Richmond backs use of digital media to promote accessibility

Americas, May 30 2013

The City of Richmond and Rick Hansen Foundation announced Richmond is the first municipality in Canada to promote the accessibility of its public spaces through planat. Both the City and the Foundation invite all Richmond businesses and organizations to promote their business access features on planat.com – helping Richmond become a leading city in accessibility.

planat.com is an easy-to-use, interactive, digital media tool for rating the level of access to buildings and open spaces.  Richmond was recognized as first due to its ongoing support for and early-adoption of planat. In recent months Richmond completed professional ratings for 29 City-owned venues and public spaces, all available on planat.com – an innovation of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure people can live physically active, barrier-free lives in Richmond,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “It’s been a privilege for the City to be involved with planat from its early stages until now, leading us to earn the status of Canada’s first municipality to promote public venues on planat.” Brodie continues, “The accessibility information is now available to anyone who visits planat.com, providing tremendous value to those wanting to make informed decisions when considering visiting, working or living in Richmond. It also provides valuable information to address strengths and areas for improvement for our venues and public spaces. We encourage every Richmond business and organization to get rated on planat.”

planat users can easily post reviews and see other people’s consumer reviews as well as see reviews completed by businesses, either professionally reviewed or self reviewed . planat empowers people living with disabilities in Richmond to make informed decisions and leverage their consumer power to help increase the overall accessibility of buildings in our community. The planat ratings provide businesses with the information and tools they need to make their buildings more accessible and increase their understanding of the social and economic benefits of accessible venues and communities.

“Like every innovation of the Foundation, planat was born from a community need, and became a reality through collaborative partnerships,” says Rick Hansen. “The City of Richmond has done much more than adopt planat, they’ve partnered with us since the beginning to ensure planat’s success.  I thank the City of Richmond for being such an innovative leader by making accessibility a priority in the City, and for its ongoing commitment to ensure that all City spaces are fully accessible.”

“Now, to continue on that success, we encourage all Richmond businesses to join us by having their venues rated on planat.com.  Access matters to everyone, from babies to older adults, and showcasing your accessibility on planat is good business,” says Hansen.

As early as 2010, the Rick Hansen Foundation, the City of Richmond and the Richmond Centre for Disability began discussing possibilities of working together to advance planat.com.  Through funding from the City of Richmond, the Centre for Disability was able to significantly contribute to planat, sharing their experience and database information, and in return, expanding the Richmond Centre for Disability’s work into an internationally recognized rating system.  In 2012, the City showed their ongoing support by participating in beta testing planat’s  Business Profile feature, where 29 City-owned venues were professionally rated. The Rick Hansen Foundation trained Richmond Centre for Disability employees, building a locally sustainable model for future reviews in the City.

“Our primary goal is to assist people with disabilities in Richmond to live as independently as possible, to help them develop their skills and enable them to make informed decisions which minimize barriers,” said Tom Parker, Richmond Centre for Disability’s Vice-Chair. “We are proud to be associated with the planat project as it not only uses much of our Access Richmond website experience but has made it possible for users to give their personal feedback on their experience at any venue. We congratulate the City or Richmond and the Rick Hansen Foundation for working together to take planat to other communities worldwide.”

Tracy Lakeman, Chief Executive Officer, Tourism Richmond is 100 per cent behind improving accessibility. “Tourism Richmond is proud of our members’ commitment and proactive approach in addressing accessibility issues and  in letting consumers know that Richmond is one of the world’s most accessible cities for people with mobility challenges,” Lakeman said at today’s event. “We continue to find ways to improve the experience of all visitors, including those with disabilities. planat will provide the reliable and detailed information that will enable visitors to come to an informed decision about the suitability of facilities within our destination.”

Today, Lakeman expressed  Tourism Richmond’s support and reiterates that Richmond restaurants, hotels, stores and attractions need to consider the importance of making accessibility a priority as this travel segment continues to grow. By taking the next important step of getting planat-rated though Business Profiles, businesses can confidently position their facilities and Richmond as a destination that welcomes visitors with disabilities.

Craig Jones, Executive Director from the Richmond Chamber of Commerce spoke at today’s celebration, encouraging Chamber members and all businesses to share in the community benefits of having their venues rated and available on planat.com. “It’s not a matter of rating the top score,” said Jones, “it’s making sure you are on the map, giving informative information, and giving people an opportunity to make empowered decisions based on their ability. If we obtain critical mass with the majority of businesses coming onboard, everyone benefits.” Jones also proudly confirmed the Chamber offices are planat rated.

The City of Richmond has a long-standing dedication to working with the disability community and supporters and making Richmond a leader in liveability and accessibility. The City works closely with the Richmond Centre for Disability, Rick Hansen Foundation and other community partners and associations to achieve these objectives.

For more information on the City’s involvement with planat.com, visit www.richmond.ca/accessibility.

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