A Langford woman is raising concerns about the accessibility of the newly opened Langford Station to those who use mobility aids such as wheelchairs.
Tanelle Bolt lives near the new cultural district, and as someone who loves arts and local businesses featured there, said she was excited when she heard it had opened toward the end of May. But that excitement quickly turned to frustration the first time she visited.
“I found a gravel parking lot with no marked accessible parking … and every single business has a step into it,” said Bolt. “I couldn’t be a business owner here, I cannot shop at these shops unless I stay outside the building, there is limited accessible seating, with lots of opportunity for more.”
Bolt said there are some accessible features at the site, such as not yet opened wheelchair-friendly washrooms, a wheelchair-friendly portable toilet and one wheelchair-friendly picnic table, but for every accessible element she sees, there are more opportunities to improve accessibility.
“It would have been really easy to make this space fully inclusive with universal design, and it wasn’t thought of,” she said. “For 22 per cent more cost, we can fix everything, but if it was just built right in the first place it would cost no extra money.”
In an emailed statement to Black Press Media, the City of Langford said the site was designed with several accessible amenities, and more accessibility features are being considered for the second phase of the project.
“The Langford Station project includes bathrooms designed in accordance with the BC Building Code regarding accessibility … and lowered customer service windows on both artist studios and business units. Phase two of the project includes exploring the possibility of ramps to the business incubators.”
Designated wheelchair accessible parking stalls are also slated to be installed “in the coming days.”
Bolt said the accessibility issues she sees at Langford Station are just more examples of the wider issue of a lack of accessibility considerations in developments of all kinds, both within the City of Langford and the province in general. She said her apartment building, for example, does not have accessible parking, preventing her from using the wheelchair ramp on her van, and the situation is common in many new-builds, which she said often only have a single accessible parking spot that is shared with neighbouring businesses.
“We roll the dice every time we show up somewhere. Can we get out of the car, can we get into the door, can we get into the bathroom,” she said.
Bolt said governments, developers, and society in general needs to pay more attention to accessibility when planing communities, just as they have started considering environmental and Indigenous concerns in recent years.
“Accessibility matters, and people in your life, including yourself, your parents, your children, will need these features at some point. You are only temporarily able-bodied.”