Written by Cathy Grant
So, I went to the BCITS’s AGM and Social last week. It was a lovely event where I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while, ate some good food, and even won a door prize. So far it had been a really fun evening; that was until I had to leave. The location of the event was on Grandville Island and while a lovely assessable venue, it didn’t have convenient transit for people in wheelchairs.
This meant that people had to rely upon Handydart, cabs, or their personal vehicles.
In my case I wasn’t sure until that day that I could go, so Handydart was out. Parking on Grandville Island is insane at the best of times even for a properly tagged handicapped vehicle; besides the person working with me that night doesn’t have her driver’s license so my van was out.
This left only cabs as my only option to get home. I called for one as soon as it looked like the evening was braking up. An hour and two calls wondering when it was going to come later there was still no cab. Finally, a wheelchair cab from another company drove by and my staff flagged it down.
We were able to get home barely in time for the staff to get me settled in bed before her shift ended. And I wasn’t the last person in a wheelchair to leave.
Now BCITS is one of the better organizations out there for helping people with all sort of disabilities but as this story shows, even the best organizations can screw up with it comes event location. I know that there are many factors in play when an organization chooses where to hold an event but how easy it is for someone in a wheelchair to get to seems to always get forgotten.
It’s sort of like what I talked about last month with housing. That a venue is assessable is the start not the end of criterial selection. The next question from an assessable perspective should be to ask how easy is it for people in wheelchairs to both get to it and leave? Is it near wheelchair assessable bus routes that run reasonably frequency, or better yet is it near a Skytrain or Canada Line station (there is a reason why the so many wheelchair events are held at the Roundhouse Community Centre). If they answer is no, then additional accommodations have to be made.
The recent REE conference for example had a wheelchair assessable shuttle running from Richmond Olympic Venue to the Lansdowne station to the event for example. But relying on cabs even when you have vouchers to cover the cost just isn’t a workable solution now a days.
There are a lot of organizations out there today that are either catering to or want to support people with disabilities. Ultimately this is a good thing for the disabled community.
However, it is important for such groups, when planning events for people with disables, (and in particular people with mobility issues) to take the time to not only make sure the venue’s buildings are assessable but that it is also assessable via multiple means of transport. I mean it’s no fun to throw a party only to have no one show up because they couldn’t get there.