The new action plan provides a number of measures for the community to improve accessibility
A community with sidewalks without ramps to the street; squares paved with bricks instead of smooth concrete; and buildings that can only be reached by stairs.
For most people, these features don’t even come to mind in our public spaces. But for the disabled, wheelchair users, the elderly, and the like, such design choices can adversely affect how people experience the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW).
To improve accessibility and meet new provincial government requirements, the Mayor and Council of Whistler voted at the September 6 council meeting to adopt a new Accessibility Action Plan that addresses the community’s shortcomings in this area.
“The purpose of the Accessibility Action Plan is to provide measures that identify, remove and prevent barriers for individuals interacting with the RMOW in relation to workplace services and a built environment to welcome people of all ages and abilities,” said RMOW Accessibility Coordinator Sarah Tipler in a presentation to the local council.
In June 2021, the BC provincial government passed the Accessible BC Act, which set new standards for the province and required municipalities to have an accessibility committee, plan and tool to gather accessibility feedback.
The measures must be implemented by all municipalities in the province by September 1, 2023.
While Whistler already has an Accessibility and Inclusion Committee (formerly known as the Measuring Up Select Committee), “we recognized that we would probably need an accessibility plan and that we also need a more comprehensive approach to build accessibility into the way we do.” serve the entire community,” Tipler said.
The 58-page action plan focuses on 59 actions to be implemented, including training for new employees and an assessment of the current accessibility of public spaces, community facilities and the park/path system.
In addition, the plan aims to make community housing more accessible and to target all new community developments for all new community facilities towards accessibility certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation (a national rating system that measures and certifies the level of meaningful access to buildings and land). bring pedestrian environments.
The plan also recommends that RMOW update its senior housing policy to reflect specific aging characteristics for all senior housing units in situ and to raise public awareness of the accessibility retrofit subsidy for private homeowners.
“The action plan includes the overall training and assessment actions, and actions framed by the following six areas: service design and delivery; built environment; Occupation; Communication; Transport; and procurement,” said Tipler.
According to Statistics Canada, there were 6.2 million Canadians with a disability in 2017, which is about 22 percent of the total population. With 38 percent aged 65 or older and Canada’s population aging rapidly, the number of disabled Canadians is likely to increase in the years to come.
The plan found that Whistler has a younger population than the provincial average, with only 14 percent of the population aged 60 or older. But by 2028, the percentage of seniors is expected to exceed the percentage of youth in the local Howe Sound health area.
Given the link between aging and disability, accessibility requirements will become more important as Whistler ages.
But the work RMOW has already done to make Whistler an accessible community should not be underestimated. As the plan highlights, in the run-up to and after the 2010 Olympics, the community made a concerted effort to improve the accessibility of Olympic Plaza and the Gateway Loop.
Mayor Jack Crompton pointed to Whistler, which is hosting the Paralympic Games and the upcoming 2025 Invictus Games, as examples of events that have come to Whistler because of its existing operations and infrastructure.
“Accessibility is about including everyone. It ensures that Whistler is designed for people of all abilities and at every stage of life. This has long been a Council priority and is embedded in the RMOW’s official community plan,” Crompton said in a press release. “Inclusivity ensures that each of us can fully participate. It meets the needs of individuals recovering from a sports leg injury, those enjoying Whistler’s Trails on an adaptive bike, parents pushing a stroller, those with sensory sensitivities, or those with age-related sensory deterioration.
From now on, an annual accessibility progress report will be presented to the council and will be updated every three years to reflect new data and community priorities. You can find more information about accessibility in the resort on the RMOW website.