City Improving on Accessibility But More Can Be Done

By Jensen, Randy on June 24, 2020.
Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald

While the City is taking several important steps in leading the way for greater accessibility and mobility in its business units, more effort is needed to apply the effort more evenly, explained City of Lethbridge Mobility/Accessibility Master Plan project lead Chris Witkowski.

“Compared to where we were just five years ago, we have come a long way,” stated Witkowski during Monday’s Communities Issues Committee meeting. “For a lot of the business units who deal with infrastructure it really is coming to the forefront of any project, and something which automatically gets built in. We do have a ways to go; especially with the backlog of some of the deficient infrastructure. We have to work on consistency of our mobility improvements. We can’t just have different improvements throughout different sections of the city.”

The Mobility/Accessibility Master Plan comes after two years of work and community engagement on how to create better access to City-run facilities and services for all residents, Witkowski said. He hoped council would adopt the full report as tabled during Monday’s meeting, and consider dedicating more funding and resources to fully embrace the plan’s call to action; thereby leading the way for greater accessibility for all Lethbridge residents.

“We are trying to get accessibility to the forefront of thinking as we do projects,” Witkowski said. “Accessibility right now in the city is done on a business-unit-by-business-unit basis, and we want it to be more of a corporate mandate. If we can start to make that mandate corporately, then we can start to have more influence on the external community. Alberta is a province that doesn’t have an accessibility mandate right now. There is no (provincial) legislation around that like in Ontario and Manitoba; so it is up to the municipalities to kind of take that on themselves.”

Citing his own son’s experience in trying to get around the community in a wheelchair, Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Coffman echoed Witkowski’s call to action.

“The experience of living with somebody that has mobility challenges definitely opens your eyes to the way the world is designed,” Coffman said.

“This is definitely a group that has been overlooked. It’s not conscious. It’s just that we design based on the ability of walking around on two feet with theoretically no impairment.”

“My hope is council will actually accept the master plan,” he stated. “We have the ability to look at it in conjunction with all of the infrastructure the City of Lethbridge has, because this is very much focused on what we have in our inventory of buildings. So we need to be able to look at and put together a strategy to address it so our facilities are accessible to as much of the community as possible.”

Councillors will vote on the Mobility/Accessibility Master Plan, and the recommendations built therein, at the July 13 regular city council meeting. The entire plan can be found online in Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting agenda packet.

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