Doing More Than Minimum
A few years ago a new "super store" was opened locally and it was a great success in most ways. They did follow some new design ideas that are being incorporated more often now for the environment. They also probably help the bottom line...
One in particular is the incorporation of parking under the grocery store. A "super store" basically is a grocery store expanded to include much of a department store -- and in fact a department store and grocery store to rival a warehouse store or big box store. They are reminiscent to me of the old department stores that included a grocery store which rivalled any grocery store chain's store.
In this case of this new store's opening, that is one of the things that people were critical about. It wasn't that valuable space was saved in putting parking under the store, but rather that access to the store was made by ramps.
Other stores of near identical design had been built in Metro-Vancouver without so much complaint, but this one had a small difference -- this one did not also have elevators. The other stores all had elevators in addition to the ramps. The ramps are fairly gradual in slope and not too much effort for an able bodied person to climb. I think perhaps people with health issues might find them a bit taxing though. There are also stairs, I believe, though it has been a little while since I was there. People wanted to know why elevators were not included in this store and the reason given by the chain: "City bylaws did not require us to have elevators so we did not include them."
I think that it might be very important for municipalities, provinces, countries and other levels of government to have laws establishing minimum levels of compliance for such things as whether a building has elevators or what degree of slope an access ramp might have, but even if these might differ from area to area, certainly what should also be looked at is function. I can understand that having or not having an elevator does change the cost of a building, but especially when we are talking about a chain that has designs already made for the same or similar store with elevators, why not include an elevator simply to make the store more functional?
The cynic in me can think of reasons/excuses why not to put one in. One that comes to mind is that if you put one in, then you are liable for any accidental injury that it will cause. Of course you could always counter that with how many accidental injuries might be caused by not having it. I'm not a lawyer so I am probably naive in that counter argument.
What reminded me of this was a situation of someone I know who has been sick and in the hospital for a while. They have been doing fairly well with their artificial leg, but after recent surgery just are not up to climbing stairs or long ramps. Normally they use canes but for the moment they are using a walker. They aren't going out much but they have to go to the Doctor from time to time -- of course Doctors just don't make house-calls. The issue is that to get from the "Handicapped Parking" stalls to the door, a person has to negotiate either a long ramp or stairs.
This is not a building which has been retrofitted to allow for the handicapped parking. The building was designed as a medical-detal-legal office building from the start. In the designing didn't anyone anticipate that people who might be going in and out of such a building might actually be disabled and so it might be handy if there weren't major changes in elevation between the parking and the elevator lobby?
Probably the whole design does fit in with the Civic Bylaws and all the minimum standards set by the different levels of government with perhaps a few amendments which were applied for and granted in exchange for other accommodation. But the if the minimum is the bar that people aim for all the time, perhaps the bar has to be raised? -- at least for new buildings.
I can understand that when retrofitting existing structures minimum standards might be what is aimed for -- if at all possible -- but not for new structures. There might of course also be standards for voluntary compliance perhaps?
I am starting to consider if I might change my shopping patterns with a bias toward the more accessable locations. After all, if they are more willing to accomodate people with accessability issues, they probably also will do right by all of their customers.
Handicapped signage image from Image*After.