Published on September 7, 2021

The City of St. Albert Universal Access Plan

Universal Access: A Phased Approach

The City of St. Albert strives to become a welcoming and inclusive community – which includes being accessible for persons with disabilities in all areas of its operations. For over five years, the City has taken active steps to implement universal accessibility standards through a long-term and fiscally responsible phased approach. 

In 2016, City Council identified a strategic goal to ensure City services and facilities were fully accessible to everyone in the community. But, what does it mean for spaces and services to be universally accessible? By definition, it refers to the adaptation of infrastructure, programs and services to enable equitable use, participation and inclusion of the broadest population range, by focusing on four primary limitation factors – physical, perceptual, cognitive and age-related disabilities. However, universal accessibility also benefits other users such as parents with strollers or children, as well as persons with temporary injuries or carrying large packages. 

“Solutions and accommodations should be equitable for the broadest range of the city’s population, respecting the dignity of everyone,” says Lory Scott, City of St. Albert Planning and Development Liaison. “Enabling broader participation improves social interactions, mental health and community inclusion for persons with disabilities, without specialized considerations for facility users,” she says. “If St. Albert is truly to be considered as an inclusive community, it must ensure that everyone feels welcome and is able to participate in community life.”

St. Albert Transit HandibusPlease note: This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universal Access Plan

Following extensive internal and external consultation, the City released its Universal Access Plan in 2018 in an effort to prioritize the actions needed to provide universal and barrier-free access to municipally owned buildings and public spaces. The Plan identified four areas of focus:

  • City facilities (St. Albert Place, Servus Credit Union Place and Fountain Park Recreation Centre, as well as associated parking facilities).
  • Exterior pedestrian routes (sidewalks, crossings and trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, rest areas, signage and benches).
  • Transportation – transit service and transit infrastructure such as bus shelters, bus stops and other transportation facilities. 
  • Policies and process improvements to make universal access a way of conducting business within the city.

The City of St. Albert received permission from the City of Burlington to adopt their Accessibility Design Standards for interior and exterior environments. These standards combined with the 2017 Alberta Barrier-Free Design Guide Requirements provide a roadmap for future municipal actions as documented in St. Albert’s Universal Access Plan.

“Use of existing standards saves the City a substantial amount of time and cost needed to develop a similar set of standards and provides an immediate resource for accessibility considerations for future planning,” explains Scott.

In 2020, with previously approved funding, the City conducted facility assessments of St. Albert Place, Servus Place and Fountain Park which identified $3.4 million in individual upgrades and design concepts.

“The purpose of the assessments are to act as an administrative tool to assist the City in planning and prioritizing capital upgrades as municipal or grant funding becomes available,” she says. “The results of recent assessments can be used to incorporate improvements to other City facilities over time, using similar logic.”

Blind person walking with walking stick

Next Steps

While initiatives identified in the Universal Access Plan will be dependent on future budget requests, to date, the following steps have been taken:

  • In 2021, City Council provided funding to develop an accessible playground at Fountain Park – work is expected to occur in 2022.
  • In 2021, Engineering Standards were updated to address accessibility components – implementation will occur as new neighbourhoods are developed; older areas will be upgraded as lifecycle replacement projects occur. 
  • Construction on the new Firehall No. 1 will incorporate accessibility requirements into the public spaces of the building.
  • The City is developing an administrative policy for incorporating accessibility into future municipal projects.

The City will continue to focus on priority improvements that provide the greatest bang for the buck. “We are at the stage now that we can plan for improvements over the long-term, based on available budgets, within future workplans and retrofit projects,” says Scott. 

Did you know? The federal government has legislated that all federal properties be universally accessible. Ontario, Nova Scotia and Manitoba have also implemented accessibility legislation applying to both the public and private sectors.

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Last edited: September 9, 2021