Make Sidewalks & Passageways Accessible For All in British Columbia

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Safe and accessible sidewalks and passageways are a right, not a privilege. Though, not everyone in our cities and towns across BC has access to wide enough, safe, and debris-free passageways. This avoidable societal problem takes away many people’s right to participate in and contribute to their community. Even the most basic accommodations are not consistently in place, such as automatic sliding doors. 

Sign this petition with us at BC People First Society to let our government officials know we want improved accessibility plans in place for cities and towns across BC. Help make sure safe and accessible pedestrian areas, sidewalks, and passageways are being prioritized to protect the right of inclusion for all people in our society.

People experiencing mobility challenges have a right to get to the same places anyone else can reach. But this is not happening because our city planning practices are not prioritizing accessibility for all. The current system discriminates against not only people with physical mobility challenges and visual impairments but also seniors and people using strollers or delivering items to others, for example. Disability rights are human rights. When we accommodate the accessibility needs of all people in society, everyone benefits. It’s truly that simple.

Accessibility rights are ignored when people cannot participate fully in society without barriers. Encounters with poles, bins, or signs that block access is commonplace for people who operate wheelchairs. Even unmarked holes occur from time to time. Sometimes sidewalks without fully accessible ramps mean that someone is left to face oncoming traffic until another ramp pops up. A lot of sidewalks are not wide enough in our communities. Many buildings don’t have accessible entryways for people who are blind or have visual impairments. And sometimes there is no accessible entry at all in public or commercial areas. These are just a few of the societal barriers put in place that restrict people’s accessibility rights. It is past the time of saying ‘it was different back when these things were built so it’s not our fault’. Things need to change. We shouldn't have to imagine an accessible world. 

Sidewalks and passageways should be accessible at every point along the way, without obstructions. For this to be possible, sidewalks need to be significantly wider in general and pedestrian areas need to be optimized. Automatic doors should be mandatory everywhere. Talking doors and elevators should be mandatory everywhere. Public spaces should not continue to be prioritized for cars over pedestrians such as it has been for so long.

Accessibility rights in city planning need to be improved and strictly enforced to build awareness in our communities that accessibility for all is not optional. Anyone could end up being faced with mobility barriers at some point in life and we can do better to address the accessibility needs of all people. It is possible because after all, these barriers are put there by society in the first place. Even the name sidewalk itself is ableist when you stop to think about it.

Winter season has begun, and people now also face obstacles such as piles of snow being pushed into pedestrian walkways, making them too narrow for some to pass. Or encountering unlit pedestrian areas that restrict sight in the darkness over uneven ground. Even holiday decorations sometimes dangerously block people’s paths. All pedestrians deserve the safest experience possible. The way to do this is to ensure all public passages are accessible for all.

The coronavirus pandemic has definitely highlighted another reason that cities should be built with wider access in all areas where people are walking and rolling together in groups. Space in public passageways is an accessibility and a health need. Prioritizing safe pedestrian areas is important for so many reasons but especially because our cities and towns should be made for everyone.

We can start the process of taking action to ensure accessibility for all by making automatic sliding doors and talking doors mandatory in all public and commercial spaces. We can create policy around wider sidewalks to prioritize safe pedestrian areas for all, plus so much more! Accessibility for all in our public passageways is possible and we have the resources and technology available to accomplish this.

Thank you for taking action with us and getting involved by adding your name to our petition. We are asking all our BC City Councillors, Mayors, and Ministers to create better and more inclusive accessibility standards in city planning and building policies. We want to hear back from our government officials across BC about their plans to remove mobility barriers faced by many and to make our communities truly accessible for all.