Accessibility Advisory Committee chair George Atamanenko and the city's new manager of active living Stacy Miranda updated city council on the committee's activities Tuesday.

Accessibility Advisory Committee chair George Atamanenko and the city's new manager of active living Stacy Miranda updated city council on the committee's activities Tuesday.

Wheelchair taxi a must, committee says

Williams Lake needs a bylaw to ensure the city has a wheelchair accessible taxi.

Williams Lake needs a bylaw to ensure the city has a wheelchair accessible taxi, Accessibility Advisory Committee chair George Atamanenko told city council during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“This has been ongoing for over three years,” Atamanenko said of the push for the taxi.

The committee has spoken with the new owner of Town Taxi who presently lives in Golden, conducted surveys and talked with taxi drivers about the need.

“We’ve almost exhausted the point,” he said. “We would like a bylaw in place saying that there be at least one accessible taxi within the fleet. It can be done, other communities have had it done.”

Coun. Laurie Walters thanked the committee for its work and said a taxi bylaw is important.

“I would encourage council to get that moving,” Walters said. “I can appreciate a grandfather clause for existing businesses, but we really need to take action.”

According to Stacy Miranda, the city’s new manager of active living, wheelchair accessible cabs are moving forward in cities a lot faster than people might think.

“We did a report with some recommendations and it sits with the governance committee right now,” Miranda said. “I don’t know if they’ve reviewed the document. It’s not something that you just wake up tomorrow and create a bylaw. There’s a lot of research that will go into it for our own community.”

Coun. Scott Nelson said it should be mandated that if there’s a taxi service in the community it has to be wheelchair accessible.

Responding Miranda suggested the only way change will happen is if a bylaw is put in place.

Recently in Vancouver Mayor Walt Cobb was told by one taxi company that all of its cabs are wheelchair accessible, he said.

Atamanenko also requested the city provide free transit the first Saturday in June to celebrate accessibility awareness day, which is marked across the province.

“It would provide continuous education about accessibility and that everyone with any form of disability is part of our community,” he said.

Building on the legacy of Rick Hansen, the committee continues to push for ways to make the city more accessible and in 2014, four sets of accessible doors were installed at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.

The Gibraltar Room has been equipped with automatic door openers for easy access to members with strollers, wheelchairs or related mobility challenges. Three other entry points in the complex that were retrofitted with automatic door openers include Rink One, Rink Two and the Fitness Centre.

Former manager of active living Deb Radolla was able to secure funding for the project from the Federal Government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund.

“It shows the community that we care as an institution at least,” Atamanenko said.

Coun. Sue Zacharias told council the Williams Lake Construction Association, in partnership with Thompson Rivers University’s residential construction program, will build another home in 2016.

“This fall we’ll be looking at a lot and a plan before the course starts in February, so I would appreciate if you would send me information about visitable housing,” Zacharias told Atamanenko. “We can keep that in our view as we’re looking at our design.”

Williams Lake could be a leader in accessible communities in the province, Atamanenko said, but it needs a strong mission from council.

Coun. Ivan Bonnell has replaced Surinderpal Rathor as the council rep on the committee, which meets the first Tuesday of the month and is open to the public.