Halifax construction leaves some intersections ‘impassable’ for wheelchairs and elderly, advocate says

Click to play video: 'Disability advocate calls for increased safety measures in construction areas'
Disability advocate calls for increased safety measures in construction areas
WATCH: A disability advocate in Halifax is calling on the city to include more construction mitigation measures to allow for vulnerable road users to safely navigate around projects. Alexa MacLean as the story. – Sep 16, 2020

A Halifax wheelchair user says it’s time that the city starts implementing mitigation measures to ensure people with disabilities can still safely access areas of the municipality that are under construction.

“There’s a lot of corners on [Robie Street], right now, that are completely impassable for somebody with a disability, somebody who uses a mobility device, somebody’s who’s blind, partially sighted,” April Hubbard said, a disability advocate in Halifax.
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People with mobility challenges say the intersection of North and Robie street in Halifax is impassable due to construction. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Hubbard says closed sidewalks and heavy construction are obstacles that people with mobility challenges and other disabilities aren’t able to navigate in a safe or timely manner.

She says more consultation with the disability community needs to happen in order to ensure these projects, even if they only last a few days, are inclusive of all road users. Especially, those most vulnerable.

“They don’t have any safe path for us to go through other than to go out in the middle of the street. Which at some of these intersections is really, really dangerous,” said Hubbard.

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Hubbard says these barriers lead to increased isolation for people in the disability community.

An interview request with a city staffer who has expertise in construction mitigation was made but wasn’t fulfilled.

An email statement was sent instead.

“For this capital project, “sidewalk closed ahead, cross here” signage was placed strategically at the nearest safe crossings to advise residents of the work ahead,” Erin DiCarlo wrote, a communications advisor with the city.

“For persons with visual impairments, contractors have a traffic control person on site during construction work hours to direct residents around the construction site. For persons with mobility issues, contractors try to ensure that there are hard surfaces and routes available around the construction site at all times,” DiCarlo wrote.

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A Halifax street could face demolition after heritage status denied

Paul Vienneau is the accessibility consultation to the chief administrative officer of the municipality. Vienneau has flagged the Robie street construction as being a safety hazard for the elderly and disabled citizens.

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Vienneau has requested that workarounds to road construction projects be considered to ensure these sections of the city aren’t impassable for vulnerable road users.

The work being done on Robie is part of the Transit Priority Corridor. This construction is being done to allow for the addition of more bus lanes and Robie and Young streets by reallocating existing street space.

Hubbard says she’s tired of repeatedly calling 311 to file complaints about concerns over accessibility in the city. She says she appreciates that work being done may ultimately improve roadways but it shouldn’t come with the short-term cost of making sections impassable.

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