Aside from the odd spot of traffic, most of us have a fairly easy time getting around our city while walking, cycling, driving, or taking transit. There are many of us, however, who find our city hard to navigate.  As recently as 2012, 10% of Calgarians reported having significant disabilities. By 2019, 200,000 Calgarians over the age of 15 will live with disabilities.

The City of Calgary is committed to building an inclusive society where everyone can access programs in a way that respects the independence and dignity of people with disabilities. Other orders of government have also taken notice. Several provinces have passed strong barrier-free legislation, and the Government of Canada is currently working on a national accessibility strategy.

Last year, Council supported my motion to find ways to make our public facilities and public realm barrier-free. The work includes an accessibility audit of all our civic facilities, as well a plan to improve how they function for Calgarians with various disabilities.

My motion also asked staff to encourage better accessibility of private developments through the planning process, and to partner with advocacy groups to increase the amount of barrier-free housing.

I am encouraged that the initial response from City staff will result in some quick and easy wins in and around the municipal complex at City Hall. These measures will make navigating City Hall easier for those visiting to drop off a permit application, pay a bill, or attend a Council meeting. Wayfinding signs directing people towards accessible facilities have already been installed on the LRT platform at City Hall. Banding decals have been installed on the glass elevators in the Municipal Building to assist blind visitors. Elsewhere, our Roads department purchased wheelchairs to give its staff personal experiences of what it is like to move around Calgary’s streets with disabilities.

Achieving an accessible city is much like achieving a clean city or a safe city. There is no finish line.  Through continuous improvements, striving for an increasingly accessible city is worth the investment.

If you see an opportunity to improve accessibility on public property, please call 3-1-1 or go online to www.calgary.ca/311. To learn more about this and other Ward 7 topics, visit www.druhfarrell.ca. To sign up for updates on key issues, please email ward07@calgary.ca.