The City of Mount Pearl is teaming up with the Coalition of Persons with Disabilities (COD) to review how the city is doing on the accessibility friendly scale.
In October 2012, the city released findings from a study it conducted around blue zone legislation compliance which found 42 per cent of all businesses and buildings surveyed had no signage or logos.
The government amended its blue zone legislation Feb. 3, 2012 “to clarify the requirement for permanent (rather than movable) vertical signs to designate these parking spaces to ensure they are visible year-round,” according to a recent email from Service NL.
These changes came into effect for new buildings Feb. 15, 2012 and for existing properties Sept.30, 2012.
Mount Pearl’s review also revealed 35 per cent of the businesses were following the regulations by having the signage and the blue zone parking in place and the remaining 23 per cent had one or the other.
“I don’t know where the numbers lie at this moment. That will be part of the new information. I wouldn’t say it’s changed a great deal,” said Coun. Andrew Ledwell, chairman of the planning and development committee, and a member of the transportation and public safety committee.
“Ideally, we’d like to see 100 per cent compliance with blue zone parking and 100 per cent accessibility to all buildings in the city,” he said.
Pleased with review
Kelly White, COD NL’s executive director, said she’s looking forward to the accessibility review with Mount Pearl.
“It’s really exciting what’s happening,” she said.
“We are pleased to be working with the City of Mount Pearl to conduct an audit of blue zone parking. Mount Pearl is a tremendously welcoming city and wants to ensure that it is fully accessible to everyone that lives, works and plays in their city. They see a huge benefit in having COD conduct this audit as a means to improve accessibility in their city and to heighten the awareness around disability in the city of Mount Pearl,” says White.
While the review is only in the initial stages, Ledwell said it will involve exploring some options about how to make city facilities more accessible.
He said it could include bringing in new regulations or policies around blue zones and parking lots, or ways to improve washroom facilities, and who has what, but it will be about more accessibility for everyone who has a disability.
“We’re willing to work with our business community to make all buildings more accessible, but right now we can only talk about city facilities,” he said.
“In terms of enforcing regulations, we can only enforce parking, but what we can do is work with the chamber and organizations to create a buzz around positive messaging, encourage people to make sure they have adequate blue zone parking and ask people to use it properly,” said Ledwell.
Fines for violations
Municipal enforcement officers and police can fine people for parking in blue zones without having a permit, but when it comes to all buildings having the international sign for disability parking and a blue-painted parking area, the government is the enforcer.
According to the email from Service NL, it has issued 56 orders out of 865 regular inspections performed between April 2012 and December 2013.
It says inspectors also conducted a blitz inspection in the fall of 2013 to assess adherence to the new regulations, which targeted big box stores and strip malls in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Clarenville and Marystown.
“These types of buildings were chosen because of their previous practice of removing free-standing signs for snowboarding during the winter months,” says the email.
“We inspected 81 building parking lots for compliance with the requirements for permanently fixed blue zone signage, resulting in 15 orders being issued. These numbers are independent of and in addition to the statistics for regular inspections,” according to the statement.
If municipalities are aware of any businesses that are not complying, they can contact the department’s engineering and inspection services division.
As part of the new blue zone regulations, the province also increased fines for illegally parking in the zones.