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Special needs group urges council to pursue 12 projects for better accessibility

The proposals are based on public input received and according to priority levels of high, medium and low

The City of Moose Jaw’s special needs advisory committee has recommended to city council that 12 accessibility projects be considered in future capital budgets based on the importance of the projects.

After their meeting on March 29, the committee endorsed a dozen improvement projects that the parks and recreation department could pursue once money is available in the capital budget’s PR-59 accessibility upgrades account. The proposals were based on public input received during a December 2020 online accessibility survey

These projects are based on priorities of high, medium and low.

High priority projects include building upgrades at Smith Park, enhancing entrances at city hall, producing an updated accessibility audit of all municipal buildings, making enhancements to pathways, trail system curb cuts and surfacing improvements, upgrading the changerooms and other building amenities at the Kinsmen Sportsplex, and improving the pathways in Crescent Park.

Medium priority projects include upgrades to the Kinfield Park building, upgrades to the Ross Wells Park venue, enhancing ice surface ramps at Pla-Mor Palace, and improving the pathway at the dog park.

Low priorities include upgrades to the West End Park building and upgrades to the Moose Square park building. 

Council voted unanimously during its April 26 regular meeting to endorse the projects and fund them when money becomes available in the accessibility upgrades account. 

Since 2002, the parks and rec department has received an annual capital budget allocation of roughly $30,000 dedicated to accessibility upgrades in city buildings and parks, a council report explained. 

Over the past 19 years, the parks department has completed projects at the police station, civic centre, Pla-Mor Palace, city hall, Kinsmen Sportsplex pool and arena, the library, Hillcrest Sports Centre, the Natatorium, the museum and art gallery, the cultural centre, for Wakamow Valley Authority, and at Elgin Park, Crescent Park, Sunningdale Park, East End Park, Optimist Park and Bell Park.

The special needs advisory committee distributed a community survey in December 2020 to gather feedback from residents about areas to improve accessibility in the community, and 77 people — with and without disabilities — responded to the survey, the report said. 

The survey’s findings showed respondents had complaints about specific topics and specific places, buildings or venues where those concerns arose. The complaints were categorized into whether they were mentioned more than five times, three to five times, or only a few times. 

Complaints focused on general inaccessibility, snow removal/ice/uneven ground, the necessity for more or better ramps, wheelchair lifts, curb cuts, the need for discounts, inaccessible doors in public buildings, bathroom accessibility and lack of braille. 

The places of concern that respondents mentioned included city hall, the Kinsmen Sportsplex, sidewalks in general, the library and museum, downtown, Crescent Park, Wakamow Valley, the dog park, Spring Creek, transit and bus stops, paratransit, and disabled parking. 

Most people appreciated that city hall and businesses are installing more curb cuts or ramps for better accessibility, while respondents also like how easy it is to use the YaraCentre, the survey showed. 

Some areas that survey respondents said were going well or that they liked included paratransit, community surveys, the easy convenience to use the mall and library, and that people’s attitudes and awareness are softening toward those with disabilities.

Municipal programs that interested most survey respondents included more accessible fitness and swimming programs and more social events or groups for people with disabilities and their families, the report added.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, May 10.