'A modest amount of consideration:' Winnipeg man raising accessibility concerns to city

A crosswalk signal is seen in this undated image.

A Winnipeg man is raising concerns about accessibility in Winnipeg after one intersection in the city had the wrong auditory signals being used.

Tyler Sneesby is visually impaired and relies on these sounds to cross the street.

There are two sounds that can be heard at crosswalks, "chirp" and "beep-boop." When the chirp is heard, it means people can cross going east-west, and when the beep-boop is heard, it means people can cross north-south.

Sneesby said when he was at the intersection of Maryland Street and Broadway on Wednesday, the sounds were going off for the wrong directions, which could have led him to walk into traffic.

He said the problem was brought to the city's attention and it was fixed the same day.

"It was a bit of a softball for the city to fix. It was literally just a switch issue," said Sneesby.

Sneesby added that this problem highlights a greater need to focus on making Winnipeg more accessible for all, as he pointed out the signal had been wrong at the intersection for months.

"There's bigger accessibility issues out there that those of us who are walking around with disabilities that we have to deal with on a daily basis."

One issue he highlighted is creating a ramp from the sidewalk when there is construction so that people can still get around everything.

He said he has come across several instances where the construction company doesn't create the temporary ramp and the city doesn't do anything about it.

"There is a bylaw that the city does not enforce, that says that these construction sites are supposed to create alternate pathways," said Sneesby.

"Those of us who are visually impaired, we're just walking along and we suddenly hit a sidewalk that is closed and there is no indication that it has been closed."

He added he couldn't imagine being someone who relied on a walker or other device to get around as they would have to backtrack to find another way around.

Sneesby also noted these aren't problems people who can see and are mobile might think about as they can usually avoid it by jaywalking or walking around it.

"For those of us that are visually impaired, we're not going to jaywalk. I stick to strictly controlled intersections or crosswalks, so sometimes I have to do detours up to two, three, four blocks."

Sneesby lost his vision a few years ago and said in that time, he knows there have been several instances where he has had to risk crossing the street because signals weren't working or the sidewalk wasn't taken care of properly. He added there is a good chance it isn't just him who has been affected.

"I just think it is not a priority for the city. That is how we are made to feel anyway."

When asked what he would like the city to do, he said he wants the city to show that accessibility is at the very least being considered and thought about and that progress is being made, such as an alternate route set up around a construction site so that he can still walk safely.

"I guess I would like to see a modest amount of consideration to show that it is actually being thought of."

Dana Erickson is the CEO of Manitoba Possible, an organization that promotes inclusivity.

He said there is still a long way to go until Winnipeg is fully accessible.

"Accessibility continues to be a work-in-progress throughout the city," he said.

While there are challenges, Erickson said the city is making improvements.

"The city has a lot of structure in place," he said. "It has got a human rights committee of council, it has an access advisory committee, a universal design steering committee, and so on. There is a lot of good structure and processes in place in the city.

"The thing that I would encourage every government decision-making body to do is to continue to listen to and hear from people with lived experience."

In a statement, the City of Winnipeg said it has been working on improving accessibility in all of its service areas, including intersections and construction zones.

"While many steps have been taken to support navigation and accessibility, the City is responsible for all pedestrian infrastructure across Winnipeg and takes this matter seriously," a spokesperson said in a statement. "While we monitor and keep tabs on the entire network, we welcome the public identifying errors and failures when they encounter them. This helps us respond more quickly to such problems."

Residents can call 311 to identify any barriers or problems they encounter.