Monday, August 13, 2012

City of Iqaluit Plans to Make Buildings More Accessible

The City of Iqaluit plans to consider forming an accessibility committee that would look at disability and access issues in its current and future infrastructure.

This plan comes after presentations to council by the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtit Society, whose board members requested the city put together a committee to address things like wheelchair ramps, which the current city hall building and Arctic Winter Games arena don’t have.

“They’ve agreed, so that any new project that they take on well be vetted for accessibility,”  Makinnasuaqtit’s executive director, Wendy Ireland said.

That committee would result in significant and much needed changes, Ireland said, adding that most southern cities have similar committees.

The committee would act as a stamp of approval, and catch things liable to cause accessibility problems in the future.

These would be taken into consideration when planning new projects to make sure that they work for all citizens.
As for the AWG, Ireland, who uses a wheelchair,  said she “can only get to the canteen.”

Building is expensive in Nunavut, she acknowledges, but this is all the more reason to have a committee make recommendations before construction starts

“You just don’t want to miss your chance,” Ireland said, adding that it seems the city is committed to making Iqaluit more accessible.

“I’m pretty heartened by their positive response. I think they understood the issues before I brought them [forward].”

Coun. Mary Wilman said the committee is at the planning stages, because the current council’s term expires this fall.

“[So] starting up a new committee at this point may not be timely, but we have started discussions,” she said.
Councillors have already recognized the need for such a committee, said Wilman, adding that any new council chambers to be built in the future must be accessible.

Too often people take accessibility for granted, she said, so “it’s good to be reminded — that’s how I felt about the presentation. I support it wholeheartedly.”

Other communities will likely put together similar committees if Iqaluit moves ahead, Ireland said.
In Hall Beach, there is one person who advocates for increased accessibility, and even though it’s only one person “that’s pretty cool,” she said.