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Posts Tagged "Square"

30Aug

Province won’t change Robson Square steps despite accessibility complaints | CBC News

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The ramp that zigzags across the steps at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver will not be modified to address accessibility concerns because of the “architectural significance of the site.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng says the ramp, which was designed in the 1970s by Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson, is too steep to safely navigate in a wheelchair or while pushing a stroller.

Cheng says the ramp is also a tripping hazard for people with visual impairments because the stairs are all the same colour, which makes it difficult to determine where one step ends and the next one begins.

“A lot of people use architectural significance to justify not making any changes, but historically it has not been a problem for many, many buildings,” he said.

“The Louvre in Paris has more historical significance than Robson Square, but they have changed a lot of things over the years.”

Any changes to the design would have to be approved by the provincial government.

Arnold Cheng, accessibility assessor for spectrum ability, rolls his wheelchair up the ramp he says is unsafe at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Changes coming

The province conducted accessibility audits of Robson Square in 2010 and 2018, both of which determined the stair ramps may be difficult for some people to use.

Despite the findings, the B.C. government will not alter the design.

“There are no plans to update the ramps and as such they should be primarily considered ornamental,” the Ministry of Citizens’ Services said in an emailed statement.

“Access to the building can be attained through a number of other means.”

The province says there is signage to direct people to more than 20 elevators that are located at Robson Square, but more signs and assistance for people with a variety of disabilities will soon be added to the site.

Cheng says he welcomes the changes but he doesn’t think they go far enough. 

“The signage definitely has to be better,” Cheng said.

“For some reason, people think you automatically know where everything is.”

Accessibility consultant Arnold Cheng wants to see improvements to the steps at Robson Square. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Erickson’s vision

Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War.

Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was always close to the architect’s heart.

“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.

“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”

22Aug

The Robson Square steps are beautiful but are they safe? | CBC News

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The path at Robson Square in Vancouver that zigzags across the stairwell like a switchback trail on a mountainside is a crown jewel in the late architect Arthur Erickson’s portfolio.

Arnold Cheng doesn’t like it.

“There are two competing camps — people who think it’s beautiful and wonderful and people who don’t think it’s beautiful and wonderful,” Cheng said.

“Quite often, one [camp] is people without disabilities and the other is people with disabilities.”

Cheng, who works as an accessibility consultant, says it’s dangerous to travel down the steep ramp in his wheelchair.

Conversely, anyone pushing a stroller uphill would have a hard time making it to the top of the steps.

“You need stamina,” he said. “Muscles, too.”

Cheng pushes his wheelchair up the ramp at Robson Square in Vancouver. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Is it dangerous?

It’s not just the ramp Cheng takes issue with.

The stairs are all the same colour, which he says can make it difficult for a visually impaired person to tell where one step begins and the next one ends.

“That’s how people start tripping,” he said. “It’s quite a hazard.”

Cheng has a list of suggestions to make the space more accessible: make the ramp less steep; add more handrails and place coloured strips on each step to increase visibility.

Accessibility advocates have raised concerns about the wheelchair ramp at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Accessibility

A third-party property management company looks after the complicated land share agreement between the province and the city of Vancouver, which both own portions of Robson Square.

Any alterations to the steps would fall under the province’s jurisdiction. The B.C. government didn’t respond to CBC’s request for comment before deadline.

Arthur Erickson Foundation director Simon Scott says accessibility was an issue that was close to Erickson’s heart.

Erickson’s father lost both of his legs in the First World War, which deeply impacted his son’s designs.

“He wanted to make public spaces accessible and enjoyable,” Scott said.

“The steps here, which are part of this wonderful public space, have stairs and ramps so that everybody can enjoy it.”

Scott says Robson Square was built to code when it opened between 1979 and 1983 and entrances to all buildings on site are equipped with elevators.

James Cheng, architect with James KM Cheng Architects, is pictured in his office in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Working for Erickson

Architect Jim Chang worked on the Robson Square project shortly after he graduated from university.

He remembers working under Erickson’s leadership with a team to incorporate an accessibility ramp into the stairway, which was a brand new idea at the time.

Chang says similar designs are now used all over the world, including a recent project along the river walk in Chicago.

“It’s identical to the same solution we had,” he said. “This is 40 years later.”

Chang is open to making minor alterations to the Robson Square ramp and stairwell but says it’s also important to preserve Erickson’s vision.

“I’m of the opinion that as long as there are other options, like elevators, that if you aren’t comfortable taking those ramps, take the elevator,” he said.

“Everybody has got choices.”

Arnold Cheng, Accessibility Assessor for Spectrum Ability, rolls his wheelchair up the ramp he says is unsafe at Robson Square in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC) (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Cheng hopes speaking publicly about his concerns will persuade the government to take action.

“Just because something is old doesn’t mean it can be improved,” he said.

“The Great Wall of China is actually accessible right now because somebody had the vision to actually make it accessible.”

 

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