Accessibility is about more than washrooms

Honourable Josie Osborne
Minister of Municipal Affairs
Province of British Columbia

July 21, 2021

Dear Minister Osborne

I am writing to you for your support and help.

I am a resident of Victoria, a member of the disability community and the President of the Multiple Sclerosis Wellness Centre of Vancouver Island. In May of 2020 the City of Victoria Mayor and Council voted to pedestrianize Beacon Hill Park, a 200-acre park near city centre, to increase opportunities for outdoor social distancing during the pandemic. This meant the temporary closure of a road providing people living with very limited mobility, including seniors, access to the park.

Beacon Hill Park is the only park inVictoria where people who are unable to or have difficulty using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, can journey through the forest without having to travel a great distance to other communities. Family members and community caregivers often take people who live most of their lives indoors on a drive through the park, and then park their vehicles so they can enjoy the forest the only way they are able.

Although the City’s original purpose for closing the roads was COVID-19 the Mayor and Council recently voted to keep the park roads closed, particularly Arbutus Way, which is a critical access point and important part of how some people living with disabilities experience the forest.For some a road through a park seems silly, but for others, who are very limited in their mobility the drive through the park viaArbutus Way is the only opportunity they have to visit and be in the forest. It is a much-needed oasis from a life where they are often shut-in.

Victoria’s Mayor and Council are now suggesting that closing these roads is part of the city’s effort to reduce our carbon-footprint.The only road that would be available to people who have very limited mobility would be one to the public washroom.

Although I respect and appreciate Mayor& Council’s climate action efforts, I am concerned that their lack of understanding of accessibility will leave those of us living with disabilities with little more than access to washrooms. I also fear that we will be called upon more than others to hold the burden of climate change, which is clearly a violation of human rights. Sadly, Beacon Hill Park is not the first place where the city has done this.

Respectfully, I am wondering if you are able to provide our Mayor and Council with training and resources on accessibility and people living with disabilities. It seems they lack an understanding of the meaning of accessibility and I am not sure how to convince them it is about more than a toilet.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

With kindness and respect.

Susan Simmons
President, MultipleSclerosis Wellness Centre of Vancouver Island

CC: 
Mayor – Lisa Helps,
Councillors – Marianne Alto, Stephen Andrew, Sharmarke Dubow, Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, Sarah Potts, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young

3 thoughts on “Accessibility is about more than washrooms

  1. Please open Beacon Hill Park roads to all individuals, including those that need cars to get around. Roads should not be closed to those that have mobility/ disability issues. This is blatant discrimination and disregard for a significant part of the population who no longer can enjoy the park simply because Council says so. The people of Victoria say otherwise. This is a basic human rights issue.
    Thank you.

  2. I agree that the roads in Beacon Hill Park should remain open to allow the elderly and those facing physical challenges the opportunity to access and enjoy the park.

  3. Unbelievable that these city councillors who voted against (or were suspiciously absent in the case of Sarah Potts) opening Arbutus Way seem to have zero understanding of BC Human Rights legislation. Yet they were all too willing to allow Beacon Hill Park to be turned into a drug and crime fest for months on end. Their ignorance and enablement knows no bounds.

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