Dallas to introduce motion to increase ‘visitability’

Red Deer South MLA Cal Dallas said he will introduce a motion this spring that will increase ‘visitability’ and accessibility for wheelchair users or others with mobility issues in new homes built in Alberta.

The motion, which would come forward as a private members bill, would encourage builders and owners constructing new homes to include at least one-zero step entrance, wider interior doorways (minimum 32 inch door openings) and at least one half bathroom on the main floor. Dallas said those three changes would allow a person in a wheelchair or with limited mobility to safely and more easily visit and exit a home that is not their residence, especially in any emergency.

“These changes would not be compulsory,” said Dallas. “What I want to do is encourage people buying or building new homes to consider making them safer for family or friends who are visiting.”

Dallas said he wants to provide an incentive to encourage people to make these changes and, as part of his motivation for the motion, added “I’m looking for ways to have a good public debate on the subject. ‘Visitability’ is a little known concept in Alberta and with this motion I hope to raise awareness of some of the challenges faced by persons with restricted or limited mobility. Our population is aging and with (this motion) we are taking steps to address this issue.”

Guy Coulombe, manager of client services with the Canadian Paraplegic Association in Edmonton and a paraplegic himself, applauds Dallas’ initiative.

“That’s something our association has been looking for a long time. It’s an easy way to make more homes more accessible. For people in wheelchairs (or with any kind of mobility problem) accessing other peoples’ homes can be very difficult or impossible unless you have a portable ramp,” he said. “These modifications are easy to do when building a new home but can be expensive after the fact. Making any home more visitor-friendly just makes it easier for someone visiting their parents or friends, or just going to someone’s birthday party. Right now it’s not front of mind for people building homes and this could help.”

And, he added, with a hint of humour in his voice, “It’s also good for moving furniture.”

Dallas said his motion, which would only apply to new homes, should be introduced in April in the spring session.