To the untrained eye, it may well appear that the District of Squamish has done everything it can to make the Squamish Public Library accessible to all.
But what’s accessible to many with mobility challenges may be far less so to others. Judith Franklin admits she falls into the latter category.
Franklin, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since 1993, underwent surgery on both feet late last year to un-fuse her feet and ankles. After the last surgery, in November, she first had a walking cast before graduating to a more flexible “boot” that allows her somewhat greater mobility.
“I’m just weaning myself off the boot now,” said Franklin, who also uses either a walker or a cane to help her maintain her balance.
In the municipal lot next to the library, the nearest parking stall is clearly marked as being for the handicapped. There’s also one a few steps away on Second Avenue next to Municipal Hall. The small parking lot behind the library has two handicapped parking stalls. The wheelchair ramp at the library’s front entranceway starts by the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street.
All good, right? Well, not so fast. Franklin, 66, who describes herself as “very active,” finds it difficult if not impossible to get her walker out of her vehicle when the other stalls in the Second Avenue lot are occupied — which they often are during library hours.
What’s more, there’s a curb next to the stall that she either has to walk around or step over. If she manages to step over it, in a small planter bed, four steppingstones are surrounded by soil that’s often muddy in the winter — “treacherous” for someone in Franklin’s condition, she said.
The wheelchair ramp’s entrance is just around the corner on Main — no problem for most, but an added challenge for Franklin because of the added distance.
Last week, she was “really hurting,” so she tried parking in the back lot and ringing the bell by the library’s back door, which is marked as a staff entrance. Franklin said the previous library director used to let her enter that way. Last week, though, Franklin was told that she wasn’t allowed to do so.
When she finally managed to walk around and go through the front door, “I was just sweating,” Franklin said. “I got a couple of books and I interrupted a meeting and said, ‘I don’t know who to talk to about handicap parking.’ And a lady said, ‘That’s me.’
“She was just adamant that, ‘Oh, no, you can’t come in the back door. That’s the rule.’”
Christina Moore, District of Squamish spokesperson, wrote in an email on Tuesday (Feb. 12) that the back door is the staff entrance and that “it’s not appropriate to provide access to the public through this area.” Staff will continue to direct library patrons to the front entrance, she said.
Moore said the parking stall closest to the library’s front door is 15 feet wide — three feet wider than the minimum required for accessible stalls under the B.C. Building Code.
As for the curb and planter bed beside the nearest handicap parking stall, Moore said, “There are improvements we can make to the top corner of this parking stall where a ‘short cut’ crosses a flower bed. The curb that your reader references can be removed at that corner to allow for easier access to the sidewalk, and our crews will look at making this change.”
Moore added, “To further follow up on this complaint, we will look more closely at the accessible parking surrounding the library and will poll other users to determine if there are shared concerns, and if there are any other options we can look at it to improve the availability to parking for all.”