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Victoria Disability Resource Centre holds candidate forum to discuss accessibility

Mayoral and council candidates to present platforms, participate in public Q&A
Residents will hear how candidates propose to make Victoria more inclusive for people of all abilities at the Oct. 1 candidate forum hosted by the Victoria Disability Resource Centre. News files

Accessibility is part of services, infrastructure and facilities management throughout the city and residents will hear how candidates propose to make Victoria more inclusive for those with different abilities at an Oct. 1 candidate forum.

“We as people with disabilities would like to hear what our public officials have in mind,” says Snow Manning-Jones, vice-chair for the board of directors of the Victoria Disability Resource Centre, who will host the event at the Church of Truth in James Bay.

The centre held a similar forum during the 2014 election campaign, but Manning-Jones says there is a lot more interest this time around.

“Municipally they are a lot more activists who would like to see changes as far as having access to public and private spaces in Victoria,” she explains, pointing to Bill C-81, the Accessible Canada Act, tabled in June 2018 and expected to pass this fall.

RELATED: Canada’s first national accessibility law tabled in Ottawa

Having lived previously in New York City and Ontario, Manning-Jones worked on the Americans with Disabilities Act and on the Ontario Disabilities Act.

“I find things are at least 30 years behind the times as opposed to other provinces in Canada,” she says, of B.C.

In Victoria, things are starting to change, but the pace is “very painfully slow.”

Most of the 29 candidates in Victoria have RSVP’d and will be invited to outline their platforms before attendees are encouraged to participate in a planned Q&A session, emceed by Ryan Price.

Ensuring stores and shops have ramps or signage for people who are visually impaired, or audible street signals for crossing roadways are some examples of infrastructure improvements the city needs, Manning-Jones points out.

RELATED: B.C. needs Disability Act: Victoria council

The hope is that people gain some understanding from the forum and start to see accessibility as an election issue.

“In a lot of people’s minds it’s non-existent,” Manning-Jones says, “but for those of us who live with a disability it’s top of mind.”

Currently, the City has an Accessibility Working Group, a collection of volunteers who help guide policies on improving accessibility for those with different abilities.

RELATED: Blind community says bike lanes put their lives at risk

In July, members of the city’s visually-impaired community raised concerns around safety on the Pandora Avenue bike lanes where bus stops are stationed on medians, requiring people to cross the cycling path for access.

“Living with a disability doesn’t just affect the person,” Manning-Jones says. “It affects the entire family, neighbourhood and community.

The Candidate Forum takes place Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. in the Church of Truth (111 Superior St.) in James Bay.

- With files from Nicole Crescenzi