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LETTER Accessibility is not a luxury

A modest-income senior and longtime renter, I use a walker as a result of several falls and fractures on Victoria streets.

In spite of the city’s policies indicating decisions are based on principles of “diversity, equity and inclusion,” sadly the reality is that much of our housing and other key services are neither affordable nor accessible to many of our residents.

Everyone is a pedestrian but not everyone drives a car or rides a bicycle or e-scooter. Yet our sidewalks are often narrow and hazardous with hindrances due to plant overgrowth from adjacent homes, or rarely cleared after a snowfall.

Try navigating sidewalks or using transit safely if you have a cane, use a wheelchair, or have kids in carriages with a shopping bag or two.

Cracks in Victoria’s 467 km of sidewalks result in 600 calls annually for repairs, and a mere four blocks of concrete sidewalks replaced a year. Budget priorities, however, favour 279 km of road maintenance and improvements to the city’s new “All Ages and Abilities” cycling network.

I personally had to petition the city for an accessible washroom at the downtown bus station. I also had to petition Jawl/Concert Properties as well as the proprietor of a brand-new ground-floor cafe in Capital Park for an accessible door to their premises which services many nearby provincial government employees.

In my James Bay neighbourhood, I noted the construction of a new four-storey, 20-unit rental complex (comprised of high-rent townhomes and studio apartments), all approved by the city, yet none had an accessible entry pathway.

The James Bay project owner, the largest multi-family residential operator in Canada, just received tentative approval to build the largest rental towers in the city. It currently shares a downtown office with its strategic partner, one of the largest rental property management firms in Victoria, which also has no accessible entrance to its building.

These actions send a strong message to tenants, prospective employees, and citizens with mobility challenges — accessibility is not a necessity, it’s a luxury we can’t afford.

Is Victoria affordable and accessible, let alone diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

Victoria Adams