This is what accessibility looks like – or not – in the City of Kelowna

A quick recap. The City of Kelowna started designing a new action plan for something called Community for All Ages, and they said that it would benefit “seniors, children and people with diverse abilities”. There was little to no theoretical framework behind it and there are no disabled people directly involved in the decision making.
I met with the mayor to bring up this and the lack of action on accessibility matters generally in Kelowna, a city that has ‘being inclusive’ as one of its priorities. He listened and said he would get back to me.

Well, he did get back to me – and it was distinctly underwhelming! The last section of his email said “If you have specific accessibility challenges in Kelowna that require maintenance (i.e. sidewalk crack, intersection crossing, etc), please use our online service request system and your request will reach the right department.”

I have tried the service request system before, and always been unsuccessful, but rather than just write back with this, I decided to try the system out one more time.

Recently, we parked in an accessible parking stall on a street that had no way to access the sidewalk. The City is responsible for this parking spot and collects the parking fees for it. Here’s a video. I know you have to look at it sideways – we’re working on it!

As you can see, and hear from Ian’s description, I had to drive down the road and access the sidewalk at the nearest junction, which is obviously not safe.

I completed the online request. There was an option to request contact by email, which I chose, as I wanted to pass on the link to the video. I didn’t get an email. Instead, I checked the status of my request a few days later and this is what I saw:

response from City of Kelowna
“I do not determine where wheelchair ramps go.” Well, thanks whoever you are. Great way to demonstrate concern for the needs of disabled people in the City of Kelowna.

Of course, in a City that was genuinely inclusive and that recognised the City’s role in removing barriers for disabled people, the person who received my request would pass it on to the person who does indeed “determine where wheelchair ramps go.”

However, in a City that chooses to ignore the needs of disabled people, to have no mechanism for disabled people to report accessibility issues, then that City will never be inclusive, as Kelowna claims to want to be.

An inclusive City creates systems that remove barriers for disabled people, or, even better, makes sure that they are never there in the first place. It would train its staff to make sure that the City took responsibility for solving any issues that crop up, rather than placing the problem back on to the individual. That’s a City I would like to live in, but not one I live in at the moment.

Of course, I’m not leaving it here. I’ve been back in touch with both the coordinator of Community for All Ages and the Mayor. I’ll be back with the next instalment once I hear from them!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s