Victoria city councillor Pam Madoff stands to address the crowd during an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Victoria Disability Resource Centre Monday at the Church of Truth in James Bay. (Kristyn Anthony/News Staff)

‘We live in an ableist society,’ Victoria candidates debate how to approach accessibility

All-candidates meeting hosted by Victoria Disability Resource Centre draws unanimous conclusion – city needs to do better

The consensus of an all-candidates meeting hosted by the Victoria Disability Resource Centre was clear – the city is not an accessible place.

Of the 40 candidates running for mayor and council in Victoria, 22 participated in the event transcribed by both an ASL interpreter and a typist, onto a large monitor for viewing, at the Church of Truth in James Bay.

“We live in an ableist society,” said Laurel Collins, a council hopeful running on the Together Victoria slate with Sarah Potts and Sharmarke Dubow.

Questions were submitted by local non-profits and advocacy groups including the Action Committee of People with Disabilities, Pacific Training Centre for the Blind, Transplant Rogues and Together Against Poverty Society.

RELATED: Esquimalt development a game changer for accessibility

The conversation quickly became about safety, citing concerns for visually and hearing impaired residents. Building bus stops on meridians separated from sidewalks by bike lanes was a “design flaw,” said Coun. Ben Isitt.

Council hopeful Anna King agreed saying passive discrimination can occur in planning for infrastructure.

Riga Godron, who works with the VDRC, and is running for city council said the conversations would be much different “if we had people on council who were disabled,” like herself.

The city currently has an Accessibility Working Group, created in 2016 to “identify barriers for persons with disabilities created by City of Victoria infrastructure,” according to the website.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who worked to put the committee in place told those in attendance the city has plans to upgrade crosswalks to include audible signals, another barrier candidates said has come up in conversations while campaigning.

Victoria has aging infrastructure, including crumbling sidewalks hard to navigate for those with mobility challenges, or who use wheelchairs.

RELATED: City awarded $1 million accessibility grant for Crystal Pool project

And with so many heritage buildings housing non-profits and social services, a lot of the vulnerable groups those resources are designed to assist, cannot access them.

“The city is stuck in 1985 in terms of retrofits required,” Mayor Lisa Helps said.

Council hopeful Ted Smith pointed out accessibility isn’t just physical in nature. “A lot of accessibility in Victoria is economic accessibility,” said the longtime cannabis activist.

On the topic of developmental disabilities, Coun. Marianne Alto was asked what the most pressing issue is facing that community.

“Stigma,” she said.

Fellow candidate Marg Gardiner agreed. “We need a real change of attitude,” she said, pushing for more creative approaches to solutions.

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

Roughly 75 people of all abilities packed the room to hear how candidates plan to make changes in the name of inclusivity.

“This was a voice that was missing last election,” Helps said, adding she was pleased to see that change this election cycle.

The B.C. municipal election is Oct. 20.

kristyn.anthony@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Verdict expected on July 22 in trial of care aide accused of sexual assault

Closing arguments heard Monday in Victoria courtroom

Jeff Montgomery claims another Strawberry Cup at Western Speedway

Langford-based Montgomery family has deep roots at the track

Easter Seal’s Drop Zone gives participants chance to rappel down 13-storey Victoria building

Event supports Easter Seal’s services, specifically their camp in Shawnigan

Victoria HarbourCats edge Elks in series opener

Claire Eccles’ jersey retired at Monday’s game

ArtsAlive voting begins Thursday in Oak Bay

Residents can vote for the 2019 ArtsAlive top prize

WATCH: Barbers battle it out in Victoria

‘Barber Battle’ saw stylists and barbers from across North America go head-to-head

Sexting teens at risk of harms including depression, substance use: study

Use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana were also found to be associated with sexting

Deadline for cabinet to decide future of Trans Mountain expansion is today

International Trade Minister Jim Carr described the decision as ‘very significant’

Dash-cam video in trial of accused B.C. cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

Most Read