Wheelchair users frustrated by city blocking parking spaces
For many Montrealers with physical disabilities a simple trip to the grocery store or mall is often a frustrating ordeal.
They frequently have trouble finding accessible parking and enough space to get their wheelchairs out of their cars or vans.
Stephanie Chipeur said the city often does not take limited mobility into consideration when it designs roads, sidewalks, and street furniture.
Chipeur uses a wheelchair to get around her neighbourhood in the Plateau, and recently discovered that the disabled parking spot near her local grocery store now has a bench in front of it, making it impossible for her to exit the vehicle.
“The ramp is creating a peak instead of being a flat ramp,” she said.
“I can never exit my car.”
It’s just one of many roadblocks facing disabled Montrealers living in a city that hasn’t taken their struggles into consideration.
“It seems like to me they haven’t thought it out about who is creating these spaces,” she said.
“There’s no basic checklist. If we’re going to make a wheelchair accessible parking spot what are the features needed? This spot meets barely any of those requirements.”
Laurent Morissette is the president of RAPLIQ, an accessibility rights group.
He was frustrated that the city doesn’t seek input from disability groups when designing streets and parking areas for the handicapped.
“We are only consulted after the fact,” Morissette said.
Individual boroughs are responsible for parking, and a Plateau official did admit the error.
“I don’t know which came first,” city councillor Alex Norris said. “Was the parking spot there first or did the bench come first? Whatever it was, the correction needs to be made.”
He said that disability groups are not consulted on decisions like where to place handicapped parking.
“It’s a technical decision that’s made by a civil servant based on a series of criteria,” Norris said.
For Chipeur, it’s just the latest source of frustration of living in a city that hasn’t adequately accommodated people with disabilities.
“Unfortunately Montreal is the worst city in North America to be a wheelchair user, so I’m used to this stuff all the time,” she said.