With councillors in Victoria already questioning the province’s decision to make B.C. municipalities responsible for accessible parking standards at new developments, the father of a child who uses a wheelchair echoes their concerns.
“In the Capital Region, we’ve got 13 districts — that’s 13 possible different standards for those that even have them,” David Willows said.
But as of Dec. 10, none of them have a requirement for new developments in CRD to have accessible parking, although the Town of Sidney references the BC Building Code in its design standards. While there is a National Building Code, in B.C. it only applied to federally regulated property.
The province’s previous standard to have one accessible parking stall for new developments wasn’t enough even before it was discontinued on Dec. 10, Willows said.
“First we need to recognize the provincial standard for accessible parking was poor,” he said. “But it gave us a minimum benchmark to work from. When you take a standard like that away, you’re telling people with disabilities that your ability to access the community isn’t a priority for the government. They’re not taking responsibility.”
In his research, Willows found Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador all have accessible parking included in either their provincial building code or accessibility legislation.
“Having it regulated at a provincial level is not uncommon in Canada,” Willows said.
Earlier this year, Willows did his own assessment of accessible on-street parking in downtown Victoria, where he found some of the parking spots allotted didn’t exist. Of the accessible spaces he found, Willows said most couldn’t be used by people with disabilities. It was during this review that Willows heard about the amendment to the B.C. Building Code’s accessible parking standards.
While the public review process for the changes began on Dec. 12, 2017, Willows said Section 3.8 — which included the amendment to accessible parking — was not available to read or comment on until Jan. 24, 2018. The public review period closed just over a month later on Feb. 28.
“Basically, for the accessibility section, we were given less than half the time of the remainder of the code to provide feedback to the ministry of housing on the proposed code changes,” Willows said.
Councillor Marianne Alto and Charlayne Thornton-Joe will be putting forward their motion for staff to examine what the new policy will mean to the CRD. In an interview with Black Press Media before the Dec. 13 council meeting, Alto said the City of Victoria had only found out recently about the change.
Willows will also be speaking at council on Thursday. He said he supports the councillors’ motion.
“I think it’s important for communities to let the province know they don’t think this is appropriate. There are certain standards that the province does need to maintain,” he said.
In the new year, Willows and MLA Adam Olsen will also be meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Housing to discuss their concerns.
“We are not looking for pity, we are looking for the tools we need to be able to have equitable access and the ability to be active and engaged members of the community,” Willows said. “Physical accessibility of the built environment is one key element to this.”