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A Little Perspective on the Accessible Cities Award

Jun 03, 2017

Looking up at trees

While we all can be proud that the Rick Hansen Foundation chose to honour the City of Winnipeg with a 2017 Accessible Cities award, it is also important to view this achievement from a broader perspective.

One of the factors mentioned by the foundation's material as to why Winnipeg was chosen is that the City commits over $425,000 annually to improve accessibility. While that makes some difference, this investment in accessibility represents less 0.1% of the City's overall $433M capital budget. On a per capita basis, that $425,00 contribution works out to only about 60 cents per annum to improve accessibility for an estimated 125,000 Winnipeg citizens with disabilities.

As an even more sobering fact, City Council tagged the $425,000 investment in improved accessibility as one of seven areas for review and possible cuts or elimination to help cover over-expenditures in last year's snow removal budget. This was reported on in a Free Press story on March 9, 2017 (see:

Thankfully, the funding was not cut but it goes to show just how precarious the City's commitment is to spending the money required to improve accessibility.

We also note that there is an outstanding complaint to the Ombudsman filed by the Independent Living Resource Centre​ regarding inadequacies in the City's Handi-Transit program (see:

Finally, no information has been made available on what if any metrics were used in deciding on the award, nor on how many total cities applied (it is an application process).

But it is great to be recognized and Mayor Bowman's words of acknowledgement were gracious and far from being self-congratulatory. So kudos to the City of Winnipeg. Now is time to redouble your efforts to promote and protect the human rights of persons with disabilities. Now is not the time to decrease or even just sustain current efforts.

If you are interested in what the City of Winnipeg has in store for the coming years, here is a quote from its recently released multi-year accessibiity plan (here are links to the full document Word / PDF).

"The City of Winnipeg recognizes that, although considerable progress has been made over the past several years on improving accessibility under the civic purview, there is still vast work to be done in order to create a universally accessible community. The City will continue to work toward ensuring equal access and participation for all people living, working or visiting our City by methodically removing accessibility barriers. This plan identifies the ongoing efforts of the City to prevent and remove barriers to customer service, transportation, employment, information and communication, and the built environment. As local demographics and innovations in technology regarding accessibility continue to evolve, the City is committed to maintaining a current understanding of local accessibility needs and evolving our approach to preventing and removing barriers.

The City acknowledges our continued responsibility to meet the requirements of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act and our own Universal Design Policy. Establishing a universally accessible city is a necessary step to encourage and respect the dignity and independence of our citizens, visitors and employees. Education and awareness training will enable our employees to apply an accessibility lens to all projects, procedures and practices and improve the City’s service delivery. The City will maintain strong partnerships with persons disabled by barriers and representatives from organizations of persons disabled by barriers in our community. The City recognizes that continued collaboration will lead to success in ensuring the City of Winnipeg is truly a welcoming and inclusive community where all people can fully participate."


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