David Willows wrote a 53-page audit of Victoria’s accessible on-street parking downtown. (Keili Bartlett/News staff)

Victoria’s $750,000 accessibility reserve fund makes improvement ‘not the side project’

Mayor Lisa Helps on an audit of accessible parking in the city

Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps commends the “tremendous amount of work” David Willows put into his 53-page audit of the city’s accessible on-street parking.

“To have engaged, active citizens like David Willows write a report, bring these things to our attention, to have our engineers taking him seriously and to have him at the same time working with other entities is amazing and that’s how we solve problems,” Helps said.

Willows, the father of a child with disabilities, gave the council and engineering department of the City of Victoria his findings — that only half of the allocated accessible parking downtown was actually accessible — as well as some suggestions for improvement. Willows said he gave them a copy of his report back in April, and although he received a positive response, he hasn’t seen any changes.

Helps said this is because the city is developing an accessibility framework. In the 2018 budget, Helps said the city allocated money to hire a consultant for the framework. In the council’s last term, an accessibility reserve fund was created, adding $250,000 every year to be used for improving accessibility.

READ AND WATCH MORE: Only half of Victoria’s accessible parking meets basic standards: report

“It will look not only at accessible parking, but how we can make city facilities and public spaces more accessible to people with a range of abilities. That work is currently underway and is well supported and inspired in some ways by David Willows’s report,” Helps said.

“Right now there’s about $750,000 in it, and that is used to draw down on a yearly basis so as we’re making improvements in the public realm, we’re also making accessibility improvement. Then accessibility becomes part of the work we do in the fabric of the city, not the side project that might get done one day,” she said. “I think that is a significant commitment that council made and will continue to make toward accessibility improvement.”

READ MORE: How accessible are Victoria’s public washrooms?

The framework isn’t available yet, but council is expecting to see a draft in late 2018 or early 2019. Helps said the engineering department is looking at Willows’s report to see what they can implement while the accessibility framework is developed, particularly the existing parking spaces like Willows’s examined.

“Just like all cities across the country, we’re trying to retrofit a city that was built without any concern at all for people with accessibility challenges,” Helps said. “For example, if you are walking down the sidewalk, there’s literally a hydro pole right in the middle of it. Cities were not designed to take into account people with accessibility challenges, and so it’s a really big project to retrofit a city.”

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


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