The City of Fredericton may be missing out on possible revenue due to its inaccessibility, says the head of an advocacy group.
Courtney Keenan, president of Ability NB, says it's not just Fredericton residents who notice the city's accessibility issues — and it may be a deterrent for visitors.
Keenan is trying to put together a wheelchair rugby tournament in the province.
"We've been trying to have it here in the capital city for a couple years now and we always find ourselves going back to Moncton because of the level of accessibility," he said.
Although the city's new $28-million convention centre is completely accessible, there are so many other barriers in the city, the non-profit organization has to take its business elsewhere, said Keenan.
"For a capital city not to be the most accessible city in your province, I think they're really losing out," he said.
Many sidewalks in the city's downtown, for example, are hard to maneuver, and some are dangerous.
'For a capital city not to be the most accessible city in your province, I think they're really losing out.' —Courtney Keenan, Ability NB
Aesthetics play a part in the problem, since many of the city's brick accents cause issues for people with mobility issues.
The city's heritage may also play against it in this case, since many of the older buildings downtown aren't built to the same code as new developments. They often cannot accommodate wheelchairs.
City's motto questioned
Ability NB's Haley Flaro says she gets hundreds of calls from tourists each year, and many choose to skip the capital due to lack of accessible taxis and buses.
"The motto of the city is wanting to be the best place to live, work, play," said Flaro. "Are we the best place to live, work, play if you can't get to medical appointments or if you have to book if you want to go to a movie, you have to book three weeks in advance?"
Newcomers also notice the problems. Myles Mitchell and his family just moved to Fredericton from British Columbia. As a wheelchair user, he isn't impressed by the sidewalks in Fredericton so far.
"Some are good, some are bad, some are ugly, and some are worse," he says.
Changes being made
The city's working on it, according to Mike Walker, who is in charge of streets and roads.
The city approached Ability NB about offering input on the downtown area.
As a result a new, accessible curb-cut was put in at the King and Carleton streets intersection, said Walker.
"A co-worker and I were attending a conference in another city and we noticed how they did it. Similar climate. And we said you know what, we can do that here."
The city has firm plans to take care of several other problem intersections identified by Ability NB, he said.