IN FEBRUARY 2014, I TORE TWO ligaments, my meniscus and tendons while skiing. I would two require surgeries. I spent six weeks on crutches in 2014, as well as five weeks in 2015 and four weeks in 2016, all during winter months. The injury allowed me, if only for a short time, to see our city through the eyes of a woman with a disability.
It wasn’t until our board started discussing concepts for this issue of The Yards that I recognized how vulnerable I was while I recovered. I couldn’t put weight on my right leg so I couldn’t run. Being an able-bodied woman, I had always taken comfort knowing I could at least sprint if I had to escape an unsafe situation — a tactic I’ve had to use in the past. But on crutches, if someone had followed me home or tried to hurt me, I would have had little defense. Given that it was winter, I was often traveling in the dark, too.
Perhaps naïvely, I did not reflect on my safety at these times. Still, it became apparent Edmonton is not disability friendly. My only modes of transportation were walking (or more accurately, crutching) and public transit. And Edmonton’s design flaws became apparent: Ramps from the sidewalk to the crosswalk often deposited me right onto the roadway, if a ramp existed at all. Pedestrian-triggered crossing lights often had “beg buttons,” and these were placed so inconveniently that it was difficult for me to flick the button and cross the street in time. Streets coated in ice and snow made my movements treacherous and risky. Even door power-assist buttons were awkwardly placed, resulting in me being hit by a door more than once.
Many argue city designers should adopt a limited-mobility lens in order to accommodate not only those with disabilities, but seniors, children, parents with strollers, and people with carts and walkers. Doing so, some argue, will see cities create pedestrian bump outs, ramps at every crossing, shorter crossing distances on roads and the accommodation of pedestrians through construction zones.
I agree with this view. From improved sidewalk lighting to land-use planning policies that increase the number of people on the street, there are numerous way to make our cities safer — for all. We’ve all been young and, hopefully, we’ll all be old. Our mobility will eventually be limited. That’s why inclusive design and policies must include each and every one of us.
President, Oliver Community League