N.L. can learn from Danish focus on accessibility
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