Publicado por: Ricardo Shimosakai | 14/06/2013

Accessibility committee to look at sidewalk cafes, sandwich boards

Sidewalk cafes and sandwich boards can present unnavigable obstacles to the visibly impaired.Sidewalk cafes and sandwich boards can present unnavigable obstacles to the visibly impaired.

For most, sidewalk cafes mean a lovely dining experience outside with friends. But for people who use wheelchairs or have reduced vision, the cafes can be an in-navigable obstacle course.

Recently, the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee decided to take a look at by-laws regarding encroachments, sandwich boards and sidewalk cafes. In the worst situations, sidewalks can be impossible to use.

The by-laws are enforced on a complaint-level basis, says Paul Mackinnon, executive director at Downtown Halifax Business Commission. He says the sidewalk cafes are mostly compliant with the bylaws, but sandwich boards are problematic, because the standard size is smaller than the larger requirement established by the bylaw.

“At some point, there’s probably going to be a bit of crackdown and there’s going to be a big conflict again between the businesses and the HRM by-laws,” says Mackinnon.

“Safety is paramount. We need to really look at what’s safe, you could have somebody that has a sight impairment and for the last 365 days they have been walking down the street and all of a sudden they’re tripping over a sandwich sign,” says councillor Steve Craig, who sits on the AAC.

Some suggestions for tweaking the bylaws include ensuring sidewalks are wide enough that a sidewalk cafe or sandwich board would not create a threat, and bringing sandwich boards closer to places of business so they do not block any sidewalk space.

Currently, there is a requirement for a seven-foot clearance on the sidewalk for sidewalk cafes. Seven feet is approximately the width required for two wheelchairs to pass each other. Additionally, a kickplane is required to provide a cue to people with visible impairments using a cane that there will be a change in terrain. Most sidewalk cafes downtown have no such kickplane.

Council Tuesday sent the AAC’s concerns to its Transportation Standing Committee fo discussion next month.

Source: The Coast


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