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Rideau-Vanier: Shantz — Ottawa should be an accessible city for everyone

Ottawa Citizen logo Ottawa Citizen 2022-10-01 Laura Shantz
Laura Shantz is running for city council in Rideau-Vanier, Ward 12: 'Civic engagement needs a shake-up to improve accessibility.' © Provided by Ottawa Citizen Laura Shantz is running for city council in Rideau-Vanier, Ward 12: 'Civic engagement needs a shake-up to improve accessibility.'

The Citizen invited candidates in the Oct. 24 municipal election to share their thoughts:

Let’s talk about accessibility for everyone, Ottawa.

I want Ottawa to be a city where everyone is welcome and included … and that means I’m ready to work to make our city more accessible! Being accessible means ensuring that everyone can participate in life in our city. Accessibility benefits us all: fewer barriers; easier access to the places we love; more customers for businesses; and more inclusion and dignity for our neighbours who have often been excluded.

But what would an accessible city look like?

An accessible city has an excellent and inviting built environment. It has wide, flat and smooth sidewalks that are suitable for mobility devices. Along with that, we need shade and places to sit so that people can navigate streets at their preferred speeds and rest as needed.

We also need to improve access to existing buildings by adding ramps and door openers, which encourage more customers (people with mobility devices, strollers and more!) and also make deliveries easier — further proof that accessibility helps all.

I also want to see improved transit and Para Transpo services to help more people engage in their communities, as well as better wayfinding signage so that both local residents and tourists can get where they need to go.

Public toilets are another essential accessibility feature: everyone needs easy access to toilets, day and night. It is a matter of dignity and opens up more of our city to people with health conditions such as incontinence or Crohn’s disease (as well as parents with young children). These toilets must be fully accessible and have adequate signage so they are easily found. In many cities, public toilets are part of every public building.

Providing services in French and English (and more languages when possible) across the city — from emergency services to recreational programming and public health clinics — without barriers helps ensure that our French-language communities remain vibrant and that the city is a welcome place for francophones and anglophones alike. In the case of emergency services, bilingual services ensure residents are supported at the moments when they are struggling.

Accessible cities make space for children, seniors and more. And accessibility ensures that all ages and abilities are welcome everywhere. Access to parks, playgrounds, drinking fountains and outdoor seating invites people of all ages to enjoy our city.

Civic engagement needs a shake-up to improve accessibility. Online surveys cannot always capture nuance and do not always feel meaningful. I want to see more engagement options that better reflect people’s lived experiences and which do so with minimal barriers to participation, so that we invite more residents to engage, including those who have too often been ignored in the past.

Accessibility means that everyone in our city, young and old, of all abilities, can participate. Even if you are able-bodied, removing barriers for your friends and neighbours enriches your experience of the city and promotes a better Ottawa for everyone. Everyone deserves to be included, and I will work to make it happen.

More information here.

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