Accessibility in Calgary: Coun. Druh Farrell tours Calgary blindfolded for a day
Calgarians with mobility issues face struggles every day trying to navigate the city
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If you woke up tomorrow in a wheelchair, or could no longer see, would you be able to go out alone and meet a friend for coffee?
On Thursday, a group made up of people from the City of Calgary’s Transportation and Planning, Development and Assessment departments, members of the Calgary Construction Association, and not-for-profit organizations, along with Coun. Druh Farrell, put the city's accessibility to the test by embarking on a tour.
Sitting in wheelchairs, strapping on noise-cancelling ear muffs and taking a blindfolded walk, the group of about 10 able-bodied people took on the task of travelling from the municipal building to a coffee outing at the Simmons Building with many challenging points along the way – including a short transit ride, crossing busy roads and dealing with the cobblestone on Stephen Avenue.
"They're essentially taking on a disability for a day," said Jeff Dyer, the executive director of accessible housing, and chair of the City's advisory committee on accessibility.
"It's an opportunity for us to learn and have a better understanding of the barriers that people face in our city; definitely it's an infrastructure conversation today."
The city's municipal building, somewhere city councillors spend a lot of time, surprisingly poses its own challenges. As the group made their way outside onto the street, doors had to be held open for those in wheelchairs – a small thing, but something Farrell noted can weigh on someone.
In July, Farrell submitted a notice of motion aimed at increasing affordable, accessible housing and examining and “retrofitting” city buildings she said aren’t easily accessible – but this tour takes that a step further.
"It's important that we have an understanding of the impediments that we've put in front of them and it makes our city very inaccessible," said Farrell. "Today it's about what we can learn by putting ourselves in other people's shoes – other people's chairs."
Farrell has long said the city needs to do better, noting that even accessing Calgary Transit's CTrains can be a difficult feat alone for someone in a wheelchair.
"We have a long way to go, hearing from people with mobility issues, they say Calgary is very inaccessible," she said.
Dyer added it's not just about making the city more accessible for those with mobility issues, it also could help benefit new mothers travelling with strollers, the elderly and even pedestrians.