The City of Yellowknife needs to spend $5 million to bring its facilities up to acceptable standards of accessibility, an independent consultant told councillors this week.
Dillon Consulting’s Ann Peters presented a detailed report in which accessibility issues at a range of City facilities, both indoor and outdoor, are documented.
The report suggests the City should find $2.4 million to make improvements to buildings like the Multiplex, YK Community Arena and Fieldhouse, and another $1.6 million for accessibility work to outdoor areas like sports fields, playgrounds, and trails. It also recommends budgeting just under $1 million as a contingency measure.
Councillors welcomed the report, which says the necessary $5 million can be spent over a decade-long period in order of priority – though the City has not yet committed to spending the full sum.
Council is expected to formally instruct staff to begin implementing the report’s measures at its meeting next week.
More: Read the full list of recommended upgrades (from p7 onward)
“It feels like this has been a long time coming and we have been eager to get this under way,” said Councillor Shauna Morgan of the report, which was delayed by almost a year after an earlier contract to produce the report faltered.
Councillor Adrian Bell said: “This was sobering. Seeing a list of so many items is pretty shocking, to see how inaccessible even City Hall is.
“I had hoped that the list would be much shorter and we would be doing a better job than it appears we are doing. As councillors, maybe we should have pushed for this a lot earlier. I feel a bit of an apology is owed to Yellowknifers with accessibility challenges.
“This is a great report and we are now in a position to act on it and do the right thing going forward.”
Consultation to come
Peters walked councillors through a range of the report’s findings during Monday’s municipal services committee meeting.
At the Fieldhouse, the report notes barrier-free parking stalls exist but do not allow pedestrians direct access to the building without travelling behind parked vehicles, which can be dangerous.
At the Multiplex, emergency route information posted inside the building is too small and too high, while furnishings have fixed seating which doesn’t allow for wheelchairs. The high-glare flooring can be an issue for people with visual impairments, while accessible viewing areas are limited.
The report notes equipment in some parks is not adjustable to suit people with different needs, and information on signs posted along trails can be difficult to read from a seated position. Long stretches of trail in Yellowknife do not contain any benches to allow rest.
Another finding relates to building codes and standards used by the City. The report notes some features built to code in the past may not meet the present code, and senior administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett added: “What we’ve heard loud and clear is that building to standard doesn’t necessarily make something accessible.”
Councillor Julian Morse expressed disappointment that the report, for which the City budgeted $55,000, did not include an analysis of Yellowknife’s sidewalks.
“Having talked to organizations who represent persons with disabilities, one of the biggest changes the City can make right now is related to snow removal on our sidewalks,” he said.
“As soon as winter hits, a lot of our sidewalks become inaccessible and it’s quite a simple thing to go and plow them.”
Disability groups in Yellowknife and the NWT were not consulted for the report. Bassi-Kellett said the report was designed to identify technical information before a “very extensive consultation” ahead of plans being finalized.