Advocates calling on the city to enforce accessibility policies in construction zones
WINNIPEG -- Summer in Winnipeg is often paired with plenty of construction work, but some sites in the city are making it difficult for people with mobility challenges.
Barricades and broken concrete are blocking a portion of the sidewalk along Portage Avenue in the St. James area. For Allen Mankewich, who uses a wheelchair, the barricades are nearly impossible to get around.
“They have a ramp to get up to the bus stop over there I noticed, which is nice, but then half the sidewalks are blocked off by construction debris and signage, so it seems like they’re taking some steps, but completely missing the boat on other steps,” Mankewich told CTV News.
The City of Winnipeg’s Manual for Temporary Traffic Control on city streets states, “When pedestrians are not removed from a work area, a temporary path must be maintained where possible.”
It also notes the temporary pedestrian path must be accessible and separated from vehicle traffic, and temporary curb ramps should be used to maintain accessibility for those with mobility issues.
“A manual is good, but if it’s not being enforced, it’s simply nice words on paper which doesn’t really help anybody,” Mankewich said.
The Manitoba League of Persons with Disabilities said some people with mobility issues may not have another mode of transportation, and blocking sidewalks and intersections without a temporary path can restrict them from accessing goods and services.
“When you create projects that literally put a physical barrier in front of them, and you’re not supposed to go into a construction zone for safety reasons, it can really create some unintentional exclusion,” said chairperson Whitney Hodgins.
In a statement to CTV News, a city spokesperson said contractors are required to comply with the temporary traffic control manual to the extent feasible, and said the city makes efforts to ensure compliance.
“The City assigns a Contract Administrator to oversee all aspects of a construction project including traffic management and access,” said the spokesperson in an email.
“As a reminder, the public can contact 311 who will forward the issue to be addressed by the contract administrator.”
Hodgins said accessibility policies are in place because construction companies are supposed to follow them.
“When they don’t, it does become a bit of an issue because now it’s up to the people living with disabilities to say something,” said Hodgins.
In the past, Mankewich said when he’s reported accessibility issues in construction zones, the city referred him to the private contractor in charge of the project.
“Maybe we should be looking at doing some of this work in house where we know the reporting process is with the city.”
The Portage Avenue construction work is scheduled to be complete by the end of July.