Halifax almost nixes accessible parking spots for smoking area
Published Friday, October 19, 2018 5:20PM ADT
Last Updated Friday, October 19, 2018 6:53PM ADT
The way the city is implementing its no-smoking policy continues to draw criticism, particularly the manner in which it is creating designated smoking areas.
So far, it’s been the lack of spaces, but on Thursday, two accessible parking spots outside of the Halifax Forum were painted over to make room for one of those designated smoking areas.
The city says it was a misunderstanding and have since repainted the parking spots, but some accessibility advocates are worried that it is a sign of things to come.
When Darrel MacDonald heard that two accessible parking spots were painted over to create a designated smoking area, he had to check it out for himself.
“Accessible parking spots are hard to find as it is, so when you take one or two away from the situation, that just leaves someone without a spot to use,” says accessibility advocate Darrel MacDonald.
“Whether it was taken away by smoking, or by a construction crew, it is a slap in the face.”
MacDonald posted a photo of the removed spots on Facebook.
The post received a lot of attention on social media, but some wheelchair advocates say they weren't surprised.
“At first, I was angry,” says accessibility advocate Brian George. “But, really, I saw it as typical. This city is notorious for having people who know nothing about accessibility make decisions about accessibility.”
The city says the accessible spots being removed was an error, caused by miscommunication between the city and Halifax Forum staff.
“There were some parking spaces that we thought we might be able to take advantage of,” said Halifax Regional Municipality spokesman Brendan Elliott. “It did not indicate on our maps that those were accessible parking spaces, so it made perfect sense. There's plenty of parking at the Forum, remove a couple of those and make it more accessible for people who need to smoke.”
By noon Friday, the parking spots had been repainted, and the designated smoking area moved a short distance away.
But some accessibility advocates say it is an example of the city ignoring the needs of the accessible community.
“Smokers, they can quit, they can choose to quit anytime, go on a program, go cold turkey or whatever, but i can't quit my disability, I have it 24/7/365,” MacDonald said.
More than 60 designated smoking areas have now been installed around HRM. Elliott says the city has heard from business owners and citizens with concerns about some of the locations, and they welcome that feedback.
“It's about growing into this and being nimble, that's the key for us,” Elliott said. “If we see something and it's not working, reassess it and then move it, and that's what we did in this case.”
The city says concerns about designated smoking areas can be called into 311.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April.