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Plan aims to make city more accessible for citizens

St. Albert will be kicking off efforts to make the city more accessible for people experiencing physical disabilities with an audit of St. Albert Place, Fountain Park Pool, Servus Place and some parking lots.
St. Albert Place is shown in this photo. A threatening email from a councillor to a staff member has sparked a controversy at city hall.
City councillors have signed off on creating a seniors advisory committee.

St. Albert will be kicking off efforts to make the city more accessible for people experiencing physical disabilities with an audit of St. Albert Place, Fountain Park Pool, Servus Place and some parking lots.

The city released its universal access plan on Wednesday: a 227-page report on how to make sidewalks, crossings and trails; public facilities; and transportation barrier-free to the most people possible.

"We're trying to make a city for everyone," said Kristina Peter, planning branch manager.

The plan lays out a series of recommendations broken down into phases for what the city should tackle in the immediate future, near future and foreseeable future.

Some of the immediate priorities include several accessibility audits. Aside from the audit scheduled for St. Albert Place, Fountain Park Pool and Servus Place, the report identifies audits of transit shelters and bus stops, as well as popular sidewalks, playgrounds, trails and pedestrian crossings.

Lory Scott, the city's affordable housing liaison, said the audits are the first step and from there the city will move on to developing business cases and looking at financial implications.

The city will be putting out a tender for a consultant for its upcoming audit of St. Albert Place, Fountain Park Pool and Servus Place.

"It's a complex process and we need somebody who's an expert on universal accessibility to undertake it," she said.

Scott said it's important to consider all forms of disability, including ones that develop over time.

"You might have a broken leg at one time, you might get pregnant, you might have a stroller. As you get older, you might need a walker and then eventually you're in a wheelchair," she said.

"It's sort of to address what will happen to people over all stages of their life."

St. Albert is looking to the city of Burlington, Ont., as an example. Scott said Burlington has given St. Albert permission to adopt and adapt their accessibility standards, which generally require all elements to be accessible.

Scott said those standards will be used as a reference document, along with Alberta building code requirements.

Peter said future facilities and roads will be designed with the universal access plan in mind.

"New construction and new buildings will see the implementation probably a bit quicker than retrofitting," she said.

When the city looks at new engineering standards in 2019, Scott said those will include consideration for universal accessibility as well.

"The sidewalks, roads, paths and trails may be designed differently than they are now," she said.

Although Coun. Natalie Joly was not immediately available for comment, she said on her Facebook page the document will have a "significant impact" on the city's planning.

"Based on the plan released today, my expectation is that we'll do better going forward," she stated.


April Hudson

About the Author: April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette
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