New Westminster focuses on accessibility during Innovation Week

New Westminster is shining a spotlight on accessibility at its upcoming Transportation Forum.

The Transportation Forum, one of the events being held during Innovation Week, will focus on addressing the question: How accessible is accessible, and will consider the broader issue of transportation planning. The forum is on Thursday, March 7 at Anvil Centre from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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According to a press release from the city, the transportation forum includes workshops and speakers who will focus on planning transportation for all ages and abilities across all modes, and uncovering whether planners are treating “accessible” as a box that needs to be checked or a deeper process of making transportation truly welcoming for all.

“Access to public transit can have a real impact on our quality of life, but for some, accessing and using the public transit system presents an obstacle,” said Kevin Desmond, CEO of TransLink, which is sponsoring the forum. “At TransLink, we’re constantly thinking about solutions to make our system even more inclusive and accessible to meet the needs of our customers. We’re very pleased to see the City of New Westminster engage on this critically important component to transportation planning as the theme for the 2019 Innovation Week.”

Stan Leyenhorst, who has been a quadriplegic for 40 years and brings a first-person perspective to his work as an inclusive design specialist, will lead the morning’s discovery session. The panellists for this session include CNIB board member and blind athlete Gary Steeves, New Westminster Coun. Patrick Johnstone, accessibility advocate Asifa Lalji and Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods’ executive director Heather McCain.

“I am pleased to be moderating a panel with representation from people with varied lived expertise,” Leyenhorst said in a press release. “The City of New Westminster has put together a great day of learning which I am looking forward to attending. This is a great early step in creating a regional conversation to make universal accessibility a more comprehensive and integrated part of navigating cities.”

Elise Roy, whose TEDx talk, When We Design for Disability, We All Benefit, has more than 1.1 million views, will give the afternoon’s keynote address. Roy, who is a deaf, human-centred designer, former lawyer and motivational speaker, has given talks at the United Nations, the World Bank, Microsoft and the U.S. Institute for Peace.

“I am honoured to have been invited to speak to the participants at the Transportation Forum and look forward to bringing them a message on the importance of inclusion and why accessibility matters,” Roy said. “The day’s lineup looks truly innovative and forward-thinking.”

This year’s Transportation Forum also include experiential activities, group work to develop strategies and a display/information area where municipalities, educational institutions and organizations will display their challenges, learnings and initiatives they’re working on. Tickets for the transportation forum are $34.99 and available at www.innovatenewwest.ca.

Now in its third year, Innovation Week runs from March 2 to 8 and features activities for people of all ages and backgrounds, including: the Youth Exploration and Experimentation in Technology Festival (March 2 and 3); PechaKucha New West speakers’ series (March 2); the New Westminster Business and Tech Meetup networking event (March 4); the Innovation Forum (March 6); and the Advancing Women in STEAM symposium (March 8).

To get more details about all of the Innovation Week events and to register, go to www.innovatenewwest.ca.

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