The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) is launching a new corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative, which involves engaging the design and construction communities to improve accessibility to the built environment for people with disabilities.
"We have really started moving forward in the area of corporate social responsibility and are looking to work with the City of Calgary along with the architectural engineering community and the contracting community to take a look at how we can make buildings more accessible for those people who are disabled," said Dave Smith, president, CCA.
"I did a round in a wheelchair in the city of Calgary and found out just how difficult it is to move around."
Section 3.8 of the Alberta Building Code sets out the technical requirements for barrier-free design, which were created to allow for proper and safe access to buildings and facilities.
Despite this fact, people with disabilities in Calgary experience numerous obstacles that limit their ability to move about freely and safely around the city without concern, Smith said.
In response to this situation, representatives from the Calgary construction industry, the City of Calgary and non-profit organizations participated in the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec. 3, 2015.
Smith decided to use a wheelchair to simulate paraplegia, while other members of the Calgary business community got hands-on experience of the difficulties disabled people have getting around the city by wearing earmuffs to block their hearing and blindfolds to mimic blindness.
"I had difficulty boarding the LRT, because the wheelchair wheels got stuck between the platform and the train," said Smith. "So it wasn’t an easy exercise."
During the design, planning and construction of accessible spaces a wide range of opportunities exist to optimize independent access for people with disabilities.
"Even the slopes of our sidewalks are a problem, as well as doorways and automatic door openers," said Smith.
"By the time you push the button and get your wheelchair in place the door has closed."
These are the kinds of obstacles that Smith will be looking at in order to work with town planners, architects, engineers and contractors to make the built environment in Calgary more inviting for people with disabilities.
According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability from Statistics Canada, the number of people with disabilities in Calgary is increasing exponentially due to the aging population.
Overall, almost one in three seniors report having a disability. Almost 10 per cent of Calgarians have the following disabilities:
- physical (mobility and/or agility issues);
- sensory (hearing and/or seeing);
- cognitive (developmental and/or learning);
- communication access (speech and/or understanding); and
- other (pain and/or psychological).