North

Iqaluit looks to add braille signs in buildings

The City of Iqaluit will look to add braille signs in all its municipal buildings to assist people with visual impairments and will ask the territory to do the same on any new government buildings, starting with Iqaluit's new airport scheduled to open in 2017.

City plans to send a letter to the territory asking it to do the same

The City of Iqaluit is looking to add braille signage to all public buildings, and is asking the territorial government to do the same. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

The City of Iqaluit will look to add braille signs in all its municipal buildings to assist people with visual impairments and will ask the territory to do the same on any new government buildings, starting with Iqaluit's new airport scheduled to open in 2017.

The recommendation came from the city's disabilities advisory committee, and was supported Wednesday night by council at its last meeting of the year.

Coun. Jason Rochon chairs the city's disabilities advisory committee. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

"Our committee is going to be looking at maybe recommending in the future that when businesses are applying for licenses that their signage is up to code and that there's more standards for inclusivity," said Coun. Jason Rochon, who also chairs the committee.

More work to be done, says advocate

Being visually impaired in Iqaluit "can be very tricky," says Mike Stopka.

The 27-year-old immigrated to Canada from the United States and has spent the last four years living in Iqaluit with his wife. Both are legally blind.

"One of the hardest things is the lack of sidewalks and the lack of landmarks," said Stopka, who also serves at the vice-president of the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society.

He applauds the city's move to add braille signs but sees it as just the start. He hopes private businesses might soon follow.

"It's kind of embarrassing," he says, on asking someone where the male bathroom is at the Tim Hortons in NorthMart.

"Most people can walk over there and see, ok, I need the male washroom, the sign says male. We should be able to have access just like any other sighted person."

He says people with disabilities in Nunavut will often opt to move down south because they don't want to take up the "mammoth task" of trying to make the territory more accessible; a long, tedious, and sometimes expensive process — but Stopka says it's worth it.

"Unfortunately, the city, nor the GN has any consultants or anything that deal with accessibility. 

"We're starting from scratch. So anything we get done here is a victory."

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