It’s one of Edmonton’s most popular districts and now Whyte Avenue is about to become more accessible.
A new pilot project called Incline to Include will see brightly coloured, temporary ramps installed outside a number of storefronts along Whyte Avenue.
Because some of the buildings are older, they aren’t the most accessible to those who use wheelchairs and walkers or push a stroller. This pilot project aims to change that.
Zachary Weeks, 28, has cerebral palsy and relies on his wheelchair to get around.
He said Whyte Avenue has always been a difficult place to maneuver because some stores have a gap between the sidewalk and their entrance.
“I had less choice as to where I could go. If I wanted to go into a certain shop, that really depended on if I was able to even get in the door,” Weeks said.
“It’s always been, I wouldn’t say a problem spot, but well known that the accessibility has been quite poor. It was almost like missing out on a piece of enjoying my city.”
While the ramps have only been out for a few days, Weeks is already giving them positive reviews.
“Even just today being able to wheel into the Silk Road, which has an amazing smell when you walk in with all those spices, that was a first for me.”
Amy Freeland, supervisor of Silk Road Spice Merchant, said she previously saw people frustrated when they could not make their way into the store.
She has received good feedback on the ramps.
“We’ve just noticed the ease with which people come in. They may be more willing to come in. You can see someone almost make the decision whether they are going to try and come in.”
Hani Quan, senior planner with CITYlab, said the city needs to test the ramps before any permanent changes are made.
“We have a couple of our teams going out to do on-site measurements. They’re going to see what kinds of impacts this has,” Quan said.
“What kinds of increase or decrease in incidents will we see on sidewalks? What are some of the unforeseen impacts that might happen as a result of having these ramps out?”
And when asked why the city has not tackled this issue before, Quan said the buildings on Whyte Avenue were built before a time where there were accessibility design considerations.
“There’s a lot of these kinds of issues in places where we just don’t have new buildings. I don’t know what the issues were [in previously not addressing them]. I suppose finding the funding to be able to do this.”
The nine ramps came in at just under $4,000.
The project was spurred by a collaboration between CityLab, the Old Strathcona Business Association and the Accessibility Advisory Committee. Quan said it is too early to say whether ramps will be tested and placed in other neighbourhoods around Edmonton.
The project runs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15 and the public is asked to weigh in on what they think of the idea by using the hashtag #inclinetoinclude on social media or via email.
© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.