The chair of the city’s Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee couldn’t be happier with the city’s Transportation 2040 plan that council passed last week.
“It will mean the full equality of transportation for seniors and people with disabilities in Vancouver,” said Jill Weiss. “People with disabilities are much less likely to be able to walk somewhere, to be able to cycle. We’re much less likely to be able to drive a car, and so we are very dependent on transit… This plan basically says that everybody, regardless of income, age or disability has a right to equal transit.”
Weiss added the plan includes fully accessible transit, sidewalks, crosswalks and ferries.
While TransLink is lauded because all of its buses include ramps, Weiss noted some bus drivers won’t pick up people in wheelchairs from stops that aren’t specifically marked with a symbol as wheelchair accessible, and strollers sometimes occupy the only two wheelchair spots on buses.
Weiss believes the city eventually intends to replace cracked sidewalks with smooth paths of a higher standard because it’s unsafe for people with walkers, canes and wheelchairs to navigate uneven surfaces.
She notes in response to a human rights complaint, the City of Richmond is trying crosswalks that announce the street name and include a control to make the green crossing light last longer. Weiss said Vancouver could consider this option.
Weiss said new False Creek ferry docks will be accessible and the old ones made accessible upon replacement. One of the two companies that carries passengers across False Creek doesn’t operate a wheelchair-accessible boat, and the city is going to require the company to run one.
The city will allow three-hour access to residential permit parking and resident parking only zones for people with disabilities, 30-minute access to regular loading, passenger and no parking zones for use when loading or unloading persons or materials and provide disability zones that would be implemented in locations based on requests from people with disabilities.
The plan acknowledges that taxis fill an important gap in service when people who need the HandyDART bus are unable to secure a ride at short notice, “with potentially reduced operational costs.” It states “opportunities may exist” to expand TransLink’s TaxiSaver program.
Weiss said taxi driver training and testing will be instituted to improve safety.
“Tim Louis, the former city councillor, he had his ankle broken a year-and-a-half ago, two years, by an improperly [secured wheelchair],” Weiss said. “In Manitoba a woman died because an improperly secured wheelchair.”
The draft plan called for denser, affordable housing for families along key transit routes, and the disability advisory committee convinced the city to make sure that wheelchair-modified suites would be included.
“In the last 10, 20 years, very, very few wheelchair-modified units have been built, but the number of people using wheelchairs is increasing,” Weiss said.
She said she knows of a case of a person who had to move into a shelter after being released from the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre because they’d lost their housing while laid up and there was no other accessible place for them to go. She added this situation is
The city also agreed that any external bathrooms that are installed be accessible or include an accessible stall. Transportation 2040 provides a transportation vision for the next 30 years and is meant to guide to decision-making over the next 15 years.