Accessible Widget

March 18, 2022

Access: Communities need to be accessible all year long

Last week members of the Disability Action Hall talked about the need for accessible communities all year long. The City of Calgary is currently asking people to provide input into the snow and ice removal strategy until March 25th, 2022. Link to survey. 

Here is what people said about snow removal, active transportation, and shared spaces like pathways and how it affects our use of public transit.

Snow and Ice Removal 

"Ice sometimes has an attitude." - Angie

Hand drawn image of a person with a sailor hat and small boat looking a running stream instead of a sidwalk. Sad expression trying to get groceries.
Sometimes you need a boat to get up the uncleared sidewalk

Lloyd is a full-time transit user in NE Calgary and walks everywhere. Lloyd is growing concerned about how frequently the sidewalks are shoveled and maintained especially around high-use transit routes. Lloyd happens to live at the bottom of the hill and notices people have a hard time wading through water and ice.  “Accessibility is important, especially for people using sidewalks. If you need a boat to go up the sidewalk, then there is no way you can get up the sidewalk.” 
Two people using mobile devices look frustrated a a large piece of ice in a sidwalk
Ice especially in April or May, I will likely fall

Not removing snow creates barriers to getting out and attending critical health appointments. Amy who relies on friends and family to help her walk safely in the winter says “Ensuring sidewalks are better cleared so people with disabilities can safely walk around, such as in April or May I will undoubtedly slip and fall. I went to an appointment with my dad yesterday and had to walk in the street around a huge patch of ice and people with assistive devices would not be able to use the sidewalk the way they need to.”

AJ lives in NW Calgary and talks about the long-lasting impact for people with disabilities when sidewalks are not cleared. In one outing a poorly cleared sidewalk damaged their wheelchair (a repair not easy to repair living on a fixed income). "Back in December my partner was trying to push me up a snowy hill and my partner fell, and my caster was bent and now goes to the left." 

Close up bent caster on wheelchair
Bent caster on my wheelchair from an uncleared sidewalk

Alison who uses a wheelchair and lives in SW Calgary says - “The ice and the snow, getting around in the wintertime is treacherous. ” Angie adds “In front of my house there is a massive piece of ice and almost fell over backward."

Sidewalk and pathway maintenance all year round

Parks and pathways have been the spaces many people have tried to get to during the pandemic. Kristen also uses a motorized chair and accessible transit. She would like to get outside more but is reliant on others to get to places and says “When it is cold outside, and it would be great to think about these spaces during the winter when it is cold outside as spaces for everyone.”

Person in a motorized chair sitting outside in a blizzard looking very cold
We need to think about cleared pathways all year round 

Lloyd talks about the trip hazards when sidewalks are in place beyond their life cycle and how unsafe they may become and says,  “The City knows the sidewalks are 20 years old it would be nice the sidewalks are now in the ground, three inches below the ground are not safe. Every 20 years, they should check the sidewalks are in decent shape and wheelchair accessible. For sure the one on Edmonton Trail NE is not accessible.”

Close up of a persons foot on a sidewalk unsafely below the level of the ground
Old sidewalks three inches below the ground are not ok.

Win-rows and respect how people use public space safely

Alex also lives in NW Calgary says transit, roads sidewalks are connected by win-rows that impact how easy they are to use. Winrows cause a big problem as its not roads, its not pathways or transit, but it can be a big mountain that affects the use of all three. We need to raise awareness of invisible disabilities even on pathways and how we all have different levels of when we know when a pathway or sidewalk is safe to use. 

Sidewalks near busy public transit use areas need to be a priority.  We need to look at ways of making bus shelters a nice warm space to wait. “Sidewalks should be wide enough so people in mobility devices can pass each other comfortably and be so darn cold outside there need to be more shelters with heaters around to keep people warm.”

Person in a wheelchair sitting in a bus shelter with a heater. The sidewalks, win rows and roads are clear around the shelter.
Win rows affect transit, roads, and sidewalks.
We need bus shelters to keep people warm.

“The sidewalks and transit routes need to be more accessible. As well, my experiences with transit and my physical disability are getting worse even. When I sat in the priority seating as a 20-year-old, I faced a lot of stares, but the second I got a cane, my physical disability became physical, and people were sympathetic.”

Person looking uncomfortable sitting in the assigned seating area despite they have a disability
Facing stares on the bus when disability is not visible

Active Transportation & Shared Pathways

Amy has a hard time hearing and seeing and says “People who ride bikes on the sidewalk, sharing spaces especially when it is narrow and have enough space to get by especially when I have a mobility issue. There need to be bike lanes and wider sidewalks, so people have more space.”

A busy pathway in the city where a dog walker, a person using a walked and a person using the scooter give each other enough space to pass safely.
Pathways need to be wide enough for everyone to enjoy

Rural Communities need to be accessible too

Angie says accessibility is not just the cities. Many people in large and small centers have no choice but to use the road with cars due to no accessible sidewalks. “High River is a place of 15,000 people and Okotoks, these smaller towns are growing enormously fast where there are no bike lanes. Only the Farmers Market is accessible but there are other places people need access to. We are on our bikes and scooters and then we have people who drive right up beside us. We have to wear reflective tape and carry flags for safety. Some drivers are not so understanding and we do not always feel safe.” 

Person with a walker looks scared sharing road with a big diesel truck
When there is no safe sidewalk, you have no choice but to use the road