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Recognition


The James McGregor Stewart Society is honoured to receive the Lois Miller Tulip Award from Independent Living Nova Scotia.

The award is "to recognize a person, group or organization that exemplifies the spirit of independent living in providing contributions to enable persons living with disabilities to have control and informed choice over their lives."  

Anyone who knows Lois will testify that her energy and focus have changed the outlook for Nova Scotians with disabilities.  She served as the Executive Director of ILNS for 13 years before she retired early in 2011. She brought to the position her varied experience in non-profit organizations – as teacher, public relations officer, fundraiser, municipal politician and literacy program coordinator. The Lois Miller Tulip Award is to honour her tireless and active leadership on behalf of people living with a disability.

ILNS helps individuals navigate the complex systems faced by people with disabilities.  The quest to live a meaningful and independent life is often difficult.  Our many efforts to highlight inequities could not have practical effect without the engagement of groups like ILNS.

The award will be presented at the annual Gala and Dance of the ILNS, December 18, 6 - 930 PM

The  James McGregor Stewart Society is extremely grateful for the recognition. 

Pedestrian Crossing Ahead

Six years ago, I wrote about Halifax's non-existent sidewalk standards. This summer I was a passenger in a car which sideswiped a pedestrian.  It didn't seem to be anyone's fault particularly, but the crosswalk was in a funny place and only half-heartedly marked. I wondered at the time if the infrastructure could've been better - in light of the recent spate of pedestrian deaths, I'm wondering again.

My take on pedestrian accidents is that the infrastructure is often inadequate and partly to blame.   Good infrastructure design should anticipate texting drivers, earbudded pedestrians, and bad weather and do what it can to mitigate the danger.

I read the November 27 agenda of the HRM Crosswalk Safety Advisory Committee (no minutes since June) and it pointed to reports from the police and RCMP.   They document the basics - number, location, injuries, age, time and weather.  They say nothing about the physical attributes of the location.


HRM puts its design criteria in the Red Book, where you will find only one diagram of a curb cut (#49) and you will search in vain for a crosswalk.  Contrast that with the many ideas and rules of the ADA Access Board (can't find the PDF).  There is a dizzying array of alternatives at the Federal Highway Administration.  HRM's Traffic & Right-of-Way Services says it follows the Pedestrian Crossing Control Guide (2012), which you can buy for $155.  This guide may provide some insights.

It's pretty evident that a single page of the Red Book being devoted to pedestrian crossings is inadequate and irresponsible.  As evidence, consider the heavily used midblock crosswalk in front of Lawton's on Spring Garden, going over to Brenton Street.  A small sign for an out-of-context crosswalk seems poorly thought out.

The corners where a diagonal curb cut serves both crossings (left hand diagram on #49) is the most dangerous.  How is a motorist supposed to figure which way a pedestrian is headed?  In my wheelchair, I have to go down the ramp, into the path of traffic, before turning to make the correct crossing.  Check the corner of Summer and Spring Garden for many close calls every day.

There are plenty of standards, but HRM studiously avoids them, hence the poles in the middle of sidewalks, the out-of-reach buttons for walk signals - every crosswalk seems different.  

I thought it might be interesting to look at one intersection - the corner of Portland Hills Drive and Portland Estates Boulevard, where William Lee was killed this fall.  Here are some annotated Google Street View pictures - they date from 2011, but I doubt much has changed:

(click to enlarge)








This intersection is clearly a mess.  Nothing to be proud of, and possibly by its very nature a contributor to the death of Bill Lee.

I hope to hear of HRM's new standards for pedestrian rights-of-way, and to learn of the program to remediate existing infrastructure.  Standards have been envisioned as part of the forthcoming accessibility legislation, but there's no excuse for delay.

Gus Reed


Accessibility Legislation in under 200 words

Most people hear the words "accessibility legislation" and think of a wheelchair.   Unquestionably, people with disabilities need access, but so does the FedEx person, the mom with a stroller, the tourist from Boston, and your aging parent.  Those people use the access, but they don't think twice about it.

People with disabilities are willing to share the curb cuts with the FedEx person and don't mind when the home handyperson, laden with building supplies, pushes the power door button at Rona.

Change is coming, so instead of complaining about the cost, lets get ready!  All those baby boomers in Toronto who just turned 65 won't settle for the inconvenient bathtubs at the Wandlyn.  Those dads with kids in strollers won't be happy changing a diaper in the tiny washroom downstairs.  That nice young couple asking about a new house with a ground floor bedroom for the visiting parents are the future.  Accessibility is where it's at. and good businesspeople will recognize it.

Here is the rationale and a simple design for accessibility legislation in under 200 words:

Why

These three simple and important messages bear repeating:
  1. It's good for citizens
    1. We're all getting older
    2. Many accessible amenities are just better ideas that everyone takes advantage of
      1. Level entrances
      2. Low-floor buses
      3. Curb cuts
      4. Family washrooms
    3. Nova Scotia is emptying out - we need to match our priorities with our people and rely on ourselves
  2. It's good for business
    1. There is a huge and growing demand for accessible tourism 
    2. With housing starts down considerably in Nova Scotia, builders need to turn their attention elsewhere
    3. More access means more retail customers
  3. It's good for government, whose highest purpose is the equal treatment of all citizens
    1. More jobs mean more taxes and less costly support of the presently hard-to-employ
    2. Ditto more economic activity 
    3. More aging at home means less expensive alternatives to nursing homes.
    4. Safer infrastructure means reduced healthcare costs

How & When

These are the components of good legislation:
  1. Standards
    1. Independently defined
    2. Exceptions allowed
    3. Exemptions not considered
  2. Enforcement is the responsibility of government
  3. Meaningful Penalties
  4. Incentives
  5. Swiftly accomplished

Where

Covering public and private activities in these domains
  1. The built environment
    1. for private dwellings, incentives, not penalties
  2. Employment
  3. Transportation
  4. Information
  5. Services