N.L. can learn from Dan­ish fo­cus on ac­ces­si­bil­ity

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial -

I re­cently re­turned from a va­ca­tion to Nor­way and De­mark and it was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence to visit coun­tries so steeped in his­tory. One of the sites I vis­ited was the Chris­tian­borg Palace in Copen­hagen.

De­spite be­ing built in 1167, it has through the years un­der­gone sig­nif­i­cant ren­o­va­tions due to fires and wars, as well as re­spond­ing to mod­ern in­no­va­tions. Th­ese ren­o­va­tions in­clude mak­ing the palace ac­ces­si­ble for wheel­chair users. There are amaz­ing lifts in­stalled so wheel­chair-us­ing vis­i­tors can ac­tu­ally visit un­der­ground ar­eas such as The Ru­ins, which show the in­ner struc­ture of the palace. This YouTube link (https://youtu.be/ Y6EObYWYRU0) shows one of th­ese lifts in ac­tion.

I was de­lighted to see such ac­ces­si­bil­ity fea­tures in­te­grated within a palace built 850 years ago! Con­trast this to our own prov­ince, also filled with his­tory and her­itage build­ings, where we can­not even seem to build a ramp cor­rectly on a new build­ing, much less sup­port the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of her­itage build­ings to fa­cil­i­tate ac­ces­si­bil­ity for ev­ery­one.

In fact, many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize we al­low her­itage build­ings to be ex­empt un­der the Build­ings Ac­ces­si­bil­ity Act (BAA), and many ma­jor ren­o­va­tions to ex­ist­ing struc­tures man­age to es­cape th­ese and other ac­ces­si­bil­ity re­quire­ments.

This prov­ince needs to ad­dress the se­ri­ous im­per­fec­tions with this leg­is­la­tion. Ev­ery sin­gle day, new build­ings are con­structed with the ex­pec­ta­tion they will be with us for decades. Will they in­cor­po­rate uni­ver­sal de­sign prin­ci­ples? Likely not. Will they man­age to es­cape the BAA? Prob­a­bly.

We are not cre­at­ing an ac­ces­si­ble and in­clu­sive prov­ince within the ex­ist­ing Build­ings Ac­ces­si­bil­ity Act and Reg­u­la­tions. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment needs to ad­dress the many se­ri­ous is­sues with the Act and Reg­u­la­tions im­me­di­ately. We don’t need any more ex­cuses, de­lays, meet­ings, let­ters or con­sul­ta­tions. If a coun­try as old as Den­mark can make its her­itage and mod­ern build­ings ac­ces­si­ble while re­spect­ing his­tory and ar­chi­tec­tural vi­sion, surely we can as well.

Joanne MacDon­ald St. John’s

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