Calgary wheelchair exercise reveals where accessibility gaps remain
Getting on and off C-Trains, up and over small concrete ridges, prove to be particularly challenging
A single inch of concrete stands surprisingly tall when you're in a wheelchair.
That's one of the lessons Dave Smith learned while spending Thursday morning rolling around downtown streets and sidewalks. It was part of an exercise designed to give Calgarians a first-hand sense of what it's like for disabled people to navigate the city.
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The president of the Calgary Construction Association said one the most difficult things for him was getting over small concrete ridges where the sidewalk connects to street level.
"It's amazing," he said. "About a one-inch ridge and you really run into problems."
Allan Cook, who lives in East Village and gets around in a wheelchair, hopes exercises like this will help at "making people aware" of the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis.
"Like, you try to get on the LRT and everybody's standing in front of the door, and they're not giving you any room to get on there," Cook said, citing just one small example of regular frustrations he endures.
Getting on and off the LRT was the biggest challenge Coun. Druh Farrell faced, as she participated in the same exercise.
"The C-Train was the worst," she said. "I would have been stuck without using my legs, so I cheated."
Accessible Housing executive director Jeff Dyer, who helped organize the exercise, said it's part of the city's response to a notice of motion Farrell put forward at city council aimed at improving accessibility in Calgary.
"It's an opportunity for us to learn and to have a better understanding of the barriers that people face in our city, and definitely it's an infrastructure conversation today," Dyer said.
"There's a lot of people in our city that are excluded simply because they're in a wheelchair, and we don't see that as acceptable," he added.
"No city that's amazing in the world excludes a portion of the population."