“We all need a safe route to travel,” Eddie Lagrosse told District of Port Hardy Council at their meeting May 26.
Lagrosse, Dorothy Smith and Donna Lee, appeared as a delegation to talk about accessibility issues in Port Hardy.
Lagrosse said when he talks about accessibility he means not only for people in wheelchairs and on scooters, but for people on bicycles and pushing double strollers.
Lagrosse expressed his concern that many people riding scooters around town have never had a driver’s licence and therefore do not know the rules of the road.
He felt a solution to this issue would be for the municipality and the RCMP to team up to put on a clinic similar to ones that are done for youngsters riding bicycles.
“That would help to keep the streets nice and safe,” Lagrosse said.
Lagrosse pinpointed areas he felt are a concern for people. These include the sidewalk near the post office and the stretch from Market Street to Park Drive and Granville Street.
“You can’t get in the post office with a regular wheelchair,” said Smith.
“Somebody needs to talk to somebody with disabilities before they do these repairs, before things get upgraded,” Smith said.
While many facilities in town have electronic doors, some are still not accessible to everyone because of sharp turning corners, etc.
Not being able to get into a building on their own takes away a person’s independence and lowers their self esteem, Lagrosse said.
Lee, who has lived in Port Hardy for 16 years, said her main safety concern is the curb and parking spots at the apartment buildings across from Port Hardy Secondary School on Park Drive. The arrangement forces her to drive on the street, sometimes in traffic. “It’s just not safe. It is a danger for anyone in a wheelchair or a scooter,” Lee said.
Mayor Hank Bood acknowledged that getting around Port Hardy can be a challenge for those with mobility issues.
Bood had the opportunity to try it in a wheelchair the last time he was mayor.
“It’s a real education,” he said of his attempt.
Councillor Rick Marcotte agreed that there are a lot more scooters around town and that perhaps the district could revisit the issue of handicap access.
Councillor Jessie Hemphill said the district took part in the Measuring Up program in 2010 which helped communities assess and improve how accessible and inclusive they are for people with disabilities, seniors and others with similar needs and she wondered if that report should be pulled and the issue be referred to the District’s Operational Services Committee.
Director of Corporate and Development Services Jeff Long said B.C.’s Building Codes were updated in 2012, but “there hasn’t been a lot of new development” in Port Hardy where those guidelines can be taken into consideration.
“You’re giving us something to think about,” said Bood, adding the district has a limited budget to work with.