Accessibility tour: could you navigate Calgary streets blind?

CALGARY – Councillor Druh Farrell got to experience Calgary in a very different way Thursday morning.

She joined ten decision makers from the city’s transportation and planning and development and assessment departments, the Calgary Construction Association and Development and non-for-profit organizations in taking on a disability for a day.

The group started at the Municipal Building, trying out doors and washrooms, before heading out on city streets, towards Olympic Plaza.

“I have never noticed that! Whoop! Sorry! Curb!” remarked Farrell crossing the street on Stephan Avenue. She spent the first half of the tour blindfolded, with a cane, before moving around, albeit slowly, in a wheelchair.

“It’s enlightening. I feel every little impediment… Every little obstacle, every little bump,” said Farrell.

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Getting on and off the CTrain was perhaps the most challenging part of the tour. Farrell and others had to stand up to physically move their chairs through the doors, and down a drop from the train onto the CTrain platform.

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WATCH: Extended coverage of Calgary Coun. Druh Farrell trying to navigate city streets blind, by wheelchair.

It was an issue Farrell said she was already aware of, but experiencing it herself made the issue “more poignant.”

“Hearing from people with wheelchairs, they cannot access the CTrain without getting assistance. And that wears on you, if you have to rely on the help of others everyday,” said Farrell.

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Nabeel Ramji, who uses a wheelchair everyday, also joined the group. He said there are a number of obstacles around the city including washrooms that don’t fit larger wheelchairs.

While the infrastructure isn’t always accessible, he said Calgarians are always eager to assist.

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“People are very helpful. Anywhere I am, people are open arms, trying to provide assistance.”

In July, Farrell submitted a notice of motion aimed at increasing affordable, accessible housing and repairing old city buildings not easily accessible.

Jeff Dyer, who chairs the advisory committee on accessibility for the City of Calgary said improvements to accessibility will benefit all Calgarians.

“Even think about a new parent who’s using a stroller for a child: if we can make the city more accessible for that mother, then that includes the senior, and that senior includes someone living with a wheelchair, perhaps has MS or arthritis. That’s the kind of city we’re trying to build.”

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