Removing barriers

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The City of St. Albert is embarking on a plan to break down barriers.

The city wants to better understand how to make its facilities and public spaces more accessible. It’s encouraging residents to attend an upcoming open house to share their stories and ideas on how to create a city that is more comfortable for all.

Accessibility is important if we are to allow citizens and visitors alike to enjoy the benefits our city has to offer. Accessibility can also be an important factor in allowing citizens to access businesses, and to attract new residents and businesses.

The city’s Universal Accessibility project seeks to make facilities and services accessible for all ages and abilities. It strives for buildings that are simple and safe to use whether you are young or old, use mobility aids such as wheelchairs or walkers or are visually or hearing impaired.

Universal access means creating environments, programs and services that meet the needs of the widest population range as possible, enabling persons with varying abilities and ages access to the physical environment on an equal footing with others.

Many city facilities were built decades ago and do not allow free access. They do not reflect current design standards for universal access and barrier free access. Recently the city approved funding to add an elevator and a wheelchair accessible ramp to the historic Banque D’Hochelaga building which houses the St. Albert Art Gallery.

The open house, to be held April 26 at Cornerstone Hall, 6 Tache Street, invites people to share their experiences of barriers they have encountered when accessing a city building, program or service. They are also invited to share their ideas on how to bring down the barrier.

An architect who specializes in barrier-free design and a representative of a company that builds accessible spaces will be available at the open house.

What type of issues could this mean? It could mean doorways and hallways that are too narrow, bathroom doorways that are not wide enough, stairs or inclines that are too steep. It may include replacing heavy doors, removing tripping hazards, or providing better lighting. Other ideas may include more accessible parking, easier access to transit and more or better sidewalks.

Regular readers of the Gazette might recall a column penned by Gazette staffer Susan Jones, who lamented the lack of pedestrian access to a few shopping destinations. In her January 7, 2012 column, Jones noted the “goat trails” which pedestrians are forced to navigate in parts of the city. If you’ve encountered similar issues with public accessibility, this open house is for you.

Making changes are important if the city is to make its buildings, services and public spaces welcoming to as many people as possible. Allowing people easier access also makes good economic sense, since it will allow freer movement of more people. Promoting accessibility is promoting inclusion, a policy that benefits all.

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St. Albert Gazette

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