From sidewalks to parking spaces, one Prince Albert councillor said accessibility issues in the city need to be addressed.
Ward 8 City Councillor Ted Zurakowski said he’d like to see the city review and update its regulations to ensure every part of Prince Albert is accessible. In his 20 years as a teacher, Zurakowski said he’s heard from students with low mobility about their issues, and how difficult it can be to simply go to the movies or get out of a car in a crowded parking lot.
“Everything from street lights to how we shape the pavement and concrete, to the width of the parking lines, all those practical examples make such a huge importance to the lives of people who have mobility issues,” he said, “and I think we need to do a better job of that.”
Zurakowski said council has taken several steps towards improving accessibility in recent years, including increasing the fines for illegal parking in handicapped stalls and requiring ramps in new sidewalk construction. While significant progress has been made in some areas, Zurakowski said the issue needs to be a higher priority.
During a recent meeting, Zurakowski said council heard from a woman calling for verbal audio signals at downtown crosswalks, which would improve accessibility. Despite the woman’s moving presentation, Zurakowski said no action was taken as a result.
“There’s opportunities there that we are missing, that we could do a better job at,” he said. “We need to consult with people with mobility issues to make sure the dollars are spent wisely and we can improve their lives.”
Many areas of the city still lack adequate sidewalks, Zurakowski said, which are crucial to accessibility. Although recent construction has improved the issue in some neighbourhoods, he said many streets are still very difficult to traverse for wheelchair users and other less-mobile residents.
“You look at one side of the street and there’s no sidewalks, or there may not be sidewalks on either side for blocks,” he said. “People need clean, free of snow, free of debris sidewalks, so they can get to where they need to go.”
Zurakowski said he’s realistic about the financial costs of improving accessibility, but said it could still be a higher priority for the city. Zurakowski said he would like to see a review of city policies occur to ensure all construction projects address the issue, and called for wide consultation to ensure residents with low or limited mobility have their voices heard.
“I think we need to do a comprehensive review of not only all of our facilities, but the way we construct and build our neighbourhoods and our cores,” he said. “I’d like to see us have a public meeting, a gathering, and listen to the people with mobility issues and take a hard look at how we’re building our city and how we can do a better job at it.”
On Twitter: @TaylorMacP
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