Human rights complaint filed against HRM over accessible parking

Click to play video: 'Lack of accessibility parking on Halifax street leads to human rights complaint' Lack of accessibility parking on Halifax street leads to human rights complaint
WATCH: A Halifax-area woman has filed a formal complaint to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission regarding accessible parking on Gottingen Street. Elizabeth McSheffrey reports – Feb 22, 2019

A Halifax-area woman has filed a human rights complaint against the Halifax Regional Municipality over a lack of accessible parking on Gottingen Street.

Skarlet Young submitted the 10-page complaint to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on Friday. It alleges that without unrestricted, full-time hours accessible spots on the busy transit corridor, the municipality is infringing on her right to security and to earn a living.

“It’s not just for me, even though it’s by me,” she told Global News.

“It’s for everybody that has mobility issues and needs safe access, really.”

Young, who works at the Farm Assists on Gottingen Street, suffers from a neuromuscular disorder called Friedreich’s Ataxia, which compromises her ability to walk – particularly on slanted or slippery surfaces.

READ MORE: Halifax Regional Municipality admits accessible parking ‘mistake’ on Gottingen Street

Last October, the municipality moved Gottingen’s four unrestricted accessible spots to nearby side streets in order to make room for the new priority bus lane, but those side streets are inclined, making them difficult or unsafe to use for many drivers with mobility challenges.

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Young struggles daily to walk to work from the spots on Buddy Daye Street, but it’s the only place she can leave her car for an eight-hour shift without being towed. After she and others complained about the side streets, the municipality re-installed two accessible spots near the YMCA and library, but those spots are restricted to off-peak hours.

“It’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not what was there (before),” said Young. “It just shouldn’t have been taken away.”

She said it took her about nine hours to write the complaint, which clams that “individuals with mobility issues can no longer safely access Gottingen Street be it for residence, employment, patronage of business or leisure activities.”

That’s a violation of Section 5 of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act, it continues, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability.

The complaint comes one month after a Global News investigation into the matter prompted the city to admit that it made a “mistake” by failing to consult members of the accessibility community in advance of moving the parking spots from Gottingen Street in the fall.

At the time, a spokesperson for the municipality said the addition of off-peak hours spots were the only solution currently under consideration, as “nobody is getting parking all the time on Gottingen” and the municipality is accommodating “just about everybody that we can.”

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READ MORE: Parking woes in Halifax as Gottingen Street undergoes transformation

On Friday, senior communications advisor Erin DiCarlo told Global News that she was unable to comment on whether further considerations would be made, as she was unfamiliar with the file.

“Upon further consultation with the members of the community, it was determined that probably some spaces that weren’t on a grade would also be beneficial,” she said, referring to the additional off-peak hours accessible spots restored to Gottingen this year.

A third will be constructed in the coming weeks, she added, near the intersection with Cogswell Street.

But Young said that until those spots are unrestricted, she’s not dropping the issue. If her complaint fails, she plans to appeal.

“It’s my hope that it wouldn’t be (rejected). It’s, to begin with, a valid concern for a very large portion of the population that should be looked at I think,” she said. “I’m diligent if nothing else. If I start something I see it through to the end.”

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