Roundtable 11: Access & Mobility

Overview

Approximately 5% of Vancouver residents have mobility restrictions that may include the use of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. Others have limited sight or hearing, or are parents using strollers. Creating an accessible city involves not just enhancing physical accessibility through the built environment, but also supporting social inclusion and the elimination of barriers to participation in city life for all residents.

  • Have shifts in the building codes, design of housing, facilities, and transportation improved accessibility and mobility? What gaps still exist and how should they be addressed?
  • What accessibility issues are outside of physical abilities yet impact accessibility such as all gender bathrooms, facility fees etc.?
  • How can cross agency collaboration (with Translink, for example) or other partners be strengthened?
  • What is the long-term impact of an aging population and how can the City effectively plan for it?
  • How can accessibility and mobility be factored in to resiliency planning?

Roundtable Discussion

The same area on a map for an able bodied person looks like shriveled swiss cheese for someone with mobility impairment.

Mike Prescott

This roundtable had nine participants as well as a table lead Tasia Alexis and notetaker Elisha Cooper. Participants were from a variety of backgrounds, in particular with organizations or experience with transportation, seniors, and mobility and accessibility issues.

Participants identified their shared goal for the city as: for everyone to be able to use any city facility and any other building with comfort and feel included in activities without too much effort. Many issues and questions came up in discussion. Accessibility and mobility are linked to social isolation and participants identified ‘erosion of accessibility’ as a major theme.

Photo courtesy Centres for Disease Control and Prevantion

Participants noted that the city still prioritizes vehicles for example by not taking into account how to reasonably reroute pedestrians, especially ones with mobility challenges around building sites.

However, accessibility is not only about transportation. A more holistic approach is needed, taking into account for example access to washrooms and housing as well as accessible transportation.

Affordability impacts accessibility, and increased density in housing has not been matched in many neighbourhoods with increased amenities. There can be conflicts between different approaches to accessibility and mobility that can have unintended consequences. For example, improving transportation can also lead to gentrification, resulting in less accessible neighbourhoods.

If you live long enough you will have a disability. Put the planning in now.

Tasis Alexis

Key Findings

  • There is a need to acknowledge the current gaps in the system: currently Vancouver is not a city for all.
  • Must agree on a way of measuring inclusion and accessibility in the community (like measuring walkability). Being able to accomplish connectedness as a critical first step in improving access and inclusion.
  • Accessibility is not only about transportation. A more holistic approach is needed, taking into account for example access to washrooms and housing as well as accessible transportation.
  • Affordability impacts accessibility, and increased density in housing has not been matched in many neighbourhoods with increased amenities.
  • Approaches to accessibility and mobility can have unintended consequences. For example, improving transportation can also lead to gentrification, resulting in less accessible neighbourhoods.
  • Inclusion is not only being able to access but also being able to participate and engage in the environment instead of being on the sidelines.
  • Ride sharing will increase the gap in accessibility (technological divide).
  • Currently skateboarders are not given much space in the city when it comes to transportation.

Recommendations

ACCESSIBILITY STRATEGY:

  • Improve access and inclusion to live, work, learn, heal, and play (not just commute to work).
  • Create a standardized way of measuring inclusion and accessibility in the community (like measuring walkability).
  • Make city transparent with an accessibility score-card by neighbourhood on their website to show progress. It would encourage the community to work towards accessibility and take the burden from the city.

TRANSPORTATION:

  • HandiDart is not an equal service to transit and does not work for many. It needs more services, as more people are going to be using it.
  • Ride-hailing should be equitable and provide for the undigitized, unbanked, and people with disabilities. Ride sharing should be regulated.
  • Increase public bicycle storage (ungap the map).
  • Systematic cycling education in elementary schools.
  • Consider the affordability of skateboards and longboards over bikes as transportation.

ACCESSIBLE STREETS:

  • More curb cuts and less steep curb cut ramps. Driveway and sidewalk design should be modified to be less steep.

ACCESSIBLE HOMES:

  • Use the City’s current accessibility strategy as an opportunity to build this in to it.
  • Set the bar higher than meeting minimum standards.
  • Building code: Ensure that in all new homes the walls are reinforced to facilitate the installation of safety bars should they be needed. All bathroom doors should be 36 inches wide to allow access to a wheelchair.

Related Initiatives

The Vancouver Public Library has hired a consultant to aid in the development of a long term accessibility strategy and has embarked on staff training. They hope to update accessible software and equipment across all libraries, and develop a better way for staff to interact with people with accessibility challenges.

Everyone Rides Grade 4-5 Initiative: Cycling is one of the most affordable forms of transportation. It can get you more door to door than transit, and some with joint issues find it easier to cycle than to walk. This initiative teaches children the rules of the road, and provides them with independence and freedom. More support and funding is needed to give access to all students.

Seniors on the Move is one of the projects under the Allies in Aging umbrella. It is a multi-sector collaboration to: (a) share and enhance existing services and best practices; (b) design innovative new services and partnerships; (c) help seniors plan for age-related changes to their transportation needs and connect them to appropriate options; and (d) advocate for improved transportation services. The design is human-centered and targets low income, ESL, and persons with disability. They address gaps such as access to medical appointments, recreation and social activity, and building a sense of resilience and belonging for seniors in a neighbourhood. It would have the most impact if it was city-wide.

Barrier-Free BC is a Non-Partisan Campaign advocating for a Barrier-Free province for All Persons with Disabilities. Barrier-free street design by the City of Vancouver is an on-going and complex process. Some issues include the trade-offs for example between the use of truncated domes (tactile paving) which make crosswalks more accessible to pedestrians that are visually impaired but create barriers to those using walkers or wheelchairs. Bike lanes increase complexity for people with visual impairments. Barrier-Free BC sets out 13 principles for a British Columbians with Disabilities Act.

SILAS (Seniors In Isolation and Loneliness) is a special project initiated by the City of Vancouver Seniors’ Advisory Committee to investigate the causes and consequences of social isolation and loneliness among older adults, and to develop recommendations to help the City of Vancouver and other stakeholders reduce and, ideally, prevent these problems. Barriers such as lack of accessible bathroom facilities makes seniors reluctant to leave their homes increasing loneliness and isolation.

Tasia Alexis speaking at the summit.

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