App helps people with disabilities determine, document building accessibility

A group advocating for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with disabilities is hoping a new app will make it easier to see which buildings in the province are accessible.

Access Now makes it easier for people to see how mobility-friendly buildings are

The Access Now map is an interactive tool that rates businesses and buildings on their accessibility. (Access Now)

A group advocating for people with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador is hoping that a new app will make it easier to see what buildings in the province are accessible.

"Accessibility is a problem across the country and in our province," says Kim White, executive director for the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (CODNL).

The group is working to spread the word about Access Now, an interactive map that shares the accessibility status of various businesses and buildings around the world.

Getting up to speed

Kim White, with CODNL, is hoping the new app will help people living with disabilities determine a building's accessibility before arriving there. (riopatuca/Shutterstock)

White said some builders and contractors mistakenly believe that as long as building codes are followed, a building is accessible.

But White said this isn't the case, and legislation surrounding accessibility is long outdated.

"The new government has said that it's looking at a disabilities act, our federal government is looking at a [national] disabilities act as well," White told CBC's Central Morning Show.

"So we're hoping … to get more up to speed for the 21st century."

White said there's a misconception that it costs much more to make a building accessible.

But if a building is being constructed with accessibility in mind, she said it can cost "as low as one per cent" more than average.

On the app

The Access Now app is aimed at making it easier for people to see just how mobility-friendly buildings are. If information isn't already available, users can add and rate a location themselves.

"Once you visit a physical location, you can go in and then add to the app whether or not it was accessible and what kind of features [it has]," said White.

When the coalition first discovered the app, White said there was almost nothing there about buildings in the province. That's something she's hoping to change.

Users can choose to give a building one of four designations: accessible, partially accessible, patio access only and not accessible.

"We thought it was just a great way to build information about accessibility in the province," she said.

White said anyone can post information using the app, adding she's seen a growing number of local restaurants and service clubs popping up in the program.

"Spreading the information about what it means to be accessible is always good as well, and getting people informed about what they can do to make locations — and broader society — more accessible for people."

With files from the Central Morning Show