Inuvik is considering relaxing its blanket ban on ATVs and snowmachines on major roads to enable better accessibility for persons with disabilities.
NWT Disabilities Council board member Gerry Petrin addressed council with his concerns about the accessibility of services in town during their regular meeting Sept. 8.
“I moved to Inuvik in 1971 and we drove our SkiDoos to school,” he said. “There were SkiDoos up and down mainstreet and every street in town. There were dog teams, there were everything. I don’t think there was any more accidents then than there are now.
“You go to a small outside community; it really doesn’t where you go in the small communities, those people are free. They drive where they and how they want. Their populations aren’t much smaller than ours.
“I’m asking council to put an easement on persons with disabilities so they can get around easier and have equal access to the stores and give them independence.”
He said the town’s current bylaw structure preventing motorized vehicles on Mackenzie and Kingmingya roads obstructed people with disabilities trying to access stores and services on those two roads. He added the City of Yellowknife has one street where ATVs and SkiDoos are prohibited.
During the presentation, he asked council to allow the use of ATVs, scooters and cart transportation devices on those roads for persons with mobility issues and to allow specialized parking close to the store entrances if the driver obtains a special disability permit.
“Not every building in town has handicap parking,” said Petrin. “That’s what this whole disability thing is about — to enable people with disabilities to access buildings as easy as possible.”
Mayor Natasha Kulikowski told Petrin she spoke with chief public safety officer Cynthia Hammond about the current accessible parking spaces in town. She said the town is responsible for the parking spots along the streets, but parking spots on specific lots were the responsibility of the private business to designate an accessible parking space.
Petrin, who said he was asking on behalf of his son who was having difficulty caring for himself under the current situation, said it would be far easier if the town just allowed vehicles with handicap markers to park where they need to.
Senior Administrative Officer Grant Hood told council to implement the change would require changes to the town’s bylaws and make key decisions on which groups would be exempted.
Kulikowski added the call could be an opportunity to raise awareness around town about the need for greater accessibility for businesses and services.
Petrin said he hoped common sense would prevail and there should not be a huge problem with a few people driving smaller vehicles around town.
“In this case, it’s a golf cart that I have. It’s electric, I think the top speed is about 15 kilometres an hour. It’s got a good break system and it’s very sturdy.
“I would like to see my son have as much esteem as possible.”
Town Council asked administration to examine options for council and said they would revisit the question at a future council meeting. Plans are also underway to survey the public if the ban on smaller motor vehicles on Mackenzie and Kingmingya Roads should remain in place at all.