City tightens up wheelchair policy

IF A a wheelchair can’t get into a venue, the City of Terrace won’t host an event there – unless there’s an exceptional circumstance.

  • Sun Mar 18th, 2012 3:00pm
  • News

IF A a wheelchair can’t get into a venue, the City of Terrace won’t host an event there – unless there’s an exceptional circumstance.

This was made official by city council last week, when it revisited the issue for the third time since late 2011.

It’s part of an accessibility policy created by the city, intended to acknowledge the importance of making sure people have access to places regardless of physical mobility.

The policy, passed March 12,  states the city will hold public city events and invitation only events “at venues that provide adequate accessibility for persons with physical disabilities.”

A physical disability is described in the policy as any degree of physical impairment that limits a person’s mobility and therefore their ability to access venues without the use of a wheelchair or other mobility aids.

Accessibility is defined as the removal of physical barriers that prevent someone from entering a building without considerable assistance.

Only if an event is not suited to a venue that is accessible will it be held elsewhere, reads the policy, and city staff will provide an explanation to council.

Lastly, “notices of city events will provide information on the accessibility of the venue for persons with disabilities,” it reads.

Council voted 5 -1 in favour of the policy, with Marylin Davies as the only councillor opposed.

“I think that symbolically it’s very important,” she said.  “(But) I’m not sure that I think this is a good lead for council to take.”

Davies said the policy lacked “teeth” and voiced concern that it sends the wrong message to the business community which has supported the city through tough economic time by paying taxes.

“I can’t go there,” she said.

And while councillor Bruce Bidgood voted in favour of the policy, he did express concern about making exceptions for certain events without council’s consent prior.

“I’d hoped to see there’d be a rational,” he said.

“I don’t think council should be micromanaging,” responded councillor Brian Downie.

Councillor James Cordeiro, who operates Blackstone’s restaurant in Thornhill in a building that is not wheelchair accessible, favoured the policy.

“I would rather have an event at a venue that was accessible than carrying someone up my stairs,” he said, adding he has had personal experiences involving reduced physical mobility. “I would rather be discluded as a venue than discluded as a disabled person.”

And according to Cordeiro, sometimes business needs to be flexible to clients served.

“That’s the cost of doing business if that’s the business you want to cater to,” he said about accessibility upgrade costs.

The policy was first introduced by former councillor Carol Leclerc, who reported back to council after members of the Measuring Up Terrace Committee, a local committee focused on promoting accessibility, couldn’t attend the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards Gala because there was no access to the banquet location downstairs at the Best Western Hotel.