and maybe provide some incentives for the taxi industry so that they can continue to have an accessible fleet, just because not having one means that people with disabilities are left out,” Loh said.

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30Jan

Vancouver taxi companies stop subsidizing drivers of accessible vehicles, cite ride-hailing competition | CBC News

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The Vancouver Taxi Association says it will no longer subsidize drivers who operate accessible vehicles, claiming sudden competition from ride-hailing means taxi companies can no longer afford it.

Without the subsidies, the association said, drivers are less likely to choose an accessible van because it will cost them more out of pocket.

“I want to make it crystal clear — we have not stopped trying to service these trips. We’re doing our best to try and service these trips,” said Kalwant Sahota, speaking Wednesday for the Vancouver Taxi Association.

“But if I’ve only got so many vehicles on the road, if there’s an operator on the road, he’s got a choice of driving a car which costs much much less to operate. At the end of day, he wants money to take home.” 

The decision is the latest from the taxi sector in a continued turf war with Uber and Lyft over business in the region, and it’s a move that leaves customers with disabilities feeling caught in the crossfire.

“I find it very worrisome,” said disability advocate Laura Makenrot. “We know already that there isn’t enough supply of wheelchair-accessible taxis in general around Metro Vancouver, and that’s been a problem for years … I’m worried this news now will make wait time for people with disabilities using wheelchairs even longer.”

Laura Mackenrot says people with disabilities have been caught in the crossfire of a turf battle between the Vancouver Taxi Association and ride-hailing. (CBC News)

And she says simply relying on other services like HandyDart doesn’t cut it because they don’t offer the same freedom and spontaneity as taxis.

Taxi companies have previously helped drivers who operate accessible vehicles because the vans are typically more expensive to run than smaller cabs, meaning drivers who use them make less profit. 

Some companies waived dispatch fees or offered a $5 bonus per trip. Others rewarded drivers with a front-of-the-line position in the dispatch centre after taking a trip in an accessible van.

The taxi association said companies are now stopping those incentives, less than a week after Uber and Lyft launched in Metro Vancouver. The move effectively discourages taxi drivers from choosing the accessible vans when they arrive for a shift.

“Drivers want to switch over from the vans onto the cars,” said Sahota, who is also the president of Yellow Cab.

Sahota said cab drivers have been seeing fewer trips in general because customers are turning to ride-hailing. So, when drivers do get fares, they don’t want to lose profit by driving a van suited for accessible passengers.

A Vancouver taxi driver uses the wheelchair ramp on his accessible vehicle to load luggage for cruise ship passengers. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sometimes, Sahota said, drivers make double when they drive a sedan instead of a van.

“We can’t force someone to operate the vehicle. I understand. Their expenses are extremely high,” said Carolyn Bauer, also with the Vancouver Taxi Association.

Sahota and Bauer said the taxi lobbyists wants the province to level the industry by capping fleet sizes for ride-hailing companies, enforcing stricter pricing rules so ride-hailing is more in line with cab fares, and offering insurance breaks for cab drivers.

Sahota called on the province to step in and offer incentives, so companies don’t have to bear that cost themselves.

The province does not currently provide subsidies or incentives to cab companies, it said in a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Providing a certain number of accessible taxis, it says, is part of the licensing requirement of many taxi companies.

“Companies who do not abide by the terms and conditions of their licence can face administrative penalties of up to $50,000 at the registrar’s discretion,” it said.

In terms of Uber and Lyft, the province says it has set a 30 cent fee per trip for ride-hailing services.

This fee, it says, is “intended to support accessible transportation and administration of ride-hail services.”

 

20Jan

B.C. ride-hailing services won’t be accessible to all

by admin

Many people are eagerly looking forward to ride-hailing finally being available in Metro Vancouver, but Vince Miele is not one of them.

The Tsawwassen resident, who uses a wheelchair, said he and many others who have disabilities and use mobility aids will be left behind when services like Lyft and Uber begin operating, because they will be unusable by those who can’t get in and out of a standard vehicle.

“There’s been a erosion of access for people with disabilities, and I think this move to ride-hailing is just another step in this erosion,” said Miele. “It’s erosion because here’s another mode of transportation that’s being offered, and there’s a segment of the population that won’t be able to take advantage of it. I really feel that it’s a form of discrimination.”

Since last fall, the Passenger Transportation Board has been reviewing applications from ride-hailing companies that want to operate in B.C. To date, only one application — from a company planning to operate in Tofino and Whistler — has been approved.

When services do eventually start operating, ride-hailing drivers will use their personal vehicles, which means that few, if any, rides will be able to accommodate people who are unable to transfer to a vehicle seat or use mobility aids that can’t be easily stowed in a trunk or back seat.

Taxi companies are required to have wheelchair-accessible taxis in their fleet. According to statistics from the Passenger Transportation Board, about 14 per cent of taxis in the province are accessible, and about 19 per cent in Metro Vancouver, though it can still be difficult for people with disabilities to get an accessible cab.

There is no such requirement  for ride-hailing companies.

“It’s quite insulting and disheartening and really makes you question whether our society is moving forward at all with any intention of greater accessibility when we continue to have things being introduced that aren’t accessible,” said Gabrielle Peters, who uses a manual wheelchair.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation, “Drivers of ride-hailing vehicles must take all reasonable steps to avoid discriminating against people with disabilities,” including those with service dogs.

The only nod to “protecting accessibility” in provincial regulations is a 30-cent-a-trip fee for non-accessible ride-hailing vehicles. According to the provincial government, the fee will “support funding for accessibility programs,” but those programs have not been defined.

“We’ll be working on how to allocate these funds once applications are approved, companies start operating, and the per-trip fee revenue is collected,” the Ministry of Transportation said in an emailed statement.

The lack of clarity around how the money will be spent has been criticized.

“There should be a plan, there should be a timetable. Saying that is their mitigation of this is patently ridiculous. It’s an insult to people with disabilities, pure and simple,” said Greg Pyc, who has paraplegia and has used a wheelchair for more than 40 years.

It took the City of Ottawa almost two years to decide how to use the money it raised through the voluntary seven-cent-per-ride accessibility surcharge it implemented in late 2017. It lowered the cost of taxi coupons for people with disabilities, increased the number of coupons allowed per customer, and funded community agencies providing transportation in rural areas.

Toronto just implemented its fee, the proceeds of which will be used to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis.

Some believe a fee is not enough or is the wrong approach altogether.

“Accessibility is a conscious decision to create a society and things within it — systems, ideas, places, services, policies — that include everyone, not a surtax. That’s almost like charity, like tithing. It’s insulting,” said Peters.

Terry Green, chair of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities’ transportation committee, said the easiest way for governments to make services accessible is to build requirements into the licensing scheme, as they do with taxis. The reality, he said, is that governments are reluctant to do this for ride-hailing, because ride-hailing drivers use their own vehicles.

“My response is that this is a transportation service that is being offered to the public and it’s supposed to be offered equally to our citizens with disabilities. Consequently, they should be at least, in the spirit of the legislation, required to provide accessibility to the level of other transportation providers,” said Green.

Jutta Treviranus was distressed to hear that B.C. had not written accessibility requirements for people with disabilities into its regulations for ride-hailing, beyond charging the per trip fee.

“This is a human rights issue,” she said.

Treviranus is the director of Toronto’s Inclusive Design Research, and was involved, along with many others, in the development of ride-hailing regulations in Toronto, which include a requirement for companies with more than 500 vehicles to provide wheelchair-accessible service, and for drivers of accessible vehicles to go through training.

She said that without regulations and conditions on licensing, there is no obligation to do anything to make the service accessible. She doesn’t think it’s too late to do better in B.C.

“If Uber is not yet licensed, and they’ve been successful in keeping Uber out of the province, and Uber wants to get in to the province, now is the time to negotiate, and the negotiation should be to get equivalent service,” Treviranus said.

The lack of accessibility is not unique to B.C. Ride-hailing companies have faced backlash, including lawsuits, from people with disabilities and advocates. For instance, Uber has been sued for discrimination in New York and Lyft has been sued in California.

Uber’s head of Western Canada, Michael van Hemmen, was not available for an interview, but in an emailed statement he said when Uber first hits the road in Metro Vancouver, he does not anticipate wheelchair-accessible vehicles being available on the app “because drivers will be using their own vehicles, and most vehicles are not wheelchair accessible.”

However, he said Uber has written to the province to ask for access to revenue from the 30-cent per-trip accessibility fee to make wheelchair-accessible vehicles available on the app.

A Lyft spokesperson said in an emailed statement that accessibility is important to the company, and drivers are required to make every reasonable effort to transport passengers and their wheelchairs.

The two companies have services or features to accommodate people with disabilities — Uber has WAV and Assist, while Lyft has “Access Mode” — however, they’re not available in all markets.


Vince Miele with his vehicle, which is modified for wheelchair access.

NICK PROCAYLO /

PNG

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15Oct

Vancouver ramps up for more accessible city, but much more needed

by admin


Micaela Evans at Ash street and SW Marine Dr. in Vancouver.


Arlen Redekop / PNG

The City of Vancouver is planning to install up to 600 more curb ramps over the next few years to help make the municipality more accessible.

The initiative comes after the city’s engineering department identified about 5,000 locations “where curb ramps are missing” from Vancouver’s infrastructure, according to a recent request for proposal. The city plans to award a one-year contract to install 150-200 curb ramps, and may extend that contract at its discretion, according to the proposal.

But wheelchair users such as Gabrielle Peters, a disabled writer who used to sit on the City of Vancouver’s Active Transportation Policy Council, believe much more can and should be done to open the city for all to use.

In a 2017 motion passed by council, Peters identified that 8,000 of the city’s 27,000 intersections had no curb ramps whatsoever. Peters also calculated that the city budget allowed for 40 curb ramps to be built per year, meaning that it would take 200 years for Vancouver to be fully outfitted with ramps.

Asked what she thought about the city’s plan to put in another 150 ramps per year for four years, Peters said it was “raising a shockingly low number to an embarrassingly low number.” She said she believed the city had prioritized other things over ensuring access for many of its residents and users.

“What do you think that says to a disabled person living in Vancouver?” Peters asked. “Thank you eternally for almost treating me like I matter to you as a leader running my city, the city I live in.”

Micaela Evans, a wheelchair user who lives in Port Moody, said she doesn’t frequent many parts of Vancouver, but said older areas of most towns tended to be worse on wheels than newer areas. Still, she said she felt accessibility remained an afterthought rather than an integral part of design.

Eric Mital, a senior head of engineering with the city’s Streets Design Branch, said all new sidewalks in the city are now built with curb ramps. The 600 that have been prioritized were requested by members of the public, he said.

Peters has been a wheelchair user for over a decade now, so she has experienced the space by foot and by wheel. She said that when she started to use her chair, the Vancouver she knew suddenly transformed.

“I felt like I’d moved to a different city,” she said.

Peters described the place as a constant source of barriers, and most of them human-made. Asked if there were specific locations she could point to that were particularly accessible, she said “everywhere.”

Peters gave as an example the seawall ,”a spot where I tend to say that would be one of the more accessible, and it’s (still) not.” Accessing it around Denman Street near Beach Avenue involves crossing at least two intersections and a bike path, each of which includes its own set of challenges. Peters said she at times has needed to wait several lights to cross due to drivers who have blocked curb ramps with their vehicles. Once in the park, a relatively steep ramp that is not evenly surfaced descends to the path. And once there, wheelchair users will notice it is sloped, making for a tricky travel route.

Even sites that have curb ramps are not as accessible as some may think, Peters said. Some of the curb ramps at Burrard St. and West Georgia St., for example, unsafely exit wheelchair users directly toward the centre of the intersection, rather than into crosswalks, Peters said. There is a similar setup across the street from City Hall at 12th Ave. and Cambie St., she said.

Asked if she could compare Vancouver’s accessibility to other cities, Peters’ motion noted that for several years Calgary and Edmonton had budgeted for 250-350 curb ramp installations per year in intersections that had none.

mrobinson@postmedia.com

13Oct

New universally accessible playground opens in Surrey, B.C. | CBC News

by admin

A new playground created for children with disabilities is open for fun in Surrey, B.C.

The 12,000 square feet playground was unveiled Oct. 8 at the Unwin Park in Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood. The city says the playground is the largest inclusive playground in Surrey, one of Canada’s fastest growing municipalities.

The space features adaptive equipment such as a wheelchair-accessible “we-go-round.” The park has double-wide ramps, which allows children in wheelchairs to get into it.

“Creating spaces where residents of all ages and abilities can enjoy active play together is at the centre of our vision to advance as a thriving, healthy community where everyone feels welcome,” said Mayor Doug McCallum in a release. 

The park is part of a five-year $50-million commitment from the Canadian Tire Corporation to help children across Canada overcome physical barriers to sport and recreation.

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